The Intro Decks of New Phyrexia

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For those of you who have been enjoying the Precon Deck Buyer's Guide, have no fear- we'll be continuing the series next week. But with New Phyrexia hitting the shelves, I'd like to get this out today for the benefit of those considering purchasing one (or more) of the decks. We'll resume the Buyer's Guide articles next week.

Welcome to the official first Magic Beyond the Box piece for New Phyrexia, and what a road it's been. After being wrapped in a secretive cocoon, full of fakeouts and speculations and even a specially-altered Game Day promo, to a mixture of shock and titillation we found the entire set spoiled with the leaking of a "godbook." Even the Intro Decks were not immune, themselves being spoiled on MTG Salvation shortly before prerelease. For those who enjoy the slow-roll deployment of spoilers for a new set (and I'm assuredly one of them), it was a very disappointing outcome.

On the upside, the absence of a real spoiler season is about the only disappointing thing about New Phyrexia. By now you've likely attended a prerelease or had a chance to pore through the visual spoiler, and pored through all the goodies this set has brought us. Today we'll be looking at the Intro Pack decks, and discoering what 'goodies' lie in store for us there, as well. There have been some changes to the format of the decks this time around, one of them in particular has caused no shortage of controversy.

When looking at the New Phyrexia intro decks, here are four things that stand out, followed by details of our latest giveaway!

1. Core Set filler has become synergistic.

In my feature on the Five Elements of the Best Theme Decks, I highlighted the challenge to the sense of identity a particular deck can have posed by its dilution with Core Set filler. There I contrasted Zendikar's filler content (around 33%) with Scars of Mirrodin (a much more gratifying 9%). This was a huge reduction, not least because as the first set of a block, Scars had less tools at its disposal than its expansions would, and more motive to reach outside its own borders.

Mirrodin Besieged reversed the trend somewhat, jumping to over 15% filler content, but New Phyrexia has reined itself in at just over 11%. Furthermore, New Phyrexia seems to have reassessed the very concept of 'filler' and found it in need of improvement. In the recent past we've seen inclusions that have stood out like a sore thumb. Deadspread contained a couple of [card Maritime Guard]Maritime Guards[/card] and a Harbor Serpent. The best that Phyrexian Poison could do for removal was a pair of [card Assassinate]Assassinates[/card]. While Doom Inevitable trundled along with a Barony Vampire and Mirromancy packed in an impressive ten cards from Magic 2011, Mirrodin Besieged started to show what was possible with a more thoughtful approach towards integrating Core Set cards with the themes and aims of the decks. New Phyrexia has really brought that fusion home in an exciting way.

Are they perfect? No. But you can see the thought process behind the inclusion of Mighty Leap in Artful Destruction, for instance: if you have the Precursor Golem out, giving your Golem Army a power-and-toughness boost and flying can close out games on the spot. In the same deck you'll find a Limestone Golem and Garruk's Packleader. The latter in particular shows the triumph of strategy over theme: it's an exceptionally powerful card in this deck given its abundance of 3/3 Golem token generation via the Splicers.

It continues on through the other decks. Devouring Skies, the flying/equipment deck, carries a pair of [card Augury Owl]Augury Owls[/card]. Amongst the ways to kill your own critters for fun and profit in Feast of Flesh is Akki Coalflinger, and Life for Death brings a Lightning Bolt and a Solemn Offering.

In short, Core Set contributions to the decks seem to have a greater deal of synergy with the decks themselves, rather than just stuffed in in a seemingly arbitrary fashion. Scars block has been trending away from Zendikar block in a most pleasing direction, and it's good to see that even within the block improvements continue to be made.

2. Decks continue to feel like theme decks.

Again, I've written before how the Scars block decks feel like they are moving back towards their theme deck roots, and the New Phyrexia decks follow this most welcome path. Intro Decks in previous blocks (Zendikar especially, but to some degree Alara block as well) seemed to have a higher amount of cards that didn't support the overall aims of the deck. This is in part deliberate. One of the roles of intro decks is to nudge novice players to tinker with and improve their deck. This explains the prominence of the Goblin Piker, for example.

