Ranking The Rares Of Avacyn Restored

StarCityGames.com’s newest financial author Chas Andres continues his review of Avacyn Restored by ranking the rares of the set in order from worst to best. Find out where your favorite new rares rank on his list!

Back in the mid-eighties, there was a Swedish glam-metal band named Europe that really hated countdowns.

Of course, eliminating countdowns from the entirety of human culture is a feat that only the greatest of glam-metal bands would’ve even begun to attempt. Nonetheless, Europe felt that they were up to the task. And so began their quest to write one of the most epic songs ever to rhyme the word "Venus" with the line "seen us."

Thus, the world was given its greatest gift: "The Final Countdown."

Of course, as any schoolchild could tell you, their plan failed. The Final Countdown was not, in fact, the final countdown. To this day, we are free to have countdowns any time we want—even on New Year’s Eve. And for that, I’m very thankful.

Instead of simply talking about each rare in Avacyn Restored, I decided to rank them, in order, from worst to best. I think this will allow us to get a unique picture of the set and also have a bunch of fun. I’m sure there are going to be a lot of people disagreeing with me in the comments, which is great; the point of this exercise is that it will lead to a lot of strong opinions.

I also fully expect that in the time between when this article was written and when it runs, at least one of these cards will break out in an unexpected way. Knowing my luck, it will be a card that I dismissed with a pun or a bad joke. Such is life.

It’s also good to remember that worst-to-best rankings are incredibly subjective and have almost no bearing on…well, just about anything. I’m only considering the power level of these cards in the context of today’s Standard. (And Modern, and Legacy, and Commander…) Of course, nothing is static. It’s very possible that cards low on this list will end up having a real impact simply because they end up being better positioned in the format over the next couple of years.

In fact, you will find many cards on this list with higher predicted prices ranked lower than cards that I don’t think will be worth as much. This is because price is a product of demand, not quality. I don’t think Phyrexian Obliterator is a top five card in New Phyrexia, for example, but it’s the third most expensive card in the set.

So let’s start at the bottom, shall we? The worst rare in Avacyn Restored is…

Just kidding! I just wanted to throw egg on your face, Guy Who Only Reads the First Paragraph before Trolling the Comments. Consider yourself burned!

For the rest of you, the real worst card in Avacyn Restored is…

53) Rite of RuinConley Woods actually ranked this reasonably high in his set review, which is kind of awesome. Of course, Conley is going to try and break any card that can kill a land, no matter how bad it really is. The horrible mana cost on this card is what puts it in such an ignoble spot on my review, and I’d bet it ends up as the worst selling card in the whole set.

52) Burn at the Stake — So basically it lets you turn all of your guys into Lightning Bolts. Or it’s, like, Overrun if all of your creatures cost zero. Or it’s a situational Fireblast that costs five instead of being free.

51) Captain of the Mists — Thar—he blows!

50) Angel of Glory’s Rise — It’s the rapture! I love this card from a flavor perspective, but seven mana is too much for it to ever see much play in all but the most casual decks.

49) Dual Casting — It’s time to d-d-d-duel! Oh wait, I think that’s the wrong game.

48) Gallows at Willow Hill — This card does nothing unless you have an absurd number of things go right for you. It’s a huge flavor win and I love that it exists, but I’ll never be happy opening it.

47) Deadeye Navigator — I wish he had charted a course to costing less, because his ability is actually really intriguing.

46) Tyrant of Discord — A two-for-one, but still an awful card. Your only hope is to give it to a Brony.

45) Spirit Away — I loved Yavimaya’s Embrace back in the day, but that doesn’t make either of these a playable card. At least now I know what to give to Miyazaki if I ever get to meet him.

44) Wild Defiance — This is a combo piece with a creature if you can keep targeting a guy with a thing. Of course…those are barely words, and this is barely a card.

43) Arcane Melee — Five-mana enchantments that don’t do anything when they come into play are generally quite poor. I don’t see anything different here, even if the ability is stellar.

42) Stolen Goods — This card works great with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. You know what else works well with Jace, the Mind Sculptor? Everything.

41) Demonic Rising — This card is going to do nothing whatsoever about 95% of the time. The other 5% of the time it will win the draft for your opponent who has it.

