Review: Magic The Gathering 'Knights Vs. Dragons' Duel Decks

Sometimes, you don't want to go through the hassle of building out a 60-card deck to enjoy Magic: The Gathering. Keeping up with the latest cards and strategy can be difficult for some, so Wizards of the Coast has been publishing a series of pre-built duel decks that boil the game down for casual players. Take a break from the war between Mirrodin and Phyrexia to check out the latest offering, a classic fantasy themed battle between Knights and Dragons.

Just the Facts:

Players: 2

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

MSRP: $20.00

Release: April 1st, 2011

The Cards:

The best way to judge a Magic deck is to simply look at the cards. Here is the full breakdown of what you'll get in both of these duel decks.

Knights - 60 cards

6  Forest

2  Grasslands

12  Plains

1  Sejiri Steppe

2  Selesnya Sanctuary

1  Treetop Village

24 lands

1  Alaborn Cavalier

1  Benalish Lancer

1  Caravan Escort

1  Juniper Order Ranger

1  Kabira Vindicator

1  Kinsbaile Cavalier

1  Knight Exemplar

2  Knight of Cliffhaven

1  Knight of Meadowgrain

1  Knight of the Reliquary

1  Knight of the White Orchid

1  Knotvine Paladin

1  Leonin Skyhunter

2  Lionheart Maverick

1  Paladin of Prahv

1  Plover Knights

1  Silver Knight

1  Skyhunter Patrol

1  Steward of Valeron

1  White Knight

1  Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers

1  Zhalfirin Commander

24 creatures

1  Edge of Autumn

1  Griffin Guide

1  Harm's Way

1  Heroes' Reunion

1  Loxodon Warhammer

1  Mighty Leap

1  Oblivion Ring

1  Reciprocate

1  Reprisal

1  Sigil Blessing

1  Spidersilk Armor

1  Test of Faith

12 other spells

Dragons - 60 cards

24  Mountain

24 lands

1  Bloodmark Mentor

1  Bogardan Hellkite

1  Bogardan Rager

1  Cinder Wall

2  Dragon Whelp

1  Dragonspeaker Shaman

1  Fire-Belly Changeling

1  Henge Guardian

1  Kilnmouth Dragon

1  Mordant Dragon

2  Mudbutton Torchrunner

1  Shivan Hellkite

1  Skirk Prospector

1  Thunder Dragon

1  Voracious Dragon

17 creatures

2  Armillary Sphere

1  Breath of Darigaaz

1  Captive Flame

1  Claws of Valakut

1  Cone of Flame

2  Dragon Fodder

1  Dragon's Claw

2  Fiery Fall

1  Ghostfire

1  Jaws of Stone

1  Punishing Fire

1  Seething Song

1  Seismic Strike

1  Shiv's Embrace

1  Spitting Earth

1  Temporary Insanity

19 other spells

The Components:

The duel decks both come with their own boxes (some minor assembly required) sporting new artwork from the Knight of the Reliquary and Bogardan Hellkite foil cards in this set. Of these two cards, I feel the Knight of the Reliquary is equally as good as its prior artwork, while the Bogardan Hellkite's artwork is far superior to the original's.

Overall, the set is balanced financially. The $20 price tag fits perfectly when considering the actual value of the more desirable cards tucked away inside these decks. With the upcoming launch of official Commander decks (also a format likely to be played by a more causal crowd), players are also likely to pull the Loxodon Warhammer card from this set.

However, the gameplay balance of these decks is where the set's value comes into question. After a few plays, it's clear that the Knights deck has a significant advantage over the Dragons deck. Both decks play out a bit slow, which works with the casual audience, but the Dragons deck is much slower than the Knights deck. Dragons are intended to be late and powerful game-breaking creatures, but this deck simply does not have enough cards of any lasting power to stretch the game out.

Yes, if multiple dragons can enter the board, the knights' sparse flying defenses can be taken advance of. Instead though, it is likely that by time this occurs, the knight player will have already sealed the deal. The dragons have few cards of lasting effect to help stretch out a game.

Final Thoughts:

As an anecdotal observation, I've seen a lot of gamers ditch Magic only to grow older, get jobs, and develop the itch to play again. There is always the concern over money, though, as the game provides seemingly endless ways to spend it. Let's face it, unless you are devoted to one hobby game, you probably won't play enough to warrant shredding through booster packs in pursuit of rare cards. There's just not enough time in the week for gaming to balance out the equation.

For those gamers that fit the above description, these duel decks were meant for you. All of the previously mentioned flaws of this two-pack are critiques that the serious Magic player will levy against it, but they are not you and you are not them. Instead, you're getting to play with a friend for $20 while using decks with value beyond what you would expect from an average starter pack. If you miss Magic but are worried about money or time, just buy this instead. Trust me, you'll have fun.

Wizards of the Coast provided complimentary review samples of these decks.