Magic the Gathering Review: Premium Deck Series – Fire and Lightning

Over the last few years, Wizards has really stepped up their offerings when it came to preconstructed products. Gone are the old days of abysmal precons that only contained three rares and were barely playable. It’s almost like Wizards realized that people actually like products that are good. So while the current crop of Intro Decks aren’t terribly exciting for a player as experienced as myself, the inclusion of a booster does wonders for getting people excited.

Some players might spend their time dilly-dallying around trying to assemble some intricate combination of cards that might, eventually, do something. Others might execute a long, drawn-out game plan of subtle ploys and gradual advantages, manipulating resources to minimize and maximize variables over time.

This deck is not for them.

Wizards of the Coast
Suggested ages: 13 and up
Includes: 60 all foil cards, deck box and Spindown die
Available at: Target, Wal-Mart and Amazon.com

Over the last few years, the only non-sealed products I’ve bought for Magic were the Planechase and Archenemy lines which changed the way precons were made. Suddenly decks had 8 rares in them and were actually filled with good cards. This leaves me very excited for the upcoming Commander decks, but one of the odder releases was the Premium Deck Series.

The first deck was Slivers and was substantially underwhelming because of the Reserved List, but Wizards decided to slow-roll when it came to these all-foil decks and it took a year before the second one came out: Fire and Lightning.

Part of me has loved the allure of the mono-red burn decks and the overwhelming power of the sligh archetype, but the originally price tag of $34.99 for this sixty card deck was enough to keep me at bay – especially since I already owned four Chain Lightnings. But recently the set has gotten 50% off at big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, and at that price, it’s hard to resist.

First up, I’ve got to comment on the packaging. Packaging is one of those things I’ve always loved, and I really like what Wizards has done with the cylinder design. Granted, it feels kind of over the top since this is little more than a 60-card deck and a Spindown life die. But the design and look of a fanned out hand really make the deck seem bigger and more impressive than the regular decks.

Inside the impressive packaging is a sixty-card deck, a special foil deck box, a new Spindown life die and two inserts about how to play and strategy. The foil deck box shows off the art from Flames of the Blood Hand on one side and the new expansion symbol on the back that is a cross between a lightning bolt and a flame.

The Spindown die isn’t anything terribly new. It is cast in translucent red with white characters painted on it. It’s unique but I’m starting to amass a lot of these little guys. Sadly, since Spindown changed fonts around Shards of Alara and I don’t like the look of them quite as much. But the numbers are quite visible, so they work well for keeping track of life.

Within the deck, two cards got new art. Chain Lightning got a much needed upgrade by Christopher Moeller since the original Legends art wasn’t that good and it looks fantastic next to the new Lightning Bolt. Also featuring a new look is Jackal Pup! The once terrifying beast that ruled during Tempest, Jackal Pup looks much less adorable this time around. In addition to those two, Grim Lavamancer got packaged in with his Judge Gift art so for most players it’s three new pieces of art.

The 21 Mountains included feature art by John Avon from Mirrodin (not his best work), two by Aleksi Briclot from Shards of Alara and one by Richard Wright from Ravnica. Personally, I adore John Avon’s mountains from Mirage and Urza’s Saga and would have loved to see those foiled up, but the selection included is alright. I guess Wizards doesn’t want to overuse John Avon after he swept the 8th Edition Chose the Art contest for basic lands and took home 12 of the 20 slots.

The rest of the deck is full of great singles that aren’t as common as they used to be but make for some solid utility in formats like Commander. The creatures are a wide selection across Magic’s history showing what the game used to be like. Long ago powerhouses like Ball Lightning feel like shells of their former selves, while Mogg Flunkies are downright weird in modern Magic games. But since Wizards couldn’t make this a true sligh deck, they had to include some odder choices like Fire Servant and Jaya Ballard, Task Mage to round out the mana curves.

Casual and tournament favorite Figure of Destiny shows up as a decent single that looks good along with the already mentioned Grim Lavamancer. I’m all for getting old cards in the hands of new players (especially after making the realization many people who play weren’t even born when Magic started as a game).

The sorceries are all classics with the newly-christened mythic Chain Lightning being the front runner. Pillage is some fine utility and keeps those pesky Masticores down, while Browbeat is always worth discussing. Fireball isn’t the most exciting X-spell, but does the trick. As for Hammer of Bogardan, it’s fallen far from what it used to be but there’s no denying that it looks absolutely incredible in the new frame and foil. I’ve had mine since 8th Edition and love having a second one!

The best part about the instants is that Wizards gave the people what they want: four Lightning Bolts! They look great and getting four in one go is a nice touch since everything else in the deck are one or two-of’s.  Price of Progress is a great tool for dealing with non-basics in multiple formats, while Reverberate is always fun as a fixed Fork. Fireblast shows up again too, showing off exactly what Red is all about. But not everything can be super exciting and Thunderbolt, Sudden Impact and Flames of the Bloodhand all feel a little underwhelming.

All of the cards have been given a new foiling process to set them apart from non-Premium foil cards. It’s decent but isn’t quite at the same level as the pre-release cards that really pop with the balancing of foil and non-foil. But some of the burn spells look really nice when the light hits the lightning just right.

For singles alone, this deck is worth picking up at $18 – especially if you don’t have many of the cards. But what I really love is how much history is jammed into this deck. It brings back memories of how Magic used to be but with a dash for the modern table. In a one-on-one duel, this deck does a decent job but clearly has room for some improvements, but as an augmentation to your collection, these sixty cards really can help flesh out any Red deck you have.

Premium Deck Series: Fire & Lightning Decklist
Land
1 Barbarian Ring
1 Ghitu Encampment
21 Mountain
2 Teetering Peaks

Creature
1 Ball Lightning
1 Boggart Ram-Gang
1 Cinder Pyromancer
1 Figure of Destiny
1 Fire Servant
1 Grim Lavamancer
1 Hellspark Elemental
2 Jackal Pup
1 Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
1 Keldon Champion
2 Keldon Marauders
2 Mogg Fanatic
2 Mogg Flunkies
2 Spark Elemental
1 Vulshok Sorcerer

Sorceries
1 Chain Lightning
1 Pillage
1 Browbeat
1 Fireball
1 Hammer of Bogardan

Instants
1 Fireblast
1 Flames of the Blood Hand
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Price of Progress
1 Reverberate
1 Sudden Impact
1 Thunderbolt