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May 29, 2012

28

Avacyn Restored: Humanity’s Vengeance Review (Part 1 of 2)

by Dredd77

After the initial release of the Event Decks with Mirrodin Besieged, the design of the product moved towards mono-coloured decks. After all, if the idea was to build a budget-conscious deck that had a limited card framework (read: limited rares and no mythics), then swift aggro was a perfectly viable avenue to take. Both New Phyrexia as well as Magic 2012 turned in single-colour offerings, but to continuously offer a rotating stable of such decks would surely doom the product to monotonous predictability.

This fact clearly was not lost on Wizards, and with Innistrad they stuck their colours to the mast and raised them high. For the first time, we’d have available a three-colour Event Deck, Deathfed. This was, admittedly, a bit of an oversell- in reality, Deathfed was a Blue/Green construction that splashed a trio of Swamps in order to flashback Spider Spawning and Forbidden Alchemy– but it was a welcome sign that Wizards wasn’t afraid to mix up the archetypes a bit and present something outside of what had been threatening to become the norm. When the next set brought the Birthing Pod-fueled Spiraling Doom, it all but made it official.

Humanity’s Vengeance actually appears to strike a middle ground. Although it’s Blue/White, it’s not cut from the same cloth most folks normally attribute with that colour (control). Instead, it employs a number of cheap-to-midrange bodies and looks to win the old-fashined way, through the red zone. Add a generous dollop of Phyrexian mana and a pinch of soulbond, and simmer to taste.

Swift Deterrence

The deck’s one-drops are more or less stage-setters that lay the foundation for the rest of the deck. A playset of Gideon’s Lawkeepers are there to both clear the path for your beaters through the red one, as well as to lock down any significant opposing threats (such as a Titan, for instance). A pair of Wingcrafters with the new soulbond mechanic are an easy way to give one of your creatures evasion, while twin Nephalia Smugglers are the jokers of the deck. A number of the deck’s creatures have enters-the-battlefield abilities or triggers, and the Smuggler gives the deck the versatility to abuse that fact.

The deck’s two-drop slot is fairly threadbare, consisting solely of a trio of Nearheath Pilgrims. Unlike the Wingcrafters, the ability that these convey is somewhat marginal- lifelink. Lifegain generally has a fairly narrow band of utility, being most effective against burn decks, while it’s of much less usefulness otherwise. Add to that the fact that the Pilgrim is rather brittle, and you’ve got a marginal player in the deck that’s taking up valuable space on the bench. Even if you hold the Pilgrim back and only attack with his partner, that’s a creature doing next to nothing for you on its own. In fairness, given the abundance of Phyrexian mana cards in the deck, the Pilgrim can be seen as an attempt to get a bit more mileage out of them by giving you more resources (life) to cast them with. This was similar to the strategy we saw in Life for Death, the Intro Pack that featured the Phyrexian mana mechanic.

This sorry state of affairs is well remedied as we find the bulk of the deck’s creatures in the three-drop slot. For one thing, we get a full playset of the Porcelain Legionnaires, very strong and aggressively-minded creatures. With the ability to deploy them early on turn 2, you’ll always be happy to see them arrive in your opening hand. The same also goes for the playset of Fiend Hunters, which offer high value as being removal-on-a-stick. The 1/3 body they leave behind isn’t world class, but it can still absorb some damage, add in on an attack, and give weenie-filled aggro decks in particular a bit of trouble.

Nephalia Smuggler

From there we have the Tandem Lookout, another soulbond creature that offers some card advantage of its own. Played before an attack on something either evasive or undesirable to block, it can replace itself in your hand with a single attack and- with hope- build from there. Finally, there’s a pair of rars in the  form of the Blade Splicer and Mirran Crusader. The Splicer is an interesting inclusion. Offering 4 power over two bodies, it’s a solid enough value, but when deployed in combination with a Nephalia Smuggler it can become a Golem-generating machine. There aren’t enough copies of either to reliably depend upon it, but it does illustrate the role the Smuggler will be looking to play in the deck. The Crusader, on the other hand, is just a hefty beater with a couple of useful protections. It, too, has a preferred combo partner, for when paired with the Lookout it can draw you two cards an attack all on its own.

The deck’s final creature is a single Phyrexian Metamorph. The Metamorph is something of a “Swiss Army” creature, able to do a little bit of everything. It can duplicate the best creature or artifact on the board, and kill off the occasional legend you might run into by entering as a copy of it (see: Thrun, the Last Troll).

A Symbol and Hope

Satisfyingly, the noncreature support package of Humanity’s Vengeance is almost entirely devoted to removal, above and beyond the quartet of Fiend Hunters amongst your creature suite. A trio of Righteous Blows deal a Shock’s worth of damage to a combatant creature, while Oblivion Ring simply exiles it altogether. The Ring isn’t limited to just creatures, either, and is your best answer to opposing planeswalkers. A Divine Deflection– another rare- is a curveball selection, filling the role of martyrdom shenanigans that’s been a staple of White since Alpha’s Reverse Damage. In this case, it’s a martyrdom with a bit of punch, as it can send that damage to the other side of the table.

