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Heroes vs. Monsters Duel Deck Speculation

Heroes vs. Monsters, eh?

The announcement of the next Magic: the Gathering Duel Deck product in September comes on the heels of the next block, Theros, which lands exactly 3 weeks later. Theros, we have learned, is Greek & Roman inspired, so the Heroes vs. Monsters theme is only natural with all the stories, legends, and mythology that comes from those cultures. Also, we can expect to see 6 cards from the Theros block in Heroes vs. Monsters, which is neat. I expect the tone of the decks to match that of Knights vs. Dragons prettyclosely, but at the same time trying to define and differentiate itself from that product.

What can we expect to see, then, in Heroes vs. Monsters?

THEROS

Theros Block – coming September, 2013

I think it’s way too soon to know, really, and my baseless speculation on the Sorin vs. Tibalt Duel Decks at least came after knowing what those two planeswalkers looked like. What I have to present to you, then, are some awesome and nearly essential cards for a Heroes vs. Monsters duel.

To at least get things started, I think the Heroes deck contains the traditional white and green colors to represent law, bravery, and strength, while the Monsters deck will be Jund colors (green, red, black) to represent nature, destruction, and malice. The Heroes deck could open all the way to Bant to include blue in the color pie, too.

First off, I’ll be rather disappointed if we don’t see both of these:

Intrepid Hero

Intrepid Hero – For the Heroes

Hero's Demise

Hero’s Demise – For the Monsters

Those are perfect starters. Intrepid Hero takes down any big monsters and then Hero’s Demise immediately destroys any jumped-up joe making a name for himself slaying monsters. The Heroes deck is going to need some equipment. What tale doesn’t involve some hero who has to seek out some magic weapon before facing the dreaded beast of so-and-so? A helmet, a shield, and a sword should do.

Helm of Champions, Accorder's Shield, Sword of Vengeance - for the Heroes

Helm of Champions, Accorder’s Shield, Sword of Vengeance – for the Heroes

There should be some fitting support, too. Equipment enablers like Brass Squire or Kor Outfitter belong in the deck, but also some green buffs and anti-flying like an Oakenform or Hurricane. Like the Knights deck, the Heroes will have to get a strong start and curve out ahead of the Monsters using equipment to match their power – if the run of the mill Hero looks like a 2/2 Glory Seeker, expect the average Monster to be a 3/3 Canyon Minotaur. Also expect a legendary creature or two, since these are supposed to be Heroes and all. Maybe Crovax, Ascendant Hero or Tolsimir Wolfblood?

And, as fitting for a Greek & Roman themed mythos, there need to be appropriate foes for the Heroes to face. How about these?

Xathrid Gorgon, Conquering Manticore, Protean Hydra, Madrush Cyclops - for the Monsters

Xathrid Gorgon, Conquering Manticore, Protean Hydra, Madrush Cyclops – for the Monsters

It would be fun to see some other Jund staples from Alara block slip in to the Monsters deck like Sprouting Thrinax, Putrid Leech, or possibly some Blightnings! I mean, Jund was/is kinda a monster we all face, isn’t it? If it’s not a Jund kind of deck, then look for some punchy creatures of myth like Gorgon Recluse, Stone Giant, Fiery Hellhounds, and maybe even another Thragtusk (jk).

Mark Rosewater let slip that Theros will contain a returning mechanic. That got some pulses excited for a moment, but what possible mechanic could that be? And better yet, does that tell us what to expect or what is coming in Theros block or Heroes vs. Monsters?

Looking back, the Zendikar block got Kicker from the Invasion block,  Scars of Mirrodin got Poison counters from as far back as 1994’s Legends block and the Imprint mechanic from the original Mirrodin, and Innistrad got Flashback from Odyssey block. While the popular answer on some forums has been that we’ll see the Level-Up cards from Rise of the Eldrazi again, I say that’s too soon. My best guess would be that we’ll either see Cycling again or the Champion mechanic.

Changeling Champion - for Theros?

Changeling Champion – for Theros?

