It’s not much of a stretch to call Avacyn Restored the best Commander set ever. As I mentioned in last week’s full set review, it’s chocked with huge bombs for the format, from the storyline’s two main characters, Avacyn and Griselbrand, to game-changers like Gisela, to less obvious but no less dangerous cards like Deadeye Navigator.
As we plunge into the future in the format (and quite honestly, even today), we’ll see that one of the major challenges we face as deckbuilders and players is not the finding of great cards, but the finding of room in our existing decks for those cards. Given that there are around 13,000 unique cards in Magic to choose from, even the most casual of our decks are pretty tight. When we want to create space for the cool new stuff, we have to get rid of existing cool stuff (or simply build new decks). Either way, it’s rarely an easy choice.
If you’re like me, there are so many awesome cards you want to play with that you have to build a fair number of decks. I currently have fourteen fully functioning ones, which doesn’t include the half-formed ones laying in a box or the fully-formed ones, like the Vorosh, the Hunter deck I have that I just don’t like that much and needs to be disassembled or rebuilt. Given that I still intend to make a deck of each color combination and I already have a deck in Vorosh’s colors, that’s a pretty low priority.
Now that we’ve seen all the Angels, there’s a deck in the offing; I’m just not sure yet which direction I want to go. Bruna is an obvious build-around, as is Gisela. There’s the slightly outside-the-box choice of Jenara to run some green and blue in there, but she is indeed an Angel. Sigarda is interesting enough to consider. Kaalia isn’t an Angel but could pilot them. I’m going to have to give this quite a bit of thought, since I want to both build the Angels (somehow resisting the urge to add Archons just because they feel like Angels) and fit into one of the color combination slots which I haven’t built yet (White/Red, White/Blue, and White/Green).
Here are the changes I’ve made or will be making to my existing decks:
ADUN OAKENSHIELD and his BEASTS
This is a Beasts tribal deck, and Behemoth is a Beast. He has another decent ability too. Descendants’ Path should lead to quite some card advantage, although I’m not fooled into thinking that it’s Lurking Predators. Cavern of Souls is going to be a chase card in this set, and it’s one that’s worth playing in every tribal deck.
Changeling Titan was in because he’s a Beast in addition to everything else, not to mention aggressively costed. I always dreamed about some clever play using him to Champion something that would later come back when someone Wrathed, but in the end it never worked out that way and he was always disappointing. Crucible of Worlds was a leftover from this being a landfall deck, which it isn’t anymore. Sure, it’s useful with fetchlands and Wasteland, but I really want that Descendants’ Path. Llanowar Wastes was just in there because I ran out of good duals and it is foily. The Cavern is going to be mo’ better.
ANIMAR, SOUL OF ELEMENTS
Animar is a creature deck where +1/+1 counters matter (plus a small proliferate subtheme). The Champion is there to keep Goat tokens and whatnot from being able to block at all, but especially Animar. It’s probably still not quite as good as trample, but I’m willing to give it a whirl. Timberland Guide will have multiple uses, but most likely ticking up Animarâ€”although this slot might just be better with another Graft creature. We’ll see.
The deck is only 7% non-permanents, so Primal Surge could end up being quite something; certainly a greater potential upside than Genesis Wave. It’s another "we’ll see" card. I think there are times that it will be epic and times that it will be disappointing. The last change, Hunting Moa, is obviously not a new card but more makes-Animar-better stuff.
I’m not sure why It That Betrays was in here in the first place, but probably because I didn’t have a foil copy of some other Eldrazi that I wanted to use. Borborygmos never panned out as part of the proliferate engine, and Deranged Hermit was just janky. In the right deck he’s fun, but this isn’t it.
INTET, THE DREAMER
Out:Â Invoke the Firemind
Intet is one of those decks that is more difficult than most to find space in. It’s extremely tight, and there’s not really a single card that I want to take out. That said, I like Tamiyo’s synergies with the rest of the deck, and Invoke the Firemind always ended up being a "win more" card.
KARADOR, GHOST CHIEFTAIN
Another deck that’s close to my view of perfection; room had to nonetheless be made for Restoration Angel. The number of hijinks that will ensue with her will approach infinite. One of the things the deck is a little weak on is card draw, and with all the sacrificing and killing of creatures I’m doing, Harvester of Souls will certainly pay dividends.
Ghave was just in there because he was in the colors and it gave me another way to get guys into the graveyard, but evidence has shown that I already have enough sac outlets. It turns out that Green Sun’s Zenith was only ever getting Avenger of Zendikar (especially with Prime Time still banned in the Armada League for a few more weeks), so I figured the slot was better spent.
