After a weekend of intense magic at the Grand Prix last week I was really looking forward to the Avacyn Restored Pre-Release. And as if that wasn’t enough magic for one day, to top it off a friend had acquired a box of Morningtide so a few of us drafted that in the morning before going to try out the new set. As an aside, it turns out Morningtide is a set I have very little knowledge of, and the draft didn’t go so well for me. I seemed to have games where I either saw all my mana and none of my bombs, or visa-versa. Never mind, the main event was kicking off at 4pm!
Still, at least in the draft I actually had bombs. Opening my sealed pool things did not look good. None of my rares were playable. I did have an Archwing Dragon and Hound of Griselbrand but nothing else in Red to back them up and splashing for double red costs elsewhere would have been difficult. To top it off I had a total of 2 removal spells, a Pillar of Flame and a Death Wind, meaning that with no bombs in the colour, Black was even less playable than Red.
Despite this, I tried to treat my poor pool as a positive thing. It meant I had to think so much more about my deck. Having learned from my GP experience I spent longer than ever before though studying the cards each colour, sorting them by playability and thinking about colour combinations. I feel like I have developed a lot as a competitive player recently and here I feel like my sealed pool analysis was at its all-time peak.
Eventually I settled on Green and Blue. White looked attractive at first but upon closer inspection it didn’t do much except gaining loads of life and then going nowhere with it. Even in GU I had barely enough playable cards, so for once cutting down to a 40 card deck was easy. I considered splashing for a third colour, but my two removal spells were in different colours and White had nothing to contribute. So I decided to go for consistency with a consistently average deck In all fairness, my deck did have a couple of strengths. A pair of Latch Seekers would hopefully be aggressive enough to win me games, and Angelic Armaments could help my other creatures get there. After the first couple of rounds I did eventually decide to add a Swamp which I could hopefully find with my Borderland Ranger in order to be able to add Death Wind into my deck.
Round 1 was okay, I won 2-0 but my deck did nothing special. It was my opponent’s first ever pre-release so after the round I made sure to give her some deck advice and also play advice. She was running a RW deck which had potential, but it seemed from our games that she wasn’t piloting it aggressively enough so I encouraged her to attack more in future.
Round 2 was.. tedious at best. My opponent was playing Esper, seemingly without any mana fixing! His deck of bounce, removal and angels beat the crap into anything I attempted. 0-2.
Round 3 I don’t have much memory of other than a few key moments. I won game 1 quickly as my opponent got mana screwed and I paired up my Tandem Lookout with a Latch Seeker to quickly draw a LOT of cards. I can’t remember if my opponent won the second game or not, but either way the last featured the only Miracles I saw all evening. My opponent played 3 Miracle cards in 2 turns (two for the miracle cost and one just normally from hand) to completely blow out my over-extended board. All my opponent managed to achieve with this though was to temporarily equalise the board state. I recovered quickly and ended the game soon after. 2-1 (or 2-0?).
Round 4 I faced a very aggressive GW deck. At least in games 1 (which I won) and 2. In game 3, a whole load of big guys seemingly came out of nowhere! My deck had no way to compete with Vorstclaw and/or Sigarda, Host of Herons. I lost 1-2.
After all this, round 5 cam eout of nowhere to surprise me and provide some FANTASTIC games! Which was great, since we were both 2-2 and playing to finish in the top half.
I won game 1 solidly enough, but this was finally a match-up where my Soulbond interactions (Trusted Forcemage, mainly) actually had any real relevance. Game 2 was incredibly close. Near the end my opponent chipped away at me with Scalding Devil. I managed to land my Howlgeist and start attacking, and even managed to delay my death for a few turns gaining a little bit of life from Sheltering Word whilst I tried to dig for an answer. But nothing came to my aid. Still, even my opponent complimented me on my solid play throughout that game as I had been on the back foot for the whole time and yet managed to come very close to winning. Game 3 I remember few specifics of but from what I can recall both my Latch Seekers and an Angelic Armaments-equipped Borderland Ranger made an aggressive force that my opponent struggled to compete with. 2-1.
In the end I found myself really pleased with how I did. I went 3-2 overall and I feel as though I played solidly all night. Of course I made a couple of play mistakes (but was aware of these at the time and recovered well from them). I recieved 2 booster packs for my troubles, one of which contained a Griselbrand! I wanted one of him for an EDH deck so I was very happy with that meant that night was not a complete disaster.
On top of this of course there was the Helvault! which got opened just after the start of round 3. Everyone received a dice and 3 of the Angel/Demon tokens. The large Legendary cards were randomly distributed, although being generally useless I wasn’t too fussed about these. I received Sigarda, Host of Herons to begin with, and then with some spares at the end of the event I also got a Gisela, Blade of Goldnight. I managed to trade Sigarda for an oversized Griselbrand just before I opened the actual card from my prize pack, so despite not caring for the large cards having both actually made me feel rather happy
So in hindsight, how do I feel about Avacyn Restored? Well, for sealed play at least it’s not great. Soulbond is nice, but from what I saw in general it seems to have a negligible impact on board states. Also Miracles barely made an appearance, and I heard very little about people seeing/casting them in other games too. I know that “flicker” was a sub-theme mechanic in the set and whilst it has been well executed, I feel this is at the cost of a number of solid removal spells.
Furthermore, a number of people I spoke to had the difficult choice, like me, between a consistent 2-colour deck with barely enough playable cards, or running a risky 3-colour deck to have a solid number of good spells but lacking the ability to fix their mana. Many settled on the 2 colour option.
I feel this set is probably much better to play with when drafted, where you might be able to assemble decks with more solid spells throughout and better synergy between cards. Or perhaps the standard of what can be considered “playable” in this set is just much lower than in other recent sets.
I guess I’ll find out soon enough, a friend is planning to draft Avacyn Restored this coming weekend! So I’ll see how I get on there. I am still yet to find any new toys (cards) that have captured my imagination enough to lead to me brewing myself a new standard deck for FNM, but I’m keeping my eyes open and my hopes up!
If you went to a Pre-Release do let me know how you below, and even if not I’d love to hear your thoughts on any specific cards that stand out and the set as a whole.
Thanks for reading,