Duels of the Planeswalkers guide for new and intermediate players

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These are my guides reproduced from Playhaven in full. I've had to spread them across several posts to fit them on here! I've requested they be made sticky, feel free to post if you agree! It's the guide to Duels 2012, followed by Improving your Playing Skills, then my guide to the original Duels. I feel these were the 3 most useful guides from feedback I got, but if anyone wants me to add any more, or has feedback or corrections, please let me know! 


Thanks to YouCanCallMeFather for helping me retrieve the cache files from Playhaven which were crucial to this.


Omgpewpew has very kindly offered to host my guides here as an alternative to the defunct Playhaven! The Improving your Playing Skills guide is there now, and by using the Decks tab you can see the overview of the Duels 2012 guide and the first of the deck guides. The rest of the guide will eventually appear there.


Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 guide [part 1]


 

Introduction

I have written this guide to help players get the most out of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 (D12). I play on the Xbox 360, but everything should apply just as well to other formats. I will note the changes between this and the original Duels (D09), and for each deck I will discuss each card, give general strategies, and give example decklists that I recommend using. I've added additional sections after this for more information about the game. I've had to make a few format changes from the original to allow posting on this forum, please let me know any mistakes I have made.

Please note that the card analysis and deck-building tips in this guide are aimed at one on one matches, although I will comment briefly on cards that may be useful in Two Headed Giant and Archenemy. Free-for-alls are a totally different matter, and I am the worst in the world at them!

At the end of the guide, I have included a changes log where I will note any alterations I make to the example decklists over time, and other changes. I'll give credit where due for corrections etc.

I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who has written to me to say they have found my guides useful! I highly value such feedback and really appreciate it. I hope this guide will be as helpful! If you try my decklists or ones based on them, I'd love to know how you get on.

Everything I write about the cards is only my opinion and advice. I am never saying I know better than anyone else or that these things are just facts. Everyone's play style differs, and people place different values on different things. You will probably find you disagree with some of my commentary and parts of the suggested decklists, and that is fine! You should follow your own path and judgement. This is just meant to be a starting point for new players, and some food for thought for more experienced ones.

You can view all cards in the game at this website, hover the cursor over each card name to see a picture of it come up. It may be helpful to view this while reading my guide.

I'd love to hear how you get on using my guide and decklists! Feel free to post here, send me a PM or send me an email: robvalue (at) yahoo.com


Notice: I have added the new cards and decks from DLC1. Please note that at present I don't own the DLC, so I am giving my comments purely based on viewing the available cards. I hope my commentary may still be useful, but please take that into account. I am refusing to purchase any DLC until there have been significant efforts to fix the high number of bugs in the game. I hope you understand.


Differences between D12 and D9
-Improved graphics and user interface. Much more of play area is visible as the "turn bar" which shows what phase you are in is much smaller and is near the life total for each player.

-New cards and new decks. Not every card is new, but a good percentage are. Out of the ten decks you can play, eight of them are roughly based on decks from D09 but are far from carbon copies. Many have had quite a makeover. Two are brand new original decks, for new Planeswalkers Kiora Atua and Koth. Also Karn appears as the new non-playable boss, and Gideon Jura takes over the role of primary white Planeswalker.


-Core deck editing! You can now remove cards from the core deck after adding unlocked cards. This means you have much more control of your deck and can personalize it, taking it in many different directions. It also means that for some multicoloured decks you can cut out some of the colours completely by removing all cards of that colour. Lands in your deck are calculated automatically, and corresponding lands disappear if you take out all cards of a colour.


-Large amounts of bugs and issues have been fixed. Props to Wizards and Stainless, they seem to have pretty much taken into account everything on my bug list for cards in this game. Only a few coding issues remain, and Wizards seem much more determined to sort things out this time round. Update: in fact there is quite a large number of bugs that have come to light, I have a section for this near the end of the guide now.


-Archenemy mode! You and two other players (or AI players if you are on your own) team up against one super-powered opponent who gets to use a card from a seperate oversized deck every turn for free. Cards from this deck (called Schemes) are extremely potent and can swing the momentum of the game hugely. They also get 40 life.


-You can now play Two Headed Giant online with a team mate who is not physically sat next to you.


-In my opinion the decks are much more balanced. I would rate Blood Hunger as the best, and Strength of Stone as the worst, and the others somewhere in the middle. The spread is not as great as before.


-There has been new terminology introduced for the Magic 2012 core set, which has been implemented in this game. The phrase "When this creature dies..." is now shorthand for "When this creature is put into the graveyard from the battlefield..."


-In general, the decks feel more coherent with less sore thumbs.


-Deathtouch has been corrected when facing multiple blockers. Only 1 damage has to be put on each blocker now from a creature with deathtouch. If the creature also has trample, remaining damage can be assigned to the opponent. This is now in line with the main Magic rules.

Getting started

Most of what I've written in "Improving your playing skills" will help you get started with this game. The options set up is virtually identical, and I recommend following the same configuration as before.

You do not now have the option of using custom duel as an easy option to unlock cards, since it won't let you change the starting life totals and hand sizes as in D09. But you can win cards by repeatedly beating the same opponent over and over in campaign mode (or custom duel), with difficulty set to Mage if you want to do so as fast as possible. This makes the AI play badly, and doesn't stack the deck in their favour like it does on higher difficulties. To have a one on one duel outside of campaign, select Custom Duel from the main menu, then Free For All, and pick just one AI opponent before starting the duel.

I found the easiest opponents to unlock cards against are:

Koth: Probably the weakest overall deck. Has few flying creatures, good for decks with lots of fliers and/or strong creatures.

Jace: Lots of Illusion creatures that die when they are targeted by a spell or ability. Any deck that has lots of ways to target (even with things that don't normally kill creatures like helpful Auras) can exploit this.

To save time, if a duel is going badly or you have had to mulligan several times, just pause the game and select Restart Duel. The AI doesn't mind! It's quicker to play out your stronger hands and not spend a lot of time on the defensive, if you just want to get the cards most quickly.

Every time you win a duel with a deck, you unlock a new card for it. It's best to then go back to the Deck Manager on the main menu, and see if you actually want that card in your deck! If you don't like it, take it out right away. If you do, then choose your weakest card and remove that to keep your deck at 60 cards. Refer to my individual deck guides to help you decide what to keep and what to take out. Take out cards I list as "bad" from your core deck as soon as possible, and don't add any that you unlock. Add in all the cards I list as "good", and even "OK" ones if they can replace something worse. If you're beating up on the same opponent again and again to unlock cards, you can alter your deck accordingly. For example you may include life gain cards against direct damage, or remove artifact control against a deck with no artifacts.

Sometimes you unlock multiple copies of a card at once, in which case remove the same number of cards if you wish to keep them in. The golden rule for having a good deck is always, always stay at 60 cards. If you are taking things seriously, this is the way to proceed. My 15+ years of Magic have taught me this time and time again. There are several reasons for this:


The fewer cards you have, the more consistent your draws will be. You have a better idea of what you expect to draw, and will see each card the maximum amount of the time.


Each card you add over 60 effectively decreases the number of every other card in the deck. All you are doing is diluting your deck and spreading your power across it. And if you instead choose and remove the weakest cards, you achieve the most potent combination. A lot of cards in this game are simply much better than others, and you only want the best available.


You will more regularly get the amount of land you need, and the right colours, with fewer cards. A draw with too little or too much land is much more likely to self-correct in a smaller deck.



You will find that initially victories can be difficult as the core decks contain a lot of poor cards, but as you manage each win it will get easier and easier with that deck as you add in powerful unlocks and remove the weaker core cards.

You unlock decks as you progress through the campaign as before, by beating certain opponents. You get all the decks in the initial campaign, the Archenemy and Revenge parts do not give you any extras. You only have to beat each opponent once to progress and get the decks, but to get cards you can play any of them as many times as you want.

As Koth is the first opponent, you may find it a good idea to repeatedly beat him with one of the two starting decks and unlock all its cards. You should then sail through the campaign quite easily with either of them. You will find it easiest with Wielding Steel, being the stronger of the two. You may wish to switch to Realm of Illusion or Blood Hunger when they become available as they are in my opinion the strongest. You can go back to beating up Koth to earn cards for them. For the boss Karn, I found the best decks to use are Ancient Depths or Realm of Illusion for their bouncing and stealing, or Wielding Steel for lots of tapping. If anyone's having any more trouble with any of the campaign, please let me know and I'll offer help! Note that you will have unlocked all the available decks once you've beaten Nissa Revane and Sorin Markov in the standard campaign.

When unlocking cards for each of the decks, I suggest repeatedly taking on the opponent as detailed below as being the past of least resistance if beating up Koth isn't working out:

Unquenchable Fire: Machinations. You should have no trouble burning out his more important little creatures and preventing metalcraft bonus. He doesn't have a lot of kill spells to stop your creatures.

Apex Predators: Unquenchable Fire. Your bigger creatures should prove too much for Chandra to keep burning up, and your hexproofs are easy gamewinners.

Wielding Steel: Realm of Illusion. Gideon's Lawkeeper and Kor Hookmaster can easily wipe out the Illusions that die by being targeted. Being even quicker than Jace, you should outspeed him, along with your equipment providing bonuses.

Realm of Illusion: Ancient Depths. By the time Kiora gets going, you'll probably have a huge army of unblockable and flying creatures. She doesn't do much to intefere with your growing Illusion population. You can counter any really big spells she builds up to later on.

Ancient Depths: Apex Predators. You should be able to stall all the ground creatures long enough to get to your big spells, and Apex is surprisingly slow off the mark.

Strength of Stone: Apex Predators. Koth's Courier has forestwalk, when pumped up she will end the game quickly. Also it has no answer to a creature enchanted with Claws of Valakut.

Guardians of the Wood: Ancient Depths. Kiora won't interfere much with you building up a fast army of Elves and you should be able to overwhelm her before she gets going too much. Your Heedless Ones will get huge fast, and they even count Kiora's Coiling Oracle's for more bonus, since they have Elf in their creature type!

Dragon's Roar: Apex predators. You can hold off the ground creatures with Goblins and Scorpions until your Dragons dominate his poor flying defense.

Blood Hunger: Strength of Stone. Stick with beating on Koth here. Your creatures are far superior, and you have more creature removal. Your plentiful life gain stops him winning with direct damage easily.

Machinations: Ancient Depths. You have lots of cheap fliers, they are lethal against Depths. It has almost no way to defend against them, and Steel Overseer makes the job even quicker.

Auramancer: Apex Predators. If you can get a flying creature pumped up with Auras you should be able to win in short order before Apex really gets going.

Grave Whispers: Ancient Depths. Depths is very slow so doesn't give you the normal rush problems at the start of the game. It tends to keep a large number of cards in hand for quite a while, so you can quickly get to work trashing its hand. This should reduce the mana building to a point where big threats don't appear much, and all your Specters will go mostly unblocked.

Cloudburst: Realm of Illusion. You have lots of ways to target the fragile illusions to cause them to be sacrificed, and can take care of the Krovikan Mists quite easily early on with burn and bounce.

For the Archenemy campaign, you can pick both your deck and both your AI partners' decks if you are playing on your own. I suggest either all 3 playing Blood Hunger, or picking the AI to both be Blood Hunger and you pick Ancient Depths. Depths has some great cards which will help both your allies in this mode: New Frontiers and Edric, Spymaster of Trest. See the Depths section for more hints on those cards.

The Revenge campaign is the same as the original campaign, but the opponents now have a few different cards in their deck which you can't unlock at present, generally making them a bit harder. I suggest using Blood Hunger for this campaign, and again Ancient Depths, Realm of Illusion or Wielding Steel for Karn at the end.


Choosing your deck for online play

You will get enjoyment playing with every deck, and by doing so you learn about how each of them works and will then be able to play better against them. I highly recommend doing this.

If you would prefer to stick with one deck, at least initially, then there are several things to consider. I have split them into the following categories for simplicity. I have overgeneralised, but it is a good starting point. For each deck their 5 ratings appear in the order listed below.

Power: The decks are better balanced this time, but some are still stronger than others. They all have a chance, but in the long run some tend to do better and some worse, even with skilful play. I have split them into high (most powerful), medium (average) and low (weaker).

Difficulty: This is the amount of experience and skill needed to play the deck well. Of course every deck will perform better with more skilful play, but some decks are much more likely to go totally wrong if you make some bad decisions. I have labelled such decks as high, the rest as low. Those somewhere inbetween I've labelled medium.

Mana Problems: This is how likely you are to run into problems with the land you draw, either by not drawing enough or in multicolour decks not drawing the right types of land. High indicates a lot of risk of this, medium means less of a risk, and low means fairly safe. For Machinations and Dragon's Roar, I put two difficulties depending on whether you play 1-, 2- or 3- colours.

Strategy: The decks vary in how they play, and they may work better or worse for you depending on your play style. Generally speaking decks are either aggressive, which means they go for the throat and try to win quickly, or defensive, in which case they play more for the long term by controlling the game. I have split the decks into these categories, adding 'very' to the extreme cases. Choose one which fits your own play style.

Nemesis: The deck that exploits its weaknesses the most, the hardest one for it to play against.


 


Blood Hunger: high, low, low, very aggressive, Unquenchable Fire


Realm of Illusion: high, high, low, aggressive, Wielding Steel


Unquenchable Fire: high, low, low, defensive, Wielding Steel


Wielding Steel: high, mid, low, very aggressive, Guardians of the Wood


Guardians of the Wood: medium, low, medium, very aggressive, Unquenchable Fire


Ancient Depths: medium, high, medium, very defensive, Machinations


Machinations: medium, mid, 3-high 2-medium, aggressive, Unquenchable Fire


Apex Predators: low, low, low, very aggressive, Strength of Stone


Dragon's Roar: low, low, 2-high 1-low, aggressive, Blood Hunger


Strength of Stone: low, low, low, defensive, Blood Hunger


Auramancer: high, low, medium, very aggressive, Realm of Illusion


Grave Whispers: high, low, low, defensive, Blood Hunger


Cloudburst: low, high, high, very aggressive, Blood Hunger


Deck building and playing strategies

Below I will discuss each of the ten playable decks. I will split all the available cards into three groups, according to my opinion of them:


Good- The better cards in the selection. This is either because they are very powerful card in their own right, or they fit and complement the deck in general very well. These should be highly considered for every decklist.


OK- A decent card for providing support, filling holes, and rounding out themes, but does not excel. Some powerful cards will drop to just OK because they don't fit particularly well in the deck.


Bad- The poorer cards in the selection, either just because they are awful or they are totally in the wrong kind of deck. I recommend avoiding all these cards unless you have a particular reason to include them in a deck design.



Under each heading, I have also put the cards for each deck in roughly what I consider to be order of power and usefulness. So the very best cards are are at the beginning of the "good" section, and the worst at the bottom of the "bad". Those near the top of "OK" are often going to be serious contenders and necessary to round out a deck.

Don't assume that sticking all the good cards together is always going to be the best deck. You may find that two cards are competing for the same mana cost slot, and it doesn't always make sense to include both. There are also many other factors to consider when putting together your 60 cards:

Mana curve

You want a reasonable spread over different mana costs throughout your deck. Too many cheap cards will leave you lacking in power late game; too many expensive ones can clog up your hand early on. Too many spells of the same mana cost can cause a bottleneck, where you can't cast a group of them in your hand until you hit that much mana, and are left casting them after your mana has gone to higher amounts, or they get left behind as you go up the curve.

Generally the more land and land-fetching cards in the deck, the more you should move the distribution towards higher mana cost cards. A smooth mana curve is most important for creatures than for other spells, as you tend to cast creatures right away and more often hold other spells back. But a range of other spell costs is good too. You can press Y when in the deck manager to see an overall graph of your mana costs.

Synergy

The cards in a deck don't exist in a vacuum, they must cooperate with every other card in the deck. This doesn't mean they have to all be part of "combos", but they should be making each other stronger whenever possible. Look for little ways in which cards can help each other, and that work well together.

Theme

The deck as a whole should have some sort of purpose, a way in which it plays to achieve victory. This could be such things as aggression, direct damage, fast mana, using certain creature types, etc. Decks may have a mix several different themes. Try to make sure that every card is pulling in the same direction and achieving what you want from your overall plan and themes. A card that may usually be very good on its own may prove much less useful if it doesn't fit in with what you're trying to do with the deck. With core card removal each deck can be taken in some different directions, so for your particular build think what you're trying to do.

Be sure to test your deck thoroughly, since what looks good on paper sometimes doesn't pan out in a game. Don't be too hasty to make changes, don't let one bad deal make you give up on a card. Give it a few games at least, and see how the deck is working together. Then go back to your deck manager and see what you have learned, and how you can improve your deck. Make as few changes at a time as possible, as it will be easiest to see whether or not this is an improvement.

The decklists I offer are not meant to be "the best", they are just an example of what I have come up with during my experience with the game, and to provide a starting point for those who are overwhelmed by all the different choices. They have been working well for me in testing, but everyone's play style is different and you may find particular cards don't work so well for you. Allow your creativity to flow and build on the decks, taking them in your own direction. To help build them quickly, I've included the list of cards you need to exclude under each decklist.

I have included the lands in the decklists for completeness. You don't need to chose lands for your decks, they are calculated automatically based on the cards you pick. If you use the cards I suggest, you will get the amount of land I show. The only exception so far is Machinations, where you can put in up to 3 Terramorphic Expanse to help you search for other lands. These are chosen from your list along with the spells.

Note that when I refer to things such as "artifact control" I mean "the ability to deal with artifacts on the battlefield". Also, I have discussed the life-gain artifacts and why I hate them in my Improving your Playing Skills guide, so please see that for why I dismiss these cards. I won't repeat it all here, I'll just write "I hate life gain!”


Chandra Nalaar - Unquenchable Fire

Summary

This is an aggressive mono red direct damage deck, loosely based on Heat of Battle from D09. It has also borrowed the Kiln Fiends and Wheel of Fortune from Root of the Firemind, but only has one Pyroclasm now. It's a nasty deck that can deal a lot of damage quickly, and can often finish you off from quite a high life total with direct damage.

Strategy

The aim of this deck is to do a lot of quick damage with creatures, using damage spells to remove blockers, and get the opponent into a range where direct damage can finish them off. Kiln Fiends are huge early on, as they can provide an extra 3 damage each time you burn out a blocker on your turn. If things are going badly, you use your creatures and spells to kill the biggest creature threats until you can get something good into play. Don't use your direct damage spells immediately on the opponent unless you feel you have enough to finish them off in short order. It's usually best to save them to have the option of killing creatures, both to keep yourself alive and to remove blockers to do repetitive damage with your own creatures. You can always use them later on the opponent when they are closer to death. Your creatures are pretty much expendable as far as getting your opponent's life total down is concerned, they don't need to get it all the way there. Sometimes you can make bad trades just to keep the damage getting through if you have more creatures on the table.

Pros


Huge amounts of direct damage to kill creatures and hurt players


Nice creatures that interact well with the deck's other spells


Potential to finish players from high life totals with a combination of direct damage cards


Punishes life gain with Punishing Fire


Mono deck so no colour problems


 


Cons


No artifact or enchantment control


Few evasion creatures


Can struggle against huge creatures as it relies on direct damage to kill them


 


Example decklist

24 Mountains

Creatures (17)

2 Goblin Arsonist
3 Kiln Field
1 Chandra's Phoenix
4 Fiery Hellhound
1 Prodigal Pyromancer
1 Flametongue Kavu
2 Fire Elemental
1 Fire Servant
1 Flameblast Dragon
1 Inferno Titan

Other spells (19)

1 Banefire
1 Blaze
2 Flame Slash
2 Incinerate
2 Punishing Fire
1 Pyroclasm
4 Volcanic Hammer
1 Wheel of Fortune
3 Chandra's Outrage
1 Lava Axe
1 Flame Wave

Cards to exclude to build this deck

2 Cinder Wall
2 Flamekin Brawler
3 Dragon's Claw
2 Goblin War Paint
2 Sizzle
1 Relentless Assault
2 Lava Axe
2 Ember Shot

Alternate super speed decklist

24 Mountains

Creatures (19)

2 Flamekin Brawler
2 Goblin Arsonist
3 Kiln Field
1 Chandra's Phoenix
4 Fiery Hellhound
1 Prodigal Pyromancer
1 Flametongue Kavu
2 Fire Elemental
1 Fire Servant
1 Flameblast Dragon
1 Inferno Titan

Other spells (17)

1 Banefire
1 Blaze
2 Flame Slash
2 Incinerate
2 Punishing Fire
1 Pyroclasm
4 Volcanic Hammer
1 Wheel of Fortune
3 Chandra's Outrage

Cards to exclude to build this deck

2 Cinder Wall
3 Dragon's Claw
2 Goblin War Paint
2 Sizzle
1 Relentless Assault
3 Lava Axe
2 Ember Shot
1 Flame Wave

This focuses more on creatures and speed with Flamekin Brawlers, and less on reliance on bigger mana spells. Later in the game the Brawlers can still pack a mean punch. However this list runs the risk of crossover redundancy from Brawlers and Hellhounds. If your opponent is killing your creatures regularly though, this won't be a problem!

DLC 1 cards

Volcanic Fallout: This is an excellent weenie sweeper, being extra useful being both an Instant and uncounterable. This makes it highly effective against Realm of Illusion and Machinations in particular, although it is great in almost any matchup. Because it doesn't target anything it gets around shroud and hexproof. Like all sweepers, try and save it for the moment you can get most out of it. This may mean taking out some of your own guys, but it's worth it if you can kill more of the opponent's. Being instant speed, you can use it in response to a Giant Growth on a 2/2 for example to kill not only that creature but all other 2 toughness or less creatures at the same time. If you have enough mana, you can combine it with other instant speed spells like Incinerate to take out a larger creature along with the smaller ones. The 2 damage to both players can be considered incidental, but since you will often have a lot of other direct damage, you can use this as part of your finishing blow when the situation arises.

-Recommendation: Must include. For my first decklist, replace Lava Axe which is easily the weakest card in the list. For my second decklist, replace a Fire Elemental, which is a little slow and lumbering for the fast strategy.

Insurrection: This is a huge effect, but for 1 on 1 play, it's just too expensive. At eight mana, on average you expect 13 turns to pass before having enough land to cast it. That's a long time to wait if it's in your opening hand. Even if you do eventually get the mana for it, your general strategy is to flame away anything the opponent puts on the battlefield so it's unlikely there will be much to take. If you are failing to do this, you'll likely have lost by that stage. In multiplayer formats it is more playable, where you will have longer to build up your land supply and more players to steal creatures from. It could easily win you the game in one turn in the right situation, particularly a stalemate.

-Recommendation: Don't include.

Flame Rift: This is a really bad card in my opinion, at least in this game. It does an efficient amount of damage to the opponent for its cost, but although the deck has a lot of direct damage, it doesn't have enough that you can rely on this as a finisher. It's not only pointless if you are losing, but would even help your opponent by hurting yourself. Being unable to target creatures makes it inflexible, and its cheap cost is kind of pointless since you wouldn't cast this until the opponent is nearly dead anyhow. If you are the Archenemy, this would be more worthwhile as you can hit all your 3 opponent's for 4 damage each. I wouldn't recommend it for Two Headed Giant as it still does as much damage to your team as the opponents and suffers from the same drawbacks. It could be used as a way to finish off multiple struggling players in free for all.

-Recommendation: Don't include.

Good cards

Wheel of Fortune: This really needs a new category of it's own; broken. I think it was a mistake to include cards like this in the game, they are unbalancing. But here it is! It's now in the right deck as well unlike in D09, making it even more scary. The important part is not so much drawing 7 cards each, as both players discarding their whole hand. If you use this when your opponent has more cards in hand than you, you gain card advantage by using this. At it's best, if the opponent has 7 cards in hand and this is your last card, they discard 7 cards and you discard none, this has given you a 6 card advantage (you used the Wheel for this effect) making it especially effective against slow decks. So always try to use this when your opponent has more cards. Late in the game if you have a lot of mana you can use it regardless, expecting to be able to cast a lot of burn spells that you draw to finish off your opponent, or crazily pump up a Kiln Fiend. As this deck is so fast, you will normally have less cards in your hand than your opponent, and if you have this in hand at the start of the game you may wish to empty your hand super-fast to get maximum advantage from this.

Banefire: Damage spells that deal unlimited amounts depending on mana input are always powerful. This is one is especially useful for its extra ability. It means that you kill a big creature or finish off your opponent without worrying about counterspells. The "damage can't be prevented" part isn't going to be relevant very much in this game, as they don't include many damage prevention spells or abilities. Creatures killed by this can still be regenerated. You should usually save this for killing big creatures that can be out of reach of your other small direct damage, or as part of a big finish, especially after using instants on your opponent at the end of their turn before you untap. Note that X spells can be cast with X=0, just to kill Illusions, or pump up your Kiln Fiends cheaply.

Blaze: This is just the same as Banefire, but without the extra bonus. Certainly worth including as well.

Incinerate: All the way from Ice Age, it's one of the best direct damage spells ever. It does efficient damage for it's cost, at instant speed, and stops regeneration. It doesn't have to kill a creature outright to stop regeneration, as soon as a creature has been hit by this it can't regenerate that turn so you can finish it off in other ways. Take advantage of this being an instant. You can use it in response to Giant Growth, to kill the creature before it gets pumped and take out 2 cards for 1, and in all sorts of similar situations. It's often best used during combat, it can suddenly make a blocker disappear when the opponent has ganged up 2 blockers on your big creature, allowing your creature to survive.

Flame Slash: Insanely efficient, and even though it's just against creatures, the sheer power of this card is worth it. Save this for your opponent's medium size creatures, often they will have to spend a lot of mana getting out a creature with 4 toughness and you gain momentum by taking it out for just 1 mana.

Pyroclasm: This is your best sweeper spell, and a "panic button" against a weenie assault. If your opponent has got off to a quick start with lots of small creatures, after waiting as long as possible to lure more creatures onto the board, cast this and reset the game, gaining lots of card advantage. Don't worry about killing your own creatures as long as you kill more of your opponent's. It can also help get rid of a big creature at the same time in combination with another spell, for example use this to clear the weenies then hit the remaining 6 toughness creature with Flame Slash to finish it off.

Volcanic Hammer: An obviously weaker version of Incinerate, but still efficient and worth including. Use this before Incinerate when you have a choice, to save the better card for later. Being a sorcery there are much less tricks you can do with it.

Inferno Titan: This guy is huge, and with his immediate damage he gets you card advantage even if he is killed right away. It makes you pick 3 targets, and then does 1 to each of them, but you can pick the same target more than once. Usually you'll want to cast this as soon as you can, taking out whatever creatures you can, and putting the remaining damage onto your opponent. If they can't deal with it they are probably going to lose very quickly as you continue to either hack their creatures down or burn their face when you attack! And as if that wasn't enough, you can pump up his attack up as well.

Flametongue Kavu: This is an awesome creature, having stats that are a decent threat while taking out anything up to a 4 toughness creature for free. Don't cast it however if the opponent has no creatures, as you will be forced to target one of yours! Think of this as a Flame Slash with an added creature. It usually swings the momentum of the game heavily. If things are going badly for you, just cast it as soon as you can and kill the best thing possible, then you have another blocker to help keep you alive.

Flameblast Dragon: If you can get this out and keep it out, usually you will easily win the game. Being a big flying creature he is hard to stop, and every attack you can usually kill a creature. Unless you can finish off the opponent in very short order, I'd recommend using his ability to hit a creature each time. This is hard for the opponent to come back from, and clears the way


for your other attackers. He is not as useful on defence as he can't use his ability, but he can still block and kill most creatures in the game, providing a lot of cover until you are in a position to attack again.

Prodigal Pyromancer: A 'pinger', a 'Tim', what do you call him? You will always be happy to see this guy, his ability to do 1 damage to a specific target every turn is really powerful. He can be used to pick off 1 toughness creatures, or to provide extra damage after one of your spells to kill a large creature. When you have attacked, he can finish off any creature that requires just 1 more damage. Unless you are removing blockers, it's best to not use him in your turn, and wait to see what your opponent does on their turn. You can always use it near the end of their turn with no penalty if no other interesting possibilities arise, hitting the opponent if there's nothing you can kill. Keep him out of combat whenever possible as his ability is far too valuable to lose him.

Punishing Fire: You can generally use this as a less powerful Incinerate, with the same strategies. But it comes into its own in any situation where the opponent gains life. I have found a great way to use this card is cast it in response to a spell or ability that will give your opponent life. (You may need to turn auto resolution off to make best use of the timing for this). Your spell resolves first, and then when their ability resolves, you can pay one mana to get this card back. You can then use it again that turn if need be! This way you can take out a 4 toughness creature with this one card by piggy-backing your opponent's life gain. It's great against lifelink creatures, sometimes turning them into a liability. If a lifelink creature is going to deal damage, cast this in the blocker's phase before damage is dealt, then when the lifelink guy hits you will get the chance to restock this and use it again!

Chandra's Phoenix: I love this creature, it seems almost unfair. It fits the aggressive nature of the deck perfectly, being able to smash away for 2 damage every turn, including the one you cast it. You'll usually want to keep up the pressure with this guy, using your ground creatures for defence if need be. You'll normally want to kill any big fliers the opponent casts as general strategy anyway, which clears the way for him to continue. He can suicidally attack even if the opponent has a big flier, as you will probably have an instant or sorcery to do the rest of the damage after combat if it gets blocked. When the opponent has finally stemmed the bleeding and killed it, all you have to do is hit them directly with a damage spell and he's back to your hand ready to be cast again. Or use Chandra's Outrage on one of their creatures, and the side-effect damage will get the Pheonix back.

Chandra's Outrage: This is a bit expensive, but still effective. Again make use of the fact that it's an instant to full advantage. The 2 damage dealt to your opponent is very helpful for this deck. When you can spare the mana for this, use this ahead of other direct damage to kill a creature so that you retain your cheaper ones for crucial situations later.

Fiery Hellhound: Although 2/2 for 3 isn't that good, his ability to pump up indefinitely makes him a scary creature for the opponent to be looking at. If there's no blockers you can do as much damage as you like, and even if there are, he can usually be pumped up to kill whatever blocks him. It's not always best to pump him up as much as you can; if it's just to do damage, put what you can spare into him, but continue to cast other creatures to develop your position. Of course the closer the opponent is to death, the more important it is to get damage through, and you can do so without having to use any further cards. This saves them for the big finish. Usually your opponent either has to spend a card taking this guy out or swap it for a big creature, as you'll likely burn away any smaller ones that could stop him. Otherwise, they'll be snacking on hellfire and dead pretty quickly.

Kiln Fiend: Borrowed from the Firemind deck in D09, these fit in perfectly here. The deck is full of instants and sorceries to fire him up. Often the strategy for this deck revolves around getting this out, and then using spells to kill each blocker that appears, pumping this up to 4/2. Keeping this up for even a few turns is devastating and will probably put the opponent into serious worries about being finished off easily with direct damage. You can pull some tricks off with him too, if he blocks or is blocked by a 7/7 creature say, in the blockers phase Incinerate the 7/7. This puts your Fiend up to 4/2, which is enough to fell the foul beast!

Goblin Arsonist: This is the perfect 1 drop for this deck, he needs no further investment and is almost guaranteed to end up doing his damage to something. Hopefully early on he can attack freely for a bit of damage, and as soon as other creatures turn up he can still make a nuisance of himself. If the opponent has cast a 2/2, you can attack with this, and if they block you can use his ability after he dies to finish off the 2/2. Of course his ability can also pick off any 1 toughness creature, or if there's nothing better just hit the opponent. You can combine it with your spells to take down a bigger creature too. If the opponent has a 1/1 creature with a good ability, by keeping this on defence you make the opponent unlikely to attack since you can block with this and then kill their 1/1! Currently the best choice for a 1 drop in my book.

Fire Servant: Although his stats are not very good for his cost, his ability is awesome in this deck. It's not hard to finish your opponent with direct damage anyhow, and this makes it even easier. X spells become double X, Incinerate becomes 6 damage, it's all rather crazy. This also makes it much easier to kill big creatures as damage to them is doubled too from your sorceries and instants. You have no shortage of these, and he can also be applying some beats while you remove blockers. Keep him alive unless you desperately need to block with him to save yourself.

Flamekin Brawler: This is very nice for 1 mana, 2 toughness is notable and helpful against initial weenies, and unlimited pump from turn 1 sounds great. I have found in my testing that he is not as effective as I had hoped though. Firstly, on turn 2 I almost always want to spend my mana either on another creature like Kiln Fiend, or on some burn to kill something. Rarely am I happy to spend 2 mana just to do 2 damage, it's not very efficient at such an early stage. And also he is heavily competing with the similar Fiery Hellhound. As soon as you get one of those out as well, this becomes almost redundant, except for being able to split the mana between them. As this deck is always hungry for mana, I'd rather rely on the 4 Hellhounds which can do some damage even if I can't spare mana, and to leave these guys out. He's worth considering for a speedy build though, and has the flexibility to provide a lot of punch for a small creature later in the game. For a speed compromise, you could go with 2 of these and 2 Hellhounds, for example.

OK cards

Flame Wave: 7 mana is a stretch for this deck, which is why I don't rate this card higher, but I think this is just about worth it. It's one card that will make a real difference in a long game or a stalemate situation. It will most likely win you the game right away, knocking your opponent further into direct damage range and removing probably a lot of blockers at once. The game can go on a bit if you are burning out lots of creatures and your creatures are being killed too. But a case could certainly be made for leaving it out and concentrating more on speed.

Fire Elemental: He's not amazing, but there are very few 5 mana creatures available at the moment and he's good enough. The 5 power is too much for the opponent to ignore with the amount of firepower you have in this deck.

Lava Axe: It's a reasonable amount of damage for the mana, and for a total burn strategy is a reasonable finisher. But I personally do not get along with cards like this, simply because they are inflexible. They are only any good if you are winning, and don't affect the board at all. If you're losing, this pretty much does nothing at all. I prefer to stick to cards that can kill creatures too, as they are always useful. You can't assume you will always be winning! For now I have included just one copy for lack of a better card.

Relentless Assault: This is quite a cool card, but doesn't work as well in the deck as I initially thought. The Kiln Fiends will only get the bonus once since you cast it after the first combat, and it won't help clear blockers. And it doesn't combine well with Flamekin Brawler or Fiery Hellhound as it takes mana away from them.

Goblin War Paint: This is an alright Aura, but suffers from the usual problem of possibly losing both cards to one kill-spell. At least the haste means you will often get some damage in before that can happen, especially if the opponent is tapped out. I feel that the deck doesn't need this for one on one, the creatures are strong enough and I'd prefer to have direct damage to back them up.

Bad cards

Cinder Wall: I feel this deck is too aggressive to be mucking about with walls. It has 4 aggressive one drops, and I would much rather have any of them than this. It can never damage your opponent, and can't be used offensively to remove blockers. It also is never a surprise.

Dragon's Claw: I hate life gain!

Ember Shot: I don't know why this was brought across from D09, it must have been the butt of the most jokes of all the cards. It's hideously overpriced, and 7 mana is a lot for this deck anyhow. Flame Wave is a much better choice. Avoid!

Sizzle: In one on one, this is totally stupid. 3 Damage


for 3 mana is poor, and it can't hit creatures either. This isn't any good for Archenemy either, unless you were the Archenemy which isn't possible at the moment! It's only use would be in Two Headed Giant, where it would hit both opponents for a total of 6 damage.

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
Useful links:
Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.
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Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 guide [part 2]


Garruk Wildspeaker - Apex Predators

Summary

This is a mono green aggressive creature deck based loosely on Teeth of the Predator from D09. It has lost all parts of the Troll Ascetic/Blanchwood Armor/Loxodon Warhammer combo, which I am personally glad of, but has become much more well rounded with a stronger creature base instead of relying almost entirely on that one combo. It does however have some new creatures with "troll shroud", which has been given the new name hexproof, meaning you can target it with spells and abilities but your opponent cannot. Note that hexproof and shroud do not stop a creature being countered while being cast. This deck still uses 2 Overrun as big finishers, and has gained a little creature control with 2 Serrated Arrows and some cards that let you draw multiple creatures at once from your deck.

Strategy

This deck relies entirely on creature damage to win. You want to get out as many creatures are possible, as fast as possible, and keep the pressure on. Giant Growth can help you break through against bigger creatures, as can Elephant Guide. It is often better not to trade creatures if you have the choice, unless it helps you get more damage through in short order. This is because if you draw an Overrun, the more creatures you have the better, as they all get the +3/+3 and trample. This is what you will rely on late game and in stalemates to get your win. The deck does have some excellent higher mana creatures which can break through as well. If things are going badly, Cudgel Troll is an excellent blocker, having 4 power and being able to regenerate. You also have Serrated Arrows to pick off weenies if you are getting overwhelmed, to fix fights in your favour or stop the bleeding to some extent from a flier that is beating you up.

Pros


Some of the most efficient creatures, some of which are hard to counter or kill


Mana acceleration from Nature's Lore and extra land from Borderland Ranger


Excellent surprise value and fight fixing from Giant Growth


Good ways of drawing cards and adding more creatures from your deck


Mono deck so no colour problems


 


Cons


No artifact or enchantment control


Little creature control


Vulnerable against fliers


Relies entirely on creatures to win


 


Example decklist

24 Forest

Creatures (24)

2 Garruk's Companion
2 Runeclaw Bear
3 Borderland Ranger
2 Centaur Courser
1 Dungrove Elder
1 Leatherback Baloth
2 Cudgel Troll
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Wolfbriar Elemental
2 Garruk's Packleader
2 Stomper Cub
1 Craw Wurm
1 Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
1 Terra Stomper
1 Engulfing Slagwurm
1 Gaea's Revenge

Other spells (12)

3 Giant Growth
2 Nature's Lore
1 Elephant Guide
2 Lead the Stampede
2 Serrated Arrows
2 Overrun

Cards to exclude to build this deck

2 Wall of Vines
3 Grazing Gladehart
2 Rites of Flourishing
2 Beast Hunt
2 Giant Spider
1 Hunted Wumpus
3 Hunters' Feast
1 Craw Wurm

DLC 1 cards

Heartwood Storyteller: Although 2/3 for 3 mana is not great especially for green, its ability to help you draw cards can give you a way of recovering from your creatures getting blown up, and dissuade the opponent from casting other spells. Since this deck has the highest proportion of creature to non creature spells, you can expect to draw more cards than your opponent. A deck that wants to kill your creatures will most likely target this one first, to stop you continually drawing cards. You will draw a card for the spell they use on it, making this essentially a free card in that situation as well as having drawn out the kill spell early. If they won't or can't kill it, they will have to think very seriously about what else they cast. Although I feel Apex Predators got a raw deal out of the DLC, this is a reasonably good card and can help the general strategy. Obviously it will be more efficient the less non-creature spells you include in the deck. This can be considered a priority play as soon as you have the mana for it, unless you plan to use some non-creature spells soon, in which case use them first. It will get a bit ridiculous in multiplayer formats, but if you are the Archenemy this will be amazing as you will draw cards for all of your 3 opponent's non-creature spells.

Recommendation: Must include. Replace both Lead the Stampede. Their random element makes them unreliable, and removing them will help improve the efficiency of the Storyteller.

Fresh Meat: Again not as strong as I would have hoped for this deck, but this offers you another way of recovering from heavy losses. This is likely to be most useful in the mid/late game, where you are able to keep 4 lands available for this and to wait for the right moment. That may be when the opponent plays a sweeper on you killing multiple creatures, or during a heavy combat phase where both sides take a lot of casualties. Either way, you can restock your troops with the considerably sized tokens. Note that this card will count token creatures that went into your graveyard, even though they don't stay there, such as those from Wolfbriar Elemental. This card is currently heavily bugged, see the "bugs and issues" section.

Recommendation: Must include. Replace Craw Wurm, easily the worst card in the list.

Copperhoof Vorrac: This is rather an oddball creature, and quite hard to evaluate. His effectiveness is going to vary wildly depending on the situation in each game. I still think that on average he's going to provide better stats for his mana cost than Stomper Cub, which is an underperformer of the deck. You will have to watch out for your opponent taking advantage of his ability by tapping lots of their permanents during combat. If they tap 3 lands to cast an Instant for example, he will suddenly drop by 3 power and toughness. If you can keep your opponent on the defensive, this card is going to work quite well. For each untapped creature they keep for defense, he gets bigger and bigger. And they may have to consider not playing as much land as they would like, for fear of leaving it unused and pumping up your guy.

Recommendation: Probably worth playing. Replace a Stomper Cub, whose low toughness really lets him down for his mana cost.

Good cards

Terra Stomper: This is insanely efficient and easily your best high mana creature. It's stats are terrific, trample makes it hard to stop and not being able to be countered makes it a headache for blue as well. For those of you who remember Force of Nature, compare and contrast.

Serrated Arrows: Finally some real creature control! Coming all the way from the Homelands expansion, this is really handy for either picking off several weenies, slowly killing a medium size creature, or using during combat to fix fights. While it's untapped, it can be used to quickly get rid of a 2 toughness creature your opponent casts. Activate it near the end of their turn targeting the creature, then when you untap you can target it again and finish it off. Note that creatures can't regenerate from having their toughness lowered to zero, so three counters from this will kill Cudgel Troll outright. But this doesn't combine with damage. Although the game displays damage and toughness reduction as the same thing, they are in fact different. If Cudgel Troll has taken 2 damage and then gets a -1/-1 counter, he is really 3/2 with 2 damage and can regenerate, staying at 3/2 but removing the damage. The game displays the damage as the toughness going down which is misleading, it doesn't actually make the toughness go down.

Giant Growth: One of the best surprise combat spells, this is brutally efficient. Even when your opponent suspects it is coming, there is often not much they can do about it. If they have tapped out to cast a 4/4 creature and see you attacking with three 2/2 creatures, they know you are going to Giant Growth whichever one they block, but their only alternative is to let them all through! The best time to use this is during the blockers phase, after blockers have been declared. Don't use it earlier as you only make the opponent's decisions easier. Save it for when it really matters, don't use it to keep a lowly creature alive. Be wary of opponents using direct damage or a kill-spell in response to your Giant Growth. The damage will resolve first before the bonus takes effect.

Dungrove Elder: Showcasing the new hexproof, this is a really nasty creature. For 3 mana he is 3/3 at the very least, which is nice stats, and then grows just by playing land. If he's not big enough to beat your opponent's largest creature, you need only wait a few turns until you have more land. He's unlikely to die in the mean time thanks to hexproof. You can still use your beneficial spells such as Giant Growth and Elephant Guide on him, making him even less likely to die!

Thrun, the Last Troll: Similar to the above, but with fixed stats and added regeneration. 4/4 is hefty for 4 mana, and he's probably never going away thanks to his abilities. A terrific blocker and attacker. Watch out for your opponent pulling their own combat trick like Giant Growth on a small creature while you are tapped out.

Leatherback Baloth: With crazy amounts of beef for your buck, this guy just looks wrong when he hits the table on turn 3. Sadly you can't get him out any quicker than that, but it's still quick enough. He'll likely tower over anything else around at that stage and can keep on attacking until the opponent finds an answer.

Wolfbriar Elemental: Again 4/4 is great for 4 mana when you need it, even without the kickers. If you need him right away, don't feel you have to hold him back, sometimes it is better to cast him especially if you are short on other creatures or need a blocker fast. But when you can afford to hold him back and cast other things in the meantime, or pick him up late game, spend a whole turn paying as many kickers as possible. He's the new and more effective Howl of the Night Pack, and is amazing when followed up by Overrun next turn. Often you'll have enough tokens to overwhelm your opponent by just attacking with them all anyway.

Nature's Lore: I'm glad to see them make the swap from Rampant Growth which made no sense for mono green. This works exactly the same, except the Forest comes in untapped. When using it on turn 2 to accelerate your mana this probably won't make any difference, but it becomes more useful later on. If you have an extra land available you don't need that particular turn, you can use it to your advantage with this card. Say you have just played your fourth Forest, and you have in hand Nature's Lore, another Forest, a 3 mana creature and a 6 mana creature. At first glance you are choosing between casting the 3 mana creature and casting Nature's Lore to get the 6 mana creature out next turn. But in fact you can do both. Cast Nature's Lore first, and the new untapped Forest will leave you with 3 still to use. Then you can cast the 3 mana creature. Next turn you'll get to play your Forest and cast the 6 mana creature, so you have made use of the spare mana to be able to get both creatures out without losing anything.

Overrun: This is your big play card, and you should normally hold this back until it is likely to win you the game. You want to get as many creatures in play as possible, no matter how small, as they will all become big threats once you cast this, and it's an extra 3 potential damage per creature. They all gain trample, so it becomes a matter of comparing how much total power your creatures will have after casting this with the total toughness of your opponent's creatures. If the difference between these is equal to or higher than their life total, you will probably win by using this. Watch out for your opponent interfering if they have mana available by using spells to boost their creatures or kill yours. You can sometimes use this even if you can't win outright with it just to force your opponent to make lots of awkward blocks costing them many creatures. If you cast it when they will lose unless they block with almost everything, they will often lose a lot more creatures than you will, leaving you in a powerful position.

Garruk's Packleader: A new very useful addition to the deck. His stats are only average for his cost, but his strength is in his card drawing. Get him out as soon as you possibly can, so that you get maximum card draw from further creatures. Most creatures in the deck will net you a card, even the very cheap Garruk's Companion. If not dealt with, this amount of card advantage will be quickly overwhelming. You even get a card for the token from Elephant Guide. Note that the power of the creature is checked as soon as it enters the battlefield, so don't try and use Giant Growth on a 2/2 creature you just cast to try and get the Packleader to count it!

Cudgel Troll: I really like this guy, he has decent stats and a cheap regenerate cost. This makes him hard to stop as an attacker, and a brilliant defender when you need one. When pumped with Giant Growth he will kill almost anything and survive, and if you have at least 6 mana he is brilliant in combination with Overrun as he can regenerate even if ganged up on. Remember, don't use his regenerate ability "just in case", only ever do it in response to a spell or ability that threatens to kill him, or in the blockers phase just before a creature is about to deal enough damage to kill him. Using it at other times is a waste of mana.

Garruk's Companion: Runeclaw bear on steroids, you might say. Incredible stats for the cost, he is a big threat as early as turn 2. His trample makes him combine really well with Giant Growth, not only can he grow and kill the blocker but he will deal any excess damage as well. An excellent target for Elephant Guide on turn 3!

Lead the Stampede: A quite amazing new spell for mono Green, out performing Beast Hunt quite considerably. You may not want to cast this on turn 3 in case you draw more creatures than you can keep on your hand, but if your hand isn't too strong you may not care about dumping the weaker cards to get more firepower. Later in the game this is really strong as you may be able to cast one or more of the creatures you get right away. Unfortunately it's down to chance how many creatures you get, but you'll be very unlucky to get none at all and with such a high creature percentage in this deck you'll get at least 2 quite a lot. Currently it's bugged so that you don't see all 5 cards, just the creature cards that you draw.

Elephant Guide: A reasonable alternative to the unfair Blanchwood Armor which was almost unstoppable along with Troll Ascetic. I'm glad they made the switch, as Blanchwood on one of the new Hexproofs would be just as unfair. This gives a static bonus, but still a very nice one. You can put it on any creature and it will be effective, but trample ones will be the best. It gives you some protection against 2 for 1 losses by giving you a token when the creature dies, but note that if the opponent kills your creature in response to you casting Elephant Guide, you won't get a token since the Aura won't be on the battlefield yet. For that reason it's at its best cast when the opponent is tapped out. This is a lot weaker against Realm of Illusions and Ancient Depths, as they can return the creature to your hand quite easily and then you lose the Aura without getting

Gaea's Revenge: Haste is rare in green, and this one packs quite a punch. Along with Terra Stomper, this makes blue mages quite infuriated by being uncounterable. This can also hardly be targeted by anything, only from green sources, which are unlikely to kill it. Only the low toughness lets it down, but if needed you can still use Giant Growth etc. on it. Since it has haste you may not need to for its first attack as the opponent won't be prepared for it and may not have any blockers available. It may also be the only attack you need. Ancient Depths is the biggest threat to this card, as it can return it to your hand with Aether Mutation, and even worse steal it with Yavimaya's Embrace.

Engulfing Slagwurm: A nice top end creature to make use of all your mana, and very hard to stop. The creature he destroys can still regenerate, but you gain the life regardless of whether the destruction works. He's great on defence if needed as well. Since the creature is destroyed as soon as he blocks or is blocked, it doesn't get to hit him at all with any damage, making him almost impossible to kill apart from with an indestructible creature. He will even kill a creature with protection from green that blocks him since his ability doesn't target the creature, and you'll get the life bonus from Illusions that block it for the same reason. The opponent can't even gang up to kill this, since all blocking creatures will be eaten! And since he eats creatures before damage is dealt, the creature disappearing may impact play, for example if it was an Illusion then all Krovikan Mists will instantly drop by 1 power and toughness before damage is dealt.

Multani, Maro-Sorcerer: Obviously intended to be great for Archenemy, and is cool for two headed giant, but for now he's decent enough to take a 6 mana spot in one on one I think. I'd rather use him than a Craw Wurm, and against a slow deck he is going to be lethal, especially as they can't target him with kill-spells. Between you and your opponent you will probably have enough cards to make him a reasonable threat, and you can allow him to grow just by holding back cards while your opponent may be forced to chuck stuff out prematurely just to keep him lower. Watch out for your opponent using cards up during combat causing him to shrink. Remember you can't target him either with Giant Growth etc. If a better 6 mana cost creature turns up, he'll probably be replaced.

OK cards

Borderland Ranger: He's not ideal and I would rather have something else that actually accelerates your mana rather than finding you more, but he does the job. You can think of him as a creature that gets you a free land, or another land that you pay for and get a free creature. He effectively raises the land count in the deck, making the higher casting cost creatures viable, so some of them have to be kept in for that reason. At least he builds up your creature base ready for Overrun. When you can afford to, cast him and then play the land afterwards, rather than playing it first, to reduce the amount of information your opponent has about your hand.

Stomper Cub: A very aggressive card that sits fairly well in the deck. His low toughness is a shame, but the trample is great. A surprise Giant Growth may keep him alive against a medium size blocker and deal a lot of damage at the same time.

Centaur Courser: Decent stats for the mana, but compared to the heroes of the deck he doesn't excel. He's worth it to fill the mana curve at the moment.

Runeclaw Bear: Bog standard, but at the moment just about worth including to keep the speed of your deck up. At least being fast he helps you get more creatures on the board ready for an Overrun. Also gives you an early target for Giant Growth or Elephant Guide if the opponent drops something nasty early on.

Bad cards

Giant Spider: Too defensive for this deck, and wimpy for his cost. Although this deck is vulnerable to flying creatures, it's best to concentrate on pounding your opponent into keeping their fliers back than having this guy waving his legs around trying to scare them off. There are much better reach creatures that could have been included, I don't know why they insisted on keeping this. If you do use him, he can at least take out a big flier by surprise with a Giant Growth while blocking.

Grazing Gladehart: In the wrong deck, again. Oopsey! Life gain is not important for this deck, it's about finishing off the opponent as quickly as possible with efficient creatures. This is not efficient at all, and is not part of your strategy. If you do want to play him, you can hold back lands you don't need later in the game to benefit from his landfall ability should you draw him.

Craw Wurm: Why they insist on keeping crud like this in the game, I don't know. Green is meant to have the biggest and best creatures, and this is a shrivelled-up counter example to that. Really un-scary stats and no abilities. Doesn't really compare well to Terra Stomper in this deck huh? With that and Multani Maro-Sorcerer you don't need these unless you need something big to make up the numbers.

Beast Hunt: I'm glad they moved this over to this deck where it makes much more sense. Strange how they then included a strictly better card in Lead the Stampede. Cast it when you can spare the mana and need some more threats. I would not recommend using this though, the amount of cards you expect to draw (less than 2 on average) is very low for 4 mana.

Hunted Wumpus: This is way too risky in one on one, as your opponent could easily put out a huge creature that this deck has no way to deal with and lose you the game on the spot. Even if they put out something average, you are giving away serious momentum, especially if they then hit your Wumpus with a kill-spell which is quite likely. This is great however for Archenemy, where both your allies get a creature too, giving you 3 good creatures for just 1 to the big bad man.

Wall of Vines: Better than Wall of Wood, but still hopelessly in the wrong deck. This deck is pure offence, and this card is pure defence, it doesn't fit. It can never damage your opponent, can't even kill an attacker without help, and sits by idly when you cast your Overrun. A good aggressive ground-based deck wins by keeping the pressure on the opponent and forcing them to defend with their flying creatures, not wasting time with half-baked defensive cards.

Rites of Flourishing: I wouldn't recommend


using this in one on one, it gives your opponent the same advantage as you and they get to use it first. It's just too risky, and it will mean a bigger threat coming out for you to deal with than you would normally face, and you don't have enough creature control to handle it. This is really good however in Archenemy, since you and your allies all get the benefit, 3 cards a turn and only one for the Archenemy, plus you all get to play another land.

Hunters' Feast: That may look like a lot of life, but it's still not worth it in one on one, especially in an aggressive deck. You'll draw this when you need either another attacker to seal the game or a much needed blocker, this will only serve as a stall. Save it for Archenemy or Two Headed Giant if you're going to use it.


Gideon Jura - Wielding Steel

Summary

This is a mono white aggressive weenie swarm style deck that uses lots of Equipment, loosely based on Weapons of the Warrior from D09. It has become more focused, and has addressed a lot of the decks weaknesses to both creatures with nasty abilities and to artifacts and enchantments. It has a lot of creatures that get better simply by being equipped, which are very cheap, and so a powerful offence can launch very quickly.

Strategy

This deck needs to get out lots of creatures quickly, and then back them up with equipment to help them break through or give them evasion. It has ways to sabotage the opponent's creatures, by tapping them or making them useless with Arrest. They should be used both to help your creatures keep attacking, and when things are going badly to stop yourself getting beaten up. Move the equipment around when you have spare mana, so you can take it off your creature that attacked and put it on an untapped creature ready to defend. Later in the game your 5 and 6 mana spells will help you break through.

Pros


Very fast, aggressive and efficient creatures


The best artifact and enchantment control in 2 Revoke Existence


Fair amount of creature control/disruption


Lots of quick and powerful equipment



Cons


Can sometimes stall if equipment doesn't show up or gets destroyed


Lack of mid range creatures, reliant on mainly small creatures


Creature control relies on cards remaining on the battlefield


 


Example decklist

24 Plains

Creatures (23)

4 Elite Vanguard
2 Gideon's Lawkeeper
2 Kitesail Apprentice
2 Kor Duelist
3 Kor Outfitter
1 Puresteel Paladin
1 Stoneforge Mystic
2 Sunspear Shikari
1 Gideon's Avenger
3 Kor Hookmaster
1 Baneslayer Angel
1 Captain of the Watch

Other spells (13)

1 Brave the Elements
1 Infiltration Lens
2 Trusty Machete
2 Kitesail
3 Arrest
1 Pennon Blade
1 Strider Harness
1 Sword of War and Peace
1 Conqueror's Pledge

Cards to exclude to build this deck

3 Angel's Feather
4 Glory Seeker
2 Revoke Existence
2 Congregate
1 Harmless Assault
2 Serra Angel
1 Argentum Armor
1 Archangel of Strife

DLC 1 cards

Sunblast Angel: Wielding Steel came out better than it deserved from the DLC in my opinion, given the fact it was already one of the top decks, it got some very nice cards and this is the cream of the crop. I consider this the new best 6 mana spell for the deck. At first you may worry that this is going to kill your creatures as well as your opponent's, but that's actually going to be quite unlikely. Unless they have ways of tapping your creatures easily (which is mainly going to be in the mirror match) all you have to do is cast this before you attack, and all your creatures should be untapped. At its worst, this is going to kill one creature that attacked you last turn, and give you a big flyer. That's still a pretty good deal for 6 mana. But it has every chance of being a huge surprise card, coming down to kill any number of creatures that the opponent has tapped either to attack or to use tap abilities. It's the only sweeper effect available for the deck, and it doesn't target so it will destroy things with shroud, hexproof, even protection from white won't help. I think the best way to use this is think of it as a mass kill spell with a free creature on it. So hold it back until you can get the most amount of kills with it. If you are heavily winning, you can alter your strategy and just cast it anyhow as a decent flyer to help you finish off the opponent. This versatility to make a massive comeback or to seal a victory makes it a top card for me. You can also combine with Gideon's Lawkeeper and Kor Hookmaster to get more creatures tapped before casting it. Even casting the Hookmaster the turn before will leave the creature still tapped for you to play the Angel next turn.

Recommendation: Must include. Replace Captain of the Watch. Great though he is, this is even better for the 6 mana slot, and I don't like having more than one at that cost in such a fast deck, especially as your mana is often being used up by moving equipment around.

Guardian Seraph: Not quite as amazing as the Sunblast, but still an excellent creature. It also fills a much needed hole in the mid-range for this deck. Nothing to do with the general theme, like all the Angels, but simply too powerful to ignore anyhow. 3/4 flying for 4 mana is very good, and it has a free inbuilt way of reducing damage to you. It will work against any seperate source trying to damage you, so even twenty 1/1 creatures attacking you won't damage you at all! This will be really bad for any deck trying to kill you with direct damage, they'll usually have to take care of this first. Also great on attack and defense, and will be lethal with any kind of equipment!

Recommendation: Must include. Replace Gideon's Avenger. Although that's a good card, it's one of the few that doesn't quite fit the theme of the deck, acting in a more defensive role unless backed up by tapping the opponent's creatures.

Loxodon Gatekeeper: This is a harder one to evaluate. He's certainly very interesting, and will slow down the opponent considerably. But I'm concerned that it is too expensive for what it does, and isn't quite good enough to replace what is already in the deck. Although there doesn't seem much difference between 3 and 4 mana, with a deck this quick it's a big difference and I'd personally stick with Kor Hookmaster for its instant, aggressive effect rather than the more plodding Gatekeeper. I feel this one will need a lot of testing to properly decide its place, and whether or not it should be in the deck. My first impressions lead me to leave it out. The deck is so aggressive that this doesn't quite fit, it's more of a denial card. For those of you old enough to remember the Stasis decks, you'll notice this is a walking Kismet!

Recommendation: Worth giving a try to see how it goes, but I feel it should be left out.

Good cards

Arrest: This card mostly sorts out the biggest problem that Weapons of the Warrior had, which was annoying ability creatures. Sadly it still doesn't stop continuous effects like Captivating Vampire giving all other Vampires +1/+1, or triggered abilities like with Goblin Arsonist. Use this sparingly to either nullify huge threats, remove a blocker if victory is close, or to stop a creature with activated abilities. Watch out for the opponent destroying this during combat, suddenly making another blocker available for them.

Baneslayer Angel: Along with the other Angels, this is really nothing to do with the deck and its strategy. But it's too strong to ignore, one of the best creatures of all time, sickeningly overpowered. It will most likely win the game if the opponent can't kill it, it's usually that simple. Amazing on attack and defence, and really hard to kill thanks to first strike. Some of the huge fliers that might have done the job are dragons, and they can't even block it or use their abilities on it thanks to protection. The life gain means you can usually just keep attacking and can afford to take damage back, it's hard for the opponent to keep up in that race.

Stoneforge Mystic: Unbelievably awesome, I think I read that this is even banned now in standard play. It's probably best there is only one in the deck for balance. This essentially gives you an extra copy of every equipment in the deck, along with a way to get them on the battlefield at a reduced cost for the expensive ones. Note that it doesn't have to be the one you fetched that you put onto the battlefield, you can use it for any equipment in your hand, and multiple times over several turns. If you don't have the mana to equip what you're going to play anyway, it can be better to hold back your mana and activate his ability near the end of your opponent's turn. This puts the equipment in as a surprise ready for you to untap, rather than letting your opponent plan their strategy around it by putting it down on your turn. When you cast him, the equipment you fetch will depend on the situation and the cards in your hand. Plan your next few turns mentally, looking at what your opponent has, and decide what best fits your mana curve.

Puresteel Paladin: If you play with 6 or more equipment cards, this is an awesome creature to include. He turns all your equipment into "free" cards, replacing them instantly with another card. And if you're lucky enough to cast several in a row this way and get 3 or more on the battlefield, his other ability then lets you equip them all for free. And at 2/2 he's capable of handing out the beats with the rest of them. Keep him alive is a priority for his abilities. Cast him before any equipment cards.

Gideon's Lawkeeper: This is in my opinion the best of the 1 drops in the deck, and in the game. Tapping creatures is a very powerful ability. If you use it offensively, make sure you tap a creature before the opponent chooses their blockers in your turn. Once a creature has blocked, tapping it will make no difference. If you're using it defensively, you need to tap a creature before the opponent declares their attackers, which will be in their first main phase. Again, once a creature has attacked, trying to tap it makes no difference. If this creature is untapped during your opponent's turn you can also use it extra-offensively by tapping one of their creatures during their turn, then untapping and tapping another creature in your turn. This way he can clear 2 blockers out of the way.

Trusty Machete: The most efficient and dangerous of the equipment in the deck. It comes out quickly, the only drawback is the slightly annoying equip cost which can be awkward early on. It helps your smaller creatures punch through. Once you have a reasonable amount of mana it becomes a permanent boost for any available creature. Very nasty on Kor Duelist or Kitemaster Apprentice.

Kor Outfitter: These are essential to the deck strategy. They enable you to continue to get a creature into play while equipping your gear, and sometimes to avoid paying a large equip cost. You'll usually want to save these until you have some equipment in play that you want to equip to something. Cast other creatures and equipment first, then cast this guy. Attach something to one of your other creatures and it can attack holding the gear right away. If you have no other creatures to play first, play your equipments and then cast this so he can at least pick up the equipment himself.

Sword of War and Peace: This equipment is a bit mental. Although slightly on the expensive side, its benefits are worth it. Protection from red and white has a fair chance of being relevant. Note that protection from white stops the creature being targeted by your own abilities such as Kor Outfitter. The life gain can really hurt direct damage decks, and the damage is harsh against slower decks. Perfect for putting on Kitesail Apprentice, as it will be harder for the opponent to avoid these effects by chump blocking. This works really well in combination with Infiltration Lens if you get them both on the same creature. The opponent is then damned if they block, damned if they don't. They let you get 2 cards if they block, or else take extra damage and let you gain life.

Kitesail Apprentice: I really like this one, he gives you a way to easily get some evasion damage from flying.


This guy takes to the air with whatever you put on him, plus a +1/+1 bonus, to keep on doing damage even if the ground has become clogged up. This can help break stall situations.

Kor Duelist: He becomes scary very quickly, even with just a Trusty Machete he can deal 6 damage thanks to double strike. After testing, I've found it's worth including these along with the Kitesail Apprentices if you are using 7+ Equipment cards, as they make the most of the theme. If he gets hold of multiple Equipments, he's usually unstoppable.

Sunspear Shikari: He is a bit of a mental case, going ape when he gets hold of some equipment. He's got decent stats anyhow, and lifelink and first strike make him really hard to deal with, especially after stat boosts. Getting him out with something on him is a priority, since the life gain will help you be able to keep attacking recklessly, and not much will be able to stop him early. Neither ability will be redundant since none of your equipment offers either of them.