The ace up the sleeve here is a pair of Dismembers. Entirely uncastable outwith a loss of life, the two of these alone with occasionally make you grateful for the Nearheath Pilgrim’s inclusion. They won’t come cheaply, but they can solve just about any threat you might be under.

The final two cards are a splash of countermagic in the form of Mental Missteps. Although extremely narrow in scope, their low cost can help give you some threat avoidance while not rendering you afraid to tie up your mana through casting other spells.

Interestingly, the deck also devotes three of its rare slots to nonbasic lands. It offers some mana fixing with a couple of Glacial Fortresses, a card you’d expect to see here. There’s also a Moorland Haunt as a way to convert your dead creatures into living ones.

Storm Clouds Bow

Of course, there will come times where you’ll happily wish you could do a bit more to prevent your opponent from playing their best cards. In such circumstances, you’ll no doubt be pleased at the full complement of counters available to you in the sideboard. With a full playset of Mana Leaks and a trio of Negates, you can adjust the mix to suit whatever it is you’re up against.

Mental Misstep

The lifegain option takes on added significance with a further five cards in the sideboard. Whether needed to outrace aggro/burn or simply ensure delivery of your Phyrexian mana spells against an deck that consistently dish out an uncomfortable amount of damage, you get a trio of Cathedral Sanctifiers alongside a pair of Inquisitor Exarchs. The latter can be particularly useful as they’re also able to dish out some hurt to your opponent.

Finally, there’s one more piece of removal here in the form of a Pacifism, and a pair of Cloudshifts round out the deck. The Cloudshifts are an interesting spell with a lot of options for last-minute trickery with soulbond, but fall a bit flat here. The types of creatures you’d best use with this sort of effect are ones that pump power, like the Druid’s Familiar. The soulbond offerings in this deck don’t lend themselves especially well to last-minute shenanigans, outside of perhaps finding an alternate route to a card with the Tandem Lookout. As such, they’re really not a serious contender for usage.

Overall, we’re not nearly as enthused with this deck as we were with Death’s Encroach as it seems to be a bit less focused, but we’re more than willing to give it a chance on the battlefield before rendering final judgment. Certainly, the abundance of removal will make for an interesting game! In our next piece, we’ll deliver a battlefield report from the perspective of the Black deck, before concluding our Avacyn Restored reviews with a rating for this one. See you then!

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28 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nathalie Goddy
    May 30 2012

    This deck seems fun to play. There are a lot of interactions between the cards, and players will enjoy discovering them. It is a shame that, although all the rares are good cards, all but two will rotate out in a few months.

    And Jay, lately I’ve been noticing your use of ‘outwith’ in your reviews. Do you have Scottish roots?

    Reply
    • May 30 2012

      Well spotted, and indeed I do! Undoubtedly any such words creeping into my vernacular are the result of the 2-3 hours of Scottish football podcasts I listen to each day on the drive to/from work. You have some yourself, I take it, or perhaps are just a lexophile?

      The ‘rotate’ part ties into a debate I’ve been observing on MTGS. One of the posters there has pointed out that the shelf life for these decks can be tricky. Someone grabbing a NPH deck thinking that NPH is Standard-legal so the deck must be as well will be in for a disappointment with the ZEN-block cards in it. Interesting reading…

      Reply
      • Nathalie Goddy
        May 30 2012

        Both really! I’m majoring in English, and my late grandmother was a proud Scotswoman. I don’t really keep up to date with Scottish affairs, but I noticed because my grandmother used that word too.

        Reply
  2. May 30 2012

    I dunno if this is typical, but I mostly use my cloudshifts to abuse my fiend hunters to basically swap exile targets on the fly. It really throws off your opponent’s rhythm. Especially if they have a creature heavy deck.

    Reply
    • Nathalie Goddy
      May 30 2012

      I agree that Cloudshift is more versatile than just rebonding soulbonded creatures. You can also use it to re-use any ETB effects, like you suggested (Cloudshift allows you to permanently exile a creature with your Fiend Hunters, not just swap), use it as protection against any targeted spells, or as another way to untap your creatures. It’s interaction with planeswalker Gideon Jura is also interesting, albeit not relevant here.

      Reply
      • May 30 2012

        The Cloudshift interaction with Fiend Hunter resulting in a permanent exile isn’t one I caught, but well worth pointing out! I don’t love the card (here), but that certainly puts its stock up a bit

        Reply
      • Excel
        May 30 2012

        If I’m understanding correctly, the permanent exile effect only happens if you cast Cloudshift right when summoning Fiend Hunter though, right? Which means you need to have both in hand at the same time. Still, pretty fun.

        Reply
        • May 30 2012

          Yes, that’s correct, you have to stack triggers a certain way. So while you can’t rely on it all the time, it’s another use of the card when it does show up.

          Reply
      • May 30 2012

        I totally forgot to mention that it can work to help perma-exile. It has a lot of uses though. You can use it to basically attack, or use a tap ability, and then cloudshift to return it the field so it can defend. It is a card with some versatility. I honestly wish it was ‘any target permenant you control’ instead but that might be a tad overpowered.

