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“Black” beans with a little bit of color on the side – Avacyn Restored Black review

April 25, 2012

It’s hump day here on Avacyn Restored week, which means the middle of the wheel Black (and friends). There aren’t too many slam dunks for cube in black, but I think it will add a few roleplayers overall. Onto the cards!

Unlike the rest of the 1 mana discard spells, Appetite for Brains is not universally playable. It’s good for both control decks and aggro decks, being able to steal either a late game threat in the control mirror or a wrath effect as an aggressive black deck. It does whiff against most aggro decks, at best hitting a Fireblast from your mono-red opponent assuming they won’t want to self-Geddon in response. I don’t think it will be worth running if mono-black aggro isn’t a popular strategy in your local cube group, but it’s worth trying out if you enjoy Messenging/Obliterating.

This entire block has done wonders for weird body sizes in colors that normally don’t receive them. As with the blue bodies, you need to work hard for the increased power/toughness, but in the Taskmaster’s case, it’s worth it. Playing this on turn 1 with Dark Ritual offers an aggressive clock that can be backed by discard, and it’s also a good follow up to a wrath effect, as it needs to be dealt with quickly. It’s even good as an early threat for control decks in the control mirror, since you probably won’t be deploying another creature anyway. It had decent results in the first cube we ran it in, and I look forward to testing it out a bit more.

Griselbrand has all you want from a finisher; it passes the Jace/Terminate test, it can win in combat with pretty much every other creature in cube, and it puts a halt to any aggressive strategy through lifelink. It will most likely be cheated into play, either through Tooth and Nail or reanimation. In reanimator decks, much like Jin-Gitaxias, this will help fuel the next iteration of reanimation, since you can draw seven and discard any other fatties. Look out for foils early on, since foil legends usually have a premium price tag, and this card may pick up in standard. An aside un-related to this card’s playability in cube, it is kind of embarrassing that in the story Griselbrand gets killed quickly by Lilanna and Avacyn wins, but the card quality for constructed environments is flipped completely. I understand angels are generally more of a casual creature type, but something closer to Baneslayer would have been great for Avacyn.

Wurmcoil Engine’s uncommon, and much less powerful brothers, Maalfeld Twins is a decent fit for C/UC cubes. Phyrexian Gargantua is one of the few 6 drops that sees play in pauper, and the Twins offer similar value. Two cards are better than two 2/2s, but the ability to trade in combat and still follow up with more threats is just what the grindy black based control decks want.

Soulcage Fiend is the newest iteration of suicide creatures in black. Just like, Necrogen Scudder and Howling Banshee, you generally don’t care about your own life total as the aggressive deck. The lack of evasion does hurt this the Fiend, but the 3/2 body is still worth running in any sort of aggressive deck that can remove an early blocker or two.

I figured I would throw multi-color/lands/artifacts into the black sections since there are so few black cards. I’ve recently been pushing a G/W token theme, supported by Gavony Township, Glare of Subdual and Wilt-Leaf Liege. If you prefer your G/W to focus on playing a powerful threat each turn with stuff like Loxodon Hierarch, Knight of the Reliquary or Mirari’s Wake, Sigarda is a great finisher. Outside of combat or mass removal, it’s almost impossible to kill. It’s such a shame that a card like Sigarda, which would be a powerhouse and probably a staple in almost any other color combo, won’t be making it into my cube. G/W is by far the deepest guild as far as card quality goes, so depending on where you want G/W to be, it may be a good fit.

When Dark Ascension was being spoiled, I remember seeing Vault of the Archangel and realizing they would be completing the ability land cycle from Innistrad. I was disappointed to find out we’d have to wait another three months for the last three of the cycle, however WotC did not disappoint. The enemy guilds in cube have the weakest cards in terms of quality, due to enemy colored cards being printed a smaller quantities. Since I count this land cycle against the specific guild instead of in the fixing section, I had high hopes for a new R/W, U/G and U/R card. Unfortunately for cube, I don’t think Alchemist’s Refuge is good enough to make it in. It’s costed as cheap as possible, but still doesn’t add enough over the weaker U/G cards currently in cube. This will be an EDH mainstay however, as it’s colorless comparative Winding Canyons has slowly creeped up from dollar rare to 6-7.

The “Loothouse” is by far my favorite card from Avacyn Restored, and one I cannot wait to try in cube. Unlike the Refuge, this is the sort of ability that is perfect on a non-basic. Given U/R usually leans towards counterburn or control, having a place to spend leftover mana at the end of your opponent’s turn is fantastic. U/R suffers a lot of the same problems the rest of the enemy colors do, so this will be slotting in right away. The enemy guilds’ card quality in cube is another reason I am very excited for the Return to Ravnica, especially given the rumors/hinting that a U/R Planeswalker is on the horizon. (One time Niv-Mizzet, Planeswalker!) I actually accurately predicted what the Loothouse would be previous to Avacyn Restored spoiler season too.

R/W also has a dearth of cubeable cards, and thankfully, Slayers’ Stronghold will finally allow me to replace Goblin Legionnaire, which always felt terrible casting on turn 2 given the colored mana requirements. The Stronghold does suffer from being in a guild that is very colored mana intensive, with lots of WW and 1RR early drops. Effectively three mana is a lot for the haste  to be relevant, but +2/+0 and vigilance can quickly help swing the tide of an aggro on aggro match-up. I will be watching the Stronghold closely to see if it’s ability is used often enough, but for the time being, at least it isn’t Goblin Legionnaire.

Tomorrow I’ll continue with red, which looks to be getting quite a few goodies, including a potentially powerful Planeswalker.

Kyle Engleson
@Kengy5 on Twitter
Kyle.Engleson@gmail.com

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