The Theme Deck Renaissance

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The dust has finally started to settle on Mirrodin Besieged. The cards are all known, the prereleases happily attended, the factions championed, and the set officially launched. Now we all get to start sifting through the finer points of the set: the card reviews, cards themselves, decks they go into, and new decks on the rise. As we count down to Game Day and the Event Decks at the end of the month it's a great time to take a moment and reflect upon the foursome of intro decks Wizards has prepared to immortalize the set for us.

In some ways it's a rather historic occasion as the four decks in question confirm some things I'd begun to suspect with the release of Scars of Mirrodin. There was an awakening realization that we were undergoing a sea change with regards to the preconstructed offerings for the set, and really needed to see the next set to be certain. Put simply, I think it's now safe to declare that the intro pack is dead- long live the theme deck!

True confession time: I'm at least as guilty as the next person at conflating those two terms but they bear some explanation to appreciate their distinctions. Theme decks are those preconstructed decks that were launched in 1997 with the start of the Tempest Block. For most of their history, the magic number was four and each subsequent set brought another quad to the table. 2006's Guildpact was the first major set to deviate from this, releasing only three: Code of the Orzhov, Gruul Wilding, and Izzet Gizmometry. Thematically, this was a perfect fit as there were ten guilds in the block, and each guild was given a theme deck within which it could showcase its cards and strut its stuff. Once the block was over it was right back to four with Coldsnap moving forward.

Meanwhile, on the parallel plane that the Core Sets exist in, the business model was a little bit different. Beginning with 2001's Seventh Edition theme decks became part of the package here as well. No more would the Core Sets be relegated to overt second-class citizen status for preconstructed products. Tailored for the new or junior player these theme decks each had two interesting characteristics. First, each deck was monocolored, a pattern which would not be broken for another eight years (when the landmark Magic 2010 redefined the Core Set concept). Secondly, in a bit of sinister foreshadowing, each deck was comprised of only forty cards. Those bemoaning the advent of the 'Intro Pack' as confusing for newer players with regards to deck standards might note that, if nothing else, there was at least considerable precedent for the concept.

Returning to the expansion set world, 2007's Lorywn finally cribbed the notion of five decks per set and despite a brief reversion in the very next set (Morningtide), five became the new gold standard carried forward every set since. Until, of course, Mirrodin Besieged. This is hardly radical, though. Recall that Ravnica Block established the idea that the number of preconstructed products released as tie-ins to a given set could be influenced by the story surrounding it. We were given the customary five for Scars of Mirrodin, but shaving one deck off was the perfect way to reinforce one of the design aims of Mirrodin Besieged: parity between the factions as the Phyrexians come out of the shadows and the Mirrans start fighting back. There are four decks: two Mirran (Battle Cries, Mirromancy) and two Phyrexian (Doom Inevitable, Path of Blight). But we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves here.

The Joyous Work Continues

The next seismic shift in preconstructed deck design came just a year after Lorwyn had expanded the slate of offerings and it was a most unwelcome one. Looking to better position the decks as gateways to the game rather than showcases for a set, Wizards shrunk down the deck to 41 cards, threw in a booster pack of the relevant set, topped it off with the inclusion of a premium foil rare, and rechristened the theme deck as an "Intro Pack." Thus began the two year period of the theme deck's Dark Ages.

Were the greatest crime of the advent of the Intro Pack the simply deck size reduction perhaps much of the venom would have fizzled but the products themselves were largely worse. Consistency, that enemy of variance and patron saint of victory, was discarded to the scrapheap. This can be measured by the metric of unique cards per sixty (U/60), a measure of nonland card diversity that quantifies how many different cards comprise a deck. The most consistent deck might have a U/60 of 9.00 in your average deck with 24 lands and nine different four-ofs in the deck (note that I'm deliberately discounting Relentless Rats here). A similarly-build highlander deck would naturally bear a U/60 of 36.00.

In Magic's "Modern Era" (Ravnica forward), expansion set theme decks have had an average U/60 rating of 21.34. Even the first Intro Packs to roll off the assembly line (that is those for Shards of Alara) were well within the norm at 23.71. But after that the notions of deck consistency through card repeats went right out the window as the designers instead sought to show off their new toys through handfuls of singletons. This was the design philosophy for the rest of Alara Block and all the way through Zendikar Block, as if taking a page out of the popular highlander formats:

Zendikar compounded this excess with excess of another kind: the desire to flaunt not only new cards from the expansion sets but to give center stage to Core Set throw-ins as well. Prior to the Intro Pack's inception theme decks invariably contained cards only from their respective Block. Open a Ravnica deck, you got Ravnica cards. Open a Dissension deck, you might get some from Ravnica and Guildpact but, again, all within the block.

