Magic History: Avacyn Restored

Magic Untapped takes a look back at the set Avacyn Restored.

After 30 years of Magic: The Gathering, it's nice to look back at older sets to reminisce and see just how much the game has changed over the years.

In this video, we look back at Avacyn Restored, the final set in Magic: The Gathering's original Innistrad block.  Joining as a special guest for this retrospective is Mark Rosewater, the game's head designer.

Check it out:

Video Transcript:

The third and final set in Magic: The Gathering’s original Innistrad block, Avacyn Restored, came out on May 4, 2012.  With it came 244 cards (including a dozen reprints), which is quite uncommon for a final set in a block where the usual structure was large-small-small.

As for why that is, let’s just say that plans changed.

<<Maro 00:30-52, 1:07-26,  “The actual original…the third set.” “So the original…can do that.”

This conclusion to the block’s story (in card form, at least) was thanks to some angelic intervention as Innistrad’s humans are able to escape near-extinction from the various monsters that plague the land.

<<Maro 4:17-30 “The idea of this was…sort of feel.”>>

And it’s this drastic shift in feel that made Avacyn Restored not only look different, but also play different than the first two sets in the block both thematically and mechanically.  As such, only one mechanic from the previous two sets made it into Avacyn Restored, joining two new ones that make their debut in the set.

<<Maro 2:48-3:02 “We’re gonna take…were brand-new mechanics.”>>

The first of Avacyn Restored’s new mechanics was soulbond.  It’s an ability that would ultimately prove to have some issues.

<<Maro 8:55-9:42, 9:47-10:10, 10:17-22, 11:25-39 “Soulbond came about…of that kind.” “The original version…have that ability.” “The biggest problem…it was complicated.” “There’s a lot of…complicated side.”>>

The second new mechanic Wizards developed for the set would wind up getting scrapped, only to appear in an evolved form in a future set.

<<Maro 4:34-5:07 “The big mechanic we…trying to do with forbidden.”>>

So, with forbidden being, well, forbidden, what did Wizards decide on instead?

<<Maro 5:41-45 “So, the replacement…was miracles.”>>

Miracles are cards that can be revealed and played as they are being drawn at a discounted cost compared to their printed mana value.

<<Maro 6:59-7:03, 7:27-36, 7:57-8:13, 8:21-46 “We made it so…have to show it.” “We went through…stuff like that.” “Miracle was a…you drew it.” “There’s a really…be careful with.”>>

There was also one other thing new with Avacyn Restored and, while it wasn’t an officially named mechanic, it did tie in nicely with the set’s creature-based factions.

<Maro 12:04-20 “So, Dave Humphries was…in there as well.”>>

Another sub-theme in the set was “flickering,” which is the temporary removing and returning of a permanent from and to the battlefield.  This mechanic got its name from a card from Urza’s Destiny, called Flicker, which does exactly that.

Avacyn Restored also did a riff on cycles.  Whereas cycles are customarily one card in each color (or color combination) that share a common theme, the cycles in Avacyn Restored lack an entry for the color black.  This was done as a way to show the evil of the plane losing its strength and focus.

That includes the set’s cycle of legendary angels: Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Bruna, Light of Alabaster, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, and Sigarda, Host of Herons.

There’s also a cycle of four uncommon miracle cards and four rare miracle cards.

Avacyn Restored also has a nice selection of notable and valuable cards, including:

  • Cavern of Souls, a nonbasic land that is a must-include in basically any deck running a tribal theme thanks to it making a chosen creature type un-counterable when used;
  • Craterhoof Behemoth, one of the most powerful green creatures yet printed.  The game can be a finisher in “go wide” strategies and is often found in Legacy elves decks;
  • Entreat the Angels, a miracle riff on the Scourge card Decree of Justice that would become a finisher for certain control decks;
  • Exquisite Blood, a black enchantment that can create a game-winning, infinite loop when paired with cards such as Sanguine Bond and Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose;
  • Griselbrand, one of the demons holding a contract with planeswalker Liliana Vess.  The card is a legacy and modern staple thanks to the card advantage it provides.  It’s also banned in EDH due to the format’s higher life total;
  • Misthollow Griffin, the first card in Magic: The Gathering that can be cast from exile;
  • Restoration Angel, a combo-enabling creature thanks to its ability to “blink” a creature out of and immediately back into play to take advantage of enter-the-battlefield triggers;
  • Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, a planeswalker making her debut despite the fact that she hails not from Innistrad, but rather from Kamigawa – a location to which the game wouldn’t return to for nearly a decade, and;
  • Vexing Devil, a sometimes-include in Modern eight whack and burn decks.

Prerelease participants were given a foil, alternate-art version of Moonsilver Spear.  The launch promo was a special, foil Restoration Angel.  A full-art Latch Seeker was provided to those who participated in the set’s Game Day event, while top-eight finishers also got a foil, full-art Killing Wave.

Avacyn Restored’s buy-a-box promo was a foil, alternate-art Silverblade Paladin.

But in getting back to the set as a whole, Avacyn Restored proved to be a pivotal set for Wizards of the Coast as far as what they can do with block structure, including when the game would move to two set blocks a few years later to current day, where blocks no longer exists as they once did.

<<Maro 14:42-15:00, 15:05-32 “It’s funny when you…when we needed to.” “Avacyn Restored was important…where we are now.”>>

So, what are your thoughts on Avacyn Restored and where Magic is now?  Let us know in the comment section below.

And if you like videos like this, please hit that like button and remember to subscribe to Magic Untapped.  Also, we have a tip jar on Patreon if you are feeling so generous.

Thank you for watching.

Barry White

Barry White is a longtime Magic: The Gathering player, having started in 1994 shortly before the release of 'Fallen Empires.' After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, he went on to a 15-year journalism career as a writer, reporter, and videographer for three different ABC affiliate newsrooms.