GAME REVIEW: MAGIC THE GATHERING: DUEL DECKS ANTHOLOGIES / DESIGNER: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: WIZARDS OF THE COAST / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Magic the Gathering sets that aren’t big blocks of booster packs exist for pretty much one of two reasons; either to reintroduce certain keenly sought after cards into circulation or to provide a useful tool for beginners and casual players. Duel Decks Anthologies is a bit of both; it reintroduces out of print duel decks sets, which in and of themselves make ideal ways of introducing people to the game. Each deck is also filled with an interesting range of useful cards that will appeal to players of any level of experience.
The set comes with 4 Duel Decks; that’s 8 complete and playable sets of cards at 60 cards each, for a total number of 480 cards, plus 2 dice for counting hit points during play, and 35 token cards. The 4 sets are split by theme; Elves vs. Goblin, Divine vs. Demonic, and two planeswalker sets, Jace vs. Chandra and Garruk vs. Liliana.
Assuming that you aren’t simply going to break these decks up (and let’s be honest, they’d make an interesting basis for the Commander format), what we have is a bunch of really choice decks. Elves vs. Goblin has some nice synergies in both decks, more so with the Elves. The Goblins simply come out swinging with lots of little blighters, but if the Elves can survive the onslaught, their Elf Lords have enough cards to do some real damage. The result is a thrilling duel between Green/Red.
The Divine vs. Demonic set is a solidly-themed collection. This White/Black collection contains lots and lots of angels and lots and lots of demons. The demonic set does feature the Ob Nixillis card, which has the Landfall power. This does direct damage very quickly and is a bit frustrating, especially given the low mana cost of the card. One the other hand, the Divine set has Akroma, Angel of Wrath, who can pretty much murder anything on the table by blinking, so it’s all good.
Jace vs. Chandra is an oddity. Jace’s selection is fundamentally a control deck, but one that’s full of gribblies. If you play blue in order to smugly counter your foe, then this isn’t quite for you. Jace himself is a nice card, and once out allows you to dominate the pace of the game. Chandra is all about the fire flinging, and the two decks complement each other very well; a lot of creatures will die during play and they’re so well balanced as cards that winning comes down to pure player skill.
Garruk vs. Liliana is a similar deal; superbly balanced cards that allow player skills to shine. The Garruk set is unusual for a green deck in the sense that it has less creatures than you’d expect, but this allows greater flexibility. Liliana is pretty much a classic black deck, and it has plenty of rats to annoy your opponent, which is pretty cool.
Cost-wise, Magic the Gathering: Duel Decks Anthologies is a little bit of an oddity. Retail cost is approximately correct for a collection of 4 Duel Decks. However, because you are buying 4 Duel Decks in one go, it is pricey and this makes it an unattractive choice for the more casual sort of player. Still, for the cards inside it has decent value, though more likely to appeal to the hardcore player looking to lure in friends to their addiction rather than anything else.
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