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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Dec 19 2016 1:00pm
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I love this game. I love writing about it. Compiling lists about it. Evaluating it. Sometimes, I even play it. I'm an Accidental Player.

> summary <

 The same way Rise of the Eldrazi had not been a third part to the first Zendikar block, instead being a second chapter of the overall story Zendikar and Worldwake had started, showing a clear separation both thematically and mechanically from the previous two sets, to the point that it was played in Limited as a standalone format, so it happened with Avacyn Restored, that closed the first Innistrad block with a dramatic change in narrative. If Innistrad and Dark Ascension were a gothic tale of humans vs. monsters, Avacyn Restored is all about Angels and Demons, following the destruction of the Helvault at the hands of Liliana and Thalia, and the resultant return to freedom for Sorin's goth angel daughter along with her frenemy Griselbrand and his gang of baddies.

 All this means that Avacyn Restored, also a standalone set where Limited was concerned, lost some of the most defining mechanics of the previous sets, most notably the double-faced cards, hence the complete absence of new Werewolves. Narrative-wise, it sort of revealed that the monsters didn't really matter, since the dangers of the plane were more hidden and insidious (and that's even truer if we contemplate what happens with the Angels in Shadows over Innistrad).

 Anyway, let's have a look back at all those creatures that were once brand new, divided into their tribes. As always, the focus is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are listed alphabetically, but you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump


Angel: +12

   

   

> summary <

 Related Tribes: None

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: By far the set with the greatest Angel population in the history of Magic (even Shadows over Innistrad, that stands at second place, only has 6 of them), Avacyn Restored is home to the very first iteration of its namesake Angel, back when she was a big Angel and not yet mad (nor topping the price list). Maybe 8 mana are too many to bother with her effect, but her effect is certainly game-altering enough, and as an 8/8 that fights on both sides of the battlefield each turn, her clock is fast. I still consider this version of her a fine specimen.

 There's two superior Angels in this lot, though. One is to find among the Powerpuff sisters. Hey, remember when they were a united front against evil? Look how happy they are, bathed in the light of her still sane boss? The strongest of the three is coincidentally the only one that would later resist the Call of Emrakul, Sigarda. As a nearly unkillable (at least with direct removal) big flyer for just 5 mana, Sigarda became one of the finisher of choice for a large variety of decks. And she still is one of the best Angels ever printed to this day, beating her more selfless design from Shadows over Innistrad.

 Also one of the greatest Angels ever? Restoration Angel of course. Although you won't find her very often in Angel decks (due to the clause that mostly prevents her from self-flickering ad infinitum), she's been played more frequently than probably every other card in the set, forming a combo partnership with Kiki-Jiki that has survived the death of their Birthing Pod archetype (sob).

 These three clearly lead the charge, but there are other good Angels here. Gisela is a very scary finisher, even for a steep price and color requirement; her sister Bruna was too build-around-me focused, with no clear payoff, but it's still a powerful effect.

 Angel of Glory's Rise at some point made the headline not as a narrow anti-Zombie tech but as centerpiece of a combo that would reanimate the Angel to in turn reanimate a whole bunch of Humans, aiming toward infinity via Fiend Hunter (targeting the Angel), Undercity Informer (targeting the Hunter), Wild Cantor (for mana) and Death Cultist or Kessig Malcontents (for damage).

 Angel of Jubilation suffers from the triple white mana, but is otherwise a flying Crusade that hoses a lot of things, including most notably the fetch lands. And Herald of War starts below curve, but grows steadily and then helps casting the bigger Angels, if that's something you want to do in earnest.


Archer: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: I don't know why Vampires have an Archer, or why someone armed with revolvers qualifies as an Archer to begin with, but the ability is just too slow to amount to something substantial, and he'll just have a very hard time getting through anyway.


Assassin: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Vampires also get an Assassin, with another incredibly costly activation. I like that they seem to think getting all activated abilities of a random creature is super-powerful (they keep giving this secondary ability now and then); it is, potentially, but how often will it really be relevant? Once every how many games?


Bat: +1

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 Related Tribes: Skeleton

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Well, it is the highest-powered Bat ever printed, so there's that.


Bear: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: None

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Even assuming (wrongly) that this Bear will always be paired with something because you're playing it within a deck very high on creatures, that makes it a 4/4 vanilla for 4. Yes, it also boosts another creature, but it doesn't seem enough.


Beast: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: None

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Drum roll, guys: one of the most powerful green creatures in the game, possibly the most powerful finisher in the color, has arrived. Admittedly, Craterhoof Behemoth is rarely hardcast, but however you manage to land it onto the battlefield, the end of the game is behind the corner. I particularly like that it doesn't settle for just boosting the team, it wants to personally lead the assault. And it can!