Now, the Changeling itself has no bearing on the Theros block, but I sense some important tribal vibes coming on here (Innistrad’s tribal themes weren’t implicit, so a Tribal block could rise again). With the Greco-Roman theme come lots of Centaurs & Dryads(green),  Minotaurs(red), Gorgons, Hapries, & Witches(black), Seers & Sphinxes(blue), and Humans, Eagles, & Pegasi(white). Champion is a perfect mechanic to fit into all of that, plus it’s not half-bad.

This is all baseless speculation at this point, but it’s fun and this is the internet.

Hey – I might even get one right! RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!!

Understanding Competition

It’s funny, I would consider myself a nerd, gamer, and hobbyist, but during the normal course of a day I do not consider myself a competitor. That was never a strong drive within me, I’m much more of an amateur and an enthusiast.

I’ve been reading a plethora of late regarding the differing trends within my games and the importance of understanding the “meta” – the game within the game. For those who wish to know, the games I specifically referring to are:

The interesting thing is that each article is referring to the same concept, but in their own language.

Which is better: rock, paper, or scissors?

In this post on competitive Warhammer 40K, the poster Z cries foul on the merits of actual play versus the work done at the planning table long before anyone sits down to play a game. If anyone with a firm grasp of the rules and strategies shows up with the “correct” army list, they can win a competitive tournament over the likes of a “better” tactician wielding a different army. I believe the trend now revolves around Space Wolf armies with roaming packs of Razorback-mounted Grey Hunters and small units of Long Fang heavy weapon teams. Gone are the likes of “fun” armies and lists that have any hint of originality, you must have the correct formula in your force composition to have any sort of competitive success.

The same goes for Magic: the Gathering. In a scenario where you have 20 years of cards printed and 1000 new cards introduced each year, a competitive deck of 60 cards has to be fine-tuned and consistent. With the internet and the proliferation of ideas & information, the metagame of Magic changes each week. Sometimes aggressive decks with cheap creatures like zombies, elves, or varying colors of humans rule the meta. It usually takes some time, but eventually a meta gets ruled by control decks that specialize in countermagic, card advantage, and playing a slow and methodical pace that evaluates each and every choice. Other weeks are ruled by the correct combo that no one expected which fits exactly in the meta for its time and event, then gets imitated for weeks. Typically, a competitive Magic deck costs in the neighborhood of $400-500 for 75 pieces of cardboard! (the Warhammer players scoff, “$500, eh? I got all my minis from ForgeWorld…”)

Then there’s League of Legends, a game that’s completely free to play, should you choose to do so. I’ve already lamented my own travails in this cyber den of scum and villainy (one week later, the guys @ Penny Arcade did the same), but there is a strong professional circuit already there with cutthroat play. The drive to get to play games professionally makes playing these “games” no more or less competitive than our already bloated past time of professional sports.

Leading to the NBA, of course. The NBA is a game just like Chess and Rock, Paper, Scissors. How you ask? Every team in the NBA right now is asking themselves the same question: how do you stop a 6’8″, 260-lb superfreak with eagle-eyes and pogo-legs by the name of LeBron James? Although no one except for the 30 coaches in the league have to consider the merits of small-ball lineups versus a killer post-up strategy with your tallest players, the nation is still enthralled with these discussions. It’s all the same.

Whether you’re looking at Fire Dragon aspect warriors to burn down tanks, finding a spot for Rest in Peace to shut down graveyard combos, jungling with Amumu because his build has been buffed by the latest patch, or drafting a corner-3 shooter with long arms that can defend 3 positions, it’s all rock, paper, scissors. It’s all about getting an edge on your competition. It’s all about …   fun?

The nature of all of these is still in the context of a game and I think ALOT of people are forgetting this. After all, the professional basketball business is a billion dollar industry and inflated way over its practical or even pragmatic service to society. But we embrace it. Call it love of the game, call it city or team pride, call it entertainment.