40) Revenge of the Hunted — This is already my least favorite Draft card of all time, and I haven’t played a single game of Avacyn Restored yet.

39) Druids’ Repository — I think I read the directions on the card wrong because now I’ve got severe bowel problems.

38) Herald of War — If this just made Humans and Angels cost one less to play, it’d see a lot of play in casual tribal decks. As is it’ll see some play in those decks, but supply will significantly outstrip demand.

37) Conjurer’s Closet — If there was a Hugh Jackman card in Magic, or at least a David Bowie card, I’d understand wanting to recreate The Prestige.

36) Otherworld Atlas — I’ll always hesitate to call a Howling Mine unplayable, but the fact that it needs to build up a while before doing anything puts it at the lower end of those cards.

35) Lunar Mystic — I’ll certainly try to find room for this in a couple of Commander decks I own, but four mana for a 2/2—even with a very good ability—keeps this guy from shining in tournament play.

34) Soul of the Harvest — This is basically the poster child for casual cards that eventually end up being worth something. You can pick these up for $0.75 each right now, and I guarantee you it’ll be a $3 card in five years.

33) Dread Slaver — The Slaver is going to be good at holding off opposing attacks on the Commander battlefield. A great "rattlesnake" card with a good creature type.

32) Harvester of Souls — Hey, it’s like Soul of the Harvest, but the opposite! Interestingly, I feel almost the same about each card: bulk rare now, $2-$3 Commander card down the line.

31) Exquisite Blood — This is far worse than Sanguine Bond, but the fact that having them both in play and dealing a damage results in an infinite loop is really sweet. Expect that card to see a price bump from $4.99 as people build casual decks around that interaction.

30) Moonsilver Spear — This is going to be a casual hit for a while, as it makes an Angel for you even when the creature doesn’t connect. The fact that it costs eight mana total to play and equip will keep it from playing a role in Constructed, though, and it doesn’t compare well to a lot of equipment historically either.

29) Gloom Surgeon — Oh man, if this guy put cards into your graveyard instead, he’d be unreal. That said this is a two-drop wall that can also act as a beater when needed, so I have trouble writing it off entirely. Of course, I can see why this guy got his MD in gloom surgery instead of a different, more useful aspect of medicine.

28) Dark Impostor — This should hit $2 at some point thanks to its creature type and relevant abilities. Just don’t bring it anywhere near a sanctioned match.

27) Infinite Reflection — Another really cool blue card that really makes me want to brew with it. Slap this on a Grave Titan and attack with a bunch of Grave Titans and their tokens who are also Grave Titans that make other Grave Titans…yum!

The fact that you can put this on opposing creatures might put this one over the edge… Imagine an aggro deck dropping this when their opponent finally gets their first stabilizing fatty out. Of course, the non-token clause and the fact that this costs six will likely make that a very rare occurrence.

26) Treacherous Pit-Dweller —A 4/3 for two is fantastic, obviously, and there might be a fast black deck that will try to ignore the drawback and go for it. Zombies is desperate for a two-drop, and this might have to be it…even though it’s not a Zombie. The fact that they get it as a 5/4 after it dies is pretty awful, though, and I wouldn’t hold my breath on this guy breaking out.

25) Archwing Dragon — Think about how powerful this card would’ve been if it were printed fifteen years ago. Heck, it’d probably still be a sacred cow in everyone’s cube! As it stands, though, it’s not a bad card and is abusable in the right situations. Most fast red decks that would want this effect are already mana-hungry, though, and in today’s Standard I think you’d rather run Hero of Oxid Ridge or Hellrider.

24) Cathars’ Crusade — I guess white gets a five-mana do-nothing enchantment too. The difference is that this one will help break token stalemates, so it’s got some real potential if Standard continues to be The Lingering Souls Show.  

23) Riders of Gavony — Humans is a real deck, and I can see this being a decent sideboard card (or even a maindeck card!) in the right environment. The fact that it costs four makes it less likely to see much play, and there aren’t a lot of other tribal decks running around. It should stay around $1—it’s better than true bulk—but I don’t think it’s got too much sleeper potential.

22) Wolfir Silverheart — Twelve power for five mana is just a bonkers amount of power. It’s no higher on the list because it’s nothing more than a big green monster, but sometimes that’s enough. Don’t be shocked if this is finally the guy who makes a card like this good.

