You've played in your Prereleases and you've seen the spoilers for a week. I present to you a card-by-card review of Avacyn Restored for Commander broken down into four categories: Cards That Will Definitely Get Played Cards That Probably Will Get Played Cards That Probably Won't Get Played and Cards That Definitely Won't Get Played.
Remember that although I occasionally make references to other formats I'm evaluating these cards for their value only in Commander. There are some cards that I'm always going to want to draft (like Fervent Cathar) that just aren't Commander worthy. Low ratings here aren't indicative of a card being on the whole bad but simply being less useful for the format.
Cards That Definitely Won't Get Played
Angel's Mercy (Not even the most hopelessly addicted to life gain will play this) Call to Serve Farbog Explorer Midnight Duelist Moorland Inquisitor Righteous Blow (The drafters will love it) Spectral Gateguards Thraben Valiant Zealous Strike.
Cards That Probably Won't Get Played
Builder's Blessing: Might get played in some crazy Doran build but I doubt it. Rating: D.
Cursebreak: People don't play enough enchantment removal but given that Disenchant is the same cost for the flexibility of getting either an artifact or enchantment and slots are precious in decks only the "I'm not afraid of artifact" guy will play this. Rating: D.
Seraph of Dawn: Even the lifelink isn't enough to play this save in the most tribal-focused of Angel decks and even then it's a card on the bubble (although in a Pauper variant it might be pretty good). I am pretty fond of the art. Rating: D.
Voice of the Provinces: This one could have been a contender if any single element were better. If it were more aggressively costed (say 2WW) bigger (even 5/4 would have been fine) or made more dudes (two would get there) it might be worth it. Otherwise it's an Angel for your Angel/Humans deck which you're going to eventually take out. Rating: D.
Geist Snatch: You have to compare this to other similar cards and when you do I think it falls down. For the same cost you can have Bone to Ash which gives you a card instead of a tiny dude. For one less mana you can have Exclude. For the same exact cost you can have Summoner's Bane where the creature is 2/2 but doesn't fly. For two more mana you get Overwhelming Intellect which is the big daddy of "counter target creature" spells. Rating: D+
Ghostform: Another card the drafters will probably like that is of limited utility in Commander although it can occasionally end up blowing out someone. Rating: D+
Second Guess: Obviously designed to counter the counterspell it's of limited utility in a format that has better options at the cost. Rating: D.
Butcher Ghoul: Narrow played only in Zombie tribal. Rating: D.
Grave Exchange: I like the idea of this card but hate the cost. At 3BB it might be playable. Rating: D+.
Homicidal Seclusion: One of my favorite pieces of art from the set. You'd think it's a little pricey for what it does but since it's any loner creature you control and it gives lifelink it may have a little playability. Rating: D+
Human Frailty: Narrow but cheap. The non-commander Humans we see in the format like Eternal Witness and Yavimaya Elder do their jobs by just getting onto the battlefield so they don't really need killing. Spending one more mana for Go for the Throat seems better. I doubt the card sees much play. Rating: D.
Hunted Ghoul: Maybe playable in your Zombie deck because you can't find any of the other 268 Zombies laying around. Rating: D-.
Polluted Dead: Another creature who gets a little more valuable because he's a Zombie he's going to be quite useful in taking out those troublesome lands like Cabal Coffers and Gaea's Cradle. Rating: C.
Renegade Demon: Playable only in a Demon Tribal deck. Rating: D.
Soulcage Fiend: Demons are getting some weapons but I still don't see the Demon deck coming around just yet. I immediately thought of Two-Headed Giant when I saw the card. Rating: D.
Triumph of Cruelty: As the "I have the biggest dude" cards go this is thoroughly bad. Still someone's going to give it a whirl. Rating: D-
Dangerous Wager: It's no Faithless Looting. In burn decks where you run out of cards it's fine but in this format there are much better ways of getting stuff into your graveyard so that you can Reanimate it. Rating: D.
Demolish: Haven't run across a reprint yet that I disliked although I can't imagine this seeing too much play. Rating: D.
Heirs of Stromkirk: Only playable in your Vampire tribal and even then there are better choices. Rating: D.
