Each of these Duel Decks contain preview cards from the upcoming set. In the case of Speed vs Cunning, these cards were from Khans of Tarkir. As usual, we’ll tackle the decks separately, beginning with Speed.
Here's the full list:
1 Frenzied Goblin
1 Infantry Veteran
2 Leonin Snarecaster
2 Dregscape Zombie
1 Goblin Deathraiders
1 Fleshbag Marauder
1 Goblin Warchief
1 Hell's Thunder
1 Kathari Bomber
1 Shambling Remains
2 Beetleback Chief
1 Krenko, Mob Boss
1 Ogre Battledriver
1 Flame-Kin Zealot
1 Scourge Devil
1 Oni of Wild Places
1 Hellraiser Goblin
1 Mardu Heart-Piercer
1 Zurgo Helmsmasher
NON-CREATURE SPELLS (14)
1 Reckless Abandon
1 Bone Splinters
1 Arc Trail
2 Krenko's Command
1 Act of Treason
1 Fury of the Horde
1 Dauntless Onslaught
1 Orcish Cannonade
2 Fiery Fall
1 Goblin Bombardment
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Nomad Outpost
1 Ghitu Encampment
While this is post-combat, damage from that combat has not yet worn off, meaning you can potentially easily kill off a creature that blocked one of yours. You could also dome your opponent for 2 damage or even one of their planeswalkers. While definitely a solid card in Limited, he was too high on the mana curve to see Constructed play in any sort of aggressive deck.
Nomad Outpost is the Mardu entry into an uncommon cycle of wedge lands that enter tapped,. This completes the cycle that we received for the shards in Shards of Alara. They are straight-forward and provide solid mana-fixing.
Zurgo Helmsmasher was first spoiled when this particular pair of decks were announced. He's very strong as far as raw power is concerned, being a 7/2 for 2RWB. While he’s indestructible as long as it is your turn, he has to attack every turn - although Mardu is a highly aggressive archetype anyway. He does grow bigger (in the form of +1/+1 counters) for every creature he kills.
These three cards also debuted Mardu’s watermark, in the form of the Wings of the Dragon, highlighting the Speed aspect of Mardu.
Onto the reprints:
Krenko, Mob Boss
Mardu is a Goblin-happy tribe and these are some solid cards, but the one non-Goblin is particularly notable. Banefire is a very powerful card, and was once a win condition in Izzet Guildmage decks. In formats like Commander that can pump an absurd amount of mana into X spells, this is particularly deadly. You only have to have X be 5 or greater to make this uncounterable. It was a card that was due for a reprint at some point, and it was reprinted again in Modern Masters 2015. While it doesn’t hold the financial value it once did, it’s still a good card that can kill players just as well.
Beetleback Chief was actually worth a decent amount of money, around $3-4 for an uncommon from the Planechase 2012 deck featuring Thromok the Insatiable. The Chief is a useful value creature which makes 2 1/1 red Goblin tokens when he comes into play. The deck comes with two copies. This reprinting pretty much tanked the value of this card, as it really was mostly just a casual hit. Being reprinted in Commander 2014 didn’t help, and now it’s just another uncommon. If you run Goblins, though, it’s one to consider, as 3 creatures on one card is always good (see: Pia and Kiran Nalaar.)
Goblin Warchief is originally from a Scourge cycle of lords, each of which made creatures of their type cost 1 colorless mana less to cast, while also providing a benefit. Not only does he fit into the Goblin theme of the Speed deck, but he was a solid reprint overall.
Long thought to be reprinted in Magic 2015, Krenko, Mob Boss did still get a reprint, but in the Duel Deck instead. Pretty much everyone’s favorite Goblin Commander, Krenko taps to make to create an army of 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens. He’s the most valuable card in either of these decks.
Other quick hits in the deck:
Frenzied Goblin is a very aggressive Goblin card originally from Ravnica: City of Guilds that was also reprinted in Magic 2015. When he attacks, you can pay R to make a target creature unable to block during that combat phase. It was a bit odd to see him reprinted so quickly.
Infantry Veteran is an interesting little one-drop Soldier that can tap to give another target creature +1/+1 until end of turn. Two copies of Leonin Snarecaster, a reprint from Theros, enter the battlefield and tap a target creature. This can help you swing in for far more damage due to your opponent losing a potential blocker for that turn.