KARRTHUS, TYRANT OF JUND
In:Â Cavern of Souls
Out:Â Skarrg, the Rage Pits
Not much on the Dragon front from Avacyn Restored, so the Cavern is the only change I want to make at the moment. While it’s nice to have Skarrg/Wolf Run redundancy, I also want to keep an eye out on producing too much colorless manaâ€”and Wolf Run is clearly the superior card.
KRESH THE BLOODBRAIDED
Malignus is going to be at least 20/20 most of the time he’s cast. Add to that you can’t prevent his damage, and things get rough. Essence Harvest is a Rite of Consumption that you don’t have to sacrifice the creature to, so it seems like all upside. Occasionally, someone is going to Evacuation in response, but that’s a small price to pay to have the choice of draining life between the awesome power of Hamletback Goliath, Kresh, or Lord of Extinction.
Brooding Saurian is an in-and-out card based on my mood and how the environment I play in is shaping up. Right now, folks are doing more copying than stealing (although there’s still quite some of the latter), and I have enough sac outlets to keep my stuff own from getting filched. Garruk, Primal Hunter draws cards instead of savaging someone, and I like the latter better. Again, it’s not like it’s a terrible card; it’s just that something had to go to get in the new card.
LORD OF TRESSERHORN
I’m trying to get the deck more and more into a 100% Zombie deck, so Dread Slaver in for Havoc Demon makes sense. The amount of red and blue in the deck is really low, so I can afford to lose one of the colored mana producers.
MERIEKE RI BERIT
The more I think about Deadeye Navigator, the better it gets. There are so many cool things to do with it I don’t know where to start. Infinite Reflection is a card that is full of tomfoolery, just like the Merieke deck is, so it felt like the best fitâ€”the same with Dark Impostor. Archangel’s Light has proven to be very valuable for both me and other players in the League, and it seems better in long games than Feldon’s Cane.
Magister Sphinx could be seriously degenerate with Deadeye Navigator, and I don’t want to be That Guy. Commandeer has been a mostly disappointing card since I’ve played it, and I’m not keeping a large enough hand size to always have it be good. Sun Titan just doesn’t have enough targets in the deck to be useful and was always more of a redundancy for stuff that got blown up. It’s a choice that I might reconsider since all eleven artifacts in the deck cost three or lessâ€”as does Aura of Silence. Okay, I’ve talked myself out of it. Sun Titan stays, Cemetery Puca is out.
Out:Â Nath of the Gilt-Leaf
Mimeoplasm loves milling, and Dreadwaters will be pretty huge sometimes. Nath of the Gilt Leaf was in there because he’s cool, but he’s coming out to command his own deck soon anyway.
Out:Â Everflowing Chalice
I had thought about waiting with Avacyn until I build the Angel deck, but I want to give her a whirl and see just how good she is. Having it in a deck with some counterspells seems like the right testing ground.
Everflowing Chalice has never risen to the level in the deck that I had hoped, and there’s already enough ramp and whatnot that the deck has demonstrated it doesn’t need it.
OROS, THE AVENGER
RITH, THE AWAKENER
Cathars’ Crusade is made for Rith decks. When a bunch of creatures come into play at the same time, they’ll all trigger off of each other. So good. Behemoth also loves decks with lots of dudes.
RUHAN OF THE FOMORI
I suspect that Ruhan and his always-attacking stance will have a long and healthy relationship with Gisela, as will the rest of the deck. Tamiyo will help Ruhan get through a little more often, and her other abilities are pretty spicy as well. I’m not sure if the "everyone attacks always" is conducive to planeswalkers, but we’ll see.
We’ve already talked about how good I think the Navigator is going to be, and my Thrax deck has a large number of dudes with enters the battlefield triggers, so most often I’ll probably be blinking my own guys. I have to play Griselbrand somewhere, and this deck seems as good a place as any. I’m also considering trying to work Devastation Tide in there somewhere, perhaps as a replacement for the Disk or O-Stone. Casting it for its miracle cost and then swinging out Thraximundar might be worth considering.
Dawn of the Dead requires a sacrifice outlet so that the guy doesn’t get exiled. I want to bring it back to the deck eventually, but I’m going to need to do a little reworking first. Pentavus will trigger Thraximundar, but I already have enough of that. Compared with Griselbrand for only one more mana, you can see where he falls down.
There are new cards, new tricks, new Commanders, and new strategies to be explored in the post-Avacyn Restored world. I’m going to keep an eye on how aggressive things get. I run some Fog effects in most decks; I’m starting to think that with the introduction of cards like Gisela and Craterhoof Behemoth already strong attacking strategies will get stronger, so perhaps packing even more like Tangle and Spore Cloud might be worthwhile.
In the coming weeks, expect reports on just how well these changes help the decks Embrace the Chaos, plus ideas for new decks in the never-ending "build them all" saga.