Avacyn Restored: Week Two part 1
A New Week
Hey everyone, I'm back with a look at the next release of cards for the newest Innistrad expansion: Avacyn Restored (or AVR for short). As per usual, I list first the two cards released in the articles on the Wizards of the Coast MTG site, and then delve into the mysteries that were posted straight to the card list!
Wolfir Silverheart (3GG) was first briefly shown in the pre-constructed booster deck from April 12, "Bound by Strength." From the description, it is a G/U deck based on the new soulbond ability, which Silverheart is packing. Silverheart is a nice-looking 4/4 wolf warrior. Not a wolf or a werewolf, both of which were rampant in Innistrad/Dark Ascension, but an interesting mix of the two; the artwork on this card is purely amazing. Speaking of the card itself, however, Silverheart may bind with another creature, which will usually give both creatures a spiffy bonus of some sort. In this case, +4/+4 to each creature. For five mana, you can have not only a new 8/8 creature on the field, but an extra 4/4 on the second creature, provided a creature is already on the field and ready to attack. This guy is going to be good, and if I play green at the pre-release, I want him in my deck!
Nephalia Smuggler (U) did not really knock my socks off at first- he's just a 1/1 human for U. His ability, however, is more than mediocre. Since he's just a 1/1, he won't be worth attacking with in late game (or ever) so he's good to just hang back and keep around for his flickering effect. 3U and tapping allows you to flicker one of your creatures, and since it is an activated ability, you can do it on your opponent's turn, if need be. Not necessarily important, but it is an effect that exists nonetheless. Since he's a one-drop, however, you can keep him around in your hand for whenever you may need him (if you have some cool cards that will make use of flicker) and cast him easily, as long as you keep in mind summoning sickness, of course. Or, you can cast him early on and just keep him on the field (assuming your opponent doesn't feel he's worth the Mana Leak or Tragic Slip in their hand) until his ability is needed.
4/16 Gallery Update
So we begin our week two gallery update with two brand-spanking new Angels, and red gets some new power as well while blue, black, and green are pushed aside this time round.. Also, our first non-basic land! Take a look:
Goldnight Redeemer (4WW) is a basic Angel; not much outside of your typical MTG 4/4 flyer. She costs a bit more than your typical Angel, however, because she does have one interesting effect. When Goldnight enters the battlefield, you gain 2 life for each other creature you control. If you're playing a token deck or a weenie deck, this could be very good for your life gain, otherwise, it's just a so-so ability that other cards can probably do better, or there are other 6-cast cards that you might play instead. Sun Titan, for example. It costs the same, is 6/6 with vigilance, and its ability triggers even after it's already in play. Sure, you lose the one-time life gain and the flying, but Goldnight just isn't that great for its cost, unless, of course, she is flickered, with, perhaps, the aforementioned Nephalia Smuggler and other cool flicker cards. Have her enter the field a couple of times per game and your life will be near untouchable.
Herald of War (3WW) is the second Angel released with this group, and we first caught a glimpse of her in the AVR trailer. She seems like a better choice of Angel than Goldnight, and even for one less mana! For 5 mana, Herald comes in as a 3/3 flyer- but can get bigger. Whenever Herald of War attacks, she gets a +1/+1 counter- counters that are likely not going to be removed. So each time she attacks she gets bigger, and since she does not have to deal damage to the opponent to get or keep her +1/+1, it just gets better. The real doozy of her ability is that for each counter on Herald of War, all of your Angel and Human spells cost (1) less to cast. Pop Herald out as soon as you can so your other Angels can get out quicker too! Of course, as any creature, however, Herald of War can fall to lots of different removal spells, so keeping her on the field will be the hardest part.
Bonfire of the Damned (XXR) is an interesting you-choose-the-cost kind of card. It's double-X, however, so it will cost at least 2R to cast- and that's only to deal 1 damage to target player and creatures. If you really want to deal damage, it will cost you even more to cast. Fortunately it, like many of its brethren, has a miracle cost- which is XR. If cast with miracle, you only have to pay X once- so you can afford to deal twice as much damage as you could otherwise.