Theme decks, if they had this goal in mind, were much more subtle about it. The themes of each deck tended to be the primary consideration going into their design. New Phyrexia returns to that feel. Artful Destruction has a very strong synergy and cohesion based around the assembling of a Golem army, much as Ally and Sliver decks build around other similar cards in the deck. Life for Death not only has a very hefty contingent of Phyrexian mana spells to give you a good feel for the mechanic, but it also comes packed with a strong core of lifegain spells to help you get some of that resource back!

While it's important to have intro decks offer some room for nascent deckbuilders to build their skills and confidence around, it's important to note that you can have it both ways:  quality deck with some room for improvement. It seems New Phyrexia has struck this balance.

3. A change of rarity.

The most contentious news regarding the intro decks of New Phyrexia was this surprising tidbit. Rather than contain two rares from the latest set, each deck would only contain one new rare (which would be the foil premium card). The second rare would be from an earlier set in the block. Reaction has been largely negative for understandable reasons: players are excited about the new set, and prefer to play with new cards rather than ones they've seen already (and may very well own).

I understand this perspective, but I respectfully disagree with it. Let's take a look at each of the non-NPH rares in the intro decks.

Artful Destruction -- The 'Golem Army' deck, what better rare to take the second slot than Precursor Golem? Don't let the premium rare Blade Splicer fool you as there is no Green equivalent at that rarity.

Devouring Skies -- The aforementioned flying/equipment deck has a welcome home for Argentum Armor. Having its second rare be equipment makes a lot of sense, considering that this deck packs in nine other pieces of it. But what other options were there? The Lashwrithe looks like a natural contender, until you're reminded that Wizards doesn't like to mix mechanics in their intro decks (Phyrexian mana has its due elsewhere). [card Bonehoard]Bonehoard's[/card] already been featured in Doom Inevitable. Darksteel Plate is novel, but not aggressive enough. Livewire Lash? Maybe, but it's more optimal in a deck with a lot more combat tricks so that you can force the bonus effect. Nim Deathmantle? Strata Scythe? Both of those don't answer the concern about which set they came from, and besides, a nice fat piece of equipment like the Argentum Armor is a good one to use when you're running [card Brass Squire]Brass Squires[/card].

Feast of Flesh -- The exception that proves the rule, I suppose. Granted this deck is packed with very diverse burn and removal, but even that premise isn't enough to justify the inclusion of the absolutely dreadful Tower of Calamities in a deck with no ramping options. A terrible pick.

Life for Death -- This deck capitalizes on Phyrexian mana to flood the board with cheaper creatures and effects. The downside, however, is that you're using up your life total to do so, leaving yourself vulnerable to your opponent. There may be other solid options to include here, but a board-sweeper like Phyrexian Rebirth is hard to argue against. The card can win games all by itself, and at the very least can hit the reset button and buy the Life for Death pilot more time to draw some lifegain.

Ravaging Swarm -- Another less exciting option, this deck runs Inexorable Tide in hoping to use proliferate to finish what its infect creatures started. It's solid and dependable, but not the sexiest option around. Still, the block is filled with role-playing blue rares that have an application a bit too narrow for an intro deck. Dissipation Field? Distant Memories? Mitotic Manipulation? Xenograft?

Although the disappointment at not getting two New Phyrexia rares is understandable, I think looking at the overall picture it's in many ways a step forward rather than a step back. If the wish is to have intro decks that play more cohesively, that is more like theme decks, then giving them a wider pool of cards to build from can only be a good thing.

I'm very excited about the trends I've witnessed throughout the course of Scars block, and am looking forward to seeing them continue in Innistrad this Autumn. Wizards has redeemed themselves from the disaster that was Zendikar block, and as these three observations illustrate we're continuing to move towards improved intro decks. Long may it last!

And finally... a giveaway!

Want to win a copy of the new Devouring Skies Intro Pack this week? Quiet Speculation has an extra one lying about and we're looking to find it a good home! We'll be having another random drawing to pick a winner, and there are two ways to get your name in the hat!

1. Retweet the official contest tweet that will be going out on Thursday, 12 May after this column goes life. It'll be under my Twitter account (@ErtaisLament). Retweeting this will get you one entry into the hat!

