Goblins Vs. Merfolk Duel Decks…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review


At this point, my favorite sealed MTG product seems to be Duel Decks.  I own a ton of them.  And the only ones that I haven’t purchased since I began getting serious about the game are Mind vs. Might, the one released earlier this year.  That one was widely panned, and I couldn’t get excited about a Storm deck vs. a Beatdown deck.***

But Merfold vs. Goblins.  That’s different.  First of all, Elves vs. Goblins is incredible fun.  What made that so successful was not only the intense tribal flavor, but also the gameply, where you really felt like you were piloting an army of elves vs an army of goblins.  Merfolk Vs. Goblins seemed positioned to do the same thing.  Does it?  Keep reading for my full review!


The box comes in the same kind of box that Duel Decks have been released in for awhile. It makes a nice display.  (pictured above)  Not sure why you would keep it MIB, but it looks like a sell-able product.  This box shows off the flashy foil rares.  The back of the box has good information.  I think this is to really sell the product to new players.


The box isn’t easy to open and get the product out.  (unlike Commander boxes.)

I opened mine before a draft tournament.  So I took hasty pictures on the Tangled Web table sized playmats

Here’s what’s in that package.


The main product is sealed in two trays that make up the bulk of the box.  THis is covered by a plastic blister that shows off the foil rares.  Behind the tray is the Quick Reference, a guide to playing the decks, and the two new boxes intended for each deck.


Here are those deck boxes assembled.  Notably, these boxes are big enough to hold SLEEVED CARDS.  (Can you hear the SpartanNerd crying tears of joy?)  Virtually all of the other duel decks we have ever gotten have come with pretty “poker card” type of boxes.  The exception was the Duel Decks anthology.

These boxes still leave a little to be desired, but that they can hold sleeved cards is BIG.  The wizards apparently took cues from the design of the Nicol Bolas Archenemy set.  These are also side loaders, but they have the janky folding flap that tucks into the main box.  However, there is a slot for easy opening.  The boxes have art on them reflecting what they are intended to hold, and they also feature the set symbol on the other side, which the SpartanKid pointed out is a trident and an axe head combined.  After saying all of this, these boxes are still made of thin cardboard…thinner and cheaper than what the actual cards are made of.  And they couldn’t possibly stand up to heavy use if a person decided to say, carry around this box to alot of tournaments.  (Sleeving out the cards fills them to the max.  There is enough room for 60 cards plus the tokens in Dragon Shields, but you wouldn’t be able to carry a full sideboard.)

But if you are like me, and your duel decks stay together resting in an organized fashion, waiting to see some light play, then these boxes are just fine.

The other things…the quick reference guide is a must include, as this product will definitely find its way into the hands of beginning players.  This isn’t an intro deck, but new players are bound to be drawn into purchasing these at the low price point.  (Mine was $19.99 at the Tangled Web.)

The poster features nice artwork, and importantly, a DECKLIST.  (The last sealed product I opened for the SpartanNerd blog didn’t include a decklist. BOO.)  I keep my decklists all in one place for when I inventory my cards about three times a year.  (Occasionally I might borrow a card from a pre-con deck for Standard, Modern, or Commander.)


You get two life counter dice, and that’s about it for the packaging.


Longtime Hub City Geeks will know that that SpartanNerd is running out of photo space on WordPress.  So I have minimized my pictures a little.  Here are the decks with the flashy rare cards.


Warren Instigator.  This one wasn’t on my radar.  This is how you get alot of Goblins on the field, and trigger Enters the Battlefield effects.  Oh yeah.  DOUBLE STRIKE.  You Get TWO triggers.  Sick.  This is one of the sets money cards.  This foil printing is already worth around $5.

Goblin Diplomats.  This showcases the funnyness of the Goblin deck.  And they are hilarious.

Master of Waves.  Here is one from my favorite THEROS BLOCK.  Master of Waves is a BEAST.  in the Merfolk deck, you will definitely have a ton of devotion to blue, and so will get a bunch of elementals when he enters the battlefield.  And this new art makes it look like he’s been working out!

