Down And Dirty – Jace versus Chandra versus Garruk versus Liliana

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Friday, November 20th – Today, Kyle brings us an in-depth exploration of the duel decks headed by Jace, Chandra, Garruk, and Liliana. He looks at the lists, the matchups, and the strategy behind these excellent decks, and urges the strong-minded mages among us to pick up some copies!

I’m done with Standard for a minute. I’ve been entrenched in a dark empty void of mediocre decks and Blightning blowouts lately. I need some time away to refocus my thoughts on what I want to do in Standard, and it doesn’t make any sense to play until Worlds redefines the format again. In times like these, 40-card decks are my usual default to get my Magic kicks. However, the draft scene in SA isn’t at its prime right now, and I’m just lazy enough to not want to bother with downloading Magic Online again. So what do I do? Give up on Magic to seek a more normal and fulfilling hobby rather than channeling my efforts into long road trips in an attempt to win a lackluster tournament on which I’ve always fallen short? That doesn’t sound ideal either, so instead I’ve been battling with the four most intelligently designed duel decks Wizards has ever put out: Jace vs. Chandra & Garruk vs. Liliana.

When you feel out of place, lonely, and depressed, everyone has that one vice to keep them in check. For some it’s driving through Wendy’s and gorging shamelessly in the comfort of your sedan via one of the best dollar menus on which we’ve had the fortune to dine. For others it may be going downtown and having a few too many drinks so you can forget all your worries and forget all your cares. Some choose to head to college in Kalgoorlie to learn the masculine art of professional mining to compete in the annual International Mining Games. Me, however, I’ve just been battling non-stop with the Planeswalker duel decks trying to pinpoint which deck is the best and how the match ups really work out. That way whenever I’m battling in between rounds at FNM, a PTQ, or GP, I’ll have the luxury of knowing exactly which deck to pick.

I can’t really emphasize how brilliantly designed these duel decks are. If you’ve ever owned Magic cards, you’re doing yourself an injustice by not purchasing these decks and playing with them. Each of them is 60 cards, and the games play out much closer to Limited games than Constructed games, even though the card quality is clearly above Limited standards. The infrequency of the card counts enables extremely deep thought process trees, and each game presents a challenging new set of parameters to play around. If you’re not familiar with them, I’m going to do a deck by deck analysis then evaluate each of the matchups from my 500+ games of dueling with these Planeswalkers.

When I first started playing these decks I didn’t look at the deck lists, and a rush of nostalgia came over me when I saw cards that I used to make my first PTQ Top 8 way back in Masques Block: Snuff Out & Blastoderm from the G/B Snuff Derm deck. That’s one of the reasons I truly love playing with these decks; all of these cards have memories entwined in them that go beyond any Planeswalker vs. Planeswalker deck. It’s like looking through an old photo book every time I play a game, and definitely a reason you should buy them too! I’m not the biggest casual Magic guy, but these decks have really brought me a lot of joy, happiness, and filled my heart with dreams. That’s not usually something you hear coming off my keyboard, is it?


23 Island
1 Terrain Generator

1 Aethersnipe
1 Air Elemental
1 Bottle Gnomes
1 Brine Elemental
1 Errant Ephemeron
2 Fathom Seer
1 Fledgling Mawcor
1 Guile
2 Man-o’-War
1 Martyr of Frost
2 Mulldrifter
1 Ophidian
1 Quicksilver Dragon
1 Riftwing Cloudskate
2 Spire Golem
1 Voidmage Apprentice
2 Wall of Deceit
1 Waterspout Djinn
1 Willbender

1 Ancestral Vision
2 Condescend
2 Counterspell
1 Daze
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Gush
1 Jace Beleren
1 Mind Stone
2 Repulse

Ah, the Jace deck, the truest beauty these eyes have ever spied. This was my real reason for embracing “casual” Magic as opposed to our turbulent Standard or Extended formats. I can actually play Blue and win! There is nothing more fulfilling that bouncing the opponent’s creatures, countering their spells, and winning with some marginal creatures that are sized just big enough to get the job done. There also has never been a more potent Magic strategy than to play a land and pass the turn. Reactive beats proactive more than half the time, and this deck is sculpted to do just that.

