Avacyn Restored: Humanity’s Vengeance Review (Part 2 of 2)
As a third act, Avacyn Restored was everything you’d expect to get out of, say, a Return of the Jedi. Pushed to the brink, the good folk of Innistrad have fought back from the precipice, emboldened by the return of their archangel. Fittingly, the last two Event Decks of the block give us the same monsters vs humans matchup, but today the tables are turned. Piloting Humanity’s Vengeance, I’m joined at the table by Sam, who is at the helm of the Zombie-filled Death’s Encroach. Let’s see how the Humans hold up!
Having been blown out in the pre-game friendly, I have the privilege of being on the play for the opening ‘official’ game. I begin with a Plains and Gideon’s Lawkeeper, while Sam’s right behind with a Diregraf Ghoul off a Swamp. Next turn I play a Glacial Fortress and pass, leaving my Lawkeeper up to tap down the Ghoul in Sam’s upkeep. She plays a Highborn Ghoul, then passes turn.
Now turn 3, I whisk the Highborn Ghoul away with a Fiend Hunter, attacking in for 1 with the Lawkeeper since I’m out of mana to activate him. Back to Sam, she plays a second Diregraf Ghoul and passes. My next turn is a blank aside from an Island, while Sam plays a replacement Highborn Ghoul after I tap down the Diregraf one.
Sadly, my turn 5 is another blank, and when Sam’s turn rolls around she rips a Go for the Throat, icing my poor Fiend Hunter (and getting her first Highborn Ghoul back). Though I tap down one of her attackers with my Lawkeeper, she swings in for 4. Paying 4 life for a Dismember, I crush the Highborn Ghoul swinging in, taking only 2 from the Diregraf model to leave me at 14 life. Sam then Despises my hand, but comes up empty (no creatures). As before, I manage to play a land but have little else to do, so when it rolls back around to Sam again I tap down a Highborn Ghoul. She then attacks in for another 4, but this time I prevent it all with a Divine Deflection, funneling all that damage to kill off the other Highborn Ghoul.
Now turn 7, I’m drawing a stripe of land and have nothing else to do. Sam finally kills the nettlesome Lawkeeper with a Skinrender, though not before it’s alreayd tapped down one more would-be attacker. Sam swings for 2, and I’m left at 12. Back to me, I Oblivion Ring the Skinrender, then add a Nephalia Smuggler. Sam attacks for another 4 damage to put me at 8, then nicks off 2 more with a Geralf’s Messenger.
When I have nothing but land for turn 9, Sam moves for the kill by swinging with the side for 7. I kill a Diregraf Ghoul with a Righteous Blow and chump another with my Smuggler, but it just buys me one more draw after Sam Altar’s Reaps the Messenger and plays a Gravecrawler. When that comes up empty, I scoop.
An opening-turn Wingcrafter starts me off on the right foot, and after a second-turn attack with it I add a Nearheath Pilgrim. Sam gets off her opener with a Diregraft Ghoul before passing, and we’re off to the races! When I land a turn-3 Tandem Lookout and soulbond it to my Wingcrafter, letting it steal in for 1 point of damage with flying and grab me a card, I look to be in pretty good shape. Sam counterattacks for 2 with the Highborn Ghoul, plays a second one, then Despises my hand. This time, she catches me with a couple of options, of which the Blade Splicer is clearly the best. Off it goes to the graveyard.
Now turn 4, I attack with my air force for 3, netting me a pair of cards in the bargain. I then add a Nephalia Smuggler and a Porcelain Legionnaire, soulbonding the latter with my Pilgrim. For her part, Sam returns fire with a 4-point swing off the Highborn Ghouls, then plays a 4/4 Lashwrithe. Back to me, I turn my army sideways, going in with the Lookout/Wingcrafter flying tandem as well as the Legionnaire/Pilgrim lifelinking one. Sam blocks the Legionnaire with her Lashwrithe, though I save it by flickering it with my Smuggler. When the dust clears, Sam’s down to 11 while I’m back at 16, and I’ve drawn another two cards. One of them is a Gideon’s Lawkeeper, which I then deploy before passing. Being the only thing that stands in her way, Sam Doom Blades the Lawkeeper to set up a 9-point hammering from the Lashwrithe and Ghouls. Although it doesn’t deal with the root of the problem (the equipment), I go ahead and Dismember the Germ token powering the Lashwrithe. Sam responds with an Altar’s Reap, beating me to the punch to get even more value out of the play.
She then plays a Dismember of her own during my turn on turn 6, blasting my Tandem Lookout into oblivion (and paying 2 life to do so). I simply replace it with another, soulbonding it to the Wingcrafter. I then attack in for 6 unopposed, gaining life and a card while leaving Sam at 3. I play a Nephalia Smuggler and end my turn. Sam can hammer me with the Lashwrithe and Ghouls, but not lethally. She concedes after the draw.
Although Sam’s on the play, I have the game’s opener with a Gideon’s Lawkeeper off a Plains. Next turn Sam brings out the Highborn Ghoul, while my next turn is a blank.