There's also an Unearth sub-theme in this deck. Unearth is a mechanic that allows you to bring back a creature from the graveyard at Sorcery speed, give it Haste for the turn, then exile it at the end of the turn. Dregscape Zombies is a perfect example of this. It's a 2/1 Zombie for 1B that can unearth for B
Hell's Thunder is easily the best of the Unearth cards in the deck. It's a 4/4 flyer with haste for only 1RR, but it has to be sacrificed at the end of the turn that it's played. While the Unearth cost is 4R, it's worth a 4/4 Haste in the air for a single combat. Kathari Bomber, Shambling Remains, and Scourge Devil are the other Unearth creatures in the deck.
Goblin Deathraiders is a 3/1 Goblin for RB that has Trample, who fits perfectly with the aggressive theme. Flame-Kin Zealot is an interesting 4 drop originally from Ravnica block that costs 1RRW to play and gives all creatures you control +1/+1 and haste until end of turn. He can be quite powerful in this deck. Hellraiser Goblin, reprinted from Gatecrash, is a Goblin for 2R that gives all of your creatures haste, but forces them to attack during each combat if able, as well.
Ogre Battledriver is a card that I championed upon his release. Wizards seems to think everyone else should love him too, including him in the hundredth pre-constructed deck he’s been shoved into. His effect is very good: Whenever another creature enters the battlefield under your control, that creature gets +2/+0 and haste until end of turn.
Himself, he's a 3/3 for 2RR. So why has he been eschewed in Constructed play? Mainly, it’s because he doesn't give himself haste. He also entered Standard in a time of other really powerful 4-drops that do more damage upon entering. Fanatic of Mogis and Ghor-Clan Rampager (who takes up the four-drop slot in many decks even though he's usually played as a combat trick) are among them. He was simply too slow for Standard.
However, Battledriver has become a nice Commander card, though, and thematically he's always been good. He just hasn't been strong enough to warrant deck slots in the Aggro decks of the past year's Standard format. In Modern, Lightning Bolt eats him for breakfast. He simply doesn’t do enough upon entering in an ordinary Constructed environment. But oh he does work in Commander, just not enough to make him worth a darn.
The last creature in the deck is Oni of Wild Places. He is a 6/5 with haste for 5R At the beginning of your upkeep, you have to return a red creature to your hand. Obviously, you can return the Oni to your hand to satisfy this effect. But the only other creature that you would ever want to return to your hand in this deck is Beetleback Chief. That being said, his synergy in this deck is rather limited. If you could cut any one creature this would be it.
Onto the non-creature spells, first off, we have Reckless Abandon. It's a Sorcery that costs only R to play but requires that you sacrifice a creature as an additional cost. It then deals 4 damage to a target creature or player. It can be effective removal in a Duel Deck, especially if you're sacrificing one of the creatures that will be sacrificed to its own effect anyhow.
Bone Splinters is basically Reckless Abandon, but for B, it lets you destroy a target creature. There are no conditions for that destruction, either, making it in some ways strictly better than Reckless Abandon, except that Reckless Abandon can deal direct damage to a player. Options are always good.
Arc Trail was a very good card when it was in Standard. It's a Sorcery for 1R that deals 2 damage to a target creature or player and 1 damage to another target creature or player. Any card that can be a 2-for-1 is good in my book.
Two copies of Krenko's Command give you 2 1/1 Goblins at Sorcery speed. Yay, more Goblins!
Act of Treason lets you steal an opponent's creature for a turn for 2R. That's always fun. There are Instant speed ways to do this, of course, with other cards, but the classic still works here.
Fury of the Horde is the last Sorcery card we'll be looking at. It's a reprint from way back in Coldsnap. It has a monster mana cost, 5RR, but has an alternate casting cost of pitching two red cards in your hand into exile. What does it do? It untaps all creatures that attacked this turn. After this main phase, there is an additional combat phase followed by an additional main phase. There are other cards that have had a similar effect to this, but this card can essentially be played for free by ditching two red cards you may not need anyway.
There are only 5 instants in the deck: Shock, Dauntless Onslaught, Orcish Cannonade, and 2 Fiery Fall. Shock is the classic 2 damage to target creature or player for R. Dauntless Onslaught gives up to 2 target creatures +2/+2 until end of turn for 2W, making it a decent combat trick. Orcish Cannonade is an expensive burn spell, dealing 2 damage to a target creature or player but dealing 3 damage to you as well. You do get to draw a card for your trouble, however. Fiery Fall costs 5R to deal 5 damage to a target creature only, but you can also land-cycle it for 1R, grabbing any basic land that you need.