When looking at the deck as compared to an actual constructed deck you might be a bit put off by the number arrangements, but in actuality this gives the deck a much more broad range of interactions which leads to more stimulating game states. The infrequency of the numbers is also off set by the sheer power of the cards and how much synergy they contain.

I would be very happy if they reprinted Terrain Generator to compliment Landfall synergies this block, and I’m sure we’ll see something similar to it given how deep landfall design can go. In this deck it’s pretty rare to lose a game that you’ve drawn Generator and have time for it to compliment all the return land cards like Fathom Seer, Gush, Daze, and all the card draw that gives you lots of land in hand. There are twelve cards in here, 20% of the deck which draws cards, which is the key ingredient and desired line of attack when battling with these decks. The nine morph creatures in here also provide a great form of deception that enables the opponent to make mistakes.

Despite having a glut at the three-drop slot, this deck is very smooth and has the most ways to outplay the opponent in all the duel decks because of the wide range of cards they have to play around. On turn 3, I often have the decision of playing a Morph with Daze backup, sitting back on Repulse or counters to tempo them, or dropping a defensive stud like Spire Golem or Wall of Deceit, although most of the time when I have a Wall I wait until turn 4 so I can morph it in response to something like Tendrils or Incinerate. This deck has lots of answers, lots of card draw, and lots of mediocre creatures with evasion, which gives me a slower clock than all of the other decks, but it’s far more consistent given the card draw and Morph creatures. A very solid tribute to what it’s like to be a Blue mage, since all of the cards are inherently greedy and/or deceptive.


1 Keldon Megaliths
24 Mountain

1 Chartooth Cougar
1 Fireslinger
2 Flamekin Brawler
1 Flametongue Kavu
1 Flamewave Invoker
2 Furnace Whelp
1 Hostility
1 Ingot Chewer
2 Inner-Flame Acolyte
2 Oxidda Golem
1 Pyre Charger
1 Rakdos Pit Dragon
2 Slith Firewalker
2 Soulbright Flamekin

1 Chandra Nalaar
1 Cone of Flame
1 Demonfire
2 Fireball
2 Fireblast
2 Firebolt
1 Flame Javelin
2 Incinerate
1 Magma Jet
2 Seal of Fire

Chandra is by far the most inconsistent and poorly built of the four decks, but has the capability to come out brutally fast when the good card draws sync up (Firewalkers, Golems, & Whelps), and it can blow any of the decks out of the water despite having mostly lower quality cards. Flamekin Brawler is pretty awful, but this deck is really about squeezing as much damage in with the bad cards as you can so the good burn cards like Demonfire, Fireblast, and Fireball can finish them off. The Brawler also has a subtle late game synergy with Soulbright Flamekin, who makes all the Firebreathing monsters much better by trampling.

The real downside about this deck is its inability to smooth out clunky draws, since it has the least amount of deck manipulation of the fantastic four. Another annoying factor is how often the Shocks in this deck are dead cards, or extremely underwhelming. Seal of Fire, Firebolt, and Magma Jet are great and all, but in this format it’s hard to win the long games with Shocks, and this deck stumbles so often that the long game comes around more often than not. That said, the Shocks also compliment this deck’s best draws, where it comes out hasty and doesn’t stop beating until Hostility shows up with a Fireblast to make four 3/1 beaters.

This deck also has twenty-five land, and I often find myself getting mana screwed, but clearly this is meant to be the borderline aggro deck that has some late game synergies to squeak through damage. This deck is another great example of how Wizards took all of Red’s stereotypes and masterfully melted them into a fiery incarnation Red-heads can be proud of.


2 Basking Rootwalla
2 Albino Troll
2 Vine Trellis
2 Wild Mongrel
2 Wirewood Savage
2 Blastoderm
1 Ravenous Baloth
1 Stampeding Wildebeests
2 Indrik Stomphowler
1 Krosan Tusker
1 Plated Slagwurm

1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Genju of the Cedars
1 Giant Growth
2 Rancor
1 Lignify
2 Nature’s Lore
1 Elephant Guide
1 Invigorate
2 Serrated Arrows
2 Harmonize
1 Rude Awakening
1 Beast Attack
1 Overrun
1 Windstorm

2 Slippery Karst
1 Treetop Village
21 Forest

This is a Green deck if I’ve ever seen one. It’s got a sweet curve, busty beaters, mana acceleration, moderate life gain, sketchy removal, Auras that make your mouth water, and some pump spells to round it out. The real kick in the nuts for this deck is Harmonize, which is a card Green should never have gotten in the first place! Seriously, it’s a Blue card, and much too strong to be played in this type of format. Of course, you can make the argument that they’re just drawing into more clunky critters, but this deck can really overwhelm you quickly. Blastoderm is particularly hard for the other three decks to deal with, and will usually sneak in a hit or two before they have to chump on the third attack.