Elite Vanguard: To my knowledge this is only the second ever 1 mana creature with 2 power and no drawback, the first being Savannah Lions. It's ridiculously unfair, and should be a green creature! But since no one cares what I think about it, it's here in white, and it's a Soldier too. A great creature to cast first, getting maximum power on the table. He can trade with most 2 drops, and gets even more scary once he gets hold of equipment. He would be higher on the list, except for his lack of interaction with Equipment. Still well worth including.

Kor Hookmaster: This guy can look a bit wussy on first glance, but I have found him to be quite effective. He doesn't permanently deal with a creature, but he gets it out of the way for an attack both on this turn and the next. You can deal a lot of damage in that time if you pick your moment. After that you may have another Hookmaster to lock it down again, or a diferent way to deal with it. While he does this he provides another reasonable creature and a target for your equipment.

Gideon's Avenger: This guy is a lot more effective than he looks. He acts as a deterrent against your opponent attacking with anything. Right away he gets a counter for each attacking creature, and then has the option of blocking after that, potentially now big enough to kill something. Also he combos well with the Lawkeeper and Hookmaster, gaining a counter each time you tap an opponent's guy. He often gets big enough to demand an answer fairly quickly, or at least makes your opponent hold up on their attack.

Conqueror's Pledge: Forget the kicker which is unlikely to ever happen. Just the standard effect of this card is very strong. 6 creatures for 5 mana is really good (anyone remember Icatian Town? That was in a tournament deck once...) and gives you huge amounts of targets for equipment, and the ability to overpower your opponent with huge attacks. Or a bunch of chump blockers if things are going badly while your flying creatures do some damage. My favourite 5 mana spell for this deck, after the infamous Baneslayer. If you are choosing between this and Serra Angel, I'd go with this, because the 5 creatures are harder to kill in just one spell, and this fits the theme of the deck better.

Serra Angel: Not quite as good as Baneslayer, but good enough to hold a 5 mana slot, at least for now. The age old creature which can attack and then still defend thanks to vigilance. If you're going to cut a 5 mana spell for speed, I'd cut this one.

Brave the Elements: A very useful cheap spell, and one of your few combat tricks. You can use this in several ways, by choosing the appropriate colour-


1.By casting before blockers are chosen, no creatures of the chosen colour can block your creatures this turn. Against a mono deck, this means all your creatures are essentially unblockable.


2.By casting in response to a spell or ability that targets one or more of your creatures, you make the targets invalid and the spell or ability will fail. This will also prevent any extra side effects that would have happened, such as gaining life from Corrupt.


3.By casting in response to a spell or ability that deals damage to one or more of your creatures but doesn't target them (such as Pyroclasm), all the damage will be prevented.


4.No combat damage will be dealt from creatures of the chosen colour to your creatures. This is useful if your opponent plays an unexpected Giant Growth or similar during combat, to save your creature.


5.It makes any nasty Auras your opponent has put on your creatures, such as Arrest, fall off.



This spell is no use against untargeted effects that don't deal damage, such as Damnation or Evacuation. Also it's usually bad to cast this "just in case". For example, say I cast this with the idea that I don't want the opponent to Incinerate any of my creatures this turn. If my opponent does have an Incinerate he can use it in response and it will resolve first killing my creature. If I'd have waited and an Incinerate does come, I can cast this in response to save my creature.

Captain of the Watch: This is my favourite top-end spell for the deck. It has an immediate impact, pumping up all your Soldiers (which is most of your creatures) and vigilance allows them to defend as well after attacking. This is best cast when your opponent is tapped out so they can't kill this guy and make you lose the bonus mid combat. But even if he does die right away, you get to keep the 3 tokens which give you plenty of targets for equipment. Keep him out of combat if he's likely to die, to keep his bonus in operation.

Infiltration Lens: I find this equipment very useful, mainly because of its really cheap mana and equip costs. Since you have as many as 6 creatures that get a bonus just by being equipped, this makes getting those bonuses very easy. It also fits the strategy of the deck perfectly. You want to keep attacking, and this makes one of your creatures undesirable to be blocked. Your opponent has the choice between taking the damage, or letting you draw 2 cards. You can attack recklessly with the creature it's on, even if the opponent can block it with a bigger creature and survive. Gaining 2 cards for your 1 creature is great. Your opponent can't handle this kind of cheap card advantage, and an experienced player will most likely let your creature through each time until they can do something about the situation.

OK cards

Revoke Existence: The best artifact and enchantment control in the game. It ignores being indestructible, and regeneration. Also, the targeted card can't be retrieved from the graveyard. Unfortunately, 4 of the top 5 decks don't have more than 1 card that needs removing and some have none, so it can often be useless. It can be useful against the new Grave Whispers and Auramancer decks, although I feel not essential. Going with just 1 of these as a way of sitting on the fence may be a good strategy. I've rated it as OK simply because of the general lack of powerful artifacts/enchantments in the game in general, and particularly in the top decks. As decks chance in popularity, so will the usefulness of this card.

Strider Harness: Although initially a little expensive, once on the table it's easy to use. You can equip it to the new creature you cast each turn, allowing it to attack right away along with everything else. You can also cheaply move it around after combat to provide a suitable blocker. Very nice for keeping the pressure on, and lethal on a big Angel! You can also use this nicely with a Gideon's Lawkeeper that you just drew. You can cast him, attach the Harness, then use his tap ability right away to tap a potential blocker. Then put the Harness on something else, and attack!

Kitesail: I used it to keep the equipment count up, although I'd like to replace it if DLC offers something better. A little bit pricey for what it does, it can be hard to use early on in the game, so I only like using 1 of these. It does help keep the damage going through a stall situation, and for when need a blocker against the opponent's flying creatures.

Pennon Blade: Although on the expensive side, I've been including this to keep the equipment count up again, and as a late-game breakthrough since this deck can stall. Hopefully a Kor Outfitter can save you the big equip cost. Great in combination with the token generation cards in the deck. Could possibly be cut for speed.

Argentum Armor: I feel that this is just slightly too expensive for this deck with its current setup. When it works it's going to be great, but I think the risk and the cost may be too much. It will be amazing if you get both a Stoneforge Mystic and Kor Outfitter to avoid paying both the big costs, but with only one Mystic you can't rely on this. And if the creature you go to equip gets killed in response you're stuck with a huge equipment you won't be able to use again without another Outfitter for some time probably. And played from your hand it will take a whole turn to get it out, once you finally reach 6 mana, and unless you've been holding back an Outfitter (clogging up 2 cards in your hand) another turn to equip. You risk that creature being killed in response leaving you very vulnerable after such a big commitment. You may decide it's worth all this risk for the times it works, but I would rather stick with Captain of the Watch for its immediate impact as my 6 mana spell and leave it at that. For a compromise, Pennon Blade has a big effect and for more manageable mana.

Glory Seeker: Your standard grunt, who becomes totally surplus to requirements as you unlock the 2 cost 2/2 creatures with abilities.

Bad cards

Congregate: Life gain is no good for this really aggressive deck, although this one does give you quite a lot of life. I still wouldn't bother, concentrate on nailing your opponent. It'll be more useful in Two Headed Giant or Archenemy where there will be huge amounts of creatures.

Archangel of Strife: This is too expensive for this deck, and not game clinching enough for the stretch. It can also backfire quite badly. Save it for Archenemy where all 3 of you can choose attack and wreak havoc!

Angel's Feather: I hate life gain!

Harmless Assault: This is well overpriced anyway for what it does, and it's still in the wrong deck. This is a very aggressive deck, and doesn't want to be standing around trying to fix fights on the defence or fogging the opponent. Steer clear!

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
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Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 guide [part 3]


Jace Beleren - Realm of Illusion

Summary

This is a mono blue Illusion based deck. It's vaguely like Thoughts of Wind from D09, but has had a complete makeover. A lot of its Illusion creatures die just from being targeted by a spell or ability, which I'll refer to as "shy" creatures. They make up for it with generally very good stats for their mana cost. It has plenty of countermagic, and much improved support cards, making it a competitive deck at last. It is also able to tap out much more safely with more reliable bounce options (returning cards to their owners' hands).

Strategy

This can be a very aggressive deck, and you want to try and swarm the opponent with Illusions, right from turn 1 if possible. You expect some of the shy ones to die, but it will usually still cost the opponent a card, and you have plenty more where they came from. The Krovikan Mists are big hitters early on, so keep the number of Illusions in play high. Keep on the offensive whenever possible, and use your bounce spells such as Repulse to return expensive creatures to the opponent's hand to slow them down. Use your countermagic to stop big threats, and to protect your important cards like Lord of the Unreal. He is the bomb for this deck if you can keep him out, making your shy creatures untargetable and thus removes their disadvantage. Press for the win with flying creatures, aided by unblockable Phantom Warriors.

Read carefully: don't ever try to stop one of your shy creatures from getting killed by countering the spell that targeted them. It won't work! Their own ability to kill themselves exists independently and it doesn't matter what happens to the spell after that. There is only one way to save them from their own ability, and that is to use Evacuation in response to whatever has targeted them. You must have auto-resolution set to Off, otherwise the self-kill abilities resolve instantly. This works because Evacuation doesn't target anything, so doesn't set off their ability like trying to save them with Repulse would.

Pros


Beefy creatures can dominate the board from early on


Lots of countermagic and bounce spells


Plenty of fiers and unblockables


Good card drawing


Some nice creature stealing


Mono deck means no colour problems


 


Cons


Relies on just one card for enchantment and artifact control, and that is by bouncing them (Quicksilver Geyser)


Shy creatures obviously very vulnerable without Lord of the Unreal


Cannot destroy creatures, only steal/bounce them


 


Example decklist

24 Island

Creatures (19)

4 Phantasmal Bear
4 Krovikan Mist
2 Lord of the Unreal
2 Æether Adept
3 Blind Phantasm
2 Phantom Warrior
1 Phantasmal Dragon
1 Sower of Temptation

Other spells (17)

1 Fleeting Distraction
2 Counterspell
2 Cancel
2 Divination
3 Repulse
1 Concentrate
1 Summoner's Bane
2 Jace's Ingenuity
1 Mind Control
1 Quicksilver Geyser
1 Time Warp

Cards to exclude to build this deck

1 Prosperity
1 Æether Figment
3 Kraken's Eye
1 Mind Spring
1 Wall of Air
1 Disorient
3 Phantom Beast
2 Air Elemental
1 Drake Umbra
1 Evacuation
1 Mahamoti Djinn

DLC 1 cards

Bribery: The new ace card for Realms, this is bordering on insane. The only saving grace for the other decks is that Realms will have to take a really good card out of its impressive roster to make room. It's probably been the most discussed card already, and I'm sure everyone has their strategy worked out! Against most decks, you're probably just going to want to take the biggest, most powerful creature they have. This stops them being able to draw it, and makes them have to probably kill it themselves or lose to it. Be wary about decks that can return cards to their hands, primarily the mirror match and Ancient Depths. In the mirror I would recommend taking Phantasmal Dragon if available, since at least if the opponent tries to return it to their hand, it will be sacrificed instead (unless they use Evacuation or catch you with only that creature when they have Curfew). If not, take a Phantasmal Beast if it's there. Anything else is very risky unless you are confident you can protect it being bounced with counterspells. Against Ancient Depths, don't go for the Eldrazi unless you are absolutely certain you can keep them safe with counterspells! If they get hit with Aether Mutation, you'll be facing them yourself. The best targets are the shroud creatures, like Inkwell Leviathan and Simic Sky Swallower. Against any deck, you're likely to have a great selection to choose from for each situation, and you'll often get a more expensive creature than you paid for with this spell. And there's no enchantment or creature that can be removed to get them back as with Mind Control and Sower of Temptation.

Recommendation: Must include. Remove a Jace's Ingenuity. I wouldn't want to lose a creature from the deck, and to keep costs down you don't want too many 5 mana spells. It's a painful cut, but this seems like the right move for now. It's the weakest 5 mana spell.

Curfew: This is a card that looks very helpful for the deck, but I worry that it isn't quite powerful enough to merit removing any of the current incredibly powerful spells for. This is one of the tightest decks in the game already, and a card has to be pretty amazing to even consider replacing something. It does have a lot of uses though. You can use it to save your "shy" illusions from their own abilities. If an opponent targets your Phantasmal Dragon say, this will trigger its ability to sacrifice itself. But as long as you have auto resolution turned off in the options, it won't resolve right away. You can respond by casting Curfew. Since it doesn't target your creature, it won't make its ability trigger again like if you tried to save it with Repulse, which wouldn't work. Curfew resolves first, allowing you to return the Dragon safely to your hand while at the same time forcing the opponent to return something to their hand, slowing them down. I think it could be considered as part of a very fast build focusing on speed and bouncing creatures, since it's such a cheap spell. It can be used to save your other creatures too such as Lord of the Unreal for just 1 mana, or by saving an Aether Adept, you get to use his bounce ability again once you recast him. Also you can get back Sower of Temptation once his "host" has been killed.

Recommendation: Worth considering for highly aggressive speed builds, but generally I would say leave it out.

Cultural Exchange: This is more of a multiplayer format card, where it could prove to be very useful. In 1 vs 1 I think this is too expensive for what it does. It costs 6 mana, and I think it is not even as good as the 5 mana spells already in the deck. You don't want to be giving away your creatures with this deck, as your strategy involves controlling as many Illusions as possible. If you give them away, your Krovikan Mists get weaker and Lord of the Unreal gets less effective. On the plus side, if you hand over "shy" illusions, they are then vulnerable to be killed by targeting them, which isn't hard for this deck to do. And in a drawn out game that has reached a stalemate, this could be a great breaker card by swapping several of your smaller creatures for the opponent's best ones. But since this deck is so fast and dominant, you are likely to have the best creatures anyhow and plan to counter or bounce big threats, there probably won't be much you need to worry about swapping for.

Recommendation: Don't include.

Good cards

Counterspell: Ouch! Banned from standard for being too good, for some reason it's back again. The counterspell that all other counterspells are named after, and probably the third best of all time after Mana Drain and Force of Will. But enough with the history lesson... This is your best counterspell in the deck, and the only one that requires just 2 mana. My rule of thumb with counterspells is the more you have in your hand, the more sparing you can be with them. And the less you have, the more careful you have to be with each one. So with a handful of countermagic it can be worth countering even a lowly 2/2 creature if it's going to help your game plan. But when you just have one in your hand, you can't assume you're going to draw more any time soon. Save it for something you really can't cope with any other way, or that will seal your victory. When you can afford to, use your other countermagic first so that you save this more efficient one for later.

Mind Control: This is a huge game changer, and you want to make it count. By stealing your opponent's huge creature, you've not only removed the threat to yourself but turned the tables by making your opponent have to find an answer to it. Knowing the decks well helps a lot to decide what to steal. Take into account whether the deck you are facing has enchantment control too. If it does, it may be better to wait until you have enough mana to defend this with countermagic. Otherwise, you can tap out to steal the creature quite safely.

Cancel: Exactly the same as Counterspell, but costs one more. Still very powerful and worth including.

Sower of Temptation: Stealing the opponent's creatures is one of the most powerful things you can do in Magic. To add more injury to the insult and the injury, you get a 2/2 flier out of the deal as well. Although it's not an Illusion and doesn't fit the theme particularly, it's too good to ignore. It's generally easier to kill than Mind Control being a small creature, but it's also cheaper. And if the opponent can't deal with it, they are in big trouble. If you cast this when they are tapped out, even if they can untap and then kill this right away, the creature you stole will regain summoning sickness. Later in the game, you may have enough mana to cast this and then protect it with countermagic.

Lord of the Unreal: This is your boss guy, who makes everything alright. 2/2 for 2 mana is unusually efficient for blue anyway, and his ability works wonders for this deck. As long as he remains on the battlefield, all your shy creatures suddenly lose their disability since they can no longer be targeted by anything. And your other Illusions becomes similarly shielded. Short of mass destruction, the opponent has to deal with this card before he can do anything about your Illusions. Early in the game he can provide a quick boost to your guys before the opponent gets round to removing him, but later on, at only 2 mana, you can fairly easily cast him and then protect him with countermagic. If you can do this, the sheer size of your Illusions should win the game. Along with Krovikan Mist, he gives a reason to use as many Illusion-type creatures as possible.

Repulse: This is so much better than the bounce spells in the old Jace deck which almost always lead to card disadvantage. This spell means you can tap out much more safely, knowing that even if a big creature comes down, you can at least bounce it. If you also want to counter it, make sure your opponent can't cast it again the same turn if you don't have the mana to counter it. If they can you may have to wait until your turn and untap all your lands. This card has all sorts of uses:


1.To play with your opponent's momentum by making them cast an expensive creature again, and make it have to go through summoning sickness again.


2.To get rid of any counters or Auras on a creature, and make it drop any Equipment it has.


3.To stop a creature that has been pumped with Giant Growth etc. from killing your creature by bouncing it before damage is dealt.


4.To temporarily get rid of the bonus a creature is providing, for example bouncing Captivating Vampire in the middle of combat so all the Vampires suddenly drop their +1/+1 bonus before damage is dealt.


5.To kill creature tokens, since they cease to exist when they are put back in your opponent's hand.


6.To save your own creature, by casting in response to something that will kill it, or in combat before damage is dealt. You can block an attacker, and then Repulse your creature. The attacker then won't deal you any damage unless it has trample.


7.To get rid of nasty Auras that your opponent has put on your creature by being able to recast it. This includes things that steal it such as Mind Control.



Phantasmal Dragon: This is the best of the shy creatures, quite amazing stats and also flying just for 4 mana. Unfortunately he's going to be a prime target as well. You may want to throw out Phantasmal Beasts first if you have both in hand, if you suspect the opponent will likely have something to target them. Left unchecked, this guy is going to rule the air and probably the game, especially early on.

Krovikan Mist: This can prove to be one of the most effective parts of your offence, and the main reason to use as many Illusions as possible in your deck. He counts all Illusions, including himself and other Krovikan Mists, quickly growing very large and becoming hard to deal with. It's a good play on turn 2, even if the opponent has something to kill it, that's one less for use on your shy creatures. And if it remains, every Illusion you cast next turn will pump him up before he attacks. Along with Air Elementals, he can often provide the finishing touches to your win. Late in the game, in any stalled position, he's likely to come out huge and you'll have the mana to protect him.

Divination: Very simple and effective card drawing. Useful both early and late in the game. Always put a lot of thought into whether you should commit your mana to card drawing, casting creatures, or holding it back for countermagic. Each situation is different, try to imagine what your opponent has in their hand, and what will happen over the next few turns. As you gain experience in the game this will become easier, but in the end you often have to rely on intuition and rough probabilities. Pay careful attention to the number of cards the opponent has in their hand at all times.

Concentrate: This is the same as Divination, but one more card for one more mana. Really great for refilling your hand if you've cast a lot of cheap illusions early.

Jace's Ingenuity: Although at first glance this just seems worse than Concentrate, its power lies in it being an instant. For the other card draw spells in this deck, you have to decide on your turn whether you want to commit the mana to getting the cards. With this card, you don't have to decide. In fact, unless you have enough mana to make use of the cards you draw, or desperately want another land to play, it's best to not cast this in your turn at all. Leave your mana open, and see what the opponent does. Wait until at least after they have attacked, and if they appear to have finished you can go ahead and cast it. If they do something awful and you decide you must counter it, then you have kept your options open to do that, which you wouldn't if you cast this in your turn. Be wary of people "baiting" you though, pretending they have finished their turn when they haven't. If you cast this on their turn, they can then start casting creatures etc. and you may not have the mana to counter them. You have to decide whether this is worth the risk. How many bounce spells are in your hand will help with this decision. You can even cast this in response to a spell, and if you draw any counterspells from this and have the mana, use them to counter the spell.

Mind Spring: This is very flexible, and normally I'd recommend putting this in as it's a great card, but the sheer number of other efficient card drawing spells makes me think this isn't needed. If you want to concentrate even more on card drawing though, this is the way to go. At least you can be fairly safe tapping all your lands with this deck with bounce spells in hand. At other times, you can play it more safely, leaving some mana back for countermagic. If you haven't played a land this turn, and all you have is Cancel for countermagic, you could risk tapping all but 2 Islands, hoping to find another Island in the cards you draw.

Phantasmal Bear: Although the smallest, this is my favourite shy guy. He absolutely owns the field by coming out 2/2 on the first turn, and he can be followed by another or even 2 more the next turn. Even if the opponent uses something to kill it, it will usually be a card for a card, and since you only put 1 mana into this guy you're not going to be too worried. Use him to pound the opponent early, getting them low enough for your eventual bigger creatures and fliers to finish the job, and to force the opponent onto the defensive.

Phantom Beast: Although not as good as the Dragon, this is still very hefty. He's likely to be bigger than anything else out on turn 4, and if the opponent can't swipe him then he'll be able to bully them quite badly. Also a huge blocker if needed. You may find that against some decks his big mana cost makes him a liability if the opponent has a lot of cards that can target him easily. I would say when facing Unquenchable Fire, Wielding Steel, Strength of Stone and Dragon's Roar you would be better off using Blind Phantasm. This is 4 out of the 10 decks, so it comes down to which you expect to face and how scary you find each matchup. You can even use a mixture of the two to hedge your bets, if playing against an unknown deck.

Time Warp: This is the "fair" Time Walk, and I'm glad to see it make an appearance in Duels. Once you hit 5 mana you can't go wrong by casting it, as at the very least it will replace itself in your hand. But you want to cast it when you can get maximum advantage. If you have more than 5 lands, it lets you use the remainder without having to worry about being tapped out since you will get to untap again before your opponent does. It will let you play an additional land in your extra turn. You can attack recklessly without worrying about blocking since you get a full untap. The later in the game you use this the better usually, but look out for any situation where you can gain a big advantage, or even kill your opponent just by attacking twice with flying and unblockable creatures. This is amazing in Two Headed Giant or Archenemy, since it gives your whole team another turn!

Summoner's Bane: Although narrow in focus, it's worth including as every deck uses creatures and there's always going to be nasty ones you want to stop. Use this in preference to any other counterspell when you get the chance, to save the others for more flexible targeting. The token you get counts as an Illusion as well, which helps your theme, and gives you another attacker or blocker.

Phantom Warrior: This fits much better here than it did in the old Jace deck. Because this is much more aggressive, you're more likely to want to keep attacking with this and not having to keep it as an overpriced blocker. If the game gets stalled he's the perfect card to keep applying damage since almost nothing can stop him. Plus he's an Illusion!

Quicksilver Geyser: I feel this card, although a little expensive, is an essential include because it is the only way you can do anything about artifacts and enchantments on the battlefield. And on top of that, it can be used as a mini-evacuation against your opponent, leaving your own creatures in place. This can cost them a lot of momentum. It can be used in many dual-purpose ways, such as bouncing your own creature which just got targeted by a kill-spell, while returning their annoying creature/artifact/enchantment to their hand ready to counter. Use carefully and sparingly.

Aether Adept: Although it's a shame he's not an Illusion, his ability is very strong. It's worth considering as they play havoc with your opponent's momentum and complement nicely the other bounce effects in the deck. Follow the same strategies as with Repulse, although of course this can't be used as an Instant. He allows you even more to be able to tap out with the knowledge you can bounce anything that gets cast.

Air Elemental: Not an Illusion, but I feel he is strong enough to fill out the top of the creature mana curve and provide some late game punch. 4/4 flying is always going to be big, and there's nothing else to challenge him at this mana range. But it doesn't fit the theme of the deck, and you'll often leave yourself, and this creature, vulnerable tapping out to cast it.

Evacuation: A very nice card, and it's the only way to save your shy creatures once they have been targeted (make sure you have auto resolution turned off for this to work). I personally prefer dropping this for Quicksilver Geyser, since I feel that is the more important card, and since this deck is very fast I don't like how it halts your own momentum as well. I feel this is the weakest of the 5 mana spells available and is too negative for the overall strategy. If you do use it, save it for when your opponent has a large number of creatures in play, and preferably when they have tapped out so they can't cast any again that turn. Use it during their turn when you can, leaving your mana untapped to start casting yours again.

Mahamoti Djinn: A good old fashioned huge flier back from the mists of time! He is nice, but I feel he's not quite needed in this deck. You already have 2 Air Elementals for big finishers, and this is just a bit more of a stretch so I'd prefer them and wouldn't want another expensive non-Illusion. You'd probably also rather be spending the mana on card draw when you get to the stage you can cast this. He could be useful if you plan for a really long, drawn out game.

OK cards

Fleeting Distraction: This is a baby version of Disorient, which is much better. It can be used to either reduce the combat damage that will be dealt to you, or fix a fight, such as dropping a 2/2 to 1/2 so it falls to your Phantasmal Bear. Even when you don't have a particular use for it, cast it on anything (except your shy creatures!) just to draw a card whenever you have a spare mana. I like including this to complement the card draw, and it effectively reduces the deck size.

Blind Phantasm: This is OK to start with, but doesn't quite pack enough punch to hang with the rest of the potential unlocks. It does


have quite nice stats and is an Illusion that's not shy, but it tends to just sit around after the first few turns. The impact of Æether Adept is much better for the mana, and Phantom Warrior is preferable. You'll often be wanting to hold the mana for a counterspell if you don't have either of these rather than casting this. However, he can provide an alternative to Phantom Beast if you are worried about him being too vulnerable to targeting. He can then more reliably defend and help pump up your Krovikan Mists. Because he is cheaper, changing a Beast for one of these can also smooth out your mana curve.

Wall of Air: This would have been good in the old Jace deck, but here it is too defensive. Plus it's not an Illusion. You have plenty of fliers which can defend if need be, and better things to play on turn 3 that fit your strategy.

Bad cards

Aether Figment: I just can't like this card, it's not a good deal with or without the kicker. 1 damage a turn is puny, and for 5 mana you have much better spells. Phantom Warrior is much better in my opinion. And at the 2 mana slot, you have 4 Krovikan Mist and 2 Lord of the Unreal which are both much better than this.

Drake Umbra: An Aura this expensive has to be really good, and this isn't. Plus you can't use it on your shy creatures without killing them, and a lot of your creatures have flying already. And if they kill the creature in response to casting the Aura, the totem armor effect won't kick in. Too clumsy for this deck.

Prosperity: This is no good in one on one without something particular to combo it with, and this deck has nothing suitable. Your opponent gains the same amount of cards as you, and will probably get to use them first if you put a lot of mana into this. The deck has plenty of other reliable card drawing, you don't need this. Save it for Archenemy, where it will be really good, letting your team draw X cards each against just one lot of X for the Archenemy.

Kraken's Eye: I hate life gain!

Disorient: The Firemind deck from D09 gave this card to Jace as a joke, and he mistakenly put it in his deck. Don't make the same mistake! Remove this as soon as possible and keep it out. It's stupidly overpriced for what it does, and it doesn't guarantee you will kill a big creature with your one since you still need enough power to do the job. As a one-shot way of stopping damage against you, it's a terrible deal too. This deck is aggressive, and this is a silly defensive kind of card.


Kiora Atua - Ancient Depths

Summary

This is a brand new blue/green deck, which is quite different to anything else you will have seen in D09. It is capable of getting out huge numbers of lands very quickly, and then uses them to cast powerful expensive spells that you would normally never even consider trying to use, including two Eldrazi! On the way it draws lots of cards, messes with and steals your opponent's creatures.

Strategy

In the early game your goal is to get as much land into play as possible while keeping yourself alive. You don't have much to defend yourself with early on, 2 Kraken Hatchling are your best hope. If you're getting beaten really bad you have Coiling Oracles as chump blockers. Once you get a bit of mana on the table, Ondu Giant can be really useful for keeping the lands coming while giving you a blocker. Once you have lots of mana, you then want to start using your expensive spells to draw lots of cards and get huge creatures out. The situation will dictate the priority of all of this, and the most important thing is to manage your mana effectively. If you can stay alive long enough, you will usually win just by the sheer power of the threats you put into play. If you have enough mana to play both a land fetcher and a card draw spell, consider which order you should play them. If you want to draw more non-land cards, use your land fetcher first to thin out your library. If you're trying to draw lands, use your card draw first.

Pros


Insane mana development leading to awesome spells early in the game


Good card drawing


2 creature stealing spells which can turn the game around


 


Cons


Can't easily destroy creatures


Vulnerable in the early game when trying to develop lands, especially to fliers


Little artifact and enchantment control


Can get stuck on not enough mana to get going, or sometimes far too much and not enough to do with it


Two colours can cause problems, especially if you don't draw Forests early



Example decklist

13 Island
12 Forest

Creatures (14)

4 Coiling Oracle
2 Ondu Giant
1 Primeval Titan
1 Isleback Spawn
2 Simic Sky Swallower
1 Lorthos, the Tidemaker
1 Inkwell Leviathan
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

Other spells (21)

4 Explore
1 Compulsive Research
3 Cultivate
2 Explosive Vegetation
1 Polymorph
1 Rite of Replication
2 Skyshroud Claim
3 Aether Mutation
1 Mind Control
2 Tidings
1 Yavimaya's Embrace

Cards to exclude to build this deck

2 Kraken Hatchling
2 New Frontiers
1 Treasure Hunt
1 Edric, Spymaster of Trest
2 Assault Zeppelid
1 Elvish Piper
2 Giant Octopus
1 Levitation
3 Living Destiny
1 Tidal Kraken

I created this alternate list as I was unhappy with the performance of the original list after a lot of testing. This version concentrates less on early defence, and much more about getting your own big creatures into the game as soon as possible. 2 Kraken Hatchling and 2 Assault Zeppelid make way for 2 Explosive Vegetation, Isleback Spawn and Inkwell Leviathan. Although these are not great creatures, in fact the Spawn is pretty bad, at least they have shroud and you can count on them staying in the game after all the investment of cards into ramping up. I felt Elvish Piper is a slight underachiever, early in the game he hogs mana away from your ramping and is extremely vulnerable; and useless if you don't also have a big creature to go with him. Later in the game you usually have enough mana to cast anything anyway, and he isn't a lot of help. So in this version I cut him for Polymorph, which I don't generally like, but now there are only 6 smallish creatures and 8 huge ones. And the 6 small ones at least either give you a card back (Coiling Oracle) or fetch another land (Ondu Giant). I've been quite pleased with this version.

DLC 1 cards

Mass Polymorph: This is going to be rather obscene when it works, quite possibly sealing the game in one go. The perfect play is going to be Aether Mutation on an opponent's big creature, try to keep as many of your tokens alive, and then next turn Mass Polymorph. If you can morph 3 or more creatures, I would fully expect that to be game clinching. I'd consider this a direct upgrade to Polymorph, and the additional cost isn't a problem for this deck. This is going to be much more reliable; giving you usually more than one chance to find a big creature. It's harder to stop since the opponent can't just kill/bounce one creature in response like with Polymorph, the others will still get morphed. Obviously later in the game when you have lots of big creatures out already, you're not going to want to cast this. But if you're at that stage, you expect to win anyway.

Recommendation: Must include. Replace Polymorph.

Windstorm: This is an excellent addition to the deck, and addresses one of the decks biggest weaknesses, flying creatures. Although Levitation was a possible solution, I found that rather unsatisfactory, since it does nothing on its own, and requires you to have lots of creatures in play to work. You can't always count on that. This is a much more reliable way of dealing with them, and killing them for good rather than stalling. Use your knowledge of the decks to judge the best point to use this. Have they got out the best flying creatures already that they are likely to, or are they probably going to be playing more soon? You want to hold off as long as you can with this, to take out loads at once. Sometimes of course you'll just have to use it to kill one big flying creature that is threatening to do you in. The fact that it is in instant is useful, since you can use it in response to something that pumps up a creature, or wipe out your opponent's flying army near the end of their turn ready for you to untap and cast your own monster.

Recommendation: Must include. I would probably stay on the fence and include only 1, as they will not always be useful and some decks don't have many flying creatures. Also they are not part of the overall ramp strategy. Replace Compulsive Research, which is probably the weakest card in the list as it relies on having a land to pitch for full effectiveness. If you feel you need a second due to the decks you expect to face, finding another cut is hard but I'd suggest a Coiling Oracle due to their hit and miss nature.

Mold Shambler: This would appear to be a handy card, but I feel that it is too costly for what it does compared to the available targets in this environment. You would pretty much never consider casting this without the kicker unless you're totally desperate, as it's a rubbish deal. With the kicker it's fairly good, giving you a wide variety of targets. As there are no planeswalkers in the game and destroying land is unlikely to be a priority, it's going to be enchantments or artifacts. 4 of the current top 5 decks don't have much worth worrying about, and out of the 3 new decks only Grave Whispers has anything you'd want to get rid of, but I wouldn't consider it essential against that either. For the Auramancer you'd much rather use Aether Mutation to bounce an enchanted creature, or steal it with Mind Control or Yavamiya's Embrace. So it rather depends on what you expect to face, but I'd be inclined to leave this out. You do have Ulamog that can destroy artifacts and enchantments if you're desperate. It does have the up side that you can always destroy a land, which if you accellerate fast and the opponent comes out slow, could throw a monkey in the works. Or you could pick on multi-coloured decks by taking out a singleton land for one colour. It will be much more useful in multiplayer formats, where the chances of a nasty artifact/enchantment coming up is greater.

Recommendation: Don't include unless you expect to see a lot of Wielding Steel, Machinations etc.

Good cards

Mind Control: This deck doesn't have a lot of ways to directly remove creature threats, so this is an immensely important card when you draw it. Save it for the biggest threat you are likely to face (knowing the decks well helps), or something that is beating you up really badly. It will help buy you time until your own huge guys turn up.

Explore: This is a brilliant card, and perfect for this deck. This is usually the priority spell for turn 2. You will likely have a third land in hand, and you get to draw a card and then play your land. Even if you don't have one, it is often worth the chance of casting this and hoping you draw one, and then playing it. Even if you don't, you've replaced the card and got closer to the next land in your deck. Later on, you can sneak this in if you have exactly one more mana available than you need to cast the spell you want to, and a land in hand. Cast this first, then play your land, and that will leave you with exactly the mana you need to cast your spell as well.

Primeval Titan: A huge threat, and not even that expensive by this deck's standards. Even if he dies right away, unless he is countered, you get to keep the 2 extra lands you fetched. If he doesn't die, he can quickly start emptying your deck of land and pumping up your mana to ridiculous proportions. It's sometimes worth attacking with him even if he will die, just to squeeze out some more land. That's a judgement call for each situation. He is an insane choice, in a good way, for Rite of Replication. Each copy also fetches you land upon entering the battlefield, so if you copy him 5 times that's a bucketload coming out at once!

Rite of Replication: This is a way of sort-of dealing with an opponent's scary creature by making a copy of it, which can normally either block it and survive or trade with it. You get any entering the battlefield abilities, they will trigger just as if you had cast the creature you copied. Paying this with the kicker is not out of the question for this deck, and when you can, it's worth holding back until you can do this. It's often a game ending play. Note that if you copy a legendary creature, the creature and all the copies will go to the graveyard because of the "legend rule". For this reason, don't copy your own legendary creatures! But by copying an opponent's one, this effectively becomes a kill spell. No need to kick it in that case, there's no point. For a list of interesting creatures you can copy with this spell, see the posts by Eonblueapocalypse1 on the forum topic here.

Cultivate: This gives mana acceleration and card advantage, all at one low affordable price. You normally want to cast this on turn 3, unless you can happen to have ramped up to 4 mana for Skyshroud Claim or Explosive Vegetation. You can play the land that gets put into your hand if you haven't played one already, or if you also cast an Explore. Later in the game, cast this when you have the spare mana to keep ramping up the lands.

Skyshroud Claim: This and Explosive Vegetation perform similar roles. I slightly favour this one, because the lands come in untapped. Explosive Vegetation obviously has the advantage that you can fetch Islands as well as Forests. The 2 Forests coming in untapped essentially makes the spell cost 2 mana, as long as you have the 4 mana to play it in the first place. So by casting this first, you can often cast another spell that turn that uses those two Forests, either on their own such as for Explore or with other lands for something more expensive.

Explosive Vegetation: This can provide more mana acceleration and also can get exactly the land types that you want. If you have both this and Skyshroud Claim in hand, play this one if there is nothing you can do with the 2 untapped lands you'd get from Skyshroud Claim. That way, you save them for when you can use them.

Compulsive Research: This is efficient and cheap card drawing, and perfect for this deck. It's at its


best when you already have a land in hand that you can afford to discard to guarantee you the full card draw. But even if you haven't you can be reasonably sure you're going to draw at least one land in your 3 cards.

Tidings: This is vital for the deck, helping you rake back cards for all the resources you put into developing your mana. With lots of land, you can often make use of at least some of the cards you draw right away. As soon as your hand is getting a bit low and you can afford the time to spend the mana on this, normally it's a good idea to do so.

Coiling Oracle: An excellent complement to Explore, and quite similar. He always replaces himself, and is an excellent chump blocker. Early in the game, if you trade him for a 1/1 or 2/1 attacker, that's a great deal for you. On turn 2, if you have a choice between this and Explore and have no land in hand, play this. If the card you draw is a land it will be played for you, just as if you'd got it with Explore. If it isn't a land just draw it, as you would with Explore. Either way, you get the same result but a free 1/1 into the bargain. Later in the game, he is a cheap way to keep ripping through your deck to find the cards you need.

Simic Sky Swallower: The big daddy of the skies, and one of your most reliable creatures. The great thing about him is the shroud, which means you can cast him and hardly need to worry about him suddenly getting killed after putting your resources into him. 7 mana is reasonably cheap for a big creature in this deck too, and he is an excellent blocker while you are developing your position. Once you're ready to start attacking, he's really hard to stop thanks to flying and trample. I'd always keep both of these copies in the deck.

Yavimaya's Embrace: Even though the cost of this spell looks outrageous, it's not that hard to achieve with this deck. It has the same strategies as Mind Control, but of course you get an additional bonus of +2/+2 and trample making it even harder for your opponent. You can also cast this on your own creature just to boost it up, although you better be certain that's really worth it! It could win you the game giving a huge creature trample, if the opponent is tapped out and unable to interfere with a kill-spell.

Kozilek, Butcher of Truth: He's a walking Tidings with a rocket launcher, or something like that. He's one of the best ways to spend all that mana you've built up, since you get 4 cards just for casting him, even countering him doesn't stop you drawing the cards. Note that you don't get any cards if he's put onto the battlefield another way such as with Elvish Piper. Although he doesn't have trample, this hardly matters since annihilator is even more effective. If your opponent can't stop him from attacking even a few times, they will not have enough permanents left to stop you doing anything. Even if they can team up to kill it, it's usually worth attacking anyway, since they'll probably lose 2-3 creatures in battle plus 4 permanents to the annihilator, that's a lot of attrition. His graveyard shuffling ability can be useful if you're running low on cards in your library due to putting almost your whole deck onto the battlefield as land. If you use Tidings to get to 8 cards, discard him at the end of your turn when prompted and he'll shuffle your graveyard into your library, saving you from running out of cards. Note that Eldrazi are not artifact creatures, just colourless creatures.

Lorthos, the Tidemaker: Sometimes even more devastating than the Eldrazi, this octo-plus can totally lock down all your opponent's permanents. It's usually most important, if you can, to lock down the opponent's lands. Tap all the lands, then use any of the remaining 8 targets on their best creatures. This way you totally stunt their development and they can't increase their board position hardly at all. Of course, sometimes you need to tap more creatures, either to get your guys through or to stop them beating you up. Use your judgement as to what's best to tap in each situation. You can choose targets that are already tapped, just to stop them untapping next turn. There's no penalty for choosing all 8 targets, even if you don't intend to pay the 8 mana, you are not forced to do so when the time comes. And the permanents still count as targeted so this kills any of the die-by-target Illusions for free. It may take almost all your mana to pay the 8, but you should find that you can continue to develop by playing more lands and mana development spells. So you can carry on casting things while your opponent keeps getting locked down and can barely move. This is an excellent card in Archenemy, if you can keep the big man locked down in this way, often the Schemes aren't even enough to dig them out of that hole. Please note that when he attacks and you are asked to pick 8 targets, it's not asking you which land to pay the ability with! It's asking what you want to tap. So don't select your own lands by mistake. You get asked afterwards if you want to pay or not, and then your land is tapped for you automatically.

Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre: Similar to Kozilek, except this time your reward for casting him is destroying a permanent. Again this ability can't be stopped even by countering him, and only applies if you actually cast him. This is one of the few ways this deck can directly destroy a permanent. Being indestructible means that you can send him crashing in to attack each turn and not worry about any amount of blockers stopping him. Only a very few cards can deal with him, most of them being in the Wielding Steel deck. He is very expensive, but I feel he is worth it, and you will often achieve this amount of mana.

Aether Mutation: Although this is essentially a stall card and I generally don't like those, this is an uber-stall and has other applications as well. It plays with your opponent's timing by returning hopefully a huge creature to their hand, and adding a nice army of 1/1 creatures for you to chump block with. Apart from fliers, these can usually keep you going for a really long time, helping you develop your mana while hiding behind them, until you can put out threats of your own. The deck just doesn't have hardly any other way of dealing with creatures, and I feel these are needed. Sometimes the army of little guys can join in your attack and prove overwhelming to an opponent that has developed slowly. And if there's nothing worth using this on and you desperately need more cards, you can use this on your own Coiling Oracle so you can cast him again. Or if you need more mana, bring back your Ondu Giant for another use. It can also be used to get stolen creatures back to your hand, such as from Mind Control. It will kill a token since they disappear after going to a player's hand. Usually you won't get any Saprolings as tokens have zero mana cost by default. But if the token is a copy of a creature, such as from Rite of Replication or Mirrorworks, the mana cost is copied also. Then you will get Saprolings as usual.

Ondu Giant: You often have to make difficult decisions about when to cast a creature for defence, and when to press on with mana development. This guy offers a useful way to do both at once. His high toughnes makes him a great roadblock, and even if he does get killed by a spell right away you get to keep the land, maintaining card advantage.

Elvish Piper: You can use this chap as a way to "cheat" in your huge creatures without bothering to pay the cost. Although he is very fragile, I feel it is worth the risk, and at the very least your opponent has to stop what they are doing and deal with this card. It's often best not to use his ability in your turn, instead waiting to see what your opponent does. Let them declare attackers, and if they do choose any, use his ability in the attackers phase to drop down something huge. It can then be used to block, probably making a mess of one of the attackers. Even if they don't attack, which they may well not if they know what you're up to, you can still use the ability near the end of their turn once you've seen what they wanted to cast.

Kraken Hatchling: This is the kind of card you would normally expect to see me scoffing at and moving to the bottom of the list. But I make an exception, because this fits well into this deck. You are very vulnerable in your first few turns, and apart from chump blocking with Coiling Oracles you have nothing to protect you. This can soak up a huge amount of damage for you. Even for a pansy defensive card 4 toughness is impressive. You have nothing else you can cast on turn 1, so he doesn't interfere with your mana curve. Later on, you only have to find one spare mana to cast him. He is worth considering for extra ground defence.

OK cards

Inkwell Leviathan: He looks good and talks big, but I feel that he's a bit expensive for what he offers. He is certainly hard to stop, but not that much harder than the cheaper Simic Sky Swallower, and not as devastating as the Eldrazi or Lorthos. If you are looking for another big threat that can look after itself though, you could do worse.

Polymorph: I can see the idea with this card, but I find it too risky. You're meant to cast it on something menial like a Coiling Oracle or a token generated by Æether Mutation and turn it into one of your big nasties. The problem is, the deck has quite a few support creatures, like loads of those Coiling Oracles, Kraken Hatchling, and various 4 mana creatures which would make you facepalm if they got turned over. When it works it may be really good, but I'd rather use cards I can count on. If you are playing a version with much less of the smaller creatures, then it would be much more viable, being quite likely to turn up a monster. You can of course use it on your opponent's creature. This can be risky, but you may consider it an


option since the deck is so lacking in creature control. Note that if the creature you target doesn't get destroyed, like if it's indestructible or saved by a totem armor, the second part about searching for a creature to put into play will still go ahead regardless. So using this on your own Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre will just fetch you a free creature!

Assault Zeppelid: With this deck being low on creatures, this provides a reasonable mid-range attacker and defender. The deck is vulnerable to flying, and this helps with that somewhat. It's easy to cast colour wise. Judging when to cast this and when to keep going with the mana building is difficult. It depends on what the opponent has out, what your life total is and what is in your hand. Plan your next few turns out mentally, and what your opponent is likely to do. Unfortunately it doesn't fit in with the overall theme of the deck.

Isleback Spawn: I've never much cared for this card. It's just way too expensive for what it does. It's usually a huge, untargetable defender, which sounds great, but at 7 mana you want something better than that. Its boost ability isn't something you can rely on either. Some games you may deplete your library really heavily by land searching and drop it to 20, but by that time you'd have the mana to cast any big nasty in the deck and there's plenty more scary that this. However, at least having shroud means it is likely to stick around and help keep you alive. This is its only redeeming factor.

Tidal Kraken: He looks really cool, and when you start playing the deck he's a reasonable threat to use after getting all your mana out. But once you unlock other types of big threats, you'll see they are much more efficient and this guy is a bit overpriced for what he does. He doesn't even compare favourable to Simic Sky Swallower which already starts in the deck. Replace him with one of the better huge cards, and then you shouldn't need him anymore.

Bad cards

Levitation: You don't have enough creatures in this deck that you plan to attack with, that don't already have flying, for this to make much of a difference. For 4 mana, you'd much rather be developing your lands or casting a creature than this. It does help with chump blocking, your Coiling Oracles can get in the way of big fliers, and this deck does have an overall weakness to fliers. But I still don't think it's worth a whole card slot. I would rather use the 4 mana for an Assault Zeppelid which can block and kill small flying creatures without relying on anything else.

Edric, Spymaster of Trest: This doesn't work well in one on one, simply because you don't have enough fast creatures to make use of his ability, nor ways of clearing blockers early. He'll likely get out-muscled, and not achieve much. Late in the game when you have your huge buddies, he may start getting you cards, but that defeats the point of him being so cheap and you may as well have had another giant threat. He is wonderful however in Archenemy! When played aside 2 Sorins busting out Tormented Souls on turn 1, he turns them into crazy card machines, and your Vampire friends will be loading up on goodies. Even the Archenemy will have trouble keeping up with all the firepower they will draw.

Treasure Hunt: I initially thought this looked great, but I've decided it's not necessary. Early in the game, with the deck having around 42% land, you are about 58% likely to just draw 1 card, and for 2 mana that's not good. The rest of the time you'll usually draw 1 land, which is good, and sometimes more. But I'd rather not gamble like this, as Coiling Oracle and Explore are really important to cast early on and are more reliable. Later on in the game, you're likely to have stripped a lot of land from your deck, and the chances of just drawing 1 card get even higher. The deck has better more reliable card draw, I'd leave this out.


Giant Octopus: Just about acceptable to begin with, certainly nothing special. As soon as you unlock the 2 Assault Zeppelid, they are clearly better and should replace these. Those, along with the 2 Ondu Giant, are all you should need at the 4 mana creature range, so these can stay in the box.

Living Destiny: This is rather expensive, relies on having a big creature in hand which you don't always, and is at best only a stall tactic. There's too many other important things to do for 4 mana, mainly boosting your land up quickly to get something really scary into play that will make a real difference. That's better than mucking around like this and giving away card advantage. I'd stay clear.

New Frontiers: I don't recommend using this for 1 on 1, even though the mana acceleration is great, you give the same advantage to your opponent. And they get to untap and make use of it all before you do. It's just too risky, I'd stick to all the more reliable ways that don't help your opponent. However, this is an absolute bomb for Archenemy play! For any amount of X, even as little as 1 but hopefully more, you are boosting all 3 of your allies' land supplies, while only boosting the Archenemy once. And they often get loads of free land from their Schemes and have more than enough, a few more often doesn't make that much difference. But it will raise the curves of all your team, and help them get bigger threats out early.

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
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Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 guide [part 4]


Koth - Strength of Stone

Summary

This is a new mono red deck, which is quite hard to describe as it doesn't seem to have any coherent theme or strategy. It's got a bit of direct damage, a bit of creature pumping, some temporary creature-stealing tricks, and some haste creatures. It's not very good at all, and is easily the worst deck in the game. However, this deck improves hugely with the DLC, promoting it to mid power level and giving it a whole new strategy.

Strategy

Unfortunately, this amounts to just doing the best you can with what you've got. Save your direct damage for really important creatures, as your creatures are poor and will not likely match up to your opponents' very well. You have a few fatty creatures that can prove a menace if you can survive long enough to get them out, and Spire Barrage can be a good finisher if you can get enough damage through to your opponent somehow. Claws of Valakut often provides your best threat, making a creature having a huge power and first strike.

Pros


Has a bit of direct damage, and a couple of 1 mana creatures that can deal damage


Good artifact control with 2 Oxidda Scrapmelter



Cons


Poor creatures and notably no mana cost 2 creatures at all which wrecks the curve


Relies too much on pumping up creatures


Not effective enough to make use of many of the themes the deck tries to have


No coherent strategy


Example decklist

25 Mountain

Creatures (21)

3 Goblin Mountaineer
1 Grim Lavamancer
1 Spikeshot Elder
2 Rockslide Elemental
2 Molten Ravager
2 Vulshock Heartstroker
1 Hero of Oxid Ridge
1 Lavaborn Muse
2 Oxidda Scrapmelter
1 Flowstone Overseer
1 Magma Phoenix
2 Tephraderm
1 Conquering Manticore
1 Earth Servant

Other spells (14)

2 Darksteel Axe
1 Fault Line
3 Spitting Earth
2 Volcanic Strength
1 Act of Treason
2 Claws of Valakut
1 Cerebral Eruption
2 Spire Barrage

Cards to exclude to build this deck

1 Assault Strobe
3 Golden Urn
1 Act of Treason
2 Koth's Courier
2 Vulshok Berserker
4 Earth Elemental
2 Flameborn Hellion
1 Bloodfire Colossus

DLC 1 cards


This deck gets shaken up the most, and I suggest a lot of changes to the list once you have the DLC:


Add 2 Slagstorm, Cyclops Gladiator, Stuffy Doll, 2 Golden Urn, 1 Earth Elemental, 1 Assault Strobe, 1 Act of Treason


Remove 3 Goblin Mountaineer, 2 Volcanic Strength, 2 Vulshok Heartstroker and 2 Tephraderm.


I think this deck made out best with the DLC. All 4 cards are playable and improve the deck, and 3 of them are awesome. The strategy of the deck changes a lot, with 2 Slagstorm making the move towards bigger creatures and moving away from the quick Goblins which were really only placeholders.


With the greater sweeping power, a lot of the previously dodgy cards feel more playable. Act of Treason and Assault Strobe benefit greatly from a sweeper strategy where annoying chump blockers can be removed. Also you have more time to allow these spells to become effective rather than always being on the back foot thanks to improved general card strength. The Goblins and Volcanic Strengths were only there to try and do something in the first couple of turns, and that makes less sense now with the Slagstorms so instead Golden Urns give you something to do with your mana initially and fit with the "sitting back and reacting" new strategy of the deck. The Heartstrokers lose the Goblins as the most useful target and so aren't much needed at the 3 mana level which is already heavily saturated. Tephraderms I replaced due to the damage you will take from them when you cast Slagstorm, which is much more likely to happen regularly than its ability being beneficial now I feel. I put in one Earth Elemental instead as he nicely survives Slagstorm and gives you a fatty to build towards with your 25 lands. I didn't put in 2 because you have Stuffy Doll now at 5 mana, so to avoid having too many costly ones I kept it at 1.

Slagstorm: Almost all the time you are going to choose damage to creatures. Its Pyroclasm's big brother, taking out even some of the medium size creatures. A lot of your creatures have high toughness and are able to survive it. Even if they don't, you can often kill more of the opponent's than your own. This is the new super-ace card, so play it sparingly and hold it back until you can get the biggest effect. Against any weenie rush decks, taking out their whole early army is going to be devastating and leave you well ahead on cards. Then your bigger creatures can come out and dominate. Even better, it can be used as a finisher by choosing damage to players instead. Or in a desperate situation where you're going to lose, you can force a draw by killing both players!

Cyclops Gladiator: This is huge, literally. 4/4 for 4 mana is a great deal, especially for red. It can also wipe out something every time it attacks. Watch out for antics during combat, for example after you select a target, they Giant Growth it. This could lead to your Cyclops losing the "fight" and not even making it to combat. Note that abilities such as first strike make no difference to his ability, he will always get hit back even with Claws of Valakut on. If you don't want him to fight with anything, when asked to pick a target after selecting him as an attacker, press the continue button instead (Y on Xbox). This will make the ability not resolve at all so he won't take any damage. Remember that after his "fight" he will keep the damage he takes, so he will then be easier for a blocker to kill him. Regardless of the potential drawbacks, he is an awesome creature with an ability that can win the game on its own in the right situation.

Stuffy Doll: Not quite as amazing as the above two cards, but still a much needed improvement to the deck. The opponent cannot afford to attack with just one ground creature, you just block it, your Doll won't die and they take the damage that gets dealt. So to achieve anything they must attack with multiple creatures, and you get to reflect back the biggest attacker. You can then use its ability in the opponent's second main phase to damage itself, doing them a further damage. If they don't attack at all, then you can still safely do this to slowly wear them down. This will work really well with Fault Line and Slagstorm, all the damage done to the Doll gets done to the opponent in addition to any they take anyway. He can still be killed by having his toughness reduced, being exiled, being sacrificed etc. But you can expect him to live a long life most of the time. He fits the new slower control strategy well and combines with the other direct damage nicely.

Good cards

Fault Line: I want to follow the "Fault Line" to find out who's fault it is that this deck is so messed up. The most powerful card in the deck, and your best defence against a weenie rush. With enough mana, it can even clear the board of medium size creatures. It's an instant speed Wrath of God against ground creatures, often best used in your opponent's turn either after they have tapped lots of their land to cast creatures or have pulled a combat surprise you don't like. Use very sparingly, it's a nuke but you can only use it once. Don't worry about killing your own creatures, which you most likely will, as long as you kill more of your opponent's. Hold out on casting it as long as possible, in the hope that the opponent will commit more creatures that you can kill. Use what you have to chump block, faking that they are getting the upper hand before levelling the playing field. You may want to hold some creatures back ready to cast in your turn after using this in your opponent's turn. The damage is really just a side effect, but occasionally you may be able to combine it with your other direct damage to kill the opponent, so keep a close eye on their life total.

Spire Barrage: A hugely improved Lava Axe that can also deal damage to creatures, and can go beyond 5 damage. Save this for killing your opponent's biggest, scariest creatures, or to finish the opponent off.

Spitting Earth: Very useful for getting rid of an annoying little creature early on, or a bigger one later in the game when you have more land. This can't hurt players, so your only decision is how long to hold this back before killing something.

Spikeshot Elder: My favourite creature in the deck, and what you want to see in your opening hand. He can get some quick damage in, and then once blockers arrive he can sit back and start pinging things for you. Excellent for taking out weenies, and can combine with other direct damage once you have enough mana to take out bigger things. He can finish off creatures that are nearly dead after combat, or just do damage to your opponent. If you're desperate, he can kill a 2/2 creature on his own by blocking it and dealing it 1 damage in the blockers phase, causing them both to die when damage is dealt. But keep him alive whenever you can, his ability is very valuable. He combos well with Volcanic Strength, Claws of Valakut and Darksteel Axe, increasing his power and the damage his ability deals.

Grim Lavamancer: Similar to the above, but cannot operate without fuel from the graveyard. Early in the game there may not be any for a while, but later in the game he'll probably be able to keep firing for several turns. 2 damage is a lot for such a cheap ability, and you may sometimes want to engineer ways of getting more cards into your graveyard (such as suicidally attacking with other creatures) just so you can use it to kill a vital creature. It currently has a bug on the Xbox version where the targeting lines for his ability don't appear while it is resolving. I've reported this and hopefully it will be fixed soon.

Flowstone Overseer: One of the few truly scary creatures in the deck. Not so much because he can pump the attack of your creatures, although that can be helpful, but because he can kill creatures. He will easily pick off smaller ones, and after combat he can lower the toughness of any that are nearly dead, and at that point increasing their power won't matter. You can combine with a Spitting Earth to take out something huge. He is also not too shabby at 4/4 and can hand out some pain while you clear the board of your opponent's creatures.

Darksteel Axe: I like this because it's likely to stick around for the whole game. Only two cards can currently do anything about it directly once it's on the table, Revoke Existence and Quicksilver Geyser. Everything else will bounce harmlessly off it, unless you are forced to sacrifice it to an Eldrazi. It makes your undersized creatures more competitive, and will be good to put on almost anything in the deck.

Conquering Manticore: One of the best creatures in this deck, 5/5 flying is good for 6 mana, and you get to borrow a creature. You'll usually want to cast him whatever the situation, and just nick the best creature the opponent has. He's too good to be holding back. Ones that can somehow kill themselves are good targets, such as Vampire Aristocrat or Prodigal Pyromancer, so you can do them in once you've finished with them rather than giving them back.

Magma Phoenix: One of the few fliers in the deck, and offers another way to protect against an overgrown enemy creature population. If you need to clear the way, just block with him and get him killed to trigger his ability. When you can spare the mana, pay to get him back in your hand, and eventually he'll be useful as an attacker once you're in a better position. He's hard to stop permanently, unless he's disabled by Arrest or similar. Even then you have the option of killing him yourself to get him back in your graveyard.

Oxidda Scrapmelter: A very nice way to deal with artifacts, giving you a decent size creature as well. If the opponent is using a deck that doesn't have artifacts or you just really need a creature, you can cast him without there being an artifact on the battlefield. Even if you're forced to target your own Darksteel Axe, that doesn't matter since he won't destroy it.

Hero of Oxid Ridge: A clearly better version of your Vulshok Berserker, who also pumps up any other attackers you have. Good for making those 1/1 creatures more worthwhile on the attack, and the 4 damage he deals is a nasty surprise for an unprepared opponent. Battlecry can be very useful for Two Headed Giant and Archenemy, since the bonus applies to all attacking creatures. So it pumps up your allies' attackers too.

Claws of Valakut: One of the few Auras I'm fairly happy to play with. This instantly turns even the crummiest of your creatures into a virtually unstoppable powerhouse, with hugely inflated attack and first strike. This ability is relevant to every one of your creatures, except Rockslide Elemental which has it already. Even a first turn 1/1 can be pumped to 4/1 first strike on turn 3 with this, and will probably be able to kill anything around. Later in the game the stats can get just silly. If you have enough mana and your opponent has just attacked with all their creatures, you can cast one of your haste creatures and then immediately enchant it with this and attack for massive damage.

OK cards

Molten Ravager: 4 toughness is pretty high for 3 mana, shame about the 0 power. But you often only need to put enough mana into him to kill what blocks him, as the opponent may be scared of letting you pump it to the max. If he does get through, consider how much it's worth pumping him, as getting more threats on the table can often be more important than a bit of damage. He makes a good blocker as well.

Lavaborn Muse: A Hill Giant with a fairly nasty ability. It can at make the opponent choose between taking damage and holding their cards back. If you cast it when their hand is empty, it's pretty nasty.

Koth's Courier: Reasonable stats for his mana makes him a fairly good attacker and blocker. Forestwalk is just a nice bonus when it applies.

Tephraderm: A better version of Earth Elemental, with two alright abilities. Nice against direct damage decks, as they suffer if they try to burn him out. And he tends to kill whatever he fights, giving them a low blow after the fight is done. Even if something with first strike and 5 power takes him down, he will still hit back for 5 and probably kill them too.

Earth Elemental: The fatty from Hands of Flame, nothing special about him but he's alright. The high toughness makes him annoying to get rid of. As the worst of the 5 mana creatures available, I have found he's not needed.


Rockslide Elemental: Really puny initially, but if you can get him to survive, he can grow to annoying proportions. Keep him out of combat where possible so he doesn't get killed early, and let him benefit from creature trades and by killing things with your spells and abilities. He can be tricky in combat, if two creatures of the same size as him try to gang up and kill him, they will fail. Say he is 4/4 and gets blocked by two 4/4 creatures, the opponent thinking one will die to first strike and the other will kill your Rockslide. But he deals his damage to one of them, and straight away gets his +1/+1 counter after the first strike damage, but before normal damage is dealt. He's then 5/5 when the other 4/4 hits him back, and he'll survive.



Vulshok Heartstoker: With few evasion creatures, there's often not much to use this on that's going to be much of a threat. No 2 cost creatures is a problem, meaning on turn 3 you're probably using this on a 1 cost creature at best. The opponent get to see this all coming, and can either just take a little extra damage or block accordingly. At least it can make your 1/1 creatures able to muscle through bigger blockers for a turn.


Earth Servant: For this much mana you want something that will make a decent impact, and this isn't very scary for your opponent. It will have an insanely high toughness though, and if you are concentrating more on defence up this will at least help keep ground creatures at bay.


Cerebral Eruption: I tend to include this as another come-back card, although it's far from ideal. When it works it can be great, but it can also totally miss the mark if a land is turned over so you can't rely on it. You get the card back, but it uses up a lot of time and resources to cast it again. I'd happily replace this if some better control cards become available. I don't like using hit and miss cards very much, but for now there's not much to take its place. You could just use another creature if you don't like it.


Goblin Mountaineer: Not one of the best 1 drops, but the deck is so slow and relies on some Auras and Equipments, so it needs something quick to put them on. The mountainwalk is only good against 3 of the 10 decks, but handy when it happens.

Volcanic Strength: It's OK, not quite good enough for the risk of being an Aura, but it does the job for the moment. It goes some way to making up for the missing 2 cost creatures by instead putting this on a 1 cost creature making it a more impressive size. The mountainwalk is just an added bonus if it happens to apply. I'd want to replace this when better cards become available, but for now it helps your weaker creatures to try and compete. Best used when the opponent is tapped out to force them to either block and lose a creature or take a lot of damage.



Act of Treason: A pretty good card, but it's in the wrong deck. This deck isn't fast, powerful or aggressive enough to make good use of this. It amounts to some extra damage against the opponent, and doesn't help when you are losing, which you normally are with this deck.


Vulshok Berserker: One of the better cards in the deck's mini-theme of haste, but still not great. He would be fine except for the puny 2 toughness, but if you can find your opponent with no untapped blockers, it doesn't matter so much.



Flameborn Hellion: Unimpressive for 6 mana. The stats aren't good, but hopefully you can surprise your opponent with this and knock them down to a range where they may fear direct damage finishing them off. If you need this as a blocker, at least for one turn, cast it after combat so that it doesn't have to attack and will remain untapped. You could replace with Earth Servant to go more defensive.

Bad cards

Assault Strobe: Only any use when you are winning, being a sorcery it is purely offensive. Seeing as you will usually be struggling to stay alive with this deck, this won't help you dig your way out of a hole. Also the deck has a lack of evasion creatures, so your double striker will be seen coming a mile away and probably chump blocked.

Golden Urn: I hate life gain! Similar to and not much better than the standard life-gain artifacts.