Hound of Griselbrand: It's sad when rares won't get played in this format. Maybe in an Elemental deck? Rating: D.
Lightning Mauler: There are countless other better ways to give your own guys haste such as Fervor Urabrask the Hidden Fires of Yavimaya and Madrush Cyclops some of which are less likely to get blown up. Rating: D
Mad Prophet: It looks like looting is moving over into red now which isn't terrible. I still think folks want to loot cheaper. Rating: D.
Riot Ringleader: I can see someone trying to make a Red Humans deck try to work. Maybe with Werewolves? Rating: D.
Scalding Devil: I can see this getting played as the kill condition for some infinite mana combo. Otherwise not so much. Rating: D.
Thunderbolt: Maybe playable in the decks that like direct damage as opposed to outright killing. Rating: D.
Thunderous Wrath: We come to a miracle card that's kind of worthless to play in non-miracle fashion. Even as a miracle this one's underwhelming. Rating: D.
Vexing Devil: I know this card is getting a great deal of attention for other Constructed formats but the only way I see it getting played here is if you think no one will care to take the damage. Cast on turn 1 the guy sitting on your right is probably going to get forced to eat it. Rating: D.
Grounded: Enchantress decks might make use of it due to its cost and we know the format is rife with guys we'd like to bring out of the air. Still it's really narrow. Rating: D.
Howlgeist: I'm still hoping there's a Wolf/Werewolf deck out there somewhere. Rating: D.
Lair Delve: I can see using this because for some reason you want to get around drawing cards (since it's reveal and then put in your hand) but at the same price Gift of the Gargantuan seems better. For one more mana you can just Harmonize to draw three. Rating: D.
Nightshade Peddler: As I've already said soulbond is kind of a neat idea but the abilities have to be significant. Deathtouch is a significant ability which takes the card from being unplayable to worth considering. Rating: D.
Pathbreaker Wurm: Trample is also a significant ability but there are cheaper ways to do it. Rating: D.
Wild Defiance: I think this will be one players think (and will try to make) better than it is. I don't see too much played in the format that this will help you enhance or protect you from. Rating: D.
Angel's Tomb: I can see this maybe getting played in a Wrath-happy environment or in some kind of theme deck but not much. Rating: D.
Angelic Armaments: Again maybe in a theme deck or for some kind of completeness' sake but the equip cost is too high. Compare it to Sword of X and Y and you see where it falls down. Rating: D.
Bladed Bracers: Human decks with Human-specific equipment might have some legs but you'd also need some kind of shenanigans with casting the cheap artifacts. Rating: D.
Vanguard's Shield: There will be some temptation to play this so that you can block an additional creature with something like Acidic Slime. Resist the temptation and play something better. Rating: D.
Cards That Probably Will Get Played
Banishing Stroke: I know this card will reignite the tuck debate and I'll simply repeat to you that tuck is reasonable protection. Yes if your deck is 100% general-centric tuck hoses you. I'd suggest maybe building in some flexibility. This card isn't by itself going to break the mechanic. It's better than solid when you can play it for the miracle cost but a little spendy under normal circumstances. Rating: B-.
Cloudshift: Useful to both save a creature or just get another enters the battlefield trigger off of something I suppose this will get some play. It's a nice clean design in an inexpensive package. Rating: B-.
Emancipation Angel: A card that I expect to see a good deal amount of in Standard I think it's probably only vaguely useful in Commander without really exploring an enters the battlefield theme. Rating: C
Goldnight Redeemer: Doesn't even give you life for itself? Boo. Rating: C-.
Holy Justiciar: I like the ability especially the added exiling of a Zombie but the 2/1 body for four mana makes it less attractive. If your local environment is being overrun with Zombies it makes a smart choice. Otherwise you have cheaper options. Rating: C-
Leap of Faith: For some reason I thought that there was already a card called Leap of Faith (in retrospect I think I might have been thinking of Surprise Deployment). This is a nice little combat trick that you can use with your Acidic Slime or other deathtouch creature to bring down a big fat flyer. Rating: C.
Riders of Gavony: Obviously a fixture in your Human tribal decks this guy seems better the second time you look at him. There are a great number of tribal decks in this format and you have the flexibility to wait until you know what you're up against to name a type. Rating: B-.