The Beast engine is also amazing when backed up by Wirewood Savage. Ravenous Baloth honestly isn’t as great as you might initially perceive because of the damage on the stack changes, but a four mana 4/4 is still a four mana 4/4. Stomphowler is the real Beast leader in this deck, since he provides a form of removal for troublesome Spire Golems, Enslave, and most importantly Genju of the Fens, which is one of Liliana’s most powerful weapons against Garruk.

My only complaint is the random inclusion of Wild Mongrel. Just another victim of damage off the stack, and with only Rootwallas to provide some Madness, it really doesn’t have the opportunity to shine in this deck like the Wild Mongrel we all remember… the one that could get discounted Circular Logics, Violent Eruptions, or Arrogant Wurms. Albino Troll is pretty good, but so often I find myself slowing the curve down dramatically to enable his regeneration, which has me wondering if he’s even worth it half the time. A Mire Boa would have been much more appreciated. Stampeding Wildebeest is another one of those cards that has a lackluster feel to it, given we don’t have Eternal Witness to return with it to get back Plow Under, like we did in Standard awhile back. Speaking of which, I would have really liked to see Eternal Witness in here, since it’s my favorite creature of all time.


1 Deathgreeter
2 Ghost-lit Stalker
2 Vampire Bats
1 Drudge Skeletons
1 Ravenous Rats
2 Fleshbag Marauder
2 Phyrexian Rager
1 Urborg Syphon-Mage
1 Wall of Bone
1 Faerie Macabre
1 Howling Banshee
1 Keening Banshee
2 Twisted Abomination
1 Skeletal Vampire

1 Liliana Vess
1 Genju of the Fens
1 Bad Moon
2 Sign in Blood
1 Vicious Hunger
1 Ichor Slick
1 Hideous End
1 Snuff Out
2 Tendrils of Corruption
1 Mutilate
1 Rise from the Grave
2 Corrupt
1 Enslave

2 Polluted Mire
23 Swamp

When I first started dueling with this, I thought it was by far the worst deck. I mean, the Red deck has Flamekin Brawler and this deck has Vampire Bats. Not exactly fair, but they make a very efficient sacrifice to Fleshbag Marauder, so the synergies in this one are just popping out the page. You can also sacrifice Vampire Bats to Skeletal Vampire in the event that the bat tokens were taken out by a random Windstorm or flurry of burn spells. Skeletal Vampire is probably the second best creature to Mulldrifter in this entire format, so whenever you’ve got one in your hand you got to make sure you milk it.

The real power of Liliana is Tendrils and Corrupt, which enable this deck to race well beyond its means. The card advantage in this deck is painful with Rager and Sign in Blood, but again, Corrupt and Tendrils go a long way at making this deck playable if resolved. That means playing around Blues bad counters like Voidmage Apprentice, Daze, and Condescend is essential if you want to be remotely competitive against them.

Ghost-lit Stalker is the second best creature in this deck, and the real key to attrition and way to attack Garruk and Jace. He’s obviously not so hot against the Red deck, but he’s extremely hard to remove for the Blue and Green decks, and will often win the game on his own barring and overly aggressive draw from either of them.

Mutilate is the most powerful single spell in this format as the only true Wrath effect, which is the only reasonable answer it has to opposing Blastoderms. Despite having the second best creature and best overall spell this deck, is still extremely lacking given how bad all the creatures are. Tendrils and Corrupt might be the best incentive to race in this format. However, there aren’t any solid creatures to race with other than one of the Banshees and Faerie Macabre.

