Avacyn Restored Casual & Commander Review: Red

I know there is something wrong with me when it comes to Commander, because I’m one of those weird people who still play monored after all these years of people saying red can’t do enough. But looking over at the new cards offered in Avacyn Restored, I can’t be happier to find new spells and creatures to cram into my Jaya Ballard deck.

Casual and Commander Review: Avacyn Restored
White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Gold, Artifacts & Lands


Okay, this isn’t the best start. Paying 5 mana for Simoon isn’t exactly a bargain, but the combination of Simoon and essentially Siren’s Call makes me interested in how this can play out. Forcing a player to attack can be just what it needed to either finish them off by removing their defenses or finish off another player who happens to be lacking in defense. The multiple uses make me interested in how it can be used politically.

Archwing Dragon

Kaalia will love this. So will Norin the Wary’s Pandemonium deck. But where I really see this card shining is part of complex tricks where you trade creatures. Archwing Dragon and Confusion in the Ranks is bound to be a losing proposition for almost everyone else. And then that stops working, you still have a 4/4 hasty flier that is immune to sorcery speed removal!

Banners Raised

There are so many cards that do similar things to this, that getting a color-shifted Chorus of Woe just isn’t that exciting. I could see this being very, very weird in a red infect deck, but otherwise you have better options.

Battle Hymn

If you play a Phyrexian Walker, an Ornithopter and a Memnite, this is a red Dark Ritual! In quirky combo decks, this kind of mana acceleration can be used to great effect. In multiplayer though, this kind of mana acceleration is usually a bad idea.

Bonfire of the Damned

I love that Wizards has brought back the double X casting cost. It is one of those great ways to teach newer players about casting costs and what they really mean. Bonfire of the Damned is absolutely amazing. At regular cost, it’s pricey but around turn eight it can utterly decimate a single opponent.

But the real draw is the miracle cost. It turns an excellent removal spell into a truly fantastic one. Spending 5 or more mana on this will put your opponent in a bind they won’t be able to escape from. If you are playing red in Commander, you need to be playing this.

Burn at the Stake

There are a few words in Magic that are always worth considering regardless of the mana cost. If I see the word “Double” or “Three times,” I get very excited. This is another one of those cards that can singlehandedly win games. Tapping a handful of creatures to deal 15 damage is amazing – and exactly what some weenie decks need for the late game. I could see casual goblin decks using this as a way to take out player four or five once they’ve run out of steam.

Dangerous Wager

This is probably my second favorite card in this entire expansion. I absolutely love the idea of red’s slice of the color pie expanding. Sure, the cost of this card is ungodly high but red shouldn’t have any trouble emptying their hand. Given that I have a huge discard subtheme in my Jaya Ballard Commander deck, this is a perfect fit. Between all the red Madness spells, an abundance of Phoenixes, Hammer of Bogardan or Squee, Goblin Nabob, I have no issue discarding my hand.


This isn’t Pillage no matter how hard it tries. The utility is decent, but Pillage is better.

Dual Casting

The potential of this card is absolutely huge, but the tiny bit of text about “you control” really ruins the fun. I love Forking a Harmonize or Reverberating a Hex in the middle of a battle, so knowing I have to play the spell originally takes the fun down a tiny bit.
Then I remember that this card basically says, “For R, play any instant or sorcery twice.” That is a great card – provided you have the instants and sorceries to back it up. It’s very conditional and being an aura makes me a little wary, but in Commander I can see this shining alongside someone like Niv Mizzet.

Falkenrath Exterminator

A cheap vampire that grows over time is always appreciated, especially when they aren’t bloodcrazed. The removal aspect though is where I think this card shines. Toss in some unblockability or proliferate, and you’ve got a creature that can quickly shoot down any creature that comes your way.

Fervent Cathar

The combination of haste and a single creature being made unblockable makes me really like the idea of this card with flickering. But at the end of the day, it’s a 2/1 for three.

Gang of Devils

I’m like the series of creatures that do something when they dice, but a 3/3 for 6 just isn’t terribly exciting. I mean, for the same price you can get Inferno Titan.

