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Dueling Coach - Illustration by Caio Monteiro

Dueling Coach | Illustration by Caio Monteiro

When you’ve been playing Magic as long as I have, you’ve seen a lot of products come and go. One of the first I remember purchasing was Duel Decks: Elves vs. Goblins, two 60-card decks built to play a balanced match against each other. I took it home, ripped it open, convinced my younger brother to play with me, and we had a great time! I kept those two decks together in their original form for years, and did the same with Duel Decks: Divine vs. Demonic when that was released as well.

Now that I’ve built and played decks in nearly every format, the casual ones have always been my favorite. With Commander being over-saturated I’ve found myself searching for a new relaxing format to introduce to my playgroup. While trying to recreate the idea of my own slow kitchen-table format, I’ve found the Duel Decks as easy choices for a quick match.

What makes the Duel Decks so great? And which ones are the best? Let’s find out!

What Were Duel Decks?

Blue Elemental Blast (Signature Spellbook Jace) - Illustration by Slawomir Maniak

Blue Elemental Blast (Signature Spellbook) | Illustration by Slawomir Maniak

The series of 22 Duel Decks released from 2007 to 2018 were sealed theme decks sold in pairs specifically built to play against each other. Each contained two 60-card decks with a single foil “face” card in each deck. Most contained a set of relevant tokens, a “learn to play” guide, and a strategy insert.

The Duel Decks originally alternated releases between faction-based duel decks and planeswalker decks, but this was abandoned in 2012 with the release of Venser vs. Koth after Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas. The first four Duel Decks (Elves vs. Goblins, Jace vs. Chandra, Divine vs. Demonic, and Garruk vs. Liliana) were reprinted in the Duel Decks Anthology in 2014.

Each pair of decks showcased a classic rivalry from Magic’s lore. For example, Elves vs. Goblins features two iconic tribes with many parallel cards. The elf deck runs Ambush Commander as the heel to the goblins deck’s Siege-Gang Commander, a Heedless One is paralleled by a Reckless One, etc.

The Duel Decks series were primarily casual products. They weren’t necessarily built with any format in mind but would often feature the characters from Magic’s current storyline. They were a last remnant of that low-powered kitchen-table Magic that many of us used when learning to play.

Duel Decks Rankings

But which Duel Decks box is the best? Let’s take a few things into consideration.

How much are the singles worth? Each release had at least one desirable “money card,” and some were more desirable than others.

How well designed were the decks? Did they work as an introductory product, and did they hint at the strategies players would use later in their career? For example, did the goblins deck effectively demonstrate what a typical red aggro deck plays like?

In that same vein, were they fun? Did the two decks play a good match against each other, or was one ridiculously outmatched by the other?

#22. Heroes vs. Monsters

Duel Decks: Heroes vs. Monsters

Heroes vs. Monsters was released alongside the original Theros set and featured Sun Titan facing off against Polukranos, World Eater. It also featured six preview cards from Theros, making it the first opportunity many had to play with the set.

The Boros () Heroes deck is built like an almost-serviceable weenies deck, but it lacks the focus needed to stick to much of a strategy. The Gruul () Monsters deck plays a straight-up aggro game and doesn’t deviate from this strategy. Together they play an okay match, but both were clearly intended to be upgraded with cards from the Theros block.

Heroes vs. Monsters’s low power level is reflected in its price. The singles for the Heroes and Monsters decks both come to around $10.

Magic The Gathering: Heroes vs. Monsters Duel Deck (2 Limited Edition Theme Decks)
  • Two ready-to-play 60 card decks
  • Two deck boxes
  • Two creature tokens with new artwork
  • A strategy insert
  • A MAGIC “learn to play” guide

#21. Venser vs. Koth

Duel Decks: Venser vs. Koth

Venser and Koth are two minor characters from the Scars of Mirrodin block, featured in their low-power, heavily flavor-themed decks. The set was poorly received because of its weakness and overall lack of valuable rares.

The Venser vs. Koth decks follow the basic deckbuilding design of building around the face planeswalkers with flavorful and mechanically similar cards. Sadly the decks lack ways to interact with each other. The matchup plays like two separate games of solitaire instead of a challenging and interesting Magic game.

