The Problems with Wakening Sun’s Avatar

Wakening Sun's Avatar
A legend lies.

A legend lies on the table before you.

A legend — not a Legend like you can’t have two copies of it or whatever — but a legend like they are going to tell stories about it, or they are supposed to tell stories about it, or we are supposed to put it somewhere where stories will get written about it, or . . .  YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

A legend lies on the table before you.

But it’s a weird legend.

It’s already extinct.

I can only assume that (in-story, at least) Star of Extinction ushered in an age-of-someone-else-but-Dinosaurs. But somehow, this legend’s story hasn’t even begun yet.

The problem is Wakening Sun’s Avatar is basically that Margot Robbie librarian sketch from Saturday Night Live. Do you remember what you thought watching it?

  1. It’s Margot Robbie in a librarian outfit!
  2. Oh yeah!
  3. Oh no :(
  4. Oh yeah! Boom :(

Ya grok?

To wit:

  1. Huge guy that Wraths! Sign me up!
  2. Wait a second . . .  One-sided Wrath? Like I get to keep it, and ostensibly keep its teammates? How fast can you sign me up?
  3. I dunno about this {W}{W}{W} in the upper-right; even Naya is going to have a problem with that. Also eight is kind of a lot. Eight is Enough — more than enough — if ya grok. And I can’t reanimate it for value? This is . . .  This is . . . 
  4. This is a legend is what this is. That {5}{W}{W}{W} isn’t prohibitive. It’s an intelligence test.

I read Wakening Sun’s Avatar.

I dismissed Wakening Sun’s Avatar.

I couldn’t get Wakening Sun’s Avatar out of my head.

I stared and stared at Wakening Sun’s Avatar.

And then I remembered Spell Pierce.

The Problem with Fumigate Approach of the Second Sun Spell Pierce

Spell Pierce
Sure, Sultai — that is, Sultai Energy — was the early winner1 for Ixalan Standard.

Even before Sultai, Temur (or 4-color) Energy was going to be a predictable performer. The problem all around, for beloved Approach of the Second Sun, was going to be Spell Pierce.

Spell Pierce is the bee’s knees!

And by “bee’s knees” I mean “absolute hell for a {W}{U} Control deck”.

It’s such a good tempo play, when you under-pay for a threat and can snag their sweeper.

I’ve historically found {W}{U} Approach of the Second Sun to be at an advantage against Temur Energy, but with the simultaneous addition of Spell Pierce and rotation of Descend Upon the Sinful, the matchup changed, especially in sideboarded games. You needed your Fumigates to resolve at a time of fewer Fumigates and more ways for the opponent to stop your Fumigates.

Basically, Approach’s goal is to kill all the creatures. It will eventually win if it kills all the creatures. Energy’s goal is to just not get all its creatures killed. It can (and probably will) win given the strength of even a single creature threat. I mean, how dangerous is a single late-game Longtusk Cub? That’s like their worst guy!

This brought me back to Wakening Sun’s Avatar.

Wakening Sun’s Avatar looks to be a dissatisfying card, on its face. It’s quite obviously supposed to be — or become — a legend. I mean check out the color of its set symbol. Orange. It’s all flash. It has an uber-flashy ability . . .  And its huge. Huge! This bloated White Dinosaur could be president!

But none of that is the thing. It’s got all that text. Why the weasel text? Why specifically non-Dinosaurs if it’s not meant to be played? And not only played, but played in a specific context?

Why the weasel “cast from hand” language? That not only messes with its potential efficacy as a reanimator target, but blanks it from other cheatyface Magic; wouldn’t it have been cool as an Aetherworks Marvel tool, in another universe? Maybe the universe they actually Developed it for?

End of the day: The card is too good. Or some version was. Or should be. Or should have been. It was built to be not just good, but too good. And you can tell by all that text. It just isn’t easy.

The trick is where to put it.

And I didn’t think “Dinosaurs” was the answer.

But who in the heck can actually summon eight mana, three of it (at least) being White? Who would want to?

Oh wait . . . 

