Avacyn Restored–Cards I’m Excited About

I must say one of my favorites in the entire set so far is Vessel of Endless Rest.  Frites has been giving me fits.  I virtually can’t beat it with Delver.  There isn’t even a point in posting the videos… they were a complete massacre.  Vessel of Endless Rest is a very attractive solution to the menacing deck.  Thwarting all their hard work with a single card that accelerates me as well is pretty sweet.  Sadly, there is little Delver can do with extra mana laying around.  I am therefore tempted to move away from a hard-nosed, aggressive build.  I will not let go of it without a fight, though.  Dropping my land count to 20 and taking a second look at my spell suite will probably be my last attempt at a viable mono-blue Delver list until Magic rotates online.  If that fails, I will look to move to a more controlling, late-game deck that relies on Delvers for early pressure in the matchups where it proves useful.

I promised myself I wouldn’t rabbit trail in this article and look what I did…  Moving on.  Cavern of Souls makes me want to cry.  Humans, humans, humans… and zombies.  I don’t see myself playing decks that would merit that land, so if I pull any, they will be sold once those decks realize how good the card is against control.  Great for solving color issues in those tribal decks as well.  However, if Humans decide to get smart and start playing Islands, I may have to acquire a few.

All of the nonbasic lands in this set are pretty spicy.  Decks meeting the conditions they require would probably be interested in these.

Conjurer’s Closet is interesting, though its mana cost is very restrictive.  Blinking a creature each turn can be sick given all the enters the battlefield triggers on the creatures in this set.  Great for limited.  Not convinced it will see play outside of that at 5 mana.

Moonsilver Spear is a card I can get behind in limited.  Swinging with a random dork into a clogged board just got interesting.  Sure the thing dies, but he gets replaced with a 4/4 Angel you can re-equip the sword with.  Outside limited, 4 mana is probably more than a lot of decks can afford to pay.  I think the Swords will be the go-to equipment until Scars of Mirrodin rotates.

The big ol’ mythic dual-color cycle of angels…. They certainly make me feel like I am playing the wrong deck… Frites, meet your new reanimation targets.  Thank goodness they don’t nerf Delver as hard, but they all hit like trucks so I feel that is an inadequate consolation.  If you say, “they all die to removal,” you are correct.  Sadly, they do not die to all removal and that means they will be royal pains.  Oh, and don’t forget the grandmother of them all, Avacyn herself… an 8/8 flying, vigilant angel for 8 that makes all of her controller’s permanents indestructible.  Good luck with that… unless you play Islands, Plains, or Swamps.  In that case, you are fine… no need to worry.  Oblivion Ring, Vapor Snag, Smallpox, and Helvault (oddly, it IS mana-efficient to use it on Avacyn… Her flavor text matches this even… interesting) to the rescue!  Wait.. Helvault is colorless.  But need I go on?  Granted you are still dealing with an 8/8 flier… getting hit by that thing probably isn’t an option, so don’t expect reinforcements to arrive in time.  Chump blocking with Spirit tokens seems fine.

I think I’ve made my point.  Avacyn will most likely not see much play.  She might be a good sideboard card for Frites against certain matchups, but she is no all-star, and she is hard to hard-cast, relegating her to the sidelines (as far as I can tell… perhaps a ramp deck will make effective use of her).

Terminus is also beautiful.  A Wrath of God for Frites, Zombies, and other nasty graveyard-exploiters.  This and Vessel of Endless Rest may be enough for Frites to consider adding a few shuffle effects to keep all their goodies off the bottom of their library.

I suspect everyone and their brother will be putting together an Angels deck, so prepare…  Also, prepare to profit from this set.  I suspect the angels will be big-time sellers in the secondary market, possibly as big as Vampires was if a competitive version becomes available.  I might pull the trigger on my first booster box ever.  With only 244 cards in the whole set, a big score could put me in the black before I finish opening all the packs.

Treacherous Pit-Dweller is an interesting gamble.  The flavor is awesome: “This guy over here managed to kill me, so he must be stronger than my other master; I’ll join his side.”  It seems like a good card.  A 4/3 for 2.  Will be interesting to see if this guy gets a shot in competitive.  I have a feeling the risk will be well worth it.  Lots of Ebay sales have him at $0.99 for 4.  May end up being random junk, but only time will tell.  Personally, I’m keeping my evil eye on this one.

Silverblade Paladin.  Another interesting card.  Yes, the double strike is fragile as well as the creature that confers it, but unchecked, this guy can bruise many, many ribs.  Also one of those sleepers.  There are enough blink effects between white and blue to make me believe soulbound will be a legitimate mechanic in competitive.

