The 2.5 Most Exciting Avacyn Restored Cards

Find out which Avacyn Restored cards make top Australian pro Jeremy Neeman’s list for the most exciting cards in the new set! Read about decks he thinks these cards will be seen in, perhaps this weekend in Providence at the SCG Open Series.

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: Hey

Hey you,

It was great chatting to you at Avacyn’s party last night. I loved the one about the Angel, the Demon, and the Dragon who walk into an Aether Barrier. And hey, what was with that Loxodon Hierarch keeping at you to name Elephant?! What a weirdo, right?

Anyway, I was wondering if you’re free for coffee sometime. I think we should hang out more; I can see us really working together.


From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: RE: Hey


Haha, my friend Elephant Graveyard used to date a Hierarch! They were cute together.

… Actually, I don’t know what ever happened to him. Or the Trained Armodon she saw before that.

It was great chatting with you too! Your job sounds really interesting. I’ve never met a guy before who fetches up Valakuts. That sounds so cool! Or hot, rather. ;)

Ooh coffee sounds great! I know a place just down the road from Restoration Angel’s where they do great Elixirs of Immortality.

I’m looking forward to seeing you :)



From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: RE: Hey

Oh gosh Hero of Bladehold just asked me out! I don’t know what to say; he’s kinda cute, but I’m really into the bigger guys if you know what I mean.

What should I say? I don’t want to hurt his feelings. He’s been sulking ever since Moorland Haunt started spending more time with Delver of Secrets. I was talking to him the other night, and he kept going on about how he didn’t need a bunch of Spirits to bring the beatdown, thank you very much, and besides Soldiers are better anyway, particularly if they’re 2/1.

Speaking of Delver, we’ve been kind of awkward recently—I think he thinks it’s my fault that Mana Leak lost his job. Poor Mana Leak. Last I heard he was hanging out with some unsavory characters like Second Guess and Evasive Action. He’s so much better than them, if only he’d realize it.

Anyway, hope you and Huntmaster are well :)




So Mana Leak walks into a bar. The bartender asks, "Why so blue?"

Alright, dumb jokes aside, you didn’t click on this article to read the 50th pro pontificating on how Cavern of Souls makes Titans better and Mana Leak worse. In other news, Stoneforge Mystic is good with equipment, and ice is actually frozen water.

It’s been all rather overblown, really. Here are some things that Cavern of Souls is not:

Here are some things Cavern of Souls is:

  • A good card that will see play.
  • If widely adopted, Mana Leaks may drop down to two-ofs in a lot of maindecks.
  • A role player in decks that want to resolve big creatures through permission, similar to Boseiju in Tooth and Nail.
  • A mana fixer in heavy tribal decks, such as Humans.

Does Delver get worse? Kind of, maybe, not really. Delver of Secrets is a hard man to keep down. Mana Leak specifically gets worse, but bestest friends Delver and Snapcaster Mage will carry on Vapor Snagging opposing six-drops and getting in there like it’s 2011. Prior to the release of Avacyn Restored, a lot of Delver decks had been eschewing Mana Leak anyway and running Drogskol Captain and Lingering Souls.

It’s better in the mirror, and it’s looking like Phantasmal Image will be better than Mana Leak against Primeval Titan, Acidic Slime, and friends. Here’s the list pioneered by Jon Finkel, Jelger Wiegersma, and the rest of the team at Pro Tour Dark Ascension, which isn’t likely to change substantially with the new set.

But surely control is unplayable now? Again, Mana Leak is already awkward against the aggressive decks. The only thing that changes is now it’s sometimes awkward against ramp as well. The Esper Control lists that have been popping up online don’t even notice; they cut Mana Leak three weeks ago. Again, Sun Titan + Phantasmal Image doesn’t care if Primeval Titan resolves. Pop quiz: what beats one Titan? Answer: two Titans!

I’m interested to see how the metagame will shape up. My prediction is that decks like Wolf Run Ramp and Humans will initially be overvalued, and the sharp players will run the slower, bigger decks like Esper that go right over the top of uncounterable Titans and Heroes. Then maybe Delver will come back, Naya Pod, Zombies; who knows?

The metagame is notoriously hard to predict. The point is that while Cavern of Souls will have effects, the substantial ones will only last until the next adaptation. After that, it’ll just be another card deckbuilders have to take into account. Ramp is hardly unbeatable, and Mana Leak is very far from unplayable.

Let’s talk about this card:

Soulbond as a mechanic is much, much better than it looks. Like a lot of players, I initially dismissed the Paladin as being cute but not good enough for Constructed. After all, you need a creature to bond with, and if they kill it, you have a difficult-to-cast Pearled Unicorn.

… That is, until you cast Hero of Bladehold, bond with that, and serve for 720. Unicorn beatdown never looked so good.

What makes this card good? The combination of power and utility. For sheer beatdown, nothing in Standard compares to turn 1 Champion of the Parish, turn 2 Gather the Townsfolk, turn 3 Silverblade Paladin. Without playing another spell, that’s 27 damage by turn 4.

Twenty-seven damage.

Twenty-seven damage.

(That’s impressive enough that it deserves to be said a couple of times.)

"That’s all well and good," I hear you say, "but they can just as easily Doom Blade your Champion. All of a sudden, your attack for ten turns into an attack for two, and your board is trumped by Hill Giant."