21) Lone RevenantI’m putting this one just outside top 20, even though hexproof is always nice and Impulse is a really powerful ability. Right now, Consecrated Sphinx is much better in this slot, but I could see some decks wanting this as a control finisher in a post-Scars world.

While this may be nothing more than a bulk rare in disguise, it’s certainly a card I’d keep an eye on.

20) Champion of Lambholt

Current Price: $1.49

Short Term Future: $1.49

Long Term Future: $1.49

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: Champion of Lambholt is a 1/1 for three that does absolutely nothing when it comes into play. That’s going to keep it from joining the Tarmogoyf Crew.

That said…there’s something I really like about this card. Maybe because it evokes soft, happy lambs. Maybe because it’s a 1/1 that demands to be dealt with. Either way, I think it’ll work some of the time but not much of the time, which means it will probably stay about where it is value-wise. And I’ll probably pick up a set.

19) Killing Wave

Current Price: $2.49

Short Term Future: $0.99

Long Term Future: Bulk

Is this a real card? My gut tells me that it isn’t, even though I wouldn’t be surprised if it does some powerful stuff now and again.

Much like the other punisher spells, it’s easy to picture an upside scenario when an opponent has no choice but to bin their board or die from the life loss. Realistically, though, this isn’t going to kill the guy you really need it to and it’s just going to be a dead draw off the top. The fact that your opponent can pay for some creatures and hold off on others seals it for me.

18) Somberwald Sage

Current Price: $1.99

Short Term Future: $0.99

Long Term Future: $2.99

Any card that can tap for three of a color needs to be given serious consideration. While I don’t think this is good enough for tournament ramp decks—it’s far too fragile for that—it’s certainly a powerful card in Commander. It’s not quite as good as Gilded Lotus, but that card costs two mana more and is worth a solid ten dollars. That tells me that the demand will be there for this one. If not now, someday.

17) Descendants’ Path

Current Price: $1.99

Short Term Future: $0.99

Long Term Future: $2.99

The art alone is going to keep this card about $0.50 higher than where it might otherwise be, because holy mackerel does this card look stellar. Make sure you pick up foils when you can. Aesthetics notwithstanding, this kind of effect is popular with the causal crowd no matter what. Have you checked out Door of Destines’ price recently?  

When evaluating the set, treat Descendants’ Path similar to how you treat Paralell Lives from Innistrad. It may never see any tournament play, but its casual price can’t be ignored.

16) Demonlord of Ashmouth

Current Price: $1.99

Short Term Future: $1.49

Long Term Future: $1.49

I get the allure of this guy—a 5/4 flyer with undying for four mana is absurd—and with the right draw, the downside is negligible. The Demonlord will play well with Gravecrawler, and it might even help "level up" some of the other good undying guys.

That said, I think this card is a miss unless something changes in the environment. Future sets may demand good sacrifice outlets, though, and this is one of the best. If that happens, look for this guy to have a little bump.

15) Hound of Griselbrand

Current Price: $1.99

Short Term Future: $1.49

Long Term Future: $0.99

You can’t ever truly write off a guy with either undying or double strike for Standard, and this little doggy has both. He’s certainly going to make for some awkward combat steps—if you block him, your guy is going down and the Hound is going to be coming back as a massive threat. In a vacuum, I love this card.

The big problem is that I just don’t see a place for Hound of Griselbrand right now. Are you running him over Hellrider? Hero of Oxid Ridge? He just seems like he’s a turn too slow and happens to share a casting cost with many of the most powerful cards in every color.

14) Devastation Tide

Current Price: $1.50

Short Term Future: $2.99

Long Term Future: $2.99

The easy comparison is to Evacuation, but that card is an instant, not a sorcery, so this is likely going to be used in very different (i.e., worse) ways. The fact that this can reset your comes into play guys and kill opposing tokens is very relevant, though, as is the ability to bounce all non-land permanents, not just creatures.

Most of the time you’ll be ok paying the full five mana for this, but much like Terminus it gets crazy-good when you can power it out for next to nothing.

13) Divine Deflection

Current Price: $0.99

Short Term Future: $1.99

Long Term Future: $2.99

Shining Shoal had blowout potential because you could pitch a card to it. This one doesn’t give you that option. I also don’t love purely reactive cards like this.

