A review of the Magic: the Gathering Duel Decks: Mind vs Might, featuring classic Legendary Creatures Jhoira of the Ghitu and Lovisa Coldeyes.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Many Magic: the Gathering players were a bit underwhelmed by the release of the deck lists for the Mind VS Might Duel Decks. There was no one real "chase" card in this particular product, which has been the case in many past Duel Decks. For example, Duel Decks: Blessed vs Cursed has both Geist of Saint Traft and Gravecrawler, two very good cards in competitive play. The most expensive card at retail with the release of these new Duel Decks? Coat of Arms at around $5.
Granted, this and some other cards in the deck were a bit more expensive before the announcement of these Duel Decks deck lists. In particular, Beacon of Tomorrows was an $8 card from the Fifth Dawn set before the reprint, and is now about $1.50 for the new printing. Both Coat of Arms and Beacon of Tomorrows do see Kitchen Table Magic and Commander play. But these couple of cards were hardly worth buying a $25 Duel Deck.
However, these Duel Decks have a lot more to them than the retail value of the individual cards. Let's take a look and see if it's worth buying the Mind VS Might Duel Decks, even just for fun.
Mind Deck List
2 Goblin Electromancer
2 Young Pyromancer
1 Jhoira of the Ghitu
1 Jori En, Ruin Diver
1 Nivix Cyclops
1 Spellheart Chimera
1 Talrand, Sky Summoner
1 Sage-Eye Avengers
1 The Unspeakable
1 Deep-Sea Kraken
3 Reach Through Mists
1 Desperate Ritual
2 Peer Through Depths
3 Rift Bolt
2 Sift Through Sands
2 Empty the Warrens
1 Shivan Meteor
1 Temporal Fissure
1 Mind's Desire
1 Firemind's Foresight
1 Volcanic Vision
1 Beacon of Tomorrows
4 Swiftwater Cliffs
The Mind deck is based around Arcane spells and being able to use Jhoira of the Ghitu's ability to suspend your bigger spells so that you can cast them for "free" later on in the game. Let's take a look at Jhoira, as her ability is the reason that this deck is constructed as it is.
Jhoira of the Ghitu was originally printed in Future Sight and was later reprinted in Modern Masters. This alternate art foil version will be greatly sought after mainly because she is a very powerful leader in Commander. For only two mana, you can exile a nonland card from your hand and it gains suspend. You then put 4 time counters on it. Each one of your upkeeps, you remove a time counter from it. Once the last one is removed, you can play it for free. If it's a creature, that creature gains haste.
Obviously, you need to sort of plan ahead as you suspend these cards, especially if they happen to be sorceries that may be better played situationally. Fortunately, a lot of the cards in this deck are going to be fine to cast whenever they get cast. Also, many spells in the deck have suspend on their own.Note also that you can suspend as many cards as you have mana to pay for Jhoira's ability. You can do some really fun things with this gal.
In Commander, you're usually going to suspend a major threat like Blightsteel Colossus or something like it. But in this deck, the power level is dialed back quite a bit to make for a more strategic experience. There's actually quite a few interesting things this deck can do and some very useful cards within.
Goblin Electromancer is a very useful creature that helps your instants and sorceries cost 1 less to cast. This is especially helpful in getting your early game spells cast a turn earlier than they would otherwise. There are also two copies of the popular Young Pyromancer, who gives you a 1/1 Elemental token whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spells. This is a nice reprint, although the Pyromancer was just reprinted in Eternal Masters, as well.
Jori En, Ruin Diver isn't an exciting creature, but this Legendary Merfolk Wizard lets you draw a card whenever you've cast your second spell in a turn. This is nice value, especially in a deck like this where casting two spells in a turn is going to be fairly common. Nivix Cyclops is a cool little creature that can get very powerful, and is actually a key part of a Pauper deck called Izzet Blitz. Spellheart Chimera is another creature that gets very powerful as the game goes on, feeding off the instants and sorceries in your graveyard.
Talrand, Sky Summoner is one of the most hated Commanders around due to the fact that he creates 2/2 fliers whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell. He's a turbo charged version of Young Pyromancer, essentially. He's particularly good in this deck, as well.
So one dimension of this deck allows you to get value off of your early game spells. The rest of the creatures are ones that you may get the most value from suspending them with Jhoira's ability.