That does strand Silverblade in play—but a stranded Silverblade is a heck of a lot better than Pearled Unicorn. Soulbond creatures act as equipment of sorts. They kill the first paired creature; so what? You play another and pair those. "Deal with two more undercosted double strikers, my good sir," affirms the gallant Paladin, "or take 12." There’s no way to get ahead by just killing the paired creatures, unless you manage to catch them with their pants down during combat. And no one blocks in Constructed.

Yes, of course they can Doom Blade Silverblade himself. The classic "dies to removal" argument. Phyrexian Obliterator, Hero of Bladehold, and Drogskol Captain have all been accused, at one time or another, of being unplayable on this basis. And it’s, well…

…sort of valid.

Obviously everything can be killed by removal. It’s a question of how easy it is for them to do so, and how much it dominates the game if they don’t. Jace, the Mind Sculptor could be killed by his younger, cheaper cousin Jace Beleren, but that didn’t stop him from dominating the Standard format. He died a lot, but if he didn’t, you won. Almost every time.

Silverblade Paladin is not Jace. (You’re lucky you have exclusive StarCityGames.com Premium access so you can read such profound statements.) But a live Paladin brings the beatdown, Jace or no. With just a 2/2 Loyal Cathar or Thalia in play, it’s six power, four of which is first strike. It’s Geist of Saint Traft that wins combats instead of losing them. Once you pair anything bigger than 2/2, things get well out of hand.

(Turn 4: Twenty-seven damage.) 

Then there’s the ease-of-killing factor. Generally, the cheaper the card, the less you care if it’s dealt with easily. If your two-drop dies to Doom Blade, you haven’t lost a single mana’s worth of tempo. If your four-drop meets the same fate, it’s much more awkward. Three-drops straddle this space in between where it’s not terrible but you’d rather end up with a little bit of value out of the bargain, like Blade Splicer or Kitchen Finks.

Silverblade Paladin is a little awkward in that respect. But so is Hero of Bladehold, and that doesn’t prevent it getting played in every white deck. Sure, Paladin dies to Incinerate. If that happens, you’ve traded one-for-one, maybe got in for a couple extra, and you might have a counter on Champion of the Parish to show for it. Geist of Saint Traft dies to Phantasmal Image, and Phyrexian Obliterator dies to Dismember. They’re both worth it because if they survive, they own the playing field. Silverblade Paladin isn’t so different and might even be better.

Of course he goes in Humans, probably as a four-of, replacing Geist of Saint Traft and some number of Mirran Crusader. The deck might look like this post-Avacyn Restored:

But you didn’t need me to write an article saying that this excellent, cheap Human goes in a pre-existing deck already full of excellent, cheap Humans. Here’s a more innovative take on the card:

G/R Aggro, hold the red. As good as Hellrider is, there’s something to be said for the sheer efficiency of white creatures in this format. The deck as it stands is weak to Day of Judgment, but there’s plenty that could be done about that. Green Sun’s Zeniths over Thalias would up the effective number of Strangleroot Geists, and a Birthing Pod or two could fit in there. Restoration Angel has synergy with a few things, especially if you do take the Pod angle.

Did I mention Silverblade Paladin + Sword of War and Peace? Particularly nice to give double strike to a Birds of Paradise that they won’t be able to chump. Note that soulbond doesn’t target, so you can do this even if the Birds is already equipped.

I really like this card.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Come on, have you met me? The Loothouse has value written all over it. I once tried to put Tower Geist in a Constructed deck, for Kai’s sake. It’s a slow, grindy card that’s expensive and awkward to use but will win you any game that goes for more than ten turns.

The best thing about it—it’s a land. Forbidden Alchemy also does a good job of winning games that go long, but you have to put Forbidden Alchemies in your deck instead of other spells. All Desolate Lighthouse asks is that your mana base be able to support a colorless land or two.

And unlike most of the cycle, Desolate Lighthouse doesn’t ask anything of your deck. Gavony Township wants there to be at least 20 creatures in your maindeck, Kessig Wolf Run needs lots of mana and a big guy or two, Moorland Haunt wants cheap creatures that die readily. Desolate Lighthouse needs lands that produce blue and red mana.

How can we accommodate that? Here are a couple of ideas:

Pillar of Flame might look odd, but Strangleroot Geist is a legitimate reason to play an otherwise sorcery speed Shock. It also denies them a Moorland Haunt trigger and kills turn 1 Champion of the Parish and Delver of Secrets along with the best of them.

This deck is almost a tapout control deck, with just the Mana Leaks as actual permission. The metagame will dictate if these are bad or not—while they’re blanks against Humans with turn 1 Cavern, they’re still good against Ramp, stopping a Solemn or a Green Sun’s Zenith more often than not.

I like that this deck can run Griselbrand, a card it can never expect to cast. Faithless Looting by itself isn’t quite enough, but the Loothouse goes that extra distance towards assuring you won’t have blanks in your hand.

Could we also run Tibalt? The main thing that concerns me is his mana cost in an already four-color deck, and he looks to be weak against a turn 2 Strangleroot Geist. Out of the board, definitely against the slower decks where he’s still exciting on turn 3.

I’ll leave you with this parting thought:


Until next time,


@JeremyNeeman on Twitter