Harbinger of the Tides.  And iconic merfolk that is removal on a stick.  Amazing.

So I am going to show you a mat full of the strategy of each deck, starting with Merfolk.



Merfolk in Modern is a strategy that depends on lords, which are creatures that give others of the same type +1/+1,  and Islandwalk, which is a type of evasion.

The Merfolk deck here highlights this by including three merfolk lords.  If you get all three out, you win.  (But the odds are against you.)  The evasion piece here is Aquatech’s Will, which is a busted spell that makes an opponent’s land into an island (in addition to its other types) and also lets you draw a card.  There are FOUR COPIES in this deck!  That’s how important it is.  One of our lords, Master of the Pearl Trident, gives all merfolk you control islandwalk.

What else is here?  Some iconic merfolk.  In addition to Master of Waves, we also get Cold Eyed Selkie, who is big in Commander.  We get Scroll Thief, who would be an automatic inclusion into any merfolk deck, and is an important core set type of MTG card.  Harbinger of the Tides.  And Tidebinder Mage, who was important a few years ago in standard.  (M13-Innistraad-Return to Ravnica-M14 Standard).

Then this is a blue deck, so it also has plenty of control.  Notably here is Essence Scatter, because you KNOW your opponent is going to cast creature spells in this duel deck environment.  Concentrate and Misdirection, which are classics.  Tidal Wave, which gives you a quick, big blocker, and Engulf the Shore which is a sweeper.



It’s hard to put your finger on the strategy of goblins.  There is a randomness to it, that finds success anyway.  And they are also always pretty much hilarious.  In this deck, you want to build up a critical mass of goblins before the merfolk are able to get out their evasive lords.  So board presence is the key, rather than evasion.

There aren’t that many goblin lords, but they are still about spiritually the same.  Goblin Wardriver has Battle Cry, which means whenever he attacks, other attacking cratures get +1/+0.  Goblin Chieftain is a goblin lord.  Goblin Rabblemaster makes goblin tokens with haste everytime you get a combat stage.  (Rabblemaster was important in Khans block).

Other ways to get out tokens?  Krenko, Mob boss makes a ton of goblins if left unchecked. Goblin Ringleader lets you get goblin cards in your hand.  (Tribal instants and sorceries count as goblins!)  Also, when paired with Warren Instigator, this is just incredible.

Blue has control, but red has burn of course!  Very notable here is Goblin Grenade.  (This card wasn’t in the first Goblin Duel Deck.  It wasn’t a thing yet.)  Goblin Diplomats makes the merfolks swing into a bunch of goblins that can black and eat them up.  Tarfire, the aforementioned tribal instant which was in the previous duel deck, as was Gempalm Incinerator.  I haven’t got to see the Goblin Razerunners do his thing yet.  (I have played seven matches.  He seems busted though, as a goblin burn spell on a stick.)  Tokens are so important here that we have four token producing spells.  (Three copies of Krenko’s COmmand and one copy of Hordeling Outburst.)

Goblin Charbelcher.  Ahh.  The Eternal Masters art.  With Black Lotus among other things flying out of the cannon.  The way this works is, you pay to activate it, then reveal your cards until you hit a land.  The number of card revealedis the amount of damage assigned to target creature of player.  Now out there in the world, there is a Modern and a Legacy version of this strategy as a whole deck.  Basically, you will build a deck with only a single land, probably Stomping Ground.  You build up your mana base using Simian Spirit Guides and borderposts, or other fast mana tricks, and then you activate the cannon and reveal all of your cards.  Hopefully at least twenty damage is sent to your opponents face!  But here, you will probably only get a few damage ponts in as the deck has a bunch of lands.  But it is a flavorful and important inclusion.  This is reliable removal that the merfolk deck can’t stop.