Silverblade Paladin: Soulbond is interesting from a design standpoint might see some Standard or Block play but is for the most part a non-factor in the format. This guy giving double strike—a dangerous ability when giant creatures especially commanders are involved—raises its value some. Rating: C.
Gryff Vanguard: I think most players who are casting enters the battlefield/draw a card creatures like them cheaper so that they can recast them. The number of Blink effects in the set might make this worthwhile but the same is true for the cheaper ones. The 3/2 flying body is unimportant. The card draw is everything. Rating: C-
Havengul Skaab: With your cool enters the battlefield abilities this guy is reasonably good and his 4/5 body means he's more likely to be around to do it again. I can certainly see him played with cheap utility guys like Man-o-War and Bone Shredder. Rating: C.
Peel from Reality: A nice reprint. The downside is that you have to have a dude of your own in play but that's rarely a problem for me. Rating: C+
Rotcrown Ghoul: I think if he weren't a Zombie he'd be worth way less. Being part of the tribe that likes to mill your stuff raises his stock. Another potential weapon for your Zombie deck but he's still a little narrow. Rating: C-.
Alchemist's Apprentice: It's a Wizard so you know the Azami decks will consider him. Simple clean design. A supporting character in a deck but an inexpensive choice when you want a cheap creature that can draw a card. Rating: C.
Arcane Melee: I'm pretty sure there's a combo deck just waiting to be born with this card. Since it affects everyone I doubt people will just drop it to make their own stuff cheaper without having a significant plan. Rating: B-.
Captain of the Mists: I'm sure the combo folks are also looking at this one for its machine gun capabilities. While that's the most likely scenario it's played under it seems to me to have a well-costed utility ability. Rating: B-.
Elgaud Shieldmate: One of my issues with the soulbond mechanic is that you still have to control both creatures for it to work making it inherently inconsistent since your opponents just need to get rid of one of them to turn it off for the other. This giving hexproof helps a little. Rating: C-.
Favorable Winds: The initial comparison most folks will go to here is to Gravitational Shift. I like Favorable Winds because it's three cheaper doesn't hurt your own ground guys and pumps up the toughness. That said I think it's more for active aggression than it is for control. I actually think it's more comparable to Honor of the Pure a feature that blue doesn't often get. Rating: C+.
Galvanic Alchemist: Whenever I see untap abilities especially those that don't come with a tap cost I think combo. I'm sure the giant brains are already working on something with this and Captain of the Mists. Also a Wizard so another bud for Azami. Rating: B-.
Lone Revenant: Contingent-on-combat-damage triggers generally leave me skeptical unless they're cheap and have other good stuff to go with them like Ohran Viper or good evasion like Shadowmage Infiltrator. The Revenant gets points for getting your pick of the top four the hexproof and the larger body. With the cheaper guys there's always someone to attack. The Revenant's size might actually prove to be a small drawback since people might be less likely to shrug about taking the damage. Rating: C+
Mass Appeal: You know Riku is a Human right? Mass Appeal is nicely costed costed so that you can actually play it and get serious value. A quick search tells us that there are 1342 Humans (not counting AVR) so you have plenty of choices for your Human tribal decks. Rating: B-.
Misthollow Griffin: Yeah yeah it combos with Force of Will. Yeah yeah Food Chain. Don't act like you thought of them first. Despite the hype I don't really see it getting played much in the format. A 3/3 flyer for four with a one-of-a-kind ability only gets played if the ability is absurd. Rating: C-.
Nephalia Smuggler: There might be enough Blink cards in the set that some of them get overlooked. It's my experience that creatures with high activation cost-to-power/toughness ratios end up being disappointing. Yes I can see uses for him but I'm not convinced he'll see much play. Rating: C.
Spirit Away: Might be a little pricey for the folks who like to steal your stuff. When you have options like Treachery available all Control Magic effects must be aggressively costed to get played. For one more mana I'd play Yavimaya Embrace to get the trample. Rating: C-.