That said…the blowout potential on this one is terrifying. There will be times when it will be a two-for-one, saving your board from a Slagstorm and killing something your opponent controls. If a deck can exist in the new Standard that can sit around and wait to use this, it’ll at least be a great bullet out of the sideboard.

12) Ulvenwald Tracker

Current Price: $1.99

Short Term Future: $2.99

Long Term Future: $3.99

My biggest problem with this card is that it gives me Daybreak Ranger preorder flashbacks. It also needs the perfect conditions to be good; you need time, mana, and at least one creature that’s pretty big.

But the Tracker only costs one mana. That’s it. And his ability only costs two. One-drops don’t need a whole lot of utility to be intriguing, and this guy is kind of feeling Spikeshot Elder-y to me.

11) Alchemist’s Refuge

Current Price: $2.99

Short Term Future: $2.99

Long Term Future: $3.99

Besides this land being the best utility card ever for my Momir Vig Commander deck, flash is one of those abilities that absolutely has to be respected at all points of the game. Of course, this land is blue/green, which means it’ll need to fit some kind of BUG or RUG shell, and three-color decks are going to need a lot of fixing. Also, don’t forget that you’re effectively adding three to the cost of your first instant speed creature each turn since you have to tap this land for the ability instead of for mana.

I still love this card, though.

10) Slayers’ Stronghold

Current Price: $2.49

Short Term Future: $2.49

Long Term Future: $3.99

All three of the utility lands in this set are excellent, and all will see play. As long-term investments, I think these are among the safest bets you can make. Not only will casual players be after these for years, but they are good enough to have application in Eternal formats as well should the right decks wax in popularity.

All three of these lands feel on par with Vault of the Archangel to me. They’re not as good in Limited, but their Constructed applications are just as great.

9) Zealous Conscripts

Current Price: $0.99

Short Term Future: $1.99

Long Term Future: $2.99

What does it take to make a Threaten effect playable in Standard? I think being stapled to a 3/3 with haste should do it.

Five mana is more than most of these decks are going to want to pay, but good gravy does it pay off in control matchups where you’ll likely be able to steal a Titan—or worse. I can imagine that seeing Hellrider curving into this is going to be a common sight in the coming months.

8) Silverblade Paladin

Current Price: $2.49

Short Term Future: $3.99

Long Term Future: $4.99

White got the hook-up in Avacyn Restored.

Double strike is one of the best abilities out there, and one that Wizards has historically been very careful to only put on creatures that are hard to abuse. It’s rare to have a good double striker, and when we do it’s usually quite good: see Mirran Crusader, currently selling for $5.99.

Silverblade Paladin lacks the very relevant protection abilities that the Crusader has, and its downside is significantly greater. But dropping this and linking it to a guy you’re already swinging with (Hero of Bladehold?) is going to just get a concession a good amount of the time. This is a high-variance card that might not be as good as I think it is, but it really does seem like it should speed up aggro draws by a full turn.

Double strike is also a very popular casual ability, and giving it to anything is going to be something many players will want to try. This should be a $5 card at least.

7) Reforge the Soul

Current Price: $4.99

Short Term Future: $4.99

Long Term Future: $5.99

I’ll admit my first opinions on this card were negative. I don’t think I’ve seen Wheel of Fortune be good in a long time, even in Cube. And Wheel of Fate always felt like a big miss to me.

That said I’ve come around on this card in a pretty big way. The five mana you’ll have to pay on this most of the time isn’t that big a deal, since even the fastest red decks will likely have access to that by the time they want to cast this. The miracle cost is incredible, as most of them are, and like many of the other miracle cards it basically puts you a turn ahead. It’s awesome to me that Wheel of Fortune might be Standard playable now, and I hope that this card ends up being a cornerstone of the new format.

6) Terminus

Current Price: $3.99

Short Term Future: $4.99

Long Term Future: $5.99

This is another miracle card I’m very bullish on. Hallowed Burial was playable at five mana, and that card still sells for $3.99 due to how good it is in Commander. At six mana, Terminus isn’t the worst, and even without the miracle cost I could see it seeing some casual play and sitting around $1.50-$2. People have played with six-mana Wraths in the past, and the fact that this one deals with undying creatures and Reanimator shenanigans makes it well positioned right now.