Bloodfire Colossus: He is just too expensive for this deck, even with 25 lands. You won't get him out consistently, he'll mostly sit in your hand for ages. Even if you do eventually get him out, he could have been something cheaper to have an effect on the game many turns before.


Nissa Revane - Guardians of the Wood

Summary

This is a black/green aggressive Elf deck, quite similar to Ears of the Elves from D09. It has thankfully lost the Elvish Champions which gave it such an unfair advantage against green decks from all the forestwalk. Also gone are the cheap and nasty Coat of Arms. In their place, the deck concentrates more on a swarm strategy with cards like Elvish Promenade that doubles your elf population, and Heedless One who grows stronger with each Elf you have.

Strategy

You generally win with this deck by getting a lot of Elves into play quickly, which pump up a huge Heedless One who tramples through. Churn out as many creatures as you can, stopping to kill creatures only if really needed. The ideal play would be a turn 4 Heedless One, followed by Elvish Promenade next turn which will make him pretty unstoppable. Otherwise it's a fairly simple deck, keep attacking whenever you can to keep the pressure on.

Pros


Lots of fast, nasty Elves with good abilities


Good creature, artifact and enchantment control


Lots of ways to gain card advantage


Good combat tricks with Might of the Masses and Epic Proportions



Cons


No evasion (only Elven Riders which is rubbish)


Sometimes you end up with more land than you need, and not much at the top end of the mana curve


Relies on keeping large numbers of Elves in play


Example decklist

17 Forest
7 Swamp

Creatures (23)

1 Joraga Warcaller
2 Elvish Visionary
4 Nissa's Chosen
2 Sylvan Ranger
3 Viridian Emissary
1 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
1 Imperious Perfect
1 Jagged-Scar Archers
1 Viridian Shaman
4 Heedless One
1 Lys Alana Huntmaster
1 Wildheart Invoker
1 Nath of the Gilt-Leaf

Other spells (13)

3 Might of the Masses
2 Eyeblight's Ending
2 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Elvish Promenade
3 Essence Drain
1 Epic Proportions

Cards to exclude to build this deck

3 Elvish Euologist
1 Elvish Lyrist
2 Ezuri's Archers
4 Norwood Ranger
1 Plummet
1 Viridian Emissary
2 Titania's Chosen
1 Wildheart Invoker
1 Elven Riders

DLC 1 cards

Elvish Champion: I was personally rather sad to see them add this card. I had repeatedly asked for the Champions to be replaced in the original Elves deck, because of the luck factor they gave of near instant wins through mass forestwalk. I was happy to see them not appear in the new Elves deck, so disheartened that it's here now. At least there's only one now. Anyhow, this is an essential card for the deck. It's always going to be good, pumping up your army, and especially your tokens from Elvish Promenade. Against any green deck it will give you an overwhelming advantage as they won't be able to block anything (except the card below!) Try and protect him with Might of the Masses when you can against direct damage, and keep him out of combat unless he is sure to survive.

Recommendation: Must include. Replace Wildheart Invoker, probably the weakest creature in the deck.

Hydra Omnivore: I don't understand what is going on with this. Surely this should have been given to Apex Predators? Especially as it is struggling. I've no idea what this is doing in an Elf deck. However! It's an amazingly efficient creature even for 1 vs 1, and since the deck lacks high end spells this is a must. It gives you something else to ramp up to, this is only the second 6 mana spell available. It won't receive bonuses from your Elves, but at 8/8 it hardly needs any help. Even more amazing in 2 Headed Giant or if you are the Archenemy, where it will hit for 16 and 8-8-8 respectively.

Recommendation: Must include. Replace a Viridian Emissary, 4 ramp/fixers is probably enough now you can improve the creature base.

Fog: No. It's one of those cards that looks useful, but really isn't any good. Especially for an aggressive deck like this, it's a waste of time. Even though its cheap, it still costs you a card. It doesn't deal with any threats, and it doesn't help you win. If you're getting beaten up badly, all it does is stall for a turn, and then put you in the exact same situation, so you may has well have drawn something else. If you're winning, you don't usually need it. It's only good if the opponent overcommits to what they think is a winning attack, and you surprise them with this, leaving them open to a lethal counterattack. But the amount of times this will happen is not worth all the times it will be a serious underachiever in the deck. There's no spells I would take out for this.

Recommendation: Don't include. Rip up all copies you find in real life as well.

Good cards

Maelstrom Pulse: One of the best control cards ever, this deals with almost anything. Most of the time you'll only expect to kill one card, but that's plenty good enough since you can pick from anything your opponent has. If you can afford to wait and cast some things in the mean time, you might get lucky enough that they'll drop a duplicate of a card and you can sweep both at once. This is great for getting rid of loads of tokens, as it will wipe out all of the same type. It doesn't matter if the tokens were created by different cards, as long as they have exactly the same name.

Eyeblight's Ending: Amazing creature control, useful in every matchup except the mirror match. Save it for your opponent's best creatures. It is also counted as an Elf spell by Lys Alana Huntmaster giving you an Elf token.

Imperious Perfect: I always liked this more than Elvish Champion, it is always really good, can't backfire and can win the game on its own. Also it's easier to cast. You'll usually want to create tokens rather than attack with this, for more damage over time, and they will stick around after this dies. Until he does, he pumps up the tokens too making them formidable 2/2 guys. You can use this ability in your opponent's turn after they declare attackers, dropping your token ready to block, or wait until near the end of their turn if you want to keep your mana open for other things you might want to cast.

Joraga Warcaller: A nice replacement for Elvish Champion, and sometimes even stronger. You can play him as just a 1/1, although I'd almost never recommend doing that. Hold back until you can play the kicker once, preferably twice. He can turn the smallest of your Elves into considerable threats.

Might of the Masses: A fairer replacement for Giant Growth, but which can sometimes be even more effective. Keep an eye at all times on the number of creatures you have, and the bonus this will give. Be wary of your opponent killing something in response to this, which will reduce the bonus it gives. Awesome after you've flooded the screen with Elvish Promenade, and on your tramplers like Heedless One.

Essence Drain: A bit expensive, but handy anyway to take out small or medium size creatures, finish off a creature after your combat phase, or provide some direct damage for the win.

Sylvan Ranger: Along with the card below, he provides your land fetching abilities. After lots of testing, I have come to prefer this one. He is more reliable, you always get your land. You don't have to get him killed first like the Emissary, so he helps your Elf population more. He doesn't accelerate, but then this deck doesn't have a very high mana curve so it's not too important. I feel that a total of 3-4 land fetchers, between this and Emissaries, is enough to find what you need if you don't want to include them all.

Viridian Emissary: I love this guy, although he looks more like an Elf Zombie to me! You can attack recklessly with him, happily swapping him for a 1/1 or just running him into a bigger creature, because you want him to die so you can accelerate your mana. Your opponent faces the tough choice of letting you sucker punch them each turn with him, or taking him down and risking you coming out with scary things much quicker. He's also a brilliant blocker, again your opponent might think twice about giving you the chance to get him killed. His only drawback is when the opponent refuses to kill it and you really want a particular land, usually a Swamp. But unless your opponent is using primarily flying creatures, this isn't too much of a problem since to kill you they're probably going to have to let you block with this sooner or later. Most of the time one Swamp is enough for this deck, so if you have one in hand or on the battlefield already, I'd recommend fetching a Forest since the deck sometimes needs a lot of green mana.

Nissa's Chosen: Almost the same as Elvish Warrior, except this goes back to your library rather than the graveyard. This doesn't generally make a lot of difference, but it does stop graveyard triggers for your opponent such as Sangromancer. There's also a chance it'll get shuffled to the top again when you search for a land card with one of the 2 cards above. Still an awesome beat stick, and hard to compete with at the 2 mana range.

Elvish Visionary: An excellent way to boost your Elf population without even costing you a card. Easy to cast and always replaces himself. Great early or late in the game.

Heedless One: This is often your big winner, and rewards all your hard work making lots of little Elves. He can get huge in a hurry, and hard to stop with trample. Follow him up with Elvish Promenade when possible. Watch out for your opponent killing one of your other Elves during combat, suddenly lowering his stats. Try to cast lots of other Elves before you cast this, getting him out too early sometimes makes him not too scary and vulnerable.

Nath of the Gilt-Leaf: Back from Ears of the Elves, one of my favourite creatures. It's pretty hard to get rid of, although there are more ways in this game and less non-black restricted kill-spells. The discard is really nasty, especially being random. If you can get this out quickly using Viridian Emissary, you may clean out quite a few cards. That's normally too much to come back from, and the extra Elf tokens help your strategy really well. Also once the opponent's hand is empty, they are forced to either use every card they draw right away or lose it on your turn. This means they often have to play non-creature spells prematurely that they may have usually held back, and counterspells will all be lost. If they draw cards they don't have the mana to cast, they will have to be discarded. In this way, you stop the opponent building up their hand for the future.

Elvish Promenade: Along with Heedless One, part of the main combo of this deck, although it's really good anyway to make a huge number of Elves. Hold it back until you have at least 3 to make it worthwhile, but of course the more the better. With anything that pumps them up like Imperious Perfect, the tokens become more scary. It counts Elf tokens you already have as well.

Jagged-Scar Archers: A mini-Heedless One that has the bonus of taking care of fliers for you. That's a good bonus, since this deck doesn't have any flying creatures to block them. It can really put a flying heavy deck on ice until they can deal with this, it just can't cope with losing a creature every turn.

Viridian Shaman: A great way to get rid of an artifact while adding to your Elf population. If the opponent is using a deck that doesn't have artifacts or you just really need a creature, you can cast him without there being an artifact on


the battlefield.

Ezuri, Renegade Leader: A very handy mid range creature which can help keep all your other guys alive, and replaces the previous Overrun in the deck with his second ability. Also that ability can be used anytime, so save it for after blockers have been assigned and you can even use it on the defence. As long as you have some Forests untapped, your opponent is usually going to have to kill this before he can kill any of your other Elves.

Lys Alana Huntmaster: This is back from Ears of the Elves, and I still recommend using it. It really helps build up your Elf numbers to pump your Heedless One up. It can also provide a near endless supply of chump blockers or extra attackers, depending on how the game is going. Normally the opponent will try and take this out quickly, as if they don't they are usually in trouble. If you cast Elvish Promenade while you control a Huntmaster, its ability will put an Elf token into play before the Promenade resolves. The token then gets counted by Promenade, giving you an extra Elf token on top of all the others you would receive!

Epic Proportions: Not really in fitting with the deck, but since this is the only 6 mana spell available and it's pretty good, I think it's worth including. Especially as you'll probably be running 4-6 Elves that fetch you extra land and you usually end up with a lot. The flash means you can cast this as if it was an Instant, so use it either in the blockers phase as a permanent-super-Giant Growth, or in response to direct damage that would kill your Elf.

Wildheart Invoker: Pretty good stats, and a nice ability although I wouldn't count on getting enough mana to use it regularly. I find it is competing directly with Heedless One at the 4 mana slot. You may feel like playing one of these anyhow, just in case you can't find any other Elves, he will still be 4/3 rather than a 1/1 Heedless.

Elvish Lyrist: Useful extra backup against nasty enchantments. Following my analysis on enchantment control at the end of the guide, I'd be inclined to leave him out, but it depends on what decks you expect to face the most.

Ezuri's Archers: Pretty crazy abilities for a 1 mana creature! As well as a fast and efficient guy to get your Elf population started, he's a really good defence against fliers, able to take down even an Air Elemental. Possibly a bit too defensive for such an aggressive deck.

OK cards

Elvish Eulogist: The classic 1 drop from Ears of the Elves, still decent although I feel there are better 1 drops available now so this isn't needed. If you do use it, don't sacrifice him until he's just about to die, either from a spell, ability or combat. Doesn't work well with Nissa's Chosen which won't be in the graveyard when it dies.

Norwood Ranger: A nice little weenie, but outclassed by Ezuri's Archers, and there are better 1 drops in the deck.

Plummet: This will be good when it works, but a bit of a gamble to include. Not every deck has flying creatures, and some only have a few and they might not come out. It's a tough call as to whether to stick with this anyway, but I feel there's enough control in the deck that will work against virtually anything, so I'd rather leave this out and concentrate on the attack. However, if certain decks like Blood Hunger are running rampant, it would be worth including to pick on their numerous fliers.

Bad cards

Elven Riders: Your only evasion creature, sadly it's stats are too rubbish to consider using. I'd rather rely on my Heedless Ones to break through the defences than put a lot of mana into this guy. Just not good enough for his cost.

Titania's Chosen: This is only going to be any good in 2 headed giant or Archenemy where you are all playing this deck or Apex Predators so it benefits from loads of spells. Too wimpy and slow for one on one play.

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
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Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 guide [part 5]


Sarkhan Vol - Dragon's Roar

Summary

This is a black/red Dragon style deck, loosely based on Scales of Fury from D09. Obviously green is gone, and in its place there are a lot more Goblins, making it a sort of strange mix of big Dragons and weenie Goblin rush. There is a crossover card, Voracious Dragon, which can eat the Goblins to inflate itself and do damage. There isn't a lot of black in the deck and because of this not many Swamps are added, and this causes problems since you often don't draw any.

Strategy

There's two ways you can go with this deck. You can go mono red and drop every black card, which makes the deck focus more on the fast Goblins. You lose some creature control but tend to do more damage early on, and lose the mana colour problems. Otherwise you can keep black/red, in which case I tend to cut down on some of the Goblins, using them mainly to keep alive until the Dragons show up, playing as more of a control deck. Either way the deck is fairly simple, you aim to survive long enough to get out big Dragon creatures which will be how you usually win. Your creature control will normally be used to kill threats early in the game, or sometimes blockers later on when you are in attack mode.

Which build is better is a close call. Black/red gives you more powerful spells, but relying on just 6 Swamps is very risky. You often get either Swamps and no black spells, or black spells and no Swamps, causing you a lot of problems. I'd give the slight edge to mono red for now just for its consistency. You can get more Swamps in your deck by adding more black cards, and removing red ones, particularly those with more than one red mana in the cost.

Pros


Good, cheap creature control


Lots of big, powerful flying Dragons that must be dealt with or they win for you in short order


Ways of reducing the cost of your Dragons to get them out faster with Ruby Medallion and Dragonspeaker Shaman


Artifact control, although just one card



Cons


No enchantment control


Problems with getting black mana


Early Goblin creatures aren't generally very good


Example decklists

Red/black version

18 Mountain
7 Swamp

Creatures (21)

1 Dragonmaster Outcast
2 Festering Goblin
2 Slavering Nulls
2 Dragonspeaker Shaman
2 Giant Scorpion
1 Manic Vandal
2 Furnace Whelp
2 Gravedigger
2 Voracious Dragon
1 Flameblast Dragon
1 Hellkite Charger
1 Rorix Bladewing
2 Volcanic Dragon

Other spells (14)

2 Burst Lightning
3 Disfigure
3 Dragon Fodder
1 Pyroclasm
2 Ruby Medallion
2 Assassinate
1 Crucible of Fire

Cards to exclude to build this deck

3 Raging Goblin
3 Dragon's Claw
2 Goblin Piker
1 Goblin Wardriver
1 Goblin Offensive
2 Rally the Forces
1 Furnace Whelp
2 Volcanic Dragon
1 Furyborn Hellkite

Mono red version

25 Mountain

Creatures (24)

1 Dragonmaster Outcast
3 Raging Goblin
1 Goblin Piker
1 Goblin Wardriver
2 Slavering Nulls
2 Dragonspeaker Shaman
1 Manic Vandal
3 Furnace Whelp
2 Voracious Dragon
1 Flameblast Dragon
1 Hellkite Charger
1 Rorix Bladewing
4 Volcanic Dragon
1 Furyborn Hellkite

Other spells (11)

2 Burst Lightning
3 Dragon Fodder
1 Pyroclasm
2 Ruby Medallion
2 Rally the Forces
1 Crucible of Fire

Cards to exclude to build this deck

3 Disfigure
2 Festering Goblin
3 Dragon's Claw
1 Goblin Piker
2 Assassinate
2 Giant Scorpion
1 Goblin Offensive
2 Gravedigger

DLC 1 cards

Earthquake: Finally a really good card for this deck. Sadly the only one probaby worth including, poor Dragon's Roar does not do well out of the DLC. Although this is likely to wipe out a lot of your weenie creatures, they are mainly there to help you survive until the dragons show up anyway. Save this as long as possible and try to take out lots of your opponent's ground creatures at once, hopefully leaving mainly just your dragons. Be careful of the damage it deals to you in the process. By damaging your opponent with this it can be used as a finisher, or to force a draw if need be. If this is in your opening hand along with a lot of weenies, you may wish to hold them back and pretend you have a slow hand, clear the board after a few turns with this then start playing them.

Recommendation: Must include. Replace Dragonmaster Outcast in the black/red version, and a Raging Goblin in the monored version. These are probably the least important creatures in each list (considering cutting a black creature will drop the Swamp count) and won't be missed too much. Plus less weenies to die to this spell and Pyroclasm.

Malfegor: He's an awesome creature, and I would recommend using him except for his irritating mana cost. It can be hard enough getting 1 Swamp together for this deck; getting 2 could be seriously problematic. On the other hand, it won't be until at least turn 6 so you have longer to come across them. You could replace one of the more insignificant creatures in the black/red version, and hope that the times he comes out he will be worth the punch. But I think he's too much of a gamble. If you do use him, it gives you a reason to hold back cards, such as late game weenies that won't do much, and extra lands, so you can force your opponent to lose more creatures. Trading your generally weak cards in this deck for your opponent's creatures is going to be really good for you, unless they have generated a lot of tokens, and could be game winning. It's a difficult call as to whether this is worth the risk of mana cost. If you could tweak the land ratios, it would be a different matter. His ability does get around shroud, hexproof, protection, even indestructible creatures, if you can force them to be sacrificed.

Recommendation: Don't include, unless you like to gamble with his cost.

Breath of Malfegor: This is not good for 1 vs 1 at all, an inflexible and more difficult to cast Lava Axe. I don't like cards that only hit players in general, and this one isn't even good for one of those. This deck doesn't have enough clout or direct damage to rely on this as a finisher. Save it for Two Headed Giant where it will deal 10 damage to the other team, or as the Archenemy to take a chunk out of each of the 3 weaklings facing you.

Recommendation: Don't include.

Good cards

Burst Lightning: Amazing direct damage, which can be used to take out a small annoying creature, or finish something off, very cheaply. But when you can afford to, it can kill a medium size creature with the kicker. The key is deciding which way to use it. Also 4 damage is considerable against the opponent, when you have them on the ropes this can be a nasty finisher.

Assassinate: Very useful because it can target and destroy any type of creature. It will have to have attacked you already to be tapped so you've taken damage or chump blocked it, but getting rid of the threat for good is what's important. Save this for your opponents best creatures.

Pyroclasm: This is your one comeback card against a weenie rush from the opponent. You can often maximize it's impact early in the game by continuing to chump block with anything you have out, trying to tempt the opponent into casting some more creatures before pulling the trigger. Hold back creatures in your hand to cast afterwards. You can combine with Burst Lightning to take down a larger creature at the same time.

Flameblast Dragon: One of the best creatures in the game, and fits the control theme perfectly. Usually you'll want to take out your opponent's creatures instead of damaging them directly with his ability, unless you can finish them off. Killing one a turn is usually enough to turn the momentum of the game.

Hellkite Charger: This guy is a bit crazy, 5/5 flying haste is good enough for 6 mana. When you can afford to pay for his ability it is probably worth it. If he got through once he'll likely get through again. Add any other attackers to that scenario and it's probably close to game over.

Rorix Bladewing: Another nutcase of a Dragon, his mana cost is a little demanding but since the land base is almost all Mountains it shouldn't be a problem. He hits hard and fast, and wants to put the opponent down in just a few attacks.

Voracious Dragon: This is the combo centrepiece of the deck, and a good creature in its own right. 4/4 flying for 5 mana is good, especially unusual in red which often has notoriously bad creatures at that cost. You can feed any number of your creatures to him as he comes into play, and gets a +1/+1 counter for each. And you get to target a creature or player for damage equal to twice the number of Goblins he ate. You can still choose a target to kill an Illusion even if you don't devour anything. It's usually worth eating at least one Goblin for this purpose, more if you can take out a decent creature or if you think your opponent cannot handle a huge Dragon. If they are playing red and relying on direct damage to kill creatures, it may put it out of blast range.

Disfigure: A nice way to take out small annoying creatures, or finish off bigger ones. It can also fix fights, use it in the blockers phase before damage gets dealt to suddenly lower the stats of your opponent's creature. Lowering toughness also stops regeneration, but only if it's completely lowered and not combined with damage. So two Disfigures will be needed to take down a Cudgel Troll so it can't regenerate, a Disfigure and Burst Lightning won't do the job. But a Disfigure could combine with Festering Goblin's ability successfully.

Dragonspeaker Shaman: Poor stats, but an amazing ability for this deck. A reduction of 2 mana for your Dragons make them come out scarily fast, especially in combination with Ruby Medallion. Your opponent will probably have to kill this very quickly or else face serious fiery wrath. Definitely worth it if you're playing with a lot of the expensive Dragons.

Dragonmaster Outcast: A weenie creature with an overwhelming ability that won't turn on until you have 6 lands. You can either risk casting it and getting early damage in and hoping it will survive, or hold on to it until you have 6 lands, hoping your other creatures will have drawn away the kill-spells. This will depend on the rest of your hand. I'd usually favour casting it, unless I have a Pyroclasm in hand in which case I'd hold onto it until after I've had to use that. If you can get the ability going, you should win in short order.

Volcanic Dragon: Feels a little bit weak for the expensive cost, but it will prove an important part of your offence. Hopefully you will be enough in control of the game to be able to attack and not have to keep it back as a blocker. If you can't afford to attack yet, cast another Dragon first in you can, so that you can hopefully make use of the haste ability this has by the time you cast it.

Ruby Medallion: With the beef of the deck being huge Dragons, this is very nice for helping them come out early. It can also help you cast several spells in one turn, for example two Dragon Fodders will only cost you 2 red mana. It can also reduce the cost of the kicker on Burst Lightning, you'll only have to pay 4 mana total. It can't reduce coloured mana, so can never help with Goblin Wardriver for example.

Manic Vandal: The deck's only artifact control, and although totally out of theme he's important to keep in. A red rip-off of Viridian Shaman, shameless really. He's good at what he does, which seems to be smashing things. If the opponent is using a deck that doesn't have artifacts or you just really need a creature, you can cast him without there being an artifact on the battlefield. It can cause a problem if you really need a creature and have to cast him while the only artifact on the battlefield is your own Ruby Medallion, since you will be forced to target it for destruction.

Slavering Nulls: It's Goblin Piker with an ability, and a scary one at that. Early in the game this can be a real threat as you use your cheap spells to remove blockers. Causing a discard each turn will really hurt and is hard to come back from after a few turns. The opponent has to find an


answer to this quickly. In mono red it's just a Piker again, but your opponent won't know for sure you're playing mono red and may freak out and kill it anyway.

Furyborn Hellkite: He's very expensive, but with 4 cards in the deck making him easier to cast he is just about worth the stretch. Of course try and get the bloodthirst bonus when you can, which will make him almost unstoppable in creature combat and probably too big to kill by direct damage. You my consider cutting him to keep costs down.

Festering Goblin: This guy is good for controlling the pace of the first few turns. If the opponent has two 1 toughness creatures out and you just have this, they will be forced to hold back or else you can block one and use his ability to kill the other. He can also kill a 2 toughness creature by using his ability on it after it kills him. If your position is good enough to attack, he can often to do recklessly, particularly if you have your eye on a 1 toughness creature you'd like to be rid of. Be careful about his ability, since it's not optional. If only you have creatures when he goes to the graveyard, you have to use his ability on one of those. So if you have him and a Goblin Piker and the opponent has a 1/1 creature, you don't want to trade him for the 1/1 as your Piker will bite it too. To take down bigger creatures, you can combine with Burst Lightning to kill even a 6 toughness creature.

Goblin Wardriver: This is a nice creature, but it fits much better with lots of smaller creatures to pump up and not so much with the Dragons and a control setup. It's mana cost can sometimes pose a problem on turn 2 if you're playing red/black, but is easy if you go mono red. Battlecry can be very useful for Two Headed Giant and Archenemy, since the bonus applies to all attacking creatures. So it pumps up your allies' attackers too.

OK cards

Furnace Whelp: These are not great due to their low intial stats, but are the only mid range creatures you have at the moment. They usually make you vulnerable when you cast them, since they are just a 2/2 and you probably can't pump them much. Even smaller creatures will probably get sent in against you, happy to trade with him. Keep this alive when you can, using all your little creatures for defence, and use this for its damage which is its strength. Sometimes when things are going badly you don't have a choice, you may have to trade it for a small creature if you are being overwhelmed.

Giant Scorpion: He's not much to look at, but he fits the control theme perfectly. 3 toughness is handy for surviving against the common 2/2 creature stats, and deathtouch will take out just about anything even if it kills him too. You'll rarely want to attack with this as it works much better on defence.

Crucible of Fire: This is more useful here than it was back in Scales of Fury, because this deck has more actual Dragons in it. It is mainly of benefit to your Furnace Whelps and Volcanic Dragons which are lacking in stats for their mana costs. The other Dragons are generally big enough, but the boost certainly doesn't hurt and will help you win quicker. It's no help to all your Goblins, but as long as you're using a fair number of Dragons this is worth including.

Dragon Fodder: This is handy even for the control version, providing at the very least 2 chump blockers for 1 card. Works well with Voracious Dragon, and they can take down weenies that are bothering you early in the game. Don't feel bad about using both tokens to kill a 2/2 creature, sometimes that's better if you have no other way to deal with it at that time than chump blocking it twice if you're doing badly.

Gravedigger: He is OK, although not greatly efficient for his cost. He can be useful for digging up one of your better Dragons for another round, but not much use early in the game.

Rally the Forces: The effectiveness of this depends on how many small creatures you are using. The bigger creatures generally don't need this as much, and you want it to affect as many creatures as possible. Cast it in the blockers phase after blockers have been chosen for maximum surprise value.

Raging Goblin: A pure aggression creature that doesn't really fit into this deck. It's more about winning with huge Dragons while holding on for the early game. I feel red/black plays more like a control deck and these don't fit, but mono red has to use more cards and these make it more aggressive.

Goblin Piker: Your bog standard creature, who you are only going to include if there's nothing better. In red/black you have plenty of other options, but running mono red you may be forced to consider them to make up the numbers.

Bad cards

Dragon's Claw: I hate life gain!

Goblin Offensive: I have found this is just too expensive. You need 5 mana to get 2 tokens, compared with 2 mana for Dragon Fodder. Whatever you spend, it's not an impressive amount of smelly Goblins you get and since they only interact with Voracious Dragon it's not worth the investment.


Sorin Markov - Blood Hunger

Summary

This is a mono black aggressive Vampire deck, quite like Master of Shadows from D09. It has a new focus which is bloodthirst, creatures which get a bonus if the opponent has been damaged the turn you cast them. That's not hard to achieve with this deck as it's very fast and has a lot of evasion creatures. It also tends to gain plenty of life through spells and lifelink creatures, which allow you to ignore counter-attacks to some extent. Certainly the best deck in my opinion, with the strongest card selection on offer.

Strategy

You should be always on the offensive with this deck. Hopefully you have Tormented Soul for your first turn, and he can keep attacking, providing you your bloodthirst bonus for anything else you cast. Keep casting creatures, unless you need the mana to take out a blocker or a threat. You should gain enough life in a variety of ways to not worry too much about defending unless things are going badly. Keep the pressure on, and hopefully you will finish the opponent with flying creatures and direct damage from Corrupt. When things are going badly, you may have to cast bloodthirst creatures without getting the bonus if you can't afford to attack but need the defender.

Pros


Lots of lifelink and evasion creatures


Plenty of creature control


Good threats all the way up the mana curve, fast and deadly creatures


Lots of incidental life gain


Mono deck so no colour problems


 


Cons


No enchantment or artifact control


 


Example decklist

24 Swamps

Creatures (24)

3 Tormented Soul
1 Bloodghast
2 Child of Night
2 Gatekeeper of Malakir
2 Ruthless Cullblade
3 Bloodrage Vampire
1 Captivating Vampire
2 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Mirri the Cursed
1 Sangromancer
1 Vampire Nocturnus
2 Vampire Outcasts
1 Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
1 Sengir Vampire
1 Skeletal Vampire

Other spells (12)

1 Blade of the Bloodchief
2 Feast of Blood
2 Urge to Feed
2 Vicious Hunger
3 Spread the Sickness
2 Corrupt

Cards to exclude to build this deck

2 Quag Vampires
2 Vampire's Bite
3 Demon's Horn
3 Duskhunter Bat
2 Barony Vampire
2 Vampire Aristocrat
1 Stalking Bloodsucker
1 Repay in Kind

Pure Vampire alternative decklist

24 Swamps

Creatures (24)

2 Quag Vampires
1 Bloodghast
2 Child of Night
2 Gatekeeper of Malakir
2 Ruthless Cullblade
2 Bloodrage Vampire
1 Captivating Vampire
2 Vampire Aristocrat
2 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Mirri the Cursed
1 Sangromancer
1 Vampire Nocturnus
2 Vampire Outcasts
1 Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
1 Sengir Vampire
1 Skeletal Vampire

Other spells (12)

1 Blade of the Bloodchief
2 Feast of Blood
2 Urge to Feed
2 Vicious Hunger
3 Spread the Sickness
2 Corrupt

Cards to exclude to build this deck

3 Tormented Soul
2 Vampire's Bite
3 Demon's Horn
3 Duskhunter Bat
2 Barony Vampire
1 Bloodrage Vampire
1 Stalking Bloodsucker
1 Repay in Kind

This version takes full advantage of the Vampire synergy within the deck, making even more sure you have 2 in play to cast Feast of Blood. Also every creature then benefits from Captivating Vampire, Urge to Feed, Vampire Nocturnus and gets full counters from Blade of the Bloodchief. This comes at the expense of the Tormented Souls, which makes your offence slightly less reliable and bloodthirst harder to achieve. For this reason, I take out one of the Bloodrage Vampires as well. The Quag Vampires are at least versatile and can get counters from Spread the Sickness. The Aristocrats offer flexibility too, being able to instantly grow to big amounts, feeding off your lesser Vampires. It's been testing pretty well, I'm undecided as to which is the better list.

DLC 1 cards

Barter in Blood: You can consider this a mini Damnation, sometimes even better because it can get rid of indestructible creatures. The problem is this deck is really fast so you are likely to kill some of your own creatures too. But that can sometimes work to your advantage, say you have sped off and got four creatures out to your opponent's two, this will leave your strongest two and the opponent with nothing. Generally this can be viewed as a panic-button card, for use when things are going badly, your creatures are getting killed or you got a slow start. If it's in your starting hand, you may intentionally get a slow start. It can very cheaply get you back in the game, and since you can't always bank on being ahead this is a good get-out-of-jail-free card. The deck is already overflowing with kill spells, though.

Recommendation: Probably worth including 1, to replace one of the expensive Spread the Sickness. You could consider replacing another as well, or Skeletal Vampire, to drop costs further. But I think 1 should be enough. If you expect to see a lot of Auramancer, it will be great against them since Totem Armor doesn't save a creature from being sacrificed and you'd want both.

Bloodhusk Ritualist: This is an interesting card and a little hard to evaluate. My first impression is that it's a bit too slow and expensive for this deck. It's only going to be worth casting once you hit 5 mana, making it a Mind Rot plus a 2/2 for 5 mana. I'm not sure that's good enough for this deck. He can make use of any spare mana you have around when you cast him though; say you have 4 lands out and nothing but 3 mana creatures in your hand, you may as well drop the extra mana into him and get the card advantage. With a lot of mana you can expect to empty the opponent's hand, but with no accelleration in this deck they may have virtually emptied their own hand by that stage. This will be best against the slower decks, where they are more likely to be holding back cards. I think overall the standard of other available creatures is too high and this doesn't fit the theme of the deck. He's worth considering as a replacement for a Bloodrage Vampire to give him a try, but I prefer the 3 mana creatures the deck already has. He will be better in multiplayer where speed isn't so important, and there's more likely to be an opponent you can rob of more cards.

Recommendation: Probably not quite worth including.

Butcher of Malakir: He looks impressive and talks a big game, but for such a mind-meltingly fast deck the game is often going to be finished before you even get 7 lands out. Most of the time he'll sit idly in your hand, where he could have been another threat to seal the game in short order or snuff out an opponent's nasty. With just 24 lands this is too costly, and he's not even particularly scary. His stats are poor, and his ability more defensive in a wildly aggressive deck. If you do use him, he will combo well with cards like Vampire Aristocrat, giving you the chance to quickly swap off creatures if you have more on the battlefield. When killed he will take something down with him which is good. Much better in a multiplayer format where he will affect more opponents and you have more chance of getting him out.

Recommendation: Don't include.

Good cards

Urge to Feed: Incredibly efficient, instant speed removal. The first part is good enough, getting the counters on your Vampires is just an amazing bonus. Even if this doesn't kill a creature outright, you can still use it either just for the counters, or in combination with another spell or combat damage to finish it off. You can pull off some tricks with this when on the defence. Let things advance in combat until you have blocked whatever you need to, and then cast this on a creature. You can now tap all your Vampires, even the ones that have blocked. They will still damage the attackers as normal, but with an added +1/+1. This could make your 2/2 blocker take down a 5/5 creature that you target, and survive. Otherwise use it to remove blockers or take out key ability creatures. Note that you can tap vampires to get a counter even if they have summoning sickness, so it may be worth casting some first if you can.

Feast of Blood: Having 2 Vampires out isn't at all difficult for this deck, and this spell can target any kind of creature without the normal black kill-spell restrictions. You just have to control two Vampires, no matter if they are tapped, untapped, or under Arrest. Save it for the scariest of your opponent's creatures, or to make way for your attack if you can smell blood for the finish. The life gain will help get back any beatings you have taken while holding on to this card. You can, in dire situations, target your own creature just to gain life, but this is probably hardly ever going to occur.

Vampire Nighthawk: This has to be one of the best stand-alone creatures ever, the fact that it's also a Vampire is just gravy on the cake. It pretty much does everything you could ever want. Usually he can just keep attacking, slowly winning you the game and gaining you life to cover possible counter-attacks. It will take something with flying and either first strike or protection from black to not get taken down as well. When things get tough he can block and kill almost anything. Even something pumped with Giant Growth is still going to die. The 3 toughness makes him not that easy to bring down, he's an amazing powerhouse.

Vicious Hunger: Simple and effective removal, either for killing a small annoying creature or finishing off a bigger one after combat or another spell. You can make what looks like a stupid attack when the opponent has a bigger blocker you really want to kill, then do the final 2 damage with this in your second main phase. Use this to take out your opponent's key ability creatures, which are often small enough to be killed by this. As usual, the life gain is a handy side-effect.

Vampire Nocturnus: He's back from Master of Shadows, and still as dangerous. That difficult looking mana cost is no problem for mono black, and as soon as he hits the table he has the chance to boost up all your Vampires to ridiculous amounts. It will be pure luck whether or not you have a black card on top of your deck. When you do, you should normally be able to attack with almost everything right away unless the opponent has a lot of big fliers. The next turn he can join in the assault if he has the bonus, 5/4 flying is awesome for his cost. When he doesn't give the bonus he's best kept out of combat if he may die as he's so valuable. Having the top card of your library on show is a double edged sword. Your opponent can plan for your next move, and so can you. Make sure you take it into account when you plan your strategy.

Corrupt: This is my choice pick for the 6 mana slot, and it's quite likely to win you the game by the time you get to cast it. You can use it as a finishing blow if your offence has been running well, or if a big creature is getting in the way or threatening to do you in, you can kill that instead and reap the life benefit. Normally 6 damage is enough for either purpose, but you can hold onto it until you've played more Swamps if you need a bigger blast. If you're concentrating on pure speed, you could consider dropping 6 mana spells altogether, but I think it's worth having 1 or 2 of these for games which go the distance.

Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief: Even more powerful than Sengir Vampire, this is just deadly. 4/4 flying is decent for 5 mana, and her ability is going to rip through your opponent's creatures once you have enough mana to keep using it. You can even use it multiple times a turn to kill several creatures if you can afford to. Since it lowers toughness the creature


can't regenerate either. You can use it when you are attacking to remove a blocker and have her do more damage. On the defence you can kill an attacker and then she is more powerful that turn if she needs to block and kill a huge creature. Keep her alive whenever possible as she will usually win you the game just by killing creatures one by one. You can even use her ability on herself or one of your other creatures just to pump her power up. For example, you may do this when your opponent has no creatures so you can do more damage, or to help her kill a big untargetable creature like Simic Sky Swallower. Note that you can pump more mana into this than is needed to kill a creature, just to raise her power even more.

Captivating Vampire: His stats are not great, but he has two amazing abilities. Since almost all your other creatures are Vampires, they all get boosted up, making it really hard for your opponent to keep up with your already efficient creatures. And if you can get enough Vampires on board, you can start stealing your opponent's creatures! You can use this ability as soon as you cast him as it doesn't require tapping. But sometimes it will be better to wait and do it in your opponent's turn, particularly after you have assigned blockers. You can block with whatever you like as normal, then use his ability (note that he can be one of the 5 Vampires you tap) and steal a creature. If it's an attacking creature you steal, it is removed from combat and won't hurt you. The fact that some of your blockers tap won't stop them dealing damage. Because he is so valuable you want to keep him out of combat if there's a chance he will die.

Gatekeeper of Malakir: He has 2/2 for 2 mana which is good enough, but you'll almost always want to pay the kicker too. He is best used when the opponent has just one creature that you want to get rid of, since they must sacrifice that one. This ability even kills indestructible creatures, they can't regenerate, and it gets around hexproof and shroud also. If the opponent has lots of creatures they will just sacrifice their weakest one, but you are still getting card advantage. If the opponent has 2 creatures one of which is small, you can pick off that little one with Vicous Hunger for example, then cast this with the kicker to kill the bigger one. He's a must have for the 2 mana slot.

Mirri the Cursed: This is a crazy efficient scary creature. It flies, attacks right away, and hits first, making it a really nasty aggressive creature that's hard to see coming. You'll usually want to keep attacking with this unless you're in a very bad way and need the blocker. It can be tricky in combat, as it gets the +1/+1 counter right away on dealing damage. Say this blocks a 2/4 creature- it deals its 3 first strike damage, and then gets a counter and goes up to 4/3. Then the other creature hits it for 2, and this ends up surviving. It didn't kill the attacker, but has got stronger and can kill it next turn. Because this deals it's damage before your other creatures, it can put the opponent below 10 life suddenly raising your Ruthless Cullblade to 4/2 before it deals its damage.

Spread the Sickness: This is somewhat pricey, but it is effective as it can target any creature. Save it for big threats, or for clearing the way for a victory in short order. Try to plan around it so that you get best use of the proliferate. For those who haven't seen it before, I'll explain how it works. For each player or permanent that has a counter on it, you may add another counter of the same type. For the purposes of this game, it's usually +1/+1 counters on creatures, and it automatically adds them to your (and your allies') creatures but not your opponents'. If the opponent has a creature with a -1/-1 counter on it (like from Serrated Arrows) then this adds another of those counters, but wouldn't do so to your own creature. In one on one, this is mainly going to benefit your creatures that got their bloodthirst bonus, or counters from Blade of the Bloodchief or Urge to Feed.

Sengir Vampire: The classic Vampire which has survived through the ages. Just like Vampires will do given half the chance. He's always been good and efficient, and can kill the opponent very quickly on his own. The extra counter gain is a bonus, making the opponent pay for chump blocking him. He will usually be best on the attack, but if you do need him for defence he is great since if he can survive an attack he will get stronger. Also once he has a counter, he qualifies for an extra one when you cast Spread the Sickness.

Bloodghast: This guy is going to really annoy your opponent by coming back time and time again. He gives you a reason to hold back lands whenever you have enough already just in case you draw him. You can use him recklessly, even suicidally as part of a big attack just to overload blockers. You know you can bring him back, even on the same turn by playing a land after combat. Not being able to block doesn't matter too much since this deck is so aggressive and you have plenty of better blockers. Having haste as well makes him even more of a threat when the opponent is on 10 life or less.

Blade of the Bloodchief: This is really cheap to cast and equip. Although it doesn't do anything on its own, creatures always die in games and you also have loads of creature removal. You can put this on anything really, whenever you have the mana to do so. Of course a Vampire will gain the most counters from it, but even 1 counter per death on your Tormented Soul can be very effective since he's guaranteed to get his damage through every turn. When put on a lifelink creature it makes them gain even more life as they get bigger. I'd recommend equipping this to a creature that isn't likely to be targeted for destruction by the opponent at that particular time. If you keep putting it on your best creature, when they kill it you get no bonus. By putting it on a second best or lower, you force them to choose between killing the one with the Equipment or killing your better one and letting you get counter(s) on the equipped one. If you're going to kill something, and before a battle likely resulting in casualties, make sure this is on something first if you have the mana!

Tormented Soul: Even though it's not a Vampire, this works so amazingly well in this deck that I would always keep it in regardless. Being totally unblockable means you can just peck away every single turn no matter what is going on, and it provides an ever decreasing timer for your opponent. Often they are forced to eventually use a card just to take out this guy, which is hilarious for you. Even if things are going badly, keep attacking with him anyway, there is no point keeping him back as he can't block at all. His greatest achievement however is how easy it makes it to get your bloodthirst! If you get one of these early, you are almost guaranteed to get all your bloodthirst creatures coming out with their bonus.

Child of Night: A simple and effective 2 drop. It can trade with most other 2 drops in the game, but gives you 2 life in the process. If the opponent has nothing to block it, your life total goes up while theirs goes down, making it a steeper climb once they get back in the game. A good chump blocker as well if needed thanks to the extra life gain.

Sangromancer: A bit of a strange card to be in this deck since it has no discard whatsoever. Even without this, it's a decent enough card, having a reasonable amount of power for an evasion creature, and giving you yet more life as opponent's creatures die around her. Try to keep her alive for this reason, her life gain will probably be more worthwhile than a single chump block unless you are in serious danger of being killed right away. Normally she can keep attacking along with your other guys, racing your opponent's life total down. Note that you gain the life even if dies trading with an opponent's creature in combat. She will become more useful in free for all or 2 headed giant where her discard ability may come into play, and she will count all other players' casualties for life gain. Note that her ability will resolve too late to save you if she kills something while you take enough damage to finish you off. For example, if you're on 1 life and two 1/1 creatures attack you, you can block and kill one with this creature. Her ability will trigger, but doesn't get the chance to resolve since the game checks if you are on 0 life first.

Vampire Outcasts: At first glance this doesn't look very good when you see the 2/2, but if you've played this deck you'll have seen how easily the bloodthirst bonuses come. It almost always comes out at 4/4 for this reason, that is really good stats for 4 mana, plus the lifelink is outrageous. He can normally keep attacking and gaining you lots of life, and the opponent will have trouble doing you enough back to even keep up. If the opponent gets bigger creatures out (and you can't kill them) then he is an excellent blocker while your evasion creatures do the business.

Skeletal Vampire: This is quite good, and the best 6 mana creature available at the moment. You get an overall 5 attack power with flying creatures for 6 mana, and split up so that one card can't usually deal with them all. He's very hard to kill, since he can regenerate for no mana by sacrificing one of the bats you get. If you attack or block with him and the bats, after blocking you can sacrifice a bat that's going to die in combat anyway to regenerate the Skeletal Vampire. This works well on blocking especially, meaning you've lost just one bat token to block two attackers. If you have the mana, you can instead pay to turn the bat that's about to die into two bats and use one of those to regenerate the Vampire. If things are going well, you can just keep making more and more bats. You can also sacrifice Duskhunter Bats to his abilities if you use them. If one of your bats is blocking (alone) or blocked by a creature with lifelink and you want to stop the opponent gaining the life from it, you can sacrifice that bat to regenerate the Skeletal Vampire before damage is dealt. Then the opponent's creature doesn't deal any damage so they gain no life, and your Vampire gets a regeneration shield at the same time.

OK cards

Bloodrage Vampire: With the amount of aggressive 1 and 2 drops in this deck, the chances of getting bloodthirst on turn 3 is pretty good. This gives 4/2 for 3 mana, which is a nasty early threat. I feel this earns his place for the moment. Even without the bloodthirst, 3/1 isn't too bad although not ideal. You may need to play him anyway if you need a blocker or have run out of other attackers.

Vampire Aristocrat: Although 2/2 for 3 mana is not very good, his ability to self pump is handy. He is competing against a lot of great creatures for 3 mana, and the only one he could replace is Bloodrage Vampire. It's close, but I feel that I'd rather have the extra power, and more often than not two power with the bloodthirst, than the need to pump him up. Especially as your creatures are really strong and you probably don't want to sacrifice any of them to this if you can avoid it! If you use him, make sure you don't use his ability until blockers have been declared, so your opponent has to make their decision blind and you can then decide whether or not to pump him. Or else in response to direct damage that threatens to kill him or another creature you control. You can also use his ability to eat himself, or any of your other creatures, to avoid them being stolen by something like Mind Control. If one of your creatures is blocking (alone) or blocked by a creature with lifelink and you want to stop the opponent gaining the life from it, you can sacrifice that creature to your Aristocrat before damage is dealt. Then the opponent's creature doesn't deal any damage so they gain no life, and your Aristocrat gets bigger at the same time.

Ruthless Cullblade: This is the weakest of the two mana creatures I would recommend using, but still just about good enough to make it. 2/1 isn't too bad early on, and late game it's likely to come out as 4/2 which is good value. Dispensable extra offence.


Vampire's Bite: This deck normally hammers down your life totaly very quickly, and the threat of these can make it even more scary. Be wary of the opponent using an instant to kill your guy in response to this, so it's best used when they are tapped out if possible. It can also be used in a desperate situation to fix fights, allowing your smaller creature to kill one of their big ones. And if you can afford the kicker, the extra life can keep you ahead in an aggression race or against direct damage. Don't both paying the kicker if you are using it on a creature that already has lifelink, since double lifelink doesn't get you any more life. I found this effective for a while, but decided in the end to cut it because it's not great when you're losing, usually at best giving you a 2 for 1 trade in your opponent's favour and/or some life. But it's certainly worth considering for extra-aggressive strategies.


Quag Vampires: This is alright, but not great whatever amount of kickers you use. The swampwalk is handy but is only relevant against 3 out of the 10 decks. However, 2 of those are this deck and Guardians of the Wood which are the best decks in my opinion, so you may consider including him just to pick on those deck types. I feel overall Tormented Soul is better for the one slot though, and the other Vampires out-perform this guy. For a really fast swarm strategy and his flexibility, you may consider including him.



Barony Vampire: Reasonable stats for a standard grunt Vampire, but with so many good creatures already demanding the three mana slot, this doesn't quite make the cut.

Duskhunter Bat: He is OK and may have just about made the cut, except for the fact he's not a Vampire so doesn't help the overall theme. He is highly aggressive and efficient when he works though. I feel he's not quite good enough to justify taking away a Vampire, and you can't always count on getting a bloodthirst bonus on turn 2.

Bad cards

Stalking Bloodsucker: This guy has weak original stats, and with every card being so effective in this deck I'd rather play them out than chuck them to him for an extra 2 damage. He's hopelessly outclassed by the other creatures in this deck, and by the other 6 mana spells.

Demon's Horn: I hate life gain!

Repay in Kind: This is way too expensive for one on one, considering this deck is so aggressive it's most likely your opponent will have a lower life total than you. This is only any use in Archenemy for bringing down the big man's life total!

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
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Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 guide [part 6]


Tezzeret – Machinations

Summary

This is a blue/black/white artifact deck, and is sort of like Relics of Doom from D09. The cards it uses are almost all new however. Its main theme is metalcraft, which grants bonuses for having 3 or more artifacts on the battlefield under your control. To this end, every creature in the deck is an artifact creature like in Relics. This deck has quite a range of interesting cards.

Strategy

You want to get your metalcraft bonus as soon as possible, so this means getting out artifacts quickly. Hopefully you will have an Etherium Sculptor to play on turn 2, he will speed everything up by reducing the cost of all artifacts you cast by 1. You basically just keep getting out artifacts and hope you can overpower the opponent with your weenie fliers and some bigger ground creatures at the 5-6 mana range later on. Use countermagic to protect your most important artifacts and stop threats, and the white and black support cards to remove creatures. When you have a creature with a metalcraft bonus such as Razorfield Rhino, be wary of the opponent removing your other artifacts in the middle of combat, dropping your artifact count below 3 and making it lose its bonus at a crucial point.

It's possible to cut out either black, white, or both from this deck once you have all the cards unlocked. At the moment I'm slightly favouring just taking out white. Although it has some strong cards, it messes with your land setup quite badly and I think the consistency may be worth the slight drop in power overall. It's a close call though.

Pros


Good countermagic and reasonable creature control


A lot of fliers/potential fliers


Can be quite fast with Etherium Sculptor


 


Cons


No artifact or enchantment control


3 colours can lead to mana problems


Creatures a bit on the weak side overall


Example decklists

Tri colour version:

6 Plains
11 Island
4 Swamp
3 Terramorphic Expanse

Creatures (24)

4 Etherium Sculptor
2 Gust-Skimmer
2 Steel Overseer
2 Tidehollow Strix
1 Etched Champion
1 Master of Etherium
2 Pilgrim's Eye
3 Snapsail Glider
1 Sanctum Gargoyle
2 Stone Golem
2 Razorfield Rhino
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Magister Sphinx

Other spells (12)

2 Go for the Throat
1 Darksteel Plate
2 Dispense Justice
3 Stoic Rebuttal
1 Undermine
1 Seer's Sundial
1 Sleep
1 Mirrorworks

Cards to exclude to build this deck

2 Signal Pest
2 Alpha Myr
3 Golem's Heart
1 Hunger of the Nim
1 Dead Reckoning
1 Snapsail Glider
1 Shape Anew
1 Psychosis Crawler
1 Venser's Journal
1 Razorfield Thresher
1 Soulquake
1 Darksteel Colossus

Blue/black version:

14 Island
7 Swamp
3 Terramorphic Expanse

Creatures (25)

1 Alpha Myr
4 Etherium Sculptor
2 Gust-Skimmer
2 Steel Overseer
2 Tidehollow Strix
1 Etched Champion
1 Master of Etherium
2 Pilgrim's Eye
4 Snapsail Glider
1 Psychosis Crawler
2 Stone Golem
2 Razorfield Rhino
1 Wurmcoil Engine

Other spells (11)

2 Go for the Throat
1 Darksteel Plate
1 Dead Reckoning
3 Stoic Rebuttal
1 Undermine
1 Seer's Sundial
1 Sleep
1 Mirrorworks

Cards to exclude to build this deck

2 Signal Pest
1 Alpha Myr
3 Golem's Heart
1 Hunger of the Nim
2 Dispense Justice
1 Sanctum Gargoyle
1 Shape Anew
1 Venser's Journal
1 Magister Sphinx
1 Razorfield Thresher
1 Soulquake
1 Darksteel Colossus

DLC 1 cards

Damnation: In my opinion this is now the number 1 card in the game in terms of raw power. It gives you potentially unlimited card advantage by wiping out virtually anything the opponent can have. It ignores hexproof, shroud, regeneration, even protection from black. Annoyingly, a Totem Armor can still be used to save a creature from it! And indestructible creatures will remain (useful if you have Darksteel Plate on something!) People often yell, "But it kills all my creatures!" It sure does, but that just doesn't matter. You keep it in your hand, and you wait until it is needed. If you always stay ahead on creatures, you are likely to win the game anyhow. As soon as things go wrong, which could be at the start of the game if you get a slow start, or later on when the opponent goes nuts and kills loads of your stuff, this wipes the slate clean and gives you a fresh start. An experienced opponent will be playing cautiously against this deck now, just knowing that you may have this in your hand, even if you haven't. The threat of losing 3 or more creatures by playing them all out against you when you don't have many is too much, if you drop this bomb the momentum swing may be too big to recover from. Although this deck can be fast, there are faster still decks such as Wielding Steel, Realm of Illusion and Blood Hunger, and they are likely to build up creatures faster than you. I think that this has sealed the fate of the tri-colour deck, it pushes me to the dark side more and I would say blue/black is the way to go now. This is dicey to include in tri-colour thanks to the double black requirement, but it's probably worth the risk anyhow given the deck's slight underpower and the various mana fetchers.

Recommendation: Must include. In the tri colour version replace a Snapsail Glider, in the blue/black version replace Alpha Myr. These dodgy creatures won't be missed.

Cumber Stone: At first glance this can not look like a big deal, but I think the effect is far more scary than it seems. That 1 power difference across the board can be a real stumbling block for the opponent, and suddenly matchups usually in their favour lean towards yours. Given the previous need to include some medicore cards, this is a great addition to replace some. It helps you keep alive on defense, and makes it easier to punch through on the attack. Also it helps you get metalcraft, since it's much more likely to stick around not being a creature, and given the general lack of artifact control around. It's easy mana cost makes it fit into both builds nicely. This is probably going to be a priority play as soon as possible in most situations, as it will almost always be really helpful and will set you up for the rest of the game.

Recommendation: Must include. In the tri colour version replace a Snapsail Glider and a Stone Golem. In the blue/black version replace a Snapsail Glider and Psychosis Crawler. These are filler creatures, and the Stones will help the rest of your creature base greatly.

Sphinx Sovereign: This is a really cool creature with amazing abilities, but I think 8 mana is asking too much. You do have the 4 Etherium Sculptors, but they are very often bullseyes for the opponent as they want to slow you down, so you can't rely on them too much. That leaves just 24 land plus your 2 fetchers, and I don't think that's enough to get this out early enough to justify it. I personally would prefer the Magister Sphinx over this anyway, even though it is cheaper, and I wouldn't consider including both due to the chances of clogging up your hand. The Magister (except when countered) usually has a big impact on the game even if killed immediately, whereas this doesn't. I don't think it's enough of an immediate and scary threat to justify 8 mana. If you do use it, then if you are losing you sit back with him for a while, use him as a big blocker and gain life until you're in a position to start attacking. When you are winning, if unblocked he can dish out 9 a turn, winning you the game in short order. Even if blocked, he will likely survive and still make the opponent lose 3 life. He is much more viable in any multiplayer format, where you'll have that bit of extra time to get him out, and his life loss ability will hit every opponent.

Recommendation: Don't include.

Good cards

Go for the Throat: Amazingly efficient creature control, and at instant speed. Be very sparing with this! I'm glad to see them ditch Terror due to its non-black requirement making it a dead card in so many games. Sadly this is still dead in the mirror match. This kills anything except artifacts, but note that you can regenerate from it. For those creatures use it only when the opponent is tapped out and can't regenerate, unless you are happy for it just to end up tapped. This card is mainly going to be used on big creatures or little ones with really good abilities, and provides a safety net for creatures getting past your counterspells. A must include.

Stoic Rebuttal: It's a cross between Cancel and Counterspell. Either way you need two Islands untapped for this, so manage your mana carefully. This is your only way of stopping artifacts and enchantments, so consider that when the opponent drops a really nasty one of these. It may be better to counter that, and rely on your creatures and kill-spells to deal with the opponent's creatures. Obviously sometimes a creature is just too much of a threat and if you have nothing else in hand to deal with it, go ahead and counter it. Getting to metalcraft quickly means you don't need to leave as many lands behind, and you can use this offensively to protect your most valuable creatures. It's more important to keep your land untapped for this spell if you hand is poor and anything that hits the table could go unchecked for a while.

Undermine: Same strategy as the above, except of course you always need a Swamp too making it a bit more fiddly to use. If you're just playing blue/black this should be no problem though. The 3 life lost can be handy since this deck is quite aggressive when it's running well, and gets you closer to the finishing line.

Dispense Justice: Without metalcraft this is handy but not wonderful, since to be useful it requires your opponent to have just one creature or several good ones so that they can't just sacrifice a weenie to it. Once you get metalcraft though, two creatures lost for 1 card is devastating in most situations so try and hold on for this. Along with Sanctum Gargoyle this is the main reason to keep white in.

Wurmcoil Engine: This is an insane creature for any deck! It puts your Razorfield Rhinos to shame. You can probably just keep attacking with this, and the lifegain you get will help deal with any damage you get back from your opponent. If they do have something big enough to kill this and they end up trading, theirs will die and you get two more tokens! It's rather unfair, so this is a must include.

Steel Overseer: This is a new "boss" of the artifacts, being even cheaper than Master of Ehterium and able to indefinitely keep pumping up both himself and all your creatures. You'll most likely want to keep him out of combat unless you need him for a final attack, or are desperate for a blocker. If you do need to block with him, block first and then use his ability in the blocker's phase. This may make him big enough to kill the attacking creature, or even survive as well. And if not, at least you get some counters on your other creatures before he dies. He's a prime target to get back with Sanctum Gargolye and Dead Reckoning. If you follow my strategies, you will know that I recommend normally casting creatures after combat to reduce the amount of information your opponent has. When you have this guy out and ready to use his ability though, it is often best to cast them before combat if you intend to attack. This is because you will want to use his ability to make your attackers stronger, and you won't want your other creatures to miss the chance to get a counter to by not being around when you use the ability.

Master of Etherium: One of the survivors from Relics of Doom, and still as deadly. Just the one now, but still a must include. He instantly boosts up all your guys, and he gets ludicrously bigger and bigger the more artifacts (not just creatures) you churn out. Keep him out of combat unless he is sure to survive, as he is too valuable to lose that way. He is often big enough


to attack though, and if the opponent has to combine two blockers to kill him you can always use Go for the Throat after they declare blockers to take one out, leaving the Master to kill the other and survive. Sometimes he will just be a huge blocker for you while the fliers do the work on the offence.

Etherium Sculptor: An essential part of the deck, you hope to always have one of these for turn 2 and it should be your priority play. You will then be able to get much more for your mana as long as he sticks around. You'll achieve metalcraft very quickly, and also get out your big mana artifacts a turn earlier than usual. Note that he can't reduce the coloured portion of costs, so he does nothing to help cast Tidehollow Strix. His 2 defence makes him handy as a blocker for early 1/1 creatures.

Tidehollow Strix: This is your premium small flier, excellent on both offence and defence. He can keep pecking away for 2 while the opponent has no fliers, and if you get in trouble you can keep him back and his deathtouch will kill almost anything. The exceptions are things that can regenerate and indestructible creatures. I feel this is a must include.

Etched Champion: This is pretty poor until it gets its metalcraft, at which time it becomes awesome. Protection from all colours means that, except from artifacts and artifact creatures, it can't be blocked by anything, killed by damage, have any nasty enchantments put on it (neither can you put any on it!) or be the target of any spell or ability. Also any Auras on it will fall off. This all makes it almost invincible, aside from non-targetting mass effects like Evacuation and Damnation. If you have other artifacts cast them first, so that ideally this gets its metalcraft bonus as soon as it hits the table and will then be harder to get rid of. If you cast this first, it can be picked off quite easily. Of course if you're low on resources you may have to cast it anyway and hope it survives. Once it has its bonus it is virtually a free 2 damage on the attack each turn, or else a perfect ground defender, letting only trample damage through from coloured creatures.

Sanctum Gargoyle: The other big reason to have white in the deck, this is really useful to get easy card advantage and provide another decent attacker. Obviously don't cast it until there is something worth retrieving from your graveyard, unless you desperately need another attacker/blocker. He can fetch any of your many artifacts, both creature and non creature, giving you two towards your metalcraft once you cast it again. You will probably bring back a key creature most of the time like Steel Overseer or Master of Etherium, but if you're getting really beat up you may need a Tidehollow Strix. If you have loads of land you may want the card advantage from Mirrorworks or Seer's Sundial.

Mirrorworks: If the game doesn't finish quickly one way or the other, you can often end up with more land than you need with this deck. This card along with Seer's Sundial gives you an excellent way to use that extra mana for card advantage. The tokens will act as exact replicas with all the abilities, including entering the battlefield abilities. So it can double up things like Master of Etherium for twice the bonus. It gets quite crazy when you have the mana, and it becomes hard for the opponent to keep up. Use Mirrorworks' ability whenever you can, but sometimes you just need to cast something huge or several things at once, so don't always force yourself to use it. Don't cast this until you can afford the mana, since it doesn't do anything on its own. Think of it as a payment towards a big future payoff, once your board position is stable.

Seer's Sundial: A pure card drawing engine, I find this a really great way to get an advantage mid/late game. You can make it part of your general strategy to hold back some lands when you have as many as you need, either in case you draw this or if you already have it in hand. Once it's out, pay the cost whenever you can afford to, the card advantage will put you way ahead if you can manage it. Of course it might not be possible every turn, so again don't feel obliged. You can use Terramorphic Expanse to get two for the price of one. You can activate the Sundial when you play it, then wait until next turn to activate the Expanse, and use the Sundial again when it fetches the land. You can then play another land that turn, and pay for another card!

Darksteel Plate: A really handy bit of Equipment that not only makes one of your creatures really hard to get rid of, but is itself indestructible making it resistant to almost all the removal in the game. The only things that can do anything to it once it's on the battlefield are Quicksilver Geyser which can return it to your hand, and Revoke Existence which can exile it. You can use this to make a really hard to stop attacker, or a solid blocker, particularly good on Tidehollow Strix. Once you have enough mana you can do both, move it from the attacker to another creature ready to defend, then move it to the attacker again next turn and so on. It can also be great for keeping your key creatures alive that normally die such as Master of Etherium or Steel Overseer. Be careful because the opponent can respond to the equip ability and kill the creature before the Plate takes effect. But you can then just put it on another creature! This really helps with Metalcraft as it's likely to stick around for the long haul.


 


Terramorphic Expanse: This is an amazingly helpful card, especially if you are using all 3 colours. It can find whatever land you need in the circumstances, and it can be played penalty-free on turn 1 since there's nothing to cast anyway (besides Signal Pest if you use it). Later in the duel, play one whenever you don't need mana right away from an additional land. There's no point activating it right away on your turn since you can't use the land as it comes in tapped. It's better to wait until near the end of your opponent's turn to use it. This avoids giving away early what your choice is, and you may want to change your mind once you've seen what the opponent has done on their turn. I still recommend keeping these in if you drop to 2 colours, especially since the game doesn't replace them with other lands if you remove them. This is the only way in the whole game you can effectively drop your land count in fact, you could in theory make the deck have 21 lands if you took them all out. Finding enough worthwhile cards, and cheap enough for the low land count, to fill the gaps is another matter!

Razorfield Rhino: The theory with this creature is that by the time you can cast it, you are likely to have at least 2 other artifacts on the battlefield so it comes in at 6/6. That's a pretty good deal for 6 mana, especially 6 of any colour(s). Obviously without the bonus he's pretty poor, so do everything you can to keep him pumped up. He can often dominate the board, especially if he comes out quickly using Etherium Sculptor, and will demand an answer before he batters the opponent to death.