Stern Mentor: This card makes me think that there might be some room to break cards via the soulbond mechanic since they can give abilities to creatures that they wouldn't otherwise have. Imagine a creature that untapped when a player milled a card or some such. I dunno. This particular card isn't exciting on its own but there might be some untapped potential. Rating: C-
Tandem Lookout: In a world of board wipes soulbond creatures are a little less useful but this one will help you replace it and whatever else gets destroyed with it. I think there's a slightly higher possibility of this getting played than other soulbonds. I'd be a little more likely to play it if it were a Human Rogue instead of a Scout in order to get some Prowl benefits. Rating: C.
Temporal Mastery: Way overrated and has generated way more panic than it warrants. The fact that it exiles itself makes it just not that good at all. Rating: C-.
Bloodflow Connoisseur: An interesting variant on Vampire Aristocrat (and others like it). I like being able to sacrifice my creatures so that you can't steal them. Carrion Feeder hasn't seen much play but this might see more. Rating: C.
Demonic Rising: The loner mechanic might be useful in the format since it can be sometimes difficult to keep creatures around but this is a little pricey unless you have a strong ability to control the number of creatures you have in play. Rating: C
Demonlord of Ashmouth: Again maybe useful in a sacrifice matters deck and could be a decently sized body for cheap but not a card you play haphazardly. Rating: C-.
Descent into Madness: Seems like the biggest griefer card in the set. I can see a viable strategy with creating tokens so you have more stuff to exile than your opponents but you don't get triggers since it's exile(unless it's a leaves play trigger like with Reveillark) and not sacrifice. Rating: C-.
Dread Slaver: His stock goes up a little because he's a Zombie and he's a pretty decent rattlesnake for some creatures but I've never really seen the Soul Collector mechanic do all that much. Giving him deathtouch might turn him into a house. Rating: C.
Maalfeld Twins: Zombies are about armies not about evasion (you can give them all that later on) so I like the guy that replaces himself with more guys. Rating: B-.
Undead Executioner: Another of the Zombies that is good if you have sacrifice outlets. Rating: C.
Aggravate: A perhaps hilarious card if you're playing Powerstone Minefield but its utility is in the damage. It's right at a cost that I might hesitate to play it in a deck other than something specifically designed to take advantage of it. Rating: C-
Burn at the Stake: Certainly flavorful I can see deckbuilders going out of their way to try to make it work. It's obviously a Rith/Avenger of Zendikar/token deck card that will occasionally just kill someone. Rating: C.
Dual Casting: The mana cost is cheap enough that you might consider it for nearly any deck but you and I both know that it's going into Riku onto Riku. The possibilities are crazy. Rating: B-.
Falkenrath Exterminator: Cheap enough that you can get him out early to get some counters on him and then sit back later sniping with his ability. You don't remove the counters to do the damage so he can keep going. Rating: C.
Gang of Devils: Is there a Devil deck that I'm not seeing? Rating: C-.
Havengul Vampire: This guy will get big faster than you expect since you'll be in colors that promote creatures dying. A definite in your Vampire tribal deck: Rating: B-
Reforge the Soul: Here's a miracle card that doesn't really need to be a miracle card. If you're playing it in Niv-Mizzet or with Psychosis Crawler its normal cost is affordable. I'm not a fan of filling up other players' hands unless of course Spiteful Visions is out. Rating: B-
Rite of Ruin: A little too expensive and situational for my tastes although I can see situations where the flexibility is useful. Rating: C-
Tibalt the Fiend-Blooded: In this format I think the only way you're going to squeeze off his ultimate is if you've cast him turn 2. I really love both of his other abilities but what knocks him down a notch is that you can't use the second one right away. Perhaps better in a Doubling Season or proliferate situation. Rating: B-
Tyrant of Discord: Telling an opponent to sacrifice something isn't as good when they have lots of permanents to choose from so I find the ability to be thoroughly mediocre. Obviously better if you cast Armageddon first but if you're That Guy there's a special place in Hell reserved for you. Rating: C-.
Zealous Conscripts: Threatening stuff is good especially if it's any permanent. Amusing when an opponent gets Elspeth up to eight counters. Rating: C+
Abundant Growth: I've seen people get excited because they think this is Wild Growth plus a cantrip. It's not. It's a cantrip and it lets you tap the land for any color of mana but it doesn't produce anything extra. Still it's a cantrip. Rating: C.