Those are the decks; here are the matchups…

Jace vs. Chandra — 65% Jace

The old classic that they unleashed last year, I bought it as soon as it hit stores, along with the neat-o deck box that came out shortly after as yet another way for them to drain our wallets to keep their bellies plump. Despite Jace having a huge advantage, the all-in nature of the Red deck can produce a fair amount of draws that a clunky Jace draw just can’t keep up with. In a fair seven-on-seven battle with no mana problems, I’d expect Jace to win about 60% of the time. However, given the mana constraints and over all inconsistencies of Chandra, it’s probably upwards of 65-70%.

As Chandra…

That doesn’t mean that it’s unwinnable. Chandra needs to value every last inch of damage and be relentless in her assault. Flamekin Brawler is really one of the keys to this matchup, since he can sneak damage in early and become a monstrous 8/2 trampler with the help from his Soulbright cousin as early as turn 6! There are a lot of times where you’ll get super concentrated two-damage draws, which is extremely annoying since aiming them at the morphs is exactly what Jace wants you to do to preserve his life total. In these situations you have to be patient, use your life total as a resource and take some Morph beats, and hope to set up an X-spell or Hostility to give Firebolts and Seals of Fire more value.

A lot of the games I’ve won with Chandra usually involve some sort of combo later on. Hostility with Fireblast, the aforementioned Soulbright onslaught, along with obvious synergy of drawing a couple of X-spells to make your life that much easier is a great way to win the game; however, be wary of Jace’s counterspells. If he passes with mana open, it’s very important to play around Condescend at nearly all costs. Creature standstills are also beneficial to this deck because it’s all about sneaking damage in, and even though they’ve got four more creatures than you on paper, yours are much deadlier because a lot of them have Haste. Don’t look to trade Oxidda Golem for a random face-down Morph on turn 3.

As Jace…

You’ve got to squelch their damage sources at all costs. Don’t try to race. Don’t get cute by overvaluing your face-down Brine Elemental. You’ve got to trade creatures as often as possible, because they’ve got less than you and you can’t afford to put yourself in Demonfire or Fireblast + Firebolt range. The goal is to sit back, make as many one-for-ones as the Red deck wants, then rely on the card draw and tempo spells to win the war. Spire Golem is essential here because he enables you to play a sizable defensive and offensive threat as early as turn 4 with counter backup. Later on he’s obviously going to be free, and he’s one of the worst cards to battle through as Chandra. It stops Furnace Whelp, all of their bad two-toughness dudes, and can really only be destroyed profitably by an Ingot Chewer.

I usually don’t attack in this deck unless I’m bashing with Guile, Dragon, or a Brine Elemental. There’s just no value in trying to race a deck dedicated to racing, so you’ve got to slow things down as much as possible. If you manage to suspend any spells within the first couple of turns, it’s very hard to lose. A free Cloudskate, Ephemeron, and Ancestral Vision are all just too powerful for the Red deck to deal with, given you can play another spell or two the same turn those become unsuspended. The easiest way to win this matchup is to cast Wall of Deceit on turn 2 though, as the Red decks will rarely have a profitable way to deal with it the turn you tap out for it, and there’s no way they can get rid of it once counters and Repulse mana is up. Many games I find myself morphing Wall on turn 4 to try and lure out a burn spell, they Firebolt it, I morph up to save it, and on the next turn they attack into it and use another burn spell… only for me to Repulse it back to my hand. At that point you can play whatever morph you want, and they have to respect the fact that they can’t burn it, which is one of the more subtle tricks you can pull off as Jace to really piss Chandra off.

Jace vs. Garruk – 70% Jace

This turns out to be a very stimulating long-game match, most of the time. But Jace absolutely destroys Garruk. It’s not even fair. Every game is the same. Garruk plays lots of dudes. Jace plays Morphs; uses card draw to pull ahead, bounce spells to make Genju, Rancor, Albino Troll, and Elephant Guide look silly; and eventually a Blastoderm hits in a couple times before dying.

As Jace…

Save Repulse, Man-O-War, Aethersnipe, and Cloudskate sparingly. The key to the match is setting them back multiple turns with these spells. This is so important that I don’t even suspend Cloudskate on turn 3. It’s just not worth it. I’ll wait until I can make them spend four mana two turns in a row on a stupid Ravenous Baloth that my morphed down Wall of Deceit already has in check. They don’t have any surprise “Got yah!” cards, like Red does with Fireblast and Demonfire. They’ve just got Blastoderm, a couple of draws from Wirewood Savage, and Harmonize as dangerous cards, and the card draw is offset by the fact that their entire deck is crap against Jace.