Over in League of Legends, there’s a mixed bag of accounts from the positive play experiences to the negative. People are jerks when given the anonymity of the internet, but not always. I had really great fun in a game recently where I was laning with a whiny team mate (in a bot game!) who called me a n00b for not playing Maokai “correctly,” but I then proceeded to complete my build, farm our lane, and pull off a nice ambush and triple-kill of our enemy bots. It was one of my best games ever and I even got to say to the guy whining at me, “Do you have any constructive advice instead of name-calling?”  I was never answered. It felt great! In the competitive arenas, its both much better and much worse, the extremes are way out to either side with very helpful people with actual input and suggestions on one end and the scum of the (w)hole of the internet on the other.

The game is a game is a game. Gamers and nerds are strangely competitive people. It might be something residual from high school, but how strong that trend towards friendly competition versus rudeness is up to the participants. I know a long time that the major Warhammer tournaments started giving out trophies not only for best painted army and overall winner, but also to the best sport/most fun to play. That attitude is the goal, I believe.

If you’ve fallen in love with a game, you know what I’m talking about when I say there was a golden era for you when you started playing it. For Warhammer, it was in the 8th grade playing in my friend’s basement. For Magic, it was only a few years ago right after I learned how to play and hosted multi-player games in my home. For basketball, it was my sophomore year in college when we had a regular rotation of 8-12 guys who played pickup twice a week.

No one likes to lose, but the simple joy of playing a game should reach people more often. Yes, if you want to take a game more seriously, start to learn your meta. Know the ins, outs, and match-ups. For a professional athlete, that is as much of the job as the actual performance. Read Sun Tzu and learn strategies that apply to warfare, politics, and personal interactions. Hell, watch Kevin Spacey in House of Cards.

Just have some fun, too.

Actual Sorin vs. Tibalt Duel Deck List

Sorin vs. Tibalt

Sorin vs. Tibalt

MTGSalvation’s forums managed to grab a hold of a spoiler list of the Sorin vs. Tibalt duel deck and posted them today.

The big news for many is due to the rare slots that come with the Planeswalker cards, particularly in Tibalt’s deck, Hellrider and Sulfuric Vortex.

As of today (March 1st, 2013), the value for Sorin, Lord of Innistrad($17-20) and a Hellrider($14-16) make their release together in a product that retails for $19.99 a steal. Many, including I, are impressed that Wizards of the Coast decided to throw them into a  product together. Most initial responses are positive on the deck designs. The decks look fun and reasonably competitive against one another.

So, how did I do with my September speculation?

My Sorin Decklist
Actual Sorin Decklist

My Tibalt Decklist
Actual Tibalt Decklist

Thematically, I was very close. Sorin’s list is indeed a black/white token deck with a vampire subtheme. There are more vampire cards than I would have anticipated and it borrows a little more heavily from Zendikar block than I expected, but nothing is out of place. There are a few cards in there that show off Sorin Markov’s personality and mechanics (Sorin’s Thirst), which matches what WotC has done before in past duel decks like Venser vs. Koth. Tibalt’s list I was less accurate in guessing, it’s a red/black deck with plenty of devilish creatures and a strong graveyard theme, as befitting Tibalt’s Planeswalker card abilities. Whereas I guessed his spells would drive a deck with Burning Vengeance in them, the actual deck relies on Unearth creatures and Flashback spells, and a lot fuel in its burn spells than I predicted.

Let’s take a little closer look at the composition of these decks.

Sorin’s black-white vampires with a human and token theme is totally predictable. The rare cards are Butcher of Malakir (GREAT card), Twilight Drover, Ancient Craving, Death Grasp, and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. Butcher of Malakir and Twilight Drover are reallllly close to my guess of Anowan, the Ruin Sage and Bloodline Keeper, since there’s a combination of forced sacrifice and token generation in each pair. Cards I did get right are Doomed Traveler, Gatekeeper of Malakir, Mortify and Sorin’s Thirst. I included two copies of Purify the Grave, but Decompose fills in that slot. The same thing can be said of my copies of Altar’s Reap that turned out to be Ancient Craving. There’s a lot more life gain and lifelink on Sorin’s creatures than I expected, but I didn’t expect Tibalt’s deck to be as aggressive as it is with its potent burn spells (like 2 copies of Browbeat!). They did do a typical WotC thing in here and stuff it full with 25 lands, but its not an egregious offense. Cards that are getting their first run in the modern card frame are Ancient Craving, Death Grasp, Decompose, Field of Souls, Mesmeric Fiend, and Tainted Field.