Nucklavee may cost 6 mana for only a 4/4 body, but he can get you back both a red sorcery and a blue instant spell to your hand when he enters the battlefield. This is amazing value if you can suspend him with Jhoira, as by the time he hits the field, you should have cast enough spells to have valid targets for both parts of his ability. This is an especially good creature to pair with Jhoira, since you can then suspend those spells again.
Sage-Eye Avengers isn't an exciting card from a competitive Magic player's point of view, but in this sense, this is a great creature to suspend off of Jhoira. Not only is he a 4/5 with Prowess (which gives him +1/+1 until end of turn for each instant or sorcery you cast that turn) but whenever he attacks, he also allows you to return a target creature to your opponent's hand if its power is less than Sage-Eye Avenger's. When pitted directly against the opposite Might deck, this is a great tempo play.
The Unspeakable is a Legendary Creature from Champions of Kamigawa that gets new artwork. He has particularly great synergy with Arcane spells. Not only is he a 6/7 flyer with trample, but whenever he deals combat damage to a player, you get an Arcane spell back to your hand. At 9 mana, he's pricey to cast, although well worth it, and especially valuable when paired with Jhoira's Suspend ability.
The final creature in the deck is Deep-Sea Kraken, who himself has Suspend. While he gets 9 time counters when you suspend him for 2 colorless and a Blue mana, each time an opponent casts a spell, you remove a time counter. The cool thing about this ability is that if he's suspended with Jhoira, this ability still applies. That means you can suspend him for 4 turns with Jhoira and potentially get him on the board well before then.
On his own, the Deep-Sea Kraken costs 10 mana to cast. But he's a 6/6 that can't be blocked. If you're going to suspend any creature with Jhoira, this is a great target.
So the creature line-up, while it doesn't blow anyone away, is pretty well-chosen for the theme of this deck. Properly deployed, these creatures will keep up the tempo and provide value, especially when Jhoira is suspending them for a big finish.
But the creatures are only half of the story. There's a bunch of good non-creature spells in here, too!
Mind Deck: Non-Creature Spells
As I mentioned earlier, there are a good number of Arcane spells in this deck, which provide great synergy with the Unspeakable. But there are also a few good spells with Suspend, including a card that sees a good amount of competitive play.
Quicken doesn't look exciting, but this cantrip allows you to cast a sorcery at instant speed. This can be pretty relevant, and is a trick that's been used in competitive play in the past. It's a decent card. Reach Through Mists just draws you a card for a single Blue mana, but it's at instant speed, so it can not only allow you to move your deck along, but also provide instant dividends with your value creatures on-board.
Desperate Ritual is a particularly great card for a couple of reasons. Not only does it give you 3 Red mana for 1R, but it also has Splice onto Arcane. This means you can pay 1R whenever you cast an Arcane spell, such as Reach Through Mists, reveal it in your hand and add its effect to the spell you're already casting. The best part about this whole process is that you get to keep the Ritual in your hand. So even with only one copy in the deck, you can use it multiple times in a game quite easily without ever actually casting it.
Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens are cards that serve a similar purpose. They both have Storm, meaning that they get to copy themselves for each time that you cast a spell in that turn. Grapeshot is a particularly powerful card that can win the game by itself, and Empty the Warrens can create a lot of Goblins at once. There are enough other low-cost spells in this deck that makes casting these for a great amount of value fairly easy.
Peer Through Depths is another Arcane spell. This one lets you look at the top 5 cards of your deck and choose an instant or sorcery card from among them. Then, put the other cards on the bottom of your deck. This is a great way to essentially not only draw a card, but also select a spell for a given situation. It's especially helpful to seek out one of the bigger spells in your deck in order to suspend it with Jhoira's ability.
Snap is a particularly nice inclusion in this deck for a couple of reasons. First, this is the first time it's been printed since Urza's Legacy. Also, this card is just really good. For two mana, not only do you get to return a creature to its owner's hand, but you get to untap up to two of your lands, as well. Essentially, this makes Snap a "free" spell. Not only is this good against aggressive decks, such as the opposing Might Duel Deck, but also good for Storm count for your Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens. It's also just good for tempo purposes. The new artwork on this card is cool, too.
Rift Bolt is a very good burn spell. You may wonder why a sorcery speed spell that costs 2R for 3 damage is good. It's the Suspend cost that's good, only a single Red mana to wait a turn to cast it. In Pauper and Modern, running four of this is like running 8 copies of Lightning Bolt, the most efficient burn spell of all time. With three copies in the deck, you're only one copy away from a playset of this very good spell.
