Awaiting Avacyn: First Look at MtG Avacyn Restored
I remember the excitement I felt when the first tricklings of Innistrad were being leaked ever so slowly by Wizards. I had only started playing Magic: The Gathering with the release of Zendikar, and by the time Rise of the Eldrazi was released I was more than bored with the game. Because of this, I sold all of my Zendikar and Worldwake cards, or at least most of them, because of course I was going to keep my beloved Sorin Markov! I was lucky enough to sell my Gideon Jura when it was still $43! But with my boredom of MTG came a dabbling in other games: World of Warcraft, League of Legends, I finally got the chance to play Devil May Cry 4, but when I beat that I started to really miss Friday Night Magic. I had already missed Rise of the Eldrazi as well as the entire Mirrodin/Phyrexia block. When I got back into Magic, I started drafting once a week, and that was right after M12 was printed.
I was getting back into the swing of things, remembering fun little combos and learning new tricks as well. Bouncing an attacking Gideon Jura with Unsummon was probably my favorite. Then, news of the latest block started appearing: Innistrad. I was only somewhat excited; though I loved playing Magic, I was not a very major player. I was not competitive, just a casual drafter who enjoyed the flavor text and the storyline rather than the actual game. Unfortunately, once it was revealed that Innistrad was Sorin's home plane, I was hooked. Though that was indeed the deciding factor that I would be playing Innistrad, the more I read the more I was hooked. I started following the card releases as Wizards revealed them... painfully slow.
I started building my deck. I wanted a fresh start in Magic with this new set. I was determined to become a more competitive player. Once the entire set was revealed online, just days before the pre-release, I had an idea of exactly what kind of deck I wanted to play. I fell in love with Splinterfright and Boneyard Wurm. They were unlike anything I had ever played before; being mostly a control player, milling and even self-milling was an entirely new concept to me. Since I have to build on a budget, a basic Splinterfright deck didn't put me back much, and I had fun playing it, even if I rarely ever won. Oh, I sent many a creature to the graveyard just to pull out my Kessig Cagebreakers and a 14/14 Boneyard Wurm... but despite having experience as a (bad) control player, I never was able to keep my creatures on the field.
My excitement continued to escalate as the pre-release event at my local gaming store was coming closer and closer. It was a midnight pre-release; and I was ready. I had reviewed all the cards in the set, and I had an idea of what I wanted to build. Unfortunately, you don't always pull the cards you want. I don't remember now what I ended up with but it was not what I had in mind. I do remember, however, that moment when I opened the pack with my Snapcaster Mage; one of the few cards I wanted more than anything from that set. Good times. I think I had at least four trade offers that night for that single card. The other card I pulled was Skaab Ruinator. You know, the crazy 5/6 flyer for 1UU, with an extra cost of exiling three creatures from your graveyard? Yeah, it was pretty awesome.
I did really bad in the Innistrad pre-release. I'm not going to lie, it was actually pretty horrible for me. I had never played in a sealed event before (I had built a couple of sealed decks, but not for tournaments) so the only experience with a limited event was drafting. I really was winging it since I did not get a single card I was hoping for, except for my two rare blues. Liliana of the Veil seemed pretty good and I was hoping to pull a Garruk Relentless/Garruk, the Veil-Cursed for the event. Either of these Planeswalkers would have been good but I was not overly concerned if I drew them or not.
In the end, though, I still had a lot of fun- more fun that I can remember having at a Magic event. I found myself counting the days already until Dark Ascension; waiting to find out what was in store for us this time around.
Review of Dark Ascension
I loved Innistrad; I can't remember being so excited about something coming out to the public since Clay Aiken came out to his fans. Either way, the moment things started heating up for the plane of Innistrad, I was getting more and more excited. I cannot say that I followed the cards as closely in Dark Ascension as I did with Innistrad, but I certainly followed the storyline to the T. I was a bit disappointed when we only received three packs of DA and three packs of Innistrad though, and further disappointed when the best cards I pulled out of all that was my holo Bloodline Keeper and Heartless Summoning.
