GAME REVIEW: MAGIC: THE GATHERING DUEL DECKS – SPEED VERSUS CUNNING / DESIGNER: RICHARD GARFIELD / PUBLISHER: HASBRO / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 2ND
Part of the appeal of Magic: the Gathering is its flexibility. The original set had a great many possible play styles and these have grown over the game's long history, so much so that experienced players can be forgiven for sticking to a limited range. The new Duel Decks: Speed Versus Cunning set is clearly designed to be a fun way to encourage players to work past their comfort zone and into new play styles. It’s also a fast and furious introduction to the game for new players.
The set includes two decks of cards, one for speed, the other for cunning. The speed deck is a red/black/white deck that mostly focuses on pumping out lots of low level monsters that will whittle down your opponent – lots of goblins, some explosions and not much in the way of defence. It also features a big bad boss guy in the form of Zurgo Helmsmasher, who is hard to get rid of once in play. The cunning deck also lives up to its name. It is a blue/red/white deck that is all about frustrating your opponent and whittling away at their defences. Though you have less ‘punch’ than with the speed deck, you’re also much more flexible. The result is a fast-paced game that is easy for both new and experienced gamers to get into.
Because these are well-balanced, pre-built decks it means that games played with them come down to a combination of skill and luck, rather than careful deck-building and a large investment. The set also comes with two nifty card boxes that are the size and shape of classic playing card boxes, but with better art. This means you can slip both boxes into your jacket pocket and pull them out when needed. As the decks are designed to be played against each other (provided you can find another person to play against) both players are going to have fun and feel like they can win throughout the game. The fact that Speed Versus Cunning is a highly portable set of cards encourages social play, and it is quick enough that it can be used as a pleasing distraction on a long journey or a nice start to an evening’s worth of gaming.