Tibalt’s deck sticks to a devil theme with plenty of graveyard support, but instead of going mono-red, it leans on some black mana to grind down Sorin’s life total. The rare cards are Hellrider, Lavaborn Muse, Breaking Point, Devil’s Play, Sulfuric Vortex, and Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded (one more than Sorin’s!). Cards I got right on this side include Hellspark Elemental, Scourge Devil, Vithian Stinger, Devil’s Play, Faithless Looting, and Geistflame. I had a copy of Rolling Temblor which would have been better than the included Pyroclasm, if only for its flashback cost. There’s plenty of graveyard interactions, but more unearth creatures than I expected. I remember now that Mark Rosewater said that  unearth almost came back in the Dark Ascension expansion, but they decided on the undying mechanic instead.

That’s actually not connected to this, but an interesting thought. 😉

Thanks to Hellrider, it looks to me that this deck wants to try and surge through Sorin’s defenses and use some nasty direct damage (Bump in the Night, Blightning, 2x Browbeat, and Sulfuric Vortex) to get over the incidental lifegain the other deck may accrue. Cards in this deck getting their first printing with the modern card frame are Blazing Salvo, Breaking Point, Recoup, and Sulfuric Vortex (Browbeat was re-printed in the first Planechase set).

There are a few things I’m disappointed with, one specifically in each deck. On Sorin’s side, there is no sacrifice outlet to unlock the spirit creatures in Doomed Traveler, Mausoleum Guard, and Field of Souls. There’s a slew of bloodthirst cards in his deck (ironically, a theme I put in my version of the Tibalt deck) that don’t need to be there when Blood Artist and Vampire Aristocrat/Bloodthrone Vampire would have fit in better thematically and mechanically. On Tibalt’s side, the flashback count is a little light (6 cards, although Recoup will give any sorcery card flashback) and there’s only one reanimation spell, Torrent of Souls. It’s one of my favorite cards, but it doesn’t seem like enough. That copy of Corpse Connoisseur has to search out another unearth creatures to place in the graveyard to be of any use. I prefer to use connoisseurs to set up a wicked reanimation play and my choices for that tactic in this deck are lackluster, especially when I start comparing the creature sizes between the decks. Tibalt’s largest creature is the 4/3 Shambling Remains and the deck contains no flyers. Sorin has access to the 5/4 flying Butcher of Malakir and the 4/4 flying Sengir Vampire, which can grow to become much larger. If Tibalt’s deck can’t burn out Sorin’s flying creatures, it will be quite dead, so watch out!

That’s a lot of text without card images in front of you, I apologize. Go back to the above links and check the decks out on Tappedout.net. It looks to me that this is going to be a much more exciting duel deck than the last two: Venser vs. Koth and Izzet vs. Golgari. The gap between Sorin and Tibalt will be much closer than their perceived power levels.

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy and play.

I had a lot of fun speculating what could be in this release and you can expect more of the same when we see the next announced duel deck from WotC. Thanks for reading!

Gatecrash Event Deck – Simic Redux

Gatecrash's "Simic" Event Deck

Gatecrash’s “Simic” Event Deck

So Gatecrash is out and it’s great.

The guilds are superb, the interactions are fun, the limited play I’ve participated in was great.

One weekend in with this new Magic: the Gathering expansion and the Constructed play hasn’t changed much. Some adaptation of Boros with aggressive humans seems to be the meta-choice of the hour. Then came this announcement of the Gatecrash Event Decks, decks designed to be purchased at the store to allow someone to play in a Standard Constructed event with no previous preparation.

The Boros one is as expected – a lot of small, quick humans that top out at mana cost of four with a Spark Trooper. You can tweak this deck with a handful of cards and be ready for top tier play. The mana base isn’t top tier, correct, but you can reasonably get the Boros deck to where you want it with more Spark Troopers, Champion of the Parish, and other quick dudes.

