Normally this column I've been doing for five sets now consists of three particularly special cards that I value highly for both competitive and personal reasons. For Dark Ascension I whiffed hard but here were my picks for my favorite most relevant cards from Avacyn Restored.
Triumph of Ferocity is the only suspect card on the list but I still think people are realizing its potential in specific matchups in which it excels like versus control. However as a member of #TeamBloodArtist we've seen him break into a card that's Legacy playable as seen via Sam Black's list at Grand Prix Atlanta.
We need no words for Restoration Angel.
Anyway we're at that point of the year in which another set is about to be released—Magic 2013—and it has plenty of amazing cards to choose from for this rendition of Smi77y's Angels.
Let's begin with Rancor.
Rancor is an obvious choice and I apologize in advance. But Rancor is a card that excites a lot of people to a great extent. Well either excites or makes people cry for what's to come. Forests are back baby!
I've already had the chance to play some games with post-M13 Standard decks and let's just say Rancor is everything it is supposed to be and may exceed expectations. Be prepared for what Rancor is going to do to the format because it's going to be very powerful and also change the way people have to prepare their decks. Cards like Mirran Crusader may have to come back until rotation and choosing between Pillar of Flame and Galvanic Blast isn't as easy as it was before.
Last week I discussed G/R Aggro as a good spot for the card but there are plenty of decks it will go in. In fact I've already seen multiple lists that are brand new basically splashing green for Rancor. Whether that's correct or not remains to be seen but it's possible it completely overhauls what we think is the "best deck" in our Standard environment. It's unfortunate—or a blessing—whichever way you wish to look at it but Hexblade is a deck where Rancor could shine just as much as in a mono-green deck. An environment with hexproof creatures makes a Rancor near impossible to handle in a vacuum. For reference "destroying target enchantment" doesn't work. Therefore not being able to touch the creature or deal with the enchantment in an efficient way is going to prove obnoxious despite people packing extra instant speed removal.
Not only is hexproof an obvious pairing with Rancor but perhaps the undying mechanic is too. The reason for this is because even if you need to cast a Rancor into your opponent's open mana and your creature gets hit with a Doom Blade you are still able to attack with your Strangleroot Geist. Basically you are still only getting one for oned instead of the removal spell taking a huge momentum swing. Because of this there is an existing card that I believe could be better in the coming months: Young Wolf. The perfect shell is probably Mono-Green Aggro; here's a list for reference.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Dungrove Elder
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 3 Wolfir Silverheart
- 3 Young Wolf
- 1 Thrun, the Last Troll
- 23 Forest
This list steals a lot from G/R Aggro lists in terms of sideboard because most of G/R Aggro's sideboard is green cards. It's not an interactive list so it won't be for everyone but it's going to come out firing on all cylinders all the time. Dungrove Elder doesn't have a lot of ways to get a ton of Forests out but it's not needed; the point is he's difficult to kill and will be just big enough to trample through with all the equipment and spells you are able to cast on him.
One of the downfalls to Wolfir Silverheart besides being not so great against Delver due to Vapor Snags is the fact that he can be chump blocked easy. Rancor changes that. In fact sometimes it will be profitable to attack into your opponent with another creature equipped with Rancor just to get it back so you can recast it next turn on your Wolfir Silverheart or soulbonded creature. There will be countless decks and reasons to play Rancor; all I know is that you need to get ready for it!
Besides Rancor Hellion Crucible may be my favorite card of the set. We live in a world where G/R Aggro and Wolf Run Ramp decks are very good decks already. And while both decks enjoy utilizing their mana every turn it doesn't always work out that way and that's where Hellion Crucible comes in. In fact a lot of the times Huntmaster of the Fells decks enjoy just passing their turn and Hellion Crucibles give these decks another good reason to do just that. It's a card that helps quite a bit against control as anti-board sweeper tech which is needed because the G/R decks often struggle against control decks despite their fringe play as of late.
Hellion Crucible is a land that gives you options more options than G/R decks already have—and for the record they already have quite a bit. The more options you can give yourself in a game of Magic the better lines of play you can use to outwit your opponent or just overwhelm them with sheer power plays. Crucible does all this at the very small sacrifice of being colorless. This is somewhat relevant in G/R decks because turn 1 and/or 2 green mana is necessary; however all variants of G/R can make room for it without sacrificing more than one to two Forests and in some cases sacrificing no Forests depending on card choices.
It's quite possible that at some point Mono Red may pop up and I could actually see Hellion fitting in there as well. Although Thragtusk may stop that plan before it ever comes to fruition.
The fact that Hellion Crucible only takes a single red mana to add counters to means a lot of decks could manage to find room for it; basically anything that touches red may want to consider this. From control decks to aggro decks and midrange decks Hellion Crucible is versatile as long as your mana base can handle the colorless.
Perhaps another obvious choice to some. Since his spoilage there was a little hype at first and not so much anymore but I believe Ajani is still one of the best if not the best card in the set for Standard.
In a field full of 1/1s and 2/2s +1/+1 counters are more relevant than ever. Things like Blade Splicer Golems with first strike are extremely difficult to attack through for decks like Zombies and green based aggro decks but with a +1/+1 counter that gets closer to doable and also lets your own Blade Splicer Golem token attack into your opponent. Looking at some decent exalted cards like Sublime Archangel additional counters really end up putting the extra pressure on your opponent.
But once we look into the real meat of the card the -3 ability to give flying and double strike you begin to realize just how aggressive Ajani will be. An obvious match made in heaven is with Rancor as you'll be attacking for no less than six damage on just a 1/1 creature equipped with a Rancor. A few weeks ago I mentioned and displayed G/W Aggro. I'm still under the belief it will be a deck to be reckoned with; here's where I'm at with it.
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Blade Splicer
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 2 Wolfir Avenger
The idea here is to just come out quickly and win with beats and evasion much like any other green-based aggro. In white you have access to more powerful singular cards like Ajani Gideon and Hero of Bladehold. It should be noted Sword of War and Peace and Ajani aren't the best together but they can work well if you are able to give +1/+1 counters before you equip the Sword or use Ajani's minus three ability before equipping.
This isn't the only deck I see Ajani fitting in. I think some form of B/W Midrange has some potential with cards like Blood Artist Ajani Champion of the Parish alongside Doomed Traveler and some other Humans. In fact mono-white has a lot of potential as well but I'll leave that to Craig Wescoe.
As usual it was hard to pick just three favorite Constructed cards. But I'll leave you with a list of my top ten in no particular order and excluding the cards I already went over. I can't wait to see how Standard plays out!
Faith's Reward – If only because it's some of the coolest art I've seen. I love Raymond Swanland art.
Sublime Archangel – Particularly when October comes. This card is powerful.
Augur of Bolas – A 1/3 body has been relevant before and cantrip style cards are always huge.
Thundermaw Hellkite – This guy is just insane. I didn't pick him in my top three because I think he will be very good off and on depending on the metagame just not all the time.
Quirion Dryad – Green has some fun cards; this has potential but I'm not exactly sure of its shell.
Staff of Nin – It's expensive but with Titans leaving the game is going to change a lot and this feels like a game-ender for a control deck.