The Their Problem Problems with Wakening Sun’s Avatar

Approach of the Second Sun
So here’s the cool thing about Wakening Sun’s Avatar in Approach of the Second Sun . . . 

Both of these cards are enormously expensive and White and have this weirdo clause that they have to be cast from your hand. It’s not so much a “1 + 1 = 3” synergy thing as an “If my deck can do this, it kinda sorta has to be able to do this, too” synergy. The special thing about a Standard deck that can cast Approach of the Second Sun is not only does it have to be able to hard-cast it [from hand], it assumes the necessity of sticking around long enough to do that a second time. Meaning, it has to live through the next x turns, with at least seven mana, probably while building more mana, during a stretch of the game where the opponent probably also has a ton of resources.

These two cards were kinda sorta built for each other.

It’s not that the “non-Dinosaur” clause on Wakening Sun’s Avatar is a lark, or a hint at a deck-build . . .  I actually found it to be a hint at a different kind of deck-build.

So let’s start easy: You have a deck that can hard-cast a White seven, but has to live long enough (as many as seven additional turns, mind you) to hard-cast that White seven again. From hand.

The ability to cast a White eight, again from hand, is no kind of stretch.

The fact that Fumigate-redundancy Descend Upon the Sinful just rotated is a nudge . . .  But it’s everything else that makes Wakening Sun’s Avatar such a perfect pairing.

  1. They can’t interact with it at all. Really. I mean AT ALL. Asterisk (err . . .  double-asterisk) that2 but mostly at all. Why? The sideboard cards we were planning for (Temur) are Spell Pierce and Negate. You can’t Spell Pierce or Negate a creature. The Sultai build goes light but not zero on Spell Pierce and Negate . . .  But brings in Duress on top! Ditto on Duress; can’t Duress a Dinosaur. They can barely block it! Not only is it huge, but it’s baseline functionality is to kill all their potential blockers.
  2. At least at present (and who knows about Winning the Sideboard War [http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=sideboard/strategy/20021015a] at this point), decks with “bigger” removal than Fatal Push will probably side all that spit out against Approach. This card is functionally, contextually, inviolate. But what do you expect from a g-d eight?
  3. It’s hyper-synergistic with other sideboard cards. More on that in just a sec. I have literally never sided in Regal Caracal except v. strictly Ramunap Red or Mardu Vehicles at this point. But I’ve sided in all four copies of Authority of the Consuls + Wakening Sun’s Avatar + Treasure Map [see, I told you] DI times. Forcing their cards to come into play tapped — while gaining life — literally allows you to shift into Aggro-Control. This gives it a very different, and compelling, dimension. It also promotes poor play from unprepared opponents. Example: Against decks with flash creatures or other instant speed token makers, Authority of the Consuls forces the opponent’s hand on his own turn, and forces through seven damage when he misplays.
  4. The non-Dinosaur clause is actually awesome in a creature-poor control deck! The danger in putting many of your eggs in one basket is that you don’t want to gain an advantage, let the opponent rebuild for a turn or three, only to be forced to Fumigate away the aforementioned advantage. Instead, a second Wakening Sun’s Avatar can force through seven — and threaten fourteen — while “Fumigating” only the other guy! Only!
  5. It is unreal good against their sideboard cards, especially specialized ones. I am looking at you, Lost Legacy players! A pure 4x Approach of the Second Sun plan is quite vulnerable on the draw against Black, sideboarded. You might be behind even if you side in all your Negates (however many that is). But throw in a Torrential Gearhulk or so? Wakening Sun’s Avatar becomes an serviceable Plan A when it has to.

The [other] Problem with Wakening Sun’s Avatar

Treasure Map
So what’s the “problem” this time?

The deck is expensive enough with fives and sevens. I wanted to increase my land count (or at least draw consistency) when bringing in a ton of extra casting cost. Further, I think Treasure Map is awesome in some non-Wakening Sun’s Avatar matchups, e.g. the mirror.

Embarrassing Admission: I have had my Treasure Map taken hostage. That sucked. Still won, but it sucked.

Aside: Evaluating Treasure Map

Compare Treasure Map to Jace’s Ingenuity.