        Reply
  3. Varo
    May 30 2012

    Not a bad deck, but it looks a bit unfocused in contrast with Death’s encroach. Three rare slots are used in lands, and that somewhat lowers the power of the deck.

    Anyone else noticed that Mirran Crusader is a staple in event decks?

    Reply
    • Icehawk
      May 30 2012

      Same with the Legionnaire it seems.

      Looking forward to the matches.

      Reply
    • Excel
      May 30 2012

      I’d actually argue that while lands usually aren’t the most thrilling part of a deck; with a strong mana base being as important as it is, I’m glad they’re including some special lands in these. While they do take up two rare slots, I’m always glad to see dual-lands in opening hands.

      I’m a bit perplexed by what the deck is trying to do though, it doesn’t look like it would perform particularly fast aggro and while I’m loving all the possible card interactions, I’m a bit unsure about its win condition. Are a bunch of weenies and some control really enough?

      Also looking forward to the matches.

      Reply
      • May 30 2012

        Right there with you. This one doesn’t really jump out and scream at me. It feels more like a “good cards” kind of deck, though the “goodness” of some of them are in no way assured. I’m looking forward to getting behind it for testing, maybe then something obvious that we’ve missed will click.

        Reply
    • It’s ironic how this feels like the reprint deck (lately they’ve had one of the decks be full of stuff you just want to tear the deck apart for). It has just a smörgåsbord of goodies for a few different decks, yet it’s still technically cheaper than Death’s Encroach xD.

      Reply
  4. Hireling
    May 30 2012

    They need to stop wasting rare slots on mana fixing. Just imagine if this deck had a Restoration Angel, Silverblade Paladin or a Captain of the Mists. I’d rather see a pair of Evolving Wilds if they’re worried about mana fixing.

    Reply
    • May 30 2012

      I’m not sure I’d agree that mana fixing rares are “wasted,” but do take your meaning about inferior card choices. I’m not even sure I love the Mirran Crusader here, and the Gloom Surgeon in the other deck is poor. It’s a good argument, though- which of the possible builds (+ lands- other rares, or – lands + other rares) gives the better boost to win%.

      Reply
      • As a budget builder, you want to go basics. If you have to sacrifice power (your best spells) or consistency (manabase), you opt for losing consistency.

        A powerful deck may have troubles getting going at times, but when it performs, it shines next to everything else. But what is the hope of a deck that can consistently… only make weak plays?

        Reply
  5. My standard decks have lacked solid removal, so I like the allure of dropping all the best of it in the format into one deck.

    There’s a lot holding me back, though. I hate PMetamporh, mostly because I dislike phyrexian mana. I hate when card color has no relevance to deckbuilding; I also hate Dismember in here. I don’t like the GFortress spots. Upon further inspection, the deck could quickly be described as Mono-W with just some blue splash.

    Reply
    • Jay Chong
      May 30 2012

      Actually I’d describe the deck as a Phyrexian Mana deck with a side order of soulbond. The deck isn’t poorly constructed or anything, but for an Avacyn Restored event deck, it sure has a lot of cards and themes from New Phyrexia. Out of the seven rares from the deck, only one is actually from the set it’s suppose to showcase and only 2 from the block the set is from. It’d be ironic if Avacyn Restored was featured more in the next block’s event decks =/

      Reply
      • Honestly, I think they do wait a set before each Event Deck. Maybe the idea is that they don’t want to make the set’s prized ponies widely-available shortly after release. They touch into the new set (that they don’t know the secondary price of yet), but they don’t hop right on in.

        Reply
        • Nathalie Goddy
          May 31 2012

          It seems as if one of the issues here is the time at which the decklists are finalized. These decks are supposed to give their pilot a fighting chance at the local FNM, but there’s no meta the designers can prepare for, since the deck’s corresponding set hasn’t been released yet. I think this is the reason many event decks rely on proven competitive cards, whereas intro decks serve to introduce the new set’s cards and mechanics.

          Reply
  6. Jay Chong
    May 30 2012

    Almost forgot to mention that it’s obvious erati lament’s audience is way more casual then the rest of the magic online community; I think the folks on mtg salvation were super happy to discover the dismembers in these.

    Reply
    • Nathalie Goddy
      May 31 2012

      What’s so special about Dismember?

      Reply
      • Jay Chong
        May 31 2012

        It’s a constructed staple that’s worth more then usual for it’s rarity. Some players look at per-constructed products as per-determined booster packs for competitive singles, not as fun products in and of themselves.

        Reply
        • Nathalie Goddy
          May 31 2012

          I know what Dismember is; what I don’t know is why competitive players would be excited about them being included in this deck. The card has been in standard for over a year now, and was deemed excellent from the moment it was spoiled, so any real competitive player would have already picked up a playset a long time ago. Also, the card was featured as last month’s FNM card, and has already been included in both of the DKA event decks. It’s been readily available for quite a while now.

          Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Avacyn Restored: Death’s Encroach Review (Part 2 of 2) | Ertai's Lament
  2. Avacyn Restored: Humanity’s Vengeance Review (Part 2 of 2) | Ertai's Lament
  3. Magic 2013: Repeat Performance Review (Part 1 of 2) | Ertai's Lament

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