Now turn 3, I tap down the Ghoul to buy some time. Sam plays a Gravecrawler and passes. I solve the Gravecrawler with a Fiend Hunter, attacking in for 1 with the Lawkeeper for first blood. Back to Sam, she counters with her Ghoul for 2 and passes after playing a Lashwrithe. For my part, I play a Moorland Haunt, then Oblivion Ring the Lashwrithe before it can cause too many problems. After another 2-point attack, I end my turn.
After attacking in again with the Ghoul on turn 5, Sam then adds another Ghoul of the Diregraf variety. I bring out a Glacial Fortress, then attack in with my Lawkeeper and Hunter against the defenseless Sam to put her at 15. I then tap out (and pay 2 life) to play a Porcelain Legionnaire and Tandem Lookout, soulbonding the pair together. At the end of my turn, Sam then Dismembers my Fiend Hunter, letting her get her Gravecrawler back. Alas, Sam’s Doom Blade then does quick work of the Legionnaire, letting her blaze in for 6 with the Zombies and putting me at 8 life. Needing answers, I use the Moorland Haunt to create a 1/1 Spirit token off of my fallen Legionnaire, soulbonding it to the Lookout. This lets the Lookout connect for 2 and net me another card, while keeping my defenses up.
Now turn 7, I lock down the Gravecrawler with my Lawkeeper during Sam’s upkeep, then decide to roll the dice by Dismembering her Highborn Ghoul. She still gets in for 2 (leaving me at 2), then returns her Highborn Ghoul to hand from the graveyard with a Ghoulraiser. Luckily, I topdeck a Mirran Crusader and immediately play it. Back to Sam, I tap her Highborn Ghoul right off the bat. She still sends in the troops to attack me, hoping for a breakthrough. I kill her Ghoulraiser with my Crusader, trade out her Gravecrawler with my 1/1 Spirit token, and painfully swap my Tandem Lookout for her Diregraf Ghoul. With her Highborn still alive, Sam simply recasts the Gravecrawler from the graveyard and passes. For my part, I then play a Wingcrafter, soulbonding it to my Lawkeeper to give both flying.
Sam’s at a stall on turn 9, as neither of her creatures can slip past my defenses. All she needs to do, however, is draw a single piece of removal to kill my Lawkeeper and the game is one. Meanwhile, I’m playing to my out, hoping the game stays in stall long enough for me to peck her to death with my flying Wingcrafter. This is all that happens for turns 9 and 10, with Sam left at 11 life at the end of it. On turn 11, she draws and plays an Altar’s Reap, sacrificing the Gravecrawler only to immediately recast it. However, I get a serious break off my library. The first thing I do is send in the Wingcrafter on the attack- alongside the Mirran Crusader. This puts Sam at 6 life, and to replace the loss in my defensive line, I then play a… Mirran Crusader!
Well, okay, it’s actually a Phyrexian Metamorph, since the deck only comes with one Crusader, but at that point what’s the difference? Sam’s next Highborn Ghoul comes exactly one turn too late, and I’m able to finisher her off before it loses its summoning sickness.
Thoughts & Analysis
There aren’t a lot of deck archetypes we haven’t seen a lot of here at Ertai’s Lament. Because we limit ourselves to the realm of the preconstructed, what we usually see is a sort of “version lite” of a given deck. We won’t be playing Red Deck Wins with a full playset of Goblin Guides, for example, though we’ll get a taste of it with mono-Red Goblins here and there as the archetype manifests itself in different sets.
One archetype we see much less of is the “good stuff” deck. For the unfamiliar, a “good stuff” deck has a very simple premise: play cards that are on the balance better than what your opponent is playing, and you will win more matches than you lose. Such decks don’t necessarily have a cohesive theme as we’re used to, and because it relies heavily on the best cards in a given format it’s not one that you’d expect to see much of this far away from the tournament tables.
In playing Humanity’s Vengeance, I couldn’t help but think that I was indeed playing a precon version of a “good stuff” deck. There was no overarching theme, either mechanical or flavourful, such as the “Zombies” tribal theme that suffuses Death’s Encroach with such cohesion. This was more a case of a sampling of some of the more effective themes and cards presently in Standard. Take a bunch of creatures which can add value to the board in excess of their casting cost (soulbond creatures, Fiend Hunters)… add in a generous slate of removal and some Phyrexian mana cards… splash in a dollop of lifegain to help pay for the latter… voila, “good stuff!”
If there’s a downside to the build, it’s that that’s exactly what it feels like- a collection of decent cards. This might be the inner Vorthos in me speaking, but it just didn’t seem all that engaging, fun, or interesting to pilot. Your mileage may vary, but there wasn’t a single play I made in the match above that’s going to make me remember this deck over any of the others even a month or two from now, excepting perhaps the Phyrexian Metamorph and Mirran Crusader victory in the last one. It’s solid, sturdy, and reasonably reliable… it just has absolutely nothing in the way of ‘sex appeal.’
Overall, it was again nice to play a deck with abundant removal, and some very solid creature selections- even if the whole collection didn’t quite seem to gel in an organic way.
Hits: Strong removal suite, with virtually all noncreature spells (and a few of the creatures) devoted to it; strong card selection with value packages like Mirran Crusader and Fiend Hunter
Misses: Deck lacked any kind of cohesive theme that brought it together; lifegain suite a bit lackluster, and seemingly there to prop up the Phyrexian mana
OVERALL SCORE: 4.20/5.00