Guise of Fire

Should be called Flowstone of Fire.

Hanweir Lancer

The biggest challenge when reviewing sets for casual is that rarity rarely is a concern. I know for some people, they have a limited budget but, there is little difference between talking about a common or a mythic. If a card is good, it’s a good. If you are looking for a way to give first strike to a creature, this is a decent but the fact that Silverblade Paladin exists… well, it hurts this one a lot.

Havengul Vampire

Oh yes! I loved the cycle of creatures that got +1/+1 counters whenever another creature died from Shards of Alara, so getting a vampire that gets counters two ways really makes each piece of removal work overtime. This is like a super vampire!

Heirs of Stromkirk

The evasion is nice, but given how many red vampires are now running around, it takes a lot for them to be good. Havengul Vampire costs about the same amount, and I love that one so much more.

Hound of Griselbrand

If you want to control the ground, this hound will do the trick. A mighty fine rare, this isn’t one of those cards that there is much to say other than it is really, really good. Four drops don’t get much better than this.

Kessig Malcontents

I really like how the human tribe is shaping up thanks to Avacyn Restored. My biggest concern with a card like this how badly it can fall on its face. Worst cast, it deals 1 damage which isn’t too exciting. But if you get some twisted token generation going, this could quickly turn into a kill spell with a 3/1 attached.

Kruin Striker

Red doesn’t get a lot of cheap cards with trample, but I really like the idea of get getting another cheap creature that can pick up any of the Swords and go to town. I don’t think Kruin Striker is amazing, but she plays very well with Allies.

Lightning Mauler

Of all the soulbonds, this is one of my favorites. Enchantments that grants haste never made much sense, but given how soulbond can jump between pairings, the ability to get a 2/1 is decent but the addition of haste makes this a great call mid to late game.

Lightning Prowess

The combination of haste and pinging is fine as Vulshok Sorcerer has shown, but pinging doesn’t do a whole lot most of the time. Even the addition of haste doesn’t do enough.

Mad Prophet.

I absolutely love this card. The idea of Red getting its own kind of looting is a perfect way to flesh out the color pie. Now, be aware that the discard is a cost of the card, so this isn’t an Archivist when your hand is empty. But the number of cards you can combine with this to get pure card advantage makes me so excited. Squee loves this guy, Hammer of Borgardan does too.

Malicious Intent

This card is only malicious against yourself.


There is no doubt in my mind that this guy was made for casual and commander players. The simple fact that his power and toughness is equal to the highest life total, rounded up, means he can devour players whole one by one. Two hits will often kill a player, just make sure you can give him trample!

The second half about his damage not being prevented is interesting, but it probably won’t come up too much. This is a great card for multiplayer, but if this resolves, you will officially be the target at the table.

Pillar of Flame

Part Disintegrate and part Shock, Pillar of Flame is an interesting piece of removal and I really like the potential of it, just not in multiplayer. Burn is a losing strategy when you need to deal 60-80 damage to win. Unless persist and undying are a huge issue at your table, you can leave this one out sadly.

Raging Poltergeist

I would leave this one out too.

Reforge the Soul

This is quite possibly my favorite card in the set. I’ve loved Wheel of Fortune and its kin for almost two decades, so getting a new one is fine by me. With most miracle spells, my initial question is: Would I pay this for full price? And Reforge the Soul is a resounding yes! The miracle cost barely even enters into the equation for me, but it is another absolute yes.

I love these kinds of cards because two players can use them so differently. I love my Shocker deck and this will be perfectly at home as a way to make people draw and die off Underworld Dreams, meanwhile someone else could pair this up with Liliana’s Caress for a completely twisted discard deck.

Riot Ringleader

If you really, really need a second Hamlet Captain that is 50% more expensive and does only half as much, this is your guy.

Rite of Ruin

I’m a twisted person, but this is another card I adore. The fact that this isn’t targeted is kind of annoying – especially when the one creature you want to kill is probably controlled by the player with four creatures in all. But the ability to destroy six permanents per player makes this a very, very interesting “sweeper.”