Sealed copies of this Duel Deck set run for a little over $50, which is surprising considering the actual value of the cards inside. The Venser deck comes in at about $30 in singles, and the Koth one sits at around $20. And there aren’t many notable singles included. Path to Exile, Anger, and the promotional planeswalkers are the only real value.

Magic The Gathering: MTG Duel Decks: VENSER VS KOTH (Two 60 Card Decks)
  • Magic the Gathering: MTG Duel Decks: VENSER VS KOTH (Two 60 Card Decks)
  • Contains: 2 exclusive black-bordered 60-card theme decks in one box
  • Includes 6 cards with new art including 2 alternate art Mythic rares.
  • Cards are Tournament Legal.
  • NOTE: This product can ONLY be shipped the United States, Puerto Rico, APO/FPOs and USVI.

#20. Elspeth vs. Tezzeret

Duel Decks: Elspeth vs. Tezzeret

Elspeth’s first appearance in a Duel Deck had her facing off the nefarious Starscream-wannabe Tezzeret the Seeker on the battlefields of Mirrodin in the midst of the Scars of Mirrodin set. Similar to the other planeswalker decks, each list wants to play its feature card quickly and then protect it until it can activate the third ability.

The Tezzeret deck kicks Elspeth, Knight-Errant out of the water in this face-off. Tezzeret the Seeker is a huge value engine in its deck, getting multiple activations on its mana-generating artifacts and tutoring up response after response to the Elspeth “white weenies” deck.

Tezzeret the Seeker kicks up the singles price of the blue deck, bringing it to around $35, while the white deck costs around $25. Most of its value is in the two copies of Swords to Plowshares and the foil Elspeth, Knight-Errant.

#19. Speed vs. Cunning

Duel Decks: Speed vs. Cunning

Speed vs. Cunning showcased two of the fancy new wedge-aligned factions from Khans of Tarkir. The speedy Mardu () go to battle with the cunning Jeskai () in these 2014 Duel Decks.

I consider these decks a miss. The Speed deck isn’t very fast at all with only a single 1-drop. The Jeskai deck is slowed down considerably to make Speed faster than it, so it doesn’t end up playing how actual Jeskai builds of the day played.

The Speed deck has two money cards: Krenko, Mob Boss and Fury of the Horde. Its foil Zurgo Helmsmasher doesn’t even break $1 on the singles market, so this deck comes to about $20. The Cunning deck has it pretty bad. The deck only comes to $11 with its Arcanis the Omnipotent foil.

Magic: The Gathering 2014 (MTG) Duel Deck Speed vs. Cunning
  • Racing across the blazing steppe, the wave of attackers crests the barren hills.

#18. Knights vs. Dragons

Duel Decks: Knights vs Dragons

Knights vs. Dragons is a classic fantasy tale, pulling from Magic’s long history with the two tribes. The set’s foil face cards were Knight of the Reliquary and Bogardan Hellkite.

Another of the tribal theme decks, Knights vs. Dragons was a fairly balanced duel. Granted, the Dragons deck does take a while to get going for a mono-red deck, but the Knights can’t do much about it once it does. The only change I’d make would be to give the Knights one or two cards with reach so they can at least have a chance of blocking those flying dragons.

Neither of these decks contain much value anymore. The Knights deck has a Knight Exemplar, but that hardly makes up for the rest of its mediocrity. Its singles cost just under $30 while the poor Dragon deck runs a measly $13ish.

#17. Sorin vs. Tibalt

Duel Decks: Sorin vs. Tibalt

2013 was when we started to see the Duel Decks slip. Sorin vs. Tibalt wasn’t a horrible release, but it definitely wasn’t a great one.

Poor Tibalt has been Magic’s punching bag since its release, and the walloping doesn’t stop here. Suffering from the same problems as Venser vs. Koth, the Tibalt and Sorin decks are built around thematic and flavorful cards rather than mechanically interactive ones. This leads to another matchup where your opponent might as well be phased out the whole time.

Neither of these decks are particularly valuable. The singles for the Sorin deck come to $15 with over a third of that cost coming from the actual Sorin, Lord of Innistrad planeswalker. The Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded deck is even worse. Poor Tibalt’s barely worth $1!

