Duel Decks: Jace Vs. Vraska

A decklist is up for new MtG Duel Deck Jace vs. Vraska, and… eeesh. I don’t know if it’s just me going off Magic, or the lacklustre feel of the decks, but I’m really not excited about this one. Heroes vs. Monsters was okay. So was Sorin vs. Tibalt, apart from the fact it contained Tibalt. That’s the thing about Duel Decks; some are amazing (Elspeth vs. Tezzeret) and some are just… eh (looking at you, Phyrexia vs. the Coalition).

phyrexiavsthecoalition_productshot
You know it’s bad when the Coalition’s foil mythic is *not* fucking Coalition Victory.

So, what are the deck lists like? Here’s the link to today’s Arcana. Try and keep up…

Jace’s Deck

Jace’s deck is weird; it’s a messy mish-mash of mill, Illusion tribal, suspend, and control. I’m going to pick out the most notable cards.

body double

This is actually a pretty awesome start; I really liked Body Double when it first came out, and it compliments a mill strategy very well (mill their big dude and copy it). I love that new artwork; it has a good creepy vibe to it.

control magic

Hello! Jace always seems to get the awesome retro reprints; he got Counterspell back in Chandra vs. Jace, and now he’s got the original Mind Control! This showed up as a nice surprise in Commander 2013, but I’m not complaining to see it come round again.

future sight

Wow. Okay. So Jace’s deck also gets one of the best blue enchantments of all time (the others being Dream Halls, Intruder Alarm, Opposition, Stasis, Counterbalance, and Equilibrium). This is another card with new art (and a new frame!), and good lord, is it gorgeous.

remand

And to round it all off, one of the best counterspells that isn’t Counterspell, Force of Will, or Mana Drain. Apparently. I can’t say I’ve ever been too impressed with Remand, but I guess that just shows that I’m a hopeless scrub. I mean, of course it’s good, players much better than me swear by it. It just doesn’t feel like it belongs in a casual Duel Deck; this is the product’s money card, the “buy me, buy me!” incentive, just like Demonic Tutor was in Divine vs. Demonic.

So that’s probably the best stuff in Jace’s deck; the rest is your standard mishmash of bounce (Aether Adept, Griptide, Into the Roil), Illusions (including, to my delight, two Krovikan Mists), and so little mill that its questionable why they bothered at all (Crosstown Courier, Thought Scour).

Vraska’s Deck

Whereas Jace’s deck is pulling in lots of different directions (are you milling? Control? Beating down with Illusions?), Vraska’s deck is just horrible. There’s a half-hearted attempt at a morbid theme, with stuff like Tragic Slip and some sacrifice effects, but it falls short. It contains the potential combo of a Vraska Assassin token and Rogue’s Passage, and that’s about it.

That said, there’s still some decent stuff in Vraska’s deck.

viper

An odd choice for the Duel Deck, not gonna lie. I mean, the Viper’s still good, but his age shows, what with his snow typing and his old school deathtouch. Still, I know he’s popular in casual crowds, simply because he presents a no-win scenario to an opponent; if they block him, they lose a creature, if they let him through you draw a card. We’ve obviously been spoiled in the years since Coldsnap, because these days he’d probably be a 2/3 or have hexproof or some shit.

reaper

 

On the subject of hexproof… I really like the Reaper. A few years ago, this awesome snakelady would’ve been a chase rare, but these days she’s a budget rare, which is fine by me; I can get a playset of the Reapers – who are 4/5s with a useful death-trigger ability and activated deathtouch and hexproof for 4 cmc and absolutely no downside – for less than a single Theros Temple, aka a Guildgate with scry 1. In this deck, she’s probably the strongest hitter, and would be a nightmare for the Jace deck to stop as long as the Vraska player has the two mana open for the hexproof.

underworld

 

It’s not quite as good as old classic Phyrexian Arena as it ties up a land that could be used for mana, but it’s still repeatable, cheap card draw, which tends to help win games if not stopped. Unlike the Arena, you can get the benefit during another player’s turn if you absolutely need to, or just forgo the draw if your life total is looking a little wobbly. There’s a limited amount of lifegain in Vraska’s deck, but I wouldn’t count on it.

leech

 

Hitting your face for 4 damage on the third turn since 2009. I love the Leech, and it’s not really a surprise that we got him back… again. A very efficient little beater. The new artwork is hilarious. “Aah, it is good to just sit down and enjoy the weathAAAARGHHH SWEET CHRIST MY FACE.”

vraska

 

And of course, there’s Vraska herself, who is pretty damn good. If you can win with her ultimate, then kudos to you. Me, I’d be happy just alternating her +1 and -3 all game. It’s just a shame about the new art; original Vraska has this kind of uncanny, alluring, vicious charisma to her. This new one is just molesting some statues.

Summary

Is the product worth it in the end? Well, last I checked on Magic Madhouse, Remand goes for £12 a pop Jace, AoT is £20, and Vraska is £8. In this regard, then of course it’s worth it. If we’re talking gameplay, deck against deck, out of the box? Then probably not so much. Both decks are fairly awful, but I think Jace wins out with stuff like Control Magic, Remand, and Future Sight, as well as his horde of flying Illusions that Vraska’s deck doesn’t really have too many answers to.

So, ultimately, another disappointing Duel Deck. Hopefully we’ll get an awesome Kiora vs. Xenagos or Tamiyo vs. Karn… I can dream, can’t I?

Gareth

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