Magister Sphinx: This guy is very expensive, even for a big flier, but his effect is quite game changing and I think it's just about worth the stretch. By setting your opponent to 10 you can effectively do 10 damage to them if you've got off to a slow start and haven't done any damage yet. He then only has to attack twice for the win. Alternatively by setting your own to 10, you can gain some life if you've been badly beaten and are close to death. If you're more focused on speed, there is an argument for removing him as he doesn't help with quickly getting metalcraft going and is never going to come out particularly quickly so can clog your hand up early. Obviously if you drop white (or black) you lose him too. He can be great for Archenemy since he can drop that big 40 life total down to 10!

OK cards

Pilgrim's Eye: Although he's puny, he is very handy in this deck, particularly if you are playing all 3 colours. He is easy to cast, but fetches whatever land you need. He then provides either a little attacker or a chump blocker, and helps towards metalcraft. Great if copied by Mirrorcraft as you get a land for the token too! Certainly worth including.

Gust-Skimmer: This is the Alpha-Alpha Myr! If the opponent doesn't have creatures just roll him in on the ground, and if you need him to fly make sure you activate his ability before blockers are declared. Doing so after he's been blocked doesn't stop him being blocked. And if you want him to block a flying attacker, again activate the ability before it gets to the blocker's phase. Make sure you don't spend a blue mana on him when you desperately need it for a Stoic Rebuttal. Along with all your permanent fliers, he can help peck away at your opponent.

Sleep: This may look like a defensive card at first glance, but in fact it's more of an aggressive card. It effectively gives you two free attacks, both the turn you cast it, and next turn after they haven't untapped anything. Save this for when you have enough muscle on the table to finish the opponent with these two attacks. If the game reaches a stalemate with lots of creatures around and you draw this card, it's likely to be a game winner. If you're badly losing and need some breathing room, go ahead and use it just to stop the opponent attacking you next turn; this isn't ideal, but it may just keep you in the game. Attack them anyway after you cast it since they can't attack back, but then don't attack on your next turn, hold for defence. I rate it as only OK because it's not very good when you're losing and needs you to have several creatures out to be effective. But I think it's worth including at the moment.

Stone Golem: Not a wonderful card, but he does his job, and is easy to get out. You should reach 5 mana fairly easily with both Etherium


Sculptors helping you and Pilgrim's Eye getting more land. He can either be a fat blocker to keep the attackers away while your fliers peck at the opponent, or if you have a good board position and life total he can smash in with the rest of them.

Psychosis Crawler: He can be a little inconsistent, but I think he just about makes the cut at the moment. If you're off to a slow start, he's probably going to be quite big. Even if he comes out small, you can hold back cards for a few turns allowing him to grow. His insulting life loss can be handy for finishing off an opponent in a stalemate situation. Be very careful with your cards in hand when you have him out, it's very easy to play a land without thinking about it and have him drop in stats when you really need him big. Don't play anything before combat unless you really need to so he stays as big as possible. Works nicely with Pilgrim's Eye since it replaces itself in your hand and he doesn't get smaller.

Snapsail Glider: This is a bit crappy really, but I grudgingly find it a necessary part of the offence with the current card selection. At least it's easy to cast not needing any particular colours, and 2 damage a turn from him flying in isn't bad once you've got 2 more artifacts out. He can be considered disposable though, don't worry about trading him for a 2/2 ground creature if you are getting beaten up. If you really, really hate him and want something quicker you could go for Golem Hearts to play more defensively, or Alpha Myrs or Signal Pests to play more aggressively. But I find him just about adequate for now.

Dead Reckoning: This is quite handy and duel purpose, giving your important creature a second chance (although it costs you a draw) and hopefully killing something annoying your opponent has out. Since Steel Overseer and Master of Etherium tend to get killed very quickly, these are good candidates as they help you so much. The card is held back by the fact that you can't use it until something is dead, and because it's limited to the power of the dead creature. I'd include only if you are dropping white, especially because the two black mana required can be a pain for 3 colours and low Swamp count. It's because of the mana cost that it's lower on the list than it would otherwise be.

Alpha Myr: Bog standard artifact creature, 2/1 is alright but obviously he is outclassed by Gust-Skimmer. The 2 mana slot already has Tidehollow Strix, Steel Overseer and Etherium Sculptor. But he can be used as a filler if you cut out one of the colours.

Signal Pest: This guy seems like he might be a good idea for a few reasons. He's the only 1 mana artifact you have so he gets metalcraft off to a fast start and you have nothing else to play anyway on turn 1, and he can normally attack safely while pumping up your other guys as long as the opponent has no fliers/reach creatures. This almost sounds tempting, but I would rather go with something more reliable and that can deal damage on its own. Obviously if you have no other creatures this is useless. And once fliers hits the table he's no good unless you can keep killing them all. But if you are interested in pure speed and swift metalcraft, he may be worth considering. Battlecry can be very useful for Two Headed Giant and Archenemy, since the bonus applies to all attacking creatures. So it pumps up your allies' attackers too.

Bad cards

Venser's Journal: At least this can offer a reasonable amount of life, but I still don't think it's worth the big mana cost. You're rarely going to need more than 7 cards in your hand anyway as the deck is quite quick and you're racing out artifacts to get your metalcraft bonus. I'd only recommend using this while unlocking cards if you're playing against direct damage, I found it helpful against Koth.

Soulquake: This is a cool looking and interesting card, but I think it's too expensive and not right for this deck. There's no reason to expect you will have any more dead creatures than the other player, so you can't count on raking the graveyards for an advantage. As for returning everything in play to your hand, you lose your metalcraft bonus and you're probably completely tapped out. Your opponent gets to play everything again first and will have control of the game. You'll rarely have enough mana left to counter anything they cast. For 7 mana I think the Sphinx is far better.

Hunger of the Nim: The fact that this is a sorcery means you can't use it for surprise value in combat, making it limited to trying to finish your opponent off. But they can then either kill the creature you pumped up or block it. It's main use is going to be on a flier when your opponent doesn't have any. I don't like the card because it's useless when you are losing, and relies on having lots of things in play to be any good at all. Only worth considering if you are insanely focused on a quick attack. I mistakenly thought it was an Instant to begin with! That would have made it much better.

Golem's Heart: I hate life gain!

Shape Anew: This is an interesting card, but unreliable. You're probably going to want to cast it on your own cheap artifact and hope that something big churns out. Sometimes you'll get something else small that wasn't worth your 4 mana and two cards to fetch. I prefer not to gamble like this, but if gambling is your thing, go for it! It can be cast on the opponent's artifact, probably a big one, in the hope that they churn out a little one. There may be some value in this, but again I don't like the risk and you're still spending a lot of mana and giving away card advantage.

Razorfield Thresher: I don't understand why they make cards like this. It's obviously terrible stats for its cost, and has no point to it whatsoever. Why it's been included in this deck I have no idea, all your 6 mana creatures are better than this. The flavour text is quite funny, making it officially a joke card, I guess.

Darksteel Colossus: This is just not right for this deck, I would never include this. It will be extremely rare, even with the help of Etherium Sculptors, that you will get enough mana to cast this. The only other way to get it onto the battlefield is with Shape Anew, which I don't recommend using, and even if you try that there's very little chance you'll actually hit this.


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Ajani Goldmane – Auramancer

Summary

This is a brand new green and white deck, which is based mainly around Auras that enchant creatures. It has creatures that benefit from just having Auras on them or on the battlefield, or help you draw cards when you cast them. It has a lot of evasion creatures, making it easier to get damage through with your pumped up creatures. It is lacking in removal, but the idea is to outrace and outdraw your opponent instead. The creatures are very fast, getting you targets for your Auras quickly. A lot of the Auras are Totem Armors, which can save the creature once from being destroyed. Note that currently you don't get to choose which Totem Armor to get destroyed instead of your creature if it has multiple on it, the game does it for you by choosing the lowest cost one. Hopefully this will be changed.

Strategy

The idea is to flood the battlefield with your creatures right away, and then quickly back them up with Auras. Try to get out your card drawers early if you can, Mesa Enchantress and Kor Spiritdancer, so that you start drawing cards for each Aura. Spread the Auras among the creatures if you can, to avoid having too many on one creature and risking losing them all in one go. Totem Armor helps a lot against this, as it can be destroyed instead of the creature. But against some things even that won't help, such as returning to hand effects, exiling, toughness reducing to zero or being sacrificed. As the game progresses you have ways of retrieving cards from your graveyard, choose the ones most suited to the situation, as with the cards that fetch Auras from your deck. If you put your power boosting Auras on evasion creatures, this will help get lots of damage through and end the game quickly. Beware of the opponent killing your creature in response to casting an Aura on it. Even if it's a Totem Armor, their instant/ability will resolve first, killing it before the Totem Armor is on the battlefield and you lose 2 cards for 1.

Pros


Lots of fast and evasive creatures


Many powerful Auras to quickly build big threats


Ways to draw extra cards from the Auras and fetch them from the deck



Cons


Two colours can sometimes lead to mana problems


Only creature control is one Pacifism


No enchantment or artifact control


Relies heavily on Auras to win and runs the risk of losing 2 or more cards for 1



Example Decklist

13 Plains
11 Forest

Creatures (18)

4 Suntail Hawk
1 Femeref Enchantress
1 Kor Spiritdancer
1 Silhana Ledgewalker
1 Spectral Rider
1 Stormfront Pegasus
3 Aura Gnarlid
2 Auramancer
2 Mesa Enchantress
1 Sacred Wolf
1 Totem-Guide Hartebeest

Other spells (18)

1 Hyena Umbra
2 Lifelink
1 Rancor
1 Canopy Cover
2 Fists of Ironwood
2 Nature's Spiral
1 Pacifism
1 Armadillo Cloak
2 Boar Umbra
1 Griffin Guide
1 Snake Umbra
1 Angelic Destiny
1 Gigantiform
1 Three Dreams

Cards to exclude to build this deck

1 Lifelink
1 Wreath of Geists
1 Divine Favour
1 Fists of Ironwood
1 Heroe's Reunion
4 Silvercoat Lion
1 Lure
3 Oakenform
1 Retether
2 Bramble Elemental
1 Gigantiform
1 Mammoth Umbra
1 Siege Mastodon
1 Mythic Proportions

Good cards

Kor Spiritdancer: This is the ruler of the deck. It's an obviously much better version of Mesa Enchantress, and you'll want to draw this every game. Being very cheap, you can get this out on turn 2 as a priority, and if it survives it turns all your Auras into "free cards", instantly replacing themselves. And if you cast them on her, she gets bigger as well in addition to the bonus of the Aura. Keep her out of combat if there's a chance she will die as her ability is really important.

Pacifism: This is the only real creature control the deck offers. I think it's essential for either stopping a big attacker that is threatening to out-race you, or for removing a big blocker which is stopping you reaching the winning post. This will often be a big flying creature, as a lot of your creature use flying for their evasion. Although you'll only have this one copy, you have two other ways to fetch it, with Three Dreams and Totem-Guide Hartebeest. And if the opponent destroys it, you have many ways of getting it back again from the graveyard to reapply it.

Rancor: This was introduced a long time ago (in a galaxy far far away) as the start of an attempt to make Auras better. They have always suffered from the problem that if their host dies, so do they, losing you two cards for 1. This was part of a cycle of cards which return to your hand if they get put into the graveyard from the battlefield, allowing you to re-use them. A preliminary to equipment, really. This is probably the best one they could have included, being super cheap and giving a huge bonus and nice trample ability. You can pretty much put it on anything, and recklessly attack with it. Once the opponent finally deals with the creature by blocking it or using a kill spell, the Rancor comes back and you can repeat on the next available creature. Beware, as always with this deck, of the opponent using an instant or ability in response to you casting Rancor. Theirs will resolve first, and if it kills/removes your creature, the Rancor will "fizzle" and it's ability won't trigger as it never enters the battlefield at all. This is perfect for early in the game when the opponent is likely to be tapping out each turn to develop their position.

Mesa Enchantress: Same strategy as Kor Spiritdancer. Her card drawing is just as valuable, even though she is more expensive and doesn't get the free boost. Get her out before casting Auras if possible to maximize your card advantage.

Angelic Destiny: This really is one of the most mental Auras I've ever seen. It makes the creature huge, hard to block and even harder to kill. It will turn anything at all into a massive threat that must be dealt with fast. And once the creature gets killed, back it comes to your hand to put on something else. It's similar to Rancor in this way, but the return ability isn't quite as strong, since if this is destroyed directly rather than the creature getting killed, you won't get this back to your hand like with Rancor. And if the creature is exiled or bounced, you won't get it back either. But most of the time it will be the case that the creature will die (or the opponent!) so you will get another chance with it. Try and catch the opponent tapped out so they can't respond and kill your creature, again meaning the Destiny's ability won't trigger.

Suntail Hawk: These are amazingly efficient and suit the aggressive nature of the deck down to the ground. They can start the race to smash up your opponent from turn 1, and with flying they can usually take home any extra damage from Auras you pile on them. Even unenchanted they can continue to peck away at the opponent, and it's unlikely they will waste a kill spell on them. If they don't, they face an ever decreasing timer. If they do, then you are laughing!

Snake Umbra: Although the stats boost is small for the cost, the card drawing ability is awesome. Make sure you put this on an evasion creature, or one that has gained trample, as you really want to be damaging the opponent each turn with this. If the creature survives and continues to draw cards for you like this, it will be almost impossible for the opponent to keep up with the advantage and it will be a matter of time before they crumble. Even if you manage to hit once with it while they are tapped out, you've done some extra damage and the card has replaced itself.

Femeref Enchantress: She is a walking insurance policy for this deck. She can make up for any card disadvantage you get from lost Auras by replacing them with fresh cards. Keep her alive at all costs, as these card draws are really important. It's not essential to get her out right away like the other card drawers, but try to get her out before you get too many Auras on the table so you have her card draw as backup should things start blowing up. It may seem like a good idea to shove loads of Auras on her, by the reasoning that even if she dies you'll draw a card for each. In fact this isn't true. Because of the way the rules works, if she dies while enchanted (and the Auras aren't destroyed at the same time), she is put into the graveyard first. The Auras technically "float around" on their own for a short space of time (rules wise, you won't see it happen visually) and then are put into the graveyard for having nothing to enchant. This means she's not there to draw cards from them. So I would advise against putting any Auras on her, unless they are Totem Armors or Canopy Cover which can protect her.

Stormfront Pegasus: A straight upgrade from the Suntail Hawk, providing even more of a bashing. Doesn't really need to be enchanted to make a nuisance of itself, 2 flying damage is great for just 2 mana. As always with this deck, keep on attacking with it mercilessly unless you really need it as a blocker to survive. You can't afford to go on the defensive too much with this deck.

Aura Gnarlid: Although really only an average kind of creature, this really shines in this deck. Both abilities are very useful. The first one stops him being chump blocked, which is great since this deck has virtually no ways of removing creatures. And once he becomes big enough he can become completely unblockable. The second ability complements the first nicely, and since your whole strategy is to fill the battlefield with Auras, he will get big in a hurry, making him even harder to block. The Auras don't have to be on him to count, on any of your creatures will do. It counts ones on your opponent's creatures as well, and regardless of who cast them. This even includes putting Pacifism on their creature! Beware of your opponent removing Auras from the battlefield during combat and thus dropping his stats.

Silhana Ledgewalker: She is a bit of a runt, but her abilities lend herself perfectly to being boosted up by Auras. Hexproof means it's very hard for the opponent to kill her, they usually have to do with some sort of mass removal. This means that she is likely to be able to make use of the Auras you put on her, and can't easily be killed in response to you casting them either. And her "sort of flying" ability makes her much harder to block, so she is perfect for an Aura which boosts her power, giving you hard to stop damage.

Hyena Umbra: The cheapest Totem Armor, and very effective. It gives a little boost, and first strike is very handy since nothing in this deck has that ability built in. It can be put on anything to make it more of a threat, and especially the creatures you want to protect like Mesa Enchantress, Kor Spiritdancer and Femeref Enchantress. It can save them once from being destroyed, either by damage or from a destroy effect (like a kill spell). This goes some way to stopping the 2 for 1 loss from Auras.

Griffin Guide: Similar to Elephant Guide in Apex Predators, this is similarly excellent, probably better. Although a lot of your creatures have flying already, they can still benefit from the stat boost if you can't find a non-flier to enchant. And when this is put into the graveyard, you get a very decent 2/2 flying creature which is a nice threat in itself. Like with Rancor, you won't get the token if the creature you target is killed in response to you casting this.

Three Dreams: Perfect for this deck, as you will have no trouble finding three different Auras from your deck. As it will be at least turn 5, you will have a good idea of how the game is going, and which Auras will suit you the best. Plan carefully your next few turns, and think what your opponent is likely to do. Often it will be Angelic Destiny and Pacifism at the top of the list, along with Snake Umbra. But the situation may dictate otherwise. If you have no creatures, you can fetch Fists of Ironwood to cast on your opponent's creature to get you some targets for your Auras.

Armadillo Cloak: A brutal Aura which makes your creature big, hard to stop, and gains you loads of life. This last is a great side effect as it helps you ignore counter-attacks from the opponent, as you steam towards the winning post. The trample is only going to matter if they can manage to block your creature, if it's on an evasion creature they may not be able to. This will work well on anything, but the bigger the creature the bigger the life return. Sometimes you may wish to hedge your bets and put it on something smaller though like a Suntail Hawk if you expect it may die in the near future, so at least you don't lose your best creature. Note that the ability of Armadillo Cloak isn't the same as lifelink, although it looks similar. Firstly, the life gain isn't simultaneous with damage, so if your life goes below zero at the same time the enchanted creature deals damage in combat, it doesn't instantly save you with life gain like lifelink. It has to resolve first, and if you're already dead it's too late. And because it's an ability of the Aura and not the creature, even if they steal the creature from you, you will continue to gain the life from it, not the new controller. It could be used as a very strange form of creature control if you put it on your opponent's creature. You can then let the creature damage you, and as long as you don't die right away, you'll get back all the life you lost.

Nature's Spiral: This is rather amazing for this deck, since nearly every card in the deck falls into one of the categories it can fetch. You can use it to retrieve one of your card drawers for a second go, get back a powerful Aura you have lost, or even get a land back if it's been blown up somehow. This gives you essentially extra copies of everything you draw during the game as backup, unless they get exiled. If you're heavily winning, it may be worth retrieving even something small like a Suntail Hawk if there is nothing else in your graveyard, just to seal the win faster. If things are more slow, you may wish to wait until a key permanent gets destroyed so that you can retrieve it and get back in the game. The only drawback is this is not very useful for the first few turns, where you're unlikely to have anything to get back. But you should have plenty of other things to cast in the meantime, and this will at least provide backup for all of those. You may consider dropping 1 of these to reduce the chance of getting one in your opening hand if you prefer the more proactive approach.


 


Boar Umbra: Simple and effective. A hefty stat boost to make anything into a sizeable threat, with built-in protection. Great for putting on an evasion creature to get large amounts of damage through, or for ensuring one of your key creatures sticks around.

Sacred Wolf: Although his 1 toughness is a shame, he is nevertheless robust thanks to hexproof. As long as you are careful with him in combat, he is likely to stick around. He is perfect for stat boosting Auras, since his hexproof will stop naughty 2 for 1 antics from your opponent. Once pumped up he will quickly be a nasty threat, and one that's not easily stopped.

OK cards

Totem-Guide Hartebeest: The flexibility of searching your varied Auras is just about worth the expensive cost for the creature I think. At the same time it provides a beefy blocker, and a target for the Aura if you have no others. If things are going badly you can fetch Pacifism, if they are going well get an Aura to seal the game like Angelic Destiny.

Canopy Cover: This is a nice card, the reason I drop it to OK is just because so many creatures in the deck already have flying or hexproof so can't take full advantage. Even though it doesn't boost stats, it provides protection for the creature, which is great for keeping your card drawers safe from all those kill spells. It also means that if you want to put more Auras on the same creature afterwards, you are much safer doing so thanks to the hexproof. It can give evasion to those creatures that don't have it already, and it can make Spectral Rider really hard to block!

Auramancer: You can think of this guy as the second-chance motel of the deck. If you've lost an Aura, for whatever reason, you can reclaim it, and at the same time you have a creature to enchant if you can't find any others. His biggest drawback is being pretty useless at the start of the game, so you could consider dropping down to 1 of these if you are looking for something to replace in the creature base. But I like the instant card advantage it offers, and it can make up for any nasty 2 for 1 deals you've been forced to eat. He helps get Pacifism back too if the opponent manages to destroy it.

Fists of Ironwood: The trample isn't as good as it looks due to the large amount of evasion creatures you have, but it may still come in handy sometimes. The main benefit is the two free tokens you get, which provide extra attackers, blockers, and most important targets for Auras. If you run out of creature to enchant, it can be an awfully lonely place with this deck. So this can interact with your card drawers and graveyard retrievers, and at the same time provide you much needed targets. If you're desperate you can even put it on your opponent's creature if you've totally run out yourself. If you have no creatures anyway giving their creature trample won't make a lot of difference, and it's essential you get back in the race as you don't have much creature control to stop you getting overwhelmed. I've cut it to 2 in the main deck to share spots in the deck with Lifelink. You may wish to adjust this according to your personal preference, say going with 3 Lifelink and 1 Fists, or 1 Lifelink and 3 Fists.

Lifelink: Normally I don't like this card much, but it can be useful in this deck, particularly as you have few ways to actually stop the opponent from damaging you. You can't do much to control their creatures, so this is a way of keeping ahead on the race by adding life gain to your damage. Being extremely cheap you can slip it out easily when the oppenent is tapped out, for some instant life gain, or after dropping one of your card drawers to instantly replace itself.

Gigantiform: Although expensive, it can turn the humblest of critters into a game winning nightmare. It's original stats will get set to 8/8, but it will also get on top of that any bonuses which increase its stats from other Auras and effects. And it will keep all its other abilities too, as well as now having trample. It's a bit slow for this deck so I would say one is enough, especially as you have other ways to search for it. Forget about the kicker part, that's a pipe-dream amount of mana for this deck and certainly not a good enough reason to include 2 copies.

Spectral Rider: A solid creature for a mono white deck, but sadly a bit awkward to cast in a dual colour one. You'll probably have other things you can cast early in the game while you wait for the second Plains to show up, and his evasion is really good against most of the decks. A nice way to sneak through a lot of damage with Auras even when the opponent has big flying blockers that can stop your other creatures.

Retether: This looks great at first glance, and indeed can be, but it has some problems too. When it works, it can return loads of useful Auras to your creatures, getting them all back and into action. And it can put Pacifism from your graveyard onto one of your opponent's creatures, even one with hexproof or shroud (since this method doesn't target the creature in any way). But firstly if you've run out of creatures, this is useless. Secondly, it's going to be sitting in your hand for quite a while at the start of the game before it becomes useful. Thirdly, if your opponent removes your creature(s) from the battlefield in response to it, you are forced to put all your Auras on their creatures instead which could easily lose you the game. I would stick with the more reliable Auramancer and Nature's Spiral, which can't backfire and are easier to use.

Oakenform: This is a fairly decent Aura, but is obviously outclassed by Boar Umbra and doesn't quite make the cut. If you're desperate for more stat-boosting Auras, you could consider adding one of these.

Bramble Elemental: I initially thought this looked good for the deck, but had to admit he is too slow. He is not huge for his mana, and lacks any sort of evasion. It will be turn 6 at the least before his ability comes into play, and he is so cumbersome that you may as well rely on Fists of Ironwood to do the job much more quickly if you desire tokens. But if you are looking for higher cost creatures for the really long game, this is probably the best choice. Trouble is, you don't want a long game with this deck, you need to win fast.

Lure: To start with I thought this looked good, as a way of using your big creatures to kill stuff by forcing it to block and to get through other creatures for unblocked damage. This can be the case sometimes, but the fact that so many of your creatures have evasion makes this much less effective. If you put it on a flying creature for example, it will only lure other flying creatures. If you are desperate for another way to control the opponent's population then this is the best way to do that, although you'll have to wait for the right creature to come along that doesn't have evasion and that you're happy to attack with. On balance best left out I think. This has more potential in the Archenemy and Two Headed Giant formats. Forcing all the opposing creatures to all block one of yours will get through not only the rest of your creatures but all your teammates as well! This could well end a stalemate and win the game in one go.

Silvercoat Lion: A solid creature, but with no abilities he's redundant to the deck. There's nothing in the list I think he could favourably replace, so I think he's best left out. He'd only be useful if you wanted a few more fast creatures for a creature-heavy strategy.

Bad cards

Mammoth Umbra: It's nice, but just too expensive. You're paying an extra 2 mana over Boar Umbra just for vigilance, and I can't justify that. 5 mana is a lot for this deck and you want something really hard hitting, and this doesn't hit much harder than the 3 mana things in the deck. The vigilance is useful for keeping ahead on the race by having your big creature able to block as well, but that's not part of the general strategy of the deck.

Mythic Proportions: An amazing effect, but the cost is too high for this deck I feel. The game will often be over, one way or the other, before you hit 7 lands, especially as you have no extra ways to search for them. I'd rather have a slightly smaller bonus and the insurance from Totem Armor, rather than the "all eggs in one basket" approach here. Most of the time this will waste away in your hand, and when you do get to cast it probably something cheaper would have done the job anyhow. The trample isn't such a big deal with so many evasion creatures.

Divine Favor: This is too weedy and defensive. You are more interested in pounding the damage to your opponent, and with just 1 extra power for 2 mana this is a bum deal. It helps defensively, but as soon as you start going on the defensive you are likely to lose anyhow. I'd stick to the much more effecient and aggressive Auras. The life gain is nice, but far from essential.

Wreath of Geists: This looks good, but is only actually going to be useful quite late into the game when lots of your creatures have been killed. That's if any even have. At that point, the fact that it is so cheap is kind of pointless as you'll have lots of land anyhow. I'd rather have an Aura with a bonus I can rely on. On the plus side, it does update itself, so if more of your creatures die while this is on the battlefield, the bonus it gives goes up accordingly. Or down if you retrieve them with Nature's Spiral; another reason to avoid this.

Siege Mastodon: A stupid-headed creature, not very good anyhow, and pointless for this deck. Very defensive, and not even able to stop any kind of evasion creature. For 5 mana Bramble Elemental is far better for this deck, I wouldn't ever consider this guy.

Heroes' Reunion: My usual life-gain rant applies. Yes 7 life is a lot for 2 mana, but it also doesn't get you any closer to winning. Even if you win the game seemingly "because" of the 7 life,


you probably would have won anyway, and faster, had it been something aggressive instead. Only worth considering if you expect to see a lot of direct damage, such as Unquenchable Fire. Otherwise, concentrate on your strategy of all out attack.

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
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Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 guide [part 7]


 

Liliana Vess - Grave Whispers

Summary

This is a monoblock deck loosely based on Eyes of Shadow from D9. It keeps the discard theme, and has lots of creature control. It has cards that can deal damage due to both the discard itself, and due to the opponent having few cards left in hand. It is slow and defensive, fighting off the early rush while emptying the opponent's hand leaving them open for your bigger creatures and direct damage.

Strategy

You expect to take quite a thrashing in the early game, that's pretty much unavoidable. You hope to get a Reassembling Skeleton out as a blocker early, and he can keep coming back to keep you alive. Focus on destroying your opponent's hand, even if it means taking quite a bit of damage. It can often be a fair trade-off anyhow, as you are avoiding future damage from the cards they throw away. The more discard you have in your opening hand, the more important it is to start using it right away. You want to get the most use out of it before your opponent empties his hand. Use your kill spells carefully, taking out only the biggest threats while you concentrate on the discard. Once you've taken care of that, your bigger creatures should be ready to arrive, plus hopefully The Rack for some damage. The opponent will often be top-decking by this stage and scared to hold anything back in their hand for fear of losing it, so you can carefully calculate your strategy knowing they have no secret cards to use. You have several big direct damage spells, Consume Spirit and Corrupt which can make a big comeback for your life total, or finish the game for you.

Pros


Lots of discard can easily wipe out the opponent's hand, forcing them to play off the top of the deck


Plenty of efficient creature control


Mono colour means no mana problems


Direct damage with high life gain for big comebacks



Cons


Slow off the mark, struggles early


No artifact or enchantment control except by discard


Doom Blade redundant against other black decks


Creatures quite small until you get to higher mana costs



Example Decklist

24 Swamp

Creatures (15)

3 Reassembling Skeleton
2 Hypnotic Specter
4 Liliana's Specter
2 Guul Draz Specter
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Ob Nixilis, The Fallen
1 Grave Titan
1 Massacre Wurm

Other spells (21)

2 Disentomb
2 Quest for the Gravelord
2 The Rack
2 Consume Spirit
3 Doom Blade
1 Marsh Casualties
3 Mind Rot
2 Quag Sickness
2 Moan of the Unhallowed
1 Beacon of Unrest
1 Corrupt

Cards to exclude to build this deck

2 Unholy Strength
3 Demon's Horn
2 Liliana's Caress
1 Reassembling Skeleton
2 Gloomhunter
1 Mind Rot
2 Underworld Dreams
2 Blood Tithe
1 Mortivore
1 Scavenger Drake
1 Syphon Mind
1 Monomania
1 Syphon Flesh

Good cards

Doom Blade: The new Terror, modified so that it can destroy artifact creatures as well, but with the drawback that the creature can regenerate. That isn't much of a drawback in this game, as there's not a lot of regenerating creatures. This is your top removal card, so use it sparingly and don't waste it on anything you can take out other ways or can handle with your creatures. As always don't be in a hurry to use them as soon as a big creature hits the table, wait until near the end of the opponent's turn to see if they drop anything else, or put an Aura on the creature for example. This is amazing against Auramancer, as you can use it in response to an Aura, killing its intended target and they won't be able to use its Totem Armor ability if it has one. Unfortunately a dead card in the mirror match, and even more regretably against Blood Hunger. But for the rest of the time where it is nothing short of deadly, it's worth the risk. At least in the mirror match it's an easy card to choose to discard when hit by Mind Rot etc.

Quag Sickness: Although this is an Aura, most of the time this is just a kill spell. As you are using all Swamps, you will pretty much be using it to do in the target right away unless it's a huge beast that you just want to bring down to size. If possible use Doom Blade for that though and save this for something you can kill outright. This also has the benefit of being able to target black creatures, and if it reduces the toughness of the creature to 0 or less then it can't regenerate or use Totem Armor, and even being indestructible won't help. Save for the bigger threats, or a smaller creature with a really annoying ability.

Corrupt: Back from Eyes of Shadow, and fulfils the same role. It can take out a big creature, give a huge life swing to recover from early beatings, or act as a finisher to end the game. It's similar to Consume Spirit, but assuming you have 6 or more Swamps it's always more efficient offering 2 extra damage and a fixed mana cost. Save for huge threats, and the longer you can hold it back the more life you will get out of it. Keep an eye on the opponent's life total to see if this can dust off the opponent after an attack.

Grave Titan: An insanely efficient creature, that unless countered gives instant card advantage. If it survives, you continue to get that advantage every time it attacks. Being so big it will probably be able to attack every turn, if it gets ganged up on you can often use a Doom Blade to take out one of the blockers leaving the others too weak to kill him. Unless dealt with very quickly, this is likely to win the game on its own. Even if it does end up tussling with a bigger creature, deathtouch means it will take it down too most likely. And if it does end up getting killed by gang blockers, you will probably be able to kill them all since you only need to put 1 damage on each before moving to the next, and they all get the deathtouch treatment.

Bloodgift Demon: When this was recently previewed, I read it about 8 times to see what I was missing. Turns out I wasn't missing anything, this is just completely sick and overpowered. 5/4 flying for 5 mana is already really good, to the point where it used to have cumulative upkeep 1 life just for those stats (Morinfen). Not only does this (usually) not have a drawback, it's got a bonus as well. Almost all the time you will want to use the upkeep ability on yourself. 1 life for 1 card is a great deal, and always worth it unless you are extremely low on life and fear some direct damage. Otherwise, keep on drawing away and the card advantage will more than make up for the life loss. Eventually you'll hopefully hit a Consume Spirit or Corrupt, then your life total can shoot up again. If not dealt with the game probably won't last too long anyway with him thrashing the opponent down. If they happen to be really low on life, you can use his upkeep ability as a finisher or a prelude to other finishing damage that turn. The only problem is that you can't refuse to use the ability, so if you're too scared to use it on yourself you have to use it on your opponent. This becomes less of a problem in Two Headed Giant or when fighting against the Archenemy, as you can give one of your not-quite-so-near-to-death allies a card instead.

Hypnotic Specter: Once the scourge of the standard tournament scene, when I were a lad. Along with Dark Ritual, this often came out on turn 1 and started ruining the opponent's game before it has even begun. At least now you have to get it out honestly, but it's still a horrible creature to face. The flying makes it hard to step especially early on, and the random discard means you can't hide your good cards behind others. It will be competing with Lilian'a Specter for a drop on turn 3, and if you have the choice it will depend on the situation. The more cards the opponent has in hand, the more it favours the Hypnotic as he can repeatedly make them discard. Against a deck which you expect to easily deal with them, such as Unquenchable Fire, it may be better to drop the Liliana's one just to make sure you get one discard in before it dies. Keep attacking with this to drive your opponent's hand size down, even if it means taking damage back. Hopefully your Skeletons and kill spells will keep their offense at bay.

Massacre Wurm: This is the only non-targeted removal I have in my list (except Marsh Casualties), and the perfect way to come back from an early rush of weenies. It will ignore shroud, hexproof, regeneration, indestructibility (if combined with other toughness reducing effects) and even protection from black. You'll probably want to cast this as soon as you can, to clear the board of weenies that are bothering you and to start hurting your opponent each time you kill something. It will even make them lose life for the creatures it kills with its own ability. If it kills just one or even no creatures, it is still a massive threat and provides another way to hurt the opponent directly. This will be a really sick card for the Archenemy to use.

Mind Rot: The black heart of the deck, back from Eyes of Shadow. Still horribly effective, giving instant card advantage and quickly driving down the opponent's hand size ready for The Rack or Guul Draz Specter. It also means you don't have to worry about the cards that get thrown away being a threat to you. I've dropped the count to 3 as there are more discard creatures in this deck than Eyes of Shadow, so this reduces the chance of drawing one late game where it may be redundant. You could always consider putting this back to 4 though to try and draw as many as possible. Getting 2 early on can often be game clinching on its own, given any kind of reasonable support from your other cards. If your opponent's hand size is low, cast this in preference to a discard creature to maximize it's use before they can empty their hand. With a higher count, cast your creatures first so that they can get to work right away, then follow them up with this.

Consume Spirit: The little brother of Corrupt, less efficient at the higher costs but with the flexibility of being able to kill smaller creatures for low mana. Rememeber that unlike Drain Life (for those as old as me) you're not limited in life gain by the toughness of the creature (or the life total of the opponent) so if you can spare the mana you can pump as much as you want into it as overkill, to gain more life. Use for either picking off irritating little/medium size creatures or going for the kill later in the game.

Liliana's Specter: A very nice upgrade from Ravenous Rats from Eyes of Shadow. Although more expensive, it hits all opponents which is nice for multiplayer and provides a decent threat once on the battlefield. Even if killed right away it offers card advantage. If you can swap it in combat for an attacker, you can use Disentomb to bring it back to force a discard again.

Guul Draz Specter: I really like the design of this card, as it addresses the problem that faces most repeat-discard creatures: they become a bit wet once the opponent empties their hand. This creature takes care of that by suddenly growing huge and dealing more damage. If the opponent is drawing their 1 card into an empty hand, they are forced to decide between holding on to it and losing it to this, or using it and taking 5 damage. Neither prospect is good for them. Note that this grows instantly to 5/5 as soon as the opponent's hand is empty. So say their last card in hand is an Incinerate and they cast in on your 2/2 Specter thinking it will die, as soon as the card leaves their hand and "floats" on the stack the Specter becomes 5/5. So when when the Incinerate resolves it won't be able to kill it.

Marsh Casualties: This is a great way to recover from an early weenie rush by 1/1 and 2/1 creatures, and later on when you can afford it even 2/2 ones. It's a judgement call whether to play it early or hold it back. I would say if you can kill 2 or more creatures with it certainly go ahead with it. Like Massacre Wurm it doesn't target so has all the same benefits, and isn't two-sided like Pyroclasm, so leaves your little guys intact. It can be used after


your combat phase to finish off any creatures which didn't quite die from combat damage.

Moan of the Unhallowed: This is a very interesting card, and a bit hard to evaluate. I've come to the conclusion that it is pretty good though. I would consider the flashback to be a bonus rather than something you can count on, and for 4 mana getting two 2/2 creatures is pretty good. That's 4 power for 4 mana which is a good deal, and spread between two bodies makes it harder to deal with. It's two blockers if things are going badly, or two attackers if you're winning. And if the game goes on a long time and mana is no longer an issue, you'll be really happy to be able to cast it again for some free guys. As the deck doesn't have much at the 4 mana mark this fits well, and could be a good stop-gap to help defend until your bigger creatures arrive. It's kind of a more expensive but more reliable version of Quest for the Gravelord.

The Rack: A really cheap, nasty tool for squeezing the life out of the opponent once you have forced them down to a low amount of cards in hand. If you've got a reasonable board position and have successfully used discard, this is often a game clincher on it's own. If they attempt to get out of taking damage by holding cards back, any discard you have left comes into play and you can empty their hand again. Even though it can be played on turn 1, I don't believe it's always the correct play to do so. I think it depends on your hand. If you have a lot of discard and can see yourself having no mana to spare over the first 3-4 turns, it may be a good idea to get it down on turn 1 while you have the mana spare ready to optimize damage as soon as your discard kicks in. But otherwise, I think it is often better to hold onto it. If you play it right away the opponent can see the damage coming, and can alter their strategy accordingly. If you hold it back, even if you don't have much discard they may frantically play out their hand to avoid having to discard anything, then you suddenly drop it when their hand it empty. The other advantage to this is that if they have artifact removal in their deck, you can force them to discard it and empty their hand before casting this, whereas if you drop this early they may be able to destroy it with those cards.


 


Beacon of Unrest: This has been half-inched from Nicol Bolas in D9, but it fits very nicely into this deck. It can be used to get back your own big creature that has been killed, or else to steal one the opponent has lost either through you killing or by discard. Knowing you have this card may make the opponent have to think very carefully about what they pitch to your discard for fear of facing it the next turn. In extreme situations it could be used to get The Rack back if it's been blown up, or to steal a great artifact the opponent has discarded. The shuffle effect is handy but I don't view it as a big deal. It's nice to know you may draw it again, but there's a good chance you won't. Nevertheless, this does well for its cost by giving you a big choice of targets and mounting a comeback, possibly borrowing from the opponent's scrapheap to do so.


 


Quest for the Gravelord: I initially dismissed this card but was convinced by popular opinion that it is in fact pretty good. It's perfect to have in your starting hand, since you have nothing else to play on turn 1 (except possibly The Rack) so it doesn't slow down your curve. It counts any tokens getting killed as well, and each time your Reassembling Skeleton dies it gets a counter. Combined with the high amount of removal in the deck, you should expect it to get 3 counters pretty fast. It may also make your opponent scared to attack you for fear of the counters building up when you block. Remember that you can activate it as an instant, so don't put the token into play right away. It won't be able to attack, and you're just giving the opponent more chances to deal with it. Save it for the right moment which is the least convenient for your opponent. Even if they decide to destroy the Quest, you can always activate it in response. One of the best times to put the token in is after the opponent has declared attackers but before the blockers phase. If they've sent in a 4/4 ground creature or smaller, you have the option of activating the Quest, giving you the 5/5 to block with. Otherwise, you can still activate it near the end of their turn so it comes in ready to attack on your turn. On a crowded battlefield you could hold it back if you sense mass removal is in the air. Sadly it may be a bit slow if drawn late game. If you've lasted that long you're probably doing well anyhow, but for this reason you could considering cutting one of them.


 


OK cards

Reassembling Skeleton: Although not amazing, these kind of form the backbone of the deck even if theirs isn't always in one piece for long. It's similar to Drudge Skeletons from Eyes of Shadow, in some ways better, in some ways worse. It's nice that you don't have to worry about being tapped out in order to block like with the Drudge, since you can always bring him back in a future turn. The extra mana needed is a pain, but it means that he's pretty much never going away unless he gets exiled or Arrested etc. And you'll probably be quite pleased if the opponent does something so drastic to your Skelly. These are primarily for defense. But if the opponent is coming out really slow you may as well nibble for some cheap damage, unless you know the deck you are facing has a lot of haste creatures. Bringing him back in your turn is usually pointless, you may as well wait until your opponent's turn, after they have attacked. That way you've kept your options open with your mana, and if you haven't needed it for anything else, you can go ahead and dig him up. He'll then untap as you start your turn, and not any slower than if you brought him back in your turn. In the mirror match when forced to discard, you can discard this knowing you can reanimate it later.

Ob Nixilis, the Fallen: I'm not sure what he's fallen from, but I'm pretty sure he banged his head several times on the way down. I heard someone once speculate he used to be a Planeswalker. I rate him as OK and the least powerful of the big threats in the deck just because of his reliance on the landfall ability. If you cast him when you hit 5 mana for the first time and then don't draw any more land for a few turns, he's going to be very lame. But if you can follow him up with lands, he not only grows huge but starts putting the hurt on the opponent from behind a barricade of your Skeletons. He gives you a reason to stockpile lands in your hand when you don't particularly need to play more in case you draw him. Especially so that in the mid/late game you can cast him then right away have a land to play to boost him to 6/6. Sadly with just 24 land in the deck and no way to fetch more he is going to be slightly unreliable, but just about worth the place I think. Probably Liliana will be sending talent scouts to the next DLC to look for a replacement.

Disentomb: A Raise (Dead) by any other name would smell as foul. If you're into digging up dead things that smelled pretty bad when they were alive, this is the card for you. It's cheap and cheerful, giving all the creatures in your deck a second chance unless they get exiled or frozen on the battlefield with Pacifism etc. In my build there are 12 creatures which benefit from this card. Sadly it's pointless in regard to the Reassembling Skeletons, and doesn't have good synergy with the token making spells. For that reason, and since it's not useful for a while in your opening hand, you may consider cutting down to 1 of these. But when it works, it's going to be really good. It lets you recast your Liliana's Specter after it gets killed for another discard, get your Hypnotic Specter back on the case after taking a fall, and repeat the Massacre from your Wurm. Since the deck is slightly low on big threats, this will often be a great thing to have mid-game to recycle them. Also mid/late game Guul Draz Specter becomes really powerful and efficient and is a prime target for getting back.

Syphon Flesh: This is an interesting card, obviously geared towards multiplayer formats, but merits at lease some consideration for one on one. I chose to cut it in the end as it is rather expensive, and because the opponent gets to choose which creature dies you'll often kill something small. It does provide possibly the only way the deck has to deal with large hexproof/shroud creatures, but even then you have to be able to kill every other creature they have to force them to sacrifice the one you want. I'd say it's just a bit too slow, but worth thinking about if you want more removal. The extra token does work well with your defensive theme and other token generators.

Mortivore: I didn't much like this in Eyes of Shadow, as more often than not it was an expensive Drudge Skeleton and not much bigger. I thought it may be good for this deck now that you can replace a core card. But since this deck generates a lot of tokens which won't be counted, your Reassembling Skeletons won't stay in the graveyard and you have Disentomb, the prospects for this are narrow. At least his regenerate ability is very cheap, making him a useful defender. I think it's too unreliable for the large mana investment. Much more useful in multiplayer formats where it will probably get really big in a hurry.

Liliana's Caress: Although I campaigned for Megrim to be replaced by this in Eyes of Shadow to at least make it playable as a core card, now I can take it out I find myself doing so. It seems like an obvious choice for the deck, but I feel it's just not needed. You often need to be doing other things on turn 2, like getting out a skeleton or using a kill spell. It will do a bit of damage, but once the opponent empties their hand it will most likely not do any more. Later in the game this may already be the case making it pretty much a dead draw. The Rack is more reliable and will always put the hurt on, as well as being cheaper. I don't think you need more than 2 incidental damage sources to complement your creatures and direct damage. It doesn't offer any help when you are losing, as it amounts to just some direct damage. If you do use it, try to get it out before you start using your discard for maximum damage. It does combo rather nicely with The Rack, when the opponent starts holding onto cards to climb out of damage range you'll be able to use your discard and hurt them with this instead. It happens to be very nasty against Cloudburst, because Murder of Crows currently forces you to draw and then discard every time a creature dies, triggering this. Save this card for multiplayer formats, where it will affect more players.

Underworld Dreams: This was a strange card to have been in Eyes of Shadow, and still strange in this deck. It doesn't really have anything to do with the strategy, other than a slow and painful way to win while hiding behind defensive cards. It will occasionally be really good, say against Realm of Illusion and Ancient Depths, where it will punish their large amount of card drawing. But against most decks it's 1 damage a turn for 3 mana, which isn't really worth it. The Rack is cheaper and does more damage once it gets going.

Gloomhunter: This is just about OK, but you really should never have to consider putting this in the deck. You have 4 Liliana's Specters which are clearly superior, as is Hypnotic Specter. This has nothing else to offer.

Bad cards

Monomania: I initially thought this was great, but quickly realized it's actually pretty bad for this deck. If this is the first discard you use (which is unlikely) then by turn 5 there's a good chance the opponent will be down to 3 or less cards, making it as good as, or worse than, Mind Rot. If you have used other discard before casting this, then it makes all that other discard almost redundant. For example, say you've used a Mind Rot previously and the opponent is now on 4 cards. You cast Monomania, losing them 3 cards. But if you hadn't cast the Mind Rot, they would have had 6 cards, so they lose 5. So you'll see that the same amount of cards have been discarded (2 then 3, or 5) either way so the Mind Rot was pointless (except for forcing earlier discard decisions). It's too expensive and unreliable. Save it for multiplayer formats, where you can use your other discard on one player, and then hit a different one with this. There's also more chance someone will have got off to a slow start and you can get more out of it, especially if you are the Archenemy.

Scavenger Drake: The ability is nice, but he's too expensive and puny. He will take ages to get going, and coming out on turn 4 at 1/1 is a bit of a joke, especially as you're usually on the defensive at that point. Save him for multiplayer formats where he will grow much more quickly thanks to more creatures getting killed.

Syphon Mind: A bit too expensive for one on one, this is clearly designed for multiplayer. In those formats, especially as the Archenemy, the card draw will be worthwile. Against a single opponent it's not worth the extra cost over Mind Rot, and offers almost always the same card advantage. It does have the bonus that it replaces itself even if cast late game when the opponent has run out of cards.

Blood Tithe: Similarly designed for multiplayer. It's too expensive and inflexible for one on one, where the fixed damage and life gain isn't great enough at any point in the game. Stick to the removal spells which deal with things for good, or gain life while killing something else.

Unholy Strength: For some reason back from Eyes of Shadow, just be thankful you can take it out now! This is a highly aggressive and risky card, in a defensive deck where you fully expect your stuff to die, sometimes planning on it. Doing a bit of cheap damage here and there doesn't help your overall plan, and you are generally giving away card advantage by using this as whatever you put it on will be a prime target for removal. It just doesn't fit the strategy at all.

Demon's Horn: I hate life gain!


Ral Zarek – Cloudburst

Summary

This is a blue and red aggressive deck, using red for direct damage and fast creatures and blue to bounce blockers out of the way and provide big flying creatures. It's vaguely like Root of the Firemind from D9, but has no counter magic and a lot of different creatures. It feels a little weak with not the greatest selection of spells, but can be explosive when the cards come together in lots of little combos. It has a lot of "suicide" creatures- ones that you have to sacrifice at the end of the turn. But you can sometimes return them to your hand to save them so they can attack again next turn. Playing 61 cards is more of a sensible option with this, due to the high land count of 25 for an aggressive deck, and because of the need to fix the mana ratios. This has certainly been the hardest deck for me to write about without being able to test!

Strategy

The way I see it, there are two ways to go with this deck. You either concentrate on the suicide creatures, go for lots of low costs and try to win in short order, or you cut some/most of those out and go for a slower flying strategy. You want to do as much damage as you can whenever you are able, keeping the pressure on. Use your direct damage and bounce spells to remove blockers, and try to seal the game as quickly as you can. Make the most of the synergy between your instants/sorceries and Wee Dragonauts/Gelectrode by planning carefully.

Pros


Lots of cheap direct damage and bounce


Many haste creatures for quick damage


Creatures that benefit from the many instants/sorceries


Ways to draw and cycle through cards


Into the Roil and Aether Tradewinds can remove almost anything, at least temporarily



Cons


Two colours can lead to mana problems


Can run out of steam if the game drags on


Overall the cards are a bit on the weak side


Not enough 1 and 2 mana creatures to make it really quick



Example Decklists

Suicide version

13 Mountain
12 Island

Creatures (22)

2 Spark Elemental
1 Lighting Serpent
2 Sparkmage Apprentice
2 Storm Crow
2 Arc Runner
1 Ball Lightning
2 Gelectrode
2 Wee Dragonauts
2 Lightning Elemental
1 Skizzik
1 Air Servant
2 Murder of Crows
1 Spellbound Dragon
1 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind

Other spells (13)

2 Lightning Bolt
3 Shock
3 Into the Roil
2 Aether Tradewinds
1 Electropotence
1 Prophetic Bolt
1 Time Reversal

Cards to exclude to build this deck


3 Elixir of Immortality
1 Reverberate
2 Thunder Strike
2 Turn the Tide
4 Wind Drake
2 Skirsdag Cultist
1 Air Servant
2 Stormcloud Djinn
1 Mahamoti Djinn
1 Thundermare
1 Thunder Dragon

This deck focuses on using all the suicide creatures and trying to win in short order. It is a bit more random, but has the power to go absolutely mental at times and deal huge amounts of damage. With lots of bounce, there's every chance to give your suicide creatures another run before conking out, and they combine really well with Electropotence in the mid/late game to provide finishing punches. Play your suicide guys very carefully to get the most out of them.

Balanced flying version

12 Mountain
13 Island

Creatures (24)

2 Spark Elemental
1 Lighting Serpent
2 Sparkmage Apprentice
2 Storm Crow
2 Gelectrode
2 Wee Dragonauts
4 Wind Drake
2 Lightning Elemental
1 Skizzik
1 Air Servant
2 Murder of Crows
1 Spellbound Dragon
1 Mahamoti Djinn
1 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind

Other spells (11)

2 Lightning Bolt
3 Shock
3 Into the Roil
2 Thunder Strike
1 Prophetic Bolt

Cards to exclude to build this deck

3 Elixir of Immortality
1 Reverberate
2 Turn the Tide
2 Aether Tradewinds
1 Electropotence
2 Arc Runner
1 Ball Lightning
2 Skirsdag Cultist
1 Air Servant
2 Stormcloud Djinn
1 Time Reversal
1 Thundermare
1 Thunder Dragon

This version gambles less with cards like Arc Runner and Time Reversal, and goes for more of a permanent air presence with Wind Drakes, backed by Thunder Strikes. It will be more reliable, but less explosive.

Good cards

Lightning Bolt: Probably the most insanely efficient direct damage ever printed. It can take out anything up to medium size creatures, and at instant speed, or else be a cheap way of finishing off your opponent. It can take out blockers to help you keep getting your damage through, or to remove a small creature with an annoying ability that is causing you problems. Like all direct damage in this deck, don't just throw it at your opponent's face right away. If they don't have any creatures and you can't finish them off with it (or have a plan to) then it's usually best to hold on to it until a creature arrives. You can always throw it at them later when they are almost dead to finish them, and if you use it early you'll be kicking yourself when a creature appears that is killing you or stopping you getting through with your creatures. Take advantage of the instant speed. You can use it during combat if your creature has been gang blocked, to take out one of the blockers so your attacker survives. Or in response to a Giant Growth or such, as your Bolt will resolve before the Growth.

Shock: An obviously weaker Lightning Bolt, so same strategies apply. Use this in preference to the Bolt when killing creatures where possible, to save the Bolt for bigger targets or more damage to the player later.

Into the Roil: This is an amazingly flexible card, with lots of uses. For a list of "bounce" strategies, see the commentary for Repulse in the Realm of Illusion section. This can also bounce artifacts and enchantments, getting them out of the way for one turn at least. You want to pay the kicker whenever you can afford to, but sometimes if mana is tight you just can't, and you need to use your judgement as to whether to go ahead and cast it anyway. If it means getting a lot of damage through or saving something important from being killed, it's often worth it. Especially useful for bringing your suicide creatures back to your hand after they have attacked, to save them getting sacrificed at end of turn.

Prophetic Bolt: Although a bit expensive, it is well worth it for the nice amount of damage and the card selection you get. Also being an instant, you can use it at the most inconvenient time for your opponent (usually in their turn, during or after combat) while setting yourself up for your next turn with your carefully chosen card.

Murder of Crows: An excellent new creature from Innistrad. A beefy flier at 4/4 is good for 5 mana anyway, and the card cycling ability is brilliant. Unfortunately, they made the very bad "design decision" that you are forced to draw and discard every time a creature dies, instead of getting to choose. This can be annoying, but the creature is still really good even with that stipulation. This gives you a reason to hold back lands you don't need in the mid/late game, so that you can draw cards with this and then discard the land. The improved card selection combined with your numerous ways to kill creatures will keep the cards flowing through your hand, allowing you to keep just the most crucial ones for the situation. Along with the kicker cost for Into the Roil, this is a big reason to try and keep your Island count up to at least 12 in the deck to avoid missing your second Island. Sadly you can't alter it manually, it has to be done by putting in more cards of the relevant colour. The more mana symbols in the cost, the more weighting it gives.

Gelectrode: With a lot of useful and cheap instants in the deck, this has a lot of potential for untapping. Every time you are going to cast an instant or sorcery, use his ability first on something. Then cast your spell, and he will trigger and untap again. He is great for picking off weenies, or for combining with your direct damage to take out bigger targets. For example, you can kill a 5 toughness creature with just a Lightning Bolt if you have an untapped Gelectrode by using his ability before and after the Bolt. Don't use the ability in your turn, save it until at least after your opponent has attacked (or during combat to mess with their creatures). If there is no suitable target by the time your opponent has finished, you can then just target them directly. You obviously want to keep him out of combat where possible, but if you're getting thrashed you can use him to block one creature, then before damage is dealt use his ability to deal a damage to another attacker, potentially stopping two creatures at once.

Wee Dragonauts: These little guys were heavily requested for Root of the Firemind, so it's nice to see them appear here. They are perfect for this deck even more than the previous one. The 3 toughness is nice, and they are easy to cast. But they come into their own when you use your instants/sorceries. You'll mainly want to do so on your turn, so that if you kill a potential blocker before combat for example, your Dragonauts get their +2 power which they can use to damage the opponent in combat. Combined with direct damage to the opponent, they can provide a nasty amount of damage in one go making them a great finisher. If you're on the defensive, you can use them to take out surprisingly big prey. If a 6/6 creature attacks and you're desperate to kill it, block it with the Dragonauts then before damage is dealt Lightning Bolt the creature. This makes your Dragonauts 3/3, big enough to add to the 3 damage from the Bolt to take down the attacker.

Spellbound Dragon: Kind of similar to the Murder of Crows ability, except it triggers on attacking and also boosts up his power. You have to use your judgement to decide whether to throw away a large costed spell for high damage, or to just discard the weakest card in your hand even if it means less/no extra damage (in the case of a land). Generally the closer your opponent is to death the more important it is to get more damage. If you're losing, it's better to just try and improve your hand and keep yourself alive even if this means doing minimal damage while attacking. If you are forced to keep him as a blocker when things are really bad, his high toughness is useful.

Skizzik: This kind of puts Stomper Cub to shame in Apex Predators. It offers good flexibility, giving high trample damage for just 4 mana when you need it, or a permanent creature when you can afford it. If you think it's likely he will be blocked and killed anyhow, you may want to not pay the kicker, saving the mana for something else. When you have the mana to spare, obviously always pay the kicker just in case he survives. As with all the haste creatures, they have great surprise value. You don't always have to cast them as soon as you can, you can wait until you've removed some blockers or else goaded the opponent into attacking you, thinking they don't need defenders. Then you can drop haste creatures to smack them around in your turn.

Aether Tradewinds: Very useful especially in combination with the suicide creatures, for saving them after they have attacked while slowing down the opponent by returning something (preferably costly) to their hand. With the absence of countermagic, it also provides a way of saving your powerful creatures from being killed, while again messing with the opponent. If the opponent is coming out really slow, you can even target one of their lands (unlike Into the Roil) just to screw up their mana curve. This is much more useful in the suicide build, you may find you only need 1 or none at all in the flying build as you're not always so keen to return your own stuff.



Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind: Although the deck is primarily meant to be very fast, you are for some reason forced to play with 25 lands. That means that a 6 mana spell isn't too much of a stretch, if it's very good. And this is a really great one, again borrowed from D9. As well as just being a big flyer when you need one, he can be used to sit there on the defense and then ping away at your opponent or their creatures while drawing you an extra card each turn. Whether to attack or use the ability depends on the situation, and I would favour the first option the closer the opponent is to death. He also gets a free ping every time you draw a card like at the start of your turn or from Into the Roil, Murder of Crows or Spellbound Dragon. In a tighter game or certainly if you are losing, keep him back and make use of the card advantage which will help you more in the long term. He can take down a 5 toughness creature on his own on defense by blocking and then using his ability before combat damage to target the attacker. If you can manage to get out this along with Murder of Crows, you can pull off a great combo against a row of toughness 1 creatures. When you draw a card, use Niv-Mizzet to do 1 damage to one of the weenies, killing it. This triggers Murder of Crows to draw you a card. This in turn triggers Niv-Mizzet again, ready to target the next weenie, and so on. You can kill them all in one big chain reaction.


 


OK cards


 


Reverberate: The cost is a little awkward, but you're not going to be casting this really early. Although if you're copying your own direct damage you'll need 3 Mountains, and since it needs something to copy to do anything it can be a bit unreliable. I've dropped to OK for these reasons. You can copy an instant or sorcery spell that any player casts. This is good enough in one on one, but gives even more scope in multiplayer. Because you are copying and not casting the spell, you don't have to pay any associated costs. For example, if your opponent uses Blaze on you with X=5 and you copy it, you don't need to pay any more than the cost of Reverberate and it will create a new Blaze with X=5 as well. It should copy whether or not a spell is kicked, but it's bugged currently so that if you copy a kicked Into the Roil, you don't draw the extra card. You can use this to double up on your direct damage, bounce extra things, or just piggy back the opponent's spells to use them yourself as well. You can also effectively stop a counterspell that is aimed at one of your spells with this. Target the counterspell with Reverberate, and change the target of the counterspell to Reverberate. It will then counter this spell instead of the original target, leaving it safe to resolve.


 


Electropotence: Although expensive, this gives you a great way to spend mana in the mid/late game and to pull off some impressive finishes. If it's in your hand at the start of the game, it may be best to hold on to at least some of your suicide creatures until you have this out. Then you can get the double whammy surprise of a haste attack and a bunch of direct damage. Works very well with the cheap Spark Elemental, and can be lethal later on in combination with an Arc Runner or (if you have enough Mountains!) Ball Lightning. It's kind of in competition with Skirsdag Cultist, and this is cheaper to cast initially and more likely to stick around since enchantment removal is scarce in this game. Also if you cast something, pay for Electropotence and then bounce the creature, you can repeat it again for another go! It can be very expensive though, and for your bigger creatures you may not have enough mana to pay for the ability. This card makes a lot more sense for the higher power of the suicide build, for the more moderate flying creatures this is less impactful.

Spark Elemental: Kind of like direct damage on legs, this does an efficient amount of damage. Although he can be blocked to reduce the damage, he'll likely kill the blocker unless it's huge and still maybe deal damage through thanks to trample. If you have a stonker of an opening hand, you may want to cast him to attack on your first turn while you have the mana to spare, looking for an early kill. Otherwise, especially if you have some bounce in hand, you may want to wait until you can get a double hit in by saving him. With all these low-toughness suicide guys, watch out for first strike creatures which can kill them before they get to hit back, negating their trample.

Lightning Serpent: A purely offensive suicide creature, with the benefit of doing flexible amounts of damage depending on how much mana you can put into it. I would recommend holding it back as long as you for maximum effect, unless you have a turn where there's nothing else to cast but you expect your mana to be tied up for a few turns afterwards. If you plan to bounce him for another attack, be sure to leave enough mana back to cast the bounce spell!

Ball Lightning: Spark Elemental's big brother, the old favourite of the direct damage deck. The cost is no problem in mono red, but in this deck it can prove annoying. However, you don't have to expect to cast him on turn 3, and you'll have plenty of other things to do with your mana in the mean time. With 13 Mountains in the deck on average you'll need to draw about 7 cards before you expect to have 3 Mountains available. The game is reasonably likely to go on this long, meaning you can rely on it as a mid/late game finisher. Plus you have several ways or drawing and cycling cards, setting this up more quickly turns-wise. As long as you eventually have the mana to play it, it doesn't matter too much at which stage of the game that is. It can however pull the land ratio in your deck heavily towards Mountains, making it harder to find two Islands for Into the Roil and Murder of Crows. It will always contain some risk, but it's ruthlessly efficient and probably worth it. It's a difficult choice whether to play it or not.

Sparkmage Apprentice: The deck only has two creatures at the 2 mana mark, this and Storm Crow. Seeing as this wants to be a fast and aggressive deck, the inclusion of all of them seems necessary. This is the more handy of the two, being able to ping away an early weenie clearing the path for suicide creatures, or combining with direct damage spells to take out something bigger. This is another creature you can bounce back to your hand if you really want to repeat his entering the battlefield damage.

Lightning Elemental: Kind of in the same form as the suicide creatures with high power, low toughness and haste, but this one can stick around for multiple turns. If the opponent has no blockers and you have a choice of this or a suicide creature to get a free attack with, cast this one. It will do the damage and stick around, allowing you to cast the suicide creature next turn and you can attack with both. By not having trample this suffers from being obstructed by weenies, particularly 1/1 creatures. But as it's hard to see coming, you can wait for the right opening where your opponent may attack you with them thinking they don't need them for defense. Or ping them away first. If you're taking a beating you can always cast this and not attack, with 4 power it makes a good ground blocker unless the attacker has first strike.

Arc Runner: This is like a watered down Ball Lightning, lacking the trample but being much easier to cast. If he can attack when there are no potential blockers, the lack of trample won't matter and he's almost as effective. If the opponent's only potential blocker is a mid size creature, say a 3/3, you may feel it's worth casting this anyway, giving them the choice between 5 damage or trading for their creature. Depending on what else is in your hand, this may be worth it. He works wonders with Electropotence, and is perfect for bouncing back after the attack for another run. Pick your moment with him, even if it means holding him back for some time. If he would be too obstructed, cast other things first and come back to him later.

Storm Crow: Although he's a bit of a pithy creature, not really very scary or efficient, I've had to admit he has a place, at least for now, due to the lack of other fast creatures. I would rather have the Wind Drakes in general as they are better, but the deck has a lot of things at the 3 mana range. You can at least drop this on the second turn and begin pecking away at the opponent, making more use of the mana curve. The 2 toughness is handy if he comes into a scuffle.