We round off the deck with 2 Evolving Wilds, 1 Ghitu Encampment, 10 Mountains, 3 Plains, 6 Swamps, and of course the two triple-color tap lands. The Encampment can become a 2/1 Warrior with first strike for 1R. It's a decent man-land.
The deck is straightforward to play - it's an aggressive 3 color goblin deck. Krenko, Mob Boss and Beetleback Chief are both forces in this deck, putting enough power on board to swing games. The deck is just all about getting damage in, while working to overcome the cunning strategies of the Jeskai clan.
From a value perspective, the Speed deck alone was worth about half of the $20 retail - the 2 Beetleback Chiefs, 1 Goblin Warchief, and 1 Krenko, Mob Boss totaled about $10 retail.The new alternate art Goblin Bombardment is still sought after at about $1 - as it's a card that sees play in multiple formats, and is the only art other than the original from Tempest.
Today, in July of 2015, Krenko ($5), Goblin Warchief ($2), Fury of the Horde, Banefire, and Zurgo Helmsmasher ($1 each) still make up that value, with the 2 Beetleback Chiefs adding another $0.50 a piece. It’s a fun little deck to play, too, which promises the Speed that you’d expect.
Here's the full deck list:
2 Faerie Impostor
2 Coral Trickster
2 Fathom Seer
1 Jeskai Elder
1 Sparkmage Apprentice
1 Lone Missionary
1 Master Decoy
1 Echo Tracer
1 Kor Hookmaster
2 Aquamorph Entity
1 Hussar Patrol
1 Lightning Angel
1 Faerie Invaders
1 Thousand Winds
1 Arcanis the Omnipotent
1 Sphinx of Uthuun
NON-CREATURE SPELLS (14)
1 Fleeting Distraction
1 Stave Off
1 Swift Justice
1 Mana Leak
1 Lightning Helix
1 Hold the Line
1 Inferno Trap
1 Steam Augury
2 Traumatic Visions
1 Whiplash Trap
1 Arrow Volley Trap
2 Mystic Monastery
2 Terramorphic Expanse
In this case, whenever the Elder deals combat damage to a player, you may draw a card. If you do, you then discard a card. It's a fairly decent "looter" type effect. The Elder would prove to be one of the middling Prowess creatures, however, later being greatly outclassed by Monastery Mentor, Monastery Swiftspear, Seeker of the Way, and Soulfire Grand Master.
Mystic Monastery is the White/Blue/Red tri-land for this set. There are two copies in the deck.It enters play tapped, but allows for strong mana fixing.
Thousand Winds is a card I was never too excited about, although I believe it's a far better creature to round out the deck's mana curve than the Speed deck's Oni of Wild Places.
The deck has a definitely Morph sub-theme to it, not surprising in that all of the Tarkir clans feature Morph creatures. But these are all from Magic's past, with the exception of Thousand Winds.
Coral Trickster is the first of these Morph creatures. Originally from Time Spiral, it's a Merfolk Rogue for 1U with a Morph ability cost of U. As with all Morph creatures, instead of paying its regular casting cost, you may play it instead face down as a 2/2 creature for 3 colorless mana. You can then flip it face-up for its morph cost. What does the extra investment give you? In this case, it lets you tap or untap a target permanent. That's a fairly nice ability for only U.
There are two Fathom Seers in the deck. It is also a 1U creature, but with a very different sort of Morph cost, asking you to return two Islands you control to your hand to be able to draw 2 cards. It's interestingly enough the same as the effect of a draw card known as Gush, which regularly has a mana cost of 4U. Interesting to consider that the combined mana costs of the Morph cost and the regular converted mana cost of this creature equals that same amount.
Willbender is perhaps one of the most famous of the Morph cards. Originally from Legions, Willbender has the useful ability to redirect the target of a single spell or any ability with a single target. It would be a cool card to see reprinted during the Khans of Tarkir block, as it is a card that can definitely wreak some havoc.
Sparkmage Apprentice is a cute little common card. She's a 1/1 Human Wizard for 1R that deals 1 damage to a target creature or player when she enters. Honestly, she's a fairly weak card.
Lone Missionary is a cool card. He costs 1W to play and gains you 4 life when he enters play. Lifegain is a very popular casual mechanic, and there are some ways to reuse his ability within this deck. As a sidenote, he still sees sideboard play in Modern against Burn strategies.
Master Decoy is a creature that's been in some Core Sets. He costs 1W for a 1/1 that has an ability for W and a tap to tap a target creature. There are times he could prove helpful in this deck and he's been a nice Limited card in the past.