Sift Through Sands is yet another Arcane spell, but this one has a really nice ability attached to it. For 3 mana, you get to draw 2 cards, but you have to discard a card. But, if you also cast a copy of Reach Through Mists and a copy of Peer Through Depths in the same turn, you get to play The Unspeakable right out of your deck! Of course, if he's already in your hand or suspended, you're out of luck. But it's a really nice way to get a big creature out in a hurry!
You may have noticed that we've mentioned Jhoira a lot in this review. While this deck definitely functions better with her Suspend ability in play, these higher-end spells of the Mind deck can do some cool tricks on their own.
Shivan Meteor is a five-mana spell that deals 13 damage to a target creature. But you can alternatively suspend it for 2 turns by spending 1 colorless and 2 Red mana (1RR). It's actually pretty cute to suspend it, as your opponent may hold back from playing their best creature until it resolves. It's a cool card, although you probably won't ever see it played competitively.
Temporal Fissure is an interesting card. It costs 5 mana to return a permanent to its owners hand. This sounds exceptionally bad until you see that it has Storm. With a high enough Storm count, this can actually return most of your opponent's cards to their hand, including their lands! This card does actually see a fair amount of Commander play, although mostly in Mizzix of the Izmagnus decks, where it can often be cast for a single Blue mana. It's not really the best card to Suspend, honestly, but it does do work in the right situation.
Mind's Desire is a really fun card. At 6 mana with Storm, it may not be the greatest card to Suspend. But played correctly, you can cast a whole ton of instant speed spells on your upkeep in order to increase the Storm count. What Mind's Desire actually does is quite fun. You shuffle your library, then exile the top card of it. Until the end of the turn, you can play that card for free. It doesn't take much of a Storm count to make this card really good. Unsurprisingly, this is a very popular card in a number of Commander decks.
Unlike the past few big spells, Firemind's Foresight is a great card to suspend with Jhoira. It lets you search out an instant with converted mana cost 1, one with 2, and another with 3. The obvious combination here with this deck is to search out a copy of Reach Through Mists, a copy of Peer Through Depths, and a copy of Sift Through Sands. That way you can guarantee getting The Unspeakable out of your deck and onto to the battlefield. But there are plenty of spells you can get with this card. Seven mana might be fair for this effect, but it's really wise to suspend this with Jhoira if you get the chance.
Volcanic Vision is actually a pretty cool card to suspend with Jhoira, too. It costs a whopping 7 mana to get back an instant or sorcery card from your graveyard. But the bigger the spell, the more damage it then causes to each of your opponent's creatures. It's obvious that this spell was chosen to combat the Might deck, which is a creature-happy deck. It's yet another Jhoira-friendly card.
The last non-creature spell in the deck is a pretty good one, Beacon of Tomorrows. This is a card that was over $8 with its original printing, and for good reason. Not only does it grant you an extra turn for 8 mana, but it also shuffles itself back into the deck. This is a card that's commonly seen in Jhoira of the Ghitu Commander decks, and it's easily the best spell to suspend with Jhoira in this deck.
Thoughts on the Mind Deck
Honestly, this is a fairly well constructed deck, especially when taking into account the deck opposite it. Since these decks are tuned to face one another head-to-head, I think the card selections make a lot of sense. While there isn't a ton of "money" in this deck, there are plenty of useful cards to add to one's collection. I think this deck is actually pretty good for half of a pre-constructed product.
My main issue with the deck, while it has enough firepower to keep up with the Might deck, does somewhat depend on Jhoira being in play to suspend the bigger spells. It looks like a fun deck to play, nonetheless.
Of course, many Magic players buy this for the "bang for the buck." While there are good cards here, the only "money" card is Beacon of Tomorrows. So will the Might deck pull through on that end?
Might Deck List
2 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
2 Burning-Tree Emissary
2 Kruin Striker
1 Radha, Heir to Keld
1 Talara's Battalion
1 Relentless Hunter
1 Zo-Zu the Punisher
2 Ambassador Oak
2 Cloudcrown Oak
2 Gorehorn Minotaurs
1 Rubblebelt Raiders
1 Lovisa Coldeyes
1 Kamahl, Pit Fighter
1 Boldwyr Intimidator
1 Guttural Response
2 Rampant Growth
2 Sylvan Might
2 Call of the Herd
1 Increasing Savagery
1 Beacon of Destruction
1 Beast Attack
1 Roar of the Wurm
1 Coat of Arms
4 Rugged Highlands
There are some really good cards in this deck throughout the list. Let's start with the creatures, beginning with the face card of the deck, Lovisa Coldeyes.
