The Red, the Blue, and the New

Posted in Reconstructed on April 24, 2012

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

With the full Avacyn Restored Card Image Gallery up, the Magic world has turned into a deck-builder's paradise!

The new set brings plenty to the table, while posing several new questions: How strong are miracles? Can a Primal Surge deck work? Where does Tibalt, the Fiend Blooded fit best? And will we ever be able to stop the urge to say "soulbound" instead of "soulbond?"

Tibalt, the Fiend Blooded | Art by Peter Mohrbacher

Not even I can tell you the answer to the last one.

With all of these new options on the table, it's time to dive headfirst into some deck building! Last week, I asked for you guys to send me any Standard lists you had and my goal would be to update them solely with cards from Avacyn Restored. I received a truly insane amount of submissions—I suppose that's what happens when anything is fair game—and your enthusiasm and excitement for the new set certainly resonated throughout them.

After spending plenty of time narrowing it down, I eventually settled on this deck. Congratulations to Ryan Schwenk for getting the honor of becoming the test subject for this week!

This was his decklist:

Ryan Schwenk's Red-Blue Burn Control

Download Arena Decklist

    The Battle Plan

Part counterburn, part aggro-control, Ryan's deck has a lot of strong elements that lead to a variety of play. This deck's draws can take it down a couple different avenues.

Chandra's Phoenix | Art by Aleksi Bricolt

On one hand, the deck can play a quicker game. Chandra's Phoenix and a plethora of burn spells can let Ryan fry his opponents with ease. The returning Phoenixes are sure to give control decks headaches!

But this deck isn't so one-dimensional. It can also play a longer control game, using the burn spells to dispatch enemy creatures and then close out with a Titan. Beatdown decks will gnash their teeth in frustration as creature after creature marches off the battlefield.

The deck's weakness, however, is falling short on either end. The deck's versatility comes at a cost: it can play both a control and an aggressive game, but it can't do either as well as decks dedicated to those plans. There will be games against beatdown where you fall behind and never catch up, and there will be games against control where pinpoint countermagic and gigantic threats get the best of you.

While revising, we definitely want to look for cards that help solve that issue. Most likely, though, it's something the sideboard will work out; you can modify your main deck to be focused on playing the role you want in any given matchup.

With that noted, let's take a look at the kinds of yeast in this brew.

    Card Breakdown—The Creatures

Chandra's Phoenixis part of what makes this deck tick. The Phoenix helps you to play on your aggressive axis when necessary by pushing through damage, and he's a completely reasonable blocker against cards like Delver of Secrets when necessary. To top it all off—spoilers!—the Avacyn Restored cards I know I'm interested in only make this card even more attractive!

Snapcaster Mage is perfect for this kind of spell-heavy strategy. With burn spells, countermagic, Ponder, and more all available to be reused, Snapcaster Mage provides even more added versatility. Although the original list only played two, I would definitely play the full four.

Phantasmal Image has the potential to mirror your opponent's best threat, serving as either a way to push through more damage or trade up with the opponent's copy. However, it lacks consistency. Since you will seldom have creatures of your own worth copying, Image isn't as exciting here as in other decks that have more creatures.

Spellskiteis good against a handful decks in the format, but poor against others. It blocks against beatdown and keeps your other creatures safe from harm, but against several decks it has little effect. Spellskite might be better suited for the sideboard.

The titan triumvirate make for the finishers of choice here. The three titans are—err, yes. Three titans. Two colors. No, I don't see the problem.

Ahem. Now, where was I? Ah, yes, the three titans.

These are part of the plan to finish off the opponent when the game goes long. If you're put in the position of playing the role of the control deck, you're going to want a large creature to close out the game. I might consider playing Consecrated Sphinx—yes, the Sphinx is also a titan—instead of Frost Titan here, but since I'm only looking at Avacyn Restored cards today, that's neither here nor there.

    Card Breakdown—The Noncreatures

Mana Leakis the best countermagic available in Standard and an easy four-of in this deck, no questions asked. You are happy to draw them in nearly every matchup.

Ponder is similarly a staple for a deck like this. It provides card selection, which is crucial for a deck like this where you need to find the right pieces against particular opponents. It also plays very well with Snapcaster Mage and—once again: spoilers!—the miracles I would look at putting in this deck.