Reforge the Soul (3RR) is another miracle sorcery- but a really cool one. Like Tibalt, it has a discard/draw card effect, which tends to be a black/blue kind of mechanic, but seems to be taking a leap in red for AVR. It is an interesting version of Archivist; which discards all hands and draws cards equal to the greatest number of cards discarded. But in this way, its effect is only once and both players draw to seven, regardless of how many cards are discarded. It's a pretty good card even for 5 mana, but its miracle cost makes it even better. Miracle can be a difficult mechanic to time properly in order to actually use it, but if you can, that's two new hands for only 2 mana. A risky move, but potentially quite good.
Zealous Conscripts (4R) gives us another high-cost creature. It's only 3/3, which is never bad but it is never quite good for five mana. What makes her formidable is her haste and ability. When she enters the field, you gain control of target permanent until end of turn. That permanent is untapped and given haste as well until end of turn. What's so cool about gaining control of your opponent's creatures, is that your opponent has to make a choice- get beaten down by his own powerful creature, or destroy it. Since Zealous Conscripts is another "enter the battlefield" ability so she is best when used with flicker cards and effects. The only way her ability is useless is if your opponent stifles activated abilities. Otherwise, even cards like Avacyn, Angel of Hope and Griselbrand could fall victim to Zealous Conscripts, because hexproof or shroud is about the only thing keeping creatures safe from this card's ability.
Desolate Lighthouse (0) is our first non-basic land preview! Its pretty cool because it doesn't come into play tapped, so you can use it for one mana right off the bat, though not to pay for a colored spell of course. Its second ability is really sweet though, if expensive. If you pay 1UR, you can draw a card and then discard a card. This is a great way to stack your hand and get rid of useless cards, or if you play a graveyard-based deck then it's a great way to stack your hand and your graveyard. Unfortunately, Merfolk Looter is a much better card when it comes to this ability, though Lighthouse does have a better chance of staying on the field. Lighthouse is also following the new red route where red is quickly becoming a draw/discard color. The fact that Lighthouse requires enemy colors also is holding out from a lot of the old Innistrad and Dark Ascension themes though, making it a possible good card for existing Blue/Red decks.
Entreat the Angels (XXWWW) is definitely a card that needs set-up in the game in order to make the most of it. It is a card that is not worth playing unless you have the mana to do so- it costs 3 Plains right there, not to mention the X cost. The article that previewed Entreat the Angels listed handfuls of possible cards that ramp up your mana- most of which are in green. However, there are lots of instants and sorceries that can add mana to your pool as well. Cabal Ritual can add five black mana to your pool for only two- since X can be paid with any color, I don't see cards like that, or perhaps Dark Ritual, Elemental Resonance, Energy Tap, Mana Drain, and other cards that add mana for relatively little of your own resources, provided they can find a place in your deck. The Eldrazi Spawn tokens are also good for adding that extra mana. You can spend the first few turns ramping up your tokens, then sacrifice them to pay the X cost. You could potentially play this card in a Green/Red deck- Koth of the Hammer giving you R for each Mountain you control, then a quick Divergent Growth to let your Mountains and Forests tap for white mana. This is, of course, assuming you enjoy playing cards in your decks that otherwise make no sense!
Demonic Rising (3BB) is yet another midgame card- like the majority of the cards we've been seeing thus far in AVR. However, it works really well with the loner mechanic. Since there are a lot of good creatures that require (or request) that you sacrifice another creature, Demonic Rising can be helpful in that respect, especially since it cuts down on the creatures that you may have to put in your deck just to keep your demons happy. However, otherwise I am not sure how best to use this card- sure you get a 5/5 flyer that you can attack with next turn, but that's all you're going to get unless it or your other creature is killed before your end step.
Angel of Glory's Rise (5WW) seems pretty good in a deck that plays the Human archetype with relatively few Angels- in a white weenie deck it is really good to fly around with some of the other non-legendary Angels. Its cost is a bit high though- but that stems from its first rule that states it exiles all Zombies. Not good for your opponent! Assuming, of course, that your opponent is playing Zombies. If you play half a deck full of little human creatures, then having a few of these Angels in your deck would be good just for that- otherwise it's probably a better sideboard creature in the event you discover that you are, in fact, fighting Zombies. Against a Werewolf or Vampire deck, Glory's Rise is just taking up space.