Not so with the Alara decks. For the first time in an expansion set product Core Set filler began creeping in. This wasn't so bad in one sense for it gave the decks some additional flexibility in design when needed or desirable effects not found in the expansion set could be included. But there was the peril of eroding the flavor and thematic cohesion that made a given deck distinct. At first this hovered around a somewhat unobtrusive 15% but, again, Zendikar Block went off the deep end, resulting in decks that have a very generic feel to them and don't convey the sense of the set in a way that past theme decks once did.

Hope For What It Will Be Again

So how does Scars Block fit into all this? What are the things we've noticed that gave such cause for triumph at the beginning of the article?

1. The 41-card format is dead. True it died with Magic 2011, but Core Set decks tend towards the generic anyway. The Scars/Besieged decks now have the design space needed to both showcase new mechanics and slick new cards while balancing that with the consistency needed for a deck to be successful.

2. Consistency is back! That's right, the Alara-Zendikar era of bloated unique card counts appears to be over. Three [card Galvanic Blast]Galvanic Blasts[/card]? "Yes sir!" and "Thank you!" to Metalcraft! Even when you include analogues (different cards that fundamentally do the same thing) there's a huge difference in how each card fits in a deck. Rise of the Eldrazi's Invading Spawn contained one each of Corpsehatch and Vendetta. The times when each of these was desirable (and when it was unplayable) were quite different even though at heart they both just kill a creature. Consistency lets players plan, trust in their deck, and learn to play to their outs.

3. Core Set filler is restrained. Scars of Mirrodin Intro Decks have an average Core Set content of 8.52% which is the lowest it had even been in any deck of the Intro Pack era. As a result the five decks Scars supplied are splendidly representative of the revisited world of Mirrodin. You really can feel that you are casting spells and summoning creatures from the beleaguered plane rather than just another generic Goblin Piker. While Mirrodin Besieged nearly doubled this rate it bears mention that this is due in large part to the spell-heavy Mirromancy. Looking to draw into (and capitalize on) Galvanoth, Mirromancy lifted a ton of card draw and library manipulation from Magic 2011, and as such it is a vital component of what the deck is trying to do that actually works. Cut Mirromancy and now we have a Core Set filler rate of just over 11%. I'm not saying Core Set cards need to get the axe (it might well be part of the marketing or some other external plan to have them in there) but it should be kept to a minimum so as to not dilute the deck itself. When you're playing a Phyrexian Deck and casting an Armored Cancrix something just feels a little off.

4. Wizards is dipping its toes into the pool of risk. I was thrilled when I read the deck lists of the Mirrodin Besieged decks, and Mirromancy had me at hello. For too long the intro pack has adhered to the simplistic, cookie-cutter formula of 2/3 creatures, 1/3 noncreature support. It's simple, it's amusing enough, and it works. Why change it? (I've covered this point in detail on the Lament this week with our deck reviews, so I won't belabor it here.)

In short, the signs we're seeing from Wizards on the Intro Packs are both exciting and encouraging. These are quite simply better products and a return to levels of quality that seem to have been suspended for the past couple of sets. If you've been a fan of the theme decks of old but have stopped buying them because of the simplified, shaved-down aspect they took on from Shards of Alara through Rise of the Eldrazi let me be the first to say "Welcome back." Although still called "Intro Pack" don't let the name fool you: the theme deck has returned.

Now it's contest time!

Want to win either a foil Elspeth Tirel or foil Fauna Shaman? How about both?

As a writer it always thrills me to know that I'm being read. I'm quite pleased to share that I know just how many of you read me here!

I mean it sincerely: I couldn't have done it without you, the members of the Preconstructed Community who have been on-board with Magic Beyond the Box from the start as well as everyone else who ever clicked a link and took a read.

To give something back I'll be holding a drawing for both of these cards on Wednesday, 16 February, and post the winners the following day in this column.