The Simic deck, however, is a sick mess.

The other Event Deck, titled “Thrive and Thrash”, is a blue-green ramp deck that wants you to get to five mana and then start dropping semi-decent bombs like the singular copies of Thragtusk, Wolfir Silverheart, Gruul Ragebeast, and Deadeye Navigator, who can blink these creatures for their ETB(Enter the Battlefield) effects.

This deck isn’t a Simic deck in the sense the other is a Boros deck. Yes, there are green and blue cards in it, but nothing Simic related besides the Simic Guildgates and the Urban Evolutions. In fact, I count only 17 cards of the 75 included are from Gatecrash. The Boros deck has Boros cards wielding the Boros mechanic. What’s going on here?

So clearly I must re-imagine the Simic Event Deck to include some more Simic flavor, possibly some of the Simic mechanic, and keep it Standard legal and more Gatecrash-ey. The previous few Event Decks (Magic 2013 Core Set & Return to Ravnica) have stuck to the rule of including only 7 rare cards, between 17 and 24 uncommon cards, about 24 lands, and ZERO mythic rares. They do include some Standard-of-the-era staples, usually throwing a chase-rare in a pack.

I want to involve cards with the new Evolve mechanic, since its the Simic thing. The best ones will be cheap evasive creatures like Cloudfin Raptor. I also want to eliminate the color red from this deck. For some reason, the best move for piloting this deck looked to be finding a source of red mana to activate some removal spells. I don’t think we’ll need that.

Gone are also the copies of Verdant Haven (don’t need the access to read mana),  the silly single of Bramblecrush, the copies of Borderland Ranger, and the 4 Farseeks (they’ll be problematic since they can’t find Forests).

The Simic Event Deck Redux (link to Tappedout.net)

2 Evolving Wilds
4 Simic Guildgate
10 Forest
7 Island

1 Acidic Slime
4 Arbor Elf
4 Cloudfin Raptor
1 Deadeye Navigator
2 Druid’s Familiar
1 Fathom Mage
2 Fog Bank
4 Gatecreeper Vine
3 Nimbus Swimmer
2 Slaughterhorn
1 Soul of the Harvest
1 Sylvan Primordial
1 Thragtusk
2 Wolfir Avenger
1 Wolfir Silverheart

3 Simic Charm
1 Unexpected Results
3 Urban Evolution

Sideboard

2 Mizzium Skin
2 Naturalize
4 Negate
3 Rancor
4 Strangleroot Geist

I kept the subtle green/blue ramp and added some interesting creatures to the mix. The bombs of Deadeye Navigator, Thragtusk, and Wolfir Silverheart were too powerful to overlook, especially interacting with one another. Sylvan Primordial is a near-unanimous favorite of all the primordials and can benefit from the Deadeye Navigator’s ability. Soul of the Harvest just wants you to cast creatures and you’ll draw cards, the same with Fathom Mage. Unexpected Results should grab you nearly anything useful if you can play it on turn 4, the only possible dead play is a Simi Charm, but you can still use that to pump a creature.

I originally wanted to throw a full set of both Cloudfin Raptor and Elusive Krasis in here, but the Krasis couldn’t stay as his power took too long to build up. I played a little and found that I always wanted a flyer instead, so in went the Nimbus Swimmers, which are useful whenever you draw them. Gatecreeper Vine does a better job of getting the lands I want over Farseek, since the Guildgate offers the best color options. Wolfir Avenger & Druid’s Familiar are nice boosters to the Evolve creatures, plus any of my creatures can use the boost or protection offered by the Simic Charm. If I played around a little more, I might have put in a full playset of Slaughterhorn, but I restrained myself to keep the Simic theme running.

There’s ramp, there’s creatures, there’s Deadeye Navigator uses, there’s plenty of card draw, and the deck won’t stall after hitting turn 6 since you can dump mana into more card draw like Urban Evolution, or Deadeye activations, or spend it all on a Nimbus Swimmer.

Please feel free to comment on how I did.

