Two Perspectives On Avacyn Restored

Get ready for some laughs with this parody of articles written during spoiler season by top Australian pro Jeremy Neeman, winner of GP Brisbane. Find out what “grumpy pro Mike” and “eager deckbuilder Eddie” think of the Avacyn Restored so far!

hey. i’m the “grumpy pro.” my friends call me mike (I do have friends, honest), but you can call me awesome. i like MENSA, cards that let me outplay my opponents, and people telling me how great i am. i am great, by the way; have i mentioned that yet? i totally won a PT back in the day. or maybe it was a PTQ. whatever.

anyway, i’m here to tell you why all the new cards from avacyn restored are terrible. you can tell i’m good because i’m telling you why the cards are bad. terrible players are always super excited about new cards—they’re all flashy! exciting! but who cares about flashy and exciting? what matters is if they’ll be above the curve—good enough and synergistic enough to see play in the top decks. in any spoiler season, maybe half of the cards people think are good enough turn out to be relevant.

sure, a couple are obviously good, and you don’t need Patrick Chapin (or me) to tell you Lingering Souls is going to see play. but there’s so much nonsense that gets picked as playable, even format-defining, that never sees the light of day. anyone remember Havengul Lich? or Mayor of Avabruck? what about Ghoultree? yeah, I thought not. but those were all cards that were picked as playable in standard, even by top pros. and don’t get me started on the junk fanboys dredge up.

i don’t mean to burst anyone’s bubble, but… actually, who am I kidding. I do mean to burst bubbles. lots of them. sometimes the spoiler season needs a dose of reality, and that’s what i’m here for.

Hey! I’m the “eager deckbuilder.” Or ED for short. :) But you can call me Eddie. I love spoilers! Every one gets me thinking about new decks, new archetypes, and a vast number of synergies to be explored. Oh, and um, I also like dogs, The Sound of Music, and Rooftop Storm. I’ll break that card one day! Just you wait ;)

I’m here to tell you how excited I am by the new spoilers from Avacyn Restored! I know Mike will be telling you about how lousy they are and why no one should ever play them. But just between you and me, he’s a jerk; don’t listen to him.

It’s true that the majority of “potentially playable” cards never end up finding a home. But it’s all about finding those few that will—the Delvers, Tarmogoyfs, and Remands that are unusual enough to be missed at first pass and later end up dominating formats. It’s better to find one card that is unexpectedly very good than to correctly peg fifty as unplayable. Don’t believe me? Brian Kibler, Huntmaster of the Fells, Pro Tour Honolulu. I rest my case :)

I don’t believe in such things as “good cards” and “bad cards.” It’s all part of the context. The potential synergies are what matter. What cards work well with this one? Is there a deck it goes into? If not, is there the critical mass to create one? These are the kind of questions we need to be asking. I mean, Mulch is a crucial card in a top Standard deck. Mulch. Pretty sure Mike wouldn’t have predicted that.

Let’s get right into it!

Temporal Mastery

this is a classic case of people overestimating a card based on how good it’s going to be when it’s good. when you draw temporal mastery off the top midgame, ok, you get a Time Walk. even I have to admit Time Walk is a pretty good card.

but let’s break it down. how often are you going to miracle Temporal Mastery vs. being forced to actually cast it? well, let’s say the game goes for eight turns. that’s eight draw steps versus the seven cards you had in your opening hand. 50/50 to be a time walk or a brick? I don’t see anyone rushing to cast Stitch in Time.

it’s actually even worse than that, because on your first draw step (if you’re on the play) or the first two (if you’re on the draw) you won’t be able to miracle it. not to mention the net negative impact most card drawing has. and if you’re a blue deck, you might just be drawing cards past your draw step.

the key here is that seven mana for an extra turn is awful. a card that is going to be awful half the time has to be really amazing, more amazing than this, the other half. and even then it probably wouldn’t cut it. play a card that’s always going to be pretty strong instead.

Oh. My. God. Temporal Mastery. This works so well with so many cards, it boggles my mind.

Brainstorm. By far the most obvious. The synergy between Delver, Brainstorm, and Temporal Mastery is obnoxious. How is Time Walk fair as a four-of? Brainstorm even makes you want the Mastery in your opener, taking away its sole redeeming drawback. Also, Force of Will is legal in the same formats as Brainstorm. Superfluous blue cards in hand are juuuust fine.

Ponder. Not as powerful as Brainstorm, but a lot more legal in Standard. Stacking the top of your library gets those percentages that little bit more in your favor to make you want to play a card that can occasionally be bad. Desolate Lighthouse. You’re going to be activating this in their turn anyway, and probably not until you have at least six mana. The extra edges add up. Actually even just building a deck that plans to go past turn 8 makes this card gain a lot of value.

Personal Tutor or Mystical Tutor / Vampiric Tutor / Imperial Seal in Vintage. Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Slow, and if you have a Jace you’re likely already winning, but Time Walk is Time Walk. Sensei’s Divining Top. Sets it up, and works beautifully with it: Time Walks = lots of tempo, and Top turns tempo into card selection/advantage like it ain’t no thang.

Also, the miracle on Temporal Mastery is much better than on, for example, Thunderous Wrath. One mana for five damage is usually going to be fine, but you might not have a good target when the opportunity arises. Time Walk is always great, regardless of board state.

Can you throw this in just any blue deck? Of course not. Is it easy to build around and incredibly rewarding if you do? Absolutely.

