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[PSN Review] Duels of the Planeswalkers: DLC 1

Wizards of the Coast released the first DLC expansion for their popular PSN title Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 on September 18, 2012. The expansion features five new two-colored decks, increasing the total number of decks available from ten to fifteen. So is the DLC worth your $5 USD? Let’s find out!

The first thing to notice is that all five of the decks use two colors of mana. This means that the decks are potentially more powerful than mono-colored decks by virtue of being able to employ the strategies associated with different colors. Green mana is traditionally associated with big, stompy creatures and mana acceleration. Black is associated with things like kill spells and opponent card discard. So a deck that uses both of these colors can have the best of both worlds.

On the other hand, the more colors that one adds to one’s deck, the less reliable the mana base. You could well end up with a bunch of Forests in hand, which allow you to cast green spells, but your hand contains nothing but black spells – which would then uncastable! Nevertheless, recall from our review of Duels 13 that the latest iteration of the game allows for manual tapping of lands (finally!), which makes it somewhat easier to play multi-colored decks than it was in Duels 12. But the new decks are certainly designed for more advanced players, and Magic neophytes may be frustrated by the additional micromanagement required of these multi-colored decks.

So what are the new decks like? I’m glad you asked!

Aura Servants: Kor Spiritdancer

Aura Servants (Azorius: Blue/White)
This deck relies on aura enchantments to buff small creatures. The traditional problem with auras is that they open you up to two-for ones when an opponent kills an enchanted creature (thus you lose two cards, as both the creature and its enchantment go into your graveyard). This deck tries to mitigate this problem by giving you access to creatures like Invisible Stalker that cannot be targeted by enemy kill spells. Nevertheless, this deck seems like the least reliable of the five new decks.

Sepulchral Strength: Vulturous Zombie

Sepulchral Strength (Golgari: Black/Green)
This is a fun deck that cares about your graveyard. You have many ways to kill enemy creatures and to sacrifice your own creatures for value, which helps to make creatures such as Mortivore better. The decks also features a bit of mana ramping in the form of some of my favorite utility creatures in Magic: Yavimaya Elder and Oracle of Mul Daya.

Mindstorms: Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind

Mindstorms (Izzet: Blue/Red)
This color combination should allow for some degenerate shenanigans, and the deck can do some cute things, but it feels rather underpowered. It has just a bit of countermagic thanks to blue (although it should really have much more, I feel), some smattering of direct damage (burn) spells thanks to red, and some card advantage from blue. The whole isn’t as synergistic as other decks, its creatures are rather frail, and it doesn’t have enough burn to reliably win on the back of such spells. But maybe I just haven’t found an ideal build for the deck yet!

Grinning Malice: Rakdos the Defiler

Grinning Malice (Rakdos: Black/Red)
This deck features a lot of removal, unsurprisingly, as black provides spot removal (kill spells) and red provides direct damage (burn). It also has a lot of efficient creatures that can attack as soon as they hit the battlefield. Creatures such as the Demigod of Revenge are a nasty surprise for opponents, and the Sootstoke Kindler enables your other threats to attack immediately as well. This is an evil deck that’s great at clearing the enemy’s board and pushing damage through quickly.

Collective Might: Tolsimir Wolfblood

Collective Might (Selesnya: Green/White)
This deck relies on amassing huge numbers of creature “tokens,” creatures that aren’t actually cards in your hand that you put on the battlefield, but are “virtual” creatures that are created through other spells, such as Midnight Haunting. If it sounds confusing, well, everything should become more clear as you play the deck. So the deck tries to make lots of small creatures that can overwhelm the enemy’s defenses. This is made easier with the help of Overrun effects. The deck can be quite competitive, but it is particularly vulnerable to board sweepers (spells like Wrath of God that kill all creatures).

All in all, if you enjoy Duels 13, then this expansion is well worth $5. It’s a shame that the expansion doesn’t include new game modes or additional cards to unlock for the core decks, as the first expansion for Duels 12 added. But five decks, each with thirty cards to unlock, is a great deal of new content. And the decks are a lot of fun to play with, showcasing a number of different deck building strategies, which you might consider employing in building your own decks in paper Magic.

[review pros=”Five great new decks
150 cards to unlock” cons=”No new game modes
No new unlockables for old decks” score=85]