To Win the Elspeth

There are two ways to get a raffle entry. The first is to leave a comment on this article while answering the question "What is your favorite preconstructed deck, and why?" Comments about this article will also count so there's something for everyone!

The other way is to retweet the Twitter message I send out about this contest from @ErtaisLament.

And if you do both, well, then you've got two chances to win!

To Win the Fauna Shaman

Under the steady guidance of editor Adam 'Fearless Leader' Styborski, QS's Timmy section has continued to offer some fantastic reads. Starting today, any substantive comment left on another Timmy article gets an entry in the raffle. (By 'substantive' I mean it actually has to respond to some point in the article- it doesn't have to be the Great American Novel, but it should be a little more than "great post kthxbai.")

Good luck to everyone!

50 thoughts on “The Theme Deck Renaissance

  1. The only Intro Pack worth of note in the late history of Magic was the one with the Umezawa Jitte 🙂
    Wizards knows in advance which will be the most worthy cards in a new set and they try to make sure that they don't use those cards in intro decks.
    Such a deck cost 16$ here in Europe; at the same price I could buy a playset of Inkmoth Nexus at pre-release price. I will also buy at least a booster box each time a new set is out.
    Wizards should find a way to make these intro packs interesting for me too.

    Theme decks maybe an answer, what they started in Magic Online with the Exiler and the Boltslinger Legacy decks was excellent. 30 bucks and you get a performant Legacy deck? Deal!

    Last consideration. Foil cards start to suck. We knew since years that they get warped soon. Judges at large tournaments are starting to disqualify people playing with a mixed foil/non foil deck. According to me this declares the death of all foils theme decks too.

  2. My favorite theme deck is from Ravnica, Charge of the Boros, because of the hunt I went on for it. At the time I refused to pay more than $.50 for an uncommon and I wanted a playset of Lightning Helix bad. I cracked a ton of packs (enough to nearly complete a set) but could not get the last 2 Helix I needed. I knew they were in the theme deck, but I started looking too late and the blasted thing was sold out every where around here. Finally after months of searching I went into a Gamestop in another part of the state and lo and behold, they had a few of them lying around that I snatched up for my set.

  3. I suppose duel decks are preconstructed decks? If so, then fire & lightning is great. It’s so good to see a (quasi) competitive deck being sold by wizards 🙂

  4. I'm a relative newcomer to magic (and by relative, I mean that I'm about a week or two old).
    I've played with several intro decks from several different modern sets so far (Zendikar, Scars, Besieged) and by far, my favorite deck is Mirromancy. It is a complete blast to play, partly because it departs from the traditional "X amount of characters and Y amount of support" formula. In my incredibly short career so far, I have never met a deck that is so interesting to play. Every game I play with the deck seems unique and fresh. Plus, Galvanoth and Flame Servant are just ridiculously entertaining to use. At this point in my Magic experience, the most important thing to me in a deck is how fun it is, and Mirromancy is absolutely fantastic.

  5. I loved the entire Ravnica block set of decks, as I really liked the flavor link, having 1 deck per guild. Of the 10, my favorites are probably Izzet Gizmometry (for flavor – Izzet just amuses the heck out of me for some reason) and Charge of the Boros for just sheer speed & playability.

  6. Definitely slivers from time spiral. Setting aside the fact that it was the first magic product I ever bought, I just loved the recursive nature of it. The slivers were always relevant to play and got better and better as the game went on. In fact, that was the only Magic product I bought for about a year because I had so much fun playInh it against my friends.

  7. Its a close match between Time Spiral's Slivers and MIirrodin's Afiinity/Broodstar one. The affinity one wins for nostalia and resonance (It was the 1st theme deck I bought, and the basis for my 1st competitive deck at the time) Both decks get big points for being so fun to play on their own compared to others I tried from these recent times.

  8. My favorite preconstructed deck is definitely the first one I ever purchased, Prophecy's "Distress." Aside from simple nostalgia, I thought it managed to work surprisingly well despite its use of the "rhystic" mechanic, and the fact that whenever one of your 1/1s or 2/2s died it got you one death closer to casting Avatar of Woe made even losing (temporarily) fun :).

  9. I guess the duel decks are 'preconstructed', and I've had so much fun playing the Elspeth vs. Tezzeret product (and they are the most experience I've had we preconstructed product) that they are by far my favorites. Even after playing them for hours, swapping back and forth, I was still finding cool interactions in them. I apologize if these don't count as 'precons'.


