As of the 2010 revision to the Magic core rule-set, the game has been getting ever more “dumbed down”. This disturbing trend (which began in Magic 2010 by the abolishment of several of the subtler game mechanics, such as mana burn and in-combat use of the stack, and a decided bias toward supposedly more streamlined and creature-oriented combat) appears to be continuing, and here manifests, ironically, in the form of a pretty decent product – or at least, an outwardly decent one.
These new “event decks” are pre-constructed sealed decks that are ready to be played right out of the box, and are more finely tuned than previous “precon” decks have been – they consist of a 60-card mainboard and 15-card sideboard, as per standard tournament rules for minimum deck size and composition, and are fairly finely focused. The boxes they are sold in are attractive and fairly robust, and a 20-sided die is included in the package. Furthermore, there is sufficient room in the box for the cards to still fit comfortably after being sleeved.
So in light of all the positive comments above, you may be surprised to discover that I am actually quite dismayed by these decks. Is it not enough that the vast majority of tournament players are so lacking in imagination and spirit of adventure that they don’t build their own decks, instead downloading winning “net-deck” card lists? Is it, furthermore, not enough for Wizards to hack out some of the more subtle aspects of the game, thus excessively levelling the playing field? Now they are presenting fully built, ready-to fly decks that are supposed to be used in “events”, i.e. tournaments. To me, this is another nail in the coffin of the skill of deck-building and refining, which is truly the strategic aspect of Magic. Instead, players are being nudged toward an ever-more-uniform starting point, instead of encouraging diversity. What next? Are sanctioned Magic tournaments going to involve every player being issued the same deck, and may the luckiest man win? Have I always felt this way about pre-con decks? No – but then, previously they were not sold as “event decks”, to be played as-is competitively. Overall, full marks for presentation, but “fail!” in terms of fundamental concept.
But what about the Avacyn Restored card-set itself? Here we see some more cheerful news: this card-set appears pretty well balanced, with a good mix of appropriate new cards and reprints of old favourites (cards from the Ravnica block are once again in evidence – a testament to just what an exceptional expansion block that was, way back when.) Also, there are a few new cards that are functionally similar to old ones, but whose secondary mechanic has been modified to reflect the current rule-set. On the down-side, Wizards are still up to their tricks of reprinting old cards under new names without a valid reason to do so (such as the need for some minor but significant change, such as changing a creature’s type), forcing players to buy the new cards instead of being able to use old ones again. Nevertheless, overall the card-set is certainly one of the better ones in some time.