#16. Zendikar vs. Eldrazi

Duel Decks: Zendikar vs. Eldrazi

Zendikar vs. Eldrazi was released during our return to Zendikar in the Battle for Zendikar/Oath of the Gatewatch era, also known as 2015.

The Zendikar deck is a Selesnya  () deck that can’t decide if it wants to play landfall or allies, while the Rakdos () Eldrazi deck is, well, Eldrazi. Battle for Zendikar is almost universally reviled for being a bad low-power set, and these Duel Decks played along with that theme. They’re weak and don’t interact with each other much, durdling until one or the other plays their mythic rare.

The single saving grace of this set is its It That Betrays, foil Avenger of Zendikar, and Eldrazi Temple. These cards bring up the sealed price to an average of $70. The singles for the Zendikar deck total $15 while the clearly stronger Eldrazi deck goes for closer to $40.

Magic: The Gathering 13372 MTG Duel Decks: Zendikar Vs. Eldrazi, Multicolor
  • Zendikar’s forces have joined together to defend their plane from the eldrazi Titans!
  • Once trapped for thousands of years, The eldrazi Titans have broken their bonds and now their numberless spawn begin to overrun zendikar!
  • Each box contains 2 Ready-to-Play 60-card decks: one focused on the creatures of zendikar and the other denizens of the eldrazi!
  • Look for favorite zendikar & eldrazi cards and popular reprints! An zendikar resist this Onslaught? Or will the eldrazi triumph?
  • Release date: August 28 2015

#15. Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis

Duel Decks: Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis

Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis brought together two of the multiverse’s most powerful planeswalkers for a hand-to-hand slugfest.

The Nissa, Voice of Zendikar deck is built around lands, as is just about everything to do with Nissa. Its 3-mana planeswalker lets it quickly outpace the Ob Nixilis Reignited deck, which instead tries to focus on removal until it can cast a threat like Pestilence Demon.

These decks are on the lower end of the power spectrum. Both work out to about $15 each while a sealed copy sells for about $20. The only real card of value here is Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, and I guess you get an Abundance for your trouble.

#14. Elspeth vs. Kiora

Duel Decks: Elspeth vs. Kiora

It’s about the time of Born of the Gods that Wizards realized they can just cart out Elspeth whenever they need a heroine to chase after some McGuffin and don’t need to explain why. And so, in 2015, we were all cursed with Elspeth vs. Kiora.

Sheesh, do these decks whomp. The actual planeswalkers aren’t too bad and even saw play in the Standard of their time, but the rest of these decks are just unplayable. The Kiora, the Crashing Wave deck is supposedly sea monster themed, but it includes five total fish/kraken/leviathan creatures, and that’s including Man-o’-War. The Elspeth deck is just a pile of soldier creatures without tribal support.

The only real value in these decks are the foil planeswalkers, and even then, only Elspeth, Sun’s Champion works out to anything above $5.

Sale
Magic: the Gathering Elspeth vs. KIORA – MTG 2015 Duel Decks Box Set – 120 Cards
  • Contains the foil alternate art versions of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Kiora, the Crashing Wave!

#13. Mind vs. Might

Duel Decks: Mind vs. Might

Mind vs. Might represents the classic clash of brain versus brawn. Jhoira of the Ghitu leads an Izzet () spellslinger deck against Lovisa Coldeyes’s Gruul warrior tribal deck.

This age-old matchup tends to favor the Mind deck. Jhoira of the Ghitu’s ability is very strong and can guarantee some game-ending effects hit the field, albeit at a slower pace. The Might deck suffers from what many of the aggro Duel Decks do: it takes way too long to get going without a sufficient number of 1- and 2-drops.

The Might deck does have one thing going for it, and that’s Coat of Arms. The Mind deck works out to just under $30 while the Might deck comes in at just above $30.

Magic: the Gathering MTG 2017 Duel Decks Mind Vs Might – 120 cards
  • Mind vs. Might represents the age-old clash between mages and warriors, brains and brawn.

