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Magic the Gathering: Jace vs Vraska Duel Decks Review

by on April 8, 2014
 

Do you see yourself as a guardian of peace and aim to keep the world from falling apart? Or do you wish to see it burn to the ground as you hold the torch that lights it? Behold, the Jace vs. Vraska Duel Decks are here for you to indulge in those questions in a battle of wits against a friend. Which Planeswalker will prevail? Will Ravnica see peace for a little longer or will it fall to dystopia? That’s for you to decide.

With the release of the Return To Ravnica block, players new and old explored the world-spanning city known as Ravnica. Within this city, the peace between the ten guilds is on the verge of breaking point and threatens to plunge the city into chaos. During the end of the block, the Planeswalker Jace Beleran, a mind mage, takes it upon himself to become a living guild pact to prevent such chaos. But, another planeswalker’s spark ignites. That spark belongs to the gorgon Vraska who is a master assassin. If left to her own devices, Vraska could bring about all out war between the guilds, which Jace will not let happen. So let’s have a look at what both combatants have brought to the table.

Order or chaos?

Order or chaos?

Jace

24 lands

1 Dread Statuary
2 Halimar Depths
21 Island

20 Creatures

1 Aeon Chronicler
1 Æther Adept
1 Æther Figment
1 Archaeomancer
1 Body Double
1 Chronomaton
1 Crosstown Courier
1 Dream Stalker
1 Errant Ephemeron
1 Jace’s Mindseeker
1 Jace’s Phantasm
2 Krovikan Mist
1 Leyline Phantom
1 Merfolk Wayfinder
1 Phantasmal Bear
1 Phantasmal Dragon
1 Riftwing Cloudskate
1 Sea Gate Oracle
1 Stealer of Secrets

I love it when a plan comes together

I love it when a plan comes together

For the main creature engine of the deck, Jace possesses a fair amount of illusions. For the early game, casting creatures such as the 2/2 Phantasmal Bear and the 1/1 flyer Jace’s Phantasm can put the pressure on the opponent. The flyer Krovikan Mist has great synergy with these cards as its power and toughness is equal to the amount of illusions you control. Other cards include Dream Stalker, Ether Adept, and Riftwing Cloudskate which allows resource management and asserts board control by returning non-land permanents to the hand.

For me, I loved Jace’s Phantasm and Jace’s Mindseeker. The fact that the former can become a 5/5 when the opponent has ten or more cards in their graveyard is remarkable for one mana. It is versatile as it can be used for early and mid to late game as well as it being a flyer. As for the latter, putting the top five cards of your opponents library into the graveyard is harsh enough, not to mention potentially making Jace’s Phantasm 5/5. But, casting an instant or sorcery out of those five is a nice game finisher. It would be insult to injury if you combine this with Dream Stalker to reuse it the following turn.

15 Spells

1 Agoraphobia
1 Claustrophobia
1 Control Magic
1 Future Sight
1 Griptide
1 Into the Roil
1 Jace’s Ingenuity
1 Memory Lapse
1 Prohibit
1 Ray of Command
1 Remand
1 Spelltwine
1 Summoner’s Bane
2 Thought Scour

I forsee dark times ahead... for you that is

I forsee dark times ahead… for you that is

As Jace is a mind mage, he has many ways of manipulating the board and ensuring control. A well-timed Griptide or Into the Roil can return an opponent’s creature to the hand to quash an attack or remove any defence. Also, there are instants that counter spells such as as Summoner’s Bane and Memory Lapse. If played correctly, these cards can tip the battle in your favour ready for a big push. Combine these with the draw power from Thought Scour, Remand, and Jace’s Ingenuity and your war machine will just keep turning.

As for the unique, powerhouse cards that can turn the tables in your favour, I would say Future Sight and Spelltwine are the most devastating. Future Sight allows you to play with your top card of your library revealed and you can play that card with normal costs. It essentially extends your hand size as well as influencing the state of play since your opponent can see what the card is. As for Spelltwine, casting and exiling a card from both player graveyard for no additional cost is a late game delight. Combine this with a Jace’s Mindseeker and other cards that send possible targets to the graveyard from the library and the opponent should scoop up their cards.

Vraska

24 Lands

9 Forest
1 Golgari Guildgate
1 Rogue’s Passage
11 Swamp
2 Tainted Wood

24 Creatures

1 Acidic Slime
1 Corpse Traders
1 Death-Hood Cobra
1 Drooling Groodion
1 Festerhide Boar
2 Gatecreeper Vine
1 Highway Robber
1 Mold Shambler
1 Nekrataal
1 Ohran Viper
1 Oran-Rief Recluse
1 Pulse Tracker
1 Putrid Leech
1 Reaper of the Wilds
1 River Boa
1 Sadistic Augermage
1 Shadow Alley Denizen
1 Slate Street Ruffian
1 Spawnwrithe
1 Stonefare Crocodile
1 Tavern Swindler
1 Vinelasher Kudzu
1 Wight of Precinct Six

One with ruff you up, the other will squeeze you dry

One with ruff you up, the other will squeeze you dry

To combat the cunning mind mage, the master assassin has some tricks of her own. In a battle of attrition and resources, Vraska can pull a few strings here and there to remove any advantage the opponent had on the field. There are a lot of creatures that either have deathtouch, life manipulation, hand manipulation, or just out right destroy your opponent’s cards and field presence. For example, early game two mana creatures Death-Hood Cobra and River Boa offer tactical advantage straight away. The cobra has deathtouch, where any damage is enough to kill a creature, and the boa has island walk, where if the defending player has an island then it cannot be blocked. Combine these with the destruction effects of Nekrataal and Acidic Slime to keep the opponent on the ropes.