Blessings of Nature: Another non-miraculous miracle card. Rating: C-.
Bower Passage: I'd probably still rather have my guys have trample for the same cost (Primal Rage) but this has possibilities and I'd like to see it in action. Note that your fliers not just ground-pounders are also unblockable by their guys. Rating: C+ (perhaps upgradable all the way to B).
Eaten By Spiders: Potentially a huge swing card for you it still seems like it's going to get more play in Standard. Cool card name. Rating: C.
Rain of Thorns: Three targeted permanents for six mana? It's thought-worthy. If I'm in red as well I think I'll stick to Hull Breach and not blow up the land but there are also times when I'd pay six mana just to get rid of Academy Ruins. Good flexibility in a card. Rating: B-.
Sheltering Word: Gaining life while protecting your Lord of Extinction or giant Hamletback Goliath is reasonably good. Keeping your really important guy from getting stolen is pretty good. I just wonder if decks will be able to find a slot for the card. Rating: C+
Somberwald Sage: Mana-producing creatures are less valuable in this format because they get murdered along with the thing they helped produce. It's a nice turn 2-3 drop to power out something saucy but you're also really hanging it out there. Rating: C+.
Terrifying Presence: Having a Fog or two at your disposal is a great idea. Having a Fog where one of your guys is the only one dealing damage can turn into a blowout. In an emergency situation where you don't have any creatures you can always target something controlled by a third player. Rating: B-
Timberland Guide: I can see him having some play in Animar decks and decks with persist guys to get rid of the -1/-1 counters. Rating: C.
Triumph of Ferocity: Thinking through the math you'll need this to hang around with you having the biggest guy (not all that difficult with green on your side) for three turns to be worth it. In an environment with lots of board wipes it's not going to get there for you. There are situations where it'll draw you piles of cards over the course of the game but I think they're they exception instead of the rule. Rating: C.
Wandering Wolf: I like the "I'm bigger than you you can't block me" mechanic and I still want to see that Wolf deck. That said the relatively small size of this guy will keep him from getting played in non-tribal decks. Rating: C-
Wolfir Avenger: Okay we're maybe getting enough Wolves to play our tribal deck. Rating: C.
Wolfir Silverheart: Again the tribal deck huzzah for it being a Wolf but the soulbond ability isn't particularly special. Rating: C+.
Gallows at Willow Hill: Thematically one of the best cards in a theme-heavy set it's a way for Human decks—which aren't likely packing much black—to deal with creatures without Wrath effects. A little janky but kind of neat. Rating: C.
Moonsilver Spear: Especially if you can keep the equipped creature alive this can create an army of Angels by itself. If the originally equipped dude gets killed you can always ship it onto the Angel. Rating: C.
Otherworld Atlas: Narrowly playable in decks where you want to hurt your opponents for drawing cards or I suppose if you think that the things you're drawing (for no mana) are three or four times better than your opponents'. Or if you're playing Multani. Rating: C-.
Scroll of Avacyn: One-mana artifacts will always have a place in the format especially those that draw cards. I see this one more likely to go into Angel decks obviously but remember that your Changelings are Angels too. Auriok Salvagers and Leonin Squire will be happy to bring back this to your hand. Rating: C+
Vessel of Endless Rest: Compared to Darksteel Ingot the one-time ability doesn't seem remotely worth it. If there were Blinking shenanigans going on maybe. I think I'd just rather my mana rock be Indestructible thank you. Rating: C-.
Seraph Sanctuary: For your Angel deck sure. Otherwise you might want to avoid too many lands that only produce colorless mana. Rating: C.
Slayers' Stronghold: Haste is a great ability especially in environments where board sweepers are popular. Paying three mana for it (the white the red and tapping this) isn't going to have an early game impact but in long games it just might. Rating: C.