    1. I taught my girlfriend's dad to play with that duel deck pack. He's now hooked. They are pretty well balanced; usually, Elspeth wins unless Tezz gets insanity like Razormane out. I rocked Blue and he ran White, which was good because that was a simpler deck and I wanted him to win more than I did.

      For the $20, I got two Planeswalkers I wanted, two Everflowing Chalices, a Crusade, two STPs, a Razormane, redundant Pentavus and Trikes that I already have but were nice, and a Mishra's Factory. I highly endorse that theme deck in particular for really hooking you up on good cards. Phyrex v. Coalition was great for EDH players, too.

      I also echo how much fun the interactions are in EvT. Bouncing a Clockwork thing with Esperzoa to reset it? Superb!

  10. My favorite precon is actually a trio – the three different sliver decks that Wizards has released. I really enjoy tribal decks, and slivers are about as tribal as you can get. Watching them evolve over the years and getting that sense of nostalgia after cracking the TS one was great.

  11. Out of the new intro decks, I am partial to the Mirromancy one. I think it looks like a lot of fun to play and it has Neurok Commando, which I thinks is the bomb in that deck. Those bounce and tap spells make that guy rock. I like playing with intro decks even though I'm an older player because at least the decks are all pretty balanced vs each other and that makes for better games.

  12. I just started buying intro packs with the Scars of Mirrodin release, and I must say I am enjoying the Mirrodin Besieged intro packs much more than the Scars ones. The “Doom Inevitable” intro pack is my favorite pick. First, it has two pretty good rares: Bonehoard and Psychosis Crawler. Bonehoard fits perfectly with the deck theme and included cards, and really should have been the foil. Crawler is good, and can be a strong card, it’s just the included cards support Bonehoard more than Crawler. Also, the remaining cards do a good job of whittling away at your opponent’s creature base, leaving room for a massive attack from your threats. If that doesn’t work, mind controlling their win con is always fun too. 🙂

  13. My favorite theme deck would have to be Endless March from planar chaos. Huge undercosted beaters have always appealed to me, and Dust Elemental is one of the best. I love how they put together a synergy of a few "drawbacks" on good creatures, such as vanishing, echo, and the bounce mechanic, and turned it into a deck that could repeatadly do annoying things with it's collection of comes into play creatures. Calciderm is a favorite, and overall the deck is just really solid and a good example of how you can play off cards drawbacks to make them strengths instead.

  14. Fiendish Nature from Urza's Destiny was by far my favorite precon. You could 'combo out' and Pattern of Rebirth out an Ancient Silverback, or just keep gaining incremental card advantage through all the recursion and comes into play and leaves play effects.

  15. I enjoy the Duel Decks much more than the intro decks that come out each set. I have jace v chandra, elspeth v tez and garruk v lilliana x2. It’s fun to play them with buddies “tournament style” to see which ends up on top. Of these my favorite is jace v chandra.

  16. I absolutely loved the slivers theme deck from Timespiral. I had not played mtg in a while when I saw this one, and was SHOCKED to find Pendelhaven included. It was a big reason I started back in again. Slivers?!?! Pendelhaven?!?!? Yep, worked for me!

  17. AS a new player with in the last year, I hadn't seen anything wrong with the Zendikar block decks except that they felt undersized. Reading the history of the theme/intro deck has been an interesting take as I do like playing those since it does, for the most part, showcase a mechanic. Your reviews of them on the Lament are greatly appreciated as not only I but my wife and kids play. I look at the Intro decks as a sort of jumping off point to help be a bit more competitive in FNM. Thanks for the great read

  18. My favorite theme deck was Rise of the Vampires from Zendikar. I had just started getting back into Magic when it came out and I thought it was a rather fun deck with an interesting tribe. After modifying it, it became my most played deck that I had created.

  19. My favorite precon, of all time, has to be The Swarm from Tempest. I have nver had as much fun as when I could get Aluren and Recycle to stick and then draw and play 90% of my deck in a turn.

  20. My favorite precon was the Eldrazi Arisen from Rise of the Eldrazi, because I love casting large things (and it's the journey, not the destination, that is fun for me in doing this). I loved the set and wish I had been able to play with it more, but the precon was a lot of fun.