Wind Drake: He's a reasonably efficient flier, but suffers from competing with a lot of other creatures at the 3 mana mark. He will more reliably continue to do damage than the suicidally inclined Arc Runner, but isn't as explosive when the Runner works well. That's really the difference in the two build strategies. He is a solid creature to include for some extra evasion damage, but you probably won't want too many in case you get too bottlenecked at 3 mana.

Air Servant: He has a nice easy cost, and a useful ability. The 3 toughness is a shame, making him a bit weak in combat and vulnerable to direct damage. But against a deck sporting a lot of fliers, he could be a real nightmare, keeping them out of action. To stop a creature attacking you, you need to use the ability in the opponent's first main phase. If you leave it until combat, it's too late and tapping a creature that's been assigned to attack you won't make any difference. You can use any spare blue mana you have to stop fliers attacking you, and to tap them ready for you to attack in your turn. If you want to punch flying damage through, you can use it on your turn too before combat to knock out the blockers. This may leave you vulnerable to a counterattack if you can't afford to tap them again after they untap in the opponent's turn. Due to the expensive nature of the card, probably 1 is enough in either build.

Thunder Strike: This is handy, but I think maybe a little overrated. You often intend for your creatures to fly over unopposed or else trample through and die at end of turn, in those cases you're just adding 2 more damage for 2 mana which isn't very efficient. When your creatures do come into combat it will be quite useful, especially with the Lightning Elemental, or if there are first strike blockers. I think it's more useful in the flying build where tussles are more likely, and since the suicide build already has many red cards and another may lower the Island count too much. Always use this during combat (not before, as you just give the game away) and after blockers have been declared. Then it has maximum surprise, and you can either help a creature win a battle and hopefully survive, or else pump an unblocked creature if you're more interested in getting maximum damage through. It is amazing in combination with Wee Dragonauts, making them 5/3 first strike.

Skirsdag Cultist: I initially thought he was really good for the deck, but I've had to admit he is a little slow. His ability won't come into play until turn 5, after using up all of turn 4 to cast him. That's pretty inefficient for this deck, and he requires keeping a mana open at all times for best use. Don't attack with him (unless you intend to tap out), instead keeping him untapped with a Mountain available. If any of your creatures (including himself) are targeted for destruction, use his ability in response to sacrifice the creature, killing the best thing you can or else doing 2 damage to the opponent. You can also use it to sacrifice a creature that is going to die in combat without taking anything with it (such as a chump block on your part) or else a suicide creature that has attacked and is going to be lost at end of turn. This works best in the suicide build thanks to the above extra use, but even for that can be too slow. You could consider including 1 for the late game where mana is less of an issue.

Time Reversal: This is a tricky one. It's an amazingly powerful effect, but also this deck isn't hugely fast and you run the risk of the opponent having less cards in hand than you, giving them card advantage. Obviously you want to cast this when you have as little cards in hand as possible, and your opponent as many as possible. This card will be more worthy of consideration the lower the costs of the spells you include, as you've more chance of making good use of the hand refill. If you draw it in your opening hand you can play recklessly and over-aggressively, aiming to get whatever use you can out of your cards and empty your hand before refilling it, hopefully


before the opponent empties theirs. A great trick pointed out to me by Gegliosch is to use a bounce spell to return something you don't like to the opponent's hand in their turn, then untap and cast Time Reversal forcing it to be discarded. Like the Djinn below, the double blue mana cost helps pull Islands into the deck. It's sad to even have to consider that though as it's not part of Magic, it's just because of the refusal of the designers to let us adjust our own land ratios.

Mahamoti Djinn: A bit too slow and bumbling for this deck. He has solid stats, but isn't aggressive or fast enough. His redeeming feature is the two blue mana in his cost, which means putting him can help you tilt towards more Islands. Other than that, he's not quite worth all the effort. Could be considered for the flying build that favours the longer game.

Bad cards

Thundermare: When you see this card for the first time, he tends to look mighty impressive. In the right deck he could be, but he doesn't fit in here. Although he taps all your opponent's creatures, which is great, he also taps all of yours. This means that you can only attack with him (unless you have the mana for another haste creature) and it will leave you totally open to a counter attack. Although you can have many suicide creatures, there are also a lot of other creatures which you will want to be attacking with every turn. So the big damage from him will be less effective considering you're not doing damage with anything else that turn. So it really has to be a winning play, or else you're wide open and probably tapped out, and you'd expect a big beating in return.

Thunder Dragon: It's a cool effect, but I feel 7 mana is just too much of a stretch for this deck. It could be used as a way of clearing the ground ready for your low-toughness haste attackers. But since you're often holding back mana for instants, and the deck is so highly aggressive, waiting for 7 lands can seem an awfully long time and I think he's not quite good enough to justify the cost. Stick to the lower cost removal, and the more reasonably priced fliers.

Turn the Tide: This is generally a defensive stalling card, which I don't like much in general and I feel this deck is too aggressive for it. It can be used to interfere with combat turning it in your favour, but a lot of the time you plan to either score unblocked with flying creatures, or attack with creatures that are going to die at end of turn anyway. If you're losing all it does it hold off damage for a turn, leaving you in the same position, so you may as well have just drawn another card.

Stormcloud Djinn: Just not good enough by any standards. He's best taken out as soon as possible. Not being able to block ground creatures is annoying, and his pump ability is awkward and even hurts you. The other choices for 5 mana creatures are much better.

Elixir of Immortality: This doesn't fit well into an aggressive deck. It wastes your mana on life gain when you should be using every spare resource to nail the opponent as soon as you can. Shuffling your graveyard isn't a big deal, it only slightly improves your draws and this certainly isn't worth a whole card in this sort of deck.


Bouncing and tapping

Since there are a lot of cards in this version which can tap creatures or bounce them (return to owner's hand) I thought I'd write a little extra strategy about this which may not be obvious.

When bouncing/tapping creatures , usually you'll want to hit the biggest creature. But not always. Say you're in a situation where you have a 4/4 creature, the opponent has a 3/3 and a 1/1, 4 life, and no cards in hand or anything else that could help them. You have a card that can bounce/tap a creature. In this situation I would prefer to bounce/tap the 1/1. The opponent is going to have to block with whatever they have, and it will die either way, and they take no damage. So you may as well leave the 3/3, force them to block with that, and they lose a better creature than just a 1/1 which they would if you bounced the 3/3. Even better if the 3/3 has a regenerate ability and they are tapped out and can't use it this turn.

If the opponent has cards in hand and other things on the battlefield which may interfere it gets more complicated, but try to think through what the opponent will do, and which creature it is good to leave untapped as well as tapped.

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
Useful links:
Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.

Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 guide [part 8]


Rules differences to full Magic

This is (hopefully) a comprehensive list of the main differences between playing Magic on DoTP, and full, "real" Magic which I shorten to RM. It should help you bridge the gap if you have learned the game through DoTP, since some things are quite a bit different. If you find any errors or omissions, or have any questions, please let me know!

Simplifications

These are ways DoTP has been made simpler than the full Magic rules, in an attempt to allow a gentle introduction.


---Planeswalker cards do not currently appear in DoTP at all. These are a different type of card that represent powerful personas comparable to another "player", although they aren't actually a player. They have their own abilities, usually 3 or more, but only one can be played each turn. They can be attacked instead of the player who controls them, and can be killed this way. For more information see this link.


 


---The turn structure in DoTP is simplified. It consists of these phases:


 


Start- Incorporates untap, upkeep and draw steps from RM. Neither player gets to act in this phase unless an ability is triggered. In RM both players get to act in upkeep and draw steps.


 


Main- Same as for RM.


 


Combat- Beginning of combat step from RM is absent, so if you wish to tap a creature to stop it being able to attack you must do so in the first main phase. Players cannot act in the end of combat step(s) unless an ability is triggered in DoTP, in RM you get to use spells/abilities in this extra step, after combat damage is dealt, before moving to the second main phase.


 


Main- Same as for RM.


 


End- Incorporates end and cleanup steps from RM. Players are not allowed to act in this phase unless an ability is triggered, so you cannot generally play instants and abilities “at the end of the opponent's turn”. You are forced to play them in their second main phase, and they can then continue in that phase to cast creatures etc. In RM the end step is a last chance to use just Instant spells and abilities, and cleanup is where damage is removed from creatures and the active player discards down to 7 cards.


 


In the normal course of the game, you won't even be aware that the Start and End phases exist in DoTP as the game rushes past them unless something triggers in them.


 


---In DoTP land is always tapped for you to pay for spells and abilities, you get no choice in the matter. In RM you make your own decisions about what land to tap to get the mana you need.


 


---There is no mana pool in DoTP. Land is always tapped to immediately pay for spells and abilities. For this reason, there are almost no non-Land cards which produce mana. There are also only very few non-Basic Lands, and they don't produce mana. The mana pool is an imaginary place where mana can be drawn into by tapping your lands (or by other means) and it stays there until you either use it to pay for a spell or ability, or the step or phase you are in ends.


 


---A lot of optional choices are made for you in DoTP, when it's fairly obvious what you would choose. For example, when an effect says you "may gain 1 life" or "may put a 1/1 Elf Creature token onto the battlefield" the game automatically makes you choose "yes". In RM, you could decline such choices, even if it would seem to be to your disadvantage.


 


---When making decks in DoTP, you get a small card pool to choose from for each deck, and can use cards only in the quantities present in that pool. In RM, you can build your deck using up to 4 of any card you like, except Basic Lands which you can include any number of. Banned/restricted lists may limit your card choice if you are playing in a particular format or tournament.


 


---The amount of each Basic Land used in your deck is calculated automatically for you in DoTP based on the mana costs of the cards you put in your deck. There's no way to change it manually. In RM, you are free to include whatever amount of each Basic Land you see fit.


 


---When multiple creatures block your attacker and you choose the order they will receive damage, in DoTP the damage is then assigned automatically. It never puts more on a creature than is needed to kill it. In RM, you are free to assign as much as you want to each creature, which will then reduce the amount of damage left for the remaining blockers.


 


---In RM, there is a coin toss/dice roll at the start of the match, and the player who wins that can choose to play first or second. In DoTP, it is assumed that whoever wins the toss (which you don't actually see) has chosen to go first.


 


Design differences


 


These are deliberate ways in which rules have been changed for DoTP from RM.


 


---The priority system works totally differently in DoTP.


 


Instead of an ordered system of passing priority and waiting your turn to act, any player can press a button to “jump in” to play a spell or ability. This means that a player can pre-empt your chance to play a Land or cast a Sorcery by suddenly casting an Instant, and you won't be able to use your card until that has resolved. In RM, the active player (the player whose turn it is) gets to act first and cannot be interrupted like this.


 


When there are one or more spells or abilities on the stack, a timer counts down. Any player can press a button to jump in, and if no one does and the timer expires the top spell/ability on the stack resolves. In RM players have to pass priority in a strict order before anything resolves, and there is no time limit. It is almost always the active player who gets to act first.


 


When the active player has indicated they wish to finish the current phase, a timer also counts down. Any player can jump in again, including the active player. In RM the active player cannot go back on their decision to pass priority, they only get to act again if another player does something. Again a strict order is followed to see if anyone wants to act, and there is no time limit.


 


---Your abilities are put on the stack automatically


 


If you have multiple abilities trigger at once in RM, you get to decide what order to put them on the stack. This will then decide the order they resolve, which is last-in-first-out, so in the reverse order that you put them on the stack. In DoTP the game decides for you what order any abilities that trigger go on the stack.


 


---You get an extra mulligan in DoTP


 


In RM, if you don't like your starting hand of 7 cards you can "mulligan", which means you shuffle your hand back into your deck. You then receive another smaller hand of 6 cards. You can then, if you wish, mulligan again, this time receiving 5 cards. You can repeat this right down to 1 card. In DoTP, you get a "free" mulligan, meaning the first time you decide to mulligan the hand you get back is still 7 cards. If you mulligan again it goes down to 6, then 5, etc. This means DoTP is slightly more forgiving than RM!


 


Visuals


 


These are ways in which the game displays some information which is intended to be helpful, but can sometimes be misleading as well.


 


---When something is reducing the mana cost of a card in your hand, such as Etherium Sculptor, the card in your hand is displayed with that reduced cost in the top right corner as if that was its "new" mana cost. This shows you the cost you will pay, but be aware that the actual mana cost, and converted mana cost, remain the same if anything else refers to them. You are just being shown the cost after reductions.


 


---When a creature takes damage in DoTP, it is shown as its toughness reducing. This is very misleading, as damage does not in fact lower toughness at all. A 4/4 creature with 3 damage is not 4/1, it is simply 4/4 with 3 damage. If a spell then gave you life equal to its toughness, you would gain 4 and not 1. The damage is counted seperately to toughness, and once the damage on the creature reaches or exceeds the toughness, the creature is destroyed. This is a particular problem in this game, because there are ways that cards actually reduce toughness, and the game displays this in exactly the same way as damage so you can't tell the difference. Reducing a creature's toughness to zero results in it being put directly into the graveyard, not being destroyed, so regeneration and even being indestructible can't save it. The game does handle all this correctly, it just presents it in an often misleading way.


 


---If you attack with a creature, you get an orange line pointing towards the opponent showing that the creature is attacking them. This line remains for any creatures the don't get blocked, showing they are going to damage the opponent. If one of your creatures gets blocked, this line is redirected to the blocking creature showing that it will deal its damage to that creature instead. But if the blocker is then removed, the game unfortunately puts the arrow back pointing to the opponent. Although it is still an attacking creature and is "attacking that player", it will not deal any damage in that combat. A blocked creature remains blocked, regardless of what happens to the blocker. The exception is a creature with trample, which will deal all its damage to the opponent if its blockers are removed.


 


---If a creature's power drops below zero, which it can do in both DoTP and RM, it is still displayed as zero on DoTP. The game does treat the creature correctly though, for example a creature that has -2 power is displayed as 0 but if you use Giant Growth on it, the power only goes up to 1. A creature with negative power deals 0 damage in combat though, which equates to not dealing damage at all.


 


Debatable differences


 


These are “rules differences” that I consider more to be an error of judgement or programming, and am awaiting confirmation as to whether these are intended or not. Previous items that would have been on this list have been corrected such as lifelink and deathtouch.


 


---In DoTP the point at which you order multiple blockers to take damage from a single attacker is different.


 


You make this choice just before combat damage is dealt, after the blockers step, with no chance to act afterwards. In RM, you make this choice right after blockers are declared, and then all players get the chance to act in the blockers step before combat damage is dealt. Update: it's been confirmed now that this was intentional, to simplify things. Although I don't see how it's simpler, just offers less strategic options.


 


---In DoTP triggered abilities being put on the stack do not follow the correct order as in RM. If several abilities trigger at once, in RM the active player first puts their abilities on the stack, and then the non-active players in turn order put theirs on. The result is that the non-active player's/players' abilities will always resolve first. In DoTP being the active player makes no difference, some abilities always resolve before others. This has been put on the official bugs/issues list.


Analysis of artifact and enchantment control

In this section I will try to come up with an estimate of the overall effectiveness of artifact and enchantment control against all of the 10 decks. This will hopefully be a good guide as to how important it is to include such cards.

For each deck, I will list the artifacts and enchantments that I consider worth worrying about, and then rate the effectiveness of control cards against that deck that affect-


A - Artifacts only (such as Viridian Shaman)


E - Enchantments only (such as Elvish Lyrist)


B - Both artifacts and enchantments (such as Revoke Existence)


And I give each a score:


0 - Not at all effective or barely effective, not worth including


1 - Effective to some extent, worth including


2 - Very effective, big advantage to including



Unquenchable Fire- None

A - 0 E - 0 B - 0

Apex Predators- Elephant Guide, Serrated Arrows

A - 1 E - 0 B - 1

Wielding Steel- 3 Arrest, Lots of Equipment

A - 2 E - 2 B - 2

Realm of Illusion- Mind Control

A - 0 E - 1 B - 1

Ancient Depths- Yavimaya's Embrace, Mind Control

A - 0 E - 2 B - 2

Strength of Stone- 2 Darksteel Axe, 2 Claws of Valakut, 2 Volcanic Strength

A - 0 E - 2 B - 2

(Note that I rate A as zero because none of the artifact control only cards currently in the game have any effect on Darksteel Axe)

Guardians of the Wood- Epic Proportions

A - 0 E - 0 B - 0

Dragon's Roar- 2 Ruby Medallion, Crucible of Fire

A - 1 E - 1 B - 2

Blood Hunger- Blade of the Bloodchief

A - 1 E - 0 B - 1

Machinations Every non-land permanent in the deck is an artifact

A - 2 E - 0 B - 2

Results

The totals between all decks are:

A - 11 E - 8 B - 13

This gives average scores of:

A - 1.1 E - 0.8 B - 1.3

It seems clear that artifact control is more important than enchantment control, and that the effectiveness of enchantment control is questionable.


Bugs and issues

This is a list of bugs and issues that I have personally confirmed on Xbox 360 and can replicate easily, except where noted. I have put a status at the end of each (with regard to Xbox 360):


Reported: I've noted it in the official bugs and issues thread but it's not been acknowledged yet.


Acknowledged: It's been added to the official list of bugs and issues.


Fixed: Issue has been corrected.


Bad fix: Issue has attempted to be fixed but has only partially worked or created new problems.



If anyone has any specific issues they can replicate and think I have missed, please let me know. I'm not trying to collect general system malfunction type issues, more "rules errors" and persistent issues with particular cards. This list is only for those bugs I can personally replicate on the Xbox 360, and is restricted to the fact that I can only test against the AI at present and haven't purchased DLC 1.


Archangel of Strife: Since multiple players are making choices at the same time, it should follow active player/non active player order. This means that the player whose turn it is should pick first, and all other players made aware of this choice. Then the next player in turn order, and so on. Currently all choices are made simultaneously. Also when multiple Archangels are on the battlefield, it's impossible to tell which is granting war/peace for which players. Reported.


Archenemy: The Archenemy should get to draw a card on his first turn, presently he doesn't. Reported.


Blocking: The sequence of ordering gang blockers against one creature to receive damage is wrong in this game. It should happen right after blockers are declared, giving you the blocker's phase to use instants and abilities before damage is dealt. But presently they are ordered right before damage is dealt, giving you no chance to act inbetween. Reported.


Captivating Vampire: Using Brave the Elements in response to his ability (and choosing black) should make the ability be countered due to an illegal target. However it resolves regardless. Also, if I steal a creature with my Vampire, then it gets stolen, and I later kill the Vampire, the stolen creature returns to its previous controller. Reported.


Chandra's Phoenix: If the opponent steals this with Mind Control and then I kill it, it fails to trigger in my graveyard when I damage them with instants/sorceries. Reported.


Colossus of Sardia: (Karn, campaign) His untap ability is treated like a triggered ability, as if it said, "At the beginning of your upkeep you may pay 9..." It's an activated ability, so should just be presented as a choice without first using the stack, since the game doesn't halt in the upkeep to allow you to stop the timer and activate it. Reported.


Curfew: (Realm of Illusion, revenge campaign): Since multiple players are making choices at the same time, it should follow active player/non active player order. This means that the player whose turn it is should pick first, and all other players made aware of this choice. Then the next player in turn order, and so on. Currently all choices are made simultaneously. Reported.


Dead Reckoning: This uses the creature's power when it was last on the battlefield (if it has been) rather than the printed value, to calculate damage dealt. Acknowledged.


Dead Reckoning vs Master of Etherium: If the Master is discarded from the hand, and then chosen as the graveyard target by Dead Reckoning, it always deals 0 damage. It should deal damage equal to the number of artifacts you control, since this is the Master's power in all zones. By using Duplicant against the Master I verified that the Master's power and toughness are generally correct in other zones, as Duplicant tracks this properly. I concluded it is Dead Reckoning getting this wrong somehow. Reported.


Duplicant: (Karn, campaign) You are forced to use his ability, which means if only you control creatures you have to exile one of yours. The ability should be optional since it can clearly be detrimental. Also, it can wrongly target tokens created by Rite of Replication, and takes on their power and toughness. And if it exiles a creature equipped with Trusty Machete, the Duplicant gets a permanent +2/+1 bonus as if it too had a Machete. Only seems to be a problem with that equipment and not any others. Reported.


Dragonspeaker Shaman: You continue to get the cost reduction bonus even if another player takes control of the Shaman, say with Sower of Temptation. Reported.


Engulfing Slagwum: If a bat token blocks the Wurm, its ability triggers, and then the token is sacrificed in response to Skeletal Vampire to create two more tokens, the Wurm's ability ends up destroying one of the newly made tokens.


Faceless Butcher: (Archenemy challenge- Seek No Longer) If you have a Butcher that has previously exiled a creature, and its controller loses the game, this causes the Butcher's second ability to trigger as it leaves the battlefield along with the rest of their permanents. But a player who has left the game cannot put triggered abilities on the stack, so it should never resolve. It does resolve however in this challenge, also making the intended solution invalid under correct rules. Reported.


Fresh Meat: (Apex Predators, revenge campaign): This is counting lands that have been put into the graveyard as well as creatures. It also counted Elephant Guide, so it may well be counting all card types. Reported.


Gate to the Aether: (Karn, campaign) If the top card of the library is not put onto the battlefield, it doesn't get revealed, instead it just goes into the player's hand. Reported.


Giant Scorpion: If this is gang blocked and then has its power reduced to zero (say by Disorient) it is still killing creatures. For 2 creatures, it says "0 damage to assign" for the first, and then even more weirdly "-1 damage to assign" for the second. After this, the first one gets destroyed which obviously it shouldn't. Reported.


Grim Lavamancer: When using his ability, no arrows appear to show what has been selected as a target. Acknowledged.


Hunted Wumpus: Since multiple players are making choices at the same time, it should follow active player/non active player order. This means that the player whose turn it is should pick first, and all other players made aware of this choice. Then the next player in turn order, and so on. Currently all choices are made simultaneously. The chosen cards remain hidden until all choices are made though. Reported. Without access to the card code it's impossible for me to verify this 100%.


Last known information: The game is using default values instead of last known information for permanents no longer on the battlefield which it requires information from. For example, Spikeshot Elder is 9/1 thanks to Claws of Valakut and I activate his ability. In response, someone kills the Elder. When the Elder's ability resolves, it should use the last known information of 9, but instead reverts to just 1 damage. The same applies to the victim of Engulfing Slagwurm's ability, if it's no longer on the battlefield when it resolves it doesn't take into account modifications to the toughness that were on it such as Giant Growth. Reported.


Lavaborn Muse: This should only be able to deal damage to the opponent whose turn it is when it triggers. Presently it checks every opponent's handsize during every opponent's upkeep and can deal damage to all of them. Acknowledged.


Lead the Stampede: The non-creature cards are not shown to you before being put on the bottom of your library. Acknowledged.


Lord of the Unreal: The hexproof bonus is applied to your partner's Illusions in Two Headed Giant as well as your own. Reported.


Malfegor: (Dragon's Roar, revenge campaign) Since multiple players are making choices at the same time, it should follow active player/non active player order. This means that the player whose turn it is should pick first, and all other players made aware of this choice. Then the next player in turn order, and so on. Currently all choices are made simultaneously. Reported. Without access to the card code it's impossible for me to verify this 100%.


Magister Sphinx: If the opponent uses the Sphinx's ability to set their life total to 10 when they have less than 10, this is failing to trigger Punishing Fire in my graveyard. Reported.


Multikicker: (Quag Vampires, Wolfbriar Elemental, Joraga Warcaller) The game does not display how many times the spells have been kicked while they are resolving. You can only work it out by counting up all the tapped lands which is hard to do when there are many bunched up, and subtracting all other mana paid this turn. Reported.


New Frontiers: Since multiple players are making choices at the same time, it should follow active player/non active player order. This means that the player whose turn it is should pick first, and all other players made aware of this choice. Then the next player in turn order, and so on. Currently all choices are made simultaneously. The chosen cards remain hidden until all choices are made though. Reported. Without access to the card code it's impossible for me to verify this 100%.


Nissa's Chosen: Still using the pre-M12 wording. It should read, "If Nissa's Chosen would die..." Acknowledged.


Oblivion Ring: (Archenemy challenge- Seek No Longer) If you have a Ring that has previously exiled a permanent, and its controller loses the game, this causes the Ring's second ability to trigger as it leaves the battlefield along with the rest of their permanents. But a player who has left the game cannot put triggered abilities on the stack, so it should never resolve. It does resolve however in this challenge, also making the intended solution invalid under correct rules. Reported.


Phyrexian Tyranny: (Archenemy challenge- Seek No Longer) The dialogue prompt asks you to pay 2 life or pay 2 mana. However, it should be lose 2 life which is not the same as paying 2 life. Reported.


Polymorph: The cards before you get to the creature are not revealed. Reported.


Punishing Fire: This can be returned to your hand when 0 life is gained, such as from having no cards in hand when Venser's Journal triggers. This should only happen when you gain 1 or more life. Acknowledged.


Punishing Fire versus optional life gain: There is no way to stop "you may gain life" abilities from giving you life, forcing players to trigger an opponent's Punishing Fire in the graveyard. Either Punishing Fire needs to go, or we need the choice of when to use optional abilities. Reported.


Rotted Ones, Lay Siege: (Scheme) There is no way to tell which Zombie token has to attack which player. Reported.


Show and Tell: (Karn, campaign) Since multiple players are making choices at the same time, it should follow active player/non active player order. This means that the player whose turn it is should pick first, and all other players made aware of this choice. Then the next player in turn order, and so on. Currently all choices are made simultaneously. The chosen cards remain hidden until all choices are made though. The dialogue prompt box asks you to choose a creature to put onto the battlefield, but you have more choice than that. And if you pick an Aura, you are allowed to then cancel it. If there is a legal permanent to attach it to, you should be obliged to once you've committed to that card. Reported.


Slagstorm: (Strength of Stone, revenge campaign): The chosen mode, either dealing damage to players or creatures, should be displayed/communicated to all players upon casting. Presently you are left to guess which has been chosen while responding. Acknowledged.


Sower of Temptation: When the same player controls multiple Sowers, say by using a kicked Rite of Replication, there's no way to tell which Sower took control of which creature once all their abilities have resolved. Reported.


Spell targets: With simplified targeting turned off, the default target for any spell is chosen to be the opponent even when the spell is clearly beneficial (Time Warp, Congregate etc.) It should default to the same target that would have been chosen with simplified targeting on, that being the most likely target, to save always having to change it and accidents happening. Reported.


Spread the Sickness: The two parts, destroy target creature and proliferate, are being conducted simultaneously instead of sequentially. For example, my opponent has used Sower of Temptation to steal my creature that has +1/+1 counters on it. I use Spread the Sickness on the Sower. I should regain control of my creature before the proliferate happens, giving me another counter. But I don't get a counter presently. Reported.


Summoning Sickness: Cards which gain control of an opponent's creature such as Mind Control and Yavimaya's Embrace occasionally cause the creature to lose "summoning sickness", and you can attack right away with them as if they had haste. I can't replicate this at will as it only occurs very occasionally, but I have witnessed it happening several times. Acknowledged.


The Stack: When multiple abilities trigger from different players' permanents, they should be put on the stack in active player/non active player order. Presently they are seemingly resolving according to an "ability hierarchy". For example, if Festering Goblin dies while another player's Rockslide Elemental is on the battlefield, the Rockslide's ability will always resolve first regardless of whose turn it is. I have many other examples to support this theory, and AP/NAP order is certainly not being followed except by coincidence. Acknowledged.


Two Headed Giant: You should be able to assign combat damage to either defending player, affecting cards like Slavering Nulls. And for one-shot effects like an Eldrazi's annihilator, you should be able to choose which defending player is affected as it resolves. Currently you are forced to chose the opponent opposite you in each case. It was originally a design decision of D9 for the combat damage to be this way, although a poor one since the game included cards like Abyssal Specter which had their functionality greatly impacted in this format. It's even worse in D12 with many more creatures affected. If the other deviations here are also design decisions they are very bad too, since lots of cards are being crippled making a mockery of the format. I suggest the following: (a) For creatures where it is important which opponent receives the combat damage, because of their own ability or one given to it such as by Sword of War and Peace, you are allowed to choose an opponent in those instances. For other creatures you don't need to make a choice. (b) Correct and full choice is given for cards which refer to the "defending player" and for one-shot effects. Reported.


Wolfbriar Elemental: If he is cast with kicker paid, enters the battlefield so his ability triggers and then is removed from the battlefield in response, the kicker ability fails to resolve properly and you don't get the tokens. It should resolve regardless. Reports of the same problem with Bloodhusk Ritualist. Reported.


Wurmcoil Engine: If this is gang blocked and then has its power reduced to zero (say by Disorient) it is still killing creatures. For 2 creatures, it says "0 damage to assign" for the first, and then even more weirdly "-1 damage to assign" for the second. After this, the first one gets destroyed which obviously it shouldn't. Reported.


Zone Changes: When a card moves from one zone to another, for example from the battlefield to your hand or the graveyard, it should lose all memory of its previous existence. However, I have found cases of this not happening. If a creature uses its own ability to pump itself up (such as Furnace Whelp, Kiln Fiend) and is then returned to its owner's hand and recast that turn, it comes back with the pump up still in effect. And if I attack with Lorthos, the Tidemaker and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, Forests that get targeted by Lorthos and then sacrificed to the annihilator ability retain their "do not untap" icon when in the graveyard. Acknowledged.

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
Useful links:
Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.

Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 guide [part 9]


Changes Log

26.01.2012


Added Engulfing Slagwum problem to "bugs and issues" section. Thanks to dmiki for finding this.


15.10.2011


Added Wolfbriar Elemental problem to "bugs and issues" section. Thanks to crb042 for spotting this one!


13.10.2011


Rewrote the post DLC commentary for Strength of Stone. Removed 2 Koth's Courier, added 2 Rockslide Elemental. Post DLC removed 1 Earth Elemental, added Assault Strobe. Many thanks to PlatnumMrPlow and Gegliosch for prompting me to think about this more.


11.10.2011


Reformatted the guide for the DoTP forum! Thanks to Eternal21 for this suggestion.


4.10.2011

Updated the commentary for the suicide version of Cloudburst to account for the fact that Ball Lightning is back in! Thanks to Gegliosch for pointing this out to me.

Updated the commentary for Strength of Stone with regard to changes from the DLC cards to suggest replacing 2 Vulshok Heartstroker with 2 Golden Urn. Feel free to poke fun at me to your heart's content. Thanks to Gegliosch for forcing me to admit that they do finally have a place in the deck!

3.10.2011

Added a combo to the Niv-Mizzet commentary. Thanks to Orthor for finding this!

2.10.2011

Strength of Stone: Removed 1 Vulshok Berserker, added 1 Act of Treason. I've been meaning to remove the Berserker for a while as he's not up to scratch. After the DLC changes I suggest are made, this will bring the deck to 2 Act of Treason, which fit much better with the new strategy.

Cloudburst, balanced flying version: Removed 1 Aether Tradewinds, added 1 Wind Drake. With the lack of useful targets to return, it's a bit expensive and another flying creature fits the theme better. Thanks to Orthor for this feedback.

1.10.2011

Wrote more about the Two Headed Giant problem in "bugs and issues" section.

30.09.2011

Cloudburst, suicide version: Removed Reverberate, added Ball Lightning. Thanks to Gegliosch for testing this change for me, he always wanted the Ball Lightning in the deck so I thought this was a way to do that without upsetting the land balance. Since Reverberate needs 3 Mountains to function if you want to copy your direct damage, which is quite common, it often gets held back a long time. It relies on keeping mana open if you're trying to copy the opponent's spells and always needs something to interact with. It's a bit unreliable. The Ball Lightning can function alone, and works well with all the bounce in the deck.

Cleaned up the commentary of some of the cards in the Cloudburst section to help readability.

28.09.2011

Added the new decks to the "getting started" and "choosing your deck for online play" sections.

Cloudburst, balanced flying version: Removed Reverberate, added Mahamoti Djinn. After discussion with Orthor, we agreed the awkward cost of Reverberate wasn't quite worth it in the slower, more controlling version. With a bit of a longer game planned, the Djinn makes more sense. It also gives an extra Island, which is more important than the Mountains in this build.

Altered the commentary below the suicide build for Cloudburst to make it clearer.

26.09.2011

Finished the Cloudburst section, completing the DLC additions to the guide. Many thanks again to everyone who contributed. Special thanks to Gegliosch who has been invaluable to me with the construction of the lists for all the 3 new decks. My decklists are very closely based on his results and advice from his testing. Also to Orthor for continued feedback about Cloudburst, on which the flying version is very closely based.

Made a correction to the Cloudburst flying version decklist, thanks to Orthor for pointing this out.

24.09.2011

Finished decklist for Grave Whispers, and completed most of card commentary. Rest to follow shortly. Many thanks to all those named below plus EndarSeth, Brodo, Bort_, hydramarine and Decaftable for their input which helped me finish the list and write the commentary.

Now completed the card commentary for Grave Whispers.

23.09.2011

Finished Auramancer section. Many thanks to everyone from the forum for their testing and suggestions without which I wouldn't have been able to write as accurately about all the cards. Thankyou to Gegliosch, Ingidion, TimmyBee, Eonblueapocalypse1, Orthor, Midguy, premiersoupir for their kind input to this project and for the upcoming sections on Grave Whispers and Cloudburst.

Added to the commentary for Lure, thanks to Antkour for pointing out the uses in Archenemy/Two Headed Giant.

Added land count to Auramancer decklist, thanks to premiersoupir for this.

22.09.2011

Changed Unquenchable Fire nemesis to Wielding Steel, thanks to zpollari for pointing this out.

Added an introduction to each of the new 3 decks.

18.09.2011

Finished the commentary for the DLC cards for all 10 original decks.

Added to the commentary for Revoke Existence and moved it down to "OK" because of the lack of useful targets overral. Thanks to AceMathias for prompting me to think more about this.

Removed a mistake from Stuffy Doll's commentary, and made clearer the commentary for Cultural Exchange. Thanks to Orthor for pointing these out!

17.09.2011

Finished the commentary for the DLC cards for the first 5 decks.

16.09.2011

Started work on adding new DLC cards to each current deck. Their commentary will appear just above the original card commentary along with recommendation for changes to the decklists.

15.09.2011

Added Archenemy problem to "bugs and issues" section. Credit to Rasphide for noticing this.

Added more detail to the introduction to "bugs and issues" section.

Added "user reported issues" section.

14.09.2011

Added to Duplicant problem in "bugs and issues" section about Trusty Machete. Well done to frzz1979 for noticing this one!

12.09.2011

Added Polymorph problem to "bugs and issues" section.

11.09.2011

Updated Two Headed Giant problem in "bugs and issues" section.

10.09.2011

Added to Captivating Vampire problem in "bugs and issues" section. Credit to Stevolutionary for finding this.

1.09.2011

Made the alternate Unquenchable Fire decklist into its own seperate list to make it easier to create.

31.08.2011

Made some corrections and clarifications, thanks to Ladenswallow for reporting these.

Added Summoning Sickness problem to "bugs and issues" section.

30.08.2011

Added to Two Headed Giant problem in "bugs and issues" section.

Added to commentary for Garruk's Packleader.

Corrected some mistakes in the tri-colour Machinations decklist and Wielding Steel decklist. Thanks to premiersoupir for pointing these out to me.

Added Giant Scorpion and Blocking problems to "bugs and issues" section.

29.08.2011

Added to the Fresh Meat problem in "bugs and issues" section.

Removed Psychosis Crawler from tri colour Machinations deck, added another Razorfield Rhino. Over time I've found the Crawler less than impressive, often coming out too small if you have got off to a speedy start. For lack of better cards I'm keeping it in the blue/black version for now, it will be on the chopping board come DLC!

Removed Furyborn Hellkite and 1 Volcanic Dragon from Dragon's Roar, and added another Gravedigger and Dragon Fodder. This puts the Swamp count up to 7, slightly helping the mana situation. The Furyborn wasn't coming out as often as I would like, and the Volcanics are very slow and cumbersome so this speeds it up while providing backup to the other dragons.

Added Wurmcoil Engine problem to "bugs and issues" section. Thanks to Maese_Leo for reporting this on the forum.

Added Two Headed Giant problem to "bugs and issues". Well done to Ladenswallow for noticing this.

28.08.2011

Added to commentary for Vampire Aristocrat and Skeletal Vampire. Thanks to Ladenswallow for these suggestions.

25.08.2011

Added to commentary for Counterspell, thanks to JonnyUtah for prompting me to think about it more.

Deleted my original Wielding Steel decklist as I feel the second one is much superior.

Made the alternate Blood Hunger decklist into it's own seperate list to make it easier to create.

24.08.2011

Added Faceless Butcher problem to "bugs and issues", thanks to Ladenswallow for noticing this. Also added Phyrexian Tyranny problem.

Moved around the order of some of the cards in Ancient Depths card analysis and altered some commentaries to allow for my opinions after lots of playtesting and to bring it in line with my new decklist.

Added "choosing your deck for online play" section. Thanks to Eternal21 for prompting me to add this.

22.08.2011

Added multikicker problem to "bugs and issues". Also added Oblivion Ring problem, credit to JaxsonBateman for noticing this.

Added to the commentary for Time Warp.

21.08.2011

Added Chandra's Phoenix problem to "bugs and issues". Thanks to DanRock for reporting this on the forum.

16.08.2011

Added Colossus of Sardia and Gate to the Aether problems to "bugs and issues".

Added Sower of Temptation problem to "bugs and issues". Credit to NarcolepZZZZZZ for reporting this on the forum.

15.08.2011

Renamed Master of Etherium problem to Dead Reckoning problem, as I found that it's definitely Dead Reckoning that is causing the problem with their interaction.

14.08.2011

Added clarification to the commentary for Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and deleted my original Ancient Depths decklist as it was performing poorly. Thanks to Nantes for prompting me to do this.

Added Master of Etherium problem to "bugs and issues".

Changed the commentary for Explosive Vegetation.

13.08.2001

Added more to the Show and Tell and Duplicant problems in "bugs and issues".

Added captivating Vampire problem to "bugs and issues" section. Credit to Monion_2804 for finding this bug.

Added to the commentary for Lorthos, the Tidemaker.

12.08.2011

Added to the strategy section for Ancient Depths.

Added to the commentary for Polymorph.

Added a new section, "bouncing and tapping".

Added Duplicant problem to "bugs and issues" section.

11.08.2011

Added Archangel of Strife, Hunted Wumpus, Malfegor, New Frontiers, and Show and Tell problems to "bugs and issues" section. Also for the scheme Rotted Ones, Lay Siege.

10.08.2011

Added Magister Sphinx problem to "bugs and issues" section.

Added Punishing Fire vs. optional life gain problem to "bugs and issues" section. Thanks to PugPug and JohnSelden for highlighting this.

Put "bugs and issues" section in alphabetical order.

Added to the commentary for Punishing Fire and Flamekin Brawler.

Added alternative decklist to Unquenchable Fire.

9.08.2011

Added


to the commentary for Mirri the Cursed and Banefire.

Added in statuses in the "bugs and issues" section.

8.08.2011

Added Dragonspeaker Shaman problem to "bugs and issues" section. Thanks to lporiginalg for reporting this on the forum.

Added Lord of the Unreal problem to "bugs and issues" section. Thanks to Toonio who reported this on the forum.

Added to the commentary for Urge to Feed.

7.08.2011

Added to the commentary for Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief and Strider Harness

Added a bit more about Dragon's Roar, with regard to improving the Swamp count.

Added to the "getting started" section about choosing which decks to play against to unlock cards faster.

6.08.2011

Added to and modified the "getting started" section.

Added last known information problem to the "bugs and issues" section. Thanks to PugPug who reported about Spikeshot Elder on the forums which lead me to this conclusion.

5.08.2011

Added Dead Reckoning problem to the "bugs and issues" section. Thanks to Minus Prime who first reported this on the forum.

Added about DoTP not displaying negative power on creatures in the "rules differences" section.

3.08.2011

Added to Sangromancer's commentary, thanks to ladenswallow for this suggestion.

Added a link to the official decklist page in the introduction, thanks to premiersoupir for prompting me to add this.

2.08.2011

Added another "con" to Guardians of the Wood.

1.08.2011

Added "bugs and issues" section. Thanks to the following for reporting issues on the bugs/issues thread on the DoTP forum:

extendoman: Spread the Sickness
Eonblueapocalypse1: Spell targets
ladenswallow: The stack
Brodo: Punishing Fire
Tweakee: Lavaborn Muse

31.07.2011

Added to Lorthos, the Tidemaker's commentary about not tapping your own lands. Thanks to Ladenswallow for this suggestion.

30.07.2011

Reversed the order of the changes log so that new changes appear at the top, to save everyone scrolling down each time to check on it!

Added an alternative decklist to Ancient Depths under the current one. Thanks to fma for prompting me to think more on this. Also altered the order the cards commentary appears in, in line with my new opinions of the cards.

Added to the commentary for Gaea's Revenge.

29.07.2011

Added a link to Eonblueapocalypse1's post about interesting targets for Rite of Replication.

Added a link in the introduction to the discussion thread on the DoTP forums.

Added alternative decklist for Blood Hunger. Thanks to hydramarine and fma for prompting me to think more about this.

28.07.2011

Corrected a mistake in the commentary for Goblin Mountaineer, thanks to Hydramarine for pointing this out.

Added maximum and minimum damage to the Cerebral Eruption analysis, thanks to Hydramarine for this suggestion.

25.07.2011

Added to the "rules differences" section about automatic calculation of your Basic Land numbers.

Strength of Stone:
Removed 1 Flameborn Hellion and 1 Vulshok Berserker, added 1 Earth Servant and 1 Vulshok Heartstroker. Also fixed some errors in the "exclude" list. Thanks to AceMathias for pointing these out and prompting me to think about my decklist changes.
The Hellion is too offensively focused I've found for such a slow and defensive deck, the Earth Servant is still not great but at least holds with the defensive theme, being able to block nearly anything on the ground. The Berserkers aren't great for their mana, so to speed up the deck a bit another Heartstroker can provide a bit of punch to help your creatures break through, or at least trade with an opponent's better creature.

24.07.2011

Realm of Illusion:
Removed 2 Phantom Beast, added 2 Blind Phantasm
After much thought and testing, I've decided I agree with Gegliosch that the Blind Phantasm is the better overall choice, despite being only an average card. It is cheaper and more robust, and the matchups in which the Beasts are better are not quite worth the extreme vulnerability it has for the bad matchups. Thanks to him for prompting me to think more about this.

I've added a new decklist variant to Wielding Steel under the current one.

Added about choosing to go first/second in the Rules Differences section.

Added to the commentary for Repulse, Engulfing Slagwurm and Jace's Ingenuity.

23.07.2011

Added about simplified combat damage assignment in the Rules Differences section.

19.07.2011

Added another column to the second part of the Lead the Stampede/Beast Hunt analysis showing the probabilities of drawing "at least" each number of cards. Thanks to Lorenzo for this suggestion.

18.07.2011

Used a more accurate method to calculate the figures for the first part of the Lead the Stampede/Beast Hunt analysis, updating the commentary accordingly. This has caused all the figures to go up slightly.

17.07.2011

Added more explanation to the "Rules differences to full Magic section", and added another part to it, visuals, which describes how the game can often be misleading.

Added to Sword of War of Peace's commentary to note how it works in combination with Infiltration Lens. Thanks to LadenSwallow for this tip.

Moved Cerebral Eruption down in the ratings, thanks to feedback from Lorenzo.

Fixed probabilities on the second part of the Lead the Stampede/Beast Hunt analysis, thanks to Lorenzo for pointing out my error.

16.7.2011

Corrected my analysis on Beast Hunt/Lead the Stampede, I'd been multiplying by the wrong number for Beast Hunt. Thanks to Lorenzo for pointing out my error. Added more explanation as well. I moved Beast Hunt down to the bad cards section, as it is even worse than I thought. Also added more detail about how Nature's Lore and Borderland Ranger interacts with these calculations, thanks to DEMIURGO83 for feedback which helped me add more to this. I added an analysis of Lead the Stampede based on 24 creatures, calculating estimates for probabilities of drawing different numbers of creatures.

Altered the order of several cards due to my changing opinion of them.

Under each example decklist I've included the cards you would exclude to build that deck. Thanks to Socram_SuR for suggesting this.

Added "Cerebral Eruption Analysis" section underneath the Strength of Stone section. Thanks to Lorenzo for suggesting this.

Changed layout of "Analysis of artifact and enchantment control" section to make it more readable.

15.7.2011

Moved the example decklists above the card commentary for each deck so you don't have to scroll so far to quickly look at them.

Added "Beast Hunt/Lead the Stampede Analysis" section below Apex Predator section to show how many cards you can expect to draw from each based on the number of creature cards in your deck.

Apex Predators:
Removed 1 Beast Hunt, added 1 Craw Wurm.
Much as it pains me to include such a rubbish creature, I decided that Beast Hunt had to go and this at least gives another high mana creature which are a little lacking, and gets a card from Garruk's Packleader. After doing my analysis, I found that you can only expect to draw 1.53 cards on average from the 23 creature setup that I had which isn't worth 4 mana. This change increases the effectiveness of the 2 Lead the Stampede. Expect the Wurm to go as soon as anything better becomes available from DLC. You could go with Giant Spider if you wanted but I think it's too defensive and you have more 4 mana creatures already than 6.

Added to Lys Alana Huntmaster's commentary about the combo with Elvish Promenade.

Added to Manic Vandal's commentary about problems with your own Ruby Medallions. Thanks to Destruction3402 for pointing this out.

14.7.2011

Added commentary to my deck alterations in the changes log.

Guardians of the Wood:
Removed 2 Ezuri's Archers, added 2 Viridian Emissary.
I feel the Archers are too defensive, and the effectiveness of 1 drops in this deck aren't good enough to justify the extra speed. I put back 2 of the more aggressive Viridian Emissaries again, which will also make the mana more reliable. Definitely feels stronger in this build.

13.7.2011

Added about "free mulligan" in DoTP to the Rules Differences section. Thanks to zammm for pointing out I had missed this.

Realm of Illusion:
Removed 2 Air Elemental, added 2 Æether Adept. Thanks to Gegliosch for prompting me to analyze this. Updated their commentaries.
You can more reliably tap out with the Adepts, knowing you have more bounce as backup. The Elementals usually require tapping out, leaving it vulnerable to removal and you unable to counter. The Adepts fit in with the rest of the deck much more. I really like the change.

Added a new section, "Analysis of artifact and enchantment control".

Guardians of the Wood:
Removed 1 Elvish Lyrist, added 1 Heedless One.
After doing my analysis, I decided Enchantment removal isn't quite so effective, so the 2 Pulses should be enough. The last Heedless One helps provide more threats, and round out the top end of the mana curve.

12.7.2011

Fixed a typo (Cerebral Explosion -> Cerebral Eruption) in Strength of Stone example decklist, thanks to Lorenzo for pointing this out.

Added to the introduction, and created a new section, "Rules differences to full Magic." Thanks to feedback from Ladenswallow that helped me cut out an unnecessary section from this.

Wielding Steel:
Removed 2 Elite Vanguard, added 2 Kor Duelist.
I decided it's more important to concentrate on the equipment theme, and although the Vanguards are amazingly efficient the Duelists can end up dealing more damage with a lot of equipment in the deck.

11.7.2011

Added correction to Aether Mutation's commentary with regard to using on tokens that are copies of creatures. Added that battlecry creatures are useful in Two Headed Giant and Archenemy. Thanks to Ladenswallow for pointing these out to me.

Guardians of the Wood:
Removed 3 Viridian Emissary, added 2 Sylvan Ranger and 1 Wildheart Invoker.
Updated commentary on these


three cards.
I decided the Rangers were more reliable, and help keep the Elf population up. I dropped the overall number of mana fetchers as I felt there would still be enough, to put in another big threat.

Realm of Illusion:
Removed 1 Phantom Beast, added 1 Blind Phantasm.
Updated commentary on these two cards. Thanks to Gegliosch for prompting me to analyze this more.
Since roughly 4 out of the 10 matchups are bad for the Beast, I replaced one with a Blind Phantasm to "sit on the fence".

10.7.2011

Added another tip to the commentary for Chandra's Pheonix, that Chandra's Outrage can get it back for you.

7.7.2011

Thanks to Cardio for asking me to elaborate on which build I prefer for Dragon's Roar, I have done so.

6.7.2011:

Corrected some errors, and added to Aether Mutation's and Repulse's commentary. Added to Polymorph's commentary and moved it up to OK. Thanks to NLi10 for this feedback.

Changed and added to the commentary on Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, thanks to Orthanc_eb for prompting me to elaborate.

Added about deathtouch to the Differences from D09 to D12 section.

Realm of Illusion:
Removed 1 Æether Adept, added 1 Phantom Beast - Thanks to Lorenzo for pointing out I had overlooked there actually being a third Beast available!

Unquenchable Fire:
Removed 1 Relentless Assault, added 1 Lava Axe. I changed commentary on Relentless Assault and moved it down to bad. Thanks to Gegliosch for pointing out my error.
I had mistakenly thought you could get a double hit in with your Kiln Fiend at +3/+0! The Lava Axe is not ideal but there isn't much better at the moment.

While writing guide, published 5.7.2011

Blood hunger:
Removed 2 Vampire's Bite, put in 1 Spread the Sickness and 1 Skeletal Vampire
I found I was holding on to the Bites for so long they may as well have been a higher mana, more powerful spell.

Strength of Stone:
Removed 2 Act of Treason, added 2 Volcanic Strength
Removed 1 Rockslide Elemental, added in 1 Vulshock Heartstroker
The Act of Treasons are only useful for dealing extra damage against the opponent and are no help if you are losing or dealing with threats. The deck is on the back foot too much to capitalize on the aggressive nature of the card I feel. I dropped the Rockslide as the deck is a bit too low on creature control to pump it up reliably.

Machinations:
Tri colour: Removed 1 Snapsail Glider, added 1 Gust-Skimmer
Blue/black: Removed 1 Hunger of the Nim, added 1 Alpha Myr
The lower cost of the Skimmer I think is worth the drawback of having to pay for him to fly, which you don't always need to pay anyway. I mistakenly thought Hunger of the Nim was an Instant and therefore just about playable, when I realized it's a Sorcery I decided it's rubbish as you can't use it in combat.


[/sblock]

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
Useful links:
Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.
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Improving your playing skills guide for both D9 and D12 [part 1]


Introduction

This guide is aimed at anyone who wants to get better at playing Magic, and specifically on Duel of the Planeswalkers (DOTP). (If you play Magic but not DOTP, there is still a lot of strategy that will apply in this guide; click on the "First Strike" section on the right and read on from there.) This guide will also be a reference point for all other guides I write for this game. Beginners and casual players will probably benefit the most from this. Advanced players may find much of what I say obvious to them, but may pick up a useful tip here and there. I will cover a lot of the mistakes that are often made by beginners, not to poke fun at them, but to help them understand how they can improve. I will also cover more advanced techniques that can be used to gain small advantages here and there. Magic is all about making the most out of every single card that you draw, and every little thing matters.

If you are reading this guide as part of the background for the Duels 2012 game, you can read the "Setting up your Options" section which will be relevant to D12, then skip to the "When to Mulligan" section. From this point on its general strategy advice which will still be relevant.

I have been playing Magic for about 15 years and feel that my experience in both constructing and playing decks can be of value to others.

I use the usual shorthand to refer to the 5 colours in Magic:

B = Black
G = Green
R = Red
U = Blue
W = White

If you want more information about a card, copy its name and paste it into the search box on this website: gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Default.aspx

When I refer to multiples of the same card, I use this format:

3x Forest means 3 Forest cards.

I include references to expansion packs 1&2 but this guide can still be used by those without them.


This guide assumes you know how to play Duel of the Planeswalkers. If you are totally new to Magic or are unfamiliar with the controls, please play the tutorial and read the extensive help files within the game first. If you do need help with anything, feel free to contact me.


Setting up your options

Before you start, there are some things you can to do help yourself in the options. From the main menu go to Help & Options, then Settings, then Gameplay Settings. Then going through them in order:


1.Display hints - This is up to you, it may help while you are learning the game, but after that I suggest turning this off.


2.AI Skill Level - Only relevant while you are playing against the computer. If you want to unlock everything as quickly as possible, choose the easiest setting (Mage). If you want more of a challenge bump it up to medium (Archmage) or hard (Planeswalker). The main differences I have noticed is that the computer allows itself more time to think the higher the difficulty goes and also I believe it tends to get less of its more powerful cards on lower difficulty settings. Other than this it doesn't have much impact on the game.


3.Hold priority - This means whether you want to always wait to press Y to show you are finished during your turn. Against the computer it's fine to set this to off to speed things up. Against a human opponent, set it to on. The reason for this is that when the game instantly shows you are done, the opponent then knows you have nothing in your hand you can cast at that point. By pressing Y yourself each time, you need not give away this useful information.


4.Zoom played cards - When you first learn the game it may be useful to have this set to on so you can read each card as it is played to get used to them. Once you have a feel for the game, this will just slow things down. You can always press X and then zoom in on a card being cast if you're not sure what it is.


5.Combat animation - This is purely visual, it shows the creatures up close doing the damage to each other. This is kind of cool to begin with, but in the end it just slows the game down, especially when lots of creatures are attacking. I'd say turn this off to make duels run quicker and not make human opponents sit around while you keep pressing Y after each lot of damage!


6.Browse entire library - If you turn this on, it will let you look at the whole of your deck instead of just the cards you are allowed to get when using cards such as Rampant Growth. Keep this turned off to make things easier on yourself, after a while you'll get to know the contents of your deck well enough to know what's left in there.


7.First sort hand by - This is down to your preference, just affects the order cards appear in your hand at the bottom of the screen.


8.Then sort hand by - Same as above.


9.Auto assign damage - If turned on, the computer decides for you how to assign your combat damage between multiple blockers. It's best to turn this off, the computer often makes bad decisions for you. You can then choose the order your creatures deal damage. You basically choose the order for the blocking creatures, and your creature goes through assigning enough damage to kill each one in turn until all its power is used up.


10.Simplified targeting - This is designed to stop you accidentally doing bad stuff to yourself or your cards in play. This may be useful to start with, but once you know what you're doing I recommend turning this off. There will be situations where you want to do unusual things, such as using a Prodigal Pyromancer to kill itself in response to an opponent casting Persuasion on it so that they can't steal it from you. When this happens, you don't want to be rooting through the options in the middle of a live game while your timer ticks down. As long as you are careful you won't do anything stupid.


11.Auto Resultion - This is a handy new addition that saves a lot of time. It makes it so that many abilities that trigger (such as life gaining artifacts) happen immediately, rather than having to wait for the timer to go round. They have chosen these to be the ones that it is usually pointless to respond to anyway, and thus is speeds the game up considerably. I recommend turning this on.


Unlocking the cards and the decks

If you're playing on DoTP 2012, you can skip this section.


 


You can choose which deck to use by pressing Y on the main menu to bring up your deck manager. You only start with two, the mono-red Hands of Flame and the mono-green Teeth of the Predator. You can also press X on a deck to see its contents, which is a good idea before you start with a deck so you see how it works. You'll notice there is no land, the land is automatically added when you start playing so that you have enough (or so the computer says!) for the cards you are using. Once you unlock more cards, you can come back here to add or remove them. You cannot currently remove any of the core cards that you start with.

To unlock cards for a deck, you can either beat the computer in the campaign mode or in a custom duel. Winning games over Xbox Live also works. If you want to unlock all the cards quickly and easily, first set the AI skill level to easy (Mage) and then choose Custom Duel. Push left or right to choose your opponent. The easiest ones to beat are usually Teeth of the Predator if you have decent flying creatures in your deck, or Thoughts of Wind if you're mainly using ground creatures. Before you start, press X to set the options. Set your life to 40, opening handsize to 9 and your opponent's handsize to 5. This will give you a big advantage, you can mulligan more easily, and you don't have to discard down to 7 cards, only to 9. The computer will often be short of mana due to having only 5 cards and combined with their fundamental mistakes you should beat them easily time after time. You can usually just allow the computer's attacking creatures through and your 40 life total will sustain you plenty long enough to kill them. After every win a card is unlocked and added to your deck, although it isn't announced on-screen like it is when you win a campaign battle. Every few games edit your deck to remove the weaker cards (see my other guide "Deciding which of the unlocked cards to add to your deck" to help with this).

To unlock more decks, you need to win campaign battles. A little Magic deck icon is beside the opponents you need to beat to get these. Pick the deck most suited to beat your opponent each time, and you can move in all the cards that will specifically help you against that deck. You can't otherwise make this easier on yourself like you can with the custom duels, except by putting it on easy AI skill level. If you still don't have a promising hand after a mulligan, just quit and restart so you give yourself the best chance before the game starts.

Once you have unlocked a new deck in the campaign mode, you can then go back to custom duel and unlock all the cards for that deck. By doing this each time you will make the campaign battles easier on yourself as you will have the best choice of cards to beat each opponent.

Here is the deck choices I suggest for each stage of the campaign, using the best available deck to give you a good matchup:

Original Campaign


1.Teeth of the Predator


2.Teeth of the Predator


3.Wings of Light


4.Wings of Light


5.Teeth of the Predator


6.Hands of Flame


7.Wings of Light


8.Thoughts of Wind


9.Wings of Light


10.Wings of Light


11.Eyes of Shadow


12.Eyes of Shadow


13.Ears of the Elves


14.Ears of the Elves


15.Ears of the Elves


16.Ears of the Elves


Expansion pack 1 campaign (assuming you've beaten the original campaign)


1.Scales of Fury


2.Eyes of Shadow


3.Scales of Fury


4.Eyes of Shadow


5.Mind of Void


Expansion pack 2 campaign (assuming you've beaten the original campaign)


1.Ears of the Elves


2.Wings of Light


3.Mind of Void


4.Teeth of the Predator


5.Ears of the Elves


6.Wings of Light


7.Mind of Void


8.Teeth of the Predator


Beating Sorin Markov

This is the most difficult opponent you have yet faced on DOTP so I will write a mini guide here to help you with him.


Go to your Deck Manager, move over Teeth of the Predator and press X to edit your deck.


Add 2x Troll Ascetic, 2x Blanchwood Armor and 2x Loxodon War Hammer. Remove all other unlocked cards, you really don't want them for this fight.


Once you begin your duel with Sorin, check out your starting hand. You want to have a Troll and a Hammer in it. I recommend using mulligans and restarting the duel until you have at least one of each of these in your starting hand and at least 2 Forests.


Your strategy is to get the Troll and the Hammer out as quickly as possible, make this your priority. Everything else just cast for defence if you have the time. Don't worry about attacking unless you can really afford to.


Get the Hammer equipped on the Troll, and attack as soon as you have the mana needed to regenerate him (if he is likely to be blocked).


Keep attacking every turn with the Troll. Just keep everything else back for defence. The life gain from the Hammer should keep you alive against him. He only has one way in the whole deck to get rid of your Troll, his one copy of Anowan. If he is lucky enough to get this out, you'll be OK as long as you can win before you run out of other creatures to sacrifice.


As soon as you can also get a Blanchwood Armor on your Troll, that should be enough to easily get the win. The damage is too hard for him to stop with the trample, and the life gain will mean he has no chance of killing you anymore.


Keep attacking with the Troll until you win! If he lucks out and kills your Troll with Anowan (sacrifice anything else you can first!) or another way, just try again. This worked for me and worked really easily, fighting him any other way I found a serious uphill battle.


Choosing your deck against human opponents

If you're playing on DoTP 2012, you can skip this section.


There are now 14 playable decks available (8 originally and 3 in each expansion pack), and when you play against someone online you do not know what deck they will be playing. This means you have to decide beforehand what deck to use and what cards to add to it beforehand.

You will get enjoyment playing with every deck, and by doing so you learn about how each of them works and will then be able to play better against them. I highly recommend doing this.

If you would prefer to stick with one deck, at least initially, then there are several things to consider. I have split them into the following categories for simplicity. I have overgeneralised, but it is a good starting point.

Power: The decks are not in my opinion well balanced against each other. They all have a chance, but in the long run some tend to do better and some worse, even with skilful play. I have split them into high (most powerful), medium (average) and low (weaker).

Difficulty: This is the amount of experience and skill needed to play the deck well. Of course every deck will perform better with more skilful play, but some decks are much more likely to go totally wrong if you make some bad decisions. I have labelled such decks as high, the rest as low.

Mana Problems: This is how likely you are to run into problems with the land you draw, either by not drawing enough or in multicolour decks not drawing the right types of land. High indicates a lot of risk of this, medium means less of a risk, and low means fairly safe.

Strategy: The decks vary in how they play, and they may work better or worse for you depending on your play style. Generally speaking decks are either aggressive, which means they go for the throat and try to win quickly, or defensive, in which case they play more for the long term by controlling the game. I have split the decks into these categories, adding 'very' to the extreme cases. Choose one which fits your own play style.


Hands of Flame: low, low, low, very aggressive


Teeth of the Predator: medium, low, low, very aggressive


Wings of Light: medium, low, low, defensive


Thoughts of Wind: low, high, medium, very defensive


Eyes of Shadow: high, low, low, defensive


Ears of the Elves: high, low, medium, aggressive


Claws of Vengeance: low, low, high, aggressive


Scales of Fury: high, low, high, defensive


Relics of Doom: medium, low, medium, aggressive


Cries of Rage: medium, low, medium, very aggressive


Mind of Void: high, high, medium, very defensive


Heart of Worlds: low, low, medium, very aggressive


Heat of Battle: medium, low, low, defensive


Eons of Evil: low, high, high, defensive


When to mulligan

In regular Magic if you don't like your starting hand of 7 cards, you can choose to mulligan. If you do so, you shuffle your cards back into your library and draw a hand of 6 cards. If you are still not happy, you can reshuffle again and draw a hand of 5, and so on down to 1 card. Realistically if you mulligan to below 5 cards the chances of winning are very slim.

Duel of the Planeswalkers is slightly more forgiving, it allows you one free mulligan before your hand size starts reducing. This means you can be slightly more free with when you take a mulligan, but I don't advise being too keen to do so when your opening hand is at least reasonable. Here are some tips to help you analyse your opening hand:

Look at how much land you have, what type and what you can search for

For a mono-colour deck, if you have at least 3 lands in your hand I would almost always choose to keep that hand. Even if you have as many as 6 or 7 lands, it is better to know that you will be able to cast everything you draw that game rather than risking mulligans and then not even finding enough land. Believe me you will hate yourself! With 3 lands in your opening hand this will usually prove enough along with the land you will draw to see you through the game. You may be happy to keep a 2 land hand if you have a lot of cheap and effective spells in your hand and are happy they will give you a good chance while you wait for more land. Otherwise, with 2 or less land, I suggest a mulligan.

With a 2 or 3 coloured deck, you need to look at not just how many lands you have but also how many of your colours you have. You ideally want to have a land for each colour, or a way to get any missing colours by cards such as Rampant Growth or Civic Wayfinder. So for example in Scales of Fury, if you have:


Forest, Rampant Growth and a Swamp or a Mountain- you will know you can get all 3 kinds of land into play on the second turn so this hand would be one to keep.


2x Forest and 2x Rampant Growth- you will be able to eventually cast both your growths and fetch all 3 land types.