Sample Legacy Decklist:

Restoration Angel

eh. not really buying it. four mana is a lot of mana, and this ain’t no Ranger of Eos. you need value creatures to rebuy to make it worth it. we’re not playing Wall of Omens, Kitchen Finks, or Sea Gate Oracles anymore, toto.

sure, Blade Splicer. but what else? Huntmaster of the Fells is three colors already, and the synergy between four-drops is awkward. Geist-Honored Monk? no one plays that card anymore. Acidic Slime? maybe if you’re Conley Woods. titans? overkill much?

flash is nice, but the two abilities on this card don’t work together. flash makes you want to play it in a caw-blade style deck, like Vendilion Clique. the Momentary Blink ability makes you want to play it in a pod-style deck with tons of value creatures. the base stats might be good enough to run one or two copies in the latter case, but that’s it.

Four for a 3/4 flying with flash is already on the verge of playable. The ability pushes Restoration Angel over the top. If you ever get a trigger from the Angel, it’s far, far above the curve, even if it’s just Wall of Omens drawing you a card. And it’s not too difficult to build your deck to take advantage of it.

Even if you don’t get a trigger, Restoration Angel still ambushes attackers and saves dudes from removal. Did I mention it’s a 3/4 flier for four?

Blade Splicer is clearly ridiculous. Huntmaster of the Fells, awkward synergy, are you kidding!? The turn after you play it, you pass. If they don’t try anything, you flip your Huntmaster, kill their dude, and laugh. If they do try something, you Restoration Angel, save your Huntmaster, and get an extra Wolf and two life. Restoration Angel could cost five and the synergy would still be busted.

What about Podding into Fiend Hunter, and then Restoring it with the exile trigger on the stack? Even taking a +1/+1 counter off a Strangleroot Geist at a key moment. The possibilities don’t end. In Modern, there’s Vendilion Clique, Snapcaster Mage, Blade Splicer. You play a couple copies in Caw-Blade and go Faeries-style holding four mana up—they never know whether to play into your Angel or your Cryptic. Then, of course, you have both and blow them out :)

Sample Standard Decklist:

Vexing Devil

this card is realllllly bad. so much worse than it looks, just like every Browbeat variant ever has been. giving your opponent choices is not a good thing.

very few decks want to play Lava Spike. still not very many would want to play it if it dealt four damage instead of three. Vexing Devil is not even as good as that. on turn 1, it’s four damage when you’d rather have a guy. on turn 4, it’s some dork that trades with their Kitchen Finks when you’d rather burn them out.

I don’t like this card much, either, although I don’t think it’s worthless. Not by a long shot. But it doesn’t lend itself to synergies. Either you’re playing it and you’re trying to burn them out as quickly as possible, or you’re not playing it. There’s nothing interesting to be said about synergies with Brainstorm or Blade Splicer.

If you are just trying to deal them twenty as quickly as possible, though, you could do worse. Browbeat got play in Standard burn decks of old around Time Spiral. Giving your opponent a choice now and then is fine, provided all the options are miserable for them. Think Fact or Fiction.

Sample Modern Decklist:


eight mana.

need I say more?

sure Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite has actually seen play. but Griselbrand has two huge drawbacks over elesh:

  • he’s impossible to cast.

frites wants to be able to cast its reanimation targets when it draws them. your reanimation spells are often dead after they board in surgical extractions and nihil spellbombs. ww is very feasible, but bbbb? and an extra mana? not a chance, mate. in decks that aren’t cheating him into play, he doesn’t look good either. akroma saw a little standard play back in the day, but this is the era of Mana Leak.

  • he doesn’t directly impact the board when he comes into play.

simple rule of standard: if you cost more than two mana, Vapor Snag is not your friend. it’s no coincidence Consecrated Sphinx has barely seen standard play in six months. if you’re paying that much for a creature, it needs to be Grave Titan or elesh norn or something where you won’t die to Geist of Saint Traft when they Snapcaster that snag eot.

Griselbrand. Wow. Here’s how I imagine the conversation went down when Griselbrand was designed.

Mark Rosewater: You know, I really like Necropotence and Yawgmoth’s Bargain. I love the tradeoff between life points and cards that forces players to manage their resources, and I love that it drips evil, black flavor. But how can we print it so it’s not overpowered?

Aaron Forsythe: Hmmm. How about we put it on a 7/7 lifelinking flier?

Aaron’s a total bada** (swoons)

Er, anyway. This card is ridiculous! First, he wins the game if you untap with him. Second, even if they do deal with him immediately, they still lose. Seven cards? Seven cards??? Ok, they have a turn to take advantage where your life total is probably in the single digits. But as a rule, the decks that can deal easily with enormous lifelinking monsters tend not to be the decks capable of doing you lots of damage in a hurry.

This card is going to be cheated into play all over the shop. I’m most excited about him in Block, where Faithless Looting and Unburial Rites have been long awaiting their new best friend. And hey, guess what? It works in Standard, too. Maybe Elesh Norn is better specifically against Delver, but Griselbrand is the more inherently powerful card. G/R can’t ever beat it, be it ramp or aggro, and it all but ends the game against control as well.

And the color is relevant. I know you’re all like, “Hey! If you wanna be my Unburial Rites target, it don’t matter if you’re black or white!” But tell that to Elesh Norn when a Thrun holding Sword of War and Peace is coming in ;)

Finally, this guy has a shot in Legacy and Modern. Anywhere people are putting Iona, Shield of Emeria or Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur into play, Griselbrand is going to be a valid alternative choice. He’s a mana cheaper than Iona if you happen to draw him, he stabilizes the board better, and he wins against decks like Affinity or if they already have two Knights of the Reliquary in play.

Sample Block Decklist:

until next time,