The most troublesome draw I’ve encountered in the match is when they start out with a Rootwalla and squeeze in a massive amount of damage with it by pumping every turn until the Blue deck does something. That draw is extremely slow because they can’t put any pressure other than Rootwalla though until turn 5 or so, which usually means I’ve got a couple of Morphs out, mana up, and ready to beat them in short order. Unlike the Chandra matchup, it’s extremely profitable to race with morphs here because Garruk just isn’t very intimidating. The Green cards are good, but they aren’t remotely close to the power of all the Blue cards. It’s also important to not set up their Stomphowler. I have bounced my own Spire Golem back to my hand in response to force them to take out one of their enchantments or Serrated Arrows.

As Garruk…

You got to mulligan for the Rootwalla draw. That’s the only amount of pressure that can really put the Blue deck on its heels. If they’ve got a clunky draw you can make it last until the late game if you get a turn 2 mana accelerant into a nice four- or five-drop like Baloth, Derm, or Wildebeests, but usually if you Nature’s Lore or Vine Trellis on turn 2, Jace will have counter backup for the busty threat you accelerating into. Because the Blue deck has so many bounce spells, you’ve just got to keep making them use them early on so they aren’t as devastating later on when they can set up EOT Repulse into Man-o-War + Cloudskate or something nutty like that. Run Rancor out there on turn 3 on the Albino Troll and just get in there. Sure, you’re boned if they’ve got bounce, but you’re even more boned if you let them save it for when they can use it on their own terms.

Likewise is true of cards like Rude Awakening and Overrun. Use them when you can get any sort of value out of it, and keep playing the aggro deck because there’s no way you can play control opposite a superior control deck. Lignify and Windstorm is the only spell I’d slow roll as the Green player, since you NEED an answer to the stupid creatures like Djinn, Dragon, and Air Elemental. It’s a rough fight, but all it takes is a clunky Blue draw with a mildly aggressive draw on Garruk’s end to catch up. Using the pump spells randomly as burn spells has also proven effective. On turn 4, instead of playing your Blastoderm into their counters, just attack with Wirewood Savage and use Invigorate. They either take four or counter it; either way Invigorate is a low value spell here, and a poor trick most of the time.

Jace vs. Liliana – 60% Jace

This one is pretty tricky because Liliana has the best card in the format against Blue: Ghost-lit Stalker. If they have Stalker, this matchup gets flipped over in Liliana’s favor dramatically, but otherwise, it’s a stone-cold Jace beatdown.

As Jace…

Like I mentioned, this matchup is entirely centered on whether or not they draw Ghost-lit Stalker. Just like Bitterblossom in the Faeries mirror of old, if they have Blossom you enter Plan B, so when they draw Stalker it’s time to go aggro with Morphs and drop as many creatures as possible. A lot of the time I’ll play the aggro role and follow it up with a couple of bounce spells to contain the Stalker for another couple of turns, but if my clock isn’t fast enough they soon start making me discard my hand over the next few turns. The horrible part about this role assignment is that I’m just playing into their Tendrils and Corrupt, while they rid my hand of counter magic with Stalker.

If they don’t have Stalker, the only other card of danger is Bad Moon, which makes all their mediocre creatures like Vampire Bats and Ragers into legitimate beaters that I have to worry about sooner rather than later. Mutilate is mildly annoying, since it makes you want to hold back putting two dudes on the board at once, and I definitely don’t want to waste a Counterspell on it, but the two-for-one often is as devastating as it might seem. They wasted a turn doing nothing, but then again the clock isn’t very important in this matchup. It’s a battle of attrition the entire time, with “who has more cards in their hand” being the most important question.

As Liliana…

Ghost-lit Stalker. Ghost-lit Stalker. Ghost-lit Stalker. That’s it. If that doesn’t pan out, try putting some dudes on the board, hope they don’t counter Tendrils/Corrupt, and hope Liliana’s army of wretched creatures can squeeze one out. These games go very long so anything is possible, but Liliana just doesn’t have the card quality to match up correctly with Jace. Skeletal Vampire can win the game if it resolves, and a Bad Moon fueled aggressive attempt with Bats, Ragers, Urborg Syphon-Mage, Deathgreeter, and Fleshbag Marauders is possible. However, there are so many bad cards in that last sentence that I feel like vomiting.