Forest, Mountain and Civic Wayfinder- you don't have guaranteed access to all 3 land types but as long as you draw a land of any type within your first 3 turns then you will be able to cast the wayfinder and fetch a Swamp; this is an acceptable risk.


Think about how your first few turns will work and if there is a decent chance you will have all 2 or 3 colours that you need. If so, go with that hand. If the hand does not offer this but has 3 or more land and several good spells you can cast while you wait for a chance to fetch the remaining land type, particularly removal spells, it may be worth the risk rather than taking a mulligan and getting a worse situation. If most of the spells in your hand require the colour that is missing with no way to fetch it, this will be a very risky hand to play and you may be better trying a mulligan.

With some multicoloured decks there is more importance on getting 2 of a particular land. Ears of the Elves and Cries of Rage both require 2x Forest to play a lot of their spells, and Mind of Void requires 2x Island for most of its blue spells. Bear this in mind when examining your opening hand.

Examine the strength of the cards

Imagine how this hand will play out over first few turns. With lots of cheap and effective spells in hand, they are much more useful initially than high mana cost spells that will sit in your hand for a long time. Use this at your discretion if you are already on a borderline case of a mulligan due to being short of lands or missing access to land types. If you have a strong hand and need only 1 more land to get going with it, you should consider keeping a 2 land hand.

Are you playing first or second?

If you are playing second, it is more acceptable to keep a hand with a lower land count since you will get to draw a card on your first turn giving you more chance to find another land.

Subsequent Mulligans

Once you are down to 6 cards, you should start to lower your expectations. Probably any reasonable 2 land hand will suffice, or a 1 land hand in a mono deck with a lot of cheap spells. Once you get down to 5 cards or less, take anything that looks half decent. You want to avoid getting this far if at all possible, as the card disadvantage puts you way behind your opponent.


Mana issues

When you play spells and abilities in Duel of the Planeswalkers, unlike regular Magic, it is decided for you what lands to tap by the system. It often makes the wrong choices. This can lead to not having the correct mana left for other spells and abilities in the 2 or 3 colour decks. Although you have no direct control over what land gets tapped, there are some things you can do give yourself a better chance:

1) Cast spells that require exact mana costs first (ones with just coloured mana symbols and no number that can be paid with any colour).

Example: I have in play 2x Forest, 2x Mountain and a Plains. I want to cast a Wooly Thoctar (RWG) and a Rampant Growth (1G). I should cast the Wooly Thoctar first since the system cannot tap the wrong lands when casting it, guaranteeing I have a untapped Forest to cast my Rampant Growth. If I mistakenly cast the Rampant Growth first, there is a chance the system will tap 2x Forest to do so and then I am screwed.

2) Hold back a land to help you cast a second spell.

Example: I have in play a Mountain and a 2x Forest. In my hand I have a Mountain and 2x Dragon Fodder (1R). I should cast a Dragon Fodder before I lay my Mountain, then lay my Mountain, so I will definitely be able to cast the second Dragon Fodder. If I mistakenly lay the Mountain first, the system may decide to tap 2x Mountain and then I am screwed again.

3) Do things in an order that will certainly leave you the correct mana.

Example: I have in play a Mountain, 2x Forest and a Swamp. I want to cast a Rampant Growth (1G) and a Dragon Fodder (1R). The correct way round is to cast the Dragon Fodder first, as it cannot accidentally 2x Forest since it only requires 1 additional mana. If I mistakenly cast the Rampant Growth first, the system may screw me one final time by tapping my Mountain along with the Forest leaving me unable to cast Dragon Fodder.


Life gaining artifacts

I will cover this issue here to avoid repeating myself on every guide relating to DOTP. There are 5 types of standard life gaining artifacts, they are all 2 to cast and there is one for each colour. They grant you 1 life every time a spell of the corresponding colour is cast.


 


My opinion on these is that they are not worth it, end of story. In fact I think it is unfair that they are included as everyone will assume they are good and put them in their deck, which in my opinion is a mistake. You could make an argument for putting them in against the computer when you know what deck they are playing if it overlaps with your own colours; but against an unknown human player deck they are really not worth it.


 


I realise I am in the minority in this opinion, and the majority of people do use these. I'll make my case here, and leave you to come to your own conclusions.


 


1) They dilute the deck.


 


By including any unlocked card, you are effectively reducing the amount of times you will see every other card that is already in the deck. This means that to earn its keep, the card must be very strong and work well with the other cards/themes in the deck.


 


2) Gaining life doesn't help you win.


 


When you have your opponent on the ropes and need that final card to finish them off, or if the opponent is struggling for land and you need to press your advantage, drawing one of these does nothing but give the opponent more chance to recover.


 


3) Gaining life doesn't provide answers to threats.


 


Unless you gain a really substantial amount of life, using a card just to gain some life doesn't go far enough. Some example where life gain alone are worth it are such past cards as Zuran Orb and Ivory Tower. Otherwise, if you are losing a duel then you need permanent answers to threats such as removal spells or blockers, not menial life gain.


 


4) If you cast them early in the game you use up mana you need to develop your position; late in the game their life gain will be negligible.


 


5) If you spend time laying out these artifacts and then get hit with discard, their effectiveness will drop even more. And if Mind of Void is running you out of cards, it couldn't care less how much life you gain.


 


6) Life gain is good when its the side effect of something else, but otherwise it has no effect on the state of play.


 


Creatures with lifelink and cards that give you life while impacting the state of play like Corrupt can be very effective. But if nothing is happening except you gaining that life, you have made no impression on the state of play. You've not provided a threat to your opponent, not dealt with any threats they have, and the opponent's card advantage from you playing these artifacts will slowly but surely erase the life you have gained. The only argument against this is that it helps against direct damage from red or black; but without knowing the opponent's deck you are putting your life gaining artifacts in blind and so they may not even achieve this goal.


Know the decks

It's very important that to make the best decisions you should be as familiar as possible with the contents of the decks. I'm not suggesting you learn every card in every deck, but be aware of what each deck can do, and how many copies they have of important spells. Some examples:

1) I'm using Teeth of the Predator. It's my third turn and I've just played my third Forest. I went first so my opponent only has two lands in play, both untapped Islands. He has a Cloud Sprite in play that he cast first turn. From that, I deduce he is playing Thoughts of Wind since no other deck has that card in. I have a Troll Ascetic in my hand that I want to play but I'm worried it will get countered. I know that the opponent only has two cards in his deck that can counter a creature for two mana, 2x Remove Soul. So there is a pretty decent chance that he hasn't got one in his hand, so it is probably worth the risk. If instead he had three Islands untapped, this also gives him 4x Cancel that can counter my creature, giving him 6 cards. There is a much greater chance he has one of those cards, so I am probably better casting a weaker creature, tempting him to counter that instead.

2) I'm playing Ears of the Elves and my opponent has used an Evolving Wilds to fetch a Swamp. This means he must be playing Eons of Evil since the only other deck with Evolving Wilds in is Heart of Worlds and that is white and green. He casts a Wanderer's Twig, leaving himself tapped out and unable to use it currently. I have a Naturalize in my hand and I wonder whether it's worth using on the Twig. As I know the deck well, I know that the only artifacts and enchantments in the whole of his deck are the Twigs, so there is nothing to save my Naturalize for. So I can safely go ahead and use it. If I want to do this, I should do it now while he is tapped out so he can't activate it in response.

3) I've already got 2 creatures in play and I'm thinking of casting a third to press my advantage as my opponent hasn't cast any creatures yet. I know my opponent is playing white and may have Wrath of God in his hand. How worried should I be? Let's look at various scenarios:

(a) My opponent has played just 4x Plains. It is very likely, but not certain, he is playing Wings of Light. Drawing that many Plains and not playing any other colours is quite unlikely in any of the multicolour decks. I know this deck has access to just 1 Wrath of God. It's fairly unlikely he has drawn it, so I'm probably safe to cast another creature.

(b) My opponent has in play 2x Plains, a Forest and a Mountain. He is clearly playing Claws of Vengeance which has access to 2 Wraths. I checked out his library size at the start of the game, he had over 90 cards. This means the chance he has one of the two Wraths is pretty small so I am probably OK to cast my third creature.

(c) Same as above, except my opponent started with 72 cards in his library. With a smaller deck the chance he has a Wrath is much higher so I would probably think he is trying to make me over commit and I hold my creature back for now.

(d) My opponent is playing Claws of Vengeance since he has a Plains, a Forest and 2x Mountain. Although he probably has 2 Wraths in his deck, since I know it needs 2 white mana to cast, it looks like he doesn't have the correct mana yet so I may be best to press my advantage. Be careful, as this may be a bluff however!

(e) My opponent is down to very low life and will soon be dead. There is probably no need to lay another creature since he will be dead anyway if he can't find his Wrath. I should not overextend myself, so I should save my creature in case he does cast a Wrath.

4) I've figured out my opponent is using Eons of Evil and he has just a Swamp and an Island untapped. I have a creature I want to cast. I remember he does have some counterspells in his deck, but what could he currently cast? I know the deck well, so I realize he could only cast Countersquall which can't target creatures. So I am safe to play it. If I wasn't so sure I may have made the mistake of holding back the creature when there was no need to.

5) My opponent is using Scales of Fury. It's late in the game, and I have just Terror in my hand. I don't want to use it on any creatures currently out, but may really need it later. I have all the land I need, so I should start collecting as much land in my hand as possible. Since I know my opponent has Blightning in his deck, I'd rather have surplus lands to throw away than be forced to discard my Terror if he draws his Blightning.

6) My opponent is playing Heart of Worlds. He's attacks me with two Fledgling Griffins which are 2/2 and currently not flying. He has just one Forest untapped, and I have a Hill Giant (3/3) that could block them. As I know his deck has no Giant Growths (in fact nothing at all for just G to cast) then I am safe to block one of them with my giant and know he won't be killed. Without that knowledge, I may be scared into letting needless damage through.

7) My opponent is using Mind of Void. He has just cast Denizen of the Deep (11/11) on his turn which is going to finish me off next turn if I don't kill him. He has 7 life and just one Island untapped. I have 7 Mountains, and in my hand I have Lava Axe, Incinerate and Volcanic Hammer. If I know his deck well, I realise that the only spell he can cast is Dispel which can only counter instants. Therefore I should cast the Lava Axe and Volcanic Hammer. If I make the mistake of using the Incinerate thinking he can do nothing about it, that may cost me the game if he does have Dispel in his hand.

8) My opponent is using Eyes of Shadow. He has 7 cards in hand. I have Baneslayer Angel and Angel of Mercy in my hand. Normally I would want to cast the best creature I have available in a situation, but I highly suspect my opponent has at least one way of killing creatures in his hand from knowing his deck. Especially as he hasn't used many in this game. So I may decide to cast the weaker Angel of Mercy first. This causes my opponent to either use a precious kill spell on my weaker creature meaning there's more chance the Baneslayer will survive when she comes out, or else let me have my weaker Angel which is better than a fairly certainly dead Baneslayer.


First strike

When creatures with first strike are involved in combat, they all get to deal their damage first. Then the surviving creatures without first strike get to deal their damage.

This is often simple enough; a 2/1 first strike creature blocked by a 2/2 creature will kill it and not be killed itself. But there are situations and results that are not so obvious.

1) Ganging up to kill a first strike creature

A creature with first strike can still be hit back by creatures it can normally kill, as long as there is enough of them to absorb the first strike damage and leave some who will then kill the first striker.

Example: I'm being attacked by a Youthful Knight (2/1, First strike) and I have in play 3x Elvish Visionary (1/1). If I block with all three of my creatures, then the knight can use his 2 first strike damage to kill 2 of them, but this must leave the third one alive to deal its one damage back to the knight.

Think to yourself when ganging up the best way the opponent can spread their first strike damage to avoid getting hit back afterwards, and make sure that in every case enough creatures survive to kill it in return.

2) Knock-on effects

Although the creatures without first strike deal their damage after the first strikers, they won't always deal the amount you would first expect, since creatures killed by the first strike damage may cause some changes.

Example: I'm being attacked by an Elvish Champion (2/2, All other elves get +1/+1 and forestwalk) and 2x Elvish Visionary (1/1, but pumped up to 2/2 thanks to the champion). I have in defence a Youthful Knight (2/1, First strike) and a Venerable Monk (2/2). I'm at 2 life. At first glance it may seem like there is nothing I can do, one of the 2/2 creatures will get past my blockers. But if I block correctly, I can survive. I block the champion with my knight, and one of the visionaries with my monk. The first strike damage from the knight is dealt with first, this kills the champion. This instantly drops the visionaries back to 1/1. Now my monk is able to kill the visionary it blocks and survive, and the remaining unblocked visionary is down to 1/1, so I take only 1 damage. If I'd blocked the other way round with the monk blocking the champion, I would have died.

Example: I'm being attacked by a Goblin Piker (2/1) and a Hill Giant (3/3). I have in defence a Nekrataal (2/1, First strike) and a Mortivore (Power and toughness equal to the number of creatures in all graveyards, B: Regenerate) which is currently 2/2 as there are 2 creatures in my opponent's graveyard. At first glance it seems impossible to kill both attackers, but if I block correctly I am able to. I block the piker with the nektrataal and the giant with the mortivore. The nekrataal deals his 2 first strike damage, killing the piker. The mortivore now jumps up to 3/3 because there is an extra creature in the graveyard. Now the non-first strike creatures deal their damage, and my mortivore can kill the giant.


Using removal spells

Removal spells are spells which... remove things, usually by killing them, so are often known as kill spells. These are usually among the most powerful cards in each deck, as killing a particular creature can easily be the difference between victory or defeat. They are also usually very cheap for what they can do, for example Terror costs just 1B but can wipe out almost any creature in the game, at any time, no matter how much was paid for it.

Because they are so valuable, you should be as sparing as possible with them. You want to get the very most out of each removal spell, so this usually means holding onto it until just the right time. If you use it too early to get rid of a small creature that isn't bothering you much or remove a small blocker for the sake of a few damage, you will be kicking yourself when the big guns show up and a Flameblast Dragon is making you his toasted sandwich. Before you use any removal spell, ask yourself whether the thing you are killing is enough of a threat to justify it. Knowing each deck well is a huge advantage, as you will have an idea of whether the creature you're looking at is one of its best or if there are far scarier things to come.

Generally speaking, the more removal spells you have in your hand, the more generous you can be in handing out death to creatures. If I have 2x Terror in my hand and am getting beaten up by a Grizzly Bears (2/2) and can see no defence in sight, I may consider using one of my terrors knowing I have another in reserve to keep me going. However if I only have one in my hand, I would be extremely reluctant to use it unless I really had to, as I may never see another terror for the whole game and bigger creatures are very likely to need killing.

The same applies to cards like Naturalize, do not waste it on something that is causing you no bother or a life gaining artifact. Most decks have a really nasty enchantment or artifact that may show up, again learning the contents of each deck helps a great deal.

Some removal spells have a limited range of things they can kill, such as Shock which deals 2 damage and so cannot on its own kill anything with toughness 3 or more. But you still want to make the most out of it. Killing an Elvish Champion could win you the game, whereas killing an Elvish Visionary to get a couple of damage through probably won't.

You should note this very important rule in Magic: once an ability triggers or has been activated, it exists independently from the thing that made it, and killing the source won't stop the ability from happening.

Example: My opponent taps his Prodigal Pyromancer to do 1 damage to my 1/1 creature. If I try to stop this happening by now using Terror on the Pyromancer, the Pyromancer will die, but the ability will still happen and my 1/1 will still die. To prevent this from happening, I need to kill the Pyromancer either before he loses summoning sickness, or before I cast my 1/1 creature. It's too late once he's been tapped to use his ability.

Example: My opponent casts Nektrataal. His ability says "When Nekrataal comes into play, destroy target nonartifact, nonblack creature." This ability triggers as soon as he hits the table. If I try to stop it happening by casting Shock on the Nekrataal, again the Nekrataal will die, but his ability has already triggered and the targetted creature will still die. In this case, the only thing you can do stop the ability is to counter the Nekrataal to stop it entering play, or respond by saving your creature with Unsummon etc.


Blocking and chump blocking

When you block a creature, you ideally want to kill that creature without losing your own, or at least trade creatures. But sometimes you need to use a creature to block a creature just to keep the damage off you, even though you won't kill it. This is called chump blocking, because it is often a small creature (like a 1/1) blocking a big creature (like a 4/4), so the small unfortunate guy is the chump.

There is an art to chump blocking, and it should be employed sparingly and carefully. Here are some guidelines:

1) It is usually better to gang up and kill a big creature with 2 or more of yours rather than chump block with each of them over several turns.

Example: I have a Grizzly Bears (2/2) and a Trained Armodon (3/3) in play and my opponent is attacking with a Craw Wurm (6/4) and I'm at 6 life. Clearly I have to block with something, so my choices are to gang up and kill it or chump block. If I chump block with the bears this turn and then next turn with the armodon (assuming I don't pick up anything else useful) then the turn after I will still be looking for more chump blockers and have to deal with the wurm. But if I gang up and kill it now, the wurm will be gone for good and I have a chance to get back into the game and on the offensive. Be warned though in situations like this that they may be packing a Giant Growth and planning to make the wurm survive even a double block.

2) Don't chump block too early. Leave it until you really feel you have to. You can be doing damage back in the meantime, or you may be able to chump block a bigger creature later.

Example: My opponent has a Hill Giant (3/3) in play and I have a Grizzly Bears (2/2). We are both on 20 life. My opponent attacks with the giant, knowing that without some trick I can either take the damage or lose my bears. If I panic and block now, it would be a mistake. This is a common beginner's error of worrying about their life total too much. It is better to take the damage, then assuming nothing else happens in the meantime I can attack him back with the bears. Then he attacks me back with the giant for another 3, I attack him back for another 2, and so on... at some point I decide my life is getting too low and then I chump block. I have saved myself the same amount of damage (3) but in the meantime I could have done as much as 8 or 10 damage to him.

Example: Same situation as above, except I am at 12 life and my opponent is at 20. Unless I draw something to help me I am clearly going to have to chump block sometime soon, as I know my opponent has a lot of direct damage that could finish me off. But I decide to let the creature through as per the previous example, hoping to do some damage in return before I drop too low and have to chump block. So I attack him back, and then on his next turn my opponent casts an Earth Elemental (4/5). I am glad I didn't chump block too early as not only did I get a little bit of damage in but I can now chump block the bigger creature and prevent 4 damage to myself instead of 3. This may be crucial.

Example: My opponent has in play an Elvish Warrior (2/3) and 3x Elvish Visionary (1/1). I have in play just a Grizzly Bears (2/2). I'm at 15 life. My opponent attacks me with just the warrior, not giving me the chance to kill any of the smaller elves. If I chump block now it would be bad for me, because I have then opened up the path for the other 3 elves to attack me every turn, so I'll be taking 5 damage a turn instead of 2. The best thing to do is keep letting the warrior through until you really have to block, that way you are keeping your losses to a minimum and again you save the same amount of life when you do chump block, whether straight away or late on.

3) Don't let your creatures become useless due to poor foresight.

This is another very common beginner's mistake. If you a choice between attacking with a creature (with no creatures than can kill it in defence) or leaving it to block, consider whether you actually will block given the current creatures that will be most likely attacking you. If you won't, then just attack or else your creature will end up doing nothing and may as well not be there.

Example: My opponent is attacking me again with his Hill Giant (3/3) and all I have is a Grizzly Bears (2/2). I let the giant through as I don't want to lose my creature. It passes to my turn. Should I attack? That depends on whether I intend to block next turn. If I have just picked up a Giant Growth then maybe I would leave it for defence. But say I pick up nothing useful, and think "I better keep the bears for defence" and pass the turn. Then my opponent attacks again, and I think "umm I better not block I'd rather take the damage". So my bears have done nothing, not attacked when they had the chance, not blocked, so may as well not be there. Many players repeat this scenario turn after turn.

Example: My opponent has a Ravenous Rats (1/1) in play, and I have a Drudge Skeletons (1/1, B:Regenerate). I have 3x Swamp and I want to cast Mind Rot (2B) on him. Say I cast the spell, thinking I'll keep the skeletons back for defence. It passes to my opponent, and he attacks with his rats. As I am tapped out, I think "oh dear I can't regenerate them, better not block". So the skeletons have done nothing. Instead, what I should do is first attack with the skeletons. Almost certainly my opponent will let them through rather than lose his rats as you have the mana to regenerate. Then I can cast my spell. I won't have the skeletons for defence, but since I wouldn't have blocked anyway at least I have scored a point of damage by attacking.


When to use instants and abilities

Beginners often make the mistakes of being in too much of a hurry to use their instants and abilities and end up giving away an advantage by doing them too soon. As you can do them at any time and in response to anything else that happens, try and work out the very best time you can use them. This is usually the latest time that they will still be effective. There is usually no need to use them right away.

Example: My opponent has a Trained Armodon (3/3) in play and has been beating me up with it as I have no creatures, and I'm on 10 life. I've just drawn a Terror. Instead of using it right away, I wait and see if I can get any more advantage out of it. I pass the turn to my opponent. He then casts Blanchwood Armor on the armodon, boosting it to 7/7 (he has 4x Forest in play). Now I can kill it and take the armor with it as a bonus. But I still wait, to see if can do any better. Now he attacks, and he casts Giant Growth on the armodon raising it to 10/10. He has no more mana and nothing in play that can do anything further, so now I play my Terror to kill the armodon. By waiting until the latest time (in this case before the creature deals me damage) I have managed to gain a card advantage by disposing of 3 cards instead of 1. If I had got too excited and used the Terror as soon as I picked it up, I'd have missed out on this advantage, and if he had instead just attacked with the armodon, I can still stop the timer with X before it runs out during the blockers step and use my Terror without losing anything. (Exceptions: If I was playing against a blue deck and they tap out to cast a creature, I may want to use the Terror in my turn to stop a possible counterspell. Or playing red against a green deck, you may similarly want to take the opportunity to kill a creature while they are tapped out and cannot cast a Giant Growth to save it from your Shock or Incinerate).

Example: I have 2x Drudge Skeletons (1/1, B: Regenerate) in play and my opponent has a Grizzly Bears (2/2). I want to attack with both my skeletons to get one damage through. Many players regenerate both their skeletons at this point, since you have to do so before damage is dealt. This is true, but there is no need to do it so early. So I attack with both skeletons, and see which one gets blocked. I then regenerate the one that gets blocked during the blockers step, so I have saved the mana from needlessy regenerating the other one.

Example: I am being attacked by an Elvish Warrior (2/3) and I have a Drudge Skeletons in defence and only one untapped Swamp. It is important that I block first with the skeleton and then regenerate it (again, at the last time it is still useful). If I make the mistake of regenerating before he attacks, or during the attackers step, he may respond to my regeneration with an Eyeblight's Ending which will then kill the skeletons. He could do the same when I regenerate after blocking, but the Elves will not deal me damage since they have been blocked (it doesn't matter if the blocker is later removed).

Example: I am playing against Hands of Flame and I am down to 3 life. I have a Bottle Gnomes in play. A lot of players panic and sacrifice the gnomes to gain 3 life at this stage. However, there is no need. You can sacrifice them at any point, even in response to an Incinerate which is threatening to kill you. If you do that, you will gain the 3 life, then the spell resolves and does you 3 damage leaving you alive. If you do sacrifice it out of panic, they can respond to that with their Incinerate which will then resolve first and you will lose before you can gain the 3 life. You can continue to block with the gnomes, and if you need the life to survive the attack you can then sacrifice it, and the creature still counts at blocked. There is no need to sacrifice the gnomes unless it is about to die through combat or a spell, or if combat or a spell is about to kill you.

Example: I have a Prodigal Pyromancer in play. I make the mistake of tapping it during my turn to do the opponent 1 damage. I pass the turn to my opponent, who then casts a Lightning Elemental (4/1, Haste) and attacks me for 4 damage. It would have been better to leave the pyromancer untapped and keep my options open. The opponent would then most likely not cast the elemental, in which case I can use the pyromancer's ability just before my opponent is about to end his turn (in his second main phase) and get my damage through, with no loss of advantage.


Dealing with tokens

Tokens are permanents (usually creatures) that are generated by cards and act very much like creature cards when they are in play. But if they leave play for any reason, either by being killed or returned to a player's hand, they get removed from the game. They do not sit in graveyards and cannot be put into your hand. You can use this to your advantage in several ways:

1) My opponent has cast a Broodmate Dragon (4/4, Flying) which puts a 4/4 flying dragon token into play as well. I have an Unsummon in my hand. It is better to use it on the token, as it will cease to exist upon trying to be put back in my opponent's hand. If I used it on the dragon card instead, he could cast it again.

2) If I have the choice between killing a 1/1 token or a 1/1 creature card, it is usually better to kill the token. Most players will instinctively kill the creature card, thinking it it better because it is "real". However, by doing this you put that card into their graveyard, whereas the token just disappears. Putting creatures into their graveyard can be a bad thing, as they can then get them back to their hand with Raise Dead etc which they can't with the token. There will be exceptions, such as if you want to increase the size of your own Mortivore, but on the whole it's better to leave the card in play and remove the token when they are of equal threat.

3) If you have the choice of which of your tokens dies, it may be advantageous to keep more of the same type alive when playing against Ears of the Elves.

Example: I'm playing Scales of Fury and I have in play 4x goblin token (1/1) and 2x saproling token (1/1). My opponent attacks me with 2x Elvish Warrior (2/3) and I want to block them with one token each. It is best to use the saproling tokens to block them with, since if my opponent later casts Coat of Arms the 4 remaining goblins will jump up to 4/4 each, whereas if I had 2 goblins and 2 saprolings left they will only be 2/2 each. On the flip side, if you are playing Ears of the Elves and you have a choice of tokens to kill, try and keep the total of each type of token down so that it has less effect when you cast your Coat of Arms.



I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
Useful links:
Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.
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Improving your playing skills guide for both D9 and D12 [part 2]


Not giving away information

One of the most common mistakes made by beginners is to give away information to their opponent when there is no need to. You should try to keep your opponent in the dark as much as possible. The more information they have, the better equipped they are to make decisions. Here are some rules you can follow that will help you guard against tipping your hand:

1) Attack with your creatures before you do anything else. Use your second main phase to lay your land and cast any spells you wish to cast.

The reason for this is that it will usually make no difference to you whether you lay your land or cast spells before or after combat, but by doing so before combat you are giving away information to your opponent. If you lay a land they don't have to wonder if you have picked up enough land, the spells you cast will use up mana that you may need during combat for an instant or a creature ability such as regenerating, and the opponent may rethink their blocking strategy or use instants more effectively using the information you have given them.

There are exceptions to this rule, such as:


You may need to lay a land to give you enough mana for the instants you might want to play during combat or to pump up a creature such as Nightmare.


Casting a creature with haste that you want to attack with that turn.


Cards that will help you during the combat phase such as Glorious Anthem or Elvish Champion.


Discard spells such as Mind Rot are sometimes better cast before you attack so your opponent doesn't know what you will do when he chooses which cards to lose.


In these cases you would do them in your first main phase, and leave everything else you want to do until your second main phase.

Example: I have in play 3x Forest, a Troll Ascetic and a Grizzly Bears. In my hand I have a Forest, Giant Growth and Giant Spider. If I straight away play my Forest and cast my Giant Spider before attacking, I then don't have any mana available for my attack in case I need to regenerate my Troll Ascetic or to play the Giant Growth. I have also shown that I have my fourth land available when my opponent couldn't have known that, and I already had the mana I needed for combat (unless I needed to regenerate twice) so there was no need to lay it yet. The opponent may be more willing to waste a removal spell on a lesser creature if they think you are short of land.

I lose nothing by attacking first, then if it turns out I don't need the mana in combat, playing the Forest and casting the Giant Spider afterwards. Also, the opponent may consider using a card such as Terror to kill the Grizzly Bears, but if you play the Giant Spider before attacking then he certainly won't do that, if anything he will save it for the spider. You have given the opponent more information to make a better choice. Always give the opponent every chance to make the wrong choice.

2) Don't get trigger happy with your spells.

If a spell requires you to make choices such as choosing a target for Terror, think it through first and be sure that it's what you want to do and decide what you want to cast it on before you press A. If you make the mistake of pressing A and then changing your mind and cancelling the spell without casting it, the opponent gets on-screen information telling them which spell you were thinking about. They then know it is in your hand, giving away vital information.

3) Don't give away what deck your are playing until you need to.

As there are now 14 decks, there is a lot of overlap between the colours. The lands you play in the first few turns will either tell the opponent what deck you are playing or narrow the possibilities down. If it makes no difference to you what order you play the first few lands from your hand, you can get a small advantage by keeping the opponent guessing as to what deck you are playing.

Example: I am playing Mind of Void (blue/white) and in my opening hand I have 2x Island and a Plains. I have no white spells in my hand. Since I cannot cast anything until I have all those 3 lands in play, it is better to lay both the islands in my first two turns. That way the opponent doesn't know which of the 3 decks containing blue I am playing. Once I have the two islands in play, they may worry I am playing Thoughts of Wind and have access to Remove Soul and Negate which only cost 1U to play and be scared to cast a spell or try to bluff me with a weaker one. When it comes to my third turn I can play the Plains. They will then know I must be playing Mind of Void but they may have already altered how they play just because of the order I played my lands.


Bluffing

Bluffing is a concept most often associated with games such as Poker where the opponent has no information about the strength of the cards in your hand and must use their wits and probability to make a decision. However, a lot bluffing can be successfully be used in Magic because the opponent usually can only speculate as to what is exactly in your hand. Here are some examples:

1) Later in the game when you have plenty of land in play, start holding back lands in your hand.

Your opponent will have to worry that they are potential threats, whereas if you lay them all down and they can see you have zero cards in hand, they know they can calculate everything they need to know with no fear of the unkown. This is especially important when playing blue, as the threat of counterspells causes players to seriously reconsider their strategy and may hold off from casting a powerful spell for some time. Never empty your hand late in the game unless you really need to. Additional lands held back can also be used to be thrown away if you are forced to discard to protect another card in your hand, or later discarded to your own Seismic Assault or Razormane Masticore.

Example: I am at 8 life and my opponent is at 4 life. My opponent has a Hill Giant (3/3) in play and I have an Elvish Warrior (2/3). He picks up a card (now his only one) and then attacks with the Hill Giant. I know that he has Lava Axe in his deck, and if this is what he has just drawn then unless I block he will be able to kill me. But if it just a land or a weaker card, I may be better to take the damage and attack back with my creature to put him on 2 life and having to stop attacking. I have a difficult choice, and if I call his bluff and I am wrong it could cost me the game. However, if he had just picked up a land and laid it down before attacking, I know he cannot possibly kill me so I know I am safe to take the damage.

Keep the cards in your hand secret as much as possible.

Example: I have one card in my hand, a Forest. I pick up a Civic Wayfinder. It is better to cast the wayfinder first if possible, search for a land, then play a land, rather than play the Forest from my hand first. If I do it the first way, as far as my opponent is concerned I have searched for a land and laid that land, and my remaining card could be anything. But if I do it the second way, I have shown that my last card is a land, and holding back the land I just fetched won't work as a bluff because the opponent knows it can only be a land.

2) You can make it look like you have a particular card in your hand, even if you haven't.

Example: I'm playing green/red and I have a Goblin Piker (2/1) in play and have just drawn my only card, a land. My opponent cast an Air Elemental (4/4, Flying) in his last turn. If I attack with my creature, my opponent may assume I have picked up either a Giant Growth or Incinerate, since otherwise my attack is foolish. They may consider as it's only 2 damage it's not worth the risk of losing their big flyer and let it through. So I have scored 2 free damage with a useless card in my hand. This is risky tactic, if the opponent either calls your bluff or doesn't even think about these possibilities and blocks, you will lose your creature and look very stupid. So the situation and judgement of your opponent will dictate whether it is a good risk.

However, a bluff like this may be your only way to win.

Example: The situation is the same as above, except I picked up a Lava Axe, I am at 4 life and my opponent at 7 life. If I don't win this turn, I will be killed by the Air Elemental. The only way I can win is to pretend I have a Giant Growth or Incinerate and am trying to get him to block so I can kill his creature and save myself. So I keep my card in hand, and attack. He may let it through so as to not risk losing his game winning creature, which is just what you want him to do. Then you play your Lava Axe for the win. If he calls your bluff and blocks you will lose, but without trying this bluff you have lost anyway so at least you are giving yourself a chance.

Sometimes a bluff can be risk free.

Example: My opponent has tapped out to cast a Wall of Air (1/5) and has nothing else in play. I have a Grizzly Bears (2/2) in play. I can safely attack with the bears, pretending I have a Giant Growth. The opponent may let it through since he has no mana to stop you at doesn't want to risk his wall, if he does you've scored 2 free damage. If he decides to block and calls your bluff, your bears survives and your opponent has nothing with which to attack you back, so you've lost nothing for the effort. You can even double bluff in a situation like this, you may indeed have a Giant Growth in your hand but you don't want to use it yet. You can attack, you may score 2 free damage as before, if the opponent blocks you need not use the Giant Growth, and this may fool the opponent into thinking you don't have one in your hand when in fact you do. They may then underestimate your hand in future turns. Keep your opponent guessing as to what is in your hand.

3) You can make out you are a worse player than you actually are, without causing yourself a disadvantage. If you assume your opponent is aware of the strategies mentioned in this guide, then you can play on that.

Example: On my opponent's second turn he tapped both his lands to cast Rampant Growth. Now it's my turn, I have a creature ready to attack, and a land I want to play and then another creature to cast. If you've read the rest of the guide you will realize that usually you want to attack first, then play your land and cast the creature afterwards, to avoid giving away information. However, when the opponent cannot actually make any decisions which will affect your turn, the order becomes irrelevant. I know he has nothing he can block with and cannot cast any spells. This means I can do things in any order and it can't possibly adversely affect me. So I can lay my land, cast the creature, then attack with my first creature. This makes it look like I'm less of a strategic player than I actually am. If I continue this during the game, sometimes doing things in the correct order but doing things out of order when the opponent cannot interact with what I am doing, I may lead him to believe I play erratically and foolishly, and I may catch him out later when he becomes too complacent. If my opponent fails to notice the psychological trap I am setting, then I've lost nothing either, since I'm still doing everything I want to do on my turn.


Just like in Poker, a bluff only works if your opponent is intelligent and knowledgable enough to even realise that you are bluffing them. Someone who pays no attention to how many cards are in your hand or whether you may have tricks up your sleeve will not likely fall for these bluffs. So this means evaluating your opponent's skill level.


Playing to win

There is a motto I use when I am close to losing a game of Magic. Some chance of winning is better than no chance of winning. I will explain this with an example:

I'm playing with Hands of Flame against Teeth of the Predator. I'm at 4 life and my opponent is on 6. I have in play two Goblin Sky Raiders (1/2, flying) and my opponent has a Spined Wurm (5/4) and a Trained Armodon (3/3) ready to attack. He has also tapped out, except for one Forest, to cast another Spined Wurm this turn which can't attack yet.I have no cards in my hand, my opponent has 3. I have 5 Mountains.

My opponent attacks me with both the Wurm and the Armodon, and both my Raiders are untapped and ready to block if needed. Obviously I must block at least the Wurm here or I will die. So I have two realistic options.

(a) Block both the attacking creatures with a Raider each
(b) Block the Wurm with one Raider and take damage from the Armodon

At first glance, it would seem safer to take option (a). If I let the Armodon through he may use Giant Growth and then I'll be dead. But I would chose option (b) instead. Here's where my motto comes into play.

If I block both creatures, I'll have nothing left in play, and no single card I draw next turn could do enough damage to kill my opponent. No creature I draw will be able either to stop the obvious attack again on his next turn with all 3 creatures. So effectively, by blocking both creatures, although I have avoided the risk of losing right away to a Giant Growth and have kept my life total up, I have effectively conceded the game.

By playing through the above scenario in my head, I realise that if I take option (a) there is no way I can ever win. So I see if there is a way I can win, no matter how little chance there is that it will happen. Any chance is better than no chance.

So I consider option (b). Can I win that way? The answer is yes, if the top card of my library is Lava Axe or Claws of Valakut. By keeping one of my Raiders alive, I'll be certain to be able to attack with that for 1 damage, and the Lava Axe or the Claws on the Raider will do the remaining 5 damage. This is a long shot, but it is better than no shot. If you do this enough times, instead of making the play that means you will definitely lose, eventually you will pull the card you need and get a win out of a seemingly lost situation.

Obviously this is a very specific situation I describe, but time and time again you will come across other situations that are basically equivalent; you have two choices of action, one of which means you cannot win, and one means you have a slight chance of winning. Make sure you pick the right one!

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
Useful links:
Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.
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Duels of the Planeswalkers (original version) guide [part 1]


Introduction

This guide contains spoilers of the cards that are unlocked in this game. If you want to keep them a suprise, don't read this guide until you have unlocked them all!


In this game you unlock cards by winning duels, and you can then add them to your deck. I don't advise adding every card you unlock to your decks, in fact this is disastrous. This is because many of the cards you unlock are generally weaker than the cards in the core deck, so by adding them you are diluting the power that is already there. For a card to be worth adding, it has to be very strong to justify this. Also many cards are too much like duplicates, they are similar to cards already in the deck, not much better than them and not worth it if they aren't really powerful.

This guide will cover for each of the decks which cards I recommend adding to each deck in the game.

I only refer to the distinct unlocked cards. Where there are duplicates, either put them all in or leave them all out as appropriate except where noted. You can use your judgement if you feel that an intermediate amount is better for you.

Of course there are no right or wrong answers as to which cards to use, they will all have their uses in different situations. I am just trying to give my opinion as an experienced Magic player of what would be best in the long run. This usually means erring on the side of leaving cards out to maintain the consistency and theme of the deck, and increase the chances of getting the right amount of land (a smaller deck does this better). Feel free to contact me to ask questions about my recommendations or to discuss why you may feel differently. My opinions have changed a good few times since playing with all the cards in this game!

You don't have to have all the cards unlocked to use this guide, you can just use it to refer to the cards you have unlocked so far. As you unlock more, you can refer back.

You unlock all the decks by completing the campaign, and unlock cards by winning duels in the campaign or custom duels.

Additional: This guide was written before vampires became a playable deck. Now that it seems to be running rampant, you may wish to remove some cards that won't be as effective such as cards that target only nonblack creatures, and prefer cards which are powerful against vampires such as Voice of All and Paladin en-Vec. I didn't buy DLC3 due to the lack of bug fixing and support, but I've written my opinions based on the decklists as best I can by popular demand.


For more information see my other guide "Improving your playing skills" where I also discuss the life gaining artifacts. I am adding card analysis to each deck to discuss my choices. This guide is entirely for 1v1 duels. I have a seperate guide covering the decks and cards from expansion 3.


Notation


I will use the standard shorthand to refer to the 5 colours of magic found in the decks:

B = Black
G = Green
R = Red
U = Blue
W = White

This guide will cover which cards I recommend adding to each of the decks, when playing against an unknown deck over Xbox Live. I will give each card a rating as explained below, and then discuss it's pros and cons.

Y = Yes, definitely include this card. Stick to just these for the most streamlined and efficient deck, in my opinion.
Y? = Leaning towards yes, but I have some concerns.
N? = Leaning towards no, but a case could be made for it's inclusion
N = No, definitely don't include this card.
Y* = Generally this card is worth including but it's effectiveness depends on certain match-ups.
N* = Generally this card isn't worth including, but if certain decks are popular at the time it may be worth including as a counter-measure.

I never condone the use of life-gain artifacts, so they are missing from all the lists. For a discussion of why this is, please see my other guide "improving your playing skills".

I have been playing on Xbox Live using a variety of decks with the decklists I recommend and have been pleased with their performance and my rank.

I have arranged the cards for each deck roughly in the order in which I consider you should include them, starting with the most important, and ending with the least important. Remember to consider, even if you're not following what I recommend putting in, the mana costs of each and whether you'll get a 'bottleneck' at a certain mana cost by comparing with your core cards.


Eyes of Shadow (B)

Royal Assassin: Y
Except for a few creatures, this guy pretty much stops the opponent cold with attackers for just 3 mana. He kills an attacking creature before it gets near you, then in your turn untaps and can kill one of the others. Most of the time this is too harsh for the opponent to consider attacking. He is very fragile at just 1/1, but he's worth it for the times he survives. You have 2 Raise Dead which can be put to good use if he gets killed and cheaply get him back on the board. He is perfect for this deck as he forces your opponent to a standstill while they slowly die to your other nasty things such as Underworld Dreams and The Rack.

Corrupt: Y
One of the stars of the deck, and worth including even at the expensive price tag. It has the ability to take out a huge creature or badly hurt an opponent while getting you back in the game, especially as this deck often takes an initial beating. It does to some degree duplicate the Drain Essences in the deck, but it is more effective once you hit 6 mana and gives another way to handle black and artifact creatures.

Mind Shatter: Y
Hugely powerful, for those old enough to remember Mind Twist this is only one more mana than that and still awesome. The random discard element means the opponent doesn't get to hide their best cards like with Mind Rot, and with enough mana behind it you can easily empty the remains of their hand. This can then clear the way for anything you want to cast, knowing they have to top-deck ways to deal with it. Also the weapon of choice against Thoughts of Wind and Mind of Void, if you can get this past the counterspells you are bound to win.

Hideous End: Y
This is another efficient creature control spell, with a better range of targets than Terror since it can kill artifact creatures. The 2 life loss isn't a huge deal, but is always a nice bonus. Obviously this is going to be completely useless in the mirror match as are the terrors, but still very useful against Relics of Doom as it can take out Master of Etherium, Platinum Angel, Sharding Sphinx, Razormane Masticore etc.

Nekrataal: Y*
This guy fits very nicely into the deck to come down after your Mind Rot, take away their big creature and be able to stop any weenies that made it down early. Getting him killed deliberately can be an option if you have a Raise Dead, just to cast him again and kill another creature if you're desperate. Obviously against B or B/U he has nothing he can kill, making him not completely useless like terror, but not very good either. Against a random deck I feel it is worth the risk as against every other deck it is effective creature control and card advantage. I dropped him from the Bolas matchup as he only has two targets in the whole deck (2x Flameblast Dragon). You could hedge your bets by just including one of these if you're worried about a lot of B and B/U being around.

Dread: Y?
A little too expensive. Same argument as the Evincar, although this is in my opinion a much closer call. It is a beast of a creature that can win the game while stopping you from losing at the same time. I give the nod to Corrupt since it can always be relied on to make a comeback, whereas Dread does nothing if you are almost dead and a final attack and/or direct damage can finish you still. Also Dread's offensive is shut down badly against B and B/U. It's really close, but to keep costs down I decided to keep the Corrupt and lose a third 6 mana spell. Royal Assassin can do the job of stopping attackers just as well or better, and you already have a lot of finisher creatures and ways of winning. If you are happy to run three 6 mana spells, I would choose this ahead of the Evincar (and certainly wouldn't play all 4!) as it is usually more decisive and also works better against B and B/U. You could replace Corrupt if you want more of a creature-based strategy, and it does provide an answer to the biggest thorns in this deck's side, Paladin en-Vec and Voice of All.

Xathrid Demon: N?
He's a scary guy for sure. But this deck already has Nightmare as a reliable 6 mana finisher, Dread available who is much less risky and can be almost as effective, and the amazing Corrupt all competing for the 6 mana slot. On the plus side, you will probably have Drudge Skeletons around since they tend to survive rather well, for easy feeding. This is going to sit in your hand for a lot of the time though, when you first get to 6 mana you're unlikely to want to lay him down unless you're already dominating the board. The other 6 mana spells can be reliably cast straight away and with no downside, I think he's not worth the risk. And if the opponent decides to kill off his potential food, you really are in trouble.

Deathmark: N*
Quite simple, very effective against decks with green or white creatures, useless against the others. Including it is a gamble, and I prefer not to with this deck as you have plenty of other reliable creature removal options.

Mortivore: N
You already have 4 Drudge Skeletons, this guy is too much like them and unreliable. By turn 4 there may be no creatures in graveyards making him worse than a drudge. Later in the game you have plenty of other decent attackers as well. Your discard can lead to the opponent dropping creatures, combined with an early Terror he has the potential to come out large and scary, but it's a gamble.

Crowd of Cinders: N
This creature relies on you already having loads of things in play, in which case you are probably doing well enough to not need this. And if you get to turn 4 with none or only 1 black permanent in play, you get a poor deal. You have Severed Legion already which is similar and cheaper, and this is rubbish against Eyes of Shadow and Relics of Doom. There are enough evasion creatures already.

Ascendant Evincar: N
Too expensive. This is not a big mana deck, and the game can often be over before you find your sixth swamp. So you don't want too many expensive spells that may choke your hand at the start. Since you already have Nightmare in the deck and Corrupt being (in my opinion) the best of the available 6 mana spells you can add, any more are too risky. Specifically, it is a powerful creature that can make a big difference in a long game, but I don't feel the deck needs this. You already have many ways to deal with creatures, and lots of roads to victory. Also it's not as good against any deck with black. If you are happy to have a third 6 mana spell, or want to replace Corrupt, this guy can turn the field in your favour, particularly with regard to your flying creatures while the Drudge Skeletons hold off ground troops.

Soot Imp: N
This deck has plenty of different damage sources which eventually nibble the opponent to death, and this one isn't very scary. It also hurts you when you cast artifacts. When you hit 3 mana you want to be casting Mind Rot, not this. Also rubbish against decks with black.

Cunning Lethemancer: N
This guy sounds like he would be good in this deck, but I'm unconvinced that he will be in reality. The deck doesn't have enough ways of capitalising on the discards from the opponent for it to be worth the exact same effect on you. And since your other discard will probably empty their hand to lower than yours, the effect will end up being worse on you, especially as this is a slow control deck.

Hollowborn Barghest: N
Too expensive. I feel 7 mana is too much for this deck, and this certainly doesn't do enough to justify its cost. It also replicates The Rack to some extent, and its big non-trampling body will most likely be chump blocked for a long time.

Megrim: N
The two copies in the core deck I don't like much anyway, I would trade them out given the chance. They seem like they fit the deck well, but I think generally the deck doesn't need them, and certainly doesn't need a third copy. Early on you'd much rather be casting Mind Rot than Megrim, especially if you have more discard you want to use before the opponent can empty their hand. Later on it's no use if their hand is empty. It's best use is in combination with The Rack, by avoiding rack damage by collecting cards they are setting themselves up for Megrim damage when you force them to discard. Most of the time they don't quite earn their keep in the deck, and adding another really isn't a good idea.

Plague Wind: N
Way too expensive for this deck. More times than not it will just clog up your hand.

Onyx Goblet: N
The deck already has lots of recurring damage sources, and this is just a worse version of Underworld Dreams for this deck. Rely on what is already in the core for this, if you get too many things that don't address the game situation you will be out-raced to victory by creatures.


DLC 3 cards


Escaped Null: N*


I don't like this card much. On the offence he is poor, 1 damage a turn for 4 mana is bad even if the opponent doesn't want to block it for fear of your life gain. On defence, he can deter weenies from attacking, but he can't even stop a Youthful Knight, and he is likely to die after just one block. Although you gain life for that, I'm more than happy with the 4 Drudge Skeletons already present which can block time and time again and are much cheaper. Also, this guy is competing at the 4 mana mark with Nekrataal, and with such a strong core deck, you'd really have to consider taking out one of them for this Null. And I doubt anyone would think about doing that. I'd only consider including him if you expect to face a lot of black (vampires?) where he may be useful as a speed bump where Nekrataal may come up short.


Liliana's Specter: N?


This is a fairly nice creature, and is obviously strictly better than the Dusk Imps already in the deck, but with as many as 13 spells at the 3 mana mark (once you've put in Royal Assassin) this is going to add to the bottleneck. It does fit the theme really well and it is kind of painful to have to leave it out, but I think it's kind of a redundant addition given that it's a cross between one of the 4 Ravenous Rats and the 4 Mind Rots already present, and Mind Shatter is by far preferable to this. Given core card substitution this would obviously go in however. This is another example of how the strange 'deck editing' in this game leads to good cards being left out just for deck size purposes.


Pestilence Demon: N


With the decks in the game, such as this one, that rely on the basic 40% land with no other help or mana fetchers, usually 6 mana is your cut off point. And you don't want too many at 6 mana. 7 mana is a big stretch, and the card needs to have game-swinging potential to justify it (such as Mass Calcify). 8 mana is just a no-no, pretty much no matter how good the card is. This will be great once it's out and working, but the times that will happen are not worth the majority of the time where it sits uselessly in your hand while you get beaten up, where it could have been a cheaper spell that made an impact on the game.


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Teeth of the predator (G)

Troll Ascetic: Y
This is probably the best creature in the game all round. Cheap, hard hitting, extremely hard to kill, and you still get to boost him up with Blanchwood Armor, Giant Growth and Loxodon War Hammer while the opponent has to suck it up. Excellent on attack and defence, only a few cards can kill him and some of them rely on you being tapped out (such as Earthquake). You want as many of these as possible.

Loxodon War Hammer: Y
This is an awesome card in almost any creature deck, and works very well here. Once on Troll Ascetic, it's really hard for the opponent to do very much. And you can safely put it on anything you like unlike Blanchwood Armor, since it sticks around if the creature dies. The life gain keeps you ahead in the race and lets you worry less about defence and direct damage. The trample helps you punch through, and even if you put it on a little creature that they can block and kill, the increased power usually means you kill the blocker and still do some damage. You can then stick it on another creature and repeat next turn. The only drawback is it is quite mana intensive.

Hurricane: Y
Well, its the very first removal spell for this deck! Very welcome. And also the first direct damage, meaning the opponent now has to worry that you can finish them off after combat which you never could before. Against the decks with lots of fliers this is devastating and can easily win the game just by clearing out multiple creatures at once without touching yours. Even with no fliers around, it's worth it to finish the game when you have done a lot of early damage, and if things are going badly you can use it to force a draw by killing both players.

Howl of the Night Pack: Y?
This is expensive and has a lack of synergy as it doesn't work with Elvish Piper. This is an awesome spell though. If you do get to cast it you will usually win, and it is awesome when followed by Overrun. But I find the amount of times it sits in your hand early when you really need to develop make it questionable, as speed is all important with this deck. It is a better choice for a third 7 mana spell than Molimo because it is an alternative way to win rather than another big single creature. It's very hard to deal with without some mass removal.

Vigor: Y?
This creature is pretty crazy, his stats alone virtually make him worth including in the deck. His ability means you can attack with all your other creatures from the turn he comes into play, and either they get through or they are blocked, take no damage and get bigger. At six mana his huge change in the game to your advantage is surely worth it. My only concern is he is drawing away from the main combo of the deck (Troll Ascetic and Blanchwood Armor/Loxodon Warhammer).

Elvish Piper: Y?
This little guy works really well in this deck, you have a lot of creatures for him to put down and since you can do it at any time, the opponent will be scared to attack you in case you drop down a Duskdale Wurm after they declared their attackers. Also the huge cost reduction lets you get more creatures out in a hurry. There are enough costly creatures to keep this guy busy and make him worth it, also leaving you mana for Giant Growth and Loxodon Warhammer etc. There will be times though when you can afford to cast your creatures anyway, or don't draw a big creature for him to plop down, and then he's a very poor deal for his mana.

Blanchwood Armor: N?
This is a tricky one. As with all creature enchantments, it is a risk to play in case the creature then gets killed. However, it provides a huge breakthrough boost and is part of the best combo in the deck when you have a Troll Ascetic to put it on. I choose to leave extra copies out since you are likely to play more of the decks with creature removal, and unless you do find a troll to put it on, the 2 for 1 loss is too risky. You already have 2 in the core deck, and also if you add more than that there's the risk of drawing 2 in your opening hand and not enough creatures, which you can't afford. I prefer to put in the 2 Loxodon Warhammers as they are more reliable. If you are concentrating on the armor/troll combo, an argument could be made for putting all copies in.

Bestial Menace: N?
This is like a baby version of Howl of the Night Pack. If you are including Beastmaster Ascension this does have good synergy with it as all 3 tokens can quickly rack up your quest counters. Otherwise, it's probably a less effective but cheaper alternative to Howl of the Night Pack; but with four Spined Wurms already taking up 5 mana slots I'd be inclined to wait a little longer and go for the almost guaranteed win of the Howl rather than the intermediate and not as scary three tokens. But if you want to make your deck focus more on speed, this could be a reasonable replacement.

Primeval Light: N?
This is a close call. Some decks have no enchantments, some have a few which are barely worth worrying about, and some have lots of terrifying ones. I did a little analysis on this, and here's the results-

0=Useless
1=Some use but limited
2=Good
3=Really good

Ratings versus each deck-

Mirror 2:This is very good for opposing Armors.
Hands of Flame 1: Good if people are using Furnace of Rath and/or Rage Reflection... most people seem to.
Wings of Light 3: Devastating! Pacifisms and Glorious Anthems all go bye bye.
Eyes of Shadow 2: Good, deals with Underworld Dreams, Megrim and Unholy Strength (which is probably on a flyer).
Thoughts of Wind 1: Not great, insurance against the 1 Persuasion.
Claws of Vengeance 3: Very good, deals with Pacifisms and Pariah.
Ears of the Elves 0: Does nothing.
Scales of Fury 1: OK, deals with Dragon Roost and less importantly Fervor.
Relics of Doom 0: Does nothing.
Cries of Rage 0: Does nothing.
Mind of Void 3: Devastating! Kills Memory Erosions and Persuasions.
Heat of Battle 1: OK, it has a few optional pesky enchantments.
Heart of Worlds 0: Just Sunspring Expeditions which aren't very scary.
Eons of Evil 0: Does nothing.

Total: 17
Average: 1.2

Conclusion- this gives an average against a random opponent nearer to OK than good, and from that I would say it doesn't make the grade. However, if the field you expect to face is heavy with the decks that it is really effective against from the above statistics, then it would be worth including.

Mirri, Cat Warrior: N*
She's a bit of a funny cat. Turning up in this deck and the new Cries of Rage, she looks really good with all those abilities. I'd say that against any green deck she will earn her keep, the rest of the time I think she is not quite good enough to justify the cost and deck dilution. I prefer not to gamble so I leave her out as against the non-green decks she doesn't fit with the game plan and is just another pretty good creature. You already have a lot of 3 mana creatures to play, most of which will usually be preferable, and she could cause a bottleneck in your mana curve. If you expect to face a lot of green, then you could certainly include her.

Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer: N
He is too similar to the 2 Duskdale Wurms (he is better but not considerably so), and adding a third 7 mana creature is risky in case you draw too many early and they choke your hand. Rely on the 2 wurms in the main deck.

Karplusan Strider: N
Even when you face a black or blue deck, he is still similar to Troll Ascetic and generally not as good. The rest of the time he's just reasonable stats for his cost, which is not enough to dilute the deck with.

Roughshod Mentor: N
You already have 2 Overrun which generally work better than this guy. Also you already have 2 Craw Wurms as poor 6 mana creatures, this makes it a third. The continuous trample is useful, but I don't feel it justifies the poor stats. Rely on the Overruns. He does help the troll/armor combo by making him trample all the time.

Beastmaster Ascension: N
This sounds really good, but I don't think you'll come to terms with how many times 7 is until you try to finish this quest. More often than not this is not going to get all it's counters, and if it does you may well have won anyway. The deck isn't fast enough, or able to create enough creatures to take advantage of it without suicidal attacks. And it works against your Troll/Armour/Hammer combo as the Troll really doesn't need any more help than that and can kill someone in less than 7 strikes even with some chump blocking.

Verdant Force: N
Although this is a big mana deck, getting to 8 is a reach and it has to be really worth it. I don't feel this guy is. Most of the time I'd settle for the 2 Duskdale Wurms already present. It does combo well with Elvish Piper if you get that lucky. Good in the really long game as his little guys will like an Overrun.


DLC3 cards


Leatherback Baloth: N?


This is certainly an awesome creature, one of the most efficient ever printed. It cries out to be included and of course would make it to the core deck if it was possible. But the deck already has a huge bottleneck at three mana. After including both Troll Ascetics and Loxodon Warhammers from the unlocks, you have a total of 14 spells at three mana. To include this one would only be sensible if you cut one of those, ie a hammer or a troll. And since this deck relies almost totally on the troll/hammer/armor win condition, that would be a mistake I feel.

Garruk's Companion: N?
This suffers from similar problems to the above. It's an amazingly efficient creature, but it isn't worth the dilution from the troll strategy. It's basically an extra powered up Grizzly Bears, and having 4 of them already in the deck I feel this is unnecessary.


Kalonian Behemoth: N?


This creature is a scary prospect, but it sadly doesn't fit very well into this deck. The core deck already has two Duskdale Wurms at 7 mana and this doesn't match up to Howl of the Night Pack as a finisher, so a fourth 7 mana spell would be risky. It has a lack of synergy as the shroud is a double edged sword. You can't use Giant Growth, Blanchwood Armor or Loxodon Warhammer on it. It's going to get repeatedly chump-blocked, and probably even the Duskdale Wurm would do more damage on average. It's really hard to kill for the opponent for sure, but this is more likely to clog up your hand on top of the other big spells and dilute your main strategy.


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Hands of Flame ( R )

Blaze: Y
Not as good as the old staples such as Fireball, but it's certainly good enough to make the cut. Versatile with targets and with mana, and can easily be the finishing blow. Your opponent has to respect you being able to finish them from quite a high life total.

Incinerate: Y
One of the all time best burn spells. Note that the creature doesn't have to be killed just by the incinerate to stop it regenerating, for example a 4/4 Mortivore that has taken 1 damage already can be killed with an Incinerate and it can't regenerate.

Earthquake: Y
Alright! Another great addition for this deck. Although it will most likely kill all your creatures (except the useless flying goblins) you won't care as the opponent's will almost certainly be better. Damaging yourself is usually not a problem either as you tend to deal a lot of damage in short order with this deck and this can be the finishing blow.

Goblin Artillery: Y
This is a carbon copy of one of my old favourite cards, Orcish Artillery (except it's a goblin now of course which is good for this deck). Most people dislike it because it does more damage to you than the other person. I disagree, most of the time it's more than worth it, especially in this deck. The creatures you have available are pretty miserable and getting them through the opponent's defenses to get the quick damage you want can be hard, with the limited amount of burn this deck actually has. But this guy can repeatedly get rid of blockers, and bigger ones than the Prodigal Pyromancer can remove. Since your opponent is usually fighting off your initial fury, he probably won't have touched your life total much and you shouldn't care about hurting yourself a bit to further your plans. Also, once you've done enough damage to get considerably ahead on life, you can afford to trade 3 life for 2 every turn and quickly end the game. His 3 toughness means he's pretty decent on defence too, and can even take out a three toughness creature if it comes to it by blocking it and then tapping to use it's ability. Believe me, this guy is really good for this deck, I speak from experience. Try him out, and don't be scared to damage yourself as long as it's not obviously stupid in the current situation.

Kamahl, Pit Fighter: Y
I've also changed my mind about this card, I think he's the best 6 mana spell for the deck, and if you're going to use just one this should be it. Even if he gets killed straight away, he'll be able to at least do some damage or take out an annoying creature. And if he doesn't get killed, usually you'll win the game pretty easily. He's very versatile too, if they happen to have no creatures available to block, he can be straight in the for 6 damage. Or he can take out a pithy creature that's causing you bother right away. And in a desperate situation he can block and kill most ground creatures while tapping to take out another attacker before he goes down.

Goblin Chieftan: Y
This guy is very welcome too, and teams up well with the above chap. 2/2 haste for 3 mana is reasonably good anyhow, boosting all your goblins (who you have to live with on the whole as they are in the core deck) and giving them haste is great. We've all had the games where the Goblin King dropped down and made all our initial goblins quite scary and overwhelmed the opponent; now you have another one and usually he's even better.

Bloodmark Mentor: Y
Since this deck probably has the weakest creature base of all decks, this guy is very useful in evening the odds a bit. He does give himself first strike too which is handy, but you're usually best leaving him out of combat if there's a chance he'll get killed. It's best to play your other creatures before him given the choice, since as soon as he hits the table he takes effect and the bigger creatures you cast will benefit instantly. The first strike also works well with enrage and direct damage to take out big creatures before they can hit back.

Threaten: Y?
This is not a card I usually like due to it being strictly offensive and usually only for damaging players, but I feel this deck is aggressive enough that the temporary lack of blocker coupled with the incoming huge creature you steal can give you enough of a tempo advantage to steal the game. They may have to chump block their own creature for fear of your direct damage finishing them off, which then evens out the card advantage while still getting the blocker out of the way. Since your creatures suck so much this can be a big deal.

Razormane Masticore: Y?
The red deck needed a lot of help, and this goes some way to doing that. He's just awesome, you'll be happy to chuck cards to most likely kill a creature every turn, and he is hard to stop in combat. This give you a reason to store up and make use of extra lands, and you can also ditch mediocre cards to this guy. The drawbacks are that it may stop you working mana up for a 6 mana spell or a big Blaze, and you may end up having to ditch cards you don't want to. Also if he's the only artifact you put in you turn on the opponent's Naturalises etc.

Cinder Pyromancer: N?
I initially wasn't sure about this guy, but I think as this deck is probably the most aggressive one in the game, the hard-to-stop damage can be an asset. Usually the opponent has to deal with this guy or will slowly but surely lose. However due to the DLC2 cards that fit in well to the deck, I feel he should fall to the sidelines.

Seismic Assault: N?
I've come to change my opinion about this card. Although it is awesome for sure, it causes a lot of problems. You will probably be including at least one 6 mana spell, and you want to get mana up for your Earth Elementals, Blaze etc. Unless you get extremely mana flooded, you often won't be able to afford to throw much land to this and you end up having to make difficult decisions. I've found it best to take it out and not worry about keeping land back for it.

Claws of Valakut: N?
I have a real problem with auras, as you may have noticed. This one is pretty damn decent though, it packs a huge punch, and since it's mono red it counts all your land just like Blanchwood Armor does in green. However, as always you run the risk of losing 2 cards for 1 if the opponent kills your creature, especially as this does nothing to make the creature harder to kill (with a spell). Also you don't have that many evasion creatures so the creature may get chump blocked a lot. But when this works it will be brutal, which will be best when the opponent is tapped out. I think the other two new cards overshadow it slightly and deserve the space more for consistency.

Hostility: N?
Kamahl is usually better, this guy has a big body but can still be chump blocked easily. The damage into creatures ability sounds good and sometimes it could be, but I think you'll usually want your damage to be instant and hard to stop, whereas the elementals that come into play can be blocked and interfered with with the likes of Holy Day. He is however one of the few creatures with decent stats for his cost and fits in with the haste theme. Also he sometimes combos amazingly with direct damage, most notably Lava Axe.

Shivan Dragon: N?
The classic firebreathing smasher. As this deck is extremely fast and low on mana, getting to 6 mana is a stretch and has to be worth it. If he doesn't get killed, he will usually finish off your charred opponent in short order. However I feel the other 6 mana options in this deck have a more immediate impact.