Entreat the Angels, as expected, has not escaped the hype.  Ebay presale prices are already starting to get up there.  There was this one card waaay back in Scourge called Decree of Justice.  It saw some significant time in the limelight as a way to end games.  Control mirrors were fought over resolving this spell.  Perhaps those times have returned?  Only time will tell.

Devastation Tide gets me extremely excited.  Finally, a foolproof way to deal with all those stupid tokens!!!!!!  I’d love it if this card got some love, but I don’t have my hopes up.  The hard-casting cost is rather reasonable, so who knows…  And the ebay prices are higher than many of the other cards.

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage seems really good.  He protects himself and has a significant impact as soon as he enters the battlefield.  People have already caught on.  Pre-sale prices on ebay are over $60 for 4.

Cards with an X in their cost are always good for second looks.  Divine Deflection is no exception.  XW to prevent the next X damage taken by you and permanents you control and deal it to target creature or player.  Using it in MTGO is going to be a pain, but it may be worth it.  This is a very interesting card with a multitude of uses.  I cannot wait to see how the price on this card changes.  It seems it would be nearly impossible to lose against some decks once you have this in hand and enough mana to redirect any lethal assaults.  Having this in your deck will drastically change how people play.  The opponent will be forced to plink you to death slowly once he is wise to the trick.  The highest price I see for the pre-sales that are not Buy It Now (which are overpriced) is $4.57 for 4.  That may be where it stays.

Restoration Angel has not been spared from the limelight on the pre-sales… over $5 for 4.  To be expected, as it is probably one of the best given its ability to trade 1-for-0 with targeted removal spells.

Infinite Reflection feels as though there should be a way to break it.  The mana cost is high, but so is Hive Mind.  If it finds a home in some sort of combo deck, expect the price to bump up a bit.  Its price at the moment is minimal.  Should be able to pick up copies during the pre-sales on eBay  for $0.99 for 4 or perhaps a bit more without too much trouble.

Deadeye Navigator is an interesting card.  It is difficult to deal with save for mass removal.  It does not have any kind of evation, but combining it with a common soulbond creature (Wingcrafter) will solve that issue.  I like it, but doubt it will see much serious play.  Should be no trouble getting some of them for dirt cheap on eBay.  

You can view the entire spoiler at www.mtgsalvation.com.  Just click on the Avacyn Restored spoiler tab.

That’s about all I have for now.  Good luck and have fun in the pre-release this weekend.  So, what cards will you be keeping your eye on?

Mono-Blue Delver: Fifth Edition

I decided to step up to the plate and add the other two Snapcasters.  Having them as an access point to more counterspells, bounce spells, or filtering spells seems pretty nice.  In addition, they leave room for complete blowouts if I catch the opponent napping since I can drop him at the end of his turn, flashback Vapor Snag to bounce the blocker the opponent left behind, play and equip Runechanter’s Pike on my turn, and swing for the win.  I really like the deck against the mirror.  I have only lost 2 games out of about 8 to the mirror and both of those losses were due in part to misplays, so if there is any matchup I would be willing to sacrifice a few games to, it would have to be that one.  Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is a huge beating and I have tried pretty much everything to improve my chances against him, including Phantasmal Dragons.  Most Delver decks run Phantasmal Image, but I am not ready to spend close to $10 each on a card that will not be around too much longer.  My most recent attempt at a solution is Mind Control.  Stealing the creature is better by far, anyway.  It forces them to throw another one up to deal with him, which will be harder than getting the first one up since their mana dorks are dead draws once you steal him.  This is a solution I could not recommend to other Delver decks, as their filter package does not dig as deep as mine, and they do not run as many lands.  Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to deploy this solution despite the fact that I have one maindeck.  I am hesitant about going to 2 maindeck since it is almost worthless against Delver and I really have no maindeck means of protecting it other than counterspells, but…. my Delver matchup is really good as it stands, and I have an uphill battle against ramp decks that pack a lot of fatties so that may be my only legitimate choice.  Here’s what I’m planning on running now:

3 Invisible Stalker
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Dungeon Geists
4 Runechanter’s Pike

4 Ponder
2 Dissipate
3 Forbidden Alchemy
3 Mana Leak
Thought Scour
Vapor Snag
Mind Control

Buried Ruin
21 Island

The numbers seem all wrong to me on paper, but that might actually be a good sign given how wrong I usually am about what is actually good.