Galvanic Blast is almost always a Shock in this deck. Having good Snapcaster targets is crucial, but it would be nice to do better than this card. If only Avacyn Restored had an awesome new Shock variant for us...

Whipflareis a card that isn't played as much as it should be. There aren't many decks playing a heavy dose of artifact creatures, and the ability to knock out swarms of tokens and set mana Elves ablaze is invaluable in this format. It doesn't hit players, so it is mostly a dead card against control, but it's strong enough against the format that it's worth playing some main deck.

Slagstorm's power is similar to Whipflare, except Slagstorm has the added bonus of dealing an extra damage and burning out Planeswalkers—both of the player variety and the card variety. The extra mana makes it a little less exciting than Whipflare to me, but I like the setup of this 3/2 split between the two cards. If we pick up other burn spells I could see cutting Slagstorms, but I'd definitely want to sideboard some in that case.

Red Sun's Zenith is a nice finisher that isn't useless against beatdown. You can always hit guys early on and then dig to Zenith later in the game, or just direct Zenith directly at your opponent's nugget. Having access to one or two feels right for this deck, since a spell finisher that also exiles Strangleroot Geist is nice to have around—although I would want to play more lands to accommodate it.

Negate adds to the barrage of countermagic. Great against control decks, weak versus beatdown, Negate does exactly what it looks like. I love having access to countermagic, but often I prefer to sideboard cards like Negate so the main deck is more streamlined in the matchups where you need to quickly deal with swarms of creatures. It is worth noting that Negatedoes hit most of the "creatures" in the token decks, though, so it's better in that beatdown matchup than others.

Think Twice helps you hit your land drops and set up in the early game. I like having a couple of early-game card drawers around just to smooth out my hand early on. It's worth noting that generally I feel Desperate Ravings is the slightly superior card, especially in a deck with Chandra's Phoenix. I'm sticking to only adding Avacyn Restored cards today, but that's a swap I'd look into making.

And now we get into the singletons. While I am a fan of cohesive singletons or splitting finishers, this collection feels a little oddball to me. We're going to need to cut some cards to fit more spells and lands. That means it's time for the first edition of...

    The Dating Game: Magic Card Edition!

There are five eligible singletons—but only one of them will get to go on a date with the other cards in the deck. Which will it be?

Singleton Number One, the Titans are this deck's best finishers. How would you add to that powerful regime?

"Well, I would come down one turn earlier than a Titan. I am a little smaller and more susceptible to artifact removal, but I do, uh... cost one less."

Very insightful! Thanks, Singleton Number One!

Singleton Number Two, what role would you serve in this deck, and where would you take your prospective date?

"I'd come down early when you draw me and, if everything goes right, create a strong repeating blocking creature. Presuming you don't draw any burn spells that exile, of course. I also don't work very well against token decks. After that, I might help you win the long game.

"As for where I'd put prospective dates... I'd probably shove them in a vat. Vats are underutilized places to store things."

Sounds... interesting. That's one experience I'm sure your date won't forget! Thanks, Singleton Number Two!

Singleton Number Three, I love copying spells. How can you help me with that, and which spells would you copy with me?

"When I'm not busy blowing things up, copying spells is my specialty! For the low cost of a little loyalty—which you do plan to earn back in time, right?—I can double awesome expensive spells like Red Sun's Zenith! And... um... Red Sun's Zenith!"

It sounds like you're very good with Red Sun's Zenith! Good to know. Thanks Singleton Number Three!

Singleton Number Four, drawing cards is fun! Divination is one of my favorite cards. How would you say you compare to Divination?

"Well, I do cost more. But, I can add counters to cards, like... Okay, you got me."

Looks like that was a difficult question! Sorry Singleton Number Four!

Finally, Singleton Number Five, I'm looking for something powerful to do in the late game to help find my win conditions, but that is also good against control decks. How can you help me with that?

"Well, late in the game I can draw you a ton of cards, letting you find your win conditions or a fistful of burn. I shuffle back in, meaning you obtain even more uses out of me, and in a very long control game you can even use me to deck the opponent if it ever comes down to that. I am also an instant, meaning you can wait to cast me until your opponent's turn. I am a little expensive, but if you're looking for a single expensive card-drawer then I am your card!"

