Today we have the product Duel Decks: Mind vs. Might released on March 31 2017, designed and developed by Sam Stoddard, who among others recently collaborated on Aether Revolt’s development. It’s a Duel Decks series product and so it contains two playable decks meant to be pitted against each other. From the name I’d expect the sort of an aggro versus control matches with the decks. It is supposed to contain several cards with brand new art and some art only featured on Magic Online so far. So let’s take a look.
The package itself presents the two “commanders” of the duel decks on the front of the typical M-shaped box. This time it’s Jhoira of the Ghitu from Mind versus Lovisa Coldeyes from Might. Both ladies featuring new art and premium (foil).
Inside you’ll find a pair of the typical life-counting dice with planeswalker symbols for a 20 and a pair of folded carton boxes, this time around sized for an actually sleeved deck. Don’t count on fitting a perfect-size sleeved deck, though, or a sideboard, but a huge improvement at WotC nonetheless.
The deck boxes can fit a sleeved deck now.
Decks and cards
The package contains cards with entirely new art, namely Jhoira of the Ghitu, The Unspeakable and Desperate Ritual in Mind, and Lovisa Coldeyes, Zo-Zu the Punisher and Guttural Response in Might. Moreover, some cards feature art seen in Modern Masters and previous Duel Decks and even some art featured only in Magic Online and therefore not printed up until now: Snap, Mind’s Desire (also printed as judge promo) and Temporal Fissure.
The design overall fits within the theme, there are no overly flashy cards. I especially agree with the choice of art for Grapeshot over the original art. The three Might cards with new artwork come in an icy theme, evocative of Lovisa’s Ice Age (Coldsnap) origin, while Mind cards meddle with melting and fire, and Jhoira’s artwork shows her connection to artificing and the Tolarian Academy and time rifts (here on Tinker).
There are also ten tokens with the deckmaster back in the pack, five relevant to each deck. I would like to mention at this point that while the Might deck may not even use its tokens very often, the Mind deck’s Empty the Warrens, Talrand, Sky Summoner and Young Pyromancer find the token distribution commonly lacking. Perhaps a double faced token approach would have been way better in this case, as used in Commander before.
There just isn’t enough tokens for Mind, even without any real stretch.
I would like to note that despite both decks being red, the mountains in each deck have different art.
Mind is an Izzet (UR) mid-to-late game deck leaning to the control-combo side of the aggro / control / combo scale with plenty of card synergy just waiting to be exploited by a player preferring to think and plan their way to victory.
The main focus of the deck is instant and sorceries, with mechanics trying to produce a high storm count (Snap, Desperate Ritual, Reach Through Mists and Quicken) for one of the storm cards (Empty the Warrens, Mind’s Desire or maybe Grapeshot). Realistically, though, do not expect much of a strong Mind’s Desire. Quicken is, however, surprisingly effective in this deck. Rather, the cards most capitalizing on your instants and sorceries, cantrips especially, will be Young Pyromancer and Talrand, Sky Summoner and Jori En, Ruin Diver. Suspend is also one of its key elements, with spells like Rift Bolt, Shivan Meteor and Deep-Sea Kraken.
The second aspect of the deck is its defensiveness, offering creature removal and biding its time to deliver a win condition or a huge creature Might can’t deal with, only stall. The creature control is the main focus, with Rift Bolt, Shivan Meteor and Volcanic Vision. It is able to spawn a fair number of tokens to defend against and/or defeat your opponent.
Jhoira of the Ghitu herself isn’t much help in the deck, the only cards you’d probably want to use her with are the high cost cards, such as The Unspeakable, Beacon of Tomorrows or Firemind’s Foresight. The only card I would be happy about suspending with her would be the Deep-Sea Kraken, because of its ability to remove time counters off of itself.
Sometimes the cards are just too expensive.
The best way to play the deck is to try to capitalize as much as possible on your synergies, which will often put you at risk of a top-deck loss against Might, but that actually makes the game more enjoyable for both players.
= decklist =
Might, a Gruul (RG) deck, aims for a fact-paced mid-range tempo deck, while also containing cards to counter Mind’s offensive / defensive abilities. It is meant for players who like to plan on a short scale and prefer taking the initiative and rolling their opponent as quickly as possible.