#12. Garruk vs. Liliana

Duel Decks: Garruk vs. Liliana

Duel Decks kicked off the beef that would drive the Garruk vs. Liliana storyline for the next few years. Loosely based on the comic The Hunter and the Veil, Garruk must stop Liliana from acquiring The Chain Veil, a powerful artifact.

Both decks are clearly built to synergize with their respective planeswalkers. They both want to play that ‘walker as soon as possible and include a bevy of creatures to protect them. Garruk Wildspeaker takes better advantage of this than Liliana. Liliana Vess wants to play a control game, removing threats one at a time before it can use its ultimate ability. I guess it also runs Corrupt, which functions as the Duel Deck’s Exsanguinate.

The singles for the Garruk deck run just over $20, and the Liliana deck runs about $25. They sit on the lower- to middle-end of the power spectrum, and the actual planeswalkers end up as the highest value cards in the deck.

#11. Blessed vs. Cursed

Duel Decks: Blessed vs. Cursed

2016’s Blessed vs. Cursed features an Azorius () deck made of Innistrad’s humans, angels, and spirits facing off against a Dimir () deck full of demons and zombies.

The Blessed deck plays a sort of midrange creature deck that can easily crush the Cursed deck if it draws its Geist of Saint Traft early. The Cursed deck tries to showcase the delirium mechanic, but it lacks consistency considering it also wants to repeatedly return cards from the graveyard.

That said, the Cursed deck does include a Gravecrawler, the best zombie creature in existence as far as I’m concerned. Everything else in this deck is nearly worthless, totaling out to just over $20. The Blessed deck has basically nothing going for it and will only run you about $13 to reconstruct.

MTG Magic the Gathering – Duel Decks: Blessed vs Cursed
  • 2 60-card preconstructed decks
  • Some of the cards are available as a foil.

#10. Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas

Duel Decks: Blessed vs. Cursed

Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas pits the mono-white Ajani Goldmane against Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. The Ajani deck is actually Naya (), and it squares off against the Grixis () Bolas deck.

These decks play a really fun game against each other! The Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker deck actually plays a sweet control strategy versus the Ajani deck’s aggressive creature-heavy deck. Both decks follow the tried-and-true deckbuilding tactic of focusing on playing the planeswalker and then protecting it until you can activate its final ability, ultimately ending the game.

Possibly because of its lower power level, Duel Decks: Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas scores pretty low on price. Ajani’s cards come to just under $25, and Bolas’ is about $20.

Magic The Gathering: Duel Decks – Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas
  • Magic the Gathering: Duel Decks – Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas
  • Two ready-to-play 60 card decks
  • Two deck boxes
  • Two creature tokens
  • NOTE: This product can ONLY be shipped the United States, Puerto Rico, APO/FPOs and USVI.

#9. Jace vs. Chandra

Duel Decks: Jace vs. Chandra

Jace vs. Chandra was the first planeswalker-based Duel Deck. Planeswalkers were still relatively new in 2008, and Jace vs. Chandra was an attempt to familiarize players with Magic’s new main characters.

Unlike the 2007 Elves vs. Goblins, the Jace and Chandra decks shun the creature-heavy tribal style and instead opt for a slow control deck and an aggressive burn deck. The decks play a fairly even match, but neither really shines as a particularly fun deck to play.

The Jace deck runs too many creatures to be considered true control and the Chandra deck could do with more consistency in its burn spells. Both run the risk of running out of steam fairly quickly, and the blue deck can wait out the red deck fairly consistently with more access to draw spells.

The singles for the Jace deck run around $20 while the Chandra deck sits at a measly $13.

#8. Jace vs. Vraska

Duel Decks: Jace vs. Chandra

Jace made his second appearance in the Duel Decks series around the time of our Return to Ravnica to face off against the gorgon planeswalker Vraska.

WotC surprised me by getting the Jace vs. Vraska decks just right. While they’re both low-power, the decks can function fairly well without casting their planeswalker. Both decks do a fair job of showcasing typical spells from their colors and interact with each other well. They just aren’t very powerful, but they’re an okay start for new players.

Sealed copies of these Duel Decks come in around $20. The alternate art planeswalkers are the most valuable cards in the set, but that’s not saying much considering neither of them break $1.