2. Leave a comment below with your thoughts on the New Phyrexia intro decks. Let us know what you think of them, or how you feel about the new rare policy. Has one deck in particular caught your eye? Leave a comment, and you'll get your name in the hat a second time!

Then, on Wednesday 20 May we'll be drawing a name from the hat, and the winner will be announced in the following week's Magic Beyond the Box.

Good luck, everyone!

38 thoughts on “The Intro Decks of New Phyrexia

  1. Gomel deck, so very tempting, hmmmmm. At the very least I'll be getting it for a friend, other than the golems the other decks seem fine, not awesome, but not bad. But I must say, for some reason, fling seems hilarious in Feast of Flesh.

  2. Had a few players at the LGS played in a side event where they got a precon + a pack and it turned out okay, don't like the new rare policy though should be three rares at that point with one being from an earlier set.

  3. I don't think I'd mind the new rare policy, as long as the off set rare does have a place in the deck. Tower of Calamities, as you talked about, most certainly does not.

  4. The deck that surprises me most out of these five is Ravenous Swarm. Mixing two block keywords is counter to the usual policy; I guess since it's the third set of the block most newer folks have had time to get used to them, but I feel sorry for someone who picks up that deck as one of their very first.

  5. While I never payed much attention to the intro decks many players at LGS used them as a stepping stone into building a first deck. I think as a whole they seem to accomplish that goal of providing the new guy a base shell to start working with but would like to see them more an inbetween to the precon tournament decks.

  6. Well, I know this is unrelated, but I got the email from QS saying "buy up Precursors" and bought a couple playsets. And now I see that they're included in an intro deck. Yeah, that was a waste of money.

    The intro decks seem to be improving in quality from their historic counterparts. That's a really good thing for newer players looking to get started.

  7. No Mental Misstep or Beast Within, and only a single Despise from among the valuable uncommons. Coincidence? Misstep already seems to be a de facto rare.

  8. I don’t mind that the deck packs a rare from recent sets. As stated, it only gives a bigger cardpool for them to build with. I think i’m gonna buy the artful destruction deck, it seems really fun to play!

  9. New Phyrexia's intro packs are frankly good compared to previous decks ( at least from other sets before SoM ). I also think the core set is becoming more and more sinergystic with the theme of the decks, and aren't just a bunch of cards thrown together.

    Regarding the rares of the packs, i don't care if they are from the previous sets of the block, as long as they are good and fit well into the deck.

    All these packs seem pretty well made to me, except Feast of Flesh, which i simply don't like T T

  10. I have to be honest. I think this is a crap call by wizards. I already have all the Scars I would ever want. Why am I going to be picking up more of this stuff. And nothing really good at that.
    I can always pimp out my deck with cards I already own after the fact.
    Though I am probably going to get one of these things. cant help myself! 🙂

  11. I can’t disagree with people in that I would prefer two of the new cards as rares in these sets but if they are putting in cards that have good synergy with each other then I’m happy. I would love to be able to point someone at one of these sets to pick up as a good place to start and synergy makes that easier to suggest.

  12. I'm super excited for artful destruction for two reasons: 1. I love golems and tribal, which makes it delicious. 2. I need more sixty card decks. And therefore I might buy that one.

    As for the addition of not New Phyrexia rares…At first I was irritated, since I wasn't getting the same volume of New Phyrexia rares that I usually do, but then I shrugged and decided that it wasn't worth getting irritated over.

  13. I'd honestly much rather have rares from the new set be in the theme decks. Someone a few posts up said Xenograft would be good. It would round out the high end of the curve and give your other splicers their own abilities. Plus, it's already got a Sliver-type feel, and you know how people love them some Slivers. 🙂

    Also, for Feast of Flesh, how about Invader Parasite instead of Tower of Calamities? Run in a theme deck vs. theme deck setting, I don't think he'd be too bad since it's pretty well all basics anyway.

  14. I'm also dissappointed about not having two rares from the new set, and it will probably keep me from buying one of these decks. They could have easily put in some other rare from NP that still fit that maybe wasn't strictly on theme for the deck.