    On another note, GREAT POST KTHXBAI

  21. Best Precon deck?

    My vote clearly is for the Boros guild being native to the Ravnica set. The reasons for my decisions are manifold:
    * The block featured one guild for each color pair (10 in total) and created a strong identity for each of them, tapping into each of the two particular colors' attributes.
    * This whole colorpair-setting was embedded into a cityscape featuring it's very own conflicts thus creating a thrilling tension between each of them. This overall setting was – in my opinion – one of the greatest pieces of flavor Wizards ever came up with.
    * A city like this needed law enforcers: Enter the Boros guild. And this entrance was such a substantial one that by the Boros the WR archetype was redefined. WR is about fighting the good fight. As MaRo put it in his description of identity ( "Red/white's enemies always know exactly what red/white is up to because red/white tells them. To their face. Multiple times."
    * For the deck itself, I know few theme decks being less consistent. There number of useless and out-of-flavor cards respectively is limited (oops, must have dropped that Cyclopean Snare when opening the packet). The goal is clear and each of the creatures and spells pursues it.
    * The leader of the Boros guild, Agrus Kos is present to lead his forces into battle. His abilities nearly match those of the famous Balefire Liege and counts as a pre-runner to Battle Cry. Plus, he is the main character of the Ravnica novels 🙂
    * In the Ravnica block some subtle and carefully designed circles (eg: 3 commons, 4 uncommons, 6 rares for each guild) are given and fulfill expectations of what to get. For the Boros deck, two of the strongest uncommons, namely the Lightning Helix and the Swiftblade are featured in the pack.
    * What's more, the deck adds a little twist on the Soldier/Equipment archetype by presenting a piece (yes, the Sunforger) that not only stresses eagerness in battle (just trunstfully hand this maul over to a Swiftblade) but can produce combat tricks out of nothing – what a delightful element of strategy.

    For all these reaons … yes, I think Boros is the deck.

  22. I started playing Magic in the Onslaught block with the “Ivory Doom” and “Devastation”, so I have some nostalgia for those two. The beast deck initially won the majority of the games until the cleric player figured out how to play conservatively and manage a long game.

    Good times, good times.

  23. It's split between three. My first deck ever was Izzet Gizmometry from Guildpact. It was a blast, due to the large number of counterburn cards (something like Mirrormancy, in a way) and the amazing synergy it had with them (Gelectrode, Wee Dragonauts). It also gave a great flavorful sense of the Izzet guild. The second was the source of my current (amazing) casual deck: Elvish Predation from Lorowyn. This one was also synergistic, with only one goal: pumping out elves, elves, and more elves, with effects that boosted your team or individual elves, triggered when elves came into play, and counted the number of elves. The third was the Tezzeret deck from EvT. A huge number of cool artifacts.

  24. THE PLAGUE from Urza's Saga.

    Urza's block was a wonderful event. With so many growing deck types it was a surprise at every turn. It was a quick change very quickly at the time. Adding in ROP:Red and Paladin en-Vec was a no brainer. Thats right ROP = Ruin of Protection. Cycling was nothing to laugh about even way back then. I remember playing so many caos group games and this deck came out and trumpt so many other. It was one of the few that I really remember playing and I have bought one copy of every precon since I started playing magic. Many of them torn apart but always keeping about 10 of them together to make caos group games just a little more fair of a playing field.

    1. Sooooo in agreement with you on this. I love that precon deck. Wizards really nailed the flavor: Sicken, Befoul, Pestilence, Corrupt. Even the land got in on the party with Polluted Mire.

      Great in multiplayer games.

  25. As a relative newcomer to the game, I am woefully unfamiliar with the older blocks.
    That said: My favorite precon deck is the Duels of the Planeswalkers Nissan Revane deck titled “Ears of the Elves.” It’s not the greatest deck ever made, but it’s a good representation of the video game’s version. Overall, I like the consistent theme and that it makes for a fun casual game.

  26. I took a look at all the precons I ever got, and my three favorites are all red/blue.

    The first deck I took a real liking to was Izzet Gizmometry. The first time I looked at is list I thought "How the hell does thing thing win?" 9 creatures only, and a handful of weak burn, draw, and counterspells. It didn't look great on paper. How wrong I was. It managed to repeatedly trounce all the other Ravnica theme decks I had up to that point, except the Orzhov one.