Well, it looks like we have a winner then! That's exactly what I'm looking for! Congratulations to Singleton Number Five—Blue Sun's Zenith!

    Potential Cards

There are eight Avacyn Restored cards I want to look at for this deck.

Desolate Lighthouse—or the "loothouse," as players have begun to affectionately call it—is perfect for this kind of deck. It lets you filter through cards to find whatever pieces you're looking for, increasing your consistency. It's also a mini-combo with Chandra's Phoenix, allowing you to pitch the Phoenix and then return it with any burn spell.

It's also another great reason to play more lands, which I'd like to do anyway. More lands work out well with the Lighthouse, since more lands means you will more consistently hit your land drops, but the Lighthouse means you can loot them away if you become flooded.

Lunar Mystic lets you cantrip through your instants over and over. If it isn't killed immediately, you're going to bury your opponent in card advantage. However, it is very weak against aggressive decks, since not dying early is your primary focus there. This makes for a good sideboard card against control decks.

Pillar of Flame is perfect for this strategy. While it's not an instant like Galvanic Blast is, exiling is crucial in this world of undying cards. Taking out Blast for Pillar is an easy swap.

Reforge the Soul is one of the first miracles I'll be talking about here. The ability to fire off burn at your opponent and then reload with a Reforge is not to be underestimated, and if we end up including Tibalt, then Reforge works very well with Tibalt's middle ability.

However, I think this deck will often spend its turns grinding the beatdown decks out with burn and then winning the long game. You can't afford to give them extra cards. Against control, you're going to have a pretty full hand and you don't want to give them extra cards either. Reforge doesn't make the cut for me here.

Thunderous Wrath, on the other hand, is a miracle this deck can get behind. Six mana for 5 damage at instant speed isn't even that unreasonable, and the ability to miracle this card for one mana is gigantic. Burning out opponents suddenly looks much easier than the original decklist!

Temporal Mastery is another good card for this deck. The Time Walk mode is great when it happens, and you can loot away extra ones by way of the Lighthouse. I don't want a full set because they are still fairly weak in your opening hand, but I'm going to want to play two or three here.

Tibalt, the Fiend Blooded is a card players have been puzzling over. In a deck like this, which wants to look through cards quickly, it's certainly a reasonable choice. You can burn opponents' creatures on the ground while Tibalt increments you cards each turn. However, if the deck ends up miracle-heavy, I would probably lean against Tibalt. Additionally, with the Lighthouse already around, you should be able to loot to the cards you want most of the time without risking the constant random discard of Tibalt.

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage is the other Planeswalker offering from this set. Conveniently, she fits in our colors! Tamiyo's ultimate is clearly absurd in a burn-heavy deck, but then again, there are few decks where her ultimate isn't good. Her other two abilities are varied.

Locking down a creature is solid against beatdown, and against control, setting it back a land drop while threatening an ultimate can be effective in the midgame. Her -2 ability will often net you a couple cards, which can help you reload on burn. Tamiyo is a card I might want to play a single copy of in the main deck, but as a five-drop I don't think I'd want more than that here.

    Avacyn: Updated

With all of that said, this is the decklist I would look into playing:

Avacyn Restored Red-Blue Burn

Download Arena Decklist

Now, this is all only adding cards to the deck from Avacyn Restored while cutting cards that were already in the deck (or, in the case of the sideboard Negates, shifting cards from the main deck to the sideboard). If I were looking to try out other iterations of this deck, I would definitely play four Snapcaster Mages and also try Delver of Secrets.

While not in the deck originally, Delver seems like a perfect fit for a deck with several spells, including Ponder. For one mana, it's harder to get a better damage output than an easily flipped delver.

In the sideboard, I would play more Ratchet Bombs to help fight the token menace, and also include the fourth Whipflare.


The response to last week's style of sideboarding against general kinds of decks rather than individual archetypes was a gigantic thumbs up, especially with a brand new set coming out. I'll be repeating that process this week!