  15. I love the Phyrexian mana and so I decided to grab Life for Death for open dueling last Saturday. I won every game I played, more often than not using Immolating Souleater's Phyrexian Firebreathing. Looking forward to playing the other decks as they appear.

  16. Tower of Calamities was BY FAR the worst rare that could have went into Feast of Flesh. Waiting endlessly to hit 8 mana and using it on a creature that most likely has a toughness far below the damage it deals. I would accept a lightning bolt over that card any day.

    On the side note, the new intro packs are definitely more theme based and I've thoroughly been enjoying the phyrexian mana in the the packs. Wizards headed back in the right direction again.

  17. Thanks for the insight into intro pack design. It's pretty rare that I play with these, but I like to know which ones to recommend to new players. On that note, I think that the rare change is for the best: far fewer established Magic players (who want new cards) will buy these than players who are starting out. A better play experience is more important than more desirable cards.

  18. Just bought "Artful Destruction" as my first ever Magic deck after reading positive comments about it. Joining three others at the office for some MtG lunchtime action 🙂

  19. These are New Phrexian intro decks. With rare exception, the intro deck rares have not been chase, and it's a completely classless move to chintz on even that meager standard. They used to come with three rares, so the classy move would have been to add a third rare from a previous set. Then they know with greater certainty that they're not giving away the farm.

    It goes towards purpose and audience. Purpose: promote the new set, and this move weakens that. Audience: casual player, interested in fun rares. At best, this is neutral for that, and probably negative.

    I'm wondering if it's a way to add emphasis to the event decks by increasing suckage of the competing product.

  20. In regards to intro decks, I was surprised to see them fully on sale ever since the pre-release. I’ve never paid much attention to precons before this release. Does WotC usually make these available for retail prior to the official set release? Seems like a debatable practice in itself.

  21. I have to say I was quite disappointed in the the intro packs. I've grabbed one from each of the last few sets but i won't be getting one this time around. I know I'm probably the only one, but I was quite impressed with the power of the Sword of War and Peace. I managed to crack one at the pre-release last weekend and it proved to be the difference maker quite a few times. Its pretty sweet and has now found a home in my my mono-white EDH deck with Kemba. Looking forward to playing with Jin.

  22. I have to agree with the author on how the flavor of the intro decks has improved since the Zendikar black as well as the choices of core set cards thrown into the mix. The Artful Destruction deck looks the most fun to me as a tribal deck, which it seems others are saying as well.

    Thanks for the articles!! I've just stumbled upon you and am enjoying the reads!

  23. I got the Artful Destruction deck and really enjoy the interaction between Precursor Golem and the rest of the deck. Sure, losing your whole team to a single Lightning Bolt isn't fun, but trampling over everything with a single Giant Growth is very satisfying. I'd second the opinion that in this case the older rare was well-placed.

  24. Personally I think that intro decks are great for new players and should be used to try and keep some rares and uncommons from getting to high in cost. I know that is bad for us trying to make money on magic but over all I don’t think it is good to have lots of $3 uncommons and many $15 rares as it hurts the game overall.

  25. The rares in an intro pack are usually pretty weak, I would love wizards to go back to the old days of just selling 60 card decks with 3 rares, x uncommons, and x commons. the intro packs are neat but pretty much useless to most magic players. even newbs steer away from them. so whats the point of selling a failing product let alone a product that doesnt even offer more than pre-conned junk rares. at least u get a booster in the decks.

    1. I think you're making a lot of assumptions there. During prerelease and release events a lot of the intro decks are shifted. Also, WotC has all the sales data. If it made more sense to sell them the old way instead then they would, so the sales must be worth while. Additionally, since Jay's articles are consistently some of the most read on the site, I would say there is a LOT of interest in intro decks.

  26. I enjoy the new decks quite a bit, they actually feel like a deck I would see at a casual table. Some of the older decks have cards in them that are obvious throw-ins that should be immediately replaced. The new decks showcase the block well while maintaining sound strategy

  27. I long for the day (sometime soon with the Commander brand) when the rare foil in these is a legend with a build around deck. They could show off mechanics and increase sales.

  28. A winner has been drawn- thank you to all who participated! We'll be having many more giveaways ahead, so kindly keep Quiet Speculation high on your reads list!

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