Prior to the horror trope infused tales surrounding Innistrad, I admit that I was less than keen to keep up with the goings on of Magic's backstory. As it turns out, my favorite genre is horror, and if you ever get a glimpse at my Netflix history, you'll see little but endless ranks of b-movie horror flicks. Naturally, I was captivated by the omnipresence of Zombies, Geists, Werewolves, and Demons in the bits of Innistrad story lines that I picked up. I dove in deeper to get a better idea of what was in store for the inhabitants of this b-movie plane. If you're not familiar with the story arcs yourself, here's a quick synopsis to get you up to speed.
Garruk is hunting Liliana, trying to cure himself of the curse she placed on him. Liliana is hunting demons, specifically demons to whom she is indebted that she might slay them and be beholden to none. Her most recent quarry, Griselbrand, led her to Innistrad. Sorin was born on Innistrad, and has returned to investigate what happened to his creation, Avacyn, who was supposed to keep the balance of power away from the forces of darkness and favorable to the survival of humanity. Avacyn, however, had been trapped in the Helvault by none other than Liliana's prey, the demon Griselbrand. While Avacyn was locked inside the moon-silver obelisk, dark forces started to take over on Innistrad. Where holy symbols once held them in check, the power of the symbols began to wane and the darkness began to take over. Liliana, learning that Griselbrand was trapped inside the Helvault, but not content with him being imprisoned when he should be dead, schemed to get Thalia, Guardian of Thraben to destroy the Helvault, thus releasing its inhabitants. With its destruction, Avacyn was freed, as were the hosts of demons that had been trapped inside the Helvault with her.
So, with that little bit of Magic history out of the way, let's talk about Avacyn Restored! First, the namesake, Avacyn, Angel of Hope, was revealed on Facebook last week. Being 8/8 Flying Vigilance for 8 mana isn't terribly impressive on its own, but when you consider that she makes herself and all other permanents you control Indestructible, things are definitely looking up. Of course, with answers like Sever the Bloodline or a morbid Tragic Slip being available from the same block, she doesn't strike me as too powerful. Another major player from the story that has been revealed so far is Griselbrand. He's a bit on the costly side as well, but his last ability, Pay 7 Life: Draw seven cards, needs to be prohibitively expensive. If he ever survives long enough to connect with something, his 7 power and Lifelink will make the card drawing painless. I would venture to guess that Griselbrand will ultimately see more play than Avacyn, especially if either starts seeing inclusion in Legacy reanimator style decks, if only because of his ability to win games at the cost of 7 life.
Next, we've got a new mechanic to be introduced in Avacyn Restored, namely Soulbond. Soulbond's reminder text reads "You may pair this creature with another unpaired creature when either enters the battlefield. They remain paired for as long as you control both of them." The likes of Silverblade Paladin who, as long as he's paired, gives both creatures Double Strike, may get some play in future Humans builds. Take a first turn Champion of the Parish, second turn Gather the Townsfolk and a third turn Silverblade Paladin. That means you're swinging for 10 damage on turn three. That's not bad.
With the lion's share of the reveals so far having been White with splashes of Black, Blue's seen only a couple cards, but the potential power of Temporal Mastery is so far beyond anything I've seen from the rest of the set that it is completely forgivable. They've all but reprinted one of the Power Nine! That brings me to the other new mechanic debuting in Avacyn Restored, Miracles. Miracle is a draw-trigger ability which reads "You may cast this card for its miracle cost when you draw it if it's the first card you drew this turn." The basic premise of Miracle spells so far is getting some fairly expensive effect, for example Time Warp, for much less than it would cost normally. It has the added benefit of permitting you to cast Sorceries during an opponent's turn if you're able to Think Twice into a Miracle Sorcery. Other Miracle spells are Banishing Stroke which puts an artifact, creature, or enchantment on the bottom of its owner's library for a paltry one White mana. I anticipate this will see some solid use in EDH/Commander format, where hiding a Commander in the deck is the only sure fire way to get rid of it. Another nearly-as-fabulous Miracle is Thunderous Wrath in Red, which is basically a Lava Axe for R, which can target creatures and happens to be an Instant.
Green has thus far been largely unrepresented, so I'd like to close out with one of the anticipated Legendary Angels coming around, Sigarda, Host of Herons. At 5/5 Flying Hexproof for 5 mana, she's already looking pretty good, but with a secondary ability that prevents sacrifice effects, effectively blanking Geth's Verdict, Tribute to Hunger, and Liliana of the Veil's -2 ability, she's slated to be a divine companion for Avacyn herself, who's Indestructible ability won't prevent death by sacrifice.
A: Yes, you can. Phantasmal Bear states "When Phantasmal Bear becomes the target of a spell or ability, sacrifice it." Since Altar's Reap doesn't use the word 'target' your Bear is never the target of a spell or ability, so its ability does not proc. It should also be noted that since sacrificing a creature is an additional cost to cast Altar's Reap, your opponent can not kill your Bear in response to prevent you from casting the spell. Once you've started casting the spell, the opponent will not have priority to respond until after you have paid the costs, including sacrificing the Bear.
114.1a An instant or sorcery spell is targeted if its spell ability identifies something it will affect by using the phrase "target [something]," where the "something" is a phrase that describes an object, player, or zone. The target(s) are chosen as the spell is cast; see rule 601.2c.
Question of the Week
You use Mishra's Factory's second ability to turn it into a 2/2 Assembly-worker artifact creature until end of turn. You cast Travel Preparations putting a +1/+1 counter on Mishra's Factory. Then you use Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas' -1 ability, targeting Mishra's Factory. After that ability resolves, your opponent casts Turn to Frog, targeting Mishra's Factory. Describe Mishra's Factory after Turn to Frog resolves.