Furnace of Rath: N*
I know I'm in the minority here as everyone seems to love this. I feel that the cruddy creatures in this deck won't make enough use of this, and it will most likely benefit the opponent more. You often won't dare cast it as it makes their big creatures that you already have trouble dealing with too scary. It's unreliable, you usually have to be winning already and have several tricks saved up for it to be worth casting. When you're losing, you're probably not even going to cast it. That's not good enough to take a slot. There's not enough direct damage in here to make it worth it, especially as other decks pack Incinerate and the like and will get first pop thanks to the 4 mana you sink into it which is a lot for this deck. It could be good if you're expecting to face a lot of slow decks like Thoughts of Wind and Mind of Void.

Cyroclasm: N*
Putting this is against a random deck isn't a very good idea as it can easily be worthless. Even when you are facing blue or white, I don't feel it is quite worth it, since it will be the only land destruction that you have. The 3 damage is OK, but not huge for the cost. It doesn't fit with the theme of the deck. It can potentially cause a lot of trouble if the opponent is mana screwed, but you really have to draw this early in the game for it to be of much use. It would be best applied against a multicolour deck to try and mess with their colours, but against a general deck it's not worth the risk.

Rage Reflection: N
If you're going for a 6 mana spell, Kamahl is a much better choice. More than one 6 mana spells is asking for trouble. This does nothing on it's own, and since your creatures are so miserable, if they haven't done their job by the time this comes out you are probably in a poor situation. Lack of trample creatures makes chump blocking too easy. It can work well in the long game to break a creature stalemate.

Shivan Hellkite: N
7 is definitely too much for this deck, and although he is cool, he's not significantly better than Shivan Dragon and generally I'd rather have Kamahl also. More often than not he will sit useless in your hand.


DLC 3 cards


Lightning Bolt: Y - Replace Bloodmark Mentor


The most efficient direct damage ever made. It's obviously overpowered, I was really surprised when it was reprinted. You generally want to use your other lesser direct damage spells first to save this for when it's most needed. Even by casting an Incinerate when you have the mana to spare instead of this (unless the opponent's deck has significant regenerating creatures), you can save this for the 'kill turn' where it will only use up 1 of your mana.


Chandra's Outrage: Y - As the core deck is so poor and badly needs burn, I'd make an exception and just add this one in!


This is a nice addition to the deck, a way of killing large creatures that the deck struggles with, and the 2 damage to the opponent is important in such an aggressive deck. Remember you don't need to kill the creature to get the damage to the opponent, they may have just cast a huge creature that you can't kill, but you can cast this during their turn targetting the creature anyway to deal them 2 damage, and untap to kill them in your turn if you have the firepower.


Conquering Manticore: Y - Replace Kamahl, Pit Fighter


This is an excellent dual threat of a stolen creature attacking (plus your creatures not having to worry about that creature blocking), followed by a permanent huge flyer. This is good whether you are winning or losing, and is much better than Shivan Dragon and I think preferable to the Pit Fighter for the 6 mana spot. You'll usually want to cast this ASAP, but it is perfect just after your opponent lays a big creature.

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
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Duels of the Planeswalkers (original version) guide [part 2]
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Thoughts of Wind (U)

Thieving Magpie: Y
This is a very useful creature. Assuming he survives and there are no flying blockers, you get a free card every turn without even having to pay any mana. Basically if this continues for a few turns, you will usually out-draw the opponent to the point where you are too far ahead. Eventually you can protect it with countermagic, and unless you're on the brink of death that will spell victory. You can always unsummon/boomerang a blocker and attack to draw a card to not lose card advantage. I advise a limit of two magpies to stop a bottleneck of 4 mana creatures in your hand (since you have 4 Snapping Drake in the core deck).

Sphinx of Lost Truth: Y
This deck did really well with DLC2 I think. This is another great card, of tournament quality. Especially with so many dud cards in the core deck, this gives you a chance to swap them for 3 new cards while gaining a great blocker and a threat; and if you can afford it you don't even have to discard anything. If you need him as a blocker and have bad cards in your hand, go ahead and cast him ASAP. If you can hold off, then it's worth waiting a couple of turns to be able to pay the kicker as well. Either way, this guy will improve your deck. Sadly this card is currently bugged, if you don't pay the kicker you don't discard all the 3 cards you select, just 1 of them. This makes him almost broken, but sadly still doesn't help this deck enough, and I hope this is fixed soon.

Evacuate: Y
This is the closest thing this deck has to a sweeper, and used at the right time it can totally change the flow of the game. It's best used in your opponent's turn when they have tapped out, especially if they have enchanted or boosted their creatures. You'll then get to untap first, lay creatures back and hold mana for countering the most important threats. I think having this second copy is worthwhile as you can so easily get overrun at the start of the game, and this lets you play catchup. The opponent often won't have enough mana in this case to recast all the guys they have dropped. Probably just 1 is enough to allow for the new decent DLC2 cards.

Divination: Y
2 cards for 3 mana, quite simple. That's a good deal, either initially, even if you have to tap out to search for more land, a blocker or some countermagic, or later in the game where you can easily pay the 3 mana and have loads left for your countermagic. I would suggest using this ahead of Mind Spring since it's much easier to use.

Into the Roil: Y
This is a powerful card, and much needed in this deck. Once permanents have come into play, this deck has very few ways to deal with them. And for a horrible enchantment like Underworld Dreams which can wreck this deck, you only have the two Boomerangs and they almost always cost you card advantage. This card can be equally as good as a Boomerang (unless you're trying to stunt land development) but can recover the card advantage when you can afford it. Beware though that this card is currently bugged, it can crash the game if kicked against a human opponent.

Mind Spring: N?
For those who've been playing as long as me you'll realise this card is WOTC getting around promising never to reprint cards such as Braingeyser by reprinting it with a different name. It was restricted in type 1 for a long time, since drawing cards is probably the single most powerful thing you can do in Magic. The only problem with this deck is that you don't want to tap out as you don't have any removal to use once you untap. But as long as you have a Boomerang or Unsummon, or better yet a Persuasion, you can tap out fairly safely knowing you can deal with a big threat. It's strength is it's versatility, although it gets more and more effective as you pump more mana into it. Early in the game it can help you hunt for much needed land. In the late game you may consider leaving some mana back to play a counterspell that you will hopefully draw or already have in hand. However, I feel that with the new DLC2 cards this can be replaced now.

Mahamoti Djinn: N?
Until very late game, you will almost certainly have to tap out to play him, which is something you want to avoid at all costs with this deck. You have enough offense and defense already in the deck, and he doesn't add anything different. Most of the time he will clog your hand early. He is however a decent deal for his cost, and is especially trouble for decks that try and kill him with direct damage due to his high toughness. If he survives he will almost certainly rule the skies, and be able to block and kill almost anything.

Counterbore: N?
On the whole I feel the extra mana it costs is not worth the advantage of removing cards. Often by that stage duplicates would have been played already, and many powerful cards that are unlocked and added are singletons anyway. Rely on your powerful set of core counterspells. If you want to play even more defensively with more countermagic, and use this to focus on removing key aspects of the opponent's deck.

Flash Freeze: N*
Pretty straightforward. Including it is a gamble, and I'd rather rely on the core counterspells which will always work. If you're expecting to face a lot of green though, this would be very effective.

Flow of Ideas: N*
You already have magpies, Tidings and Mind Spring, and this is less flexible and usually requires you to tap out. It will often cause you to discard a bunch of cards too after you use it. If you are focusing heavily on card drawing/advantage you could consider it. Especially in the mirror match or against Mind of Void this could win the game, but it could just as easily get countered then leave you open for the opponent to cast what they like.

Put Away: N
Same argument as for Counterbore, again the extra effect is not worth the mana.

Denizen of the Deep: N
This is way too much mana for this deck, and doesn't fit in at all. If you do manage to cast it you'll most likely be tapped out and then have only 1 blocker and will probably get killed. Not good as a finisher as it's not got trample. Just rely on your fliers, and your other defensive creatures which you will actually be able to cast.


DLC 3 cards


Summoner's Bane: N?


I feel this spell is too narrow and slow for this deck. By the time you hit 4 mana you are usually more concerned with the creatures that are already beating you up than those still to come. I'd rather rely on the 2 Remove Souls, the 2/2 token is handy but isn't going to last long against the abuse this deck takes. It will give a reasonable edge against other slow decks, but against any aggressive deck this isn't going to cut it.


Sphinx of Magosi: Y - Remove one Evacuate


Wow, finally an awesome creature for this deck. Obviously insultingly better than the Mahamoti Djinn, this one is actually worth the investment. If this doesn't die, you are pretty much guaranteed to win the game on card draw alone. I'd recommend using his ability in the opponent's turn while your mana is sparse, after they have attacked and cast most things they are likely to. Once you have more mana you can start using it in your turn and still have resources for countermagic.


Jace's Erasure: N


This is rather an insult to this deck. It's "theme" of decking the opponent, which is one pointless Memory Erosion, has probably worked about once or twice in every million games. If this should be anywhere it would be in Mind of Void, but I wouldn't even bother with it there. This is a waste of time.


Wings of Light (W)

Wrath of God: Y
This is quite simply one of the best control cards ever printed. It is unbelievably cheap for it's effect; it removes every single creature, including those with shroud or regeneration, all for just 4 mana. Obviously it has the down side that it also does the same to your creatures. The power of this card is that you decide when to use it. If you are winning and have a better creature position, obviously you don't use it unless the game turns and you get overwhelmed instead. But if you are losing, if the opponent gets a quick start or kills loads of your creatures, this is the ultimate catch-up card, and in a lot of situations the only card that can save you. It takes a lot of practice to work out the best time to play this card; often you can pretend that you're low on creatures and are trying to survive the barrage of never-ending creatures the opponent puts out, where in fact you're storing creatures in your hand and stalling the opponent as long as you can, waiting for them to overextend a little more so you can wipe out all their creatures in one go and hopefully have mana left to straight away lay down some creatures to the now empty field.

Baneslayer Angel: Y
I actually hate this card, just because it's so obviously ridiculously overpowered. But of course you should use it. If you cast this and it doesn't get killed, it becomes almost impossible for you to lose the game. With first strike she will rarely ever get killed in combat, provides an almost impenetrable line of defense that keeps you alive as it kills creatures, and you can even attack knowing you will take damage back, with the 5 life gain from lifelink it can often be enough that you win anyway. Just ludicrous!

Purity: Y
This is a really great card, and since the deck already has 4 Angel of Mercy at the 5 mana slot along with Baneslayer Angel and Serra Angel, this fits nicely at the top end for 6 mana. The stats are great for the mana along with flying, and it leaves you virtually unkillable by direct damage. The only things that can get around it are things that make you lose life such as Onyx Goblet; it doesn't count as damage so Purity doesn't stop it. But on the whole, you are burn-protected. With such a big body it can quickly smash the opponent out. If it does get killed it gets reshuffled, giving you the chance it will come round again. That's not as big a deal as it seems, but it's a nice bonus nonetheless.

Mass Calcify: Y*
Although this is expensive at 7 mana, this can often be as simple as 'I win'. If you've both got a lot of creatures out and you can land this spell, chances are you will then win the ensuing one-sided fist fight very quickly. It can turn the whole strategy of the deck into "survive until I draw a Mass Calcify then I should win". It is match-up dependent though. In the mirror match it is a dead card, and against other decks with white in it is seriously reduced in power. Remember it won't kill multicoloured cards with white mana symbols in their cost such as Wooly Thoctar, they are a red, green and white creature, so are not non-white. But I think it's generally worth it for it's effectiveness against most of the field. You may consider dropping down to one of these to allow for the new DLC2 cards. As a compromise I have been playing just one of these and that's been working quite well.

Kor Sanctifiers: Y
You need to have some enchantment/artifact control, and this fits in really nicely. 2/3 for 3 mana isn't too bad even without the kicker, but you'll likely want to save it until you can kill something too unless you figure out the deck you're playing against has nothing to worry about.

Dispeller's Capsule: Y
Ditto, not quite as good but it will do. If you cast it early it gets past countermagic and saves you a mana later; however it will be vulnerable to Naturalize etc.

Excommunicate: Y?
This is a really versatile spell. You may wonder what's good about it if the opponent gets to draw their creature again next turn, the important thing is the situation you use it in. Don't ever use it on a small, non-threatening creature unless it's really important to get an attacker through. It's best used on as big a creature as possible, as this will slow the opponent down the most. If they want to recast it, they have to pay the big cost again next turn. It will be great against Eons of Evil because a Hidden Horror coming into play again will mean another creature will have to be discarded, and a big creature brought back with Zombify may not be castable if it ends up back in their hand. Also remember this will get rid of any enchantments on the creature. In extreme circumstances it could be used on your own creature that has been enchanted with Pacifism so you get to cast it again. I've had some issues with the card however, as this is such a slow and defensive deck this card favours an attacking strategy, and can sometimes only serve as a stalling tactic.

Serra Angel: N?
She used to be an auto-include before DLC2, but Baneslayer Angel is almost always superior, so for streamlining the deck I would say play either just the Serra or Purity alongside Baneslayer, and Purity is usually a little better and fits the mana curve. However she is still awesome, and if you are preferring a heavy creature-based strategy, you can't go wrong with her. Great for attack and defense, at the same time, due to vigilance.

Paladin en-Vec: N*
This guy can cause havoc against some decks, even multicolour ones like Scales of Fury that Voice of All can't. Once pumped up against those decks it's usually lethal. But it's a risk to include, it's not terrible against other colours, but 2/2 first strike isn't that great either for 3 mana. Put it in only if you're confident you'll be facing red and/or black a lot, or if you are concentrating on speedy creatures.

Voice of All: N*
I used to always love this card, but since more decks have been added, the usefulness of this has dropped. It's only completely effective against a mono deck, and that's now 6 out of 14 playable decks. Against the others you have to pick one of their colours; it's vulnerable to creatures and removal from their other colours. I'd prefer to stick with the better reliable unlock creatures, unless you're confident you'll going to face a lot of mono decks. It can still be lethal against them. As a compromise I have been playing just one of these and that's been working quite well.

Serra's Embrace: N*
I don't feel this aura does enough to justify it's cost and the ever-present risk of losing two cards for one if the creature gets killed. That said, if you think you are likely to face lots of direct damage decks such as Hands of Flame, Cries of Rage and Heat of Battle, these decks have trouble dealing with pumped up creatures as they rely on dealing damage to destroy creatures. Putting this on a creature may put it out of range of their spells, at least for a few turns, and if you manage to put this on a Voice of All with protection from red it pretty much spells doom.

Luminesce: N*
I wouldn't generally include this as it's too specific and utterly useless if the opponent isn't playing red or black. Even if they are, sometimes it can be good, but it can often amount to another Holy Day which you already have too many of. There's too many other powerful and important cards which make this marginal; as above though, if you expect to face lots of direct damage, it could be good insurance against a big Blaze.

Skyhunter Skirmisher: N
This guy does actually have good synergy in the deck, due to double strike he kind of doubles any bonuses he gets to his power, Holy Strength for example makes him 2/3 but he'll deal 4 damage to the opponent. Also actually makes Angelic Blessing worthwhile using for once. However, when he doesn't get a pump, which you can't rely on, he amounts to 2/1 flying which is OK but there are too many other important creatures and spells that should go in ahead of this. Also easy pickings for any kind of direct damage with just 1 toughness.

Soul Warden: N
Gaining life can be good, but only if it's a bi-product of something else that's worthwhile. Although he is a fast creature, this deck is nowhere near aggressive enough that a 1/1 creature is going to have any impact on the game after the first few turns; he'll just be sitting there gaining you life. The deck already has loads of ways of gaining life, even in the core deck, you don't need another one that is holding up your better creatures from your hand.

Spirit of the Hearth: N
This guy is alright, but he's just not quite worth the mana in my opinion. His stats are not good for his cost, and his effect is generally covered by the much better Purity. He does stop discard spells such as Mind Rot, but since he is 6 mana you've most likely been hit by lots of discard before you even get him into play.

Reya Dawnbringer: N
It's an amazing ability, and should easily win you the game if she stays in play for several turns. The problem is that in most duels you won't ever get to 9 land, and even if you do, she could have been sitting in your hand for half the game where she could have been a useful cheaper spell that could have been vital earlier. Just too expensive.


DLC 3 cards


Shepherd of the Lost: N


This is quite simply not as good as Serra Angel or Baneslayer Angel. And since the core deck already has 4 Angel of Mercy at the 5 mana slot and you're obviously going to use one or both of the above, there is no place for this underachiever.


Harmless Assault: N


The deck already has way too much defensive cards, you certainly don't need this overcosted one. It's going to have occasional use to make your defenders win out against attackers that suddenly can't hurt them, but a lot of the time this is going to be another really expensive Holy Day.


Luminarch Ascension: N*


This card looks amazing, and indeed does have great potential. But this deck, even defensive as it is, is not reliable enough to achieve the conditions needed to make use of this. Sure there may be some games where you manage it and you win the game from it, but I think that is going to be the vast minority. For one thing, your opponent has 4 whole turns to find a card to destroy this, even if you are achieving your goal every turn. And 4 turns is a long time: if you're managing to stop your opponent doing anything for that long, then you really should be winning anyway by that stage. If you're losing, then this doesn't do anything for 4 turns, and you're probably going to be dead by then. I would only recommend this if you expect to face lots of the slow, plodding decks, but with Elves and Vampires running rampant I wouldn't think that is likely.


Ears of the Elves (B/G)

Imperious Perfect: Y

This guy is just ridiculous. He's as good as an Elvish Champion (except no forestwalk) but his ability to make tokens, each of them 2/2 while he survives, and for just 1 mana, is really hard to deal with. I recommend generally using the ability rather than attacking with him, even if you can get his damage through easily. It's better to accumulate a growing army of 2/2 creatures that exponentially hurt the opponent rather than a straight 2 damage each turn. Of course, if you don't have the mana for the ability as you need it for something else you may as well attack if he isn't likely to get killed. You can usually wait to use the ability in the opponent's turn, there's no need to do it early and commit your resources. Remember you can even drop a token down in the middle of combat, after your opponent has declared attackers, so the token is ready to block.

Elvish Champion: Y

Everyone knows all about this guy... I kind of wish the forestwalk part could be erased from him. It's just not fair on all the green decks; it's pure blind luck that the elf deck comes across a green deck, and are rewarded with a basically unstoppable forestwalking force. He's still great against other decks, the +1/+1 to your elves is huge. Be very careful in the mirror match, if your opponent has more or better elves than you, it could do you more harm than good to cast him. And also beware other decks that have a few elves such as Cries of Rage and Scales of Fury; you will be pumping up those elves and giving them the ability to forestwalk you.

Eyeblight's Ending: Y

This is probably the second best all-round kill spell in the game (to Terminate). Obviously in the mirror match it's almost useless (you can still ditch it to Scarblade), and it can't kill elves in other decks, most notably Cries of Rage. But aside from that, it kills almost every other creature in the game, including the black ones that Terror can't handle. The drawback that they can regenerate is not such a big deal, there are not a huge amount of regenerators out there, and if you can catch them without the mana to regenerate, especially if they just spent mana to regenerate and don't have enough to activate it again, you can jump in and wipe them out while vulnerable. As with all kill spells, use them sparingly and save for the biggest threats.

Immaculate Magistrate: Y

He is one of the biggest threats in this deck, if you're opponent doesn't kill this and you have some breathing room, it's almost impossible to stop you. Although 2/2 for 4 mana is bad, his ability is amazing. Since you have nothing but elves, and lots of fast ones, the amount of counters you're getting each time is huge. And for no mana to activate. If you are on the offensive, there are two main ways to use him well. Firstly, if you are concentrating on getting damage through and have more creatures that the opponent, attack with enough elves so that they can't block them all. After they have chosen blockers, then activate the Magistrate's ability, targetting one of your elves that hasn't been blocked. You can repeat this every turn as long as you have enough creatures to attack with, and the amount of damage getting through is ridiculous. Alternatively, either if you are concentrating on killing your opponent creatures or you don't have enough creatures for the above tactic, activate the ability after blockers have been chosen again, but this time use it to rig a fight so that one of your elves comes out on top, survives and becomes massive. Don't make the mistake of activating this ability too soon, if you do it before blockers are chosen you've blown the gaff and the opponent can make sure they block the now inflated creature if they want to.

Coat of Arms: Y

Another crazy card that catapults this deck into damage other decks can only dream of. Since your whole deck share the same creature type (elves, what did you think?) they are all guaranteed to boost each other. Usually you can safely lay this out and it should help you way more than your opponent. There are things to beware of though. Like Elvish Champion, it can be risky in the mirror match, generally you want to use it only when you have more elves than the opponent. Also against Cries of Rage (which I brand as elves arch nemesis) all the creatures share the type warrior so you have to be watchful of that. Also keep an eye on the other decks, some of their creatures may happen to share a type, remember only one of the types has to match up so a human monk and a human knight will boost each other.

Nath of the Gilt-Leaf: Y

This guy is rather sickening. Possibly the card I dread the most when I play against elves. He is so hard to kill, Eyeblight's Ending won't work, or Terror, you need a lot of direct damage to take him down, and Pacifism doesn't stop his ability. And it is his ability that will wear your opponent down. If they can't kill him straight away, they have to choose between desperately clinging onto some cards and hoping the wrong ones get pulled out their hand while you get tokens; or hurriedly getting rid of their hand. Either scenario is terrible. And at 4/4 he's not sloppy when it comes to handing out the beats. His discard ability is so powerful that you may sometimes want to keep him out of combat to stop him getting killed by an unexpected Giant Growth, Condemn and so forth. Remember you get tokens any time they discard, so this puts the hurt on Eons of Evil as this counts discarding to Hidden Horror and Grixis Battle Mage.

Lys Alana Scarblade: Y?

This is a hard one to call, I've been on the fence with her (that's gotta be a her...) for some time. On one hand killing creatures is very important, she does it well, for no mana, kills the elves you can't touch with Eyeblight's Ending (so great in the mirror) and even kills regenerators flat out. On the other hand, she is weak for her cost, does not add much to the attack (which is the primary focus of this deck), costs you your potential attackers to activate, and can be much reduced in effectiveness if you don't draw many other creatures or they get killed. I think with the addition of the second Magistrate she falls just out of range of the elite cards for this deck. But she's definitely worth thinking about. Remember as she costs no mana to activate, you really can do it anytime without having to hold other resources back. If you use the ability in response to something that is going to kill one or more of your elves, her ability will resolve first and count those elves for her ability before they get killed.

Jagged-Scar Archers: Y?

This is another one I've been on the fence about. And again I think it just falls short of inclusion. The other unlock cards you should include (as listed above) are so potent and reliable, I feel this guy just doesn't quite make the cut. He gets bigger with other elves, but he doesn't help all your elves. He deals with fliers which can be awesome, it can also be redundant as some decks don't have much fliers worth worrying about. And again if he ends up on his own he is poor. He is more of a meta-game choice; if you expect a lot of flier heavy decks, he would be worth it.

Rhys the Exiled: N?

He is a great card, but once again falls short of the cream of the crop and is not worth diluting your ace cards. He is decent, but not amazing, on attack and defence. He doesn't grow bigger, or help your other elves much, even costs you them to keep him alive. The life gain is nice, and can help you stall a game, but this deck is all about going for the jugular as quick as possible, and you'd rather be putting down your smashers than gaining a bit of life. If you finish them off, it doesn't matter how much life you gained in the process. You also have enough life gainers in this deck already.

Talara's Battalion: N?

I know I'm in the minority here, this is a cracking card. But I would recommend leaving these out. It's purely because they are not as potent in this deck as the other ace cards (once again!) and don't fit greatly with the overall strategy. 4/3 for 2 mana sounds great, but I can't tell you how many times I've seen people not be able to get them out for turns on end because they couldn't meet the 'cast another spell' requirement, so they may as well have just cost more mana. You do have a fair amount of cheap spells in the deck that she can come off the back of, but I feel not enough. And holding her back till turn 4 or 5 to meet the requirement defeats the object of having a 'cheap' creature. You'll often find it's more important to get out your other creatures, she just goes it alone and doesn't impact your other elves in any way.

Nissa's Chosen: N

Sure this guy is amazing, Elvish Warrior is one of the toughest creatures in the game, but you don't need another one. It's not worth the dilution of your other powerful cards. He is usually slightly worse, since he doesn't end up in your graveyard he won't be counted by Elvish Euologist.

Elvish Eulogist: N

Same argument as above, you don't need another one of these, and you have enough life gainers already. They are handy when they come but lack the power of the scarier elves.

Elvish Piper: N

I don't know why they even put this as an unlock, apart from the fact that it's an elf it fits really badly into this deck. There just isn't enough high mana cost creatures to justify it, and 1/1 for 4 mana is awful. The highest is 5, and most of the time you will have 5 mana the next turn anyway. It does save you mana of course and could let you cast another creature, and also drop a blocker down in the middle of combat, but I feel the times this will work is not worth putting him in for all the times he will be an overpriced chump.

Eyes of the Wisent: N*

This is too narrow for general inclusion in the deck, obviously it is totally useless against decks without blue. And even Eons of Evil only has 2 possible counterspells, so it's only really useful against Thoughts of Wind and Mind of Void. Only worth thinking about if you expect to see a lot of those decks.


DLC 3 cards


Wildheart Invoker: N?


This is a decent creature, the stats are not bad and the ability is quite cool. But I feel like as an extra addition, it's not quite worth it. The game is usually over (in your favour!) by the time 8 mana rolls around, so the ability is marginal. The deck works so well by cards that all combine together, this is another "go it alone" guy who doesn't help anyone else (except the aforementioned ability). Therefore, just to help you keep drawing your amazingly powerful, almost "auto win" other cards, I'd keep guys like this on the sideline. Also, it's certainly not as good as Drove of Elves, so include that instead.


Drove of Elves: Y - Replace one Immaculate Magistrate


It seems rather unfair to give elves this card. Indeed, the unlocks here are certainly above average compared to what the other decks get. This is going to be a huge headache for the opponent thanks to the "troll shroud", especially as you can still target it with Giant Growth etc. It fits the curve pretty well, and is going to grow big pretty fast. I've recommended the removal of Magisrates since two of the new decks, vampires and firemind, can both whip the Magistrates out very quickly. As can Hands of Flame and Heat of Battle. I feel these two new cards will be more reliable against a general field and this card will often be a gamewinner. The only thing you have to watch out for with the Drove is an enemy creature getting boosted with Giant Growth etc, but if you're ready with some removal you can kill it in response.


Vendetta: Y*


This is a very strong card, especially since the core Elf deck has been changed so that there are only two Eyeblight's Ending. It now has an extra Elven Riders instead. Yes, the deck finally got nerfed a bit, although it was done in secret for some reason. As well as being really cheap and an instant, it also can finally deal with enemy elves which appear not only in the mirror match but also in some other decks (especially Cries of Rage). The life loss is certainly worth the efficiency, especially as the deck has several life gain cards in the core deck to help remedy it. My worry with this card is that with vampires running rampant at the moment you are often going to find it without a target. If that changes, this may become more viable.


Claws of Vengeance (G/R/W)

Wrath of God: Y

This is quite simply one of the best control cards ever printed. It is unbelievably cheap for it's effect; it removes every single creature, including those with shroud or regeneration, all for just 4 mana. Obviously it has the down side that it also does the same to your creatures. The power of this card is that you decide when to use it. If you are winning and have a better creature position, obviously you don't use it unless the game turns and you get overwhelmed instead. But if you are losing, if the opponent gets a quick start or kills loads of your creatures, this is the ultimate catch-up card, and in a lot of situations the only card that can save you. It takes a lot of practice to work out the best time to play this card; often you can pretend that you're low on creatures and are trying to survive the barrage of never-ending creatures the opponent puts out, where in fact you're storing creatures in your hand and stalling the opponent as long as you can, waiting for them to overextend a little more so you can wipe out all their creatures in one go and hopefully have mana left to straight away lay down some creatures to the now empty field. As you have haste creatures, if you have enough mana you can clear the board then lay them and attack on an empty battlefield.

Lightning Helix: Y

This deck needed some serious help, and I think it got it in this update. This card is awesome, tournament quality removal. This is already probably the most control heavy deck, and this rounds it out really nicely. The life gain can be handy, it can help you suck up a bit more damage next turn if you send in lots of attackers.

Titanic Ultimatum: Y

This is brilliant for this deck. Especially as it is now, it has too many small creatures and not enough big ones to take advantage of the copious amounts of mana this deck inevitably produces. Even Tundra Wolves becomes 6/6 first strike, lifelink, trample for a turn. Other stuff even bigger. Just with about 3 creatures, this can be game winning. Watch out for cheap tricks that could trip you up, such as Holy Day or Deluge. Against decks with these tricks, you should try to use it when the opponent is tapped out or you're pretty certain they're not holding such a card. As this has such a specific mana cost, you should plan ahead in case you draw it (and especially if it's already in your hand). Use your Rampant Growth and Farhaven Elf to aim towards the 3 Forests, 2 Plains and 2 Mountains you need. That is one good point about this deck, it's fairly colour-relaxed. You just 2 Plains for Wrath of God, and the specific mana for this. Everything else (besides Cho-Manno which you're not using if you follow my advice) only needs 1 of each colour mana.

Wooly Thoctar: Y

Bread and butter for this deck, and one of the most ruthlessly efficient creatures ever printed. Sadly there is no way to get this out before turn 3, but you should reliably be able to get it out on that turn. Even at that point, it will likely tower over anything the opponent has got out and will be hard to stop. They will often have to make 2 for 1 trades, either 2 blockers to kill it or a blocker and a spell, this is usually fine for you as it clears the way for more Thoctars and other creatures.

Brion Stoutarm: Y

This is one of the cards I am always happiest to see in the deck. Almost a mini-Baneslayer Angel, most of the time you'll want to be attacking with this, as long as it can't be blocked and killed, and the life gain will mean you can often ignore attacks that are made at you in return. The 'fling' ability is handy as well, although I find I rarely use it. It can be useful as a finisher when the board has become cluttered and it's hard to attack; or for getting rid of creatures that have been made worthless like ones enchanted with Pacifism. Remember you also gain life back for doing this! You can also use this tactically, you can attack with several creatures and then one that is blocked and is going to be killed you can fling at the opponent before damage is dealt.

Bull Ceredon: Y

This is very important for this deck, you need something to work upwards to with your mana, and this is the main one. Your opponent will be always scared you will drop this guy and straight away charge for 5. With vigilance you can usually attack freely and he will still be there on defence.

Knight of the Skyward Eye: Y?

I actually love this creature, it's much better than it looks. 2/2 for 2 mana is respectable, but his ability is very powerful. To use it to it's best, don't activate it until it becomes crucial. You can attack with him, for example if the opponent has a 4/4 creature, and see if they block. If they do, you can pump him up and kill the creature and survive. If they don't, you have the option to not pump him, deal the 2 damage and then use the mana after combat for something else. This versatility makes him almost 'unblockable' and makes him virtually constantly 5/5 later in the game when mana is abundant. Again on defense, wait until he has blocked before you pump him up; at least then if they kill him in response the creature will stay blocked. The reason I question including him is partly because of the two new great cards that need including, and partly because the deck already has too many creatures of cost 1 or 2.

Godsire: Y?

I used to like this as a big top end creature for the deck, but with Titanic Ultimatum arriving, I think it loses out. The former is more versatile and works with the deck as a whole, this is just one big threat and dies to Terror just like everything else. It will dominate the game if it lives, but at rather a little too slow rate to justify the price tag. But a case could be made for putting it in alongside the ultimatum, to make use of the big-mana in this deck. Make sure you attack with him first, this leaves him untapped thanks to vigilance and you can put a beast token into play in your opponent's turn at the best moment.

Sigil Blessing: N?

This is not bad, but the deck is already too diluted with mediocre cards and this doesn't justify taking a spot from the other really good unlocks. On the other hand, it does work well with an army of smaller creatures, especially Tundra Wolves, as the incidental bonus to them pushes them to 2/2 first strike so you may take down 2 creatures with it instead of the normal 1 from Giant Growth.

Pariah: N?

This is a nice card, but it just doesn't fit well in this deck. It has two main uses. Firstly, you put it on one of your own creatures, that you hope won't die, and it stops you taking damage. This isn't very good in this deck as every creature can be killed reasonably easily so you lose 2 cards for 1, and that's too defensive a strategy for this deck. The other way is to put it on an opponent's threatening creature, forcing them to attack and indirectly kill that creature when all their combat damage goes onto it before they can damage you. Again, this is too defensive for this deck as until they decide to do that, you won't be able to attack effectively. They'll just sit there with the Pariah'd creature trying to get it killed by blocking, which if you let happen defeats the point of this strategy. The only card it makes any sense with is Cho-Manno, but that is a fickle and long-shot combo, with just 1 of each card, and neither card work very well on their own in the deck. And even Cho-Manno dies to Terror etc. costing you two cards for one again.

Kor Sanctifiers: N*

This is a good card, but the core deck already has two Naturalize and I feel that is enough against a general field, especially as some decks have little or no artifacts/enchantments to worry about. If you expect to see a lot of decks with those nasty cards in though, this would be a good countermeasure.

Leonin Scimatar: N

This is not a bad card and does work well with the small creatures, but it's just not hard hitting enough to justify a spot with so many important cards that need adding. It's one of those cards I would probably put in if I was allowed to alter the core deck, but with things as they are every card dilutes all your really important ones and this doesn't quite make the cut, especially as there just aren't enough decent creatures in this deck anyway.

Cho-Manno, Revolutionary: N

Part two of the combo a lot of people rave about, sure it can be great the odd time you get this along with your Pariah, but it's far from unbreakable even when you get them both, and that strategy is totally wrong for an aggressive deck anyway. You want to be finishing off your opponent, not sitting around biding your time. Also without the Pariah on him he's very defensive too, and this deck needs decent attackers. He can be annoying for the opponent if they don't have anything big enough to block him and survive, but even then he's a poor deal for 4 mana.

Sangrite Surge: N

Yuck. This isn't a good card anyway, and it's hopelessly in the wrong deck here. With no trample creatures and no evasion creatures, 95% of the time all the opponent has to do is chump block the creature you cast this on, which usually cost them less than the 6 mana you sink into this. It can be a surprise if they used up all their attackers not fearing a counterstrike, but this really isn't worth considering putting in. If only it was an instant it could at least save your creatures sometimes or have tricky combat strategies, as it is it's of no surprise value.


DLC 3 cards


Ajani's Mantra: N


Anyone who follows my guides knows I dislike life gain unless it has another aspect to it. This doesn't, and is entirely pointless in this deck. Wastes your time, resources and a 3 colour deck especially can't be bloating itself with marginal cards.


Lightning Helix: Y - Remove Titanic Ultimatum


Yes! Include this second copy also, it's simply awesome as discussed in my previous guide.


Momentous Fall: Y?


This is an interesting card for this deck, and I think it would make it as a core card. It's main use is going to be casting in response to a removal spell aimed at your big creature. Since the creature is about to die anyway, you can sacrifice it and reap lots of card and life. I have some concerns however. There isn't a whole lot of big creatures in this deck, and using it on a small creature is OK but a lot of effort to go to for minimal reward. You need to be keeping a lot of mana back to use it in response to things and using it on a creature that isn't about to die is risky if facing counter magic. Also, unless you have the mana to cast the big creature and have enough to cast this, you won't be able to do it in response if it is removed straight away or during your opponent's next turn. This will often be the case. I feel this just isn't quite reliable enough to include.

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Scales of Fury (B/G/R)

Terminate: Y

One of the best kill spells of all time. You just have to use this. Takes care of almost anything, even those black and artifact creatures Terror can't reach. Plus no regenerating. Really only protection from black or red creatures or shroud/trolls can escape it's power.

Broodmate Dragon: Y

Another tournament quality card, this has been smashing people to pieces for a long time. It's great because you get two threats instead of one, so just one kill spell isn't enough to stop it. Also the original is black so immune to Terror; and if the original is killed and you get it back with Gravedigger you get another dragon. This is usually a game-winner.

Flameblast Dragon: Y

Within the setting of this game, this is one of the most dominant creatures there is. 5/5 flying for 6 is quite good, and his ability is just devastating. He can pretty much kill any creatures he wants every turn, while still attacking for 5. Or else he can fry the opponent directly for an early finish. Keep an eye on your opponent's life total; you can often win with this very quickly even from quite a high total, you may not need to worry about killing their creatures. If he lives and you're not on the ropes, you'll usually win.

Violent Ultimatum: Y

If you look closely, this deck is more about card advantage than it is dragons. A huge amount of the cards in the deck have some kind of in-built card advantage. This is the most extreme of all; 3 of your opponent's best cards for one of yours. If you can land this, it's normally enough of a momentum swing to win the game. If your opponent gets off to a slow start or is struggling for land, you can use it partially or totally on their lands. That can be even more devastating than on their creatures in the right position. Keep this card in mind when you are using your mana-fetching cards, build up towards the land combination that you need for this (3 Mountains, 2 Swamps, 2 Forests). You don't want to draw it late game and realise you've been fetching the wrong lands and can't cast it.

Hellkite Overlord: Y

8 mana is a lot for any spell and you expect big returns. This is about as big and fast as it gets! He attacks right away, is immensely difficult to stop thanks to trample, really hard to kill due to being black, 8/8 and regenerating, and can even be pumped up. After just a little bit of early damage, one or two swings from this guy will promptly end the game. As this deck is very mana-intensive, I think he is worth the investment. I have come back and won many seemingly hopeless games with him, just backed up by a bit of stalling from other cards.

Wanderer's Twig: Y

Really handy in any multicolour deck, and this one isn't especially speedy so you can afford the mana at the start of the game. Also great because it doesn't require a Forest to use like Rampant Growth and Civic Wayfinder.

Dragon Roost: Y?

This is a great card for this deck, you can accelerate to get this out as quickly as turn 4, and then be pumping out a dragon every turn from turn 5. There's no need to activate this in your turn, it's better to wait until the opponent's turn and see what they do. You may decide you need the mana for something else, and you may catch them by surprise if they aren't paying close attention by dropping a dragon after they declare attackers to block a creature. My concerns with this card are firstly that it's the only enchantment I think it worth including in the deck, and as many of the top decks have multiple ways of dealing with them, this one is too vulnerable especially for the cost and it may be better to make their Naturalizes etc. totally useless by leaving it out. Also, you have lots of other big spells you want to be playing once you get the mana needed for this to work, and you can often find yourself not using it for turns on end as you cast them.

Blightning: Y?

A brilliant, tournament quality card. The damage isn't so important with this deck as it's not an especially fast deck, but it helps anyway. The discard (with card advantage again) can make a huge difference. Since they get to choose the discard, you don't have to use it as soon as you can, but make sure you use it before they have the possibility of emptying their hand making it nearly useless; and if you have 2 Blightnings this means using them early enough that you can catch 4 cards from their hand so plan ahead. The only reason I question putting this in is that the deck has a serious bottleneck at 3 mana. You have 4 Civic Wayfinder, 3 Blightning, and 3 Sprouting Thrinax in the core deck. Adding another 3 mana spell will only make this worse; and also since the deck is a little light on control, this doesn't address threats already in play, or help with the ever present mana problems, so it's maybe best left aside for now.

Shivan Dragon: N?

I'm afraid I have to recommend leaving the mighty firebreather out, because good as he is he doesn't measure up to the other big dragons you have for this deck at the same mana (Broodmate and Fireblast). He would still be good to include as a core card replacement, but as it is he doesn't quite make the grade to justify diluting the deck. This deck has serious mana issues, and you want to keep the numbers down as much as possible. It's no good having loads of great dragons in your hand and all the wrong colours to cast them. So you have just about enough big threats already, he's best cut for consistency.

Scarland Thrinax: N?

This is yet another casualty of deck dilution. He is a cool card, and offers a lot of synergy in the deck especially with Dragon Fodder and the saprolings from Sprouting Thrinax and would make a nice core card. Every time anything of yours is about to die to a spell or combat, you can sacrifice it to make this guy bigger. But sadly it's the 3 mana bottleneck problem again, and this guy makes it even worse by being very specific to cast. He's just not generally quite as good as the Sprouting Thrinax in my opinion, and not as much of a big threat to warrant the akward cost and dilution.

Vampiric Dragon: N?

This is a very scary dragon, big and hard to kill being black. But he is competing with Hellkite Overlord for the 8 mana spot, and he doesn't measure up. The Overlord will usually end the game within another turn of casting, not the case here. And he is a great control card, but again loses out in general to the instant value of Violent Ultimatum. If you do want to concentrate wholly on control, you could consider him as an alternative to Overlord but I wouldn't recommend using them both as two 8 mana creatures could seriously slow down your deck.

Crucible of Fire: N

Although this is a "dragon" deck, there just isn't that many dragons to be seen, a pitiful 4 before adding unlocks, and not a huge amount afterwards. And it really only makes a big difference to the Furnace Whelps, making them 5/5 is a big deal whereas the others are already big enough that they should win the game in short order anyway. So having a card which only is of much benefit to 4 cards in your deck isn't worth it statistically. And your whelps are very fragile and could all have been Shocked by the time you get this. It's too unreliable, and is what people call "win more" when it comes to helping the bigger dragons.

Threaten: N

A good card, but totally the wrong deck for it. This is a really aggressive card, giving away card advantage for damage and temporary blocker removal. The deck isn't fast enough and doesn't have enough creatures to capitalise on either the lack of the blocker it creates or the speedy damage, most of the time it doesn't make enough difference. This deck is more about keeping yourself alive until you have the mana to play your awesome spells. Nicking a middle size creature for a bit of damage doesn't keep you alive, or make a lot of difference to how quickly you eventually win the game. And when you need to defend yourself, this does virtually nothing.

Fervor: N

It's a nice card, but like Threaten it's an incredibly aggressive card and doesn't fit into the deck. You will win anyway in short order once your big creatures come out, and you're in no hurry to do so. The difference it makes to your smaller creatures is negligible to your overall plan, and they are often needed as blockers anyway so it doesn't help at all with this.

Beast Hunt: N

Once again, a nice card but wrong deck. I don't understand why this wasn't given to Teeth of the Predator. There simply aren't enough creatures in this deck for this to be worthwhile. You'll most likely get 1 creature, rarely more, and sometimes none. That's not worth 4 mana by a long shot. Add to that the fact that the creature-creating Dragon Fodder isn't actually a creature so gets ignored by this card, and you've really wasted a spot including this.


DLC 3 cards


Madrush Cyclops: N


This guy is pretty cool, decent stats and hard to kill. The haste is nice... but the problem with 3 colour decks is you really have to keep the cards down to avoid mana problems. And if you're going to include a new card I'd say another Sprouting Thrinax is superior. This guy is neither really fast nor a big threat. Once the deck goes into "crazy dragon" mode the haste isn't much needed, and in the early game this isn't quite decent enough to stop you getting smashed up. Thrinax is certainly better at that, effectively able to block 4 times.


Sprouting Thrinax: N


A truly excellent creature and it would be great to have 4 in the core deck, but I feel as another addition it's not quite worth it. Mostly this is because the deck has a serious bottleneck at 3 mana with 10 cards in the core deck. I feel there is just about enough disruption to stall in the early game along with the Dragon Fodder cards and you should focus on your serious threats that the deck lacks much more.


Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund: Y - Replace Violent Ultimatum


This is a tasty dragon, and the deck is always short on big threats, unfortunately. It's much easier to cast than the Ultimatum, so I feel its a good trade. It's really hard to kill, starts winning the game really quickly with haste and will occasionally totally dominate the game if the opponent has some dragons around. He also untaps all your dragons, but I can't think of an actual use for that in the deck at present!


Cries of Rage (G/R)

Bramblewood Paragon: Y

This elf is the absolute canine reproductive liquid producer when it comes to this deck. You want as many as these as possible, I'd put 20 in if I could. They work with every creature in your deck, including other copies of himself, making them very quickly into big creatures that are hard to handle. Even harder as they gain trample, remember that this only lasts as long as the Paragon is on the field (although any Paragon will do regardless of if he was the one who helped put the +1/+1 counter on a creature). This makes chump blocking less effective for your opponent, and makes the underpowered Sangrite Surge at least have some impact as the trampling double strike creature is harder to stop. Of course they can still beat for 2 damage as well, but if there's a chance of them getting killed it's better to keep them back as their ability is too strong to trade them with an opponent's small creature. If your opponent is smart, he will kill these on sight if he can. If not, and especially if you get 2 out early, he's in serious trouble.

Shock: Y

Control is very important for most decks, and this comes in very handy. Use it sparingly, consider what the opponent has in their deck and whether the creature you could currently use it on is worthy of using this spell up.

Stonebrow, Krosan Hero: Y

A fantastic new addition to the deck, and one I can definitely recommend including. As this deck is so aggressive, he is effectively 6/6 trample on attack and that is awesome for 5 mana. And if your Paragon's have been handing out counters, those trample creatures also get the +2/+2, as does the cruddy Oakgnarl Warrior. As he's far better on attack than defence you should normally be attacking with him unless he's badly needed for a blocker.

Obsidian Battle Axe: Y

This works wonderfully in this deck. Since all your creatures are warriors, any of them can pick it up and run with it. Your perfect curve would be turn 2 Paragon, turn 3 this, turn 4 any creature becomes huge, trample and will have haste after picking this up. The free equip for your creatures coming into play is what's so great about it, you can usually attach it to each new creature you cast making them able to join the attack of all your other creatures. If you have two creatures to cast and want one for defense, you can cast one creature before combat, give him the axe, attack, and then after combat cast the second creature and have him pick up the axe (for free again) to make him a bigger blocker. When you have spare mana, you can also move it around for 3 mana onto the most appropriate creature. Consider how your opponent will block and how you will get the most damage through, the toughness boost can be just enough to make all your creatures out of range of being killed by blockers.

Hurricane: Y

This is awesome as the deck has creatures with reach, but no flying creatures. Try to save it until you really need to use it, and take out as many fliers as possible. Use your knowledge of the decks to work out if the one flying creature you see is a big enough deal to get rid of right now, or whether there is likely to be lots of others joining it soon. And this can always be used as a finisher, keep an eye on your opponent's life total and use it to land the killing blow. It can even be used to force a draw if you are facing inevitable defeat.

Colossal Might: Y

This is very nice and does fit into the deck well. After some testing, I feel it is worth including. You have a large number of smaller creatures, and you don't want the game to be stalled when a big blocker appears, especially as you don't have spells that can take out a large creature easily. So this bolsters your Giant Growths, giving you a way to cheaply punch through and deal a lot of damage at the same time which is important for this deck.

Vengeful Firebrand: N?

A very nice and strong creature that fits well into the deck, and makes use of the fact that you have traded creatures with your opponent or your Paragon got killed early. I say to leave him out because you already have 4 creatures at 4 mana which can already bottleneck quite badly, and for consistency as the other unlocks are so powerful and important to the strategy. I think if you include him it should be as an alternative to the Battle Axes as they will duplicate the haste theme anyway (which you already have with your Rip-Clan Crashers) and provide a powerful pump-up attack for punching through defence. The reason I tend to leave them out is that the Axes help all the creatures continually throughout the game, whereas this guy is really scary power-wise but isn't hard to kill either with a spell or a blocker.

Mirri, Cat Warrior: N*

The deck already suffers 8 creatures with two green mana in their cost, and this can cause serious blood pressure when you can't find the second Forest. I don't feel this is strong enough as a general include to add to that problem. Against a green deck she is quite handy for the unblockable aspect, but that's not a given, and against other decks she is just quite good and not amazing, and the other unlocks will give you much more consistent success. Most of the time I'd prefer an Elvish Warrior to this anyway as this deck is so much about speed.

Goblin Balloon Brigade: N

This may be a contender for a core card as the deck has no 1 drops, but as an include it is too wet and has too little impact. It is a reasonably good 1 drop, and has synergy with Hurricane as he flies but only when you want him to, but there are far too many other potent cards you want to add to dilute them with this.

Eyes of the Wisent: N*

Again this is only really any good against Thoughts of Wind and Mind of Void so only include it if you expect to face a lot of those.

Borderland Behemoth: N

I don't know what they were thinking with this card. They had clearly run out of decent "warriors" to include anyway when they started putting in Axegrinder Giant and Oakgnarl Warrior, and this is even worse. You only have two giants in the deck with which it can interact, otherwise it's unbelievably terrible for it's cost. Under no circumstances should you use this card. 7 mana is too much for this deck anyway, you should be aiming to win by this stage, and this guy is not what you want to see if the game has gone on that long. I'd rather have an Oakgnarl, and that's saying something.


DLC 3 cards


Hungry Spriggan: Y - Replace Colossal Might


I actually really like this card, it's a totally aggressive card and really nice stats on attack, 4/4 trample for 3 is amazing. The deck is also lacking in three mana creatures, so it fits the curve nicely. Since you're looking to take the opponent apart in really short order with this deck, this is perfect. Obviously it's weak if the opponent is packing direct damage and terrible on defense, but since the deck is so attack orientated I think it's worth the trade off. Just keep attacking! If you hit hard enough the opponent will be forced onto the defense.


Shatterskull Giant: N


This is rather appalling. The deck already has 4 Cloudcrown Oaks and this would be a 5th at four mana, and not significantly better if at all. It's just a dumb creature- it wouldn't be too bad in the core deck, but this is nowhere near the power of the other cards you can consider for inclusion for unlocks, so leave this guy out.


Meteor Storm: N


Shame they didn't include Stormbind, one of my old favourites. This is a rather inadequate replacement, and I don't think it's worth it. The deck is really fast and is often going to use up all its cards, and wants as many attackers as possible. The expensive activation cost and amount of cards this uses up (one to cast it then two for each use) is too many for it to justify its existence.


Mind of Void (U/W)

Wall of Air: Y

This deck is all about keeping your sorry hide alive long enough to either deck the opponent or overcome them with flying creatures, and either way it takes a long, long time. You need blockers, and this is perfect. The 1 power comes in handy for putting off 1 toughness attackers as the opponent might not think it's worth losing a creature to get the damage through from the other creatures. The 5 toughness makes it hard to kill and it can block things as big as a Sengir Vampire which cost more than it. With flying it can block almost anything, besides special evasion creatures like Phantom Warrior and Severed Legion. It's a must have, it's the cheapest defence you have (besides the duelist) and it will save you time and time again.

Wall of Swords: Y

Only having one white mana needed is great for this so you are likely to be able to cast it once you hit 4 lands. It's really solid stats for the cost, and can kill a large proportion of the creatures in the game making the opponent seriously think about whether their attack is worth it. Coupled with other walls this makes attacking a nightmare. This really puts the brakes on for the opponent if they can't deal with it.

Planar Cleansing: Y

What a powerful spell, probably the biggest single impact a spell can have so far in this game. Although the cost is tricky, you will probably not be using this for a while anyway as you can't afford to not get out your walls early. This should be saved for the exact point at which you can wait no longer and are about to be overrun. Although it kills all your walls, Memory Erosions etc. the effect of killing all your opponent's stuff when they're not expecting it and trying to get as much out as they can to get past your walls is definitely worth it. You can recover and lay out more Erosions, or big flying creatures onto an empty field. This is the only real reset card the deck has access to, and I recommend it.

Jaymdae Tome: Y

This deck is all about having enough cards in your hand to deal with threats, and this is brilliant. Be careful about using its ability early in the game as it often leaves you without enough mana to use a counterspell, weigh up how important that is at the given moment. Unless you desperately need a wall or such you can usually leave this to activate in your opponent's turn, after you've seen what they attack with and what else they cast. If you can consistently use this to gain an extra card each turn, the game should easily be yours as no deck can stand that kind of card advantage. Be careful of baiting; see my post on the DoTP forum about "who wants an end phase" for more about this (click below).

community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...

Deft Duelist: Y

This little man is excellent, he's your cheapest creature for defence, and he is likely to stay exactly where he is thanks to shroud. The first strike means he holds off most early creatures, including unpumped Troll Ascetics. He is only vulnerable to global effects such as Pyroclasm, Wrath of God and Final Revels. You can put this guy out, and know you don't have to usually keep mana back to defend him while he deters your potential harmers from coming near you.

Dispeller's Capsule: N*

This is certainly handy, but I feel as with Claws the two enchantment/artifact control cards already in the deck suffice against a general field. Most of the time it is creatures that are going to kill you quickest as well, so having 3 in your deck can lead to 2 in your opening hand which is going to seriously slow down your defence and leave you vulnerable. It will be worth adding if you expect to see a lot of decks with nasty artifacts and enchantments, particularly Relics of Doom against which it is invaluable.

Counterbore: N

There is more than enough counterspells in the main deck, especially as they recently changed 2 of the main deck Persuasions into Counterbores. This is an expensive spell you can't always afford to use anyway, so you certainly don't need another.

Traumatize: N*

You really don't need a third one of these. Although they do advance your win condition of decking significantly, they also do absolutely nothing to defend you in the meantime. They can even help the opponent giving them more resources for their Raise Dead, Gravedigger or Zombify at an early stage. You don't need to cast this spell until you've established your defence and can really afford to tap 5 lands without compromising yourself. This won't be for a long time usually, and by then you are likely to have drawn one or can wait for one to come along. Risking getting 2 of these in your opening hand is disastrous, sure you may deplete their library a lot but that's no use if you are dead soon after. You already have 4 Memory Erosions too, the deck has plenty of what it needs for decking so concentrate on keeping yourself alive instead.

Dispel: N
As I said the deck really has plenty of counters already, and this is too narrow. Most of the threats you care about will be creatures and this doesn't work on them. It doesn't even work on other big threats like Blaze. The fact that it is cheap would help in some decks, but I feel it doesn't help that much in this deck. Not many instants get cast early on in DoTP, and if they do like a Terror on your Wall of Air you've just cast on turn 3 you'll not have the mana available anyway. Later in the game you'd rather have a reliable counterspell that can handle anything.

Isleback Spawn: N
This guy is too expensive, and muddles further the cross purposes of the deck between winning with creatures and winning by decking. With the removal of 2 Persuasions from the core deck, the strategy moves more in favour of decking now, making this guy somewhat redundant. He is only of real use as a blocker, and at 7 mana he's way too slow and doesn't even stop fliers like your cheaper walls. He won't kill the opponent in any short order either as he can be chump blocked and 4 damage for 7 mana is poor. He's just not a good card.

Tome Scour: N
Sounds good, but it isn't. As I've discussed above with Traumatize, you are in no rush to deck your opponent. This is a mini-traumatize, and you don't need it. Early in the game 5 cards down isn't going to make a big difference, and later in the game you'll have several Memory Erosions out and cards will be hitting the bin faster than you can count anyhow. The loss of card advantage for minimal progress is definitely not worth it. It does nothing to keep you alive in the early game, which is all you are worried about at that point.


DLC 3 cards


Solemn Offering: N*


This is a really good card, and it would be brilliant to swap for one of the inadequate Dispeller's Capsules in the main deck. But since you're stuck with those two, I'd say a third artifact/enchantment control card is a bit risky as the opponent may not be using that many. When this does work it's going to be pretty cool, as the life gain helps you back from the brink. But compared to the other cards that need to be included from the unlocks, it's not quite as good, and doesn't help you against creatures which are the main concern for this deck. Rely on your capsules and countermagic to keep those pesky artifacts/enchantments at bay. If you expect to face a lot of decks that contain many of these however, it may be worth including.


Jace's Erasure: N


It may seem like good idea to include as many cards as you can that can help deck your opponent. The fact is, this isn't true at all. The main deck already has 6 slots devoted to that, and they are enough to win the game reliably. The rest of the deck has to be focused on keeping you alive. Putting more resources into decking the opponent is no good if they kill you before the job is done. You don't expect to win at all quickly with this deck, in fact you expect a long drawn out game. In that time you'll have plenty of chance to draw and use your 6 main cards, and if you draw this instead of a much needed defence card early on, it could cost you the game. And late on, you simply don't need it.


Absorb: Y - Replace Planar Cleansing


This is a quite amazing card, and the life gain is certainly significant in this deck, one of the slowest available. As you are most vulnerable early on, this will probably earn its keep more often than Planar Cleansing. Combined with walls and Condemns, this helps you keep ticking over until you get lots of mana and start to lock down the game. Use this in preference to your other counterspells, unless you really need a card from the Dream Fracture, since you want the life gain as early as possible. No point casting Cancel instead and "saving" that life gain for later (except as part of some elaborate bluff!?)


Relics of Doom (B/U)

Master of Etherium: Y

This is the single most powerful creature this deck has, and the reason Tezzeret was such a pain to beat as the initial boss. It pumps up all your creatures, and gets ludicrously big himself very quickly. A must include. He makes all your little fliers, even Ornithopter, deal more damage and he can either be a big blocker or a huge, hard to stop attacker. Beware getting him killed by unexpected Giant Growth etc. in combat though as his ability to pump up the rest of your creatures is so important.

Executioner's Capsule: Y

The deck is low on control, and this is perfect. It even kills artifact creatures. Unless you're using it to pump up Glaze Fiend and so on, you may want to hold it back rather than cast it to avoid it getting hit with Naturalize before you get round to using it.

Tidehollow Strix: Y

One of the best creatures in the game, very efficient and great on attack and defense. Flying and deathtouch means he can block and kill virtually anything, and almost nothing can block him and live to tell the tale.

Sharding Sphinx: Y

This is the core of your late game strategy. Remember that as soon as you cast him his ability is in effect, even though he can't attack right away. So cast him before your attack, then every little guy you have that gets through nets you a token. If you can keep this up for a few turns, it quickly becomes too hard for the opponent to get back in the game, especially when Master of Etherium makes all the tokens 2/2, and like the master, be careful about getting him killed in combat.

Razormane Masticore: Y

With the Howling Mines in the deck you won't have a shortage of cards to ditch to this guy. You'll probably be drawing more lands than you can lay anyway. Beware as he is currently still bugged, to the advantage of the Relics player; you can't respond to his damage dealing ability so the opponent has no way of knowing what you're going to target and thus can't save it with Unsummon etc. The first strike makes him an awesome blocker and attacker, you can usually safely send him into battle as it takes a lot to bring him down. He is one of your few ways of dealing with black and artifact creatures.

Platinum Angel: Y

Her ability is one of the most astounding of any every printed; while she is in play, you can't lose the game. This means that your life total can go to minus a million and you'll still be in the game as long as she remains on the field. You can also run out of cards, and although you won't draw one each turn, you won't lose because of it either. Therefore you want to do everything you can to keep her alive as she will be a prime target for obvious reasons. Beware of getting her killed in combat, losing her to a Giant Spider that has been Giant Growth'd will make you wish you stayed in bed that day. Keep your Cancels to protect her if you can. Be very careful against Thoughts of Wind and Mind of Void, if you lay this out and it gets taken with Persuasion, there is only one card in your deck that can save you, the new Capsule. Otherwise you simply can't ever win yourself. So you may want to wait until you have the mana to cast her and protect her the same turn with a cancel, or wait until the last moment to get her out when you are on the brink of losing anyway.

Loxodon Warhammer: Y

A fantastic card, and just right for this deck. The trample makes your creatures hard to stop, and the life gain lets you attack with reckless abandon without worrying too much about taking damage back. You can pretty much put this on anything, even your Bottle Gnomes become marginally scary. Against decks that can't remove it, it is often a game winner.

Etherium Sculptor: N?

I've been in much internal debate about this card, on one hand it looks great as it accelerates your deck letting you get out big threats like Masticore and Sphinx earlier and use all your cards from your Howling Mines, on the other hand it can sometimes be a bit redundant as you're overflowing with mana anyway and he dilutes the few actual decent cards in the deck. I feel this deck is weak anyway, and this little guy isn't quite good enough to hold back the powerful cards that you really need to win with this deck. But he is certainly worth considering as he can often lead to an explosive start. It's another case where he'd certainly be in my core deck, but is questionable as an unlock due to diluting the other really potent cards' regularity.

Leonin Scimitar: N

Pretty much the same kind of thing as the Sculptor, this is very nice but not impactful enough to take a slot away from more important cards. It is a headache to fight against though, as those Bottle Gnomes become 2/4 and get on your nerves. The deck is already overflowing with very cheap spells, and I think this needs to step aside for more hard hitting cards.

Font of Mythos: N

I don't personally like the Howling Mine strategy in this deck as I feel it doesn't do enough to capitalise on what is effectively handing card advantage to your opponent on a plate; you've used up one of your cards to lay the mine, and in return your opponent gets to draw the extra card first, putting them on average 1.5 cards ahead of you. You have to really explode with your cards to justify them, and I feel most of the time that doesn't happen to enough of a degree. This card compounds the problem; handing an average of a 2 card advantage to your opponent and for a large investment of 4 mana. Against any reasonably quick deck you will get all these extra cards back in your face very quickly and will be struggling to capitalise on all your cards. Best left out until other strategies that make use of these cards are added such as my personal suggestion I've made for Time Warp allowing you to have another turn and draw a whole load of cards again, missing your opponent's turn to do so.


DLC 3 cards


Executioner's Capsule: Y - Replace Platinum Angel


This deck is low on control, and this helps a great deal. Include this second copy, for the same reasons as the first. The Angel is feeling the pinch slightly of the quality of the new cards, and can go to the sidelines, being the most expensive and fickle of the power cards available.


Tinker: Y - Replace Tidehollow Strix


Well, I actually started a petition to get this removed. Adding this to the game was a mistake, it's a broken card, it's restricted in the vintage environment. Even in such a limited environment, this deck has enough options to break this card. If you're still using the Platinum Angel that's an obvious choice. You can risk getting it out early, but for more of a lock, wait until you have six mana available and a Cancel. Then you can Tinker for the Angel and be able to defend it right away. This is an amazing drop from the 10 lands you need to do this the hard way. But the more aggressive and reliable choice would be an early Sharding Sphinx. If you Tinker for that before your attack, you can net several tokens right away if you have little fliers ready to attack. Just sacrifice whatever you need the least- especially a Howling Mine since they are dubious anyway. Against direct damage you can go for a Loxodon Warhammer which will probably seal the game. If there's a terrible creature you need to get rid of go for an Executioner's Capsule... you can fetch almost anything in the deck. It's way too good, and an obvious include.


Triskellion: N


This is not bad, but just can't compete with the other two amazing unlocks for this deck. If you use it, take advantage of the fact that you need no mana to activate its ability. Save it for the most opportune time; like in response to a Giant Growth, or for killing an Elvish Champion once the opponent has declared their attackers. Sadly for 6 mana, Sharding Sphinx is usually going to be much better for this particular deck that relies on lots of little, fast attackers.

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
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Duels of the Planeswalkers (original version) guide [part 4]


Heat of Battle ( R )

Blaze: Y
Not as good as the old staples such as Fireball, but it's certainly good enough to make the cut. Versatile with targets and with mana, and can easily be the finishing blow. Your opponent has to respect you being able to finish them from quite a high life total.

Pyroclasm: Y
Almost all decks have at least a few small creatures, and this usually kills them all in one go. It even gets around shroud and shroud-like abilities and so can kill Deft Duelist and even Troll Ascetic if the player is tapped out. Don't be scared to kill your own creatures as well if you can get an overall advantage. And you can combine it with other spells, for example if the opponent has a 2/2 and a 5/5, you can cast this then finish off the 5/5 with a Volcanic Hammer. It's usually best to save this spell to try and sweep as many creatures at once unless you're getting beaten up really badly.

