e're less than two weeks away from the release of Avacyn Restored. A lot of us will get our first opportunity to play with the new cards this weekend at the Prerelease. Until then, we're going to have to make some assumptions about the direction the Standard format will take.
Promo card for
Avacyn Restored Prerelease
The week before a Prerelease is the most exciting time to be a deck builder. There's a world of opportunity to be the first person to discover and assemble the latest strategy. We can make assumptions about the new format, but, historically, nine times out of ten we know absolutely nothing at this stage in the game. That's comforting to me. Sure, maybe the best decks will be common knowledge in a few weeks, but there's still a few weeks to break the new format before the dust settles.
Cavern of Souls seems to be the most talked about card in Avacyn Restored. Delver players the world over are already dreading the uncounterable stream of Titans. Will this be the end of Delver? Probably not. Will this affect the way Delver decks are built? Probably. However, we can be reasonably certain that Cavern of Souls will encourage players to sleeve up Titan-based ramp decks or Human decks with Hero of Bladehold more often than they would have otherwise, at least for the initial weeks of the format.
I have received a good number of emails over the last week requesting a Standard deck that uses cards from the new set. I've decided to design two new decks that take advantage of my initial favorite cards in Avacyn Restored. There will be a poll at the end of the column asking you to vote for your favorite deck. Be sure to vote so I know which deck you would like me to write about next week.
Wolfir Silverheart gives you 12 points of power for five mana and 4 of the damage is probably heading into the red zone the turn you cast it. The voices on the Internet contend that Vapor Snag is too strong against a five-drop without a comes-into-play ability, but I'm not entirely convinced that Wolfir Silverheart is just a sideboard card.
Wolfir Silverheart | Art by Raymond Swanland
A lot of people won't even be playing Vapor Snag. Imagine the impact Wolfir Silverheart has on a game against any of the expected red decks from the new format. It's backbreaking. Wolfir Silverheart enters the battlefield at a size red players couldn't dream of bringing down. It's also green, so five mana isn't exactly a turn-five occasion. It won't be unusual to see Wolfir Silverheart on the battlefield as early as the third turn.
Champion of Lambholt is another card from Avacyn Restored I'm looking forward to playing with. Champion of Lambholt is obviously strong in any creature mirror, but it's also an excellent plan against Lingering Souls. Standard's control decks will be leaning on Lingering Souls for defense more than ever now that Cavern of Souls is around. It takes a long time for a Dungrove Elder to actually hit the opponent through a squadron of spirits. Lambholt Elder fixes that problem and does so much more. If you're able to protect Champion of Lambholt, it essentially makes your whole team unblockable for the duration of the game.
Ulvenwald Tracker might not look like much, but I'm guessing this gentleman has a very bright future. Think about him less like an easy-to-remove Contested Cliffs and more like a green version of Grim Lavamancer. Ulvenwald Tracker will potentially be able to kill one of your opponent's creatures every turn if you're playing monstrous fatties like Wolfir Silverheart and Dungrove Elder. That's a very impressive effect. Drawing multiple copies of Ulvenwald Tracker would be pretty bad, but a single copy gives the green deck a dramatic new way to interact with the opponent. You could play Green Sun's Zenith if you're willing to invest a bit more into your green deck, which gives you the ability to find your singleton copy of Ulvenwald Tracker whenever it's the perfect card for the game at hand.
I'm playing a green deck with a lot of three-mana creatures, so I'm going to want some mana accelerators. Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise are the obvious inclusions, but I'd like to have a few extra cards with redundant effects. Avacyn's Pilgrim isn't quite as good, but it accomplishes a very similar effect for the same cost, so I'll be happy to include two copies of that to further increase the chance that I'm starting the game off with one of these important plays.
Strangleroot Geist is an obvious inclusion for any aggressive green deck. For two mana, you get a 2-power hasty creature that becomes a 3-power hasty creature when your opponent kills it. Strangleroot Geist lets Standard green aggro decks put their opponents on the defensive. It's important to always stay ahead when it comes to race math. If your opponent isn't chump-blocking, then you're probably falling behind.
Dungrove Elder is another obvious inclusion for a deck whose mana base is a thick stack of Forests. Sure, our Wolfir Silverheart is weak against Vapor Snag, but you want to know what's backbreaking against every Vapor Snag deck? A hexproof creature that has power and toughness equal to the number of lands you have in play.
Predator Ooze is an underappreciated beater that seems like it could be very well positioned in the new Standard. Indestructible is a pretty powerful keyword for a three-mana creature. Predator Ooze will help keep this deck attacking.