Sideboard:

1 Bonehoard
4 Disperse
2 Dissipate
1 Dungeon Geists
1 Invisible Stalker
1 Mana Leak
1 Mind Control

Seems horrible, but I guess we will find out…  Comments and suggestions are welcome.  As far as the logic is concerned, I have found Dungeon Geists to be less useful than many of the other cards in the deck against Delver, so I dropped one out in favor of another Mind Control.  That way, the slot has a minimal impact on my Delver matchup.  I am down to 12 creatures maindeck.  I’m not entirely sure what to expect.  Hopefully, dropping out a few creatures will have a minimal impact on the early pressure the deck is known for.

Mono-Blue Delver vs. U/W Delver

Not happy how I performed in this match… I made a couple of really stupid misplays.

I was not impressed by Nim Deathmantle or Darkslick Drake either.  They were dead draws.  It’s back to the drawing board on that part of the sideboard.  Disperse has not had an opportunity to truly shine, but I think they are fine for the time-being.  The extra Dissipates were fine also.  Nihil Spellbomb never had a chance in the limelight.  I saw no need to board them in against the mirror.  There are some cards I am contemplating for replacement of Nim Deathmantle and Darkslick Drake: Trigon of Rage, Manor Gargoyle (immune to Ancient Grudge and other “destroy” effects… at least while it’s on the defensive), Pierce Strider (since it has an immediate impact and a rear end that’s just big enough), and the other 2 Dungeon Geists.

Anyway, enjoy the match!  Let me know what you think.  My nerves got to me a little.

Mono-Blue Delver: Fourth Edition

After a little thought, I realized quickly that although Negate  might be a good card in several matchups, it will not work to throw them in along with all the other countermagic in the deck.  Assuming you are not swapping them out for 3 of the Mana Leaks, you are looking at a troublesome time.  From six counterspells to a full nine, assuming no more were added.  Aggressive decks are fueled not by counterspells.  This must be rethought in light of an actual plan against the decks.  Now, they might still be correct, but I truly was contemplating just throwing them in with the Mana Leaks.  Instead, adding 2 Dissipates to the sideboard sounds better.  So.. for the G/R/x ramp decks, my sideboard strategy will look something like this:

+2 Dissipate, -3 Thought Scour, +2 Nim Deathmantle, +2 Darkslick Drake, -1 Runechanter’s Pike, -2 Delver of Secrets

Yes.. a Delver deck that boards out its cornerstone card.  While Delver is the meat to these potatoes, square meals that do not include meat are actually pretty darn good.  Keep in mind that this plan was constructed in about 5 minutes, with only 3 games as a reference point.

For Solar Flare lists, I will be doing something similar.  Only here, I will not board out my Delvers:

+2 Dissipate, -3 Thought Scour, +2 Nim Deathmantle, -1 Runechanter’s Pike

I really shouldn’t even be posting sideboarding strategies because they will vary greatly by the time I put pen to paper and finalize a build.

Anyway, here is a completed decklist and sideboard (no links to the cards because I really want to get to testing):

4 Delver of Secrets
2 Dungeon Geists
4 Invisible Stalker
2 Snapcaster Mage

2 Dissipate
4 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Mana Leak
4 Ponder
3 Thought Scour
4 Vapor Snag

4 Runechanter’s Pike

2 Buried Ruin
21 Island

Sideboard:

2 Dissipate
2 Darkslick  Drake
2 Negate
3 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Nim Deathmantle
4 Disperse

Bounce spells that can get rid of Curse of Death’s Hold and other nonsense will make life difficult.

Mono-Blue Delver: Revised

Testing went well.  Granted, I spent much of my time in the casual room.  RGW Ramp can be an issue.  Gideon Jura is a major roadblock, as is Day of Judgment.  When combined with some absurd finishing power, the deck is hard to deal with if you do not get the early jump (of course, it would also help if you had a sideboard for games 2 and 3).  Snapcasters may find their way into the deck before the week is up, at least enough to replace the two Phantasmal Bears.  I actually like the matchup against Zombies.  I never saw a Gravecrawler, so it may have just been a casual budget list.  Humans is a real deck as it turns out.  They can wipe the floor with Delver too.  Being able to trade 1-for-1 with Lingering Souls via Dissipate helps, but it’s not their only token producer, and it’s not their only threat.  Gideon, in my opinion, is one of Delver’s biggest bullies.  I don’t like bullies.  That’s why it’s time for sideboard tech, and for me to step up the testing.  No more casual room stuff.  Time to play matches in the Tournament prep. room.

One thing really caught me by surprise in testing: Delver is actually a control deck in some matchups.  Sometimes you stall out your opponent and then drop a finisher, which just so happens to cost a lot less mana than most decks’ ‘finishers.’