Chandra vs. Garruk — 75% Garruk

This is another lopsided affair that you probably wouldn’t expect. Fires are supposed to burn down trees, right? What the hell happened? It’s the same old struggle of the Tortoise and the Hare. The Hare is your average sized bunny, while the Tortoise is a genetically-infused Beast like the giant horned turtle Toka from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s not pretty; Toka brutally murders the poor bunny, then meets up with Razar and feasts on the poor bunny’s entrails.

As Chandra…

You’ve got to race them, but it’s so damn hard when all of their creatures are just bigger and better than yours. Garruk has Rootwalla, Chandra has Flamekin Brawler. That comparison isn’t that bad, but it gets worse and worse as you move up the curve.

Slith Firewalker & Soulbright Flamekin & Fireslinger < Nature's Lore & Wild Mongrel & VINE TRELLIS

Oxidda Golem & Inner Flame Acolyte < Ravenous Baloth & Blastoderm

Flametongue Kavu & Furnace Whelp > Beast Attack & Indrik Stomphowler

Furnace Whelp is the one saving grace. Garruk doesn’t have much of an answer other than to drop big creatures, so the Red deck doesn’t have time to pump Whelp each turn. On top of that, the Green deck’s mana goes from two to four pretty consistently, and the Red deck really can’t compete when Green has turn 3 Derm on the play, while the Red deck is sitting with a Soulbright Flamekin and a not-so-eager Oxidda Golem.

As Garruk…

Just play big dudes and always keep a sizable critter back to protect the fort. Wirewood Savage is pretty awful in the matchup, but they have so many bad irrelevant creatures that it doesn’t matter much. There have been so many games where I’m Chandra looking at my hand on turn 3 or 4 and thinking there’s no way I can win this game. This is the most simple of all the matchups, so I don’t think I need to delve too deeply into it. Garruk can make lots of mistakes and still win the game in dominating fashion, so playing tight really isn’t that important.

Chandra vs. Liliana — 50/50!

This is probably the tightest and most interesting matchup to play in the entire series. They are arguably the two weakest decks, and have lots of super clunky draws. The Black deck has lots of life loss, but it’s completely offset by the game-changing Corrupt and Tendrils when battling the Red deck. The most important question in this matchup is: “How many Drain Life spells Liliana draws.”

As Chandra…

This is the unique situation where Chandra can play the control or aggro deck depending on the role the game dictates. Both decks start the game trying to race. One usually takes a step back to lean on a removal draw as opposed to the other. Creatures come and go in the match, and one of the keys is making them spend a spell to deal with your creatures instead of just clogging the board up so they can Mutilate Chandra’s face off. The super lifegain spells for Liliana are very troublesome, but you can’t get wrapped up around playing around them because they get better and better the later the game goes. Much like in Garruk vs. Jace, you’ve got to make them use it, but gingerly since you don’t want to over extend into Mutilate.

There are a number of cards that change the pace of the game entirely on both sides, like Wall of Bone & Hostility, but it’s best to keep an aggressive Plan A then revert to a midrange or control deck. The Fireballs and Demonfire give the Red deck a surprising amount of range, especially if Liliana doesn’t draw a Tendrils or Corrupt, and maximizing their efficiency while trying to bring down Liliana’s best spells is the juggling act you’ve got to balance. And whatever you do, Chandra can’t let Deathgreeter live!

As Liliana…

I often find myself dazed and confused as Liliana in this matchup. Part of me wants to leave my Rager back unless he has a two-or-less-toughness hasty guy, but the other side of me wants to maximize the lifegain spells to make my clock much better than theirs. If I’ve got Wall of Bone, I’ve got all the time in the world, but even without it I feel like I want to play defense. Like I said earlier, the question of the match is how many Corrupt/Tendrils Liliana draws. If I’ve got two sitting in my hand, I can play a much looser aggressive game and blow them out later with the big spells. This is pretty easy to read on their part, and they usually have room to compensate. If Liliana is attacking, they switch into defense mode, and if I’m holding back, Chandra has reason to be even more aggressive. This is why this matchup is so interesting and fun to play with equal-minded mages.

