Magic: the Gathering Duel Decks Review: Sorin vs. Tibalt

The newest Magic: the Gathering Duel Decks got released over the weekend, and like always, the price kept climbing so I waited until I spotted them for MSRP and picked up a pair. Once a year, Wizards release a set of Duel Decks focused on a pair of Planeswalkers battling it out and this year, we’re going back to Innistrad as Sorin and Tibalt go head to head.

Suggested Ages: 13+
Suggested Players: 2 players
Contents:

  • Two ready-to-play 60-card decks
  • Two deck boxes
  • Two creature tokens
  • A strategy insert
  • A Magic “Learn to Play” guide

Retail price: $19.99 available at Amazon.com

Like the other Duel Decks, Sorin vs. Tibalt is two 60-card decks specially made to battle one another. For the spring releases now, it seems like Wizards is sticking to two planeswalkers from the previous block which I love for two big reasons: it makes planeswalkers super accessible to casual and new players and it ties back in with sets you can currently buy. These Duel Decks also include two spirit tokens with Magic card backs (with the Avacyn Restored art),  two deck boxes (which can’t fit sleeved decks), a how-to-play insert and a strategy insert outlining how the decks work.

I really love the Duel Decks when they introduce a concept that is above the scope of the Intro Decks. In Sorin’s case, his black-white deck follows a fantastic core concept: just because you have less life, that doesn’t mean you’re losing. For experienced players, this is a lesson you learn over time, but to teach new players the importance of board state is a great one. Plus the deck is a decent starting point for a black-white vampire deck or token deck and showcases the power of bloodthirst while teaching the importance of holding back plays.

Tibalt, the often mocked planeswalker, teaches a different lesson with his deck. A red black deck filled with filtering, discarding, unearthing and flashback does a great job showing that discarding isn’t always a bad thing. It’s another one of those lessons that once learned makes you a better player. Tibalt also relies heavily on punisher cards that are an excellent opportunity for learning when to pay the life and when not to.

When battling each other, the decks feel well balanced. The singleton nature of the deck construction makes for swingy games, but shows how important customizing your deck is. I really love how each card has a handful of cards specially included to thwart the other. Sorin makes great use of Decompose and Unmake to stop Tibalt’s graveyard cold, while Tibalt busts out Pyroclasm to keep tokens under control.

In the span of three games, I had one blowout where Sorin just couldn’t get the mana needed (which is crazy because it includes 25 lands), but another one when the full power of bloodthirst just worked. With some minor tweaking, both decks could easily be turned into fun kitchen table decks with Sorin going WB tokens and Tibalt going red madness/flashback.

If you’re a new player looking for interesting cards, this two-pack is excellent. Both decks are interesting, play differently and really show how Magic can be different. If you’re an experienced player though, there are still some interesting parts and pieces to pick through.

The full breakdown of the deck include 8 rares, two premium mythics, and seven cards with new art. Sorin and Tibalt combine to make a nice panoramic scene (just like Koth vs. Venser and Ajani vs. Bolas). The new art is nice, but not as elegant as the originals. But hey, they’re foil planeswalkers and that is definitely awesome. For players on a budget, getting Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and 119 other cards for $20 is a steal.

Cards with new art are Lingering Souls (which is actually the FNM art just not in foil), Mortify with hauntingly destructive art, a mega creepy Spectral Procession, Death Grasp with art that can only be described as “badass” (and first time in the modern frame too).

Cards in the modern frame for the first time from Sorin’s deck are Mesmeric Fiend, Decompose, Ancient Craving, Field of Souls, and Tainted Field.

Notable reprints in Sorin’s deck include Wall of Omens, Twilight Drover, Fiend Hunter, Vampire Nighthawk, Sengir Vampire, Butcher of Malakir, and Unmake.

In Tibalt’s deck, the cards with new art include Browbeat that features a giant screaming cloud-head of Tibalt and Blighting shows a guy getting electrified by Tibalt.

For the first time in the modern frame, Tibalt’s deck shows off Blazing Salvo, Recoup, Breaking Point, and Sulfuric Vortex – it’s like Odyssey block all over again!

Notable reprints in Tibalt’s deck include Hellspark Elemental, Lavaborn Muse, Hellrider, Pyroclasm, Terminate, Flame Javelin, and Devil’s Play.

For new Magic players, Sorin vs. Tibalt is an excellent way to spend $20 on Magic. The inclusion of two planeswalkers, Hellrider and many staple pieces of removal make this just a solid package. For super serious players, you made up your mind the first day these decks were spoiled (here’s a hint: Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and Hellrider pay for this by themselves). For casual kitchen table players, this deck is just a delicious way to revisit the past with some new cards as well.

Pros
Two well-balanced decks ready to go
Two planeswalkers!
Great assortment of cards for casual players

Cons
A lot of Innistrad block reprinted
Tibalt just isn’t good
Boxes still don’t hold sleeved decks!

Sorin’s Deck: Hunt and Feed
Planeswalkers:
1x Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Creatures:
2x Doomed Traveler
1x Vampire Lacerator
1x Wall of Omens
1x Child of Night
2x Duskhunter Bat
1x Mesmeric Fiend
1x Gatekeeper of Malakir
1x Twilight Drover
1x Bloorage Vampire
1x Fiend Hunter
1x Vampire Nighthawk
1x Mausoleum Guard
1x Phantom General
1x Vampire Outcasts
1x Revenant Patriarch
1x Butcher of Malakir
1x Sengir Vampire
Enchantments:
1x Mark of the Vampire
1x Field of Souls
Sorceries:
1x Decompose
1x Lingering Souls
2x Spectral Procession
1x Ancient Craving
1x Absorb Vis
1x Death Grasp
Instants:
1x Vampire’s Bite
1x Sorin’s Thirst
1x Urge to Feed
1x Zealous Persecution
1x Mortify
1x Unmake
Lands:
2x Evolving Wilds
2x Tainted Fields
12x Swamp
9x Plains
Tibalt’s Deck: Torment and Agonize
Planeswalkers:
1x Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded
Creatures:
1x Goblin Arsonist
1x Scorched Rusalka
1x Reassembling Skeleton
2x Ashmouth Hound
2x Hellspark Elemental
2x Vithian Stinger
1x Shambling Remains
1x Coal Stoker
1x Lavaborn Muse
1x Mad Prophet
1x Hellrider
1x Skirsdag Cultist
1x Corpse Connoisseur
1x Scourge Devil
1x Gang of Devils
Sorceries:
1x Bump in the Night
1x Faithless Looting
1x Flame Slash
1x Pyroclasm
1x Recoup
2x Browbeat
1x Breaking Point
1x Blightning
1x Torrent of Souls
1x Devil’s Play
Instants:
1x Blazing Salvo
1x Geistflame
1x Terminate
1x Strangling Soot
1x Flame Javelin
Enchantments:
1x Sulfuric Vortex
Land:
2x Akoum Refuge
2x Rakdos Carnarium
14x Mountain
6x Swamp