Stand back, everyone. The Helvault is open, and Avacyn is free. This past weekend, a new Magic: The Gathering set was (pre)released—Avacyn Restored, the last set in the Innistrad block. This set concludes the conflict introduced last year with Innistrad’s release: A plane full of humans defending themselves against all manner of things that go bump in the night. With the breaking of the Helvault, the humans have finally gained the upper hand, as Avacyn, Angel of Hope, and her host of celestial crusaders are here to join the fight. Despite the fact that the demon Griselbrand and his minions were released as well, the forces of good have triumphed.
The set appears to be the reverse of Innistrad in that the color black was severely weakened. Whereas before white was left out of cycles and there was a general feeling of every other color uniting against it, in Avacyn Restored, it’s black against everyone. Black got none of the new mechanics in the set—miracle and soulbond—and appears subpar compared to the other colors.
As for the miracle and soulbond mechanics themselves, I like the latter, but not the former. Miracle takes a fairly balanced card and lets you cast it for much less—as long as it’s the first card you’ve drawn that turn. Sure, it doesn’t work all of the time (or even most), but when it does, it’s ridiculous. Examples of miracle cards include Temporal Mastery, an extra turn effect that costs seven mana normally but can be miracled for two, and Thunderous Wrath, a six-mana burn spell that does five damage to a creature or player and has a miracle cost of one red mana.
Soulbond lets two creatures “pair” together and share abilities. Creatures can be bound when either enters the battlefield, but each creature can only be bound to one other. Shared abilities include vigilance, lifelink, double strike, trample, and power and toughness boosts. Soulbond was a lot of fun, and pairing together two creatures who both have it is highly effective.
Also of note is the plethora of effects that exile creatures and then return them to the battlefield, or return them to their owner’s hand, printed in the set, as well as its relative lack of cards that get rid of creatures. Two of the new “blink” cards—Cloudshift and Ghostly Flicker—exile a creature you control (or two creatures, lands, or artifacts in Ghostly Flicker’s case) and then return it to the battlefield. Other cards such as Emancipation Angel and Peel From Reality return creatures or permanents you control to your hand. These allow you to get double mileage from “enters the battlefield” effects, as well as offering some protection from harmful spells. In addition to this, the set features a low number of destroy cards and several effects that make things much more difficult to get rid of—Avacyn, for example, grants all your permanents indestructiblility. One thing I’m glad for is the printing of Terminus, however, as it gives the game another answer for things like Avacyn (Terminus is a Hallowed Burial with miracle for one mana—it puts all creatures on the bottom of their owners’ libraries).
Avacyn Restored introduces two new Planeswalkers to the game, as well: Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. Tibalt is something new to Magic: a two-mana Planeswalker. He’s designed to come out early and build up to his ultimate ability before he can be killed (his ultimate, by the way, is Insurrection—he steals every creature in play, untaps them, and gives them haste). Tamiyo taps down creatures, draws you cards, and for her final ability, gives you an unlimited hand size and perfect recursion—whenever a card goes to your graveyard, you get to add it to your hand instead. The two ’Walkers also have beautiful art, which seems to be a trend for the entire set.
All in all, I think this new set is really cool. I loved Innistrad, and Dark Ascension was decent, but Avacyn Restored blows them both away. It has so many awesome cards that I can’t wait to get my hands on, and was a lot of fun to play with. I definitely recommend fans of Magic to pick up a few booster packs of it, or especially to come to a launch party event for the set this Friday at 6:30 pm at Foam Brain Games on the corner of State St. and 2nd St.