Planeswalking – Duel Decking Across the Universe

Magic goes beyond your standard booster pack. Duel decks are one of the products that seek to build on recent sets and lore, creating decks that depict a rivalry between two warring factions or Planeswalkers in the Multiverse. Generally these are released in March and September, but this is not a hard and fast rule.

To give those who have not heard of a Duel Deck before a little history these were first released in 2007 with the Elves v Goblins duel decks and then followed by Jace v Chandra. They were very well received across the Magic community and recent highlights have included Sorin v Tibalt and Knights v Dragons. The next addition to the fraternity will be political rivalry of Jace v Vraska, hitting shelves on 14 March 2014.

To unite the guilds or not to unite the guilds… well I guess we’ll see?

This month I was tasked with reviewing the previous Duel Deck: Heroes v Monsters. Starring Polukranos, the World Eater & Sun Titan, it promised to be one of the more exciting battles seen in duel deck history.

I was particularly looking forward to seeing Polukranos, the World Eater in action as he appeared to be a powerful addition to Green & Red Devotion decks. The Monstrous mechanic also proved interesting. Would I be able to be show my girlfriend my monstrous side or would she triumph with her band of heroes – the low cost army of white and red folks marshalled by a Sun Titan?

The Sun Titan regretted only bringing two swords…

The Heroes deck took heavy defeats. Mana production on both sides was fairly even and caused little problems for both decks however, for a deck that promised to be low cost and fairly aggressive, very few draws for the Heroes were useful. The Heroes side relied on many reactive spells aiming to counteract the movements of the Monsters, often leaving unused mana and a waste of resources. The Monsters however were able to use mana more effectively, relying on costly but powerful creatures rather than combat tricks. The one exception to the rule was Heros secret weapon;Figure of Destiny, whose ability to make itself more powerful proved deadly against a deck with no answers against activated abilities.

After battling for a about 90 minutes, it was clear that the Monster deck was superior by a wide margin. Both my girlfriend and I won each of our four games against the Heroes deck, showing that one should never hate the player one should merely hate the game.

It seemed that whilst the product itself was enticing for the alternative art foil rares and reprinting of cards such as Figure of Density and Kamahl, Pit Fighter, the decks were not evenly matched. The Heroes deserved a little bit of love. I tried to ensure that the deck remained as “out of the box” as possible, but after many hours of testing, I could not manage that goal. I’m sorry to say I had to change so much of deck to compete with the rampaging monsters deck.

Out went the higher cost cards, aside from Sun Titan and the aforementioned Kamahl. The best way to fight these Monsters was to bring smaller, more powerful cards and really put the pressure on the Monsters deck before it could really get going. Cards like Akroan Crusader, Arena Athlete, Phalanx Leader, and Fabled Hero all put pressure on the opponent from the off and with the addition of the double targeting spells, Dauntless Onslaught & Co-Ordinated Assault the deck really shone. This changed the strategy of the deck, with aggression being the key. Any hand kept on the inital draw needed to have a turn one play which could be developed into a turn 2 combat spell or another small but hasty creature. The aim was to take down as much of the Monster decks health before it had a chance to pull out the powerful many headed creatures it had at its disposal. In chipping away quickly it forced the Monsters deck into a defensive, keeping back creatures it may have attacked with as blockers, perhaps using Troll Ascetic more for it’s 2 health rather than 3 power or sacrificing Orcish Lumberjack as a way of stopping Akroan Crusader generating tokens rather than for its more powerful mana ability.

As for the Monster deck, it was very powerful and had all the elements that you would want from a ramp style deck. Early acceleration combined with powerful end game threats means that if you don’t get that major risk of ‘do I keep this opening hand?’. Debatably, having as well as having the cards for consistently good games, with cards such as Deus of CalamityConquering Manticore and Crater Hellion which all cause feild wide effects when they either come into the battle field or attack, the Monsters deck is just more fun to play. The level of power this deck can generate if left unchecked allows for theatre and a case of the opponent saying ‘I’m sorry, you do what?’. The proof merely lay in the amount of times this deck could win regardless of who played it.

With all the changes made, the Heros were able to stand their ground and cause the Monsters much more damage than they were able to do before. Out of six games, there was a 50/50 split in victories and the game felt fairer. The Heroes had more options avalible with more aggressive cards and the Monsters had to consider the risk of attacking or defending which they could have ignored with the Heroes deck out of the box.

Overall, these decks are not even but with work put in it proves for an interesting match. The Monsters deck in particular is worth the money, playing consistently good Magic and having enough dynamite to allow for an interesting match regardless of whether or not it wins. My work here is done.






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