by Phoenix A. Desertsong, Staff Writer, Healer & Advocate
We've already taken a look at the rather pedestrian Humanity's Vengeance event deck from Avacyn Restored, so now let's take a look at Death's Encroach. I think that this deck is perhaps a bit better overall in that it doesn't really need to depend on a mechanic like its White/Blue counterpart has to in Soulbond. This deck is a bit quicker and more aggressive with some very solid ways to do a lot of damage quickly. Let's take a look:
1 Cemetery Reaper
2 Crypt Creeper
4 Diregraf Ghoul
1 Geralf's Messenger
1 Gloom Surgeon
4 Highborn Ghoul
3 Altar's Reap
2 Doom Blade
3 Go for the Throat
The monster line-up is obviously nothing but Zombies, and with the exception of Gloom Surgeon, all pretty good cards. My primary issue with Gloom Surgeon is the fact that while it is technically indestructible, having to exile a card for each point of combat damage he would take just doesn't not seem worth it for a 2/1. You would be much better off with another Gravecrawler instead of him. Crypt Creeper is interesting in that he can exile a card from a graveyard, preventing possible flashback or other sorts of recursion. Again you'd be better off with just two more Gravecrawlers, but for the review's sake, if you have to go with what's in the deck, it's probably worth having.
Geralf's Messenger is a very good card, and definitely one that you would want to have more than one of if you were to play this deck with any real aspirations of competing. Still, the fact that it's in the same Event Deck as Gravecrawler makes this deck worthwhile. But your real heavy hitters in this deck (if you can call them that) are Highborn Ghoul, Diregraf Ghoul and Skinrender. Highborn Ghoul has Intimidate, which makes it a problem for most decks out there to handle.
Diregraf Ghoul is a 2/2 for a single Black mana, and its only drawback is that it comes into play tapped. But considering how ahead of the mana curve you could be after playing two or three of these, that drawback just doesn't really matter. Skinrender, while just a 3/3 for 4 mana, has the ability to put 3 -1/-1 counters on a target creature. The fact that it does its damage with counters and not just a traditional -3/-3 is very important for this deck because it can make bigger creatures that this deck would have trouble with into much smaller manageable threats.
You also have Ghoulraiser. It's only 1BB and a 2/2 with a good enter the battlefield ability: get a Zombie back from your graveyard. It is at random, but if you've already cast your Gravecrawler (either from your hand or your graveyard) you're going to get back something useful. Obviously, this makes getting back your single copy of Geralf's Messenger back much more easily.
I must also mention that Cemetery Reaper is in the deck. Obviously, he's a very good lord card for the deck who also has a tap ability for 2B to remove a creature from any graveyard and give you a 2/2 zombie (essentially a 3/3 zombie with the Reaper in play). He's another good possibility for Ghoulraiser to get back.
The removal package is fairly broad, with both Doom Blade and Go for the Throat in the main deck, plus two copies of Dismember. You also have three copies of Despise for hand control. An interesting inclusion is Altar's Reap, which for 1B and sacrificing a Zombie, you can draw two cards. This is obviously combos pretty well with Gravecrawler, and is a nice way to get some card draw besides Sign in Blood.
The sleeper in this deck is the two copies of Lashwrithe. It's a very interesting living weapon that's really only good in mono-black, but for only 4 mana, you get a living weapon with X/X, X being the number of swamps you have in play. By turn 4, you'll likely have a 4/4 already that can only get bigger. If the germ token is destroyed, you can pay 2 black mana and equip it to one of your other creatures (Highborn Ghoul is an excellent choice).
Not only that, Lashwrithe's equip cost has the Phyrexian mana option, meaning you could pay 2 life and one black or 4 life to equip instead. Considering that life is a resource you can easily afford to use with this deck, this comes in handy. If you can get both of these onto the board, your opponent will have a mess to deal with.
2 Appetite for Brains
2 Crypt Creeper
1 Surgical Extraction
3 Triumph of Cruelty
The sideboard offers some more hand control in Despise and two copies of Distress, plus Appetite for Brains, which can discard cards with mana costs over 4. You also get three copies of Deathmark to deal with white or green creatures that may give you problems.
Triumph of Cruelty is an interesting enchantment card that forces your opponent to discard a card if you control the creature with the highest or tied for the highest power. With three copies of Triumph of Cruelty here, you could potentially have your opponent discard up to three cards a turn during each of your upkeeps. I don't see this being a necessarily good strategy to win with, but it's an interesting idea.
There's also a fourth copy of Ghoulraiser, two more Crypt Creepers for graveyard hate, and a Surgical Extraction. The Extraction is certainly a good card to have and does see play in other formats, so it's a very valuable card.