Versus Beatdown

The good news is that your main deck is pretty well set up against straight beatdown with all of your burn spells. Pillar of Flame even gives you a significant boost against Strangleroot Geist, which is one of the few cards that really gave the deck trouble before.

There isn't a ton you want to take out here, and the game plan is firmly in the control camp. Control the game with burn spells, then eventually close with Thunderous Wrath or Titans. The card I would look into taking out is Chandra's Phoenix. When you're playing for the long game and you're probably not going to be burning very much, Phoenix is rather unexciting.

Ratchet Bomb and Slagstorm are the two cards you will usually bring in. I would also always bring in Flashfreeze against red-green beatdown decks, though on the draw I would cut two Mana Leaks so your hand doesn't end up full of countermagic.

Versus Control

Control is going to be a little trickier. Those decks going over the top of your game plan with more controlling elements is definitely a concern, although your mix of card drawing and ability to deal 5 out of nowhere with Thunderous Wrath can go long ways toward winning.

For sideboarding, you want to take out Whipflare and some of your targeted removal and bring in cards that reinforce your ability to control and will provide you with a different angle of attack. Negate comes in to help fight the opponent, but the big card here is Lunar Mystic.

The art of sideboarding means your opponent will also be sideboarding against you, and will likely cut some removal after seeing your deck. With a removal-light deck, Lunar Mystic can just run away with the game as Mana Leak, Negate, Think Twice, and Thunderous Wrath all begin to draw you cards.

Versus Combo

Like last week, I'm defining combo as Birthing Pod, Red-Green Ramp, and Reanimator.

The hate cards in the sideboard are ones you will definitely want to bring in the appropriate matchups: Grafdigger's Cage, Flashfreeze, and Ancient Grudge against Birthing Pod; Negate and Flashfreeze versus Ramp; and Negate, Grafdigger's Cage, and Surgical Extraction against Reanimator. (Plus Ratchet Bomb if Reanimator is a build heavy on mana Elves.) If your opponent's deck is light on removal spells, you can also bring in a couple Lunar Mystics and try and use the card advantage on Mystic to snowball your opponent with extra cards.

The trickier question than what to bring in is perhaps what comes out.

I would generally bring out the slow spells. Blue Sun's Zenith comes out in all three matchups, for example. You want to keep in your expensive creatures, though, so you have a way to close out the game.

Small burn spells like Whipflare and Pillar of Flame come out against decks like Ramp that have few small creatures. Chandra's Phoenix is often not going to be necessary since you're going to be aiming for a longer game with a Titan to finish them off.

Against combo, just play the control game early on, halting your opponent's game plan, then play a Titan and ride it to victory.

    Honorable Mentions

Each week, I list several decks that nearly made the cut. This week, I'm focusing on decks that have a lot to gain from the new set. Look over these, and think about what you might add from Avacyn Restored!

James Mullen's Green-White Tokens

Download Arena Decklist

Joey Thibodeaux's Mono-White Control

Download Arena Decklist

Joseph Berkley's Green-White Humans

Download Arena Decklist

Greg Peck's Rred-Green Werewolves

Download Arena Decklist

    Next time, on Reconstructed...

There's no theme for next week, which means we can do whatever we'd like! With the Avacyn Restored visual spoiler freshly out and the Pro Tour just around the corner, a lot of the world's eyes are pointing toward Innistrad Block Constructed. While we're ramping up to the Pro Tour, the next couple weeks are going to take a look at the Block format.

Let's kick it off with an Avacyn Restored-centric Block challenge for this week!

Format:Innistrad Block Constructed
Restrictions: Your deck must be built around an Avacyn Restored card or contain at least one Avacyn Restored card that provides a major, noticeable boost to the deck's power.
Deadline: Wednesday, April 25 at 6pm Pacific Time

Send all decklists via email by clicking the "Respond via Email" link at the bottom of this article

Next week will provide some initial context using a deck that's submitted, as I go over what the format looks like, some baseline strategies to prepare for, and so on. The week after, we'll hit it hard and competitive as we try and create a high-level deck that could do well at the Pro Tour.

If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to contact me on Twitter! I'll also be checking the forums and my inbox if you aren't Twitter-savvy.

Until next week, may you always pick your deck's singletons via the dating game.


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