Berserker: +1

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 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Soulbond is an enjoyable mechanic, and haste is always useful, especially for a fellow Berserker, but this guy only gives it once, more likely to a creature that follows him on the battlefield; there are simple, less ephemeral ways to accomplish that, even multiple times.


Bird: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: None

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: I get that there's value in returning a creature to your hand, even not at instant speed. But when it's a mandatory requirement, shouldn't be granted a reduced casting cost? Because, you know, this is a 2/2 flyer for 4, so not exactly above curve.


Boar: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: None

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Okay, even a laughable tribe like Boar can't benefit from such a preposterously-costed vanilla dork.


Cleric: +6

  

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Human, Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Weirdly enough, there were more Clerics in Innistrad (and proportionally, in Dark Ascension) than now that their local deity has come back. Then again, preaching when the object of people's prayers is right there becomes a little moot, I guess. Anyway, they're also all mostly designed for Limited only. I like Cathedral Sanctifier's 3 life for 1 mana, and the prospect of lifegaining also makes Nearheath Pilgrim into one of the most relevant soulbond creatures. But that's it. These clerics really hate the undead, though. It's Dungeons & Dragons all over again.


Construct: +2

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: None

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Did you know there were just 7 artifact creatures in the entire block? Innistrad had five of them, Dark Ascension had none, and Avacyn Restored had these two. Next time, Avacyn Restored, don't even bother.


Demon: +7

  

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: None

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The Demon counterpart to the whole Angel thing got little more than half the new additions, but one of them is Griselbrand, that would go on to become one of the most famous creature in the game. If you gave Magic players the chance to conjure just one creature out of nowhere in all their games, most of them would probably choose old Gris, because he gives you cards, then life, so other cards, all while powering a 3-turn clock. Many a combo or control deck uses Griselbrand as their only creature. You won't need any other.

 The rest of the demonic gang is notably about early drops, something the tribe was never really good at. These fast Demons are all different degrees of dangerous, as they should. The most intriguing was Treacherous Pit-Dweller, because it challenged you to find a way to avoid giving a super-powered version of him as a gift to the opponent.

 In the midrange area, Demonlord of Ashmouth was good in sacrifice decks, and Harvester of Souls is one half of the mirrored pair with Soul of the Harvest (both being particularly good in Commander). Truth is, nothing but Griselbrand has really seen play here.


Devil: +3

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: None

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: After having had their best showing in the smaller set of the block, the Devils sort of end their rebirth with a whimper. Granted, Vexing Devil has been featured a lot in burn decks, but it's more of a glorified Lava Spike than a creature, and it's fallen out of fashion since.


Dragon: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: None

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Oh yeah, it dribbles sorcery-speed removal, but it also has permanent echo. Sometimes they manage to design good Dragons with CMC under 6 mana, sometimes they don't.


Drake: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Zombie or not, Drakes always make for go-to filler slots. They're humble that way, they're not Dragons or anything.


Druid: +2

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Nightshade Peddler is arguably the best soulbond creature, because it generates two lethal chump-blockers for just 2 mana. I'm underwhelmed by Somberwald Sage, though. In a creature-heavy deck, it accelerates from 3 to 6, which is kind of a Timmy acceleration. I'm good with that, but it's so frail, I feel it should do something more to protect the investment. For 3 mana, it can't be treated as an expendable 1-drop.


Elemental: +5

  

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Horror, Hound, Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: So, best case scenario (at least in regular, 20-starting-life formats), Malignus is a 10/10 vanilla for 5, and you can't prevent its damage? Is it me or was it a total waste of a mythic slot?

 The only noteworthy Elemental here is Soul of the Harvest, the counterpart to Harvester of Souls, and steadier in its card-drawing (plus trample is better than deathtouch on a big guy). Tyrant of Discord is fun in Commander, though. Come to think of it, all three mentioned cards seem to be designed with Commander in mind, don't they?

 What's an "Elemental Spirit", anyway? Isn't that kind of redundant? There have always been a thematic overlap between the two types, when Spirit is used as the embodiment of an element rather than a ghost, as it happens in most of the Kamigawa specimens. Like, couldn't Soul of the Harvest be called "Spirit of the Harvest"? And while we're at it, what about Avatar of the Harvest, then? The distinction is already pretty confusing, but the reason why Malignus needed the two types is the most baffling aspect of all.


Griffin: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: None

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: They did it! They finally did it! A mythic Griffin! That does something truly unique! Rule-bending, ever! And... it was still never played. Because if you don't have some way to keep exiling it (Relic of Progenitus comes to mind), it's just a stupid Phantom Monster, you know. But good try, Griffin. You almost got us.