Lovisa Coldeyes is one of those Legendary Creatures from Coldsnap that has proven to be a pretty cool "build-around-me" Commander. Like a fine wine, Lovisa has aged pretty well, since the creature types that she assists with her ability tend to get new support on a regular basis. While not a super popular Commander, not a lot of players today probably have ever heard of her.
She's not that exciting on her own, a vanilla human who's a 3/3 for 5 mana. But she grants each creature that a barbarian, berserker or Warrior +2/+2 and haste. Notice that this would apply to your opponents creatures as well, but that's a minor downside if you give Lovisa enough support. But as this isn't Commander, and Lovisa is just another card in a 60-card deck, let's see how this Red/Green deck looks overall.
Skarrgan Pit-Skulk isn't a household name. But it's a solid, efficient creature for only one mana. If you cast him after an opponent has been dealt damage that turn, his Bloodthirst ability activates and he comes into play with a +1/+1 counter on him. He's a good little Warrior, and he only gets better with Lovisa Coldeyes.
Burning-Tree Emissary doesn't benefit from Lovisa's ability, considering that he's a Shaman. But providing you one Red and one Green mana when he enter the battlefield makes him well-worth playing in an aggressive deck like this. Ordinarily this would be a cool reprint, although the Emissary was just reprinted at common in Modern Masters 2017. Still, two copies of this guy are quite welcome in this deck.
Kruin Striker is a great creature for a deck featuring Lovisa. Not only is she a warrior, but whenever another creature enters the battlefield under your control, the Striker gets +1/+0 and trample until end of turn. With Lovisa in play, the Striker becomes a 5/3 with trample under this scenario. That's quite a lot of power for only two mana. While not a common fixture in Lovisa Commander decks, in a 60-card Constructed deck, this is a good choice.
Radha, Heir to Keld is a classic Elf from Time Spiral, so this is a welcome reprint. Not only does she add two red mana to your mana pool whenever she attacks, but can also tap herself to give you a green mana. Add to that Radha's a Warrior, and you have a solid inclusion in this deck.
Talara's Battalion is one of the cards in this deck that was actually worth a few dollars before this reprint. Originally printed in Eventide, this Elf can't be cast unless you've cast another green spell that turn. Honestly, though, this isn't that big a deal when you consider the Battalion is a 4/3 with trample for only 1G. Lovisa and these Elf Warriors are going to be fast friends, although you won't see them in a Lovisa Commander deck, obviously. But this is a card that's been worth more than many people realized.
Relentless Hunter is a 3 mana Warrior with an ability for 3 mana to gain +1/+1 and Trample. She has great synergy with this deck, although she's hardly exciting.
Zo-Zu the Punisher is a crafty Goblin Warrior that punishes players for playing lands, dealing two damage to a player whenever that player lays down a land. The idea here is that the Might deck will be able to deal enough combat damage to the opponent that taking 2 damage here and there won't be that much of a drawback.
Ambassador Oak is a particularly cool card in a Lovisa-powered deck. Not only is he a 3/3 Treefolk Warrior himself, but he brings a 1/1 Elf Warrior token into play along with him. With Lovisa in play, that's a 5/5 and a 3/3 with haste for only 3 colorless and one Green mana (3G). This is definitely one of the better creatures in the deck.
On the other hand, Cloudcrown Oak is a bit underwhelming, a 3/4 with Reach for 4 mana. While he isn't "bad" per se, and is perfectly fine in a Treefolk deck, it seems like there could have been a better choice here. My thought is that the Reach here is to combat the fliers that the Mind deck can create with Talrand, Sky Summoner. They're nice role players in this deck, but hardly exciting.
Gorehorn Minotaurs is essentially a bigger version of the Pit-Skulks, 4 mana 3/3 Warriors with Blodthirst 2. They fit the theme of the deck, of course, but are often just big dumb beaters that can potentially be 5/5 when cast.