    The next I could talk about is Stronghold's The Sparkler. THREE creatures. A bunch of ridiculous cards that wanted you to stand your ground and sparkle your opponent to death one buyback turn at a time. Playing this deck makes your head hurt the first few times if you weren't used to it. It was a very nice throwback to an older time, since I started around Odyssey block. And the biggest surprise, the little booklet it came with had all four of the set's deck strategies, and even additional deck lists. It made for nice reading.

    But the most hilarious deck I ever played, which ended up fun for both me and my brother, was Scourge's Pulverize. When I first saw it, it was just about the worst deck I had ever seen on paper. Something that relied on ridiculously overcosted spells to power out a "casting cost mattered" burn, with the earliest creature you could put out only on turn 3, usually a morph. And the insert didn't even have a strategy for you. It had a story. One that showed you losing the first match.

    This deck was as addictive as gambling ever was. If everything went right I could defeat my opponent with three burn spells, though that only happened half the time. This deck teaches its player to know when to cycle away spells or to use your burn to prevent premature creature-y death. If it got to the late game it could also use big creatures to win. Once I even hardcasted a Scornful Egotist to avoid damage from my own Pyrostatic pillar.

    Pulverize was never the strongest deck, not even after several editing runs, but whenever I get a new deck, Pulverize is the first deck I pull out against it.

  27. My favorite precon is the Swarm & Slam deck from Darksteel, because it was the first Deck I ever had.
    I began playing Magic together with my brother, I had the Swarm & Slam deck, and he had the Mind Swarm deck, and he beat me consistently… although it was a lot of fun.
    I liked Myr Matrix, Test of Faith and Echoing Courage, and I developed the Deck later into the Beacon Blasting Station Combo deck. (Still a bad version of the deck, compared to the real Standard decks of the time.)
    This Precon gave me a lot of good times, and I feel a bit nostalgic about it. I liked the design of the wohle Mirrodin Block, and also of the deckbox of the precon. I also like the new Mirrodin Block, gives me a good feeling. 🙂

  28. Hey Ertai,
    My favorite deck is Ears of the Elves. The black/green Elf deck is so unique and just seems so out of the ordinary for WotC. It's highly effective, contains removal, and has so many options which can be quite the contrary with some of the pre-cons. IT also has great flavor and thematic content. I have two modified versions, one for Legacy and one for Extended that I like playing against my other decks. I haven't had a chance to try them out locally, but even when I get stomped I know I'll enjoy playing the deck. There is also another deck from Prophecy called "Turnaround" that is U/W control that sports some amazing abilities to bounce/counter with some great shenanigans. That probably falls into my second place spot.

  29. I think my favorite preconstructed deck was the Migraine Deck from Stronghold. It's kind of a nostalgia thing for me. At the time, I was going through a phase of Magic where I loved discard, and seeing it turn into a win condition was just a joy to me. With the strictly better Liliana's Caress out now, I wonder if a version of the deck would be viable in the modern era…

  30. One of the reasons that Wizards puts Core Set cards into Intro Decks was explained by Tom LaPille during the judging of the most recent Great Designer Search 2 challenge. Evergreen keywords in expert-level sets don't have reminder text, but creatures from Core Sets do have reminder text for evergreen keywords. If they put a creature with an evergreen keyword in an intro deck they like to put an example of a creature with that same keyword from the Core Set so that beginning players will be able to find some explanation for how Flying and Trample work.

    Favorite precon: Jace Beleren's deck from Jace vs. Chandra.

  31. I have always been a fan of plagues as a theme, so the 'The Plague' from Urza's Saga had me at first glance. On top of the name, there was the sweet Flesh Reaver box art. Pestilence was a beloved card, so the black-bordered reprint excited me. Overtime I changed about half of the cards. It grew into my favorite deck. I played it for years. I ended up taking it apart to use the sleeves for another deck, but I wrote down the list. It moved with me across country. Even now, I probably still have that list or a backup electronic copy. Recently I've been trying to update the list, adapting it to a singleton build for Commander and adding new favorite cards.

  32. I'm still waiting to see the new "Event Decks" before I discuss my feelings about where they're going with their preconstructed deck products…

    As for Mirromancy, it is interesting in that stripping out the core set cards make the deck rather worse for it, and stripping out the Scars-block cards does the same thing. It truly is an amalgamated deck, as opposed to the other three, where finding comparable cards from the block was easy enough.

