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[Review] Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, Deck Packs 1 – 3

Wizards of the Coast and Stainless Games have released one expansion set for Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012. (We reviewed the game and its expansion.) Since that time, they have released three sets of two additional decks (six decks total), bringing the entire list of decks to a rather impressive nineteen. I was disappointed that Wizards did not advertise these most recent additions. I’m here to bring them to your attention and to give you my take on what’s worth buying and what isn’t, as each of the three deck pack DLC is going for 3 USD on PSN.

Deck Pack 1 includes the decks March to War and Ghoulkeeper. March to War is a white/red deck with soldiers and a moderate life-gain sub-theme. The deck’s tribal synergy isn’t terribly apparent, but this is probably necessary for deck balancing purposes, as a better-made soldier deck might well stomp all over the other Duels decks. Also, despite the deck’s red mana base, it is curiously lacking in damage spells. Nevertheless, this is a fun deck to play, and it is quite strong after proper sideboarding.

The second deck, Ghoulkeeper, is a third mono-black deck (how many black decks do we need?) with a zombie tribal theme. This deck is slow to get started; for the first few rounds you may have to take some hits. Once you get going, though, you’ll be cranking out the undead like a fiend and supporting weak zombies with lord creatures that give tribal buffs to zombies. And you’ll be resurrecting zombies from the graveyard like mad. This is another powerful deck; it just takes some methodical planning to make a game’s tempo swing in your favor. All in all, Deck Pack 1 is a great buy with two strong decks.

Deck Pack 2 features Forest’s Fury and Dark Heavens. Forest’s Fury is, amusingly enough, a mono-green tree tribal deck. Yes, practically all of your creatures are trees (like Ents in the Tolkien universe). I find this deck to be a lot of fun, but it’s not a very competitive deck. You have no fliers and very little flying control, few ways to remove enemy creatures, and a host of expensive, big trees. Still, the trees play well together, buffing each other in interesting ways.

Dark Heavens is a white/black deck with a sort of angel & demon theme. It’s an odd deck, but it features lots of evasion (mainly with fliers), interesting defenders that don’t totally suck (defensive “wall” creatures typically aren’t worth playing), some removal, and a healthy smattering of lifegain. This is my favorite deck of the six new decks. It’s a bit tricky to play, but you can set up interesting combos and synergies, and whenever I pilot the deck, the game always feels fresh and new. All in all, though, I’d rate Deck Pack 2 as less effective than Deck Pack 1. If you’re mainly interested in buying winning decks, you might give this one a miss. (Though you’ll be missing out on one deck that’s quite fun and competitive.)

Deck Pack 3 contains Beknighted and Trinity of the Elements. Beknighted is a deck that many are complaining about on the official forum as it is considered by some to be too powerful. Well, it is powerful. It’s a mono-white knight deck with remarkably strong tribal synergy (at least when compared to the other tribal decks in Duels 12, like the elves, vampires, and soldiers). However, the deck isn’t unbeatable, for its weaknesses include lack of removal and evasion (or ways of dealing with enemy fliers). Many consider this to be the strongest deck in the game now, so you might want to buy this pack for that reason alone, but the pack is only a couple weeks old, and I’m confident that people will become accustomed to playing against it soon enough.

By contrast, Trinity of the Elements is, in my opinion, the weakest deck in the game. It’s only the second tri-color deck in Duels 12: red/green/blue. It has a lot of mana ramp, but the deck is severely lacking in expensive cards to ramp up to. The deck features a lot of cute combat tricks and bounce, and it likes haste creatures and sac creatures, much like the Ral Zarek DLC1 blue/red deck. I find it painful to play with this deck. Unlocking the cards is a real chore, and the three-color mana base is a terrible risk without access to reliable mana fixing. (Here’s a quick hint for anyone struggling with this task: Play against Kiora Atua’s Ancient Depths, blue/green ramp deck. Both of you will spend the first several turns ramping, and then you hope to get some threats on the board before she does. Most other decks will run you over before you have a chance to compete.) At any rate, you might buy Deck Pack 3 for what could be the most powerful deck in the game, but I, for one, find Beknighted to be too straight-forward a deck… easy mode! And Trinity is a terrible deck. Depending on your priorities, I’d be inclined to give this deck pack a pass.

I’m happy to see Wizards of the Coast continuing to support the game with fresh, new material. If you love the game, buy all the decks. If you want to pick just one deck, though, the decision is tough. I’d rank Deck Pack 2 top of the list in fun factor, Deck Pack 1 for most powerful overall, and Deck Pack 3 for most powerful single deck.

[review pros=”Six new decks!
Some of the most powerful decks yet” cons=”Price point is a bit steep for all six
Some weak decks
The most powerful deck may be too unbalancing” score=70]

This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, Deck Packs 1, 2, and 3 provided by Stainless Games.