Horror: +3

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Elemental, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: See? They treat Havengul Skaab's ability like it's an upside, and it might be, but sometimes it isn't. Granted, it doesn't bounce itself, but still, you'd think those 6 mana could warrant a "you may" clause. It's just a common, sure. The rare Horror, Dread Slaver, is not overwhelmingly better, though. It got a The Wretched-like ability for The Wretched mana, and having about The Wretched body. Well, at least this time it doesn't need to be blocked for the ability to work.


Hound: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: You know, when these puppies die and come back as a 3/3 double striker, they're sort of impressive. You paid 4 mana for them, though.


Human: +41

  

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Cleric, Druid, Knight, Rogue, Scout, Shaman, Soldier, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: The paradigm in Avacyn Restored has shifted, so the Human vs. Monsters war have become less central, resulting in proportionally fewer Humans (there's still plenty of them, of course), and more importantly, weaker in average. There's still a few Human cards that have been minor highlights over time, like the three up there in the first row, particularly Riders of Gavony that's able to protect/empower all Humans. The two on the second row also directly reference the Human tribe in their rule text, Kessig Malcontents by doing a poor, yet still effective, Gray Merchant of Asphodel impression, and Riot Ringleader by giving a little boost to the Human assault team.


Knight: +5

  

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The return to form of the Angels also apparently meant Knights charging to the rescue, as the tribe was essentially absent so far in the block (with the only exception of the little relevant Spectral Rider, which was a Knight mostly for flavor reasons).

 Riders of Gavony is a beast in Tribal Wars because most Knight are Humans too, and of course in other Human-centric lists. I'd argue it doesn't do much in non-tribal contexts, unless you happen to face tribal menaces that are common outside Tribal Wars too, like Elves.dek, Goblins.dek or Fish (meaning Merfolk, not actual Fish tribal!).

 Silverblade Paladin was the most frequently seen of these Knights on the battlefields. It's steeply costed, but two double strikers for the price of one is definitely a bargain. In some cases, the other guy may be big enough and evasive enough to spell good game.


Rogue: +2

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Just a couple of lonely Rogues with the clunkiest activated abilities they could concoct. Moving on.


Scout: +3

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Most unremarkable Scouts. Tandem Lookout is the only one that might be worth it, because drawing cards is good, but it's situational, and on his own he will never manage to connect.


Shade: +1

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: None

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: So they took any mid-level Shade ever and added undying to it. They could do worse, but it's clearly no Nantuko Shade.


Shaman: +4

   

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: I remember Mad Prophet being played a lot in drafts, but the good card here is Ulvenwald Tracker, providing repeatable creature removal to mono-green, and useful elsewhere too. Casting cost is the cheapest and activation is reasonable, the Tracker is very okay.


Skeleton: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Bat

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: These flying ex-rodents also make for one of the highest-powered Skeletons (they rank right after Skeletal Crocodile and Skeletal Wurm), so there's that as well.


Soldier: +6

  

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Human, Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Wow, the fact that none of these Soldiers is even remotely playable is almost an accomplishment. After such great showings both in Innistrad (Champion of the Parish, anyone?) and Dark Ascension (Thalia, anyone?), just looking at this last group makes me sad. Hexproof could be a good soulbond ability, but for 4 mana is not worth it. And a 1/2 protected from Vampires? I bet Midnight Duelist doesn't win a lot of duels (the flavor is flawed, to be honest. Yeah, no vampire can kill him – which, how? – but he also can't kill too many of them, so it doesn't really translate into "great vampire hunter").


Spirit: +13

  

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: ElementalSoldier, Treefolk, Wolf

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: We see how the monster tribes shifted their colors, since Spirit, for one, got black and red members here (there's also some green but almost no white). Aside from the absurdist Malignus, the important member here is Deadeye Navigator, which is a veritable combo machine, but works better in larger-than-life formats like Commander, where it's absolutely wicked.

 The other rare Spirits are strange, somewhat ridiculous. Lone Revenant has a strict clause (no other creatures allowed) that seems unnecessary, considering he doesn't provide much in the way of safely connecting. Sure, your opponent must face a 4/4 or let you select and draw one card, but I won't rely too much on a 5-mana creature that requires connection for my library manipulations. And what's even the point of Gloom Surgeon? To kill first strikers with toughness 2 or less? You can't even use it with Laboratory Maniac (not that it would be efficient enough) since nothing guarantee you won't exile your Maniac. Is there even a combo that involves exiling your own cards? And please don't say Misthollow Griffin.