Sale
Magic the Gathering: Jace Vs. Vraska Duel Deck
  • 2 ready-to-play 60 cards decks.
  • 3 creature tokens.
  • 2 deck boxes.
  • A learn-to-play guide.
  • 2 Planeswalkers with fresh new art.

#7. Divine vs. Demonic

Duel Decks: Divine vs. Demonic

2009’s Divine vs. Demonic decks brought in the first white and black decks to the Duel Decks series. Focusing on the colors’ iconic creatures, the decks played a slow game where they looked to summon their most powerful creature before their opponent summoned theirs. Lord of the Pit and Akroma, Angel of Wrath are the face cards for their respective decks.

It’s tough to describe these lists as “tribal.” The Demonic deck runs 15 non-demon creatures and neither deck really has any tribal synergies. The decks play a very even match against one another but would need serious work to be played outside of their own little meta.

The Divine deck’s singles cost about $20, while the Demonic deck costs a staggering $60! This is entirely because the Demonic deck includes Demonic Tutor. The tutor costs more than the rest of the cards in the set combined!

#6. Merfolk vs. Goblins

Duel Decks: Merfolk vs. Goblins

The final and penultimate Duel Decks releases returned to form and featured the two tribes from the original Elves vs. Goblins facing off against new foes. In Merfolk vs. Goblins, a mono-blue deck faces off against a mono-red deck each focused around their iconic tribes.

Both decks run a variety of tribal lords and synergistic cards. The Goblins deck is led by Warren Instigator which can really turn the tides in their favor if left unanswered. On the other side, the Merfolk deck runs Master of Waves and more control spells. It can easily overrun the Goblins if it can disrupt their aggressive start. The design team seems very apt at designing balanced tribal decks, and this one hits the mark.

Neither of these decks are too valuable, but the alternate art face cards from each are worth a bit more than their other printings. The Merfolk deck’s singles cost about $20, and the Goblins one goes for about $30.

Magic The Gathering: Duel Decks: Merfolk Vs Goblins
  • Magic the Gathering
  • Duel Deck
  • 120 Cards

#5. Phyrexia vs. the Coalition

Duel Decks: Phyrexia vs. the Coalition

2010’s Phyrexia vs. the Coalition focused on the conflict between the Phyrexian hordes (pre-infect) and the forces of the Coalition from the Invasion block.

The Phyrexian deck is one of the more interesting Duel Decks ever printed. Its face card, a foil Phyrexian Negator, is a reprint despite its place on the Reserved List. This resulted in a backlash from the MTG community, and WotC has since changed their policy regarding reprinting Reserved List cards as premium foils.

The Phyrexian deck is very strong and fairly valuable. The singles for the Phyrexia deck come in at around $60. The price is inflated because of Phyrexian Negator, but the deck also includes Living Death, Phyrexian Arena, and both Lightning Greaves and Whispersilk Cloak!

The Coalition deck, on the other hand, is a whiff. It’s too many colors and the inclusion of Darigaaz, the Igniter, Rith, the Awakener, and Treva, the Renewer make it confusing on how the deck wants to end the game. Its singles sit at around $13.

Magic the Gathering: Phyrexia vs. The Coalition Duel Decks (2 Limited Edition Theme Decks)
  • Magic the Gathering MTG: Phyrexia vs. The Coalition Duel Decks (2 Limited Edition Theme Decks)
  • Contains: 2 exclusive black-bordered 60-card theme decks in one box
  • 6 cards with new art including 2 alternate art Mythic rares
  • Includes 3 token cards, 1 Strategy Insert & 1 “Learn-to-play” Guide.
  • NOTE: This product can ONLY be shipped the United States, Puerto Rico, APO/FPOs and USVI.

#4. Elves vs. Inventors

Duel Decks: Elves vs. Inventors

The final iteration in the Duel Decks series was Elves vs. Inventors. WotC wanted to cap off the series with one of the original tribes, and they designed an artifact deck as the antithesis to the Elves.