Echo Tracer is another Morph card originally from Legions. Its morph cost is the same as its casting cost. Essentially, all it does is bounce a target creature to its owner's hand, making it a fairly expensive Unsummon. It does allow you to reuse some enter the battlefield effects for your own creatures, however, and the deception of the Morph mechanic can make this surprisingly helpful even at the 2U investment.
Kor Hookmaster is similar to Master Decoy, but its an enter the battlefield ability to tap down a target creature. Also, that creature stays tapped for the next turn, as well. For 2W with that ability and a 2/2 body, it's a decent card. It was always pretty decent in Zendikar Limited.
Stonecloaker is a nice way to recycle cards in this deck. It's a 3/2 flyer with Flash for 2W, meaning you can play it at anytime. When it enters the battlefield, you must return a creature you control to its owner's hand. This is fine considering you'll have plenty of Morph effects and some other enter the battlefield abilities that you'd like to recycle. It also has the added ability to exile a target card from a graveyard, which may not be incredibly relevant in this particular match-up.
Faerie Impostors is a 1-drop that's a 2/1 but you must sacrifice it unless you return another creature you control to its owners hand. That being said, it's a 2/1 flyer for only U, which is pretty strong. As said before with Stonecloaker, there are plenty of creatures you'll want to re-use in this deck, so there's good synergy here.
Aquamorph Entity is another Morph card. What's interesting about this card is that its ability works whether it's a Morph ability or if comes into play. When it comes into play you choose whether it comes into play as a 5/1 or 1/5. You can cast it for 2UU, or play it face-down for 3 colorless and 2U to Morph it. In this case, the Morph can be a very useful combat trick. Who's going to see 5 damage coming in un-blocked from a Morph creature?
Hussar Patrol is a reprint from Return to Ravnica, a 2/4 with Flash and Vigilance. He's basically more of a combat trick that anything else, but a 2/4 that doesn't have to tap to attack is always nice to have in a Duel Deck.
Lightning Angel is an interesting card to see in this deck. She is a 3/4 with Flying, Vigilance, and Haste for 1RUB. Originally from Apocalypse, Lightning Angel is a very aggressive card. It's a powerful card in Casual Magic and a perfect card for one of these Duel Decks.
Faerie Invaders is a common from Magic 2015, a 3/3 flyer for 4U with Flying and Flash. It's a cute combat trick in Limited, and work-able in a Duel Deck, but not all that powerful.
Arcanis the Omnipotent is probably the best card in this entire deck, and is a favorite Commander among Blue players. He costs 3UUU to cast, and is a 3/4 Wizard. He has a tap ability to draw three cards. He can also be bounced back to the hand for 2UU, which allows him to dodge removal spells. Powerful card draw on a stick is always very good.
Often known as Sphinx of "Un-Fun" or "Fact or Fiction Sphinx", Sphinx of Uthuun has been in two core sets and a previous Duel Deck, as well. His enter the battlefield ability is in fact the same as Fact or Fiction, revealing the top five cards of your deck, making your opponent separate those cards into two piles. You then choose one pile to keep in your hand and the other goes to the graveyard. It's usually a pretty powerful effect. The Sphinx saw some fringe play in Standard when M12 was first released, as Heartless Summoning was in the format, making him a 4/5 for 3UU. He's a favorite of Wizards to stick in pre-constructed product and he does see some Commander play.
That's it for the creatures. Now onto the non-creature spells, of which there are quite a few.
Fleeting Distraction is a can-trip for U that gives a target creature -1/-0. That doesn't sound like much, but it can win you a combat and the card draw is nice. Stave Off for W gives a target creature protection from the color of your choice until end of turn. Swift Justice is yet another combat trick that gives a target creature +1/+0 and first strike until end of turn for W. These are three cheap, but effective combat tricks.
Impulse is well-known for being part of From the Vault: Twenty. It's decent card filtering, allowing you to look at the top four cards of your library. You then put one of them into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.
Mana Leak is a classic permission spell that costs 1U to cast. It counters a target spell unless its controller pays 2 colorless mana to push it through.
There are three Traps from Zendikar in the deck: Inferno Trap, Whiplash Trap, and Arrow Volley Trap. They are not among the more popular of the Traps from that set, but they serve an interesting purpose in this Cunning deck. They each have fairly high mana costs of their own, but if a certain condition is met, they become far less expensive. Here they are:
Inferno Trap is considered to be the weakest among the three. It does deal 4 damage to a target creature, especially making it an Instant speed Flame Slash. But the condition is very specific, and you have to be dealt damage before you can even use it, making it relatively weak in most cases. Of course in this particular Duel Deck match-up, it might actually be fairly useful.