The creatures that really make an impact in the fight against the mind mage are the Ohran Viper and the Slate Street Ruffian. The viper is a 1/3 that costs three mana and has a pseudo deathtouch effect. That is great for attacking and blocking as it forces the opponent to think carefully before committing to any move. Also you get to draw a card if it deals damage to a player. The ruffian, is a 2/2 that costs three mana and the opponent discards a card if they block it. Both of these cards are all round great tactically and allow you to manipulate your opponent.

11 Spells

1 Consume Strength
1 Grisly Spectacle
1 Hypnotic Cloud
1 Last Kiss
1 Marsh Casualties
1 Night’s Whisper
1 Stab Wound
2 Tragic Slip
1 Treasured Find
1 Underworld Connections

Slow death or quick death? How generous of me...

Slow death or quick death? How generous of me…

Let’s not forget that Vraska’s arsenal is not restricted to just to creatures of havoc. She possesses a plethora of menacing other spells. Although not as plentiful as Jace’s library of the arcane, it is by no means any less impressive. Her spells include strength and toughness modifiers, life point manipulation, card destruction, as well as hand control. The spells Treasure Find and Night’s Whisper allow the player to recycle old spells and replenish their hand at the cost of life points. Other spells such as Grisly Spectacle and Consume Strength can turn the tide in your favour by manipulating the power and toughness of creatures.

The cards that are especially useful in my opinion are the enchantment Stab Wound and the instant Tragic Slip. Stab Wound can be cast on your turn and can enchant a target creature giving them -2/-2 as long as it’s enchanted. It could potentially destroy the creature out right as reducing a creature down to zero toughness kills it, but also severely hampers a creature that survives. Also, the controller of the creature has to pay two life every upkeep which can drain the opponent dry. Tragic Slip works similarly in the sense that is reduces power and toughness, but only for the end of turn. However, it has morbid which means if a creature has died this turn then the effect becomes a -13/-13 modifier to the creature which almost ensures that it will die. Use this after a battle phase when you know something will die and wipe an opponent’s monster off the map.

The Planeswalkers

They will leave you black and blue...

They will leave you black and blue…

Now, it’s time to talk about the masters of their own domain, Jace and Vraska. On first impressions, Igor Kieryluk has done a marvellous job with the artwork for the two. For the Duel Decks, alternative artworks where produced to make this even more epic. This extends to the blue cards Body Double, Remand, and Future Sight, as well as the black-green and black cards Putrid Leech, and Nights Whisper. You can see both the over city elements on Jace’s side and the under city on Vraska’s side and, in my opinion, it looks quite epic. Aside from the artwork, the cards as planeswalkers are quite good also.

Jace, Architect of Thought is a two colourless, two blue mana card that starts on four loyalty counters. His loyalty abilities are +1, -2, and -8 respectively and as with any planeswalker, can only be used as you would a sorcery spell. His +1 loyalty ability is to give a -1/0 to the opponent’s attacking creatures until the end of next turn, which is great for suppressing attacks. The -2 ability reveals the top three cards of your library and the opponent separates them into two piles. You then pick one to add to your hand and place what’s left at the bottom of the library in any order. Lastly, his -8 ability, this allows you to exile a card from each player’s library and then cast them both without their mana costs. Use this to cast Jace’s Mindseeker or Spelltwine to wreck you opponent.

Now, for Vraska the Unseen. The master assassin definitely lives up to her name with her +1, -3, and -7 abilities. She costs three colourless, one black, and one green and has five starting loyalty counters. She is one mana more expensive than Jace but is no less devastating. Her +1 ability allows you to destroy any creature that damages Vraska via combat which makes her less desirable to attack. The -3 ability can destroy any non-land permanent on the field which is nice spot removal. Lastly, her -7 ability can spawn three 1/1 black Assassin creature token that, if deals combat damage to a player, causes them to lose the game. This is great if the opponent is on the ropes.

Fancy meeting you here...

Fancy meeting you here…

In conclusion, the Jace and Vraska decks are very fun and exciting but, also offer something to the table for both new and old players alike. For the new players, it allows them to get a feel for the game and gain knowledge on a plethora of mechanics. For the old players, including those who keep up with the comics and lore, it is satisfying to see cards that don’t see play in recent formats as well as the new artworks and card descriptions. For instance, Nekrataal’s cards description at the bottom has a single quote, “You can’t protect them all, Jace” – Vraska. This gives a lot of flavour to the duels and makes you more involved with the game. The only bad aspects of the duel decks, aside from my personal package that didn’t come with all three assassin tokens, are that the decks can be a little slow at some points in the duel. It does not show the speed of competitive decks but, on the other side of the coin, it allows the state of game play to be more relaxed and enjoyable.

So, if you have a friend or group of friends that play Magic the Gathering, give the Jace vs Vraska Duel Decks a dabble. I did and I had quite a lot of fun. For now, game well.


Details
 
Positives
  • Built to counter each other
  • Amazing artwork
  • Fun and easy to use
  • Each deck is balance and unique in respects to each other
Negatives
  • Can be slow at times
  • Not really competitive material
Editor Rating
 
Overall
8.0

Total Score
8.0

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User Rating
 
Overall
7.0

User Score
7.0

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Bottom Line
 
The Jace Vs Vraska Dule Decks are very fun to play with casually but are not to be sought out for a competitive boost.
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