SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic The Gathering Duel Decks…”Speed vs. Cunning”

I rather enjoy the duel decks series of cards…I may just have to purchase that big box of four or five that is coming out soon, so I can see what the older ones were like before I started playing Magic.

The “Speed Vs. Cunning” deck is meant to be a preview product for the upcoming set, “Khans of Tarkir.”  I picked it up…kind of as an impulse buy.  My oldest child had already seen the spoiler for “Zurgo Helmsmasher,” and said that he wanted that card really badly.  So when I saw this at Wal-Mart, I grabbed it.  I guess I couldn’t resist the foil…

I’ll start with pictures of the packaging and all of that jazz.  (I meant, all that Heavy Metal.)

1 package2 back package


Here is the front and back of the packaging.  First thing I notices was that this packaging wasn’t quite as spectacular as the last Duel Deck offering, “Jace vs. Vraska.”  But I guess this time we don’t get planeswalkers either.


3 what's inside


Here is what’s inside, besides the cards.  Two deck boxes, both featuring Arcanis the Omnipotent and Zurgo Helmsmasher respectively.  There is a poster exclusively for this set….and what’s that?  No extra useless poster?  YES!  They have improved that situation!  Now there is a quick reference rules card for new players.  This is SO MUCH BETTER.  Who knows how many of those blue posters that featured Chandra that I threw away.  This might still find its way to the trash, but the Wizards are always talking about reaching and teaching new players.  This is a step in the right direction.  I am including a photo of the front and back of that rules card below.



4 new rules card5 new rules card back


The two-sided poster inside didn’t disappoint.  Here the art is good, and it gives you plenty of information about each deck.  I like how the fantasy flavor is sprinkled in as well.  This Duel Deck is supposed to highlight the fight between the Mardu and the Jeskai.  The next set, “Kahns of Tarkir” is supposed to feature three-color cards.  Mardu is Red White and Black.  Jeskai is Red white and Blue.



6 poster arcanus

7  poster zurgo

Below is the deck list.  I thought it best to make this as large as I could, so you could read it.  There is a list on both sides of the poster.  The first is the Arcanis the Omnipotent deck.  The second is the Zurgo Helmsmasher deck.

8 arcanus decklist9 Zurgo decklist


Now it’s time to see some actual cards!

10 Arcanus and ZurgoThe two premium foils that come with this deck are really powerful cards.  No question.  I think Arcanis is an odd choice to showcase because he is all blue, rather than a three color card, however.  Here are my thoughts on each card.


Zurgo Helmsmasher has haste and swings for 7.  WOW.  He is a 7/2, however.  He is indestructible on your turn, though.  And if he kills a blocker or blockers, then he gets +1/+1 counters, which makes his stronger and even harder to kill when it isn’t your turn.  Having to attack each turn is fine for a card like this.  But he isn’t a blocker, unfortunately…He is generally tapped when you get to block.

Arcanis the Omnipotent is clearly different.  A good contrast.  He is only a 3/4, but has built in evasion in that you can return him to your hand for two others and two blues…which you probably have out.  Also, you can tap him in response to a sweeper or something if he isn’t already tapped, and then you get to draw three cards.  Not what control players across the table want.  So Arcanis is hard to kill in his own way.

I will go over the components of Arcanis’ deck, “Cunning” first.

First the boring lands.

11 arcanus lands

Notable here is Mystic Monastary, a “tri-land” that taps for all three colors.  (you have to choose which you want each turn) That’s about it.  The two fetch lands are Terramorphic Expanse…also unremarkable.  There is more blue land here than any of the other kinds.

12 arcanus white cards 13 arcanus red card 14 arcanus blue cards 15 arcanus gold cards


Here is a little survey of the cards.  There is only one red creature.  Lots of blue creatures.  a bit of a mixture of white cards.  And two gold cards.  Hussar Patrol and Lightning Angel.  The only completely new cards here are Thousand Winds and Jeskai Elder.  Thousand Winds is a creature with “Morph” a returning mechanic from the past.  This time, when he morphs, all other creatures go to their owners hands.  NICE!  I thought Lighning Angel was pretty good.  With a CMC of 4, flying, vigilance, and haste.  The Cunning Sparkmage is usually just a chump blocker.