Overall, I feel that the Simic deck is still under-powered compared to the  Boros and generally poorly placed in the current meta, but this iteration at least boosts the Simic Guild’s profile in a deck named after them. As we progress into the post-Gatecrash era, perhaps things will creep into Standard as powerhouses from the Simic that might need to go into the deck. Experiment One is one potential card, and I may have been wrong about the Elusive Krasis. Only time will tell.

Sorin vs. Tibalt Duel Deck List Speculation

Sorin vs. Tibalt

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: (3/1/2012) Actual list spoiled today, continue on to here.

I got a lot of positive feedback for the M13: Nicol Bolas Intro Decklist, so I’m having a go at this upcoming Magic product: the Sorin vs. Tibalt Duel Deck due out March 15th, 2013.

Unlike in my idea to have a Nicol Bolas Intro deck, the makers of Magic: the Gathering, Wizards of the Coast, do publish Planeswalker cards in Duel Decks to highlight these mythic rare cards.  The next set of these decks matches the vampire Sorin Markov against a young devilish upstart, Tibalt the Fiend Blooded.

As far as we’ve been led to believe, there doesn’t actually seem to be a feud between these two personalities, but there are some connections.  Sorin was on the plane of Innistrad investigating the disappearance of his angelic construct, Avacyn, and Tibalt is from that plane and developed his eagerness to inflict pain almost as recently as he gained a planeswalker spark.  Sorin is among the oldest known creatures in the multi-verse and Tibalt might be the youngest of the planeswalkers in existence.

OK.  I’ve seen some feedback already for this product that says it doesn’t make sense in the same way that Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas or Garruk vs. Liliana made sense.  I think these two just highlight what the WOTC designers wanted to get out of the Innistrad block’s horror themes.  Plus everyone wants to get their hands on a Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and they also had to show a reason why Tibalt shouldn’t become the least effective and cheapest planeswalker to buy at your local card shop.  That’s just my own speculation.

Regardless of their reasons to duel, designing Sorin vs. Tibalt seemed like a nice deck-building exercise.  Like the Nicol Bolas Intro Deck, I want to create their decks in exactly the same way WOTC publishes them, which means I’m limiting myself to just the one mythic-rare card in the respective planeswalkers, 5 rare cards, anywhere from 10 to 23 uncommon cards (based on the three most recent duel decks), and no less than 24 lands. Plus, the duel decks don’t contain many copies of the same card unless that card fits thematically like having two of Ajani’s Pridemate in his deck, or if the card helps solidify a mana base or card draw like two of the Obelisk of Grixis for Nicol Bolas or two Preordains for Venser.

Here’s what I came up with (with links to TappedOut):

Tibalt’s List

LANDS  –  24

1 Buried Ruin
2 Dormant Volcano
20 Mountains
1 Tectonic Edge

CREATURES  –  16

2 Bloodscale Prowler
1 Charmbreaker Devils
1 Dragon Mage
2 Forge Devil
1 Gorehorn Minotaur
1 Hell’s Thunder
2 Hellspark Elemental
1 Mindclaw Shaman
1 Morselhoarder
1 Scourge Devil
1 Torch Fiend
1 Torpid Moloch
1 Vithian Stinger

SPELLS  –  20

2 Burning Vengeance
1 Devil’s Play
1 Elixir of Immortality
2 Faithless Looting
1 Flaming Gambit
1 Fling
1 Firecat Blitz
2 Geistflame
1 Genju of the Spires
1 Howling Mine
2 Punishing Fire
1 Rolling Temblor
1 Rough/Tumble
1 Scorching Missle
1 Ring of Valkas
1 Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded

Sorin’s List

LANDS  –  24

1 Everglades
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Orzhov Basilica
9 Plains
9 Swamps
1 Vault of the Archangel

CREATURES  –  17

1 Archangel
1 Anowan, the Ruin Sage
2 Blinding Mage
2 Blood Artist
1 Bloodline Keeper
2 Doomed Traveller
1 Elder Cathar
2 Falkenrath Noble
1 Falkenrath Torturer
2 Gatekeeper of Malakir
1 Krovikan Vampire
1 Pit Keeper