Defy Death (3WW) is the non-Angel white card in this update, and in contrast to Angel of Glory's Rise, Defy Death works best with an Angel-based deck rather than a Human one. Since most Humans probably only cost 4 mana or less, then no matter how good a card, I'm sure I can find much better creatures in my graveyard for this five-mana sorcery. Especially Angels that cost at least that- like Avacyn. Most of the really good Angels cost at least five (generally more) and if it's an Angel you bring back, it gets two +1/+1 counters automatically. Plus if it's an Angel with a really cool enter ability, like Goldnight Redeemer or the previous Angel of Glory's Rise, then not only do those abilities trigger, but the creatures themselves are more powerful. Defy Death may find a good home right beside Angel of Glory's Rise in a white weenie deck- for the 5 mana sorcery you get your 7-mana Angel, and all the Humans in your graveyard. Not bad.
Appetite for Brains (B) is the Despise and Duress of AVR- only slightly better. All cost a single mana, but for one Swamp you can look at your opponent's hand and choose any card with CMC 4 or greater and not only discard it, exile it. Despise is pretty good in that you can choose a creature or planeswalker and discard it. Usually you get rid of the creature who does cost at least 4 or more because those are good ones, and most walkers cost at least that as well. Duress is good card control too, only you're limited to noncreature, nonland. Appetite seems really good because so far in Avacyn Restored, most of the powerful cards cost way more than 4 mana, and instead of putting it in the graveyard where it can potentially come back, it's exiled, which is way cooler.
Descent into Madness (3BB) just looks like a fun card to play, just to mess with your opponents. I would imagine, first, that if you don't have X permanents or X cards in hand then you exile them all- I can't imagine this being good for the player who cast it, however, unless there is another card or permanent out which negates the effect on the controlling player. However, Sigarda Host of Herons easily protects your opponent's permanents- not your own. I'd like to see this card played but I am at a loss as to how to use it properly.
Champion of Lambholt (1GG) is pretty interesting for 3 mana. It's just a 1/1, which for 3 is not usually good. But if you're playing a weenie or token deck, this card will get really good really fast. Since she isn't getting a boost from your creatures as they are in play, it doesn't matter if other creatures get killed or sacked; Champion keeps her +1/+1 counters. She's also good against a lot of the 0/1 or 0/2 common blockers in Artifact decks; they can't block her if their power is less than her power. Of course, as she gets more powerful, then other sacrificial blockers like Doomed Traveler are also null.
Slayers' Stronghold (0) is the second non-basic land to be revealed for AVR. Like Desolate Lighthouse, it adds (1) to your mana, and with a two-mana payment of different colors you can activate an ability. In this case, it costs (RW) and you can give target creature +2/+0, vigilance, and haste until end of turn. Pretty savvy, because some of your big meanies that come out (like some of those Angels) can swing on the same turn they're summoned and with an extra 2 damage. Not bad for power-driven decks!
I know I'm a bit late with this- I decided I'd rather do just two updates for this week, for time reasons mostly! I just have a quick word to say on the Planeswalker's Guide part two before I get on to the cards! I was really excited reading this; it was fun and I have always been most drawn to the flavor and story of Magic the Gathering more so than the play itself. My favorite, of course, was the transformation of the werewolves to the wolfir, as previewed by Wolfir Silverheart. Second was the conclusion of Garruk and Liliana's business. Garruk's brief triumph, Liliana's eventual victory, and Avacyn's power make this story far from over.
Now, on to the cards! In Planeswalker's Guide, two cards were specifically revealed, along with artwork from several, several more. Without further ado:
Triumph of Ferocity (2G) is a green enchantment which takes Garruk's side of the fight; allowing the controlling player to draw a card if he or she controls the creature with the greatest, or tied for the greatest, power. On the other hand,
Triumph of Cruelty (2B) is a black enchantment of similar qualities- making target opponent of the casting player discard a card if you control the creature with the greatest (or tied) power. Having both of these cards in play at the same time would be a pretty hefty field!
