Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 Expansion Review

Author: Sean Ridgeley
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Friday, September 28th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/magic_duels_2013_expansion/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

The newest iteration of Wizards' card game adapation Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 launched this past summer to what's seemed like great success. One of the few downsides to the game, however, is that barring one exception, all decks have been mono coloured, which tends to get kind of, well, boring.

It's been met with much excitement then that a nameless expansion has been released, starring five new decks, all of which are dual coloured. Even better, they're based on the guilds found in the original paper Ravnica set, so you'll find strong synergies and flavour in each. This is no coincidence, of course: a new paper Magic set dubbed Return to Ravnica (exactly what it says) is hitting shelves October 5 (and this weekend if you include the pre-release events). Unfortunately, though, no new cards are featured here.

The decks

Included is the Blue/Red Izzet guild deck ("Mindstorms"), Black/Green Golgari guild ("Sepulchral Strength"), Green/White Selesnya guild ("Collective Might"), Black/Red Rakdos guild ("Grinning Malice"), and finally, the Blue/White Azorious guild ("Aura Servants"). There are five other guilds, too, but it can be assumed those won't see the light of day until around the time the paper set Gatecrash launches (February).

"Mindstorms" is a spell and combo lover's dream come true: much like straight burn decks, if a card in this deck isn't a spell, it's probably a card that combos with one (like the awesome finisher Spellbound Dragon or the seemingly innocent Gelectrode). Many have been underestimating this one, but in skilled hands and with a bit of luck, it can kill your opponent or come close in a single turn 5-10 part combo; it proves very satisfying if you know how to make the best of synergy and many possibilities.

The Golgari deck, meanwhile, is meant for who enjoy splicing their love of death and sacrifice with their combo skills. With this one, killing your own creatures is actually a good thing, because in the process you provide yourself all kinds of benefits like new creatures, bigger creatures, more land, and/or lifegain, to name a few options. The ever helpful Blood Artist and the brutal Pernicious Deed are some of the stars on offer.

The Selesnya deck is my personal favourite. Like Izzet, it at first seems relatively ineffective compared to the other guys, but with careful editing and understanding of maximum effectiveness, you can blow out games regularly with turn 5 30 damage wins (hint: combine Hero of Bladehold with Parallel Lives and Beastmaster Ascension). If you love the idea of swarming the board with token creatures and big beaters, "Collective Might" is great fun.

"Grinning Malice" is for aggressive, sadistic players who like regularly slamming down creature threats that say "Answer THIS!" Coupled with heaps of discard and creature removal, it's quite possibly the best deck in all of Duels 2013, though certainly not crazy overpowered like "Beknighted" was in Duels 2012. All stars include my archnemesis Demigod of Revenge, Blightning, and Blazing Specter. As with the other offerings, "Malice" satisfies for anyone that loves this playstyle.

Lastly there's "Aura Servants", which takes the Aura theme from a previous Duels deck but goes Blue/White instead of Green/White (if memory serves), and cranks the evasion up real high. Surpsingly, while very effective, "Servants" is not unbeatable if your deck is on a steady track, but if left unchecked or if the feared "godhand" shows up, it gets real scary real fast as enchantments play off each other the more there are in play. This is my least favourite of the pack, but it does what it does well, so if you're into slapping down enchantment buffs one after the other and calling it a day, you should enjoy this one. Highlights include Sigil of the Empty Throne, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV and Daybreak Coronet.

If you're curious on the full deck lists, head here. Also be sure to hit up the forums for an extra 10 cards per deck.

Balance

The only real standout issue here is a single card: Demigod of Revenge. For starters, it's a 5/4 flier with hasta for 5 hybrid mana (meaning you can play black or red and not worry about colour screw). Right there it's way ahead of the curve and well on its way to finishing many games, but on top of that, even if you get rid of one, with a potential four in the deck they're probably just going to play another next turn, triggering its ability and putting two of these arseholes on the field, ready to beat your face in. Basically, it's a pain in the ass to deal with for any deck that's not very heavy on removal, and is the main reason the Rakdos deck is quite a bit better than the others. Still, it's not unbeatable: if you can get ahead far enough before turn 5, even two Demigods might not be enough to sway you. This is certainly possible, too, as each deck has its own more or less bonkers cards (just not usually that bonkers and usually not four of them).

The bigger concern is how the decks stack up against the mono coloured ones. Unsurprisingly, it's not too well. While the vanilla decks are fairly strong in their own right, they often just can't stand up to the combined strength and synergy of the two-colour guild decks, at least not with the old strategies. Limited as Duels might be, there is definitely a metagame evolving, here, so if you love your old monogreen beater deck, for example, it's time to give it another look with mean sh*t like Invisible Stalker running about.

Final thoughts

The new decks are varied and exciting, such that any player should be able to find at least one he loves, and likely two or more. More campaign levels, avatars, and challenges are offered, too, for those into them, and sweeten the already sweet $5 deal. In short, if you loved Duels 2013, its expansion is a no brainer. Multiplayer connectivity is still sometimes an issue (though less so as of a recent patch), and various other smaller issues persist, preventing it from reaching true greatness, but it's not far off at all.

»Neoseeker.com

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