Rubblebelt Raiders is a Warrior originally from Gatecrash that can be cast with either Red or Green mana. While the Raiders didn't see much competitive play in Standard, this is a creature that can get really big in a hurry. Whenever the Raiders attack, you put a +1/+1 counter on it for each attacking creature you control! While this ability sounds awesome, the Raiders don't have trample, so they can be chump-blocked all day. Still, in this deck, this is a nice creature to combine with Lovisa's ability.
Kamahl, Pit Fighter is a staple in Lovisa Coldeyes decks, and it's not hard to see why. Not only is he a Barbarian, a creature type that Lovisa boosts, but he has haste on his own, and has 6 power. The downside is that he has only a single toughness. That seems awfully fragile for a 6 mana creature. However, he can tap to deal 3 damage to a target creature or player. That's a powerful tap ability, and one that he can use immediately, even without the assistance of Lovisa's haste-granting ability. He's fragile, but he's exactly the kind of creature you'd expect to see in a deck centered around Lovisa Coldeyes.
The final and largest creature in the deck is Boldwyr Intimidator. He's a whopping 7 mana to cast, but this Giant Warrior is a lot of fun. His first ability is that Cowards can't block Warriors. Hmm, since when was Coward a creature type? Turns out that his second ability makes a creature into a Coward until end of turn. For only a single mana, that's pretty cool. Since this deck is primarily Warriors, that could prove extremely helpful. Also, the Intimidator has another ability that can turn a target creature into a Warrior for 2R. This guy is a great addition to this deck, and so it's little surprise that a lot of Lovisa Coldeyes Commander decks play this guy, too.
Overall, the creature selections make sense from a purely tribal standpoint. But outside of the raw power, none of them are all that exciting. Like with the Mind deck, the Might deck really seems to revolve around the face creature of the deck, in this case Lovisa Coldeyes. If you don't have Lovisa on the board, you have to depend on pure power and toughness to bash through the Mind deck's defenses before they can out-tempo you with their spells.
So, with this in mind, do the non-creature spells allow this deck to go over the top and pit direct damage against card advantage? Let's see.
Might Deck: Non-Creature Spells
Firebolt is basically a better version of Shock. It costs a single mana to deal 2 damage to a target creature or player. But, it can also be cast again from the graveyard with Flashback, for a hefty cost of 4R. While 5 mana is a lot to deal 2 damage, it is well worth it if it is all you need to win the game. It can do the job.
Guttural Response is actually a fairly sought after uncommon, originally printed in Shadowmoor. It gained new artwork for these Duel Decks. So why is it so good? For either a Red or Green mana, you counter target Blue instant spell. The Mind deck is loaded with Blue instants, so this is a natural choice. But it also just happens to be good in Modern, a format in which there are plenty of Blue instant spells flying around. It's good for this deck, and a good $1-plus card to have in your collection.
Rampant Growth is straightforward: get a basic land card into play tapped and shuffle your deck. It's a good way to accelerate your mana to get your creatures out more quickly. It's just a solid card that sees play in all kinds of formats.
Sylvan Might is a nice pump spell. It costs 1 and a Green to give a target creature +2/+2 and trample until end of turn. The trample is especially important in this deck, as many creatures in the Might deck don't have trample. Without trample, all the power in the world doesn't matter if an Elemental or Drake token is sitting in its path ready to block. It also has flashback for 2 colorless and 2 Green (2GG), which is especially useful late in the game.
Call of the Herd is an old-school card that was perfectly fine back in the day - 3 mana to make a 3/3 Elephant creature token. You can then cast it again with Flashback from the graveyard for 3 and a Green. While this is a fair card, it's hardly exciting. While it fits the theme of the deck, there are far more powerful token generators out there that could have taken this slot in the deck.
Increasing Savagery, on the other hand, is very good. For 4 mana, you get to put 5 +1/+1 coutners on a target creature. It also has Flashback for 7 mana. The cool thing is that if it's cast from the graveyard, you put 10 counters on that creature instead. As long as you target a creature with trample, the game is probably going to be over once this is cast.
Harmonize lets you draw 3 cards for 4 mana. In Green, that's awesome. This card has been reprinted to death, but it's a really nice card to have around in your collection. It's still worth around $1.
Beacon of Destruction is nowhere as good of a card as Beacon of Tomorrows is in the Mind deck. While this Beacon shuffles into the deck like its extra-turn taking counterpart, all this does for 5 mana is deal 5 damage to a target creature or player. Sometimes this 5 damage will be extremely relevant. But you could probably do better than this.