Treefolk: +2

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: It's a given now: the Innistrad plane grows nice trees, yet very very bad walking trees, because all the Treefolk in the block have been outright terrible. Yew Spirit has to be the most pathetic attempt at mimicking Chameleon Colossus ever. (And mimicking a changeling is not something one should ever attempt.)


Vampire: +7

   

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Archer, Assassin

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: How terribly overcosted have become the red Slith Vampires over the course of three sets. The only great card here is Blood Artist, who's amazingly powerful and combo-oriented for an uncommon, even if he requires external help to function. Plus, the art by Johannes Voss is, appropriately, brilliant (although it's advisable not to linger too much on the disturbing details.)

 Among the others, Driver of the Dead is a good common that replaces itself directly on the battlefield (there's plenty of powerful 2-powered dudes, in Vampires decks and otherwise). And I'd like Bloodflow Connoisseur better if she was 1 mana cheaper, but I still like her a little bit as a sacrifice outlet that then also does something. And the flavor is great. The flavor text on Dark Impostor is deeply unsettling, instead.


Warrior: +9

  

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Human, Wolf

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Zealous Conscripts gets all the spotlight here, being capable of engineering a crucial alpha strike out of nowhere. And remember when they would turn their design on its head and untap your own Birthing Pod to use it again? Then combo with Kiki-Jiki? So many sweet memories. After the Pod was banned in Modern (sob), the Conscripts have fallen out of favor a bit, but they're still extremely powerful.

 As for the rest, mostly we have the two terrific Wolf Warriors to account (more on those below). Champion of Lambholt tries to give green its own Champion of the Parish, but the key was being a 1-drop. As a 3-drop, even with a universal trigger and a quite effective secondary ability, it just doesn't work.


Wizard: +7

   

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: It just occurred to me that it took them three sets to realize the Innistrad setting was perfect to produce Wizards out of alchemists. They did it here, and the Alchemist's Apprentice is actually the better one, because he just replaces himself, and combos with mass reanimators like Angel of Glory's Rise.

 Among the others, there's a bunch of soulbond guys with different degrees of relevance (I could swear they applied to soulbond every single evergreen keyword), with Wingcrafter being the best and most used, because giving the most classic evasion for 1 mana is a good thing, and it's better than aura that does the same thing since you don't lose the Wizard when you lose the paired creature; more so, you can pair him again later.


Wolf: +4

   

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Spirit, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Now, Wolf is a tribe that ended its Innistrad trip with a bang. Even Howlgeist makes some amount of sense, albeit overcosted; Wandering Wolf is a better application of the same mechanic, especially if coupled with lords or cheap equipments.

 And then there's the two Wolfir Warriors. Avacyn Restored designers didn't want to deal with transformer cards (for some reason), so the Werewolves were let out of the set, which is a bummer if you ask me, and also thematically incoherent. They came up with the idea that Avacyn granted all the Werewolves the choice to stay werewolf or fuse the human and wolf forms together in what became the Wolfir (this still doesn't explain why there's no Werewolves in this set, since not all of them chose to become Wolfir, as we see in the Shadows over Innistrad block.)

 Anyway, only two Wolfirs exist (they would revert back after Avacyn went mad, surviving only in the form of Silverfur Partisan), but they're both excellent. Wolfir Avenger is just an outstanding green combatant, a 3/3 for 3 that descends on the battlefield out of nowhere (i.e. in the opponent's turn) and regenerates to boot. Wolfir Silverheart is more midrange-y, and below-curve when it's not paired, but able to pack a serious punch when it is, not just by being a 8/8, but especially by contributing a 4-point boost to power and toughness of something else, something that of course was already on the battlefield and might well have all kinds of evasions, protections and whatnot.


Wurm: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: None

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Strictly better Craw Wurm! Eh.


Zombie: +9

  

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Drake, Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Good grief. I was lamenting the decline of Innistrad block's Devils and Soldiers (and to a lesser extent, Spirits and Vampires), but Zombie really takes the cake here. There's literally nothing of note among these additions, and it's particularly depressing that one of the major tribes in the block had to end like this. I guess only the Werewolves did worse, by outright ceasing to exist.

 What can I say? There's a theme of "when a Zombie dies, something happens", but it's never exploited to the fullest. Undead Executioner might be the best use of it, and that's just a clunky common. I like the flavor of Hunted Ghoul, but who would ever play a somewhat defensive 1-drop that can't even block one quarter of all existing creatures?


SUMMARY

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 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


BEST IN SHOW
(click on them to go to their main tribe)

  

  

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS

 

1 Comments

Tyrant of Discord combos with by Paul Leicht at Mon, 12/19/2016 - 19:58
Paul Leicht's picture

Tyrant of Discord combos with land destruction to wipe your opponent's board. Not just good in commander.