Then you have the miracle cost, which really pushes this over the edge. If you’re miracling this out for one mana and can play another threat on the same turn, you’ve essentially stapled a Time Walk onto your Wrath. Even if you’re not, paying the full six isn’t going to kill you.

5) Angel of Jubilation

Current Price: $3.99

Short Term Future: $3.99

Long Term Future: $3.99

Anthem effects have historically been very popular, and this is one of the better ones. Creatures are obviously more vulnerable than enchantments, but the fact that this card adds a significant body to the board while pumping your tokens isn’t irrelevant.

Its final ability is cute and will sometimes be very good. While Angel of Jubilation is probably just a little too expensive for Legacy, the fact that it stops fetchlands, Phyrexian mana, and even Force of Will can’t be totally overlooked. This is the kind of creature that might do just enough to be a real player in a Constructed format. 

Don’t sleep on this card. At $4, you don’t have much to lose and will always be able to find a casual player to trade it away to. There’s a non-zero chance this is a truly excellent creature, so keep tabs on it.

4) Desolate Lighthouse

Current Price: $3.99

Short Term Future: $3.99

Long Term Future: $4.99

This card isn’t as narrow as it appears at first. I can imagine that some decks are going to want to splash or at least tweak their mana base in order to make this work. A loot is usually worth about half as much as drawing a card, but occasionally it’s even better. This is a card worth building around and is my favorite out of all the utility lands.

Much like the other good lands in this cycle, I can see this card stuck in the $3 range for a while, but eventually all of these are going to go up in price. I wouldn’t be shocked if this card hits $7-$8 at some point in its life cycle.

3) Vexing Devil

Current Price: $14.99

Short Term Future: $14.99

Long Term Future: $9.99

I said my piece on this guy in last week’s article. Needless to say, I think he’s overrated at $15. This is the top of the market for him, and he should really be in the $8-$10 range.

Of course, a card’s price is based on more than being good. Vexing Devil is absurdly popular, and he ‘ sold out here (and pretty much everywhere) at $15. I’ll be shipping him if I open him at the Prerelease, but I’ll ask top dollar because I expect his price to stay up there for a little white yet as people keep brewing.

2) Restoration Angel

Current Price: $4.99

Short Term Future: $4.99

Long Term Future: $6.99

I love Restoration Angel. She’s a great evasive threat on offense. She has a high enough toughness to play good defense. She’s splashable. She has flash. Oh—and the fact that she resets your comes into play dudes too is nothing short of absurd.

Think about how well this plays with, oh, let’s say, Snapcaster Mage. Not only do both have flash, but you can use this one to reset that one and Snap back a second spell.

This is going to be a great card in Standard, casual players will love it, and it will probably even be good enough for Modern. Pick your set up now.

1) Cavern of Souls

Current Price: $24.99

Short Term Future: $24.99

Long Term Future: $29.99

Cavern of Souls isn’t only the best rare in the set, it’s the best card in the set. Period.

It’s true: countermagic isn’t what it used to be. And honestly, this card probably won’t have the format-warping effects of Lingering Souls, Snapcaster Mage, or Delver of Secrets. It isn’t the sort of effect that’s going to radically shift a deck or archetype more than a couple of cards in any direction.

But it’s a land. And it’s very good. In some decks, it has almost no downside.

Like or not, Magic is all about creatures now, and this land is the latest affirmation of Wizards’ shift in design philosophy over the last few years. While some may not like it, you can’t argue with results. Magic is now bigger than ever, and this shift is part of the reason why. I fully expect this card to be in serious demand over the next ten years or more.

It’ll see play in Standard, Modern, Legacy, and perhaps even Vintage. Beyond that, it’ll be a favorite card of casual players everywhere, who will be thrilled to stop that jerky blue mage from countering their Elves. Think of it like Mutavault; it doesn’t go in every deck, but it’s fantastic in the decks that are built to take advantage of it.

That just about wraps it up for Avacyn Restored. Overall, I very much like this set and can’t wait to play with it. Let’s cross our fingers and hope it’s an awesome Limited format too, shall we?

Until next time —

— Chas Andres