Starting out with 3 Negate is the right way to go.  Gideon is almost as good as multiple Time Walks against Delver.  Also, Day of Judgment is pretty good in the current metagame.  I think it will see more and more play.  Negate works against removal, Curse of Death’s Hold, Swords and other equipment, Green Sun’s Zenith… need I go on?

Flashfreeze may be overkill against Wolf Run Ramp.  I think the deck can live without it, particularly with a couple of Snapcasters in the maindeck.

I need a solution to Nihil Spellbomb and similar graveyard-desecrating cards.  Simply answering it with counters seems fine, but what about when they cast it with counterspell backup?  I don’t want that to be game over if the game goes long.  I need a way to finish out the game if the Pikes aren’t of much value.  Many Delver lists run a couple of Swords maindeck.  I’m cheap, so I really don’t like that option.  I am contemplating a card I had in my original deck as a 1-of: Nim Deathmantle.  Now hold your pessimism for a week or so until I prove to myself that the card is completely worthless.  I think it could also be useful against decks featuring Curse of Death’s Hold.  It would allow me to still play out my X/1 creatures.  I’d have to pay a lot more for them, but it’s better than them being completely dead draws. 

U/W Delver decks have access to a card that makes effective use of creatures in their graveyard: Moorland Haunt.  Since this is not an option for a mono-blue deck, I may need to change things a bit.  Getting value out of dead creatures is something a lot of the decks like to do.

Nihil Spellbomb… they are probably worth a few slots.  Zombies, other Delver decks, Sun Titan decks, shutting down the random Burning Vengeance decks one might encounter… not being able to cantrip is not a huge drawback.

A few extra finishers would be good.  Something with a bigger rear end than everything else in the deck.  The problem is deciding on creatures to fill that role.  The fact that I am playing an aggressive deck limits the mana cost for this role.  I am tempted to add in 2 Dungeon Geists and call it a day, but I want something a tad meatier.  Sadly, the card that continues to hold my gaze is Darkslick Drake.  The creature has a hefty rear end, replaces itself when it dies, and has a reasonable mana cost.  It and Nim Deathmantle are buddies as well, so how could I refuse?  No need to tell me it’s a terrible card and this strategy will not work.  I’m thinking that right now, and that’s part of why I want to try it as my initial impressions of some things tend to be wrong.  I want to leave you with the Grand Prix: Baltimore finals.  Two very skilled players go at it in an excellent match that goes to 3 games.  U/W Delver vs. U/B Control.

Mono-Blue Delver: Unlimited

Ok… the previous deck list will not work… I don’t have enough spells to power up my Pikes and I have too many low-curve 1 power creatures.  As far as spells are concerned, my only real options are Gitaxian Probe, Thought Scour, and Think Twice.  I have considered and reconsidered Twisted Image, but I don’t think the card is maindeck material.  Forbidden Alchemy seems like it might be the ticket as well.  The only problem there is the mana cost.  Casting it at the end of an opponent’s turn might be reasonable, though.

I am willing to give Thought Scour another shot since it seems pretty common in Delver lists.  The card makes me lean toward Think Twice more and more even though neither card performed up to my expectations in the first iteration of this deck.

I am not all that happy with my options on the creature side of things.  I may be forced to either go with an illusion build or suck it up and pay for the high-dollar cards.  A playset of Snapcaster Mages will probably run me around $30 on MTGO.  That seems reasonable since it is going to be a blue staple in a lot of formats for quite a while.  Phantasmal Images are a little too expensive for me to consider as they run over $10 a piece on MTGO.

Another option to consider is to move to a more midrage-style deck.  Unfortunately, that kills the power of the namesake card.  I think I will wait on building in that manner.

Well, here is my new list for the time being:

Delver of Secrets
Dungeon Geists
Invisible Stalker
Phantasmal Bear

Dissipate
Forbidden Alchemy
Mana Leak
2 Marrow Shards
4 Ponder
Thought Scour
Vapor Snag

Runechanter’s Pike

Buried Ruin
21 Island

The Marrow Shards are there to deal with all the decks that feature Lingering Souls and other aggressive decks with a ton of X/1 creatures.  They seem pretty common right now… perhaps gearing up for the release of the final Innistrad set.

As for a build including Snapcasters?

Delver of Secrets
Dungeon Geists
Invisible Stalker
Snapcaster Mage

Dissipate
Forbidden Alchemy
Mana Leak
4 Ponder
Thought Scour
Vapor Snag

Runechanter’s Pike

Buried Ruin
21 Island

I believe this list actually has a pretty reasonable shot.  The Snapcasters seem like they will push the deck over the top.  This list lacking Marrow Shards is not a big deal.  Having access to Mana Leak 5-8 via Snapcaster more than compensates.
 

