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“Some men just want to watch the world burn” – Avacyn Restored Red Review

April 26, 2012

The Avacyn Restored pre-release is only a few days away, and I’ve been taking in as many set reviews as possible. While all pre-releases are enjoyable, there’s something special about a completely new format. There were some fun cards added in Dark Ascension, but an entire new format is just fantastic. Today I’ll be reviewing red, which has a lot of possible inclusions, but only one I would consider a slam dunk for full cube. As always, my opinions on pauper cards is an educated guess through small discussion and theorizing. Lets go!

While I was playing Magic back when Viashino Cutthroat was printed, I was busy with a en-Kor/Spike combo deck while learning earth science, so the power level of that sort of effect escapes me. In terms of constructed, Archwing Dragon will have a tough time breaking through the armies of 1/1 flying spirit tokens that will be a mainstay for the next 16 months, but in cube, it has potential. The four slot in red is pretty stacked, and even received an upgrade recently with Hellrider, but there is room for a card with this effect. Four mana is a heavy investment, but having a late game mana sink is fine, and there aren’t many flying blockers to fight in combat. It also dodges sorcery speed removal, so it’s a great follow up to a wrath.

This format’s fireball variant, and boy is it. The full cost is pretty hefty, as a 5 mana Volcanic Fallout is not what I want to be doing in red based control decks, but it has potential in the sort of fast artifact mana deck that normally supports Wildfire/Destructive Force style cards. Much like Terminus, it feels a little awkward to miracle cast this unless it’s the perfect situation, but I still think Bonfire will be worth testing out as another red wrath.

As with Viashino Cuttroat, I wasn’t around for Spikeshot Goblin in the original Mirrodin block, but I did get a chance to play with it’s little brother Spikeshot Elder, and it was a house in limited games. Pingers are always very powerful, and those that can be activated multiple times per turn are even better. Falkenrath Exterminator two abilities synergize very well, allowing you to clear the way via pings to grow. I have a feeling if this connects even once, it will win games on it’s own in pauper. It also combos with any equipment, much like the Spikeshots.

I almost missed Kruin Striker when reading through the set the first time, but got it on second glance. It reminds me a lot of Keldon Marauders in that it’s closer to a burn spell than an actual creature. If you’re curving out, this will resemble a Hellspark Elemental. Kruin Striker fits best in an aggressive R/W deck, with Midnight Haunting, Spectral Procession, Hero of Bladehold and Cloudgoat Ranger all trigger it multiple times in a turn. I’ll be testing this in full cube and think it will be great in pauper as well.

One of the benefits I’ve discussed with the soulbond creatures is that they have psuedo-haste when bonding with a creature already on the battlefield, however Lightning Mauler gives psuedo and actual haste. When on curve, this will be be better served waiting to bond with your three drop, which once again means this will fit in R/x aggro better than mono red since most of red’s late beaters have haste. It again fits very well with white, as their late beaters usually are better bodies at the cost of non-haste.

I’ve discussed quite a few miracle cards so far, and Thunderous Wrath is one of the few from this set that doesn’t need good timing to get the best value out of it. I’m curious to see how miracles will play out in limited, but in any aggressive red based deck, this card is amazing so long as it’s not in your opening seven. Discard outlets such as Faithless Looting are less prevalent in cube, so if you do draw this in your opening hand, you’ve effectively mulliganed. One thing that I do like about it is that it’s a burn spell that really only functions well in the aggressive decks, so control decks that normally steal cheap burn for removal won’t want it.

Planeswalkers are often the hardest cards to evaluate. As with most new cards, the best way to do so is to compare them to former planeswalkers with similar abilities. The other key component to PW evaluation is “Can the Planeswalker defend itself the turn it comes into play?” Tibalt is impossible to evaluate in this manner, as it’s the first 2 mana Planeswalker, and you generally won’t have to defend it on turn two. I initially dismissed this, as unlike the current Standard environment, there isn’t a ton of graveyard interactions for red in cube. Assuming you drafted a deck that receives no advantage from Tibalt’s +1, it can still be considered a net neutral. Sometimes you’ll discard spells you want, and other times you’ll discard lands you don’t want. The best way to look at Tibalt is as a 2 mana Sudden Impact with suspend 2, and upside. It’s probably only going to be good against control decks, but if they can’t deal with it, you can Sudden Impact them and keep your Tibalt, or continue ticking it up until they have to deal with the Tibalt before playing a threat. Another one that needs to be tested closely, but I have high hopes for this half-devil man thing.

The last card for today, and one of the most controversial it would seem. The punisher mechanic is often a skill tester, as newer players can only see the best case scenario “It’s a guaranteed four damage no matter WHAT”, whereas seasoned pros know all too often that your opponent making the decision means they will do so with their own best interests. Browbeat saw play when it was standard legal, only because the three cards it drew you often equated to a future five damage, so either mode was acceptable. As far as cube goes, I think Vexing Devil will eventually be a staple, once people realize how powerful both modes are. The fact that it is a late game top-deck is irrelevant; so is Goblin Guide but I don’t see people passing that card too often. The body is bigger than most blockers in the first four turns, so this will usually be a four damage lava spike. And guess what, that’s perfectly fine for the red decks. Goblin Guide usually gets outclassed in a few turns anyway, so they’re actually very similar. I included this in our last draft, but it wasn’t in the cardpool, so I’ll have to wait a few more drafts to see how good it is.

Tomorrow is Pre-release eve! I’m hoping to be able to do the green section over lunch, as I will be working late and won’t have a chance to do it before the pre-release. If I don’t get it done tomorrow, it will probably go up Saturday or Sunday. Sometime next week, after playing with miracle cards and some discussion with local cubers, I will put up my card for card Avacyn Restored changes, including some changes made between now and my last update.

Kyle Engleson
@Kengy5 on Twitter

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