As Sorin and Jace Beleren have been my favorite planeswalkers ever to grace the field of Magic (my first deck was the Jace vs Chandra precon), my anticipation knew no bounds while waiting for Dark Ascension. The mini-trailer was exciting, narrated by Sorin as he returned to his home plane only to see the destruction that had ravaged Innistrad since his departure. We learned from Wizards then that Avacyn, the great and beautiful archangel who was the protectress of the Innistrad plane had disappeared, leaving the humans to succumb to the horrors of the other races. The humans were losing this war; in Innistrad, Mikaeus the Luminarch, a great and powerful human (as the story goes) disappeared, and hope for humans was completely shattered as he transformed into Mikaeus, the Unhallowed in Dark Ascension. Wars were being raged, especially against Thraben, the last stronghold of humans. The different factions around Innistrad are fighting against each other, but ultimately humans are the sacrifice, and the prize.
The kicker, however, was not the awesome storyline or horror story in which the humans get overrun and slowly destroyed. What really sold this set to me was when they released news about Sorin: Lord of Innistrad. I always had a feeling Sorin was a bit on the lighter side of evil. He seemed more or less concerned with saving Zendikar when the Eldrazi were awakened; Sorin always struck me as the kind of anti-hero character that you love. He's dark and brooding and sadistic but yet still not overtly evil. I will never forget the flavor text on the Zendikar printing of Day of Judgment:
"I have seen planes leveled and all life rendered to dust. It brought no pleasure, even to a heart as dark as mine."—Sorin Markov
This was one of my favorite flavor texts, and it shows the inner workings of Sorin's mind, at least a little bit. And with the Planeswalkers being the single small group of cards that are capable of being reprinted and revamped in an unlimited amount of expansions, I already couldn't wait to see Sorin's second coming. Jace had already had two re-vamps, and Chandra, Garruk, Sarkhan, Ajani and Elspeth all had at least one. Though Sorin had only just been revealed in Zendikar, it couldn't be long. Liliana Vess was not the only black planeswalker to receive new abilities for the Innistrad block!
But for Sorin, Lord of Innistrad to be black/white? That was definitely an interesting turn! It made sense, though, when we found out that the legendary Avacyn was created by none other than our beloved Sorin Markov.
Avacyn Restored: First Impressions
With pre-release events scheduled for April 28th and 29th, it is unlikely that any Magic player is completely unaware of Avacyn Restored, the third and final set in the Innistrad Block.
As with the Dark Ascension pre-release events, something different is going to be happening at the Avacyn Restored events. Well, different to me. Nothing special happened at Innistrad, and I can't remember Zendikar too well. So I am assuming that a typical pre-release event is a simple six-pack draw and build, yes? At Dark Ascension, there were teams; geists, vampires, werewolves, zombies, and humans. Humans who lost against a ghoul of some sort became one. This time, for Avacyn Restored, there is something new and cool coming to the pre-release: A Helvault event.
Now, most of you probably are familiar with the Helvault release if you follow Wizards and have friends who work these kinds of events. In a nutshell, stores that are hosting a Helvault Release will have a giant Helvault of some sort filled with all sorts of goodies. When a player accomplishes a specific task, they can open the Helvault and take their pick of something inside. I'm sure there are better ways of explaining it that are more politically correct, but this is an easy, short way to get the point across.
While it is exciting, I know that casual players like myself are unlikely to reach this achievement, but it will still be an amazing event I am sure! I am excited beyond compare with the final revelations of this new world. When the trailer was released, I wanted it to hurry so fast that even my decent-working computer was moving too slow. When I finally got to watch the trailer, all the excitement for this set was renewed, since it had died down just a little bit after a month of Dark Ascension.
First impressions for Avacyn Restored events: Score of ten.
Without further ado, here is the Avacyn Restored trailer, in the event none of you have seen it yet:
Avacyn, the Archangel of Innistrad
Avacyn Restored: Predictions
With no cards being released as of yet, it's difficult to know just what is going to happen by way of mechanics. It would be safe to assume that most of the basic Innistrad mechanics will stay in place: Flash, Flashback, Morbid and the newcomers to Innistrad: Double-faced Cards, Curses, and Fight.
I have not ever encountered the Fight mechanic since Innistrad was released, not in play anyway. It's a rather dull mechanic to me though the possibilities are indeed interesting, but there have always been similar ways of dealing such damage. Morbid is always fun, and always seems to be unexpected; no matter how often I go up against a burn deck, I always seem to forget about the Morbid mechanics. Flash and Flashback are old as well; and also fairly common in Standard format, especially Flashback, which allows you to cast cards once from your graveyard and then exile them. Then there are the Double-Faced cards, new to this block and thoroughly interesting. I love the double cards but I seem to only ever use them in Limited formats.