Ghostfire.  A colorless burn spell that costs two generic and a mountain.  Why?  I think the wizards just wanted to reprint it.  But it is handy against something like Master of Waves, which has protection from red.  This card is important also historically, as it gave the wizards inspiration for the cards with DEVOID in the recent Battle for Innistraad block.


So far, the Goblins beat the Merfolk most of the time.  These decks are INCREDIBLY balanced against one another if both players hit a land drop every turn and play a spell every turn.  The experience here is not unlike Elves Vs. Goblins.  You just about have the same experience.  While the Elves work differently, trying to power out big green monsters, the Merfolk work organically together to create evasion and hit the opponent hard.  The Goblins work about the same as the previous decks, with the new tricks of Goblin Charbelcher, Goblin Grenade, and Goblin Rabblemaster.  DIfferent bosses, with the same strategy of go wide and do whatever it takes to damage the opponent.

It is pretty much hilarious when someone gets Master of Waves out and gets a huge board presence, only to suddenly lose it to Ghostfire or Goblin Charbelcher.  On the other hand, it is humorous to make the Goblins have a Mountain Island and then hit them hard with islandwalkers.  Also, the Merfolk get that sweeper spell, which does away with the tokens.  It also wipes their board, but they don’t rely on creature tokens as a base strategy the way Goblins do.  (I really think Master of Waves is here for the new players.  He is splashy and flashy and fun.  But another merfolk lord would have been better.  Or a devastating artifact along the lines of the charbelcher.)


Maybe you think I’m a fanboy.  But I’m giving this a 5/5.  The WIzards must be listening.  They improved the deckboxes and included a decklist.  Mind Vs. Might was poorly received because it was considered unbalanced, and therefore unfun.  This set is the opposite.  So the Wizards ARE LISTENING.

The SpartanNerd rates Merfolk Vs. Goblins a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments, oh Hub City Geeks!.


***I eventually DID pick up the “Mind Vs. Might” Duel Decjs.  As told by everyone else, one there is no balance at all.  One deck gets early advantage and then pancakes the other.  However, notable that each deck contained ten rares, and also the storage boxes are of the same design we have with Merfolk Vs. Goblins.  Incidentally, I got mine for $8 off of TCGplayer!  I am going to piece these out, and am excited about making a commander deck with the blue/red legendary.


SpartanNerd Review…Dual Decks Anthology “Elves vs. Goblins”


So far, I have reviewed Garruk vs. Liliana and Jace vs. Chandra.  I thought I would save Divine vs Demonic for last, because that is the one that has the “money cards” in it that people were hotly interested in, and besides that, I have other reasons…(I will reveal them in time!)

So for now, you get my review of Elves vs. Goblins.  If I’m not mistaken, this was the first ever Dual Decks product from the Wizards of the Coast.


I prefer unboxing these decks on video, rather than taking pictures of the cards.  This is a true unboxing…what you will see when you open the package.

Both decks come with a beautiful foil deckbox, that unfortunately has the cardboard catch that tears up after about the third opening.  I vow to put velcro on these!

And the tokens were boxed in the Elves deckbox.  (The goblin tokens are with the elf tokens.)  I will say that the Elf Tokens are a little disturbing…

Other than this, the cards have an “old school” aesthetic.  Sure, they are reprinted in modern frames.  But the art is of that older style you find when you open old packs or look through piles of bulk cards.



As before, featured rare cards are on the top.

Siege Gang Commander gets you three 1/1 goblin chumps on the battlefield.

Clickslither is one of the few cards in the deck that isn’t a Goblin.  Just the same, it’s ability…Sacrifice a Goblin to give him +2/+2…makes this THE CARD to fear in this deck when things are going well for you.

Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician can be insane.  Block something big with little chump goblins, and then sacrifice them on the way to the graveyard to burn whatever was blocked for four damage.  You can remove most anything this way!  But that’s not all…Ib lets you get more chumps if you sacrifice mountains.  Late game, when you don’t need all that Mana…(this deck isn’t a mana hungry deck), you can just outright win.  And there is a lot of synergy with Siege Gang and Clickslither

Then there’s Skirk Fire Marshall.  My issue with Skirk is that you sacrifice so many goblins all the time, you might not have five goblins to tap and burn the opponent for 10 damage.  He’s a fun threat, though, if the circumstances are right.

The rest of the cards are variations on the theme of “Sacrifice me, or somebody else…do something bad to the opponent.”  But the cards are carefully chosen so that they balance well against the elf deck.  For instance, Gempalm Incinerator has a cycle ability.  There is a gempalm card in the elf deck.  There is a “goblin lord.”  (You folks who don’t know, “lords” in magic are cards that give other similar cards +1/+1.  Lords usually have some other upside as well.)  In this case, Goblin Warchief give your goblins haste.  This is the kind of card you want in your opening hand.

The only thing I am sort of unclear on in this deck, and the other is “tribal instant” or “tribal enchantment.”  Are there special “tribal” rules for these cards?  Sure, these are tribal decks.  But what do these special spells do that they can’t do in a non-tribal deck.  I guess I will look that up sometime.  The only thing I can figure is a card or two says “whenever you cast a Goblin spell this turn,” or something like that.  There would be synergy.

As a rule, I haven’t modified any of these decks.  Who would I “fire” from the goblin deck?  Skirk Drill Sergeant.  Usually, when I try and trigger his ability, which is costly, I might add, I get what I don’t want.  Clickslither winds up in the graveyard, or something else.  And there is almost no re-animation in this red deck.


As before, first the rares.

Ambush Commander is a little odd, because it is a sac outlet for elves.  Still, it is a way of suddenly finding the tribal power the deck needs by making all of the forests into elves.

Allosaurus Rider is the card I fear.  It is the kind of card we ALL should fear.  What should be every bit of a seven drop, can be had as early as turn 1, and be a 2/2!  And then grows bigger the more forests you play.  It is actually harder to flip a Delver of Secrets!  I would say that this card is the matchup for Clickslither in the other deck.  But you know they won’t be out at the same time…

Remember Skirk Fire Marshall?  Well Voice of the Woods is the elf version.  You tap five elves, and you get a 7/7 Elemental.

The rest of the elves are all chumps, with some kind of ability that enhances other elves, or uses them as a resource, or what have you.  “The elf lord” to look for in the early game is Imperious Perfect.  And what elf deck would be complete without Llannowar Elves?

Literally, in just about every way, the elf deck matches the goblin deck.  The Wizards made their entry Dual Deck a real statement.  The only thing the Elves have that the Goblins don’t have counterparts to are the artifact cards.


By now, I have had tons of experience with both decks.  I have only played Divine vs. Demonic more.  These decks are VERY EVENLY MATCHED.  I can’t stress that enough.  I have been playing Magic for awhile now, and could count on one hand how many “ties” happened where both teams killed each other simultaneously.  When you play these, it is almost like playing a speedy game of Commander, Not because of the singletons, but because each side plays offense or defense, and there are lots of card interactions.

Both decks are very tribal, but also exemplify the philosophy of their color.  The goblins sacrifice themselves or others to burn  the opponent out.  The Elves do things to make big creatures, or a swarm of creatures that over-runs the opponent.

So I am going to call this a tie.  It is what it is.  And it is always fun. If you want a good lengthy game of MTG, that uses lots of card synergy, then you should play Elves vs. Goblins.


I have to give both decks a 5/5.  The only complaint I have about the decks are the tokens.  Both sets look kind of creepy.  In an oddly sexually specific way.  Your mind doesn’t even have to be in the gutter to think so.  My oldest child noticed what I am talking about, but the younger one doesn’t see anything odd.

Still, it’s just art.  And tokens aren’t the main product.

So I rate the Elves vs. Goblins Dual Deck from the Dual Decks Anthology 5/5.

Do you agree?  Let me know in the comments!

I rate both decks 5/5.