I’m sure by now that you’ve read a lot about Avacyn Restored. There are a wide variety of articles available about this set, each by a different author with his or her own observations. When a new set comes out I like to read a wide variety of opinions to get the broadest view possible.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking about Standard decks, how the metagame is evolving and how we can adapt. For today though, let’s talk about the new cards that are going to impact Standard the most.
At first glance, a set chalk full of angels and demons like Avacyn Restored may seem like a casual players dream, unlikely to affect tournament results. However, this set has its top performers like any other and some are sure to become staples.
Here are my picks for the ten best cards.
Many players, including me, underestimated soulbound at first glance. This is mostly because of a few details of the mechanic that aren’t immediately apparent. The biggest detail that people tend to misread or misevaluate is that soulbound creatures can be bonded to a creature that enters the battlefield after they did. This is an attribute that certainly ups the mechanic’s power level.
Lightning Mauler essentially has two modes. The first one consists of casting him on turn two after a one-drop and pairing him immediately. This is reminiscent of Rip-Clan Crasher, a card I’ve played to great effect before.
Haste is a powerful ability, and Lightning Mauler seems good enough to see play in Standard. It’s possible that Humans may move into red to take advantage of him.
One mana for five damage —a full fourth of your opponent’s life— is a crazy ratio. Even if you never cast this spell for its normal casting cost, it can play an important role in successful burn decks. Faithless Looting can also be used to discard Thunderous Wrath when it ends up in your hand. The red mages I’ve talked to do not agree on whether or not it belongs in the deck, so only time will tell.
At my prerelease I had a lot of fun surprising opponents with Wolfir Avenger. Three mana for a 3/3 is already efficient and even if it only had one other ability it would probably see play in Standard.
Regeneration is powerful, but flash is what pushes Avenger over the edge, letting you ambush something midcombat. Don’t underestimate the relevance of three toughness either. Not many creatures in Standard deal three damage. I see this guy filling a hole in G/R Aggro. He already has a home, so be ready to play against him.
Vexing Devil is not the second coming of Goblin Guide. I’d say it’s more like Furnace Scamp. So how good is it? I am not sure but I know it will be played. I also know the metagame needs to adapt to his presence. This will mean more Timely Reinforcements and other specifically anti-red cards. Celestial Purge is already seeing play because of Zombies, which may cause some splash damage to Devil. I am not sure if red has what it takes to contend in the new Standard environment, but I know players will try so be ready.
Dangerous Wager has a lot of uses. It can be played in a reanimator deck to discard your fatties. It can be played in a Burning Vengeance deck to get rid of unneeded cards or fill up your graveyard with flashback spells. It can also be used in an aggro deck to draw some more cards after you’ve played out your hand. On top of all that, it’s an instant. Dangerous Wager isn’t sounding so dangerous to me; it sounds quite good.
Last week, I talked in detail about the miracle cards from Avacyn Restored. I don’t think miracle cards are broken, but they are all strong and might find a home in various formats. Cost reduction effects have traditionally been the turf of tournament-caliber (and sometimes busted) cards.
Terminus for example, clears the board for a dangerous one mana. At thaht cost you can cast other spells in the same turn which can be back-breaking against an aggressive strategy. Sending creatures to the bottom of libraries is also more powerful than the typical “destroy” effect of Day of Judgment.
Six mana is perfectly reasonable for this effect so I imagine it will be played in Standard. It should also see Legacy play because you can set it up with Brainstorm. This is definitely a card to keep your eye on.
[card Bonfire of the Damned]Bonfire[/card] seems to be one of the more influential miracle cards because of its strength against creature-heavy decks. I am still unsure whether it will be played in the sideboard or main, but a miser’s copy seems fine for any deck. It is not clear how much of an impact this sweeper will have on Standard, but it should make players alter their plays just by existing.
My initial impression of Silverblade Paladin was that it was outclassed by Mirran Crusader. That is no longer my opinion. Despite the protection offered by Mirran Crusader, I expect more and more players to adopt the new three-drop. It can deal a huge amount of damage even on the turn it’s cast by granting another creature double strike. If they kill the first creature you pair with it, you can always pair another creature with it later.
Silverblade Paladin will effect the Standard format for as long as it is legal because it offers a unique and powerful effect. Between this and Lightning Mauler, there may even be a deck centered around soulbound.
This is my favorite miracle card in the set by far and it seems like a lot of players caught on to how good this card is since its price quadrupled this week. This now twenty-dollar card seems like it is going to be quite the powerhouse. Revealing it when you have three, four or five mana is extremely good. The normal cost might be hard on the white mana, but the explosive upside will tempt a lot of decks to play this. If you summon your angels with the miracle cost, you are adding a ton of power to the board and can probably swing for lethal the following turn.
Desolate Lighthouse may turn out to be the best of the ten-card cycle from Innistrad. This land allows you to filter out unnecessary lands or spells and draw into the things you actually need. In addition, it provides a discard outlet to enable other strategies. The power of this land may be subtle, but it will have a huge impact on deck building decisions for the upcoming season.
It may surprise you to see a common burn spell as the second most influential card in the set. Pillar of Flame definitely has what it takes to shake up this format though. It permanently answers Gravecrawler, Strangleroot Geist and Geralf’s Messenger, all a huge part of the metagame.
The best comparison we can make to this card is to Magma Spray. That card was an excellent answer to Kitchen Finks which had a huge presence and was very difficult for an aggressive deck to deal with. The same is true of Pillar of Flame. I love Magma Spray 2.0 and expect it to see a ton of play. It may even help some decks that may not have been viable otherwise. U/R Delver, for example, would love this card. Flashing it back with Snapcaster Mage is particularly strong, even if you have to do it on your turn.
Unlike the previous card, I doubt this choice surprises anyone. Cavern of Souls is certainly not the end of Magic but it will change the game across every format. That is an impressive task for any card.
In Standard, Cavern of Souls allows tribal decks to flow more smoothly and also helps your mid- and late-game bombs resolve. In Modern it will see play but maybe not in as many decks. In Legacy, I think the existence of this land will altar the face of the format. This land might allow a creature-based combo deck like Elves to rise in status.
I do wonder if this land is too powerful to print. Only time will tell. Since it does exist, we may as well take advantage of it. Metagames will adapt to include more ways to deal with permanents instead of countering them, which I think is good for the game. In any case, I would advise you to get your copies now because I don’t see this going down in price very soon.
There are actually a bunch of other cards not on this list that may impact Standard, such as Angel of Jubilation, Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Restoration Angel and the other miracle cards. Avacyn Restored has a lot of playable cards for constructed Magic so start looking over the set to see how you can innovate your Standard decks.
Do you agree with my top ten? If you have strong feelings about this topic, post your list as well so we can talk about it. What did I miss? What do you think will impact Standard the most? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading.
Until next time,
Unleash the Force on Standard!
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