  33. My favorite preconstructed deck would have to be Wicked Big from the original Mirrodin. Why? I had just gotten into Magic, at the age of 14, when Mirrodin came out. For Christmas that year, the girl I was crazy about gave me the theme deck and three boosters. It didn't work out between us, but I'll always remember that fondly.

    I just pulled up the list on the WotC website. God, that deck was so bad.

  34. My favorite precon was the Battalion theme deck from Morningtide. This was the first MTG product I bought which led me to play Kithkin to 28th in the NC states after Eventide. Not bad for my first non-FNM. Not only that it had Reveillark. I would call that +EV.

  35. My favorite precon was the Golgari Deathcreep from the Ravnica Block. It was my first deck and I absolutely fell in love with the dredge mechanic. Recycling Dark Blast, Shambling Shell, and Stinkweed Imp over and over never got boring. Purposefully milling cards into the graveyard just to find that the Golgari Grave Troll, one of the deck's champion rares, to be the bottom card of the deck and losing the game by decking out still makes me chuckle.

  36. Thought I can't say I've tried them all, I own four Precons and have battled them all against a great variety of other precons (which my friends own) and I can say without doubt that my favourite is "Sacrifical Bam" which was positively broken in the precon metagame hehe.

    Atogs, Disciples, Artifact lands (completely fair, especially with the other two mentioned), Shrapnel Blast and not least the unstoppable game-ender Megatog! ++ made for an awesome precon, but the best part is how it taught me that "drawbacks" such as sacrificing your own things for temporary bonuses could be fun, for previously I was all about big green creatures and building up my army over time. Aka, it helped me progress in my understanding of the game (me being 12 years that didn't take much, but hey, it helped) in addition to being ridiculously fun to play even when my friends started adding hard removal to their decks so Megatog no longer spelled "I win!" but sometimes made their terror spell "Megatog's controller sacs all permanents and dies horribly" (again teaching me about overextending hehe).

    And even though I started losing hard when my brother got the "Rat's Nest" precon and beat my face with his Jitte it was still a contender and a LOT better than my previous favourite "Painflow" from Judgment

  37. My favorite theme deck would have to be the eventide life drain deck. Not only because of it being my intro to the game but also due to its amazing adherence to the color pie. WB should drain your opponents life to benefit your own, and this deck did that. Plus, it had some awesome removal in unmake and soul reap, black removal that takes care of black dudes. finally, divity of pride is awesome sauce.

  38. My favorite preconstructed deck is most certainly Fun with Fungus. While I feel that it would be a failure if some new players bought decks to play with one another, I really enjoyed how it let people learn about damage on the stack from more experienced players as 'look at this awesome stuff you can do, let me show you how' rather than 'sorry I just blew you out with something you didn't know I could do but was on the board, I bet you feel pretty stupid right now.' As an added bonus, I enjoyed the high power level of the deck once one learned the rules intricacies because it allowed this newly informed player to compete; in fact, a friend of mine won a casual standard tournament with it!

  39. My favorite theme deck is Code of the Orzhov. The orzhov guild in general surprised me by how well it worked and it was a very budget guild with most of the important cards being common or uncommon. The deck played very well and I ended up buying a second one to smoosh together to make my ultimate orzhov brew which did quite well even against some of my friends' older established decks.

  40. My favorite precon has got to be the Tezzeret Deck from Tezzeret vs. Elspeth. I love the artifacts and all the moving parts (counters etc.) . Plus this Tez, was the first Plainswalker I ever played with, so he will always have a place in my heart. Also the Metalcraft deck from Scars was pretty fun. Again, I like the artifacts, and I just like the concept of Blue/ Red.

  41. Were the greatest crime of the advent of the Intro Pack the simply deck size reduction perhaps much of the venom would have fizzled but the products themselves were largely worse. Consistency, that enemy of variance and patron saint of victory, was discarded to the scrapheap. This can be measured by the metric of unique cards per sixty (U/60), a measure of nonland card diversity that quantifies how many different cards comprise a deck. The most consistent deck might have a U/60 of 9.00 in your average deck with 24 lands and nine different four-ofs in the deck (note that I’m deliberately discounting Relentless Rats here). A similarly-build highlander deck would naturally bear a U/60 of 36.00.

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