Dueling with Duel Decks: Anthologies

Posted in Feature on November 24, 2014

By Blake Rasmussen

Blake is the content manager for DailyMTG.com, making him the one you should email if you have thoughts on the website, good or less good (or not good). He's a longtime coverage reporter and hasn't turned down a game of Magic in any format ever.

I have a confession to make: I like to take things apart.

Commander decks. Clash Packs. Duel Decks. I strip them for parts and use my favorite cards in what has become an ever-expanding collection of Commander decks. For example, I was pretty sad to leave the most recent Clash Packs stripped and bare, but, the beauty of that Prophet of Kruphix was not to be denied, and neither were any of my three green-blue-based Commander decks.

But I think I've found one product I'll never tear apart.

Duel Decks: Anthologies doesn't release until December 5, but one of the many perks of working here is getting to try out these products ahead of time, and I've been having a blast battling across the four Duel Decks present in this fantastically cool package.

But I shouldn't have all the fun. I can't give you a copy of the game (would that I could), but I can let you peek in on some of the sweet games I had battling against a few people you just might recognize.

The rules were simple. We played two games regardless of who won however many. No one got to pick the deck they wanted (otherwise you'd just read about me playing the Jace deck six times). Instead, we rolled to randomly assign decks. The only caveat was that two decks from the same package couldn't battle. So no Goblins versus Elves. We wanted to see Goblins versus Chandra, or Elves versus Liliana. We wanted to battle across eras.

First up was Sean, who you might know as the mind behind @Wizards_Magic. Sean rolled up the Demonic deck while I was blessed with Elves.

Sean, always ready to play out his cards, started with a sinister-sounding Dark Ritual into...Dusk Imps? It wasn't quite Dark Ritual into Hippie, but Sean wanted to put me under some fast pressure.

Unfortunately for him, Wellwisher and Llanowar Elves showed up right away to help stem any early bleeding, followed by, well...

Oh, and then...

Between Ambush Commander and Elvish Promenade, I was gaining upwards of 18 life per turn with my Wellwisher, while also attacking for quite a bit.

And what was Sean doing this whole time? Surely he wasn't resting on his laurels. Surely he had some seriously scary action coming from the Demonic deck, right?

Or, maybe he had more Imps.

"Mistakes were made," Sean mused, staring at a rather large Kuro, Pitlord in hand that he was, coincidentally, about one Dark Ritual short of casting.

Unable to put a dent in my 80-some-odd life and unable to wipe my board, Sean and his Imps quickly succumbed to my Elvish horde.

Fortunately for Sean, the Divine deck didn't hold any grudges for him piloting the Demonic deck, and another roll handed him the white Angels deck to battle against the Garruk deck. It was Beasts versus Angels.

Unfortunately for the Angels, they stumbled slightly out of the gate. The Angels were forced to start protecting their holy sanctum from an unruly Albino Troll first with a Healing Salve and then with an Otherworldly Journey—and while it saved him some life and virtually time-walked me with the echo cost, it would have repercussions down the line.

You see, Albino Troll picked up an Elephant Guide as well, to help it along the way. Guided by its pachyderm pal, the Troll dropped Sean all the way to...14. And then...

"Ahh, the Plains I was looking for."

I assumed Sean, who appeared to be a bit flooded, was joking. But he wasn't. That Plains was his eighth, and soon his very lonely Serra Angel had a fun friend.

Suddenly, I was down to just 6 life with a board that, from my perspective, looked like this:

I had no choice. I had to attack. But few things I had could attack well. So I attacked with just my 7/7 Albino Troll. I had a plan, but it required a specific choice from Sean to work...

"No blocks."

"No blocks?"

"No blocks."

"No blocks!"

Two pump spells later and my Albino Troll, the one who took an Otherworldly Journey and had an Elephant Guide, vigorously grew to 14/14—exactly enough to take down Sean.

It was also enough to attract the attention of one of our other community managers, Alison of @MagicOnline fame. She saw what a blast we were having and immediately wanted in.

Rolling first, Alison snapped up the Garruk deck, running back the Beasts I had just downed Sean with. My reward? Jace.

Mulldrifter. Repulse. Fact or Fiction. Man-o'-War. Basically, they designed a deck specifically for me, and I cackled readily as we shuffled up.

And the way the game went, cackling was definitely in order. I mean, look at this opening hand.

How could I lose?!

So the game proceeded accordingly. Repulse hit an Albino Troll while Condescend took care of a Blastoderm. Turn after turn I passed, simply drawing a card and saying go.

"Man, what are you doing over there?" Alison mused at one point.

"Being a blue deck," I responded, flipping an end-of-turn Fact or Fiction (you lose) on to the table.

I built my board and built it carefully. A Spire Golem here, a morph there, until.

"Plated Slagwurm."

That would be trouble. That would be very difficult to deal with. That would be, oh, what's this morph over here?

Right. That.

"That was rude," Alison laughed. And, certainly, she had reason to feel that way since, by this time, my board looked like this:

Yes, I won that one. Jace forever!

Unfortunately, our second game wasn't nearly so epic or interesting. Alison ended up with Demonic while I got Liliana.

"Things are about to get spooky!" Alison said while shuffling up, but, unfortunately, the only scary thing that happened was her inability to draw a third land. By the time she did, a horde of Rats, Ghost-Lit Stalkers, and other random creatures already had her number.

But we were having such fun mixing and matching decks that we caught the attention of one Gavin Verhey, Magic designer and author of ReConstructed here on DailyMTG. Gavin also happened to be one of the better players in the building, ensuring I would be facing a tough challenge.

For the first of our two bouts, I pulled Chandra, while Gavin gave it a go with Liliana. Interestingly enough, both of us started out with a slew of pumpers. Flamekin Brawler and Furnace Whelp on my side, and two very frightening Vampire Bats for Gavin. So frightening, they inspired Gavin to, well, to do this:

But, as it turned out, Chandra was even more hostile than a pair of Vampire Bats (and Gavin) thanks to Hostility itself.

Free to untap with Hostility, I had been sandbagging a few burn spells that quickly turned into a gang of raging Elementals (I've decided that the name of a group of Elementals is "gang"). The fiery group quickly ganged up (see!) on Gavin and sent his Bats screaming back to Liliana.

For the final game, Gavin randomly chose to champion Goblins against my Garruk. Now intimately familiar with the Planeswalker in his old green form, I felt good about my chances, barring any shenanigans from the wily Mr. Verhey.

Things started out pretty well for me, as Rootwalla and a clutch free Invigorate held off his team of smaller creatures, followed by Serrated Arrows, which prompted this exchange.

"Can't lose," I said, laying down the weenie-slaying artifact.

"Yeah, that's probably true."

Still, Gavin was down but not out. Boggart Shenanigans turned every dead Goblin into a point of damage, and I soon found myself fearful of actually killing too many Goblins. It was amplified when he played a second Shenanigans.

Fortunately, I was up to shenanigans of my own, in the form of a Beast Attack! (I think Beast Attack should always be listed with an exclamation point.) Two beasts, a bit of Rancor later, and I had defeated Gavin's many Shenanigans.

There are so many more combinations I want to play with these decks that there's no way I'm pulling mine apart when I pick up my copy. What about Jace versus Goblins? Chandra versus Demonic? Elves versus Divine?!

Pick one up on December 5 and play along.

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