The Elves deck functions similarly to the original Elves deck, with some updated lords (Elvish Archdruid instead of Imperious Perfect, for example). The Inventors deck is more of a midrange artifact creature tribal deck. It almost runs like an aristocrats deck at points, making cheap artifact tokens with Maverick Thopterist or Myr Sire, and then flinging them at the Elves with Shrapnel Blast or Barrage Ogre. Matches with these decks are actually fairly challenging, and the decks create an interesting meta between them.

There’s a fair amount of value in these decks. The Inventors deck has Goblin Welder and Darksteel Plate, and the whole deck totals to around $40. The Elves deck has a handful of tribal staples but most notably includes Ezuri, Renegade Leader, one of the best legendary elves available. The Elves total out to around $25.

Magic the Gathering Duel Decks: Elves Vs Inventors
  • Gather a massive clan of elves bent on demolishing all mechanical threats, or assemble a squad of inventors dedicated to unleashing the potential of destructive gadgets.
  • English (Subtitle)

#3. Izzet vs. Golgari

Duel Decks: Izzet vs. Golgari

I’m honestly surprised it took WotC until 2012 to release a Ravnica-themed Duel Deck. Izzet vs. Golgari places two opposite guilds against each other: a spell-slinging Izzet deck and a graveyard-themed Golgari () deck.

Guild decks always feel a bit easier to balance against each other because of the large card pool they can pull from and while still remaining thematic. The Izzet deck runs classic cards like Gelectrode, Wee Dragonauts, and Kiln Fiend, perfect for any spellslinger deck.

The Golgari deck makes use of everyone’s favorite Golgari Grave-Troll, Stinkweed Imp, and even a Life from the Loam. My only criticism is the Izzet deck only has one or two ways to counter its opponents and instead focuses on damage-based spells to interact.

The Izzet deck is valued at about $20 entirely thanks to the Isochron Scepter. The Golgari deck runs about $40 by itself thanks to that Life from the Loam.

Magic The Gathering: Duel Deck – Izzet vs Golgari
  • Magic The Gathering: Duel Deck – Izzet vs Golgari
  • Two ready-to-play 60 card decks
  • Two deck boxes
  • Two creature tokens
  • NOTE: This product can ONLY be shipped the United States, Puerto Rico, APO/FPOs and USVI.

#2. Mirrodin Pure vs. New Phyrexia

Mirrodin Pure vs. New Phyrexia duel decks

The little-known Mirrodin Pure vs. New Phyrexia duel decks were released exclusively on MTGO in 2013, and boy do I wish there were physical copies of this floating around. These two powerful decks showcased the conflict between the myr and Phyrexians in the Mirrodin Besieged block.

The design of the decks was actually opened to the community: players could submit one 60-card decklist for each side, with no opposite-faction cards mingling together in decks. The caveat was that one list was based around Platinum Angel while the other was based around Phyrexian Plaguelord.

Mirrodin Pure vs. New Phyrexia has some of the highest-power Duel Decks released. The Azorius Mirrodin deck plays a control strategy to try to outlast the Phyrexian Golgari deck’s aggressive infect mechanics. Together they play a very fun match and are very well balanced against each other.

The singles for Mirrodin Pure will run you about $80, and the New Phyrexia deck comes in at around $160! This is solely because the New Phyrexia build includes Phyrexian Altar, Protean Hulk, and Triumph of the Hordes. All three have become staples in multiple formats and are highly-coveted cards. There are no sealed versions available for purchase since the cards were never released in a physical format.

#1. Elves vs. Goblins

Elves vs. Goblins duel decks

The original Duel Decks set released in 2007, Elves vs. Goblins pits two classic tribes against each other and was released on the heels of the tribal-themed Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block.

Elves vs. Goblins wins my pick for best Duel Decks ever. The two are very well balanced against each other, playing parallel creature-heavy midrange strategies. They make great intro decks for Magic and are perfect jumping-off points for any player looking to dive into either of these tribes.

The decks make use of the typical tribal synergies. The Elves deck wants to ramp with its Llanowar Elves and win with an Overrun-style effect from Gempalm Strider, or by overwhelming the board with elf creatures from Ambush Commander. The deck plays similar to the elves archetype in Pauper, where you make repeated use of untap effects to activate cards like Wellwisher and Timberwatch Elf multiple times.

