Magic the Gathering goes through deck changes faster than Madden or Call of Duty puts out video game releases. The game may continue a similar play style, or new mechanics may be put into the mix depending on what Wizards of the Coast has in store for the players. While this happens, an old release of cards falls off of the “acceptable” playing list making room for the new decks and whatever theme they may bring. Recently, Magic the Gathering introduced an angelic themed collection with Avacyn Restored to close out the Innistrad block. Is it worth your time investing in this new collection to strengthen your deck? Or would you be better off holding out for the next?
With the emergence of Avacyn Restored players are introduced to a new set of cards that live in a world where angels (and demons) have returned from their prisons. They join forces with the devout to bring the power of light back to the battlefield. Pulling the scenery to something a little more joyous from the previous releases focusing on vampires and werewolves in Innistrad and Dark Ascension, it is a welcome return to a more normal release in the series. With the last collections came cards that invoked the ability of transformation. Avacyn doesn’t bring anything new like that to the table. Ordinary types of creatures, spells, enchantments, and land are all you get, with the exception of the occasional Planeswalker or card that introduces the miracle mechanic.
To accompany these additional sets to Magic, Wizards of the Coast always puts together new introduction decks that feature cards from the series coupled with Core Set cards and a booster pack. These builds can vary from set to set, depending on what kind of new cards were introduced. The release of Avacyn saw five new introduction decks built upon the magic of the following color combinations: White/Red (Fiery Dawn), Black/Red (Slaughterhouse), White/Green (Angelic Might), Blue/Green (Bound by Strength), and Black/Blue (Solitary Friends). As always, they offered new rare foils for each one.
Playing the game offered much of the same when it comes to Magic the Gathering. Going through the turns only proves so much, as learning the cards and the builds are what make it interesting. This is a deck building game after all. For testing purposes of how an Avacyn game may flow on its own, a friend and I played between three different decks without the boosters in them. The idea was that the introduction packs should be somewhat balanced between one another without tipping the balance with cards that were gained outside of the pre-built decks. Of these decks, we used the White/Red, White/Green, and Black/Red introduction sets.
Numerous games were played over a month or so without any indication if one of the decks were better than the others. All of this was casual without any true objective. Rather we looked to gain a feel for the mechanics, including the new miracle mechanic on some cards that allows the player to cast it for a lower cost if they are drawn. However, when we came down to the finals bouts for the point of the review, it seemed that things became a little skewed in my favor. While this could be due to a variety of different reasons, it showed that the white based decks did have an advantage. In a weird way, you would think that this would be the case since the expansion is heavily doused in angel lore. Consider also that Avacyn is the end of a series that was mainly focused on monsters that white forces had some difficulty staving off. At any rate, as a final sampling of how the decks stood against each other, we did a round robin putting the decks head to head with another for a total of five games. The Black/Red deck had the poorest performance over all, only really catching a win with the right sequence of cards. That didn’t stop it from putting up a good fight against the White/Red deck, combating on turn damage and token summoning cards with sacrificial cards and lifelink abilities that the White/Red deck simply had no answer for. It is hard to extrapolate a good reason why this occurred, but at face value you would figure that these decks would be balanced against one another in their base form.
In terms of quality, the cards are exactly what you would expect from Wizards of the Coast at this stage. Magic cards have that heavy stock to them, with a slight coating that allows them to take some damage from all the shuffling and tapping on rough surfaces. I was surprised to see how well the foil cards stood up in play. Being a collector of memorabilia cards from an early age, I became aware of just how fragile foil cards and holograms could be. Thankfully, Magic doesn’t treat you like that for getting a special card. In fact, the introduction decks beg for you to play with their special foils.
It also wouldn’t be fair to talk about Avacyn without going over the art of the cards. I have to say, some of the angels are just gorgeous to look at. This might be a little of my inner nerd speaking, but I can’t get enough of the portraits in this set. There are always a few different artists that contribute to these sets, but something about how the angel cards came together speaks a lot to how Wizards chose to represent the set. The cloudy backgrounds on the cards gives a fantastic setting against which the battle torn seraphim descend to wage war. New artwork for old cards, such as Thunderbolt, were introduced in the series as a way to update cards that still have relevance in modern sets.
As always, Wizards of the Coast put out another fantastic set of cards with Avacyn Restored. Quality of the cards, the thought that was put into the balance of the game, and the beautiful artwork made sure of it. While one can always dream of getting something completely different again like Planeswalkers, you have to realize that swift changes cannot occur all the time. I still like that game mechanics are being played with as the expansions go on. Allowing players to get cards out faster, which with an angel deck is immensely useful; instead of having to rely only on creatures to do so was an interesting experiment. If you were expecting another set that mimicked the earlier releases in the Innistrad block you’ll end up being disappointed. The transformation mechanic was fun for some, but it had to end at some point. Instead, Avacyn Restored adds some balance overall and strength to colors that needed it after the darkness had descended onto the game.
One introduction deck and four boosters provided by PR. Remainder purchased by reviewer(s)