Ranger's Guile might seem odd here, but I'd really like to protect my Wolfir Silverheart and Champion of Lambholt. It seems like either of these cards sticking around for a long period of time will almost assuredly result in a win. I've always been a fan of "Protect the Queen" style deck strategies wherein you play with a creature that wins the game by itself (Wolfir Silverheart and Baneslayer Angel are good examples) and a bunch of ways to protect it. Champion of Lambholt and Wolfir Silverheart will do a lot of work if given an opportunity. Ranger's Guile gives them an opportunity.
Dismember is an extremely powerful spot-removal spell that I'm happy to play a few copies. It's a strange world we live in where I can pay one mana for an instant-speed -5/-5 in a green deck.
Prey Upon finishes up the deck's removal suite nicely. It has excellent synergy with the sheer size of Dungrove Elder, Champion of Lambholt, Wolfir Silverheart, and Predator Ooze.
Here's what the deck looks like once we put it all together:
Avacyn Restored Standard
A good number of readers are bored with my creature and combo decks—they enjoy playing control and they've asked me to work on a control deck for Avacyn Restored Standard. There's one card in particular from Avacyn Restored I'm extremely interested in.
Restoration Angel | Art by Johannes Voss
Restoration Angel is my type of card. Utility, offense, or defense, Restoration Angel hits every note perfectly. Its 4 toughness is going to put Restoration Angel out of burn range for most opponents. I can't say enough good things about this card, and from the talk of the community, it looks like this one shouldn't be too difficult to acquire through trading.
I wanted to find the best creatures to go with my Restoration Angel. Blade Splicer and Stonehorn Dignitary were the biggest standouts. Blinking either of these creatures can have a huge impact on the game. Restoration Angel becomes quite the deal when you're casting it on your opponent's end step to blink a Blade Splicer and make another 3/3 Golem.
I wanted to find redundant effects so Stonehorn Dignitary could work as a soft lock against opponents who didn't have a way to remove it. Venser, the Sojourner immediately came to mind. Venser, the Sojourner is fairly easy to acquire these days. Venser vs. Koth Duel Decks was recently released and includes a copy of the Planeswalker in addition to many other exciting cards.
Venser, the Sojourner and Stonehorn Dignitary will lock up the game against a lot of our opponents. You can use Venser's +2 ability every turn to make your opponent skip his or her next combat step until the cows come home. Eventually, we'll be able to activate Venser, the Sojourner's ultimate, which almost always results in a game win.
Stonehorn Dignitary and Blade Splicer do a good job of making the game go long so the deck can operate with all of its pistons, but I'm going to need more cards to get me into a long game.
Nothing says "Take me to the long game" like Timely Reinforcements. Timely Reinforcements almost always buys you a few turns. It's important that we're able to hide behind spells like this while we get our powerful engines online. Remember not to aggressively chump block with your tokens from Timely Reinforcements. Those tokens are going to be very valuable if you draw Venser, the Sojourner and need chump blockers to defend him.
Oblivion Ring is a good catch-all answer that will take care of any unforeseen problems or just act as a three-mana removal spell.
Day of Judgment is necessary here. Most creature-based decks are going to make a board presence much quicker than we are and we're going to need a reset button. Day of Judgment allows us to fall behind early and swing back to victory.
Speaking of reset buttons: Sunblast Angel can turn a game around quicker than just about any other creature in Standard. It's a narrow card, but it's extremely powerful when paired with cards like Venser, the Sojourner.
I need the deck to have a consistent source of card advantage, but I'm already playing a lot of rares and I don't want to include rare lands. It took some time to find a card-advantage engine for a mono-white deck, but eventually I remembered the existence of Ichor Wellspring and Mycosynth Wellspring. I can use the Wellsprings alongside Phyrexia's Core to get ahead on cards and ensure that I'm hitting my land drops. Phyrexia's Core also give me a surprisingly effective method of survival or a new angle to race math with the Golems made by Blade Splicer.
Here's what the deck looks like when we put it all together:
Avacyn Restored Standard
Both of these decks take full advantage of some of my favorite cards from Avacyn Restored. Next week, I'm going to continue working on one of these deck, working up a sideboard, discussing matchups, and tweaking the deck for the metagame as it shapes up. Be sure to vote for which deck you'd like to see me further develop. Until then, have fun at your Prerelease and get brewing with Avacyn Restored!
Which deck would you like to see me cover next week?