SPELLS  –  19

2 Altar’s Reap
2 Bonds of Faith
1 Due Respect
2 Gather the Townsfolk
1 Mangara’s Tome
1 Martyr’s Tomb
1 Mortify
1 Murder
1 Promise of Bunrei
2 Purify the Grave
1 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
2 Sorin’s Thirst
2 Traveler’s Amulet

There are two things I believe I have to explain.  For one, this upcoming set MUST contain the most up-to-date version of Mr. Markov – Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. It is in this iteration that he comes to Innistrad.  Plus, the inclusion of white in his deck allows him to combat some of Tibalt’s graveyard shenanigans and also do great things with token creatures.  Secondly, there will be few to zero Return to Ravnica cards in this duel deck.  I included zero to follow a pattern that WOTC has made for their Spring Duel Deck releases – they included none of the most current block’s cards for the releases of Knights Vs Dragons and did the same for Koth vs. Venser.  Given that both Sorin and Tibalt appear in Innistrad, I don’t believe they’ll stray much from that block’s themes.

For the Tibalt deck I wanted to take particular advantage of all the Flashback spells at my disposal.  After all, if you can cast an early Tibalt then cards will start leaving your hand and fly into the graveyard.  These I want to re-use if possible which led me to Burning Vengeance & Charmbreaker Devils.  To follow his second ability I included the Howling Mine and the Dragon Mage.  If Tibalt can stay safe behind his devil-y f(r)iends, he should be able to bust open Sorin with that Insurrection-like ultimate.  This deck just needs to make its burn count because as much as I tried to work it out – a black/white Sorin deck HAS to be about token making and generating, which means there will be a lot of creatures and targets. If Tibalt can power out its X-mana burn spells, it will win over the Sorin deck.

The Sorin deck has to be about token making and attacking with said tokens.  A white/black life-gain dedicated deck will outreach the Tibalt deck quickly and a Sorin deck with 4 Lingering Souls and 4 Intangible Virtue would do the same.  Therefore the most balanced I could deck I could find for it is one with a human/vampire dichotomy, but one that Sorin could live with, not a red/black hedonist deck like Olivia Voldaren would pilot).

I liked Anowan, the Ruin Sage as a Vorthos-like pick since he’s completely in Sorin’s back-pocket by the end of the Teeth of Akoum novel from Zendikar, but he also adds some powerful sacrifice that should help you and debilitate Tibalt.  Bloodline Keeper, Promise of Bunrei, and the Vault of the Archangel would be rare draws that many people want to get their hands on and fit the token build I have here.  If you can combine Vault of the Archangel’s deathtouch with the Krovikan Vampire – you can grab nearly anything of Tibalt’s.  Mangara’s Tome looked and felt like something Sorin might have picked up in his travels and took advantage of whenever possible.  I think this deck has the upper hand – as one deck typically does in these sets – but it’s not a clear advantage.

These decks typically grab two cards from each side to give new art.  I’d tab Flaming Gambit and Punishing Fire for Tibalt’s side (maybe the Dragon Mage or Charmbreaker Devils?) and then new art for Gatekeeper of Malakir and Due Respect for Sorin.  Due Respect just sounds like a nice arrogant card for Sorin, doesn’t it?

I’ve also grabbed a few cards that haven’t been printed in the current card frame yet, which is another thing they like to do with the Duel Decks.  Dormant Volcano, Dragon Mage, Firecat Blitz, and Flaming Gambit are these from the Tibalt side, while Sorin’s decks would have Krovikan Vampire, Martyr’s Tomb and Mangara’s Tome.

So, there’s the Duel Deck Sorin vs. Tibalt according to me.  We’ll see how close I am once these get published in March.

Please, leave comments, questions, and concerns!!

UPDATE!! (2/28/2013):
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is indeed revealed today as the Planeswalker for the set. I had little doubt, but my speculations are at least accurate as of this date. 🙂

Feast your eyes on the new arts!

1799_sorin_1efbsfizqk

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