Homicidal Seclusion (4B) is another black enchantment which follows the theme of the previous day's Demonic Rising. It's a card that works really well for the loner mechanic, better, in fact, than Rising does. Rising is contradictory- it creates creatures if you only have one creature. Seclusion, however, just gives your lone creature a really powerful boost. After all, +3/+1 plus lifelink on your big, scary demon is nothing to gawk at (especially when said demon probably already has flying and possibly deathtouch). However, as the article said, it can be very, very iffy if not set up quite right.
Lightning Mauler (1R) looks good to me, except difficult in Constructed unless you've got something really good that you can afford to wait for. To make the most out of Mauler you'll have to drop it and the intended paired creature in the same turn- otherwise neither creature has haste and if you wait a turn for either Mauler or another creature, one of the two will have already been on the field, and therefore unaffected at this point by summoning sickness. Definitely a good pick for drafting or sealed.
Human Frailty (B) is a quick removal spell specifically for Humans. Like most instant removals, it's cheap and usually quite effective. Maybe not a better pick than, say, Go for the Throat, but a good sideboard pick nonetheless against a Human deck. After all, if you main deck this card and you're up against Vamps or wolves, you've probably got at least three or four useless cards that are good discard fodder, at the very least.
Treacherous Pit-Dweller (BB) makes me question the mechanics and development team for Wizards. Other than getting a 4/3 for two black mana.. at only a 3 toughness, Pit-Dweller is not hard to get rid of, since there is no hexproof or indestructable... not even haste, deathtouch, or flying adorns this oddity. While I realize that 4/3 for two mana is really good, he's too easy a target for your opponent to kill, and then gain control of thanks to his "treachery." He has undying, which means he gets an extra chance at life- when he is sent to the graveyard, he comes back at +1/+1, as all creatures with undying do. Yet this guy comes back, he goes to yoru opponent's side of the field, more powerful than ever. You could always Unsummon him before he dies, or Cloudshift him, to keep him from entering the battlefield from the graveyard, but outside of these I'm not sure why someone would risk him dying, going to your opponent, and then being more difficult to kill.
Rite of Ruin (5RR) is another one of those "hit you and your opponent" kinds of cards. Anyone who's read my opinions on cards enough by now probably knows how I feel about anything that could potentially screw me over. I haven't hidden the fact of how bad I am when it comes to competitive tournaments- and cards like Rite of Ruin are, to me, just bad cards. I really do understand the forcing your opponent to sack artifacts, creatures, and lands, and of course depending on what your opponent is playing the choice would always be different. But when I have to sacrifice as well? Especially that many permanents. The CMC of 7 already deters me from casting it, but unless I've set up my board perfectly (which I seem to be really bad at doing) I, personally, won't risk this card in my deck. If you, players, on the other hand, can and will, more power to you!
Somberwald Sage (2G) is a spiffy mana-producing human druid. You know what's even cooler than a mana-producing creature? A creature that gives you three mana of any one color you choose. Finally we're seeing some good cohesiveness come to all these really high-cost spells that have been shown to us. Also, since so many of these 5, 6, 7, 8 mana spells are at least double, if not triple in some cases, of a single color, Somberwald Sage will really come in handy. Unfortunately her measely 0/1 makes her a very easy target for almost any kind of removal, so as long as you can deal with that, you've got gold.
See you next time!!!
That's it for the Week 2 (part one) previews for Avacyn Restored! I will see you this weekend when I finish up the next couple of days worth of cards. I also wanted to note that in the Planeswalker's Guide part 2, one of the artworks was named but no card revealed- the card is Wild Defiance and has an illustration of Garruk- it'll be green, obviously, but the card itself has not been previewed yet from what I've seen!
Oh, and I almost forgot! The wallpaper card that was revealed today:
Commander's Authority (4W) is the first Aura we've seen for AVR!! Of course, it's not an Aura I expected after seeing Bruna, Light of Alabaster and her awesome Aura-shifting ability, but it is an Aura nonetheless. A really expensive Aura when you look at it, actually. But it looks really good in combination with the aforementioned Champion of Lambhold. In fact, you could equip her with this Aura and she produces her own creature tokens that give her lots and lots of +1/+1 tokens in a relatively short amount of time.