Spoiler season is upon us once again. I love these weeks of the year because they invite remorseless brewing. And that's what I'll be doing today. Instead of presenting well-tested ideas I'll go through the spoiler and chronicle my ideas concerning whichever cards inspire me. Note that the resulting decklists aren't finished products (I've played a few games with most of them just to make sure they at least do something that might be worth developing) and are more meant as an accumulation of ideas to facilitate your own brewing.
I only have access to a little over a quarter of the set—counting basic lands—and yet already feel like exploring a million options at once. In short Avacyn Restored looks like it's going to be insaaaaaaane! Fasten your seat belts; we're going to move with the speed of my inspiration.
This card was the talk of the (Legacy) town as soon as it was spoiled. First reactions to the card have been incendiary with some people going so far as to ask for a preemptive banning. I was pretty scared of the card too when I first saw it. I mean it's Time Walk right?
Well not exactly. After the first shock I decided to do something "unusual"—instead of crafting theory I went ahead and built some decks trying to use the card. Guess what? It turned out to be fine but nothing more. Sure sometimes you just get to Time Walk opponents out of the game starting turn 3 by miracling up two Time Walks in a row; that generally only really broke the game when I didn't have to set it up though and you can calculate how likely that is to happen.
Whenever I had to spend effort on actually getting the miracle trigger the card consistently turned out to be comparatively weak. You see if you set it up it isn't really a Time Walk anymore because you're using up much of your early game just to get a turn back later.
In short cries for preemptive bannings are definitely not in order. There will probably decks that want the effect but a lot of the time you're better off just using your early turns to your fullest in the first place.
The first deck it has looked a little promising in so far is High Tide—getting an extra land drop is worth your while in that deck and Mastery might be what allows Tide to become a turn 3 deck instead of a turn 4 deck without splashing for Explore. This is what I've started to test with:
Pretty standard fare though note I've cut the Candelabras. I just don't like to run that many untap effects because you usually don't have a problem with just Turnabouts and Spirals. That way you get to run more cards that are actually good before going off. The fact that Mastery is totally useless when drawn off a Spiral may still make this approach weaker than traditional lists but I'm sure going to see for myself.
Spinning the Wheel
To stick with miracle versions of old power cards that make forums go wild there was a card spoiled at last weekend's StarCityGames.com Open in Phoenix that to me looks even more breakable than Temporal Mastery: Reforge the Soul.
They're really giving us freaking Wheel of Fortune? With a full cost that's actually somewhat reasonable? What makes this particularly good is that while Personal Tutoring for Time Walk is actively bad setting up the turn 2 Wheel of Fortune seems pretty sweet (you do need a Chrome Mox Spirit Guide or Lotus Petal for that though).
Having access to a draw seven that is a viable four-of means we might have reached the necessary threat density to finally play something along the lines of actual Long.dec in Legacy. That is to say a deck that wins through opposing defenses by overwhelming them with bombs instead of running its own disruption. Seems like something worth trying out.
As I said the idea here is to replace the disruption usually present in Storm decks with more bombs hoping that the threat-density will be enough to punch through opposing countermagic while also increasing resilience to discard and becoming more consistent in one fell swoop.
There's a Reforge the Soul in the board over Diminishing Returns because usually you're just better off continuing to fill your graveyard for the inevitable Past in Flames even if you need to spend another mana on your draw seven.
Having a busted red business spell might just might mean we can finally cut black from our combo decks! Check this out:
The sideboard is obviously missing cards; I'm simply not sure yet what else we need there and which Wish targets can be cut for more SB options. But reducing black to a minimal splash has eliminated all forms of awkwardness in multicolored Ritual-chains I've encountered before.
The list has been goldfishing on turn 2 quite consistently so far a novelty as far as non-black Storm lists (other than Belcher) are concerned. And this at least has four Defense Grid for protection and could board Pyroblasts to make sure they actually stick.
To the Face
At the same time though the red cards for fairer decks are actually good for once too. I mean they're still narrow as hell but the power level of Thunderous Wrath and Vexing Devil is through the roof. Because we're still looking at a miracle card here we clearly want blue cards (aka Brainstorm) with our red maindeck.
There are two ways to do this. One is straight U/R Burn:
And then there is the actual heir to Sligh or the newest version of fast Zoo whichever origin you prefer:
Both decks only use one-drops with a truly brutal damage output and combine them with a heavy burn endgame. Vexing Devil a card that allows the opponent to choose (a bad thing) is just utterly undercosted as either four damage for R or a 4/3 for R. At least as long as your game plan includes turn 1: Bolt you.
Thunderous Wrath on the other hand may seem clunky—but that's really only the case if it's in your opening hand. If you draw it you will be able to play it and doing five for a single card is good enough to accept inconvenient timing. Needing a Brainstorm to get rid of starting hand Wraths is I think a totally fair exchange for a Goblin Grenade that is much easier to cast as far as deckbuilding requirements are concerned.