The removal spells in both decks are fairly comparable, with the Black obviously having the edge. All of Chandra’s removal doubles as burn to the face. Both decks definitely have their share of clunk draws, and the most fun and elaborate games are often had when both decks are recouping from mulligans or mana problems since they aren’t nearly as consistent as their Blue and Green counterparts.

Garruk vs. Liliana — 60% Garruk

When I first got the duel decks, I played this matchup for twenty games as each Planeswalker and only lost a few games with each deck; usually resulting from mana problems or mulligans, but there is a decisive amount of skill that goes into this matchup that is a little different from the ones I’ve already discussed. Just like in Chandra vs. Liliana, this is one where the roles can be reversed and either deck can play the control or beatdown.

As Garruk…

This is another match where Basking Rootwalla is an ingredient to an easy victory. Pumping him the first couple of turns while you set your mana up before dropping a Wirewood Savage into potential beastly threats is an average draw you look to seize versus Liliana. As mentioned earlier, it’s very difficult to race properly against Liliana, since you’ve got to protect your own dome from Corrupts and flying dudes while applying enough pressure to actually win the game. Albino Troll isn’t all he’s cracked up to be here, and a lot of the time I hope they waste a removal spell on him so I don’t have to keep leaving regeneration mana up and tempoing myself. Against Chandra it’s a bit different because they don’t have as many spells that kill Troll, but here, anything they point at him aside from Vicious Hunger will deal with The Great White Troll.

Of course, Blastoderm is an MVP in this matchup like each one before, but be careful to play around Fleshbag Marauder to get the most out of your Derm. Harmonize is the second most important card in this matchup, with Corrupt/Tendrils obviously being the first. If you draw one Harmonize, the game can be close if they were blanks. If you draw both, the Green deck can’t lose. Four mana for a three-for-one is just much too powerful in this format.

As Liliana…

Look to abuse the Ghost-lit tactics that keep you moderately alive in the Jace matchup. This forces the Green deck to play a bit faster, which helps play into Liliana’s many removal spells and Mutilate. More often than not, this deck ends up being the aggro in the matchup when you’ve got a Vampire Bats on turn 1, since the Green deck has very few ways to deal with fliers, which obviously makes Skeletal Vampire a premium play. Even though these creatures all suck, the removal is still solid, meaning dropping bunches of guys to compliment the removal is another key to sneak in damage and take the match. Much like the role assignment in Liliana vs. Chandra, Garruk is going to try and play around Mutilate as much as possible, and if you come out the gates with bunches of creatures it really compromises that bluffing tactic. Liliana’s creatures are so bad that you don’t usually mind losing all of yours for all of theirs, even if you break even or are slightly behind on the trade.

Enslave and Genju of the Fens are both very troublesome cards for Garruk, and the fact that they gave them two Indrik Stomphowler to work with is frustrating at times. Serrated Arrows is also much better versus Liliana than the other Planeswalkers, but at least Sign in Blood and Rager are there to give her some acceptable card advantage. Urborg Syphon-Mage is another guy who goes way up in value in this matchup. If you can land a flier, it’s very hard for them to race 2-3 evasion damage plus a two-point drain from the Syphon-Mage every turn when you’ve got a couple of chump blockers to keep the race in your favor. This match is still very hard to win because Garruk does have huge creatures, a fast curve, and most importantly Harmonize to make Liliana’s one-for-one approach pretty frivolous.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. I hope you guys enjoyed a different type article than you’re used to reading from me. I don’t take on casual formats very often, but this is one that I really hope you invest in, since these decks will be out of print soon and are a great to keep handy for those boring in-between-rounds periods at big events. I’m pleasantly surprised Wizards could come out with a deck series so powerful yet deeply play-intensive. The percentages I posted are my rough estimate of how the matches have felt from the hundreds of games I’ve played, but I honestly rarely lose with any of these decks while playing, boasting a 90% win rate against fellow strong-minded mages, and I really hope they keep putting duel decks of this quality out in the future. They’re great for everyone, from the guy with a 951 Limited rating to the top minds in the game, to exercise new interactions that we’ve never played with before.

My only complaint is that Jace is too good because of all the card drawing, but each of the decks can still compete and have decisive lines of attack to deal with the Blue menace. Am I the only one that thinks that’s how Magic should be? Blue on top with lots of good spells, with all the other colors having tools to compensate?

Thanks for reading…