Longtime readers know that Liliana Vess is one of my favorite cards EVER. I have cracked two of them from booster packs, one of them in my early days of playing, one in the m15 pre-release sealed deck! I love her bottom ability, which makes her a true re-animator bomb. Maybe THE reanimator bomb. If only I could spell her name correctly…
Then there’s Garruk Wildspeaker. Maybe I should learn to pronounce his name correctly. (Gare-ook).
When we started playing Magic, I chose black as my color. Not sure why. My two kids chose other colors. One green and the other red. Supposedly your personality ties into your color somehow.
In my early days of Magic the Gathering, when mainly M13 was being played at the SpartanNerd household, Liliana and Grave Titan were my two favorites. Eventually I added in Elbrus the Binding Blade, when I began looking for the best cards. (At the time, I considered that a BEST card. Maybe not so much anymore, but the flavor is still amazing.) SO somehow a Youth Pastor and Worship Leader became the Zombie/Demon guy. Who knew? Good thing it is only fantasy! (White IS my secondary color.)
Oh yes. A review is supposed to be happening! And this is a SpartanNerd first…I show you each card on video as I look at them myself the first time!
Garruk vs. Liliana is a very balanced pair. Both are mono-colored decks. And both do what their colors are known for. Garruk gets large threats and makes them bigger. Lilliana makes Garruk discard and re-animates stuff from both graveyards. (sometimes the good stuff that you made him discard!)
Garruk himself is pretty good. Maybe the “best” Garruk. His +1 lets you find two more mana. His -1 gives you a non-chump at 3/3. And his ultimate is basically Overrun. I don’t have a lot of personal experience with playing this card. But the abilities are flavored really well with the rest of the deck. And they are all classical “green.”
I am going to point out that Garruk’s deck is REALLY NUTS if you don’t remove the threats he puts out. But then there is a card called Rude Awakening, which has an “entwine” cost. The only other card I have seen with this is Promise of Power. Basically, you can pay the listed entwine cost, and get what amounts to two spells for one card. Rude Awakening untaps Garruk’s lands and changes them into 2/2 creatures, that he can hit you with. I lost to this once. It was SHOCKING. Because by the time you can pay for the card with it’s entwine cost, he probably has eight lands out.
The other surprising thing that Garruk can do is card draw. That’s right. Green card draw. Normally this is off-color for green. But Garruk pulls it off with Harmonize and other effects. This balances against Liliana’s ability to make him drop cards.
This deck also “ramps” really well. You need that to get things out like Plated Slagwurm. The deck doesn’t have hardly any removal. So if Liliana drops a fatty, then it is up to the giant creatures and combat tricks to take care of them. Serrated Arrows seems to be the most effective removal for chumpy creatures, while there is a copy of Windstorm to take out a big flyer. One more important signature thing for Garruk, Overrun. Give everything a boost and trample. Too bad it is a sorcery. (It would probably be too good as an instant.)
Lilliana does all she can to best Garruk’s strategy. Remove, discard, and re-animate. In Standard, a lot of times Liliana amounts to a bad Demonic Tutor. (Demonic Tutor…a two drop Legacy card that gets a card and puts it in your hand. Not in this deck…See the upcoming review for “Divine vs. Demonic”*) In standard nowadays, she gets Heroes Downfall-ed before you can make your opponent’s graveyard re-animate. But in the limited environment between these two decks, she is better. Because the deck does a good job of forcing discards, so she is ready to +1 on up to her ultimate. And if you re-animate the big threats in Garruk’s deck, then GG. (Good Game!)
Some of Liliana’s stuff has “cycling” or “swamp cycling,” This is good because it gets stuff into your graveyard to pull back out cheaply. Once I swampcycled Twisted Abomination, a 5/3), and next turn played Rise from the Grave. Ouch for Garruk!
Lilliana’s cards have removal built in. You have Corrupt and similar effects that get your opponent or their creatures because YOU have swamps. (a strategy you were doing anyway, so your power is essentially free.) I would like to point out that I enjoy the art for Mutilate better here than in other places.
There is a really cool card called Snuff Out. You pay 4 life to remove a creature. It is an instant, which is cool. But at sorcery speed it is actually BETTER. You heard me. This time a sorcery is better than an instant. Lilliana’s deck isn’t a control deck. I suppose it is black midrange. So on your turn, you remove one of Garruk’s green creatures. (All of his creatures are green.) And then you Corrupt another creature. Sick! You can remove two giant fatties with little effort!
The most controversial card in the SpartanNerd household has been Enslave. The SpartanKid, (a green connoisseur,) has argued about this card. It is another two-for-one. You steal his big green monster, and use it against him. Similar to the red cards that do something similar. Traitorous Blood for instance. But this is an enchantment. So you permanently control the creature. And then its OWNER gets pinged for one damage at the beginning of your upkeep. (not it’s controller…) At first I was confused too. But after looking it up, it means Garruk gets pinged! I have one two matches with this card. It is truly dirty! And Garruk can’t hardly deal with enchantments.
(SO biased… I had more to say about Liliana’s deck…I think I understand it a little better.)
GARRUK VS LILIANA…THE MATCHUP!
Pitting these two against each other really is like pitting Green against Black, a larger, more classical MTG matchup. In the SpartanNerd house, Garruk has won only one match, while Liliana has won three. (This is with two days of playing.)
Rude Awakening and Overrun have been the two biggest hits against Liliana. Garruk himself hasn’t appeared in these matchups but once. So that may be a luck thing. Lilliana’s deck wants you to have some removal in the early game to get traction. She doesn’t ramp that well, unless you cycle. But if you can get out four swamps before getting stomped too bad, you will probably be OK.
SpartanNerd’s rating and review.
I think Liliana’s deck is the funnest deck I have played so far from the set. I still have yet to actually pilot six of the decks myself. I am happy to have an alternate art of Liliana Vess. I think the two decks are PERFECTLY matched against each other. While Liliana has more wins currently, It may be that SpartanKid hasn’t had as good of luck. But the scary things that deck can do are definitely fun to be matched against.
The cards are beautiful in the modern frame. There are several tokens that go with the decks…Liliana gets bats, while Garruk gets Beasts and an Elephant. As I mentioned in my unboxing, both decks have a beautiful deck box that will accommodate the cards when sleeved.
Is there monetary value here? The two planeswalker cards are where the value is. Both cards fetch varying amounts, usually less than ten dollars.
So my rating here is 5/5 for both decks. What do you think, oh Hub City Geeks? Let me know in the comments. I am curious to know about how you have pitted your dual decks against each other!
*(I will get to Divine vs. Demonic EVENTUALLY. Be patient. I need some more time, readers!)