Might focuses on winning by presenting multiple creatures, rather than a single win condition, burdening the opponent with the choice of threat management. The key cards to the strategy are creatures with bloodthirst, like Skarrgan Pit-Skulk and especially Gorehorn Minotaurs. Many cards will try to squeeze quality against spot removal and resets, like two copies of Call of the Herd or Beast Attack. Talara’s Battalion helps with speeding up the damage clock against your opponent, while ignoring their attempts to wall themselves in with tokens, provided you can cast another green spell on the turn, like Burning-Tree Emissary. Zo-Zu the Punisher capitalizes on Mind’s dire need for as much land as possible. Another significant threat would be Rubblebelt Raiders who can’t be allowed to attack, often spelling doom to the Mind’s player.
Might has a plenty of ways trying to deal with Mind’s strategy, with flashback as a major theme. It has Firebolt to kill off token makers, Beacon of Destruction to finish off a wounded, but stabilized opponent, or kill a win condition. It contains Cloudcrown Oak to stall enemy fliers, Sylvan Might to save / increase damage of creatures, Increasing Savagery for that final push and Kamahl, Pit Fighter that can takes several of those roles. Trampling cards, especially Relentless Hunter may break through enemy token defences. Guttural Response felt less useful than expected, considering that Might is going to be tapped out often and blue instants are usually not the cards in Mind that you would want to counter (except Snap, of course).
The deck features limited synergy, most notably Lovisa Coldeyes buffs Warriors, who are the most common creature type of the deck, which further attempts to use the abilities of Boldwyr Intimidator, but since its cost is high and Mind often uses tokens, it’s not really useful. I would like to mention Coat of Arms. It is a card that is able to kill the opponent, played at the right time, but it might also be a dead card on hand, provided the opponent was able to create a few tokens.
Sometimes it’s not a good play.
Optimal play experience of this deck is to take the initiative, force your opponent into a reeling defensive, perhaps hold your higher threat cards if possible, until their removal is depleted and finish them off via flashback cards, “commander” Lovisa Coldeyes or Coat of Arms.
The experience of playing the decks against each other is fun and often feels like the decisions of the players may influence the game past the sheer power or synergy of the cards. Might sets the tempo and Mind tries to stop or slow Might to play a win condition of its own. The games are often close, but it requires both players to evaluate the situation correctly, with more demand on Mind’s player’s skills. Of course, sometimes it is impossible due to mana flood or screw, especially Mind is susceptible to mana screw. Might won’t be hurt by mana flood as much, since it has flashback cards.
Might sets the tempo, Mind aims to stall.
The decks by themselves could be tweaked to stand their ground in a wider environment, removing spells that counter the other deck (most notably Might’s problem) or less playable cards, like Firemind’s Foresight or Roar of the Wurm and focusing on a single strategy instead with cheaper cards (Mind’s problem).
Overall, the duel experience is good. It’s meant for intermediate players just learning to play on a higher level. Since it might take a while to learn all the intricacies of the decks, especially Mind, and the dynamic of playing aggro versus control / combo, the replayability is high and will be entertaining for a long time. It is probably a bit beyond a beginner’s level of magic and too simple for advanced players, however.
Token fights are quite common.
In other words, is it worth its retail price in card price? The package as a whole is usually retailed for 449 CZK.
Nominally, the deck’s cost is almost equal to the sum of cernyrytir.cz’s singles prices on each card over 10 CZK, the most expensive single card being Coat of Arms (69), followed by Jhoira of the Ghitu (65), Beacon of Tomorrows (49) and Talara’s Battalion (39). The three copies of Rift Bolt (25 each) and two copies of Snap (25 each) and Young Pyromancer (25 each) add significant value to the whole. Cards with new art, like Desperate Ritual (19) and Guttural Response (19) are even out of stock presently.
The rest of the cards are mostly worth 3 CZK with a few exceptions up to 9 CZK. In the grand total, buying the package by singles would cost almost 850 CZK, 70% of that price would be almost 600 CZK, making the package viable, still excluding the extras, like dice or deck boxes.
On magiccardmarket.eu, the package averages at 14.80EUR (390 CZK save the transportation).
Taking the same cards featured in the above appraisal, we get to approximately 16.50EUR, making the product viable as well. With final conclusion that a buyer will receive their money’s worth of cards.
Playability within the meta of the two decks, alongside the cost effectiveness of the decks are the main factor in the product’s rating. With the design and extras are secondary.
Due to the decks being well designed duelling each other, with intermediate players in mind and the cost of the deck that is, presently, well balanced with the contents, I would give the product 3.8/5 points. When the fluid art and sleeve-sized boxes are added the rating goes up to 4.2/5 points.