Wall of Fire: Y
Although you have some creatures in this deck, they are mostly quite weak and don't offer you a lot of defence. And with this deck you are often trying to survive long enough to accumulate a lot of direct damage so you can finish the opponent off in a couple of fiery turns. This wall will be able to block and kill most ground creatures and survive the encounter. At 5 toughness it's not easy to kill either. I think this deck could do with more defensive cards like this.

Flame Wave: Y?
This is often going to be a game-ending card, wiping out most of your opponent's creatures, leaving your own, and damaging him to boot. Your creatures will then probably have a clear path to finish the job. If you're losing badly, then this is the decks best comeback card even against medium sized creatures. It's in my opinion the best of the more expensive unlocks. However it is still very expensive and you already are forced to play with two Ember Shots at 7 mana, so it may be better to cut it for consistency.

Act of Treason: N?
This can be really good when you're winning, but it can also be useless when you're losing. I feel the deck doesn't have enough creatures that removing the blocker for a turn is that much of a big deal, and you're usually more interested in wiping out the opposing creatures for good. It can be a great finisher though if your opponent is on the ropes and finally pulls out a big creature for you to steal. I'd rather rely on the copy already in the deck and concentrate on burn. Also there may never be a decent creature to steal.

Heat Ray: N
The deck is chock full of ways to kill creatures, and this is one is fairly decent, but there's no need to add another one of these to the 3 already there. As it can't hurt players it's not as versatile as some of the core cards either.

Inferno Elemental: N?
This guy is not bad, but his stats are really poor for his cost. He's rather clumsy and expensive for what he does. However the deck is lacking in good creatures, especially top end ones, so a case could be made for including him. He is very good on the defensive side, and quite hard to stop as an attacker. Overall probably just a bit slow for this deck but worth thinking about.

Quest for Pure Flame: N?
This is a card that sounds really good, but I feel it never quite lives up to expectations. I've had opponents get it out, and quite early, against me and never have they managed to even get enough counters on it as they are too busy killing all my stuff to hit me with damage. It has several problems, firstly you really need to get it out early or else by the time you've damaged the opponent 4 times they're most likely dead anyway; it has to sit there a long time so is vulnerable to Naturalize; and it relies on being able to get your creature through which isn't always easy, or using spells on your opponent where you often need them for defense.

Vicious Shadows: N
This is way too expensive and unreliable. 7 mana is a lot for this deck, and by the time you get that the opponent may well have only a few cards in hand and can if they want easily empty it to totally nullify this card. In that case the only advantage you have is that they continue to play with an empty hand so there is no surprises; but that's not worth 7 mana and you've no way of getting this out quickly.

Insurrection: N
This is even more expensive, 8 mana is a huge push for this deck with no land-fetch cards to add to the standard land allowance. The effect sounds amazing, but your general strategy is to kill all the opponent's creatures as much as possible. If they have loads of them sitting around for you to steal, you'd probably already be dead as your creature don't offer that much defense. Much better to forget this and concentrate on your main strategy.

Magma Rift: N
Same kind of thing with Heat Ray. It's fairly decent, gives you a cheap way of dealing with a big creature, but can't hurt players and you already have 2 in the deck. Plus if you use more than one of these in a game it can seriously cripple your land supply.

Torch Slinger: N
And same again here. You already have 3, they are OK but not amazing. They can't hurt players. They are poor without the kickers, and you often can't find that fifth land and you're forced to choose between him sitting in your hand doing nothing or laying him down as a cruddy 2/2.


DLC 3 cards


Flame Slash: Y - With few good unlocks already, just add this in


This is an amazing creature control card, taking out something as big as a Wooly Thoctar for one mana. Even though its so cheap, save it for big creatures if you can unless you're desperate to get rid of the little creature already on the battlefield. Note that it can't be used on players, so you should often use this in favour of big damage spells like Blaze, to save them for finishing off the player. This will help even further to take out all the opponent's key creatures.


Chandra's Outrage: Y - With few good unlocks already, just add this in


More burn, not as good as the above but still makes the mark. It also fits the mana curve nicely, as there are only two other cards at 4 mana (Canyon Minotaurs). Follow the same advice I gave for this card from the Hands of Flame section above. Again don't waste this on a little guy unless you really need to, since the deck can have trouble with bigger creatures.


Flame Wave: N


I discussed this card in the previous guide, and came out on the fence, favouring slightly leaving it out. If you include one already, certainly don't include another one. The deck doesn't have enough mana to support that many high cost spells.


Heart of Worlds (G/W)

Harrow: Y
This deck is all about landfall and speed, and this card delivers both. It can be used either to accelerate your mana, by getting you two lands for the loss of one, and for effectively only one mana when you can afford to play it, since the two lands come in untapped; and at the same time counting twice for landfall as the lands come in. It can often be used for both simultaneously. This can also be used as a combat trick in place of Giant Growth; don't use it until your opponent has declared his blockers, then play Harrow and suddenly your Steppe Lynxes get +4/+4 and the Territorial Baloth's do as well. And the crashers go nuts. Also it can be used to put an unexpected pair of 1/1 flying birds into play if cast after the opponent has declared attackers, ready to block, thanks to Emeria Angel.

Emeria Angel: Y
Probably the best mid-game creature of the deck, 3/3 flying for 4 mana is reasonably good anyway for this game, and the ability to spit out bird tokens like there's no tomorrow will really help for both attack and defence. If you are going to lay a land the turn you cast her, make sure you cast her first if you can, then lay the land to get the landfall bonus.

Recumbent Bliss: Y
This deck is severely lacking in creature control, it's main drawback. This at least stops a huge potential attacker or blocker, while slowly giving you life in the process. You definitely need this. But sadly it doesn't stop creatures with nasty abilities like Royal Assassin as they can still use them regardless. Save this for a big creature with no significant abilities. Particularly good against the mono red decks as they will hate to see the life gain each turn; when facing this card I've decided to kill my own creature before rather than face the opponent getting the 1 life a turn.

Divine Verdict: Y
Again you need all the control you can get, and this is sadly the next best thing on offer. It's very expensive and doesn't deal with creatures that refuse to attack with nasty abilities, which if your opponent is wise is just what he will do. You can however use it to send it multiple attackers against a lone big blocker, and if it blocks you can take it out before it can kill your creature. Otherwise, save it for defence and kill the biggest creature you can save it for, or else a creature with a nasty ability if they make the mistake of attacking.

Baloth Woodcrasher: Y
This is perfect as a top end creature for the deck, you often accelerate quickly to 6 mana thanks to Harrow and many other land fetchers. 4/4 is not great for 6 mana, but you expect him to regularly exceed this with the landfall. If you can save a Harrow until you have this guy, you can put the serious hurt on your opponent; don't cast it until after they've blocked remember to avoid giving the game away. His trample is just what you need to punch through the victory.

Oran-Rief Recluse: N?
With the deck so low on kill spells, this is one to consider just for the fact that it can kill flying creatures. However without the kicker it is awful for it's cost, and at 6 mana it's a really expensive, limited range "kill spell" with a puny creature attached. It doesn't fit the deck well as you hope to win in short order and smash through their flying creatures before they can do much, and he doesn't fit the landfall theme. Maybe worth including if you fear many flying-heavy decks, but generally I think not worth the expense and diversion from overall strategy.

Frontier Guide: N?
Hmm, this one is interesting. Very late in the game, when you can afford it, this will be great at generating a free landfall effect every turn and at instant speed. However early in the game you'll rarely have the mana free to use this and will be wanting to develop your other creatures. He's bad stats for the mana cost, and you have so many other faster ways of getting land out in the core deck that I'd recommend leaving him aside for now. You should aim to win before this would become a big factor.

Windborne Charge: N?
You could consider this a decent finisher; at least it's not easily countered since the opponent probably will only be able to take out one of the boosted creatures leaving the other to attack. However with the deck being weak and lacking in control as it is, and with the Fledgling Griffins providing nibbling flying damage, along with the Angels and birds, you probably don't need this and should focus on the general strategy and putting in impactful cards. It is worth considering if you do find yourself often unable to land the final blow, but my main problem is it is purely offensive and if you are losing this is of no use at all.

Great Sable Stag: N*
An amazing tournament quality creature; unfortunately in totally the wrong deck. Why can't Teeth of the Predator have this? He's decent at 3/3 and if you're lucky he can be really good if the opponent is playing black and/or blue, but either way he doesn't fit in the deck at all. Your other creatures have the potential to produce more damage than him, and he makes no use of landfall. He just kind of sits there as a "good card" while holding up your main strategy. With the explosive power of the Lynxes and all your bird tokens being created, he's not going to make enough of an impact in this deck to justify putting in.

Glazing Gladehart: N*
These can be handy for boosting up your life total while you mount your assault, leaving you free to attack mercilessly later. But you already have 2 in your main deck, and they are defensive cards that don't fit well in the overall strategy. They are mainly good against burn heavy decks where they can give your opponent a real headache; becoming a priority for them to remove. So I only recommend including if you expect to face a lot of mono red.

Cliff Threader: N*
Way too narrow, has nothing to do with the rest of the deck's strategy, a pointless include if you ask me. Only worth considering if you expect to face a lot of red, even then possibly not worth it as you're other creatures are much more scary.

Marsh Threader: N*
Ditto, for matches against black decks.

Nimbus Wings: N
Unfortunately this is way too weak to even consider including. You will almost certainly see the creature you enchant die to removal losing you 2 cards for one, and even when it sticks the bonus isn't very scary for your opponent. It doesn't help the overall strategy and you have enough flying options (and one Nimbus Wings in the core deck already unfortunately) to worry about the tiny impact this will have.


DLC 3 cards


Steppe Lynx: Y - With weak core deck and few other good unlocks, just add this in


The biggest all round hitter for its cost in the deck, this is always a big threat early on. The more the better since they all get landfall at once, and with a timely Harrow they can suddenly grow huge in the middle of combat. It's actually possible to win in just 3 turns with this deck if you draw 3 of your 4 Lynxes in your initial hand along with a Harrow. Never seen it happen, but it's possible! I never understood why there wasn't a fourth one of these in the core deck; this is an auto include.


Stream of Life: N


No. Oh dear me, no. This is a hyper aggressive deck (did the developers not read what I just wrote about the Lynxes?) and the last thing it needs to do is sit around gaining life. It already has several weak life gaining cards in the main deck, don't add to the problem by including this. It's not even a very efficient one by today's standards. This deck is looking for either a way to push through the early victory, or else a way to permanently deal with threats, and this does neither. It's only of any real use against pure direct damage, but the odds of facing that isn't worth the include especially since you have many life gainers already.


Rampaging Baloths: Y - With weak core deck and few other good unlocks, just add this in


Wow! This was one of the cards I suggested for this deck in a remake, and I'm glad to see it find its way here. It's an unbelievably powerful card, good stats for its mana even without its landfall ability. This is going to win many games on its own, I wish there were more of these to add in. Its more important than ever to manage your landfalls; if you have a land to play make sure you play it after casting this guy. It's best to do that before attacking in case he gets killed in the meantime. If this lives, you will be pretty certain to win. A perfect new top-end threat. Also, cast Harrow after your opponent has declared his attackers to suddenly creature two 4/4 creatures to block with that they weren't expecting.


Eons of Evil (R/B/U)

I love this deck! There, I've said it. I have to admit I probably enjoy playing this deck more than any other. I find it really interesting, requires a lot of thoughtful play, difficult choices and careful mana management (try saying that after 3 cans of cider). Unfortunately it can be inconsistent, relies a little too much on combos and can be awfully slow at times. But give it a try anyway! Playing it well will help you develop as a Magic player.

Zombify: Y

Yes, definitely put this in. It's the core strategy of this deck, try to discard a big creature to Hidden Horror, Grixis Battlemage or Merfolk Looter then quickly get it into play with this. The more the merrier, and you can use it to get back your big creatures if they die as well. In a pinch you can use it to get back something lesser just to keep you alive long enough if nothing else is available; I often have to Zombify a Merchant of Secrets to see more cards and get a much needed blocker, or get back a Grixis Battlemage to get my cards cycling through my hand again. Don't laugh at me, you'll all be doing it now. I had one game where my opponent was determined not to let me have a Merfolk Looter. I cast it, he killed it. I Zombified it, he killed it again. I Zombified it AGAIN, he Skeletonized it. Man!

Terminate: Y
As you've have already read from other deck discussions, this is probably the number one removal spell in the game and is indispensable, especially against big black creatures.

Vein Drinker: Y
This is a prime target for Zombify. Being black it can't die to Terror right away which is a bugbear of a lot of the other big creatures you can get back. And as well as being able to attack, it can slowly pick off your opponent's creatures one by one until they have no chance of getting back in the game. If you need to get rid of a bigger creature such as an Air Elemental and they have no other creatures, you should consider killing one of your own creatures. If you feed on your Merchant of Secrets at the end of their turn, that's no big loss for you and the Drinker goes to 5/5 ready to kill the elemental in your turn and survive. Also combos amazingly well with Deathbringer Thoctar as it gives him a counter each time you kill something, even your own creatures.

Merfolk Looter: Y
I initially thought what probably a lot of people did; you don't need this with 4 Grixis Battlemages in the deck. I've decided that you definitely do need it. If your opponent is wise, they will kill your mages on sight to stop you cycling cards and setting up a big Zombify. This means you want as many ways as possible to be able to get through your cards. The looter is actually preferable in my opinion to the battlemage; although it's weaker, I very rarely attack with the mages anyway, 90% of the time I'm using the card draw/discard ability as that is more important than dealing 2 damage. So in this respect, the Looter is even better. He's cheaper at just 2 mana, and doesn't require a mana to activate. This may not seem like a big deal at first, but believe me it is. Having to spend that 1 mana a turn to the mage seems like a really big drain in crucial situations, whereas you can freely use the looter anytime. He also sets up the Zombify combo quicker, get him out on turn 2, turn 3 discard a creature, turn 4 Zombify. As quick as with Hidden Horror, and without the card disadvantage. Against this deck, this is the number 1 guy to kill immediatly.

Rorix Bladewing: Y
This guy is a little tricky to cast with 3 red mana, but most of the time you hope to discard him and Zombify him so then it doesn't matter. He attacks right away for a staggering 6, and can finish the opponent very quickly if not dealt with. If you are lacking Zombifies in your hand or ways to discard him, you can instead focus on using your Evolving Wilds and Wanderer's Twigs to fetch the 3 Mountains you need to get him out on turn 6, even then he is a scary prospect.

Undermine: Y?
This is oddly the only blue deck with no countermagic in the main deck. This can be really akward with the specific casting cost, so be careful how you manage your lands. But for the crucial effect it can have, it's worth the effort. Use it extremely sparingly as it's your only proper counterspell. It should be the make or break to either your defence or your win. However I have had doubts about this card because of the strict mana cost and the difficulty of keeping mana back for counterspells in this mana hungry deck. I have found it can be better to focus on what the deck is about and getting out what other defenses you can.

Countersquall: Y?
This is an adequate backup for Undermine and is easier to handle mana-wise. It can be used early on to stop things such as Rampant Growth to slow the opponent down enough for you to get a grip on the game. It can protect your overgrown creatures that come back from the grave from an early return. It can be your last line of defence against a burn deck hoping to finish you; again use it sparingly. As above, I've started to consider leaving out counterspells to focus on the core of the deck more.

Nicol Bolas: N?
In some ways this is the perfect card for the strategy, in other ways he doesn't fit the deck well. If you can get him out, on turn 4 or 5, and you're opponent hasn't got much of a quick start, you'll probably win really easily. The problem is that he's almost uncastable in normal play, you'll often be throwing excess lands away to your Battlemages to cycle to your important cards and will struggle to reach 8 mana. At least the other big creature are more realistic as possible hardcast possibilities. The other drawback is the upkeep, although he is a humungous threat that will kill the opponent quickly, the choke on your mana means you won't be able to follow up with much afterwards and if your opponent has a fast start he may be forced to guard duty to keep you alive as you can't afford to attack. I feel this scenario is the one that will come up the most, and poor old Bolas will not be happy with that. I prefer to rely on creatures I can reanimate with no drawback, and have a reasonable chance to cast if the Zombifys don't show up.

Deathbringer Thoctar: N?
He does work well in the deck and I like the one in the core set when I get him, but I feel this is somewhat weaker than the other possible unlocks you can use to reanimate. 3/3 is very poor for 6 mana, and unless you can get his killing spree started he won't be much of a threat. I'd prefer to stick to the big instant-threat creatures above, which will always win the game in short order if not addressed. If you are using him, he has a lot of interesting strategies. You can attack recklessly with your other creatures, even hoping they will be blocked and killed, just to get counters on this guy. You can then take out any scary creatures the opponent's have. His biggest strength is that once he gains a counter somehow (this can be the hardest part) he can go on a mad killing spree of 1 toughness creatures. Take off the counter to kill one of the creatures, and in return he gets another counter. Repeat until all the opposing creatures are dead and your opponent feels sick.

Shadowmage Infiltrator: N*
He is like a cheaper Thieving Magpie, however he is less reliable. Against any deck with black or even artifact creatures, he is unlikely to have any impact at all. So he's really a gamble, if you expect not to face many black decks, by all means put him in. But he's not much for defence, isn't a decent candidate for Zombify like many others you could put ahead of him, and will sometimes be a lemon staring at the opponent's Drudge Skeletons or Sprouting Thrinax.

Hidden Horror: N
These are very important to the strategy of the deck, however I feel 3 in the initial core deck is enough. You don't want to cast too many of these in a game, as even if the Zombify combo comes off, it costs you a card to play this. He can often be worth it though, and provides a big body for blocking early in the game where you are vulnerable. But with 3 you are likely to draw one early anyway, and you don't want too many clogging up your hand when you are focusing on getting to your control cards and other important creatures.

Zombie Outlander: N*
Quite simple; too specific, not at all relevant to the deck, too weak for attack or defence. The deck wins by biding time and then getting out a huge smasher, a little nibble here and there doesn't help much. And he's not much for keeping you alive unless you luck out against the right colour deck. Only good as a metagame choice if you expect to see a lot of green.

Goblin Outlander: N*
Ditto, for white.

Traumatize: N
Hmmm, I think the idea for this card is to use it on yourself and give you lots of options for a Zombify. That's a possible strategy, but I don't think it's worth it. It's very expensive and you hope to have a Zombify option by turn 5 anyway if things run well; this taps you out and leaves you open which is bad for this defence-poor deck, and if you're playing against Mind of Void then don't blame me when they burst out laughing. As an offensive tool it is pointless, you will never win by decking them. And it will only help them with their own Zombify, Raise Dead and Gravedigger. I recommend leaving this one alone.

Act of Treason: N
Pretty much the same as what I said for Threaten in Scales of Fury. Why do they insist on making "new" cards that are identical to ones already in DoTP anyway? Missed opportunity. Again, this deck is really slow and defensive and this doesn't help you stay alive, nor does enough to make it become part of your offensive strategy.


DLC 3 cards


Beacon of Unrest: Y - With weak core deck and few other good unlocks, just add this in


This is a perfect addition to the deck. It gives the deck more chance of getting its core combo, discarding a big creature and reanimating it. Shuffling it back into your library isn't as big a deal as it seems, but with the way you can cycle through your deck there's a reasonable chance of drawing it again. Although it's more expensive than Zombify, it has the advantage of reanimating one of your opponent's dead creatures too, which is quite likely to be an option thanks to the large amount of removal in this deck; or even an artifact. This is much less probable, if you use this to get back a Wanderer's Twig I'll shoot you! And the opponent is not that likely to have artifacts in their graveyard since you don't have artifact destruction. If you're using the counterspells, you may be able to get one that way though.


Rorix Bladewing: N


It's a great card, but there's really no need to include a second copy. Especially since if you get both out at once they kill each other thanks to being legendary. If you're still using one Rorix, leave the second out. You'll more often get one in your hand you can't cast.


Artisan of Kolilek: Y - With weak core deck and few other good unlocks, just add this in, also as the deck lacks big threats


I think that with the addition of the Beacon of Unrest, this guy is worth giving a go. Obviously you will mostly only ever reanimate it, note that its own reanimate ability will not trigger then since you're not "casting" it. But it is still a massive creature and still has annihilator 2. Unless you are desperately in need of defense, reanimate him ASAP and keep attacking so your opponent has to keep sacrificing permanents. If you do eventually get up to 9 mana it will be great to cast, and at least it requires no specific mana. Then you'll also get to dig up another creature. Note also that this can still be killed with Terror as it isn't an artifact creature.


Root of the Firemind

This looks like a fun and interesting deck. I think it has a really strong base of spells, but the creatures are rather poor. Overall I think it's about average strength, will be difficult to master and will benefit greatly from skilful play. It's a strange mix of early aggression with the Kiln Fiends and later game control with all the counterspells and removal. I recommend reading my guide "improving your playing skills" if you haven't already, as it will help a lot with the kind of strategy you need to play this deck well.


Flame Slash: Y


This is a definite, as discussed for Hands of Flame. It fits the deck well, using such little mana to kill a big creature leaves you more chance to be able to counterspell with the remaining mana. You'll generally want to use your Burst Lightnings first and save this for a really big threat. Most of the time you'll be using Burst Lighting on a creature anyway, certainly early in the game.


Gelectrode: Y


This is just an overflow from the main deck, this should be in there anyhow. It's central to the strategy, with so many instants and sorceries you'll get plenty of use out of it. Obviously keep it out of combat as it has no power, and just use it to kill creatures directly, unless you're totally desperate for a chump blocker. And if you do block, remember to use its ability on something before combat damage is dealt. Like other "pingers", you usually want to use it during your opponent's turn, after their attack, unless there is a particular reason to use it before then (like killing a key creature). Using it just for damage against the opponent in your turn is just reducing your options. Obviously you want to use it just before casting any instants or sorceries, on the opponent if there are no suitable creature targets, so as not to waste the untap. But the final untap should be kept until the most opportune moment.


Into the Roil: Y


This is a tournament quality card and allows the deck to deal with any dangerous permanent that has got past the counterpells. You want to cast it with the kicker whenever possible, so you do not lose card advantage. As with Gelectrode, don't cast it in your turn unless there is a particular reason to (like removing a blocker). Usually you'll want to save it for your opponent's turn, keeping your mana open so you can decide whether you want to use a counterspell, a burn spell, or this. If you really need to play it without the kicker then don't worry about the loss of the card, it can be worth it if it's going to save you a lot of damage or do something really inconvenient for the opponent (like returning a creature that just got an enchantment put on it). Weighing up when to do this will take lots of experience with the deck. Remember you can use it on your own permanents, although that will be unusual, it could sometimes be worth it to save something from destruction if you don't have a counterspell (or want to save them).


Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind: Y


This is a pretty decent creature, and since the deck is lacking in top-end creatures and finishers, this fits the bill nicely. Is he a planeswalker? No. Don't ask me what's going on with that. Most of the time I would recommend using him as a combination of huge blocker and "pinger", playing him like the Gelectrode except obviously he has a big body for blocking as well (and can kill another 1/1 attacker by activating his ability after he has blocked). The extra cards you draw are probably going to be more likely to win you the game than the damage he offers on attack. Since the deck has such poor creatures you're likely to need him for defence anyway. Obviously if you have the opponent on the ropes, it may be time to go for the kill at some point.


Shivan Dragon: Y


As noted before, the deck is short on good creatures, and on actual threats and top-end creatures. And with the burn spells and Into the Roil, you can afford to tap out without worrying that something will permanently get past your counterspells. I think this is just about worth it, and if this survives long enough for you to untap you will probably have good control over the game, and the threat of a sudden kill through huge amounts of damage. It's not nearly as good as the Sphinx of Magosi, but it's better quality than most of the cruddy creatures in the main deck and I think it's worthwhile, at least until a better unlock comes along. The games are likely to last long enough for you to get him out since you can remove and counter so many things with this deck.


Surrakar Spellblade: Y?


I'm on the fence about this one, and I think it would take a lot of play to make my mind up. As has been pointed out to me, the threat of him attacking and drawing loads of cards makes the opponent either have to use removal right away or keep multiple blockers back for fear of you killing them all. On the other hand, his stats really suck, he has no evasion, and if you are losing he isn't going to do much to stem the assault. You need to be in at least a reasonable position to be able to attack with him, and I worry that against a competent opponent and any reasonably fast deck this is not going to be what you want to see. Later in the game you probably won't need it since you'll have the game locked up pretty good. For now I'd say probably leave it out, but certainly worth a try out if you intend to play more aggressively.


Wheel of Fortune: N?


I honestly don't know what they're doing now with these unlocks. This is the second broken card added (Tinker being the other). Unfortunately, this card is rather wasted in this deck as it's totally the wrong deck for it to be in. It should have been given to Hands of Flame if anything, being one of the worst decks, and it would be perfect and extremely dangerous in that deck. But this is a fairly slow deck, and the fact is that you are likely to have more cards in your hand than the opponent at any given time. That means that unless you can be sure to make a lot of use of the cards you draw in short order, requiring a lot of mana, you are likely giving away card advantage to your opponent. They will likely have got more in play than you by that stage, and then you are refilling their supplies to maximum while getting less of a card advantage yourself. In the right situation this could be devastating, giving you lots of instants to power up a big Electrode/Kiln Fiend onslaught, but if you're losing (which you often will be with this deck until late game) this is just too risky. Time may prove me wrong, but that's my prediction. You'll only want to risk using it late game, and so having it in your opening hand will slow you down when it could have been a useful fast spell or a creature which can impact the game and keep you alive.


Evacuation: N?


This is a pretty cool card, but I think as it's so expensive and the other unlocks for this deck are so good, it's not quite good enough to make it. Into the Roil is more reliable and helps against artifacts and enchantments too. You can have 3 of them, and I think that's enough bounce. This is good in certain situations, but you have enough counter magic and burn to control the board pretty well, I don't think you need a "panic" button card. Since your creatures are so slow, you're not going to be able to come out quickly afterwards. I'd leave this alone for now.


Deprive: N?


It's a good card, but I think adding a third of these (two are in the main deck) isn't necessary. Also the land return is going to hurt you a lot, since the deck is so slow and needs a lot of mana for its decent threats. I'd rather have just had Cancels anyway, since you're unlikely to use this early as the threats will only be little and won't be worth the tempo loss (unless its something gut wrenching like Troll Ascetic). I think there is sufficient counter magic, maybe room for another really good one, but I don't think this fits well enough and having 3 of them is really going to drag your land out.


Bladetusk Boar: N


You already have two of these in the main deck, and you probably wish you didn't. They have sort-of evasion which is very hit and miss, but really bad stats for the mana. The ones in the deck may occasionally help get some extra damage through, but you certainly don't need another one. It's nowhere near the power of the other unlocks.


Aethir Figment: N


This is almost purely offensive and deals only small amounts of damage. For both those reasons, it doesn't fit well in this deck. It doesn't help you win quick enough for it to matter, and if you're losing it won't help you either. Too flashy to fit in here.


Sky Ruin Drake: N


As with the Boar, there are two of these in the main deck and that is more than enough. At least they have high toughness to help defend you, but they may as well have been more efficient walls. They are pretty terrible when you do put them on offense, which will probably be rarely unless you see the kill in sight. Don't bother with another one of these. Too slow and cumbersome.


Lava Axe: N


This is the embodiment of cards I don't like in any kind of control deck. The point of the deck is to defend yourself, maybe get some quick damage in early, then control the board and win with gradual recurring damage and flying creatures. If you achieve that game plan, you don't need cards that only hurt the player to finish the job. And if it's going wrong, doing 5 damage to your opponent achieves virtually nothing. You're likely to have done minimal damage if you've been on the defensive, so they will laugh at your 5 damage, and you just probably tapped out instead of holding back mana for burn or counterspells. And if you do finally turn the game around and use this for your final 5 damage, it's been sitting in your hand for so many turns it would have been better to be something more useful at the time.


Sleep: N


Since you already have two of these again, I don't think you need a third. It's the same sort of principle as above with Lava Axe. It's mainly an offensive card, it allows you two "free" attacks, which amounts to some direct damage. It also stops one of your opponent's attacks, but that's not much of a big deal for 4 mana. You really have to have Kiln Fiends out for this to be worthwhile casting, and you can't rely on always having them. The rest of the time, I think the deck is too slow for it to be worth its while. I think a third is overkill, and you'll see too many in your hand when you need some proper, reliable defence.

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
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Duels of the Planeswalkers (original version) guide [part 5]


Master of Shadows

So this is the new bully on the block, the "new elves", the deck everybody hates to love to hate. It's got a lot of people upset that it is overpowered, essentially creating its own top tier and making all other decks non-competitive. There is certainly foundation for this, it has a really strong core deck which is the result of the expected dilution of the hideously powerful boss deck we faced in DLC2. It has few really bad cards, being two Mindless Nulls and two bizarrely ill-fitting Heartstabber Mosquitos. The rest of the deck is a coherent vampire aggro-rush deck, which is really fast and has a range of efficient removal, most of which even get around the "nonblack" restriction. I certainly don't think it's unbeatable, but I do agree it's really strong, quite probably one of the best if not the best deck available. It does still have some weaknesses, it has no way to deal with enchantments or artifacts, and anything with protection from black is going to give it serious problems. It is also lacking high-end creatures, although the sickening efficiency of Vampire Nighthwark and the awesome boost of Vampire Nocturnus do a lot to make up for that. It has a strong theme of life gain as well, which is a great annoyance against any deck trying to finish with direct damage.


Tendrils of Corruption: Y


Extremely good creature control, at instant speed, with life gain, and can target anything. There is no doubt this earns its spot. It's a cheaper, creature-only Corrupt, and since you probably use that on creatures most of the time this is preferable especially for such a quick deck. Remember you can gain as much life as you have Swamps, even if it overkills the creature. So the longer you can hold out on casting this, the greater the reward.


Corrupt: Y
Tendril's of Corruption's big brother, this is worth including too, mainly as the deck is lacking in top-end cards. If the game goes on for any length of time, this is a huge swinger, either finishing the opponent right off, putting them in kill range or killing their best creature, while netting you a huge amount of life in the process. Again save it as long as possible, but keep an eye on the opponent's life total as the kill may be closer than you think with the amount of damage that can come from this and its results on the state of play.


Malakir Bloodwitch: Y


Argh... another card which made me whince when it was first printed. This is a sickener right? Particularly annoying to kill, being immune to both Terror and Pacifism and needing lots of direct damage, this is going to dominate a lot of games. Add to that the life loss it causes and your life gain, and it's not even funny anymore. Even against non-white decks this is still a powerhouse, and provides you with a solid mid/high range threat.


Vampire Nighthawk: Y


As discussed, this is just really wrong how good this guy is. He pretty much does it all... if you're winning you keep chipping away at the opponent while gaining life to help ignore the counterattacks, and if you're losing he can block and kill almost anything. Coming back time and time again with Disentomb, he's going to control the game. This is your go-to guy of the whole deck, and you don't want to trade him with an opponent's creature, certainly not a non-flying one, unless you really have to. But with 4 available in total, there will be no shortage, so if you have more in hand you can be more sparing with them.


Hideous End: Y*


More great removal, and the 2 damage is relevant in such a fast, aggressive deck. The only choice to make is whether to use it early on to remove blockers and get more damage through, or save it for bigger late game threats. Given the aggressiveness of this deck the first choice will often be the best one, especially with a fair amount of evasion creatures and bonuses for getting the opponent down to just 10 life. Weigh up each situation individually. If you're in control and have the opponent in trouble, go for the kill and use it to take out an annoying early blocker that may stem your assault. If it's not going so well, it's probably better to save your removal for the scarier creatures and mount a comeback. The more removal you have in hand though, the more sparing you can be with it. The worry is with vampires being so popular this is useless in the mirror match.


Disentomb: Y?


Not a ground breaking card, but I feel this is maybe worth including just for the chance to bring back Vampire Nighthawks time and time again, which make the game really difficult for the opponent to win. Bringing back anything is good really, and if you're off to a good start and have run short of creatures, feel free to bring back another weenie to keep the pressure on. Later on you can bring back such atrocities as Malakir Bloodwitch. However with two in the main deck, adding a third gives you the problem of occasionally drawing too many of these with no creatures to work with. Plus the core deck is so strong and so are the other unlocks, this isn't quite as good as them. Worth consideration for sure.


Arrogant Bloodlord: Y?


When I first saw this card when its print set was spoiled, I did a triple take. What? What? It's mind-bendingly efficient stats for its mana, and the drawback isn't that much of a big deal. Most of the time it's just going to own the board, especially on turn 3. If some little 1 power creatures do show up you have no obligation to attack or to block them, you can either wait until you can kill them or they have died in battle elsewhere while he remains a huge blocker. This is really hard to get rid of and can deal serious damage fast. My concern with him is that there are already a lot of creatures at the 3 mana mark in the deck (including your extra Vampire Nighthawks which are clearly better than this) and that it may "turn on" some bad creatures your opponent has, making them relevant, such as Wall of Wood.


Sanguine Bond: N


This sounds like a good idea, as the deck has a lot of life gain, but I don't think its worth the high cost of the spell. It does nothing on its own, and is another card that doesn't help you much when you're losing. It can't compare to the impact a Bloodwitch makes at the same mana. You already have one in the main deck, and that is certainly enough. This will clog up your early hand, and often have too little impact for its cost later. Plus it gives decks with Naturalize more to aim at, whereas they are pretty much dead cards usually against this deck.


Guul Draz Vampire: N


This is a fairly decent vampire, but it's getting toward the weak end of the unlocks, and the deck has plenty enough potency packed into it already. With four one-drops in the core deck, which are probably better than this overall, this would only serve to bloat out the deck and reduce consistency. It's just a victim of how good the rest of the cards available for this deck are. Plus until the opponent hits 10 life, a 1/1 is usually pretty irrelevant in the state of play.


Bloodghast: N


Same argument as above, it's good, really quite good in fact, but the core deck already has eight two-drops which are fine and so this again would be bloating the attack and the deck. It does have the advantage of being able to bring itself back to life, which is pretty awesome, but I feel not quite good enough to compare to the power of the other unlocks and causing more of a two-mana bottleneck. If you do play it, be careful with your land, often keeping some back will be worthwhile if you don't really need it so that you can bring him back time and time again. Try and trade him with opponent's creatures whenever possible to gain card advantage.


Anowon, the Ruin Sage: N
The third and final casualty of the not-quite-good-enough syndrome. It's a nice card, and ability is pretty annoying, but he's just not as good as the Bloodwitches and I don't feel worth the bloating of the deck. At just 3 toughness for 5 mana, he's vulnerable to Incinerate which is not a good trade-off, plus he's frail for his mana in combat for the same reason. The ability will certainly be useful, but since the Bloodwitches are a dead cert to include, this would be slowing down the deck more than necessary instead of providing a cheaper vampire to nail the victory.


Weapons of the Warrior

This is a very fast and aggressive "weenie" deck that looks to smash you to pieces in short order with a bunch of soldiers and the occasional strange bird. It focuses on equipment, has ways to search for them and to equip them more easily. Unfortunately it has some big weaknesses which will stop it being a consistently good deck I feel. It has no way of dealing with enchantments or artifacts, and struggles against creatures too, especially ones with annoying abilities. It can get around "tap" abilities like Royal Assassin temporarily with stalling cards like Kor Hookmaster and Excommunicate, but has trouble permanently getting rid of things with constant abilities like Elvish Champion. It also relies on Guard Duty as it's main deck "creature control", but this is rather flawed since it creates a roadblock that can still stop your creatures unless you can give them evasion. It defeats the object of the card being so cheap by leaving the creature there to block all your quick creatures. With the right draw however, this can be a very quick and efficient deck, as long as it's weaknesses are not highlighted too much during the duel.


Loxodon Warhammer: Y


One of the best equipments ever, and a breakthrough card that can overcome the difficulties with Guard Duty by stomping right over the defender. The life gain makes it really hard for the opponent to attack you back with any success. Unless there are first strike creatures in your way, you can usually put this on anything and attack with it, and if it gets killed put it on something else. Repeat until you've pummelled the opponent to death. It's at its best on an evasion creature like Kitesail Apprentice, where you can slowly win the game with that creature without having to move the hammer around, keeping the rest of your deck to defend if need be.


Martial Coup: Y
This is the deck's main and only real way of dealing with creatures permanently. It also gives the deck something to do with late-game mana if things drag on. Whenever possible you want to save this until you have at least seven mana so you can use the creature killing part. This is probably going to win you the game if it sticks since you get at least 5 free guys to finish the job with on the empty battlefield, plus whatever else you throw out after that. If you're desperate for more attackers to win the game early then it may be worth it, similarly if you're getting pumelled and can't wait for 7 mana, cast it for some more chump blockers. It will take judgement and experience to decide when to use it and when to hold it back. Its at its best if you have been holding back some creatures, tempted the opponent into over-extending at your apparrent weakness, then letting this rip when they have few cards in hand and the tempo of the game will swing totally in your favour.


Excommunicate: Y


This is a very nice card which never quite fitted into Wings of Light but is an absolute gem here. It's a card that favours aggression, and early in the game it will be worth playing this on any moderately good creature your opponent pulls out to allow your onslaught to continue. Later on it can be used tactically to mess with a creature that has enchantments/equipment on it, or took a lot of mana or other resources to get into play. You'll rarely want to use this on your own creatures, but if you're absolutely desperate to get rid of a Pacifism on your creature or re-use a come into play ability (like Stoneforge Mystic) you can do that, although you lose card advantage by doing so.


Kor Hookmaster: Y


With the main deck struggling so much to deal with creatures, and with Guard Duty not actually removing blockers, I feel this will help a lot to get your creatures through. It's best used when you have several other creatures that need a blocker moved out the way so that they can get through, or an annoying ability creature such as Royal Assassin is holding off your attack. You'll get two attacks where you can ignore such a creature or blocker, so make the most of it. If you're off to a quick start and have several of these in hand, just go ahead and throw it out, tap whatever is out there, and go for the kill. With not such a great hand, save them for the right opportunity for maximum effect.


Stoneforge Mystic: Y


This is central to the deck and the strategy and is a must-have. It's amazingly flexible, as well as self-replacing, so it doesn't even cost you a card to cast it. It's a shame there isn't more of these. Choose carefully the right equipment for the situation. Early on this will probably be a cheap one like Bone Saw or Trust Machete, and later on you can go for the big hitters if you have the mana. It's second ability means you can treat the mana cost of what you're fetching as just 2 if it's more than that, since you'd use this ability instead to put it onto the battlefield. More important will be the equip cost, and whether that's workable at the current state of play.


Kor Skyfisher: Y


The deck is short on evasion creatures, and this is perfect. Really nice stats for the cost, and you can often turn its disability into an advantage. If it's turn 3 and you haven't drawn a third land, cast this with your two land, return a land to your hand, lay it again and then you can cast something for 1 mana. If you have a Stoneforge Mystic or Kor Hookmaster, return them so you can use their enter the battlefield ability again when you cast them. You can even return Guard Duty to your hand if you want to put it on a different creature (you still control Guard Duty even though its on your opponent's creature.) You should normally wait until you can get such an advantage out of the permanent control, but if you just need it for another attacker early on, just cast it and replay whatever you return. Bone Saw is useful for this as it has zero casting cost.



Conquerer's Pledge: Y
You can pretty much ignore the kicker part of this (unless you're playing a multiplayer) as it's an insane amount of mana. But the basic ability of 6 soldiers for 5 mana is a good deal, and it fits the curve since you have very few cards that make use of your mana later in the game. This should give you enough resources to be able to overrun the opponent, with too many attackers for them to deal with. It also gives you loads of creatures to put your equipment on time and time again. If you're lucky enough to have one of the boosters out (Captain of the Watch, Veteran Swordsmith/Armorsmith) then they'll be better than just 1/1 and a huge, game winning threat. At the least this is going to make your opponent have to hold back a lot of blockers, allowing you time to find the cards you need to seal the win.

Windborne Charge: N?
It's not too bad, and acts as a reasonable finisher, but I tend not to like cards which are only ever useful when you're winning. If you're getting slammed, then this is of nearly no use. You can't afford to send in two of your creatures for some damage which won't matter to an opponent who is ahead of you, leaving you open to getting finished off. You also have two Kitesails and two Kitesail Apprentice giving you access to flying, and on a more permanent basis. I'd prefer to rely on those more consistent cards than this. It's worth thinking about if you are going for pure aggression and need a reasonably cheap finisher though.


Kor Duelist: N


This is a reasonably good card, but I think it falls way short of all the above unlocks. You already have two in the deck, and you can't always rely on having equipment, and when you don't a miserable 1/1 isn't much of a big deal. Avoid diluting the rest of the deck, particularly the boosters I mentioned above and the sparse creature control.


Guard Duty: N


I'd have to say no thanks. Three already in the main deck, and they would be far from my first choice for creature control. As I discussed they can mess up your strategy, you're far better relying on the above unlocks which deal with creatures much more effectively. With such an aggressive deck, I'd much rather use Hookmaster to tap down the blocker for two turns than turn it into a permanent blockage. If you're desperately worried about big creatures slapping you and concentrate more on dealing the final damage with evasion creatures/equipment, then this could be handy for that.


Makindi Griffin: N


Although the deck is lacking in evasion as I've noted, this is rather poor and doesn't fit into the deck at all. Being a Griffin rather than a soldier it gains none of the bonuses, and it's high toughness is more suited to defending than all out attacking. Only worth considering if you're constantly having trouble with little flying creatures or stalling because of lack of evasion.


Pennon Blade: N


With one of these already in the deck and two Stoneforge Mystics to fetch it when needed, I think this is a bit too slow to add another copy of. The equip cost of 4 is cumbersome for this deck, and it's not of much use early on in the game. Rely on the one already in the deck, and the faster equipment available.


Ogre's Cleaver: N


The equip cost of 5 is even more prohibitive, I feel it's just too much for this deck. The other equipments available are way more efficient, and there are better things to do with your mana later in the game. This is only worth considering if you're concentrating on evasion, like putting it on Kitesail Apprentice, but even then the quicker ones will get the job pretty much done by the time you can even afford to use this.


That's it for now unless anyone wants to request I add any of my other guides as well! Feel free to post

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
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Liliana's deck 'nemesis' is Auramancer, not Blood Hunger. BH is, in fact, quite manageable:

community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...
In Strength of Stone you said, " It's not very good at all, and is easily the worst deck in the game." 

Do you still think this is true post-DLC? It's my favorite deck.  
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No, those are my comments just pre-DLC. I haven't re-written all the summaries, just added the information about the new cards and my opinions of them. I think it's certainly not the worst deck any more, that belongs to Dragon's Roar without a shadow of a doubt. It got only 1 really good card in the DLC (Earthquake) and it was already nearly the worst, now it's beyond hope. I like all the DLC cards for SoS, it got the very best deal and I think it's probably about mid tier now.
I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
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Awesome! 


Also, why remove Rockslide Elementals? These guys win me games more often than I can count. If your only reasoning is that he is puny when he goes down and most of your own cards (board wipers) kill him, than it's just a matter of knowing when to play those cards, or when to play him. I strongly suggest re-thinking putting them in the deck. I say instead of replacing Tephraderms with the Earth Elementals, you replace them with Rockslide Elementals. 

Thanks for the guide by the way. Since I live in a rural area there are no card shops around here and no one who even plays it, DotP is my way of playing. These guides have helped me quite a lot in getting better at it. Keep up the good work, I appreciate it.
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Thanks Platnum, you're welcome Glad they have been of some use to you! I know what you mean, it's pretty much the only way I've had of playing Magic too for a long time.

As for Rockslides, I just found them to be not quite up to scratch in my testing. I don't feel the deck has enough removal to consistently bump them up, and I'd rather have something to grow into on the mana curve especially as the deck forces a high 25 lands on you. I feel the deck has enough things at the 3 mana mark already and I'd rather pay 2 more for a guaranteed fatty than gamble with this. I'm glad you've had more success than me with him, stick with it! It's just my personal experience and advice for a starting point I'm putting in the guide, I fully expect people to find they disagree with some of it and take the decks in their own directions.

Thanks for your feedback, I shall give it some more thought. Maybe I threw him out the pram too quickly. It's a bit of a close call whether to put him in or not, I just found myself edging him out; he's been in and out a few times. I haven't played this deck quite as much as the others as to be honest I can't stand it much in its initial state. It's a more serious contender now with the DLC, the new cards look great for it.
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 I haven't played this deck quite as much as the others as to be honest I can't stand it much in its initial state.



I enjoy it for the reasons you said you dislike it, actually. Because it has no overall theme or goal, you have to make a strategy based on what cards you currently have. Which, of course, makes every game play out differently. 

As for Rockslides, I just found them to be not quite up to scratch in my testing. I don't feel the deck has enough removal to consistently bump them up, and I'd rather have something to grow into on the mana curve especially as the deck forces a high 25 lands on you.



Also, after thinking for a bit I realize that with the cards you have/remove from the deck, Rockslide wouldn't be very good. With the guys like Berserker and Mountaineer out, you don't get those guys you can just suicide attack or trade on block with. After trying out your deck I realize why you took him out, it just doesn't work without those guys to die/trade. 

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On the other hand it doesn't make much sense to include cards which are bad enough that you'd want to sacrifice them in order to buff your Rockslide. There may be situations where this is the right play, but I wouldn't build my deck around a situational emergency move.
I still like the Rockslide though, because it sits there waiting to be buffed when your better creatures get removed. Along with your own removal and trades that's usually enough to pump it to medium size and a 4+ power first striker is an excellent creature. Sooner or later they'll probably want to remove it, which is a good sign.
Even if it doesn't get to grow that's usually for a reason. At the very least it makes your opponent hesitate to trade creatures, maybe even avoid slightly favourable ones. The main alternative, Koth's Courier, comes with slightly better stats, but doesn't have any of the above mentioned benefits and is pretty unimpressive against non-green decks.
i would love to see Rockslide in the CB deck. i think he would work really well with all the Sac creatures... but hey. i might build that deck for paper magic

Edit:
i also like Rockys stealth tactic. player has a 4/4 and a 1/1 pecker. Attacks with the 4/4 seeing all i have is a 3/3 Rocky. I block, and burn the pecker. two for one!
I've been giving this a lot of thought, and I have to agree I've been too hard on Rockslide. I think that in general he's going to be better than Koth's Courier and so I've replaced them in both pre and post DLC lists. I still like the bigger creature element, but I've now dropped 1 of the Earth Elementals I recommended for replacing Tephraderm because I realized Stuffy Doll is also 5 mana (duh!) and that would give you too many at that slot. So I went with Gegliosch's previous suggestion of Assault Strobe for more versatility. I realize I'm now including cards I class as bad, and I still think they are, but post-DLC I think they become much more viable and effectively rise to the heady heights of "OK" Tongue out

Thanks very much all for your feedback and getting me to think about this more, I've made the changes and rewritten my commentary of SoS post DLC. (And added you guys in the changes log)
I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
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Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.
While I agree with all your changes, I'm still not totally happy with your list.
I'd run another earth elemental (or Tephraderm - I still like it as it's cool against UF) over Lavaborn Muse, because they survive your own sweepers. Don't think the muse does enough imo. It's ability never won a game for me before DLC. What's your experience?
I'm also not sure about the Axes. Before DLC they were absolutely needed and they are still great on a Spikeshot or Rockslide, but most of the decks will deal with those creatures immediately. I often find myself needing all of my mana with this deck from turn 3 on, so no chance to even equip something. And it was a dead card for me sometimes even before DLC (especially against RoI, UF, BH... with all that removal and bounce). You don't want to draw two of these and run out of spells and creatures, right? Assault Strobe and the Claws already rely on having a creature on the board. Usually I'm not happy to have those "help cards" in my starting hand. My suggestion is leaving at least one of them out (I'm trying without both atm and rarely miss them). I run 2 elementals/2 Tephraderm instead.
My build is often too slow for AD and RoI with bounce/counter is too hard. Against most other decks I'm somewhat successful.
I've found the Muse to be fairly decent, admittedly its really terrible when its ability doesn't work, but it can be pretty harsh when it does. I'd rather keep it than another 5 mana creature simply because of the curve, I think 5 lots of 5 cost creatures may be pushing it. I agree that you could consider dropping it just because it doesn't like Slagstorm, but I've found it good enough to hold a spot. It's not uncommon for an opponent to be low in cards even in the early/mid game, and it's ability can really sting. But I certainly wouldn't lose any sleep over removing it.

The Axes I thought were amazing pre DLC, and I hadn't even considered taking them out post DLC, but I can see your point that they lose a little without the silly Goblin element. I would still very much keep them in personally as they are so hard to get rid of and just make everything you draw more powerful, and I'm struggling to find enough good cards to fill the deck as it is. Since the curve got (even) slower, I could certainly understand dropping one of them for another creature. Since I can't test the post DLC deck it's hard for me to say for sure.
I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
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Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.
Right now i don't think the Grim Lavamancer is usefull at all in the Strenght of stone deck because either i rarely get to use its ability before he dies or i don't have enough stuff in the grave yard to exile.

If somebody plays a card to remove a one-drop that's not bad at all. Even without cards in your graveyard it serves the same purpose as the Goblins and will eventually get 1-2 shocks in if it stays on the board. The Urns can feed it, so you have a way to force the issue a bit.
I agree it's not quite as effective early on due to the "loss" of the Goblins, but I still think it's a premium card. If it turns out nothing is entering your graveyard, chances are you're in a pretty fine position anyhow! It can do some cheap nibbles early on, and later you're bound to have something to feed it (or else you're already winning pretty heavily). With more sorceries and as Gegliosch says the Urns in my post DLC build, they give it more ammo.
I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
Useful links:
Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.
Omgpewpew has very kindly offered to host my guides here as an alternative to the defunct Playhaven! The Improving your Playing Skills guide is there now, and by using the Decks tab you can see the overview of the Duels 2012 guide and the first of the deck guides. The rest of the guide will eventually appear there.
I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
Useful links:
Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.
As has been requested, I've had a quick look at the new decklists. I don't have any DLC (I'm waiting for them to fix the game first) so it's only a theoretical study and I'm sure it would change a lot if I could play the cards.

For now I will post up my very rough first drafts of what I would try out from those lists. Don't expect them to be perfect If anyone could tell me what land ratio you get in March of War with my setup that would be appreciated. Also if anyone would like to try out my configurations and give feedback, I'd welcome it (please do actually play my list for several games first). If I can, I'll try and write a more detailed guide like I did with DLC1. Ghoulkeeper looks reasonably straightforward, but for March of War it seems to me you can either go for life-gain combos or just go for efficient cards and forget about life gain interaction. For now, I've gone with the second plan as I'm not a fan of life-gain. But I can see the potential in such a build and I'll come back to that. Here goes:



Ghoulkeeper
[deck]
Creatures

2Diregraf Ghoul
2Walking Corpse
2Stromgald Crusader
1Cemetery Reaper
1Lord of the Undead
1Death Baron
2Ghoulraiser
2Sanguine Guard
1Abattoir Ghoul
1Undead Warchief
2Skinrender
2Soulless One
1Grave Titan

Other Spells

1Reanimate
2Ghoulcaller's Chant
3Go for the Throat
2Feeding Frenzy
2Moan of the Unhallowed
1Endless Ranks of the Dead
3Cruel Revival
1Beacon of Unrest
1Call to the Grave
[/deck]


I've read people slagging off Basandra, Battle Seraph but I think it looks amazing. The two abilities (in my mind!) would work brilliantly together, forcing the opponent to play any spells before combat, and attacking with what you want them to. Then you can block knowing they can't do anything (besides activate abilities) so you can calculate almost exactly the outcome of the combat. To me this is way worth the drawback that you can't interfere with your opponent. Or you can just force them to attack with stuff so it can't defend on your next turn so you can get the win if you're ahead on life. Plus of course it's a big flier.

EDIT: Ammended the March of War list a bit.
I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
Useful links:
Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.
I didn't have the chance to play your suggested lists yet, but they look solid. Your Ghoulkeeper is almost the same as mine and I'd like to discuss the differences:

Abattoir Ghoul out for the 3rd Soulless One: So far I'm not impressed by Abby. First Strike is always nice, but if this card wants to justify a spot next to Sanguine Guard, it has to be for the lifegain, not the extra damage. People usually don't chump 2-3 power creatures for a long time and neither do they swing when it means losing 1+ creatures, unless it'll be lethal the next turn. Even if one of these situations occur, he'll probably just gain you a couple life for killing 1/1 or 2/2. Soulless One doesn't gain you life, but it grows pretty fast and forces chump blocks much sooner.

2x Moan of the Unhallowed out for 2x Shepherd of Rot: This deck is lacking in the 1-2 CMC range, so I think it's best to play every Zombie available for these spots (Deathgreeter is a little weak and doesn't help the synergy). I frequently run into the problem that I don't have many Zombies out when my Lords hit the table on turn 3. When they get removed, I have many ways to get them back and play them again, but that's slow and my hand stays stocked with my other creatures. That's why I wanna start playing stuff from the beginning, empty my hand and give the turn 3-4 lords more impact immediately. Shepherd isn't even bad, as it can end a game pretty quickly, once you get a little ahead in the race.

1x Endless Ranks of the Dead out for Cellar Door: I don't like Endless Ranks all that much. When this creates a reasonable amount of Zombies, it probably means you have the better board position anyway. Cellar Door isn't the best card either, but it's another 2-drop. It leaves turn 4 open for something else and you get a way to spend excessive mana for the rest of the game.


Your March to War is less token heavy and lifegain dependent, but it looks fun, I'll definitely try it out. The only choice I wanna discuss here is the exclusion of Soul Warden. It's just a 1/1 creature instead of a 2/1 like Elite Vanguard, but the general lack of 1-drops and the massive amount of life it'll gain you if unanswered put it way ahead of the Vanguard imo. People remove this card on sight and they can't know that you don't run Searing Meditation and Ajani's Pridemate.
Thanks very much for the feedback, it's very useful. To discuss the points you raise:

I took out one Soulless One to reduce the chance of drawing one too early where you either can't cast it or don't have enough guys to power him up. I guess with the leaning towards huge creature numbers in this deck, 3 would be justified. I thought the Abattoir Ghoul would provide a reasonable compromise if not many other zombies are showing up, but I guess he's just too vulnerable and the Soulless is likely to be better. I agree.

Yes that's true about Moan of the Unhallowed, especially as my deck is too saturated with 4 mana spells. I don't especially like the Shepherd of Rot, but I can see it would make sense as a building block.

Yeah I can see Endless Ranks of the Dead may just be win-more and again another 4 mana spell. I really think Cellar Door is too expensive, but it does have a synergy with the deck that I only just realized; that being putting more Zombies into your graveyard to get back to your hand and to power Soulless One. So I'll concede that point too. All in all, great changes!

For March to War, I don't know how this build would compare to life-gain combo versions, indeed if you could test it out that would be great! I see what you mean that Soul Warden would make the opponent fill their underwear and reach for removal, not knowing you aren't playing life-combo. I've been thinking of taking out one Conquerer's Pledge anyhow and was on the fence about Victory's Herald so I reckon they could be replaced. Not sure if a third is needed, or if there's anything worth taking out for the third... any suggestions on that?

I'll try and work out a life-gain combo decklist soon too.

Here's the new updated decklists:



Ghoulkeeper
[deck]
Creatures

2Diregraf Ghoul
2Shepherd of Rot
2Walking Corpse
2Stromgald Crusader
1Cemetery Reaper
1Lord of the Undead
1Death Baron
2Ghoulraiser
2Sanguine Guard
1Undead Warchief
2Skinrender
3Soulless One
1Grave Titan

Other Spells

1Reanimate
2Ghoulcaller's Chant
1Cellar Door
3Go for the Throat
2Feeding Frenzy
3Cruel Revival
1Beacon of Unrest
1Call to the Grave
[/deck]


I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
Useful links:
Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.

Both March to War lists you posted put you at 15 Plains and 9 Mountains. I played them a few times and they work well. I'm still not quite satisfied for reasons I can only explain by giving a step by step description of my deck building process:

1. I start with the key cards of this deck, namely the buffers and utility: Brave the Elements, Path to Exile, Lightning Helix, Recumbent Bliss, Leonin Sun Standard, Glory of Warfare and Marshal's Anthem.
(Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran isn't in there because +0/+2 on white tokens and Hawks is useless. I also don't like the fact that he has to attack and make himself a target)

2. The next question is, what complements them the best? With so many cards buffing my whole side, I want as many creatures as possible: Raise the Alarm, Squadron Hawk, Conqueror's Pledge and White Sun's Zenith.

3. With all these tokens coming into play, the next creature I wanna add is Soul Warden, a 1/1 1-drop that couldn't benefit more from 10+ creatures entering the battlefield a game on my side alone.

4. I already included 8 lifegain cards, so without further investment Ajani's Pridemate and Searing Meditation start to become huge threats, they're the next best cards to include.

5. The remaining slots need to be red to increase my Mountain count. This is the point where the choice is pretty much a matter of taste. I choose Boros Swiftblade because double strike has better synergy with buffs and I choose Sunhome Enforcer for the lifelink synergy. Haste and vigilance are great, but not quite as much in the spirit of the deck as the other 2.

6. I'm at 7 Mountains now. In order to increase the count to a playable 8, I need one more non-white card, it can even be an artifact. I'm currently experimenting with this slot, but my favourites so far are 1 Darksteel Axe for the disposable tokens or Angel's Feather for a continuous Searing Meditation trigger that's harder to remove.

The outcome:



* Angel's Feather is the only card I'm on the fence about, Darksteel Axe might be better.



As you can see, I tried my best to go for maximum buff/token/lifegain-combo synergy at any point. If I didn't make any mistakes, this means replacements in the core set of cards (steps 1-4) will reduce the overall synergy in favour of a bigger standalone threat. Imo it's this incredible synergy that makes the deck so good, therefore I have a hard time neglecting one of the aspects for more efficient beaters.

From my previous posts should be clear how a buff-heavy build goes hand in hand with tokens and finally lifegain-combos. If I wanted to give it a completely different flavour, instead of just playing a similar version with less synergy, I'd drop the Leonin Sun Standards. With the standards, I'd also drop the tokens and Hawks, which leaves me with the efficient R/W creatures and again some lifegain-combos:





If you followed all this and have some feedback, feel free to discuss :P
Thanks very much for the feedback, and for your further analysis. It certainly makes a lot of sense. Your builds, especially the first one, look pretty much exactly like I would build the life-gain synergy version. It may well prove that this version is inevitably stronger than trying to ignore it and just build with strong cards. Without playing that's hard for me to know, but it seems you're leaning that way and I can fully believe it.

If there's any hope for my second list, which is probably a bit better than the first, I was wondering about the Solemn Offering. I included just 1 as a compromise but with many top decks having little or not artifacts/enchantments to worry about maybe it could be dropped for the third Soul Warden. I was wondering about the Squadron Hawks, I've never played with them so I'm not exactly sure how strong they are. Maybe they could be dropped for 3 more Raise the Alarm and something else.
I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
Useful links:
Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.
I personally prefer not to include artifact/enchantment control, as long as they're not a side effect of a creature. You could replace it with a Soul Warden I guess, but these kinds of considerations kinda show how everything leads more or less to the synergy build in the end. If you make this change, you play as much lifegain as I do, but you don't take advantage of it yet. You could change this as well, but then... and so on.

I'd keep the Hawks, they have always been useful. Raise the Alarm is another card that's been quite good, as it provides 2 bodies and a way to kill overconfident lords/key cards.

I don't wanna talk you into anything you can't test. Actually it's even difficult for myself to test: How do you make out the difference between a very good build and an excellent build anyway, when both win? You can't really go wrong with this deck.
This deck made me realize how important life-gain actually is in DOTP. That's why decks like AD and Ghoulkeeper can never become consistent winners. I guess, you can add their life-gain cards, but they are just not worth it that much.

Soul Warden may actually be the saving grace of this deck. This card gives you so much, it gives you the opportunity to not block anything actually. You can literally peck your way to victory with a gradually increasing number of birds, while sitting back and removing opposite flyers.

I dont know any better common 1-drop than Soul Warden. Broken stuff.    
I thought I would repost this here for ease or reference, also made a few minor adjustments and more info.

Although beating the Suntail encounter is an easy enough way to unlock cards, I'd like to offer my own experience for anyone still unlocking cards. I have found the best opponents are (to challenge and beat repeatedly giving you a card each time):



Depending on which deck you are unlocking, I've found one of these to be a really quick way to win.  Get the promotional unlocks first (here's how), then strip down to 60 cards using the cheapest possible cards you can, tuned to beat one of the encounters in particular. After each unlock or two, go back and take out the least appropriate or expensive cards to make wins even quicker. Some decks can work well against more than one of these, but here's my picks:



  • Liliana: #1 You have a million and one ways to kill the Pyros, often gaining life at the same time. Pump creatures quickly seal the game.

  • Talrand: #2 Remove all creatures costing more than 3 mana, and load up with as many non-creature spells as possible. He cannot raise anything decent or use your spells like Talrand's Invocation against you, and you easily out draw him. You can also bounce back what he steals to your hand.

  • Yeva: #3 All you need is Taunting Elf. This will then force every Fog Bank to block him every turn, letting everything else through. He survives to do it all again over and over.

  • Odric: #2 Like Talrand, focus on cheap creatures and token generating spells which cannot be used against you. Easy pickings.

  • Jace: #2 Use pure mill strategy. Telemin Performance and Grindstone are instant win cards against this guy [thanks Splattercat!] Your creatures aren't scary to be used against you, some could even help (Dreamborn Muse).

  • Exalted: #3 You can easily outspeed the Fog Banks with lots of quick creatures, and Tormented Soul wrecks him. Once unlocked Spirit Mantle is an easy win too.

  • Goblins: #2 Concentrate on fast creatures, direct damage and removal. He can only raise feeble blockers which wil barely slow you down.

  • Chandra: #2 Again lots of cheap creatures but mostly just direct damage which is of no use to the necromancer.

  • Ajani: #1 Ajani's Pridemate owns him up, especially if it follows Soul Warden. It's almost unfair. Any toughness boosters put your creatures quickly out of reach, and life gain easily stops you from losing. Quickly he resorts to chump blocking.

  • Garruk (breaking the general rule of using only cheap spells for this deck) : #3 Load up with all your trample creatures to go over the top of fog banks. Prey Upon cheaply kills them and Primal Bellow easily sneaks around the Mana Leaks. Or #1 using big toughness creatures plus all your mana accelleration, to quickly get out of the reach of the pingers.


Hope that helps someone out there! If anyone wants any more advice or clarification please let me know.

I am a Rules advisor. Feel free to send me any questions as a private message! Check if you have found a bug in Duels 2013 Report a bug Report a technical issue I have written several guides to help new DoTP players here, move to the first post to start reading. They are also in Wordpress format here. The principles involved should still be useful for Duels 2013!
Useful links:
Find other DoTP players - a database of friendly players, find a match or post your name here to be added to the list! I'll add a D13 section if anyone would like. Ask a rules question - ask anything about DoTP, Magic in general, or to check out if you've found a bug by asking if the rules are being followed. Community thread for general chatter in the DoTP part of the forum! Guide to Yugioh on Xbox live: A beginner's guide focusing on the similarities and differences to Magic.