I feel that Angels are going to become a hard-hitting group in Avacyn Restored. There have been a few Angels printed in the Innistrad and Dark Ascension sets: Angel of Flight Alabaster and Angelic Overseer in Innistrad, and Requiem Angel in Dark Ascension. Combined with the grand total of ten Angels so far that are legal in Standard, and a total of only about two cards that may work for an Angel deck, they seem severely underplayed in this set. Hopefully with the release of AR, Angels will become a powerplayer for decks. I can see some good Angels with Lifelink coming into the field, Angels that make an opponent's Zombies weaker, or Angels that are powered up when used with Humans or Spirits.
Another thing I would love to see is Angels with the Transform mechanic; weaker, underpowered Angels that transform into a one-card army. Maybe it's just me but with the story and basic idea of Avacyn Restored, then any of these would be really good for the flavor of the set. And I really cannot wait to see what kind of card Avacyn herself will be when the set is finally officially revealed. With the focal point of the entire set of AR being an Archangel, then Angels can't not be a good theme for a deck in Standard.
I am also hoping that Flash will get a bigger turnout in AR. Only a small handful of cards have been printed in the Innistrad block with Flash- a very small handful. Flashback is the most common, it seems like nearly every Sorcery and Instant spell I pull has Flashback. While it's really, really cool that these Flashbacks require the opposite color mana the second time around, I think Flash is underplayed because of Flashback. Once a card is in my graveyard, I rarely think of it again unless it affects the power of my cards in play.
Zombies will probably be less of a threat in Avacyn Restored. This does not mean they won't be a threat in general Standard, but AR gives the impression there isn't much to be said for the Zombie faction. Avacyn's power will push them back if the trailer is any indication, and Priest subtypes may have an increase in the set. I feel like Werewolves will still be about the same- but perhaps work well with their Human counterparts rather than strictly being useful with the Transform ability. There have always been some more subtle and less "evil" Werewolf cards but I think there will be a change in the play for these guys. Vampires are the hardest to tell for me. Pretty much all of the Vampires we've seen so far in this set have been crazy, bloodthirsty kinds. Even the "noble" Vampires have been pretty flamboyant.
With Sorin's "return" to Innistrad in Dark Ascension and his surprise at how his own kind have changed so much, the story will probably go something along the lines of all the Vampires becoming a bit more cohesive and less forceful against Humans. I don't think Vampires will become underpowerful, just changed a bit. All the other factions are quite obviously against Humans, while Humans are banding together to fend off the Zombies, Vampires, Geists, and Werewolves.
We also have yet to see the end of Liliana and Garruk. Since Liliana provides the narration for this third trailer, I can imagine we will see something from her again. Not another version, of course, since Liliana of the Veil was released in Innistrad. We also have yet to see what exactly was happening with Garruk; I expect Veil-Cursed was not the last we heard from him either. Since three Planeswalkers have gotten redone in this block alone, I can't imagine a fourth coming from the woodworks, but then again I did notice what looked suspiciously like Gideon Jura in the video. Who knows, perhaps we will see the white-mana Soldier Planeswalker coming to the land of Innistrad in the next set.
Lastly, while this is not anything that is a major factor in the game, I was quite disappointed at the lack of flavor text in Innistrad so far. I hope to see more in AR, but I understand that some of the mechanics, especially Transform, make it difficult to add a lot of flavor to the cards.
However, on the darker note of AR flavor, I think Demons might see a bit more action as well. After all, even if Avacyn has returned, Griselbrand the Archdemon is here as well. We had inklings of Griselbrand and some other demon-worshipping Humans in Innistrad, but finally in Avacyn Restored will both the Archangel and Archdemon be revealed and ready for action. In the same way I can't imagine Avacyn returning without a host of Angels, Griselbrand cannot possibly come alone either. Other Demon creatures are sure to follow, making for a good revamp of the old Angels versus Demons archetype in Avacyn Restored.
I am really excited to see what all Wizards has in store for us with Avacyn Restored. Of course everything here is just the musings of a casual MTG player who is more a fan of the story and flavor than of the actual working mechanics! Nothing here is anything that will happen, just lots of things I would really like to see in the new set.
Once Wizards starts releasing some interesting tidbits for the third Innistrad set next week, know that I will certainly be back with my thoughts. Speaking of thoughts, I welcome any discussions and comments- if anyone agrees or disagrees I would love to hear some other predictions for AR. Here are mine, so please share yours!