Roar of the Wurm is 7 mana to create a 6/6 Wurm token. That hardly seems exciting. However, its Flashback cost is only 3 and a Green for the same ability. It's hardly a bad card, but not the most exciting thing to have at the top of your mana curve.
From a value standpoint, outside of a couple of $1 uncommons, this deck looks pretty bad. Fortunately, the final non-creature spell in the deck is at least a good one. In fact, Coat of Arms may be the best card in the deck outside of Lovisa Coldeyes. Despite being printed so many times, Coat of Arms has retained a $5+ price tag again and again. What this artifact does is give each creature a +1/+1 boost for each other creature that shares at least one creature type with it.
This math can get pretty confusing. The beauty of this card is not only does it boost each of your Humans for each other Human on the battlefield, but it also boosts each Warrior for each other Warrior as well. So, if you have two Human Warriors and a Human Shaman on the battlefield, they each gain +2/+2. While Coat of Arms can benefit your opponents, as well, the tribal synergy in the Might deck is strong enough that once this hits the board, it will be difficult for most other decks to compete with the raw power you'll suddenly have at your disposal. Of course, if the Mind deck has a bunch of Elemental and Drake tokens on the board already, that could prove to be a problem, as well.
Thoughts on the Might Deck
From a thematic standpoint, the Might deck is fine. It does rely heavily on Lovisa Coldeyes and its burn spells to keep you in the game against the Mind deck's card advantage engine, but it can compete. Value-wise, this deck isn't all that great. It's synergistic from a tribal perspective, but it's a deck that has plenty of room for improvement.
The alternate art Lovisa Coldeyes is awesome, though, and will teach a lot of Commander players that she exists. Guttural Response is a nice reprint, and there are some other useful cards in here like Coat of Arms and Harmonize that are worth having.
Overall Analysis of Mind VS Might Duel Decks
The Mind deck is definitely my favorite of the two Duel Decks. Jhoira is a great Legendary, and this Duel Deck has rekindled interest in her as a Commander. There are a lot of good reprints in the Mind deck, as well, especially Beacon of Tomorrows. So what about the Might deck? While I love Lovisa, she works better as a Commander, not really as part of a 60-card deck. It was a cute concept, though, and I'm sure players appreciate another chance to get Coat of Arms. These are definitely not the better Duel Decks to be released in recent years and are definitely a disappointment. But I will say I do appreciate the crafting that went into the Mind deck. I feel that the Might deck was underpowered, not just in terms of monetary value, but gameplay value, as well.
Would I buy the Mind vs Might Duel Decks? Personally, I would look to acquire the alternate art single cards as singles. I'm not sure that the $25 MSRP is worth it. Granted, you can usually find these Duel Decks for $20 at big box stores and online. Even the decent Nissa vs Ob Nixilis Duel Decks, which contains two very good planeswalkers, can be had for $15! The Blessed vs Cursed Duel Decks have two extremely good cards, and can be had under $20 as well.
If you manage to get ahold of the Mind VS Might Duel Decks at a price point around $15, then you actually make out with Beacon of Tomorrows, Coat of Arms, two really nice looking foil promo Legendary Creatures, three copies of Rift Bolt, and a copy of Desperate Ritual, plus some semi-valuable collection filler. The rest is a bunch of essentially free cards.
Would I buy these Duel Decks for $25? Absolutely not. Around $20? It's doubtful. At about $15 or under? I'd consider it. Otherwise, I can just buy the cards I'd want from this deck as singles.
It's not hard to find a copy of the Duel Decks: Mind vs Might for under $20 on Amazon.
You can also find a copy of Mind vs Might for between $15-20 on TCGPlayer.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Blessed VS Cursed may turn out to be one of the more valuable Duel Decks we've seen in recent years. This is even though there are only two "money" cards between the decks. One of the cover cards, Geist of Saint Traft, makes up the majority of the value. The popular Zombie Gravecrawler adds a bit of value in the Cursed deck, as well. The other cover card, Mindwrack Demon, would even end up being worth his drawback and see some Standard play.
As set preview cards included in these decks have shown, they usually end up being Standard-playable. Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, Polukranos, World Eater and Oblivion Sower were big hits. Even Zurgo Helmsmasher ended up being a big hit in Commander. As Delirium decks would prove to work in the long run, the Demon would actually be valuable for a time, too.