Cards That Definitely Will Get Played
Angel of Glory's Rise: This thing is getting played no doubt about it. It's kind of a reverse Zombie Apocalypse but better since it's a creature and more likely subject to recursion. In addition to the fact that Zombies is a powerful and popular archetype it also exiles all of those annoying Changelings: Cairn Wanderer Chameleon Colossus Mirror Entity and Taurean Mauler being the ones we see most often. The idea of returning Humans will probably be of secondary use but I suppose there could be a new Angels and Humans deck in the offing. Rating: B+
Angel of Jubilation: A Glorious Anthem on a stick is fine in its own right but if this simply said "Opponents can't activate Greater Good" it'd already be good enough to play. The list of cards that it shuts down is really long. This is a card that I'm not looking forward to seeing someone else playing since I'm a fan of sacrificing my creatures to do stuff or keep you from stealing them (Bloodshot Cyclops Birthing Pod Devouring Swarm Goblin Bombardment Fling Greater Gargadon Phyrexian Tower Yavimaya Elder this list goes on). Ugh I think I'm getting a little queasy. Rating: A.
Avacyn Angel of Hope: I was trying to think up something cheeky to say but there's nothing that does justice. Yes it's strong. Really strong. No it's not broken and no it's not getting banned. Because it might change the way you need to play in your local environment you might need to pack some different answers. Unless all (or most) groups everywhere (or nearly everywhere) spend all their time adapting to Avacyn she's not ban-worthy. Rating A+
Cathars' Crusade: Good enough on its own the big value here is when multiple creatures come into play at the same time like when you pay for Rith's ability. It's also another way to loop Woodfall Primus (or anything with persist) and a sacrifice outlet. I think this is currently an underrated card that will show quite some promise. Rating: B+.
Devout Chaplain: You'll need to commit to Humans to make this worthwhile but for a cost that doesn't involve mana exiling stuff is really exciting. I think this card is a little better than it might at first seem. Rating: B.
Divine Deflection: It's a "You did this to yourself" card! That you can protect all your creatures too and ship some of it back is crazy good. Rating: A.
Entreat the Angels: A one-mana cheaper Decree of Justice that you can't cycle but get serious value out of if you can play it for the miracle cost. I'm pretty sure we'll see some mid- and late-game windmills of this thing peeled off the top. Rating: B.
Goldnight Commander: I really like this guy's ability to keep giving your dudes bonuses. Multiple creatures coming onto the battlefield simultaneously mean multiple triggers. The only thing that keeps this from being completely broken is that it doesn't give them trample which I see as a triumph of the development team. Rating: B+
Restoration Angel: One of the best cards in a set chock full of Commander goodness you have to be careful with the non-Angel clause which was put there to make sure it didn't target itself and loop the game. The flash ability gives you the kind of flexibility you want to make epic plays like Blinking back your Avenger of Zendikar to provide yourself with a legion of blockers or at EOT to double your number of attackers. Absolutely love this card. Rating: A.
Amass the Components: A better Divination. The one extra mana to look at one more and then have the choice of shipping to the bottom any card in your hand is well costed. Unspectacular but solid. Rating: B.
Deadeye Navigator: You pair something with an enters the battlefield trigger with this. You Blink it with the ability and when it comes back you can pair them again. Imagine having a good deal of mana and Eternal Witness or Rune-Scarred Demon. I think this is my favorite of the soulbond guys. Rating: B+.
Devastation Tide: This is an extremely valuable weapon in the arsenal of the control player and the miracle cost is a non-factor. I'd probably play it anyway. Rating: A.
Dreadwaters: The mill decks are already for real with other cards in this block and Dreadwaters gives them a huge boost. Whether you're trying to make milling out people a viable strategy or just filling up their yard for juicy Mimeoplasm targets Dreadwaters is a winner. Rating: A-.
Ghostly Flicker: Although it has the benefit of being able to save or reset your stuff this smells to me like a card that a combo deck will love mostly for the Blinking of a land like Gaea's Cradle or Cabal Coffers. Rating: B.
Infinite Reflection: You can enchant any creature not just your own and make all your guys a copy of something awesome. You might also consider it removal. Think about Player A having some great creature and Player B destroying it in response to your casting of Infinite Reflection. You've just spent six to get rid of something powerful and someone else's removal spell. This card will get some comparison to Essence of the Wild but it's not actually all that close. Infinite Reflection does nothing with tokens for one and Essence of the Wild produces only copies of itself. I'd compare this more the Rite of Replication. This will be one of the most sought-after played and generating-of-crazy-stories cards in the format. Rating: A.