The Goblins deck runs much the same. It also tries to cast as many creatures as possible and swings with reckless abandon, capitalizing on death triggers from Boggart Shenanigans and Mudbutton Torchrunner. Both decks make use of their Apocalypse-block lords, Heedless One and Reckless One, at the top of their curve.

Ordering the singles for the Elves and Goblins decks runs about $50 and $30 respectively. The Elves deck includes some strong reprints like Elvish Harbinger, Wirewood Lodge, and Slate of Ancestry, pushing up its price.

Does MTG Still Make Duel Decks?

Sadly, the Duel Decks series was discontinued in 2018 after the release of Duel Decks: Elves vs. Inventors.

Why Were Duel Decks Discontinued?

According to MTG Designer Gavin Verhey’s 2018 “State of Product Design,” R&D were out of ideas. They’d “run the down the chain of a lot of the best one-on-one battles” and didn’t want to force themes that weren’t there. He jokes that a Duel Decks: Sarkhan vs. Sarkhan would have been inevitable.

This led to worsening sales for the Duel Decks. Players showed less interest in buying the decks as they became less resonant (Elves vs. Inventors doesn’t hit as hard as Divine vs. Demonic, for example).

They also wanted to try out different preconstructed decks. There had been several Commander precons by this time, and products like the Guild Kits and Challenger decks would be released soon too.

What Replaced Duel Decks?

Challenger Decks and the Guild Kits replaced Duel Decks in an unofficial capacity. The Challenger decks were a series of five 75-card decks ready for Standard tournament play while the Guild Kits were a set of 10 2-color 60-card decks, each themed around one of Ravnica’s guilds. These decks included cards from every Ravnica set and weren’t Standard-legal.

What Was the MSRP of Duel Decks?

Duel Decks had an MSRP of $19.99.

Duel Decks vs. Planeswalker Decks

As opposed to a set of two decks, planeswalker decks were individual preconstructed 60-card decks themed around a planeswalker. Meant as a starter product for new players, two were released alongside each Standard set, focusing on featured planeswalkers and relevant mechanics from that set. They were retired after Core Set 2021.

Duel Decks vs. Commander Decks

While the Duel Decks were pairs of 60-card decks meant for casual play with no definitive format, the 100-card Commander precons are specifically meant for Commander. The Duel Decks aren’t singleton and don’t necessarily contain a legendary creature, meaning they would need some tweaking to function as EDH decks.

Where Can You Get Old Duel Decks?

If you’re interested in playing the old Duel Decks against each other once again, you have a couple options for getting your hands on them.

You can do what I did and buy the singles for the decklists yourself. The decks aren’t very powerful on their own, so the actual lists can be very cheap. The heftiest price in a deck is Demonic’s Demonic Tutor, which definitely isn’t as hard to come by these days. Or you can replace it with Diabolic Tutor, which balances that deck out quite a bit in my opinion.

Sealed Duel Decks are a little harder to come by. Your best bet is searching Amazon for one of the Duel Decks at a good price.

Are Duel Decks Legal in Commander?

The Duel Decks aren’t legal in Commander. They’re only 60 cards, include multiple copies of non-basic land cards, and they don’t all include a legendary creature for your commander.

Are Duel Decks Legal in Modern?

The Duel Decks aren’t legal in Modern. A lot of them include reprints from Magic’s retro-border era, and the cards weren’t added to the format as part of their release. For example, Duel Decks: Elves vs. Goblins includes an Ambush Commander, a card originally printed in Scourge.

Wrap Up

Ambush Commander - Illustration by Lucio Parrillo

Ambush Commander | Illustration by Lucio Parrillo

I won’t lie to you, dear reader, when I started this I could only remember 10, maybe 12, Duel Decks. 22 is quite a lot of product, especially considering a sizeable chunk of them were considered financial whiffs.

But there are a few diamonds in the rough, and more than a couple of these decks are worth picking up and playing against each other. What started as a product aimed at new players has become, for me, an acquired taste for a format outside the norm.

What do you think? Is it fair to give Elves vs. Goblins the top spot, or am I blinded by nostalgia? Do you see yourself buying the singles for these decks? How would you upgrade them? Let me know in the comments or over on Twitter.

Thanks for reading!

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