While the Geist is the “big deal” reprint in the decks, there’s a lot to see in these decks. First, we’ll take a look at the denizens of Innistrad fighting off yet another Zombie invasion.
Blessed is a white/blue deck that utilizes several cards with the Delirium mechanic. Delirium abilities activate whenever you have four different card types in your graveyard. We’ve seen the power that a creature like Tarmogoyf can have in Modern. He cares all about card types in your graveyard, too. So does this deck show off the mechanic‘s potential?
1 Cathedral Sanctifier
1 Champion of the Parish
1 Doomed Traveler
1 Nephalia Smuggler
1 Moorland Inquisitor
1 Thraben Heretic
1 Captain of the Mists
1 Chapel Geist
2 Elder Cathar
1 Emancipation Angel
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Tandem Lookout
1 Village Bell-Ringer
1 Mist Raven
1 Slayer of the Wicked
1 Tower Geist
1 Gryff Vanguard
1 Spectral Gateguards
1 Dearly Departed
1 Goldnight Redeemer
1 Voice of the Provinces
1 Bonds of Faith
2 Gather the Townsfolk
1 Momentary Blink
1 Sharpened Pitchfork
1 Butcher's Cleaver
1 Increasing Devotion
1 Eerie Interlude
1 Pore Over the Pages
1 Seraph Sanctuary
4 Tranquil Cove
You can’t talk about this deck without talking about Geist of Saint Traft. This hexproof guy was one of the best creatures in Standard as long as he was legal in the format. He’s a decent force in Modern, too.
Outside of the 4-color Modern Zoo decks, he’s been an important piece in Blue/White (U/W) Control and Bant Midrange. Also, he’s become a staple in the Bant Knightfall/Reliquary Retreat Combo decks. He’s also very good in Commander.
What makes him so good? Every time he attacks, he brings a 4/4 Angel into play. While you have to exile the token at end of combat, it’s hard to deal with 6 power from one attack. He’s just one of the better creatures ever printed in Blue and White.
One of the preview cards is a solid card called Eerie Interlude, which is basically an improved version of Ghostway, a valuable rare from Guildpact. The difference with Interlude is that you get to select the number of creatures you “blink.”
With the amount of enter the battlefield effects the Blessed deck has, it's a good fit. But considering Ghostway has before tried to be a real deck in Modern, this card could prove to be very good someday. While it hasn't caught on in the way that Ghostway did, the potential is still there for it to be a part of a good deck.
Eerie Interlude is functionally better than Ghostway. Choosing what creatures to exile really matters. You can “blink” Geist as he attacks, so that he can’t be blocked and killed, while “blinking” other creatures like Cathedral Sanctifier and other creatures with useful ETB (enter the battlefield) abilities. In Modern, Flickerwisp already does a good job in Blue/White Control letting you reuse your creature’s abilities in much the same way. This costs 2W and gives you even more flexibility.
There are two other preview cards in this deck. Pore Over the Pages is an interesting draw card. After untapping two lands, it essentially only costs 3 mana. Drawing three and discarding one is fine, too, especially in enabling Madness cards. It wasn't quite good enough for Standard, though, being at Sorcery speed. However, the card does see some play in EDH.
Topplegeist is a nice little card. A 1/1 flying Spirit that taps a creature when it enters is already good enough. With Delirium active, you get to have Topplegeist tap a creature every upkeep. This makes this Spirit better as the game progresses.
The rest of the deck is a good mix of Humans, flying Spirits and token generators. Increasing Devotion is one of the better token producers, as you get two uses out of it with Flashback. Dearly Departed is a rare Spirit that’s actually better off in your graveyard. As long as Dearly Departed is in the yard, you get a +1/+1 counter on each Human that enters the battlefield under your control. This really helps out Champion of the Parish, who gets a +1/+1 counter each time a Human enters the battlefield under your control, too.
Lastly, I’d like to mention a relatively forgotten Blue rare originally from Avacyn Restored, Captain of the Mists. His ability allows him to untap every time you get a Human into play. But with the Captain, he has a tap ability for 1U that allows you to tap or untap a target permanent. If you use the stack properly, you can use his ability multiple times in a turn. If you have the mana, even casting a Gather the Townsfolk can help you get 3 activations in a turn. His only real application outside this deck has been in Azami, Lady of Scrolls Commander decks - since he’s a Wizard that Azami’s Wizard tribal theme can use. Within this deck, he could do some work, though.