Lunar Mystic: Riku is copying the hell out of this guy. Rating: B.
Stolen Goods: People like Telemin Performance and it's more expensive than this. Of course the upside to that is you know you're going to get a creature. I like the gamesmanship and threat evaluation you'll need to play this card well. I think that this will be an underrated card until folks actually start playing it. Rating: A.
Tamiyo the Moon Sage: This is a great card although the design seems incoherent. From an esthetic standpoint I don't get a sense of the abilities relating to each other or character thematically. There will be many attempts to squeeze off the ultimate on Tamiyo because once you do you'll be full of infinite combos. I might play it even if it only had the first two abilities. Rating: A.
Vanishment: The miracle cards keep hitting the mark for me. This is another that I'd play without the miracle cost because taking away a draw can be huge in some situations and getting rid of something indestructible can be huge in others (see Avacyn Angel of Hope). Rating: B+
Appetite for Brains: Targeted discard isn't played that much in the format but this one will get played. When you cast this on someone there's probably a greater than 50% chance you're going to have something significant to take—and it's exile not discard. The flavor text is awful but the card is good. Rating: B+
Barter in Blood: Another nice reprint it's necessary in the world where Avacyn rules. Rating: B.
Blood Artist: The mirror image of Sutured Ghoul this is a significant weapon for both the Vampire decks and the black decks that like to blow up creatures. Combine with Massacre Wurm for even more hilarity. Rating: B.
Dark Impostor: The activation cost being a little pricey is the only thing keeping this card from being really insane. It's nonetheless a card that will serve you extremely well. Exiling opponents' creatures is of way more value in this format than in any other. Rating: B+
Essence Harvest: Having big creatures is its own reward but sometimes even the biggest guys get bogged down when there are many creatures on the board. In this format there are some giant dudes. Combo this card with Lord of Extinction and you'll see what I mean. Rating: B.
Exquisite Blood: Seriously solid card in any deck with black in it. Passive life gain—the kind you don't have to pay for—is great for you. Your other opponents can even help you do some of the work. The only downside is that it might get you attacked more to keep your life total from getting out of hand. I'd say that you can afford it. Rating: B+
Griselbrand: We've had our eyes on this card since it got spoiled but it is not quite in the same category as Yawgmoth's Bargain mostly because you have to draw seven at a time. It's undeniably strong and might be absurd as a commander. It might be the best card in the set—but that doesn't make it a banning candidate. We can't/won't ban every powerful card or every card that ends a game. What would make it a banning candidate is if it seriously warps the format or we see that it consistently creates the types of games we want to discourage. There's nothing about the card that warrants panic or a pre-ban. Rating: A+
Harvester of Souls: I haven't really heard much chatter about this card but it seems extremely good. It won't trigger for itself or tokens but there are plenty of creatures hitting graveyards making it well worth the cost. I think it's a card that flies under the radar of spot removal increasing its value. Rating: A.
Killing Wave: I'm still mostly undecided about it. Unless they're at low life already they can pay for the guys they really want to keep. Does the Avenger of Zendikar or cycled Decree of Justice guy have to do some thinking and some math? Sure. Can you play it with Wound Reflection? Of course. The bottom-line question is do you want to have the flexibility to do some stuff or do you want to make sure you kill all the creatures? Of course you can do some crazy X=1 so they pay for it and then Damnation anyway. Rating: B.
Battle Hymn: A nice little boost to cast something explosive in the mid-turns I imagine the combo crowd can find something to do with it. Also nice after you've gotten off Tamiyo's ultimate. Rating: B.
Bonfire of the Damned: Playing this for its miracle cost seems pretty good. For its regular cost it might do in a pinch but there are many other red X spells that are better. The only reason to play this over Fault Line is that this gets the fliers too. Rating: B.