Both kind of cost five. Both kind of draw three cards. But Treasure Map can not only be paid for over time, it actually improves your draw consistency well before you get to five. Not only that, it has the additional option of becoming a Black Lotus.

Treasure Map can be a poor card in any matchup where you would rather have Hieroglyphic Illumination than Glimmer of Genius if ya grok; but it is outstanding in matchups that are about jockeying for non-time-dependent resources.

The Problem with This Article

 . . .  Is that I buried the deck list at the bottom. Thanks for getting here!


Settle the Wreckage
I started working on this deck before the Settle the Wreckage versions got any press; I’ll refrain from commenting on Settle the Wreckage in particular at this point, only to say this is a different way to approach Approach, but a strategically sound one with very different advantages in sideboarded games.

My build might look weirdly heavy on Search for Azcanta, but I really like drawing that card by turn two. Aether Meltdown seems to be enjoying a resurgence in popularity now that the non-bo with Blessed Alliance has passed . . .  But it just has a non-bo with Settle the Wreckage instead. I am not sure Renewed Faith is better . . .  But it’s more synergistic with what I want to do.

What I want to do is 1) draw land, 2) put cards in my graveyard for Search for Azcanta, and 3) dig to my sweepers. If you are putting pressure on your sweepers to perform, digging to them while drawing a card (and blunting damage by gaining life) is not so different from playing a point removal spell. I think you can agree the card is miles better against, say, the mirror.

I’m not sure where {W}{U} Approach of the Second Sun is going to stabilize for Ixalan Standard, but I know I’ve enjoyed a ton of success with this build so far, and have been really pleased with the performance of every single Ixalan card in the seventy-five so far.

Rawr.

LOVE
MIKE


1 At the time of this writing the World Championships haven’t been played yet, so I don’t know what the Week Two winner is, yet. Forgive me. It doesn’t really affect the argument or the story.

2 Funny story you might have heard on the Top Level Podcast. I have Wakening Sun’s Avatar. Opponent plays Hostage Taker, taking my Wakening Sun’s Avatar. Boo-urns. Game is hella long so he can play Wakening Sun’s Avatar due to Hostage Taker’s color-fixing text; because it is not from hand, this does not kill his Hostage Taker. I play my next Wakening Sun’s Avatar, which does not kill my other — now his — Wakening Sun’s Avatar. Crazy, right?


Ixalan is available now! Get singles and sealed for the latest set!

Search for Azcanta, but I really like drawing that card by turn two. Aether Meltdown seems to be enjoying a resurgence in popularity now that the non-bo with Blessed Alliance has passed . . .  But it just has a non-bo with Settle the Wreckage instead. I am not sure Renewed Faith is better . . .  But it’s more synergistic with what I want to do.

What I want to do is 1) draw land, 2) put cards in my graveyard for Search for Azcanta, and 3) dig to my sweepers. If you are putting pressure on your sweepers to perform, digging to them while drawing a card (and blunting damage by gaining life) is not so different from playing a point removal spell. I think you can agree the card is miles better against, say, the mirror.

I’m not sure where {W}{U} Approach of the Second Sun is going to stabilize for Ixalan Standard, but I know I’ve enjoyed a ton of success with this build so far, and have been really pleased with the performance of every single Ixalan card in the seventy-five so far.

Rawr.

LOVE
MIKE


1 At the time of this writing the World Championships haven’t been played yet, so I don’t know what the Week Two winner is, yet. Forgive me. It doesn’t really affect the argument or the story.

2 Funny story you might have heard on the Top Level Podcast. I have Wakening Sun’s Avatar. Opponent plays Hostage Taker, taking my Wakening Sun’s Avatar. Boo-urns. Game is hella long so he can play Wakening Sun’s Avatar due to Hostage Taker’s color-fixing text; because it is not from hand, this does not kill his Hostage Taker. I play my next Wakening Sun’s Avatar, which does not kill my other — now his — Wakening Sun’s Avatar. Crazy, right?


Ixalan is available now! Get singles and sealed for the latest set!

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