Cursed is a blue/black deck that also cares a bit about the Delirium mechanic. Overall, the deck has a decent Zombie-centered strategy.
1 Diregraf Ghoul
2 Butcher Ghoul
3 Screeching Skaab
2 Diregraf Captain
1 Scrapskin Drake
2 Stitched Drake
1 Unbreathing Horde
1 Abattoir Ghoul
1 Driver of the Dead
1 Falkenrath Noble
1 Havengul Runebinder
1 Makeshift Mauler
1 Relentless Skaabs
1 Harvester of Souls
1 Mindwrack Demon
1 Tooth Collector
1 Appetite for Brains
1 Human Frailty
1 Cobbled Wings
1 Victim of Night
1 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Tribute to Hunger
1 Barter in Blood
1 Dread Return
2 Moan of the Unhallowed
1 Sever the Bloodline
1 Compelling Deterrence
4 Dismal Backwater
Mindwrack Demon is definitely an interesting card. A 4 / 5 flyer for 4 mana is decent. But if you don’t have 4 different card types in your graveyard, he smacks you in the face for 4 life each turn. This makes for a very situational creature.
He just seems a bit too awkward for most decks to really take full advantage of his somewhat above average stats. But in a deck focused around the Delirium mechanic, he's definitely playable.
As was said in the introduction, these Duel Deck preview cards tend to do something in some format. But in this deck, he’s not even the best monster, though. He's a Demon in the middle of a Zombie tribal deck!
As for the other preview cards, both are fairly interesting. Compelling Deterrence has a Disperse-type effect, except it only works on opponents’ permanents. In most cases disperse would be a better card, since you can return your own nonland cards to your hand to dodge removal. If you control a zombie, however, that player also discards a card.
In a Zombie-happy deck like this one, it’s not a bad card. It just wasn't great in Standard against a deck with Madness type cards. Still, this card has found itself in more than a few Gisa and Geralf decks in Commander.
Tooth Collector is the counterpart to Blessed’s Topplegeist. This Rogue costs 2B to cast for a 3/2 body, but brings along a -1/-1 to an opponent’s creature. With Delirium, you get to do this on each opponent’s upkeep. This is a card that’s definitely good in the Blessed vs Cursed matchup. But on a value scale, Topplegeist seems much better.
Gravecrawler is a welcome reprint. A 2/1 for one Black is plenty good, but the best part about the Crawler is that you can recast him from the graveyard as long as you control a Zombie. That should almost never be a problem in this deck. His price tag definitely saw a hit with the release of this deck, which allowed more players to acquire their copies of this highly-playable Zombie creature.
There are some other notable rares here, as well. Harvester of Souls is a staple in many black Commander decks. Unbreathing Horde, likewise, is a staple in many Zombie Commander decks, and is also a casual favorite.
Havengul Runebinder does a lot of work for Zombie decks, as well. For just removing one creature card from your graveyard, you get a 2/2 Zombie token, plus a +1/+1 counter on each Zombie you control. That’s a ton of value for 3 mana late in the game. Sever the Bloodline is a card seen in some sideboards, even now in Modern. It’s really good against tokens, in particular. Just exiling one creature for 1BB isn’t bad.
A couple of uncommons are worth noting as well. Dread Return is one of the best reanimation spells of all time. It’s only legal in Legacy, Vintage, and Commander, but it does a lot of work in those formats. It’s banned in Modern for a reason. Diregraf Captain is less exciting, but is a must have for any Blue/Black Zombie deck. The Deathtouch and +1/+1 boost for your Zombies is great. But each time another Zombie of yours dies, target opponent loses 1 life. There are infinite combos in Commander that utilize this guy.
As far as fun factor playing these decks against one another, the matchup seems pretty fair on paper. I’m always in favor of the deck playing Geist of Saint Traft, honestly. If you’re thinking of buying 4 copies of Blessed VS Cursed just for the Geist, Gravecrawler, Champion of the Parish, and other useful cards, it’s worth your $20 a piece. Eerie Interlude feels like it’s way too good, especially in Modern with creatures like Reflector Mage and Bounding Krasis hanging around on the competitive scene. These Duel Decks are well worth the purchase, in singles or in playsets.
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