Academy: Avacyn Restored Prerelease Recap
In short, Unplugged Players, Avacyn blew my mind. I thought I knew what to expect, from the look of her, but I should have listened to my middle-school teachers. I had to get to know her, first — and did I ever have a lot to learn.
I am in good company. Steve Sadin’s article on his experience rings true for me, in that he thought the environment would be slow and bomby. And, well — we were half-right.
In sealed deck, at the Saturday morning prerelease at Phantom of the Attic Games, I piloted a red-green human deck to a 3-1-1 finish (tied for my best), and fifth place overall. I successfully raced my opponents to victory with a few key human-themed cards, but there are some strategies you just can’t outrace.
Those strategies are mostly this: “Gain life. Cast multicolored angels. AUUUGH!”
I wrote in my preview article for the event that I was hoping to play blue, and a lot of it. I got a few nice blue creatures, like Wingcrafter, but splashing a little blue soulbonder just didn’t mesh with my strategy. My pool of black cards was about as ineffective as I had predicted, and I tried to use white, but I got one angel and no synergy with the rest of it.
Here’s the final deck I went with. The only card I sideboarded was one copy of Bower Passage that never saw play.
1 Cavern of Souls
2 Fervent Cathar
2 Kruin Striker
2 Wolfir Avenger
1 Diregraf Escort
1 Kessig Malcontents
1 Narstad Scrapper
1 Nightshade Peddler
1 Somberwald Sage
1 Terrifying Presence
1 Timberland Guide
1 Trusted Forcemage
Other Spells (10)
2 Thatcher Revolt
1 Angel’s Tomb
1 Dangerous Wager
1 Joint Assault
1 Pillar of Flame
1 Reforge the Soul
1 Sheltering Word
1 Vigilante Justice
The plan? Burn. Well — not precisely. But the human synergy in Avacyn Restored is fast, and it is powerful. The issue is that my deck, while creature-fueled, ran like a traditional Burn deck. What does that mean? Let’s ask Professor Jaya Ballard, Headmistress of the Task Mage Academy.
PU: Miss Ballard, thanks for being with us, today.
JB: I will burn you and everything you love. [Pause.] Ha! Just jokes, fellas.
PU: Of course. Could you explain a “Burn” deck?
JB: Sure — It’s fire. Fire in the face. Fire on your clothes, on their clothes, all over the table. If you haven’t won by turn four, you’re probably not going to win.
PU: Interesting. But how about the humans from Avacyn Restored?
JB: First of all, Play — can I call you “Play?”
JB: Thanks, Play. These humans — after my own heart, these ones. Kruin Striker comes out on turn two, and more humans make him angry and tramply. Mm! Then on turn three, the Fervent Cathar hits, and you can usually get a good five damage to the face out of that. In the next few turns, if you see Vigilante Justice and Thatcher Revolt . . . well. I don’t want to be on the other side of that table without a kill card.
PU: What do those cards do?
JB: It was your deck, Play.
PU: Humor us, please.
JB: Well, Vigilante Justice deals one damage — creature or player — when a human comes in. Thatcher Revolt creates three hasty humans that get sacked at the end of the turn, for three mana. So, here’s what you do: Kruin, then Cathar, swing for five, while some poor schlub can’t block. Vigilante Justice, hopefully swing for at least a few more. Then you Revolt. Three, then three, two from the Cathar, five from the Kruin.
PU: Thirteen damage in one turn.
JB: And that, young man, is often — [She blows a bit of fire off her finger.] — all she wrote.
Best Matchup: Black-green Soulbond. This was also the game where I misplayed, and damaged a creature with Vigilante Justice instead of my opponent. I sat, holding off a 10/8 unbonded Pathbreaker Wurm, until I drew into Reforge the Soul, miracle-cast it, and grabbed enough humans for the final damage. Next game, though, my opponent’s life went from 20 to 18, to 9, and then to zero.
Worst Matchup: Red-white Angels. Burning to the face doesn’t help when your opponent has Lifelink, other miscellaneous lifegain, and Malignus and Gisela. That deck, somehow, only came in fourth. I was able to hold off Malignus in a futile effort with Wolfir Avenger’s regeneration (He gets damaged — he just survives it!), but not long enough. Lifegain just stopped the wall of damage, a wall that’s hard to put back up when it runs on haste and tokens, just like a handful of Burn.
Which cards made the impact I thought they would? Notably, Wolfir Avenger and Heirs of Stromkirk. My first game, my opponent’s two Heirs played exactly as I’d feared; they didn’t have anyone sitting there to block them, and just kept getting bigger and bigger.
So, what happened to the “slow game” that Steve Sadin and I were expecting? Well, some effects were slow to happen. That just meant that if you played against fast deck, those things . . . didn’t happen. And Avacyn help you if your opponent had creatures and life gain at the same time — they weren’t going down quickly, and probably had something just as strong as you did.
I picked up a life counter, an oversized Gisela, and an angel/demon token from the Helvault, a seal of which I opened with achievements from Round One. From my prize packs, I got Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. All in all? A lovely time. Thanks once again to Phantom of the Attic and to my fellow players.
Long live Liliana Vess! Long live Innistrad! Long live Avacyn — Restored!