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[PSN Review] Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013, Deck Pack 1 |

Wizards of the Coast and Stainless Games have released the first deck pack for Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. This expansion adds just two decks to the roster (bringing the total to seventeen, for those who are counting), but its price tag is a paltry $3 USD. Anticipating the next expansion for paper Magic (Gatecrash, due out February 1, 2013), this electronic pack adds decks that use color pairs that will be featured in Gatecrash: Boros (red and white) and Simic (green and blue). The new decks are fun, if rather expected, and they provide a cheap fix for more Magic on the PlayStation 3.

Act of War (Boros: red/white)
As you might expect from the Boros Legion, this deck focuses on creature-based aggro, and it’s chock full of soldiers. Important keywords include Haste (creatures can attack on the turn that their cast) and Lifelink (damage that the creatures does is added to your life total). The deck is perfectly straightforward, and it more or less “plays fair” – it simply aims to kill with creatures and perhaps with a smattering of burn spells to help remove an opponent’s blockers. I certainly don’t dislike the deck, but the linearity of its game plan turns me off a bit.

Act of War: Sunhome Enforcer

Sky and Scale (Simic: green/blue)
This is a somewhat more synergistic deck, focusing on interactions between creatures of the sea and of the sky, in good Simic Combine tradition. A major problem with this deck, which you can ameliorate as you unlock cards and tinker with your deck build, is that it contains many cheap spells and many expensive spells, with very few midrange cards. Nevertheless, the deck is fun to play, mainly thanks to tricky interactions that make combat math difficult for opponents. Take the Omnibian, for example. You can use him to shrink a large opposing creature or to buff one of your own small guys, so your opponent’s blocks become hard to figure out. The deck also has just a bit of ramp (resource acceleration), but there’s not enough that it makes sense as a subtheme. In other words, do not expect another version of the Kiora Atua deck from Duels 2012, which was in the same colors, and whose game plan involved doing nothing in the early game except building up massive mana resources faster than opponents so that you can then power out enormous threats during the midgame.

Sky and Scale: Lorescale Coatl

One warning about these decks: If you’ve been following Duels 13, you probably know that Wizards gave away ten codes that each unlock an additional card for each of the ten original decks as well as the five decks in the first DLC. These codes are now publicly available and can be used freely by anyone. So while all fifteen of the earlier deck appeared to have thirty unlockable cards, they really had forty additional cards (added to each deck’s core set of sixty cards). My point is simply that these two new decks do not include the extra ten cards, so each deck has just the core sixty cards plus thirty unlockables. This certainly isn’t a deal-breaker for me; I’m just pleased that Wizards gave us the extra ten cards for the original decks and for DLC1. Also bear in mind that thirty unlockables is quite a number. Duels 12 only had sixteen unlockables (increased to twenty if you purchased DLC1).

In sum, these new decks are valuable inasmuch as they present fresh material to work with in Duels 13, and the price is right at $3. However, neither deck is especially interestingly designed. They’re the sort of decks that a Magic neophyte might construct – perfectly serviceable creature-based win conditions, but without many cool spells or interactions.

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This title was purchased by the reviewer.

  • Great review, it’s incredible to see how someone who had no love for Magic has turned out to be such an expert. It’s certainly more interesting to read a well informed opinion on the game. Thank you.

  • Thanks, @pedrolabate! Yeah, I’ve learned a lot over the past year or so of playing Magic. Lord, it’s fun. I’m rather obsessive about the game now. 🙂 I often go to my local game store for small tournaments, where I principally play limited (a.k.a. drafting). I don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on a standard-legal deck, so drafting is a great alternative. It combines the anticipation of opening awesome cards with an entirely different mini-game involving building a deck on the fly. And then I get to play Magic. Fun times. 🙂

  • @premiersoupir interesting, these are new packs of cards you open or do you use your own cards? I didn’t completely understand how it works. Are you building a deck little by little so you can play or that is not appealing to you?

  • @pedrolabate: here’s wizards’ booster draft simulator. each person in the tournament receives three sealed booster packs with 15 cards. 8 people sit at a table. everyone opens his or her first pack, takes a card, and passes the pack. then you take a card from that pack and pass it. once you’ve run through everyone’s first pack, you open the second, and pass it around the table the opposite way. finally, the third packs rotate in the same direction as the first packs. finally you construct a deck, whose minimum size is 40 cards (vs. 60 card minimum in standard). basic lands are provided for free. typically one has about 17 lands in the deck, so of the 45 cards one drafts, one uses about 23 in the deck.

    drafting adds quite a bit of complexity to the game. you have to decide when to move in on the colors that you want, you have to signal your colors to other players by cutting the colors from the packs that you’re passing (i.e. sometimes take suboptimal cards just to stay in your colors so that you don’t confuse the players you’re passing to), and you have to read other people’s signalling to see whether you can stay in your desired colors or whether your colors are being cut off too hard so you have to move into a color that’s being drafted less heavily. also you have to be thinking the whole time about your larger strategy. are you going aggro (weenie? midrange?), ramp into big stompy things, control build with lots of card draw and permission, mill strategy, evasion with lots of fliers and other non-interactive creatures, red deck wins with nothing but burn spells, etc.? then you construct the deck — fast! — paying attention as well to things like the mana curve and color split.

    it’s a lot of fun! and at the end of the night, you walk away with at minimum that 45 cards that you drafted. plus if you make top 8, you win additional packs, store credit at the game store, and so on. at most places it costs $15 or $16 to draft. by comparison, a booster pack retails for $4, so you’re effectively paying just $3 or $4 on top of the retail price for the three packs that you’re opening — so your $3 or $4 buys you the ability to cherry pick the cards you want from two dozen packs that are going around the table, to play tournament magic for six hours or so, and to compete to win still more good stuff.

  • Now I understood ;]

    I think this is kind of worth it and you even get to play for real, which is always an incentive!