You might have noticed that neither of these two decks tries to abuse Reforge the Soul the other home people are imagining for the new Wheel of Fortune. The problem I have with that idea is that Reforge is usually a terrible top deck before roughly turn 4 (meaning you'll be stuck with it more often than with Thunderous Wrath) and having a single Miracle card feels as if it already adds enough randomness to your draws. I might be wrong and Reforge Burn might be the next big thing but I feel like this particular red draw seven is best left to the actual combo decks.
Demon in da House
Not only do we get back Time Walk and Wheel of Fortune there's also a weird creature-based version of Yawgmoth's Bargain in the set: Griselbrand. Now everybody has already speculated about it giving Reanimator an alternative to Jin-Gitaxias (less vulnerable to removal because the draw can happen as soon as Old Grizzly hits the board not to mention the body is much more impressive) and how it fits into Sneak and Show (answer: quite well most likely).
I on the other hand automatically thought of Rector-Bargain decks of old leading to this little gem:
Essentially you end up with a Storm deck that can either hard cast a Griselbrand (doable though eight mana is still a lot) put it into play from hand using Show and Tell or use Gamekeeper plus Cabal Therapy or Culling the Weak—for a nice amount of starting mana—to Oath into one followed by drawing cards and casting acceleration ending in an classic Tendrils win.
There are obvious disadvantages compared to a more traditional Infernal Tutor-based Storm build (more cards that don't actually further the Storm plan for example and graveyard hate actually doing work against some of your engine) but you gain the solid backup plan of just going beatdown with a badass demon if hate makes everything else impossible. That does look like an interesting option to have given the amount of disruption most decks today can front.
Taking Opponents to Task
Speaking of Demons Demonic Taskmaster is...um how to say it...pretty beefy. The guy is a turn 2 play given an Ancient Tomb or Mox to help out after all. Maybe he can lead to a successful Stompy archetype in black along the lines of Dragon Stompy or Sea Stompy? How about this for example:
Basically you plan to drop big threats on the table as rapidly as possible while slowing the opponent down with Chalice of the Void / Trinisphere (though you might also just want to use Nether Void). It should be easy to cast your big drops on turn 1 or 2 with all the acceleration at which point you just bash face.
The equipment make sure your Demon is as powerful as he can be (after all he often has to fight alone) and Bitterblossom complements that. Note that Bitterblossom in play allows you to drop additional guys and just feed the Faerie to the Taskmaster. You also can always keep one Faerie around to attack or block with (just stack the triggers correctly).
Ideas in the Pre-Decklist Stage
Those are six cards already that feel like they could impact Legacy and even have first draft decklists to try them out in. The list of potential candidates is far from done yet though. Here are some more ideas.
Desolate Lighthouse might make an interesting lategame draw engine in a control deck running Punishing Fire. I mean five mana is a lot for drawing a card but considering all you're giving up is a colorless land slot that might well be worth it.
Another card I predict will see play is Sigarda Host of Herons. She's simply an incredibly hard to kill finisher for control or midrange decks (even harder because she can't be Lilianaed or Innocent Blooded). Sure so is Thrun and I had the same kind of feeling about that guy which didn't really work out. The Last Troll doesn't fly and Sigarda will probably tussle significantly more efficiently with a number of creatures first of all Tarmogoyf (a 4/5 Goyf is easy a 5/6 a lot less so).
She also provides some built-in protection against Cthulhu which might come in handy when a Show and Tell resolves. If he doesn't get to annihilate anything the tentacle monster often will actually have to stay on defense if you've been attacking like you should.
Finally Descendant's Path looks like there's a sweet tribal deck just waiting to be discovered probably running four Sylvan Library alongside the new enchantment. The question is just which tribe needs that interaction? Elves is better off as full blown combo Goblins is already built around a draw engine and Fish is probably better served with Standstill if it wants to draw extra cards.
Maybe Humans was just waiting for this kind of card advantage to become an actual tribe? I mean there's a lot of power there between two different mana Humans Champion of the Parish Mother of Runes Major of Avabruck Thalia Guardian of Thraben Mirran Crusader Knight of the Reliquary Hero of Bladehold and Ranger of Eos. If you have suggestions on where to put Descendant's Path you know where the comments are.
Waiting for More
So much for my first impressions. With only about a quarter of the actual cards spoiled we already have as many candidates for Legacy play as we usually get in a full set. It sure looks like Wizards went out of their way to make Avacyn Restored exciting for us Eternal players power creep and all. I can't wait to see where this leads us.
That's it for today though you can be sure that as you're reading this I'm already chasing after another crazy idea inspired by the cards spoiled in the downtime between me finishing the article and it being published. Feel free to share your own impressions or discuss the decks I presented today in the comments.
I hope you enjoyed this excursion into my fevered mind; until next time happy brewing!