“I’m afraid I just blue myself” – Avacyn Restored Blue Review
Welcome to day two of Avacyn Restored cube review, with more blue but less cards! Let’s get right to it.
Amass is too slow for full cube, but offers another form on draw X, do something with Y (Thirst for Knowledge, Compulsive Research, Careful Consideration) in C/CU. Base blue decks in C/UC are often slow, grindy, removal heavy decks. This card matches up well with one of my favorite draw engines, Mystical Teachings. The ability to dump cards into the graveyard like the previously mentioned spells isn’t as relevant, as graveyard based cards are rarer in C/UC. For the cost of splashability, you get to keep one less card compared to Concentrate. This will be worth playing in any larger C/UC cube.
Upheaval is one of my least favorite cards to play with or against. It’s a very powerful card, no doubt, but it usually ends up frustrating me more than anything else, which is why it’s been cut from my full cube. Devastation Tide is not even close to Upheaval. The main advantage of Upheaval is being able to float mana and re-establish board position quicker than your opponent, usually through fast mana as well. As with Terminus, the miracle cost will need to be perfect timing to get maximum value, but it is a lot easier to get marginal value by casting it for it’s miracle cost whenever it comes up. The ability to hold counter Magic up when they re-cast their threats is also relevant. I can’t see myself adding this based on feelings for Upheaval, but I think it can be worth testing for larger cubes.
The four slot in pauper cubes isn’t exactly packed with quality creatures. One of soulbond’s biggest weaknesses is the chance to be blown out at with combat tricks on either half of the pair. Elgaud Shieldmate’s bonded ability prevents that, but offers only that as well. The lesser used dream scenario of curving this into 5 mana spell (Air Elemental, Murder of Crows) can be devastating, as these bodies are too difficult for most decks to defeat in combat. I think this card will end up being a sleeper both in AVR limited as well as pauper cubes.
Innistrad block has given blue quite a few useful and awkward body sizes for creatures, between this, Stitched Drake and Makeshift Mauler. The fact that all of these require some finagling to pull off justifies it at the very least. In blue based tempo control decks, Fettergeist won’t be another Serendib Efreet. Taxing your Delver and Azure Mage on turn 4 is not the way to finish out games. I do see this filling the role of mid-game blocker for the U/x control decks, as it will most often be your only creature until you play your finishers. It holds off pretty much every 1-3 drop in cube, and can go beatdown in the control mirror as well. I’ve never included the Efreet as I felt like U/x tempo isn’t where I want decks to be in my cube, but if you play the Efreet, Fettergeist should find a home as well.
Cloudshift x 2, now supporting artifacts and lands! It’s a shame this card wasn’t white, as the land bouncing ability would fit perfectly with the landfall creatures in W and R. There aren’t many lands worth flickering, so this will usually be confined to creatures and artifacts. As with most flicker effects, if your deck is full of ETB effects, generating more than a card’s worth of card advantage won’t be difficult with this. At worst it can give two of your creatures vigilance for a turn. Some artifacts worth mentioning are any of the Trigon cycle from Scars of Mirrodan, Serrated Arrows or Mortar Pod. Things I would not recommend using this on include Grafted Wargear or Everflowing Chalice.
A great tempo card for pauper cubes, Into the Void buys you time to deal with a fast start, or gives you an ability to answer an already resolved creature by countering it on the way back down the second time. Wash Out and Sleep are both similar cards, so there might not be room for the Void in smaller pauper cubes, but it’s at least worth considering as an alternative if aggressive decks are proving too quick for control.
Another quality four drop for the blue decks, and another Man-o’-War variant, Mist Raven should slot into every pauper cube. There isn’t much to say about this, as it’s ability is pretty basic, and can even help gather value on your side of the battlefield by bouncing your own Splicer or Flametongue Kavu. Amazing John Avon art to boot that will probably look insane foiled.
Much like Mistmeadow Witch, Nephalia Smuggler will be pulling double duty in limited. The obvious ability is to re-trigger ETB effects over and over again, gaining value each turn it goes unmolested. The second ability is to blank your opponent’s removal, protecting your finishers if you are able to get both online. It’s weaker than Mistmeadow Witch for a few reasons, being unable to protect itself and only being able to be used once a turn, but it is easily splashed and the creature returning to the battlefield instantly instead of at end of turn helps time out ETB effects. I can’t wait to play with this in AVR limited, as it seems like a key card to a quality gimmick deck.
The last 5 mana blue planeswalker in cube has been largely eradicated due to being non-interactive. Tamiyo’s two abilities don’t really work in tandem with one another, but both are still very powerful. Tamiyo feels like it will end up being more interactive than Jace 3.0, but a lot less powerful. We’ve run one draft with it so far, and it was great when dropped on an empty board, as is pretty much every Planeswalker printed. It can protect itself against one creature, but at 5 mana, I want my planeswalkers to survive multiple creatures ala Elspeth 2.0 or Gideon. I plan on keeping Tamiyo in for now, but will be watching it closely. I’m concerned about including a large number of Planeswalkers in cube overall, as 4-5 planeswalker decks are becoming increasingly frustrating to deal with. If you’ve got a good solution to this, let me know in the comments!
My favorite part about soulbond is that given the right ability, the creature essentially has haste. There aren’t a ton of <2 mana creatures in blue, but curving 2 drop into this, draw a card is a very powerful start. The 2/1 body isn't shabby either, given I would have guessed a 1/1 in the dark for this sort of ability. If your opponent slips just a little bit, drawing two the next turn should pull you far enough ahead to win the game, even if it does take 10 more turns. I can't see this making the jump into full cube, but keep your eyes open for foils for a pauper cube near you.
For the third set in a row, we’re given another Excommunicate-esque effect. The extra mana allows for a miracle casting cost as well as being able to hit any permanent. Blue being able to answer any non-land permanent is rare, and one of the reasons I rate catchall cards like Beast Within very highly. This won’t be bouncing any Planeswalkers in pauper cube, but being able to deal with a Loxodon Warhammer, Control Magic or a Phantom Centaur is perfect. The miracle cost will rarely be cast, but still can happen. As with the other miracle cards, it appears WotC got the big guns artist-wise to fill these orders. I imagine the pretty butterflies will look amazing in foil.
Look out for black tomorrow, with some sweet reprints with great new art, a legend that proves this set’s name may have been ill-gotten, and not much else.
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