Overall, this deck has a much more straightforward plan of attack than its White/Blue event deck counterpart. It can cause a lot of damage quickly and has enough removal and recursion to keep a sustained attack. This deck definitely has more "Bang for Your Buck" than Humanity's Vengeance. Unless you are bent on playing blue/white humans, this event deck is the better investment.
by Phoenix A. Desertsong, Staff Writer, Healer & Advocate
Humanity’s Vengeance is the Avacyn Restored blue/white event deck. Overall, this deck may be the better value of the two Avacyn Restored Event Decks, but it may not be head and shoulders better than its mono-black Zombie counterpart, Death’s Encroach.
Let’s see what we have:
1 Blade Splicer
4 Fiend Hunter
4 Gideon’s Lawkeeper
1 Mirran Crusader
3 Nearheath Pilgrim
2 Nephalia Smuggler
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
4 Porcelain Legionnaire
3 Tandem Lookout
1 Divine Deflection
2 Mental Misstep
3 Oblivion Ring
3 Righteous Blow
2 Glacial Fortress
1 Moorland Haunt
Right off the bat, looking at this list, there are a lot of good cards here. Besides the three copies of the always useful Oblivion Ring, we have several pretty good rares in here as well, Blade Splicer, Mirran Crusader, Phyrexian Metamorph, Glacial Fortress, and Moorland Haunt, as well as Divine Deflection. That last rare isn’t so exciting, but still somewhat useful. Like it has been with the event decks with each set, though, one deck has more cards that are very playable now and the other has more cards from the current block.
From purely a Standard player’s standpoint, this deck wasn’t really as great a value because most of these cards cycled out of the competitive Standard format in October 2012. This includes all of the rares besides Moorland Haunt, Glacial Fortress and Divine Deflection, plus Dismember, Mental Misstep, Porcelain Legionnaire, and Gideon’s Lawkeeper.
Death's Enroach doesn't have the same number of money cards, perhaps, but more cards that stayed in the Standard format and be worth more to Standard players. Still, from purely a money standpoint, the big three rares from the Scars of Mirrodin block - Blade Splicer, Mirran Crusader, and Phyrexian Metamorph - continue to have value in other formats. So, it’s still a good value when you consider all of the Innistrad block cards in the deck, as well.
As for the deck itself, it is very much keen on the idea that Soulbond will carry you to victory. Wingcrafter can make your guys fly, Tandem Lookout can draw you cards, and Nephalia Smuggler can blink your guys so that they can re-Soulbond at your leisure. You also have Nearheath Pilgrim’s Soulbond ability to give itself and another creature lifelink. Fiend Hunter is excellent creature removal (and will be for quite some time in Standard) and Gideon’s Lawkeeper can help you keep big threats tapped down.
Righteous Blow, Dismember, and Oblivion Rings are a good removal package. Divine Deflection is an interesting card that can turn damage you would take into a pseudo-burn spell; it’s not bad, but it needs to be played at just the right time to be truly effective. For the mana base, you get two copies of Glacial Fortress, which was reprinted in Magic 2013, and is always a useful dual land. You also get Moorland Haunt, a great card for crapping out 1/1 flying Spirit tokens for a minimal mana investment (UW and tap).
The sideboard is interesting:
3 Cathedral Sanctifier
2 Inquisitor Exarch
4 Mana Leak
There seems to be this theme in the deck of gaining life often enough that you can stay ahead of your opponent. Cloudshift is a sort of replacement for Nephalia Smuggler if you find his ability to be too expensive to be worth using. The Mana Leak and Negate are good if you need that control element. The Inquisitor Exarchs and Cathedral Sanctifiers are interesting for their life gain aspect. The one copy of Pacifism doesn’t do much for me, but I could see cases in which you may want it to stop that one big creature you just can’t deal with.
My problem with this deck is that it does a nice job of keeping your life total up and occasionally giving you the ability to fly over things and perhaps draw some cards. As is, though, this deck doesn’t really do much but wear down your opponent. The deck is built around a hold-out sort of strategy. It doesn’t really have a finisher. It has enough removal and moves quickly enough that it can serve as an OK white weenie deck. This deck can stay on the curve consistently enough that you should never have too many dead draws.
It’s not a bad deck, and if you’re jumping back into the game and need a deck to play, it’s worth a look. But the Zombie deck I think is a bit better and needs less tweaking than perhaps this one does. I’d just pick up Restoration Angels, Champions of the Parish, and Silverblade Paladins, then build a deck around them. It’s obviously a lot pricier than buying a couple copies of this deck, but it’s more worth it, considering that those cards cause a lot more problems more quickly than anything here does. It’s just an underwhelming deck.
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