Many of the blue cards feature “morph.”  This is where the beauty of this deck lies.  While it isn’t good to pay three for a 2/2 bland vanilla creature, morphing them is always a good thing to do.  They all have some benefit for you that your opponent will not like.

16 Traumatic visions 17 repeal 18 Lightning Helix 19 steam augury 20 stave off

(Not photographed…”Impulse”  How did I leave that out?)

Here are the instants.  These guys are all good.  I would argue that “God’s Willing” is better than “Stave Off,” because you get to scry.  But scrying isn’t in this deck, so…Repeal and Lightning Helix are always cards people ask for to be reprinted…so here’s your chance, people!

Steam Augury has seen some play lately…This card fits well with Impulse and Sphinx of Uthuun.  Basically you are getting card advantage on your opponents terms somehow.

And a card that has a spiritual opposite in the other deck…”Traumatic Visions.”  This card gets to be cycled for a basic land of any type, or you can play it as a bad “cancel” for five CMC.  It isn’t a bad card, though.  You get the option for either one which better fits your situation…

22 trap cards

And finally something else cool…TRAP CARDS!  One for each color…

I didn’t know there were trap cards in Magic?  These are really bad for your opponent.  You get to play them for a cheaper mana cost under certain circumstances.  otherwise, it’s good for you, not for your opponent playing Zurgo.


Speaking of Zurgo Helmsmasher, what does his deck contain?

The “Speed” Deck has these lands.

23 zurgo lands

Notable here is Nomad Outpost, a new tri-land.  Also a “Man land,” Ghitu Encampment.  Speaking of spiritual opposites, this deck has two fetch lands, “Evolving Wilds.”  (Evolving wilds and Terramorphic expanse are the exact same thing with different titles.)

Now for the good stuff.

25 zurgo red cards 29 zurgo gold cards 30 zurgo sorcery and enchantment 31 zurgo instants

This deck is notable for its red creatures, its reliance on Goblins, and combat tricks…with a touch of burn.  I would say that this deck is mainly red, and the other is mainly blue.

26 hell's thunder 27 scourge devil 28 goblin warchief

Here are some notable examples.  Notice the “Unearth” mechanic.  You get kind of a “whip of erebos” trick with it.  The wizards said that a quick play or effect and then exile is now going to be a regular thing.  That last Chandra did this.  The Goblin Warchief goes well with the other goblins in this deck.

32 fiery fall

And the spiritual opposite of Traumatic visions…Fiery Fall.  You can cycle for any basic land you need, or you get a Lava Axe with CMC 6.


This says it all pretty much for Zurgo Helmsmasher’s deck.


SO how did the decks play against each other?  I have played against Arcanis several times.  Clearly that is the better deck.  Zurgo’s deck is supposed to be about speed, but the mana curve isn’t quite right or something.  Zurgo himself is impressive, but everything else just isn’t good enough against all of the ability for Arcanis to respond.  Arcanis has the traps, the instants, and the morphs going for him, as well as card draw.  Zurgo is supposed to be a beatdown deck, but unless you draw the right goblins early and curve into the big stuff just right, you won’t have a chance against Arcanis.


I also played the “Paulkranos World Eater” deck from the same time last year that introduced “Theros”  This Hydra did better against Arcanis.  But Arcanis still had plenty of answers.


My rating for this product?

Well, Arcanis’s deck is good.  It gets a 5/5.  I substituted for the four new cards with “Platinum Angel” and “Scuttling Doom Engine” and the SpartanKid played it in the most recent Modern tournament…He beat three people!  (generally newbies, but still…) So it is a competitive deck as well if you tweak it a little.  (Also, Arcanis is a re-print.  Who knew?  He was legal!)

But Zurgo’s deck falls flat.  I am going to give it a 2/5.  If it curves out wrong, you don’t stand a chance against it’s opposite.

The packaging was less spectacular than the last similar product, but on the other hand they improved the introductory propaganda for new players.  I always just ditch the packaging anyways.

So Magic the Gathering Duel Decks “Speed vs. Cunning” gets a 3/5 from the SpartanNerd.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments!


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