Malignus: Everyone focuses on the potentially crazy power and toughness but I'm a fan of the fact that his damage can't be prevented. Unfortunately Fling deals the damage not the creature. Still love the Malignus. Rating: A
Champion of Lambholt: It gets said rather often in this format but Avenger of Zendikar for the win. Your opponents are going to find out that if this guy stays in play at all your guys aren't getting blocked. Rating: A-
Descendants' Path: A sneakily good card. It's a little limited by the fact that you'll need to be playing a lot of tribal creatures and/or have great top of library control but playing stuff for free is great. Note that unlike Lurking Predators you cast this—which means you can pay its kicker and must pay any additional costs (like with Gloom). Rating: A-
Druids' Repository: Green is the color of creatures attacking anyway so this seems decent. It'll let you store up mana then spend some and still have your lands untapped or just explode into something huge. Imagine attacking with a pile of guys only to put counters on this then ship the mana directly into Kessig Wolf Run. Rating: B.
Primal Surge: Good googly-moogly. This could potentially net you more stuff than Genesis Wave and there's no comparison of CMC to X. There's the obvious caveat of having to be set up to play it—you'll need a deck with very few instants and sorceries. I think it's a great example of the kind of card the format loves. Rating: A-
Soul of the Harvest: Maybe a slightly improved Primordial Sage because of its size and trample. After all how many creature spells actually get countered? This really shows its colors when you're getting cards onto the battlefield from other zones. This guy coming back from Living Death would be savage. My only regret is that it's an Elemental instead of a Beast. Rating: B+
Ulvenwald Tracker: The low casting and activation costs of this creature make the ability well worthwhile. You're in green so you're going to have some decently sized creatures. Rating: B+
Yew Spirit: The bad news about this Chameleon Colossus clone is that it doesn't have protection from black. The good news is that it doesn't get murdered by anything that kills creatures due to type or get stolen by Karrthus Tyrant of Jund. Rating: B.
Bruna Light of Alabaster: If I was going to build an Isperia deck before to fill out my W/U slot I'm not going to now. She's an interesting build-around general. The good news is that the attaching is a may so you're not forced to put that Pacifism on her. Getting back auras that have gotten blown up is huge. Since you're only in white and blue your aura selection is a little less interesting but there is still plenty to pick from (like Eldrazi Conscription). Really interesting design. Rating: A.
Gisela Blade of Goldnight. If there is an OMG card in the set this is it. It doubles all the damage done to an opponent and his permanents not just the damage that you do. She also prevents half the damage to you rounded up—so shocklands will only do one to you and painlands nothing. Remember if multiple replacement effects would modify how damage would be dealt the player being dealt damage (or the controller of the permanent being dealt damage) chooses the order in which to apply those effects. If you have Gisela in play I attack you with one guy for ten and you choose to cast Reflect Damage I'm going to eat 20. Rating: A++
Conjurer's Closet: The CMC at first gave me a little pause but then I realized if I temporarily control something then Blink it with this I get that thing permanently. Playing fast-and-loose with my own enters the battlefield triggers is pretty good but the ability to just steal stuff pushes it into better territory. Rating: B.
Alchemist's Refuge: Vedalken Orrery that has to be activated but is less likely to get blown up? I'm pretty sure I can be down with that. The downside that I see in multiplayer formats is that—unlike Orrery—you're going to have to pick which opponents' turn you activate it on. You don't just get free reign. It keeps it from being too broken. Rating: B+
Cavern of Souls: In creature-heavy tribal decks this might be worthwhile more for the colored mana than the uncounterability. Ancient Ziggurat lets you down every now and again but at least this taps for colorless at any time. Rating: B.
Desolate Lighthouse: I know some folks are really excited about this card and I think in the format it's even better than you might think. Looting is really good tech but your looters keep getting blown up since they tend to be small creatures. The Loothouse will keep you filtering through your deck the whole game. Rating: B+.
With nearly 50 cards that I'm quite sure will get regular play in the format Avacyn Restored may be the most Chaos Embracing set ever. White and blue seem to have done the best; red (with a very few exceptions) seems to have done the worst. There are clearly some great cards for the format and one—Griselbrand—that we'll definitely be keeping our eye on.
Next week we'll talk about which specific cards are going into which decks and what's coming out to make room for them.