Whiplash Trap is easily the best of these three with a Trap condition that is fairly common. If an opponent had two or more creatures enter the battlefield under their control in a turn, you get to Unsummon two creatures for a single Blue mana. At 3UU it's pretty unplayable, but U for returning two creatures to hand (and one could even be your own) is very solid.
Arrow Volley Trap is another Trap with a fairly rare activation condition, but again, in the context of these Duel Decks, four or more creatures attacking you is a very likely scenario. That's good, because for 1W you get to deal 5 damage divided as you choose among any number of target attacking creatures. That could be a rout in the case of the Speed deck attacking you, with all of the other combat tricks this deck has.
Steam Augury is basically Fact or Fiction except with a different mana cost, 2UR instead of 3U. It's also backwards. You choose the piles, but an opponent chooses the pile for you. It's a decent card that's seen some fringe Standard play. It doesn't have great synergy in the deck besides being another version of Fact or Fiction, though. It's also not quite as good, but with the "Fact or Fiction" Sphinx in the deck, it makes sense they put the opposite here.
Repeal is a good card that's seen play in Modern in Mono-Blue Tron. It costs XU, where X is the converted mana cost of the target nonland permanent you wish to return to its owner’s hand. You then get to draw a card. While that may not sound exceptionally efficient, in Tron, where you have the Urza-Tron lands (Urza's Mine, Urza's Tower, and Urza's Power Plant) generating a lot of colorless mana, this card becomes very strong. For that reason, it's fairly popular in those types of decks. This is a good reprint to have, even if it's not really that valuable money-wise.
Traumatic Visions is a card usually reserved only for Limited play, being a 3UU counter-spell that's not called Force of Will. It does have basic land-cycling on it for 1U. That's not quite as good, though, as being able to pay 1 life and ditch a Blue card from your hand to play it for essentially nothing. But I think asking for Force of Will may be a stretch in a Duel Deck. Just maybe.
The last non-creature spell in the deck is Hold the Line, originally from Champions of Kamigawa. It costs 1WW to cast and gives blocking creatures +7/+7 until end of turn at Instant speed. Ordinarily, this card wouldn't be all that exciting, but that is an amazing effect for a deck like this one, built around combat tricks. It's Righteousness for all of your blocking creatures. It is the ultimate rout. Imagine a field full of Morph creatures facing an oncoming onslaught of creatures from the Speed deck. You play this and suddenly that opposing army isn't so fearsome anymore. I'm not familiar of the Kamigawa meta, but this was probably a pretty good card back then. You wouldn't see it in ordinary Constructed decks today, but wow is this card an absolute blow-out if you hold onto it long enough.
In multi-player, you can even use it on another player's blocking creatures to repel another player's army for a snicker, too! I don't really see this card taking up a slot in any Commander decks, but you never know!
We round out the deck with the mana base: 2 Terramorphic Expanse, 10 Islands, 3 Mountains, and 7 Plains. There are also two copies of the Mystic Monastery, the W/U/R tap land.
While it doesn't have the sheer power of the Speed deck, the Cunning deck does have quite a few tricks up its sleeve, with many cards in the deck that can cause the Speed deck in particular some serious headaches. There isn't a lot of "money" in this deck, but that is typically the case with these Duel Decks, that one deck has the better reprints.
What this deck does well it does very well, teach players how to play deceptively. Morph can be an extremely baffling mechanic for opponents to have to deal with, considering the number of things that Morph creatures might be (an Akroma, Angel of Fury for example). Of course, in this Duel Deck, you pretty much know what you're up against, but even then there are so many possibilities.
This deck excited many players for the possibility of some seriously playable Morph cards in the Tarkir block. While there only proved to be a handful, the deck did its job in hyping up the mechanics of the upcoming block. While the Cunning deck doesn't scream value, it does what it was constructed to do very well, be cunning! Still, with Helix ($5), Arcanis ($2) and some other useful $0.50 to $1 cards, you pretty much get another $10 of value out of Cunning.
The Speed vs Cunning Duel Deck is still one of the better selling Duel Decks out there. It’s not hard to see why. Considering that you can pick up this product for about $15 USD (including shipping) today, you’ll get your money back just from the Krenko, Helix, Arcanis, and other value cards. These decks a fun place to start for casual players and just overall a good value buy for any Magic player.