Avacyn Restored is now fully released and the set is legal in Standard. While Pros are overseas testing for Block Constructed, the rest of us peasants are working on PTQ season. I had expected last weekends StarCityGames.com Open in Providence to provide some new decklists so we could jump on some speculations right away.
What does this mean? Does it mean Avacyn Restored really won’t make much of an impact this season? Maybe it means people stuck to safe plays instead of trying new things. Perhaps it just means not enough people had access to the new cards to get their newest brews in working order.
What did show up?
Five different decks appeared in the top 8, some new and some old. The old decks didn’t see many changes, but lets take a look at them.
G/R Aggro won the event, and the only cards from Avacyn Restored in the mainboard was the same uncommon I honed in on last week, Wolfir Avenger. This deck boasted 3 copies in it’s mainboard, and I only expect this card to see more play. It is still only $0.50 retail, and I think that’s a crime. I’m stashing these.
In the sideboard we see a singleton Zealous Conscripts. This card is a powerhouse against control and gives G/R the ability to power through after a control deck tries to go over-the-top with a planeswalker or 6+ drop. He’s already climbed up to $3 retail pricing, and I don’t expect him to move much more than that. As a 5-mana non-mythic sideboard card, he’s probably at his peak right now. We’ll see later that some decks are running more copies of this guy in the board, but none yet creeping to the mainboard.
Wolf Run Ramp
There were two Wolf Run decks in the top 8. The big question is are we going to see Cavern of Souls? The second place deck ran 3 copies mainboard (with 1 in the side) while the 5th place deck only had two copies in the side. Time will tell whether or not Cavern of Souls is fully adopted into this strategy, but I simply don’t see the format progressing without this card being extremely relevant.
Forcing down a Primeval Titan is exactly what this deck wants to do. The question is whether or not Cavern of Souls can maintain its high ticket. Since it won’t be in the event decks, we can reasonably assume it will stay afloat, even if it creeps down a little bit.
One of the decks had a singleton Bonfire of the Damned, and I like that choice over Devil’s Play. This card has already shot up to $12 (and is sold out on StarCityGames.com). While I think $12 is probably too high for this card, it’s certainly a powerful Mythic and will be seeing play. If it dips to the $8 range I’ll be buying in. This is the biggest missed opportunity of the set. It preordered at $6, and I know I certainly misevaluated it, thinking it wasn’t going to make much of a splash in Standard.
Now that I’ve tested it a bit myself, I can see I missed the mark on this card. It will be a player throughout Standard season this summer. The Wolf Run decks both ran some number of Zealous Conscripts in the Sideboard, like the G/R aggro deck does, and I think this is a pattern we’ll see for the remainder of the year.
The U/W Delver lists (3rd and 7th), literally saw no Avacyn Restored updates at all. I’m thinking (maybe hoping) that this is only temporary, and that either new decks will force the Delver decks to change, or that the Delver decks will evolve to include some new technology. Replacing last years “Caw Blade” with a similar U/W aggro-control deck will make for an annoying summer. That being said, Geist of Saint Traft and Snapcaster Mage are holding their own through the new set’s release.
Solar Flare also jumped into the Top 8, with the Sun Titan+Phantasmal Image engine being the prominent focus of the deck. Two Cavern of Souls in the Sideboard are the only Avacyn Restored cards in this 75, and I was surprised to not see Griselbrand in some quantity in the main or side. In a land with no countermagic, Solar Flare is a solid strategy as long as it can employ a defense fast enough to hold off the aggro decks.
This deck relies on Oblivion Ring and Dead Weight, because they are recurrable with Sun Titan. I’d like to see more iterations of this deck, because Avacyn Restored brought lots of Reanimate options if this were to shift to a more Unburial Rites focus rather than Sun Titan. Keep your eyes on the big Angels and Griselbrand if that shift happens.
In 6th place we did get a refreshing new deck. W/R Humans. It’s been terrorizing Block Constructed for months, and with the new Avacyn Restored additions, it immediately cracked top 8 of Standard. The usual suspects from previous Human decks are all present, but we get the addition of Silverblade Paladin and Lightning Mauler. Silverblade Paladin is a strong card, but is at its best in a White-Weenie deck like this one. I am uncertain if the Paladin can stand to grow any further, as its already been printed as a promo.
Further, we again have Zealous Conscription in the sideboard. This deck, however, ran the full 4Cavern of Souls and added a Slayer’s Stronghold. A tribal deck like this gets maximum value out of the Cavern, and this is where we get to see its best strengths. If there comes a point where there are multiple tribal decks fighting in top 8’s we could see the Cavern creep up, otherwise we’ll expect it to slowly fall downward, but not too far.
In 8th place was a GW Humans deck, that had only the Wolfir Avenger sporting the Avacyn Restored expansion symbol. Again, this card is very aggressively costed, and it will continue to see play. Outside of that, this deck doesn’t look much different than GW Humans did after the release of Dark Ascension, and I don’t know that we’ll be seeing a ton of this deck in the coming weeks.
So what does the lack of AVR cards in this most recent open really mean? It means this format is still adjusting. The top pros are all working on block, and until they return from Barcelona, we likely won’t see the power of what these new cards bring to the format. Keeping our eyes on powerhouse cards from the upcoming Pro Tour weekend will give us a head start, but we’ll also want to keep our eyes peeled for new standard decks that pop up at the lower circuits. While people are focused on the Pro Tour, you can find some sick Standard speculations.