Mono-Blue Delver: Beta

I planned on Stoic Rebuttal over Cancel, per the suggestion, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of DissipateLingering Souls is pretty common online it seems.  Not to mention Snapcaster and other annoying shenanigans involving decaying corpses.  Having a 1-shot answer to that would be nice, but we will see how things pan out with this list.  Ok, so for the record, here’s the build as it stands now:

Creatures:

4 Delver of Secrets
2 Dungeon Geists
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Phantasmal Bear
4 Vault Skirge

Spells:

4 Mana Leak
2 Mutagenic Growth
4 Ponder
2 Stoic Rebuttal
4 Vapor Snag

Artifacts:

3 Runechanter’s Pike

Lands:

Buried Ruin
21 Island

Did you catch my derp in the last post? Put Vapor Snare instead of Vapor Snag… it actually took me a bit to figure out why I had 5 CMC spells in my deck.

Revisions after a night of playtesting

Gut Shot did not make it into the initial build due to the card’s cost on MTGO (3 tix each).  Unsummon is not the card you want replacing it, but was what I ended up using.  I got in about five games with the initial build.  The deck is clunky.  It trips on mana quite frequently.  Some cards were surprisingly good, and others simply sucked.

Let’s start with Unsummon.  It sucks… especially in this iteration.  It does not protect your delvers because if they’re flipped, you must work to flip them again after you recast them.  Every time I saw the card, I wished it could bounce things other than creatures.  Might consider getting a different bounce spell in there, but I am thinking about Mutagenic Growth to protect the Delvers.

I was hoping the Armored Skaabs would hold the ground for me, but every time I cast them, they ended up eating a removal spell.  Additionally, they do not hit hard enough.  Granted, it would help if I didn’t play into removal half the time…  They will be replaced with Phantasmal Bear for the added aggression.

Pretty much anything is better than Thought Scour.  9 times out of 10, if those were any other card in the deck, the game would have gone better.  To replace them, Vapor Snag, a card in the original build.

Vault Skirge was an absolute all-star.  The card wins games single-handedly, and it’s immune to a lot of the ‘big boy’ removal running around (Doom Blade and Go for the Throat).

As should have been expected (don’t know why I included it in the initial build… too lazy to think things through I suppose), Think Twice was utter rubbish.  Horrible.  No other way to put it.  Stoic Rebuttal will overtake one of its slots, while the other two will be Vault Skirge.

As for the Stormbound Geists, they were never drawn, so I don’t feel safe calling them bad.  However, a commenter suggested Phantasmal Dragon.  I’m willing to try it, but I always seem strained for mana, so I will go for more Phantasmal Bears for the time being.

Cancel, of course, will be replaced by Stoic Rebuttal.

Now for the final tally…

-1 Cancel
-3 Thought Scour
-2 Armored Skaab
-2 Unsummon
-1 Nim Deathmantle
-2 Stormbound Geist
-3 Think Twice

+2 Stoic Rebuttal
+2 Vault Skirge
+4 Vapor Snag
+4 Phantasmal Bear
+2 Mutagenic Growth

Mono-Blue Delver: Initial build

Save perhaps for Fish, blue is infamous for drawing out games until they can land some kind of finisher.  Delver of Secrets is changing this perception.  Once they flip into the 3/2 flier form, they can bring the beats, especially when sworded up.  Delver decks in the past few Grand Prix have featured 2 colors.  I am on a mission to find out if it is possible to create a mono-blue delver deck.  I have a feeling this task is destined for failure, but I figured it would be worth a shot nonetheless.  Here’s the initial list I’ve decided on:

Creatures

2 Armored Skaab
4 Delver of Secrets
2 Dungeon Geists
4 Invisible Stalker
2 Stormbound Geists
2 Vault Skirge

Spells

1 Cancel (yeah… srsly)
2 Gut Shot
4 Mana Leak
4 Ponder
3 Think Twice
3 Thought Scour

Artifacts

1 Nim Deathmantle
Runechanter’s Pike

Lands

Buried Ruin
21 Island

That’s it!  Now, all that’s left is to build it and see what it can do.  Thoughts and comments are appreciated.  Also, if you notice any broken links, let me know.  Won’t be any trouble to fix.

A Complete Lack of Activity Over the Past 6 Months

My life has changed dramatically since my last post.  My grandmother passed last October,  I finished school, and have been in and out of two jobs since then.  My family moved to a different home.  Now that mourning is complete for my grandmother for the most part, and that I have a good bit of free time now in between jobs, I can press on and get more active on here (hopefully).