Rush of Blood

As a combat trick, this could be interesting but I would almost always prefer to just run Brute Force instead. However, if your plan is to actually win by dealing Commander damage, this is a cheap way to augment it.

Scalding Devil

This guy is just going to annoy people while being a complete mana sink for you. If you are able to generate an obscene amount of mana, there are easier ways to kill people. Though if you combine him with Heartstone… he still isn’t great.

Somberwald Vigilante

A 1/1 that can kill a creature with toughness of 2 when being blocked just isn’t good enough. The biggest issue here is the simple fact that it only deals damage when being blocked, not when blocking.


I have big issues with this card from a flavor standpoint. It feels like Wizards is trying to turn Firebreathing into Stonehands.

Thatcher Revolt

I want to call this card the red Waylay, but it really is just the cheaper Feral Lightning. Putting three tokens into a player can be an amazing action, especially in Commander when just the act of having more creatures to sacrifice can be just what a deck needs. Don’t use this to make three 1/1s to attack, use this to make three 1/1s to do terribly mean things with.


A classic reprint (oh god, Weatherlight is classic now…), Thunderbolt is a fine piece of removal who’s value goes up when fliers are taking over. The conditional factors makes this harder to play though, as anyone who has run Thunderbolt will tell you when you sit there getting pounded by a non-flying creature.

Thunderous Wrath

I’m a red mage at heart and this just makes me smile. For years, I used to tell people that my favorite combo in Magic was Mountain and Lightning Bolt. Now, I think it is Mountain and Thunderous Wrath for its Miracle cost. I don’t see this doing much in casual, but dueling with this makes me very, very excited.

Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded

I’ll be honest, I have absolutely no idea how well this is going to work in multiplayer. In my experience, Planeswalkers are a terrible early play so a cheaper ‘walker isn’t a good thing – especially when you can’t protect it. Tibalt’s first ability is interesting since it continues the trend of Red’s looting not being consistent in any way. The second part about Sudden Impact will be a metagame choice, but if your table is anything like mine, too many people hide behind giant hands.

But this card is worth considering for the simple fact that he is a second Insurrection. That alone will singlehandedly win games. I think this card is very good.

Tyrant of Discord

This card probably isn’t good at all but I absolutely love randomness in Magic. If you’re playing Ruhan, you need to play this guy too. Or if you just want to see how much stuff you can destroy at once.

Uncanny Speed


Vexing Devil

Punisher cards are something I find fascinating. Pros regularly denounce them for not being good enough, while casual players think they are awesome. What I love about them in multiplayer is how much of a prisoner’s dilemma they create since each player must go around and openly pass or take the damage in order.

In Commander, I don’t see Vexing Devil getting much traction because 4 life is nothing. But in Casual 60, I kind of want to make some twisted Punisher deck using the whole cycle from Judgment, like Book Burning and Breaking Point just to see who caves first.

Vigilante Justice

An auto-include in your Norin the Wary deck!

Zealous Conscripts

Comparing this to Conquering Manticore seems like the obvious choice, but this card is so much better. The single red casting cost makes this easily splashable for any deck running red to use, while the haste allows it to swing in unsuspectingly. But the real benefit is the fact that this allows you to steal any permanent. Swipe someone’s Planeswalker and eat some counters, or grab an enchantment that is ruining everyone else’s game.

Or you can be boring and steal someone’s only creature and then bludgeon them with it and the Zealous Conscripts.

As a red player, I am very excited about the prospects of this set as a whole. The further expanding of Red’s slice of the color pie is something I am beyond excited about, especially since looting is currently being offered in so many different ways. Thanks to madness and recursion, I can’t wait to try some new shenanigans at the table to see what chaos I can whip up.

Top 5 Red Avacyn Restored Cards for Casual & Commander

5. Dangerous Wager/Mad Prophet
4. Zealous Conscripts
3. Reforge the Soul
2. Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded
1. Bonfire of the Damned

Casual and Commander Review: Avacyn Restored
White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Gold, Artifacts & Lands