Magic Origins Intro Packs Magic: The Gathering Review
Liam reviewed Magic Origins Deckbuilder Toolkit here. Christopher tested Magic Origins Clash Pack here. Now I’m looking at 3 Intro Packs of Magic Origins. Are they worth money? Do they show how awesome Magic: The Gathering is?
I love Core sets, because they provide fun without being overly focused on competition. Sure, at the end someone wins and someone loses. But what matters is attacking with two Goblins, a Demon, and a Dragon – just as it was shown by a Cardboard Crack strip a week or two ago. With just a Core set you can build fun decks and experience Magic as a smart way of spending time.
Thus, I look at Intro Packs as a gateway to Magic. In my opinion, they score high if they give a player a taste of particular colour strategy, if they offer cool effects on the cards (I don’t mean ‘powerful’, ‘intriguingly flashy’ rather), and if they are easy to enrich with cards from boosters or singles. Let’s see how they perform.
The flavour of the deck overwhelmed me.
Imagine a short movie.
A forest. You run through it. You touch trees with your hand as you get by them. Some forest areas are lit with sunlight, some offer a peaceful shade.
As you run by a small pond, you see a reflection of yourself. A gentle elf.
Finally you reach a clearing. Other elves are already there. You are greeted with joy.
Three elves start to chant. A fog rises from the ground and engulfs you and two other non-chanting elves. You scream… no, no, no… you roar with power and the forest echo takes it away, away, away…
Now you’re ready to fight. And to win. Now you’re ready to hunt.
This is a short movie I see every time I play Joraga Invocation in Hunting Pack Intro Deck. Usually I win the following turn, because the opponent’s defense has been decimated by pumped Elves creatures and tokens.
Here is the complete decklist:
The deck is so good to play.
It has a clear strategy: roll out some Elves, score some damage with Thornbow Archers and Deadbridge Shamans, then finish things off with Shaman of the Pack or Joraga Invocation. Or sometimes you hit Managorger Hydra on turn 3 against an opponent’s empty board. Then the opponent takes a long pause to come up with a plan how to put something in play and don’t grow your Hydra too much. It’s the same pause I know from playing Sunscorch Regent after End Hostilities against Aggro decks.
So, by now you know Hunting Pack contains good early creatures, a nice (although not much game-impactful) Elf Lord from the package picture, great finishers. There is more. The deck also offers a sweeper in a form of Eyeblight Massacre. It’s not as devastating as Languish or Crux of Fate, but can help clear some early blockers of an opponent, as well as can scale down an opponent’s big finisher. Also – see? a lot of playing value – the deck gives an excellent Elf tutor to search for new forces if the first wave of attackers fell down. Sylvan Messenger allows for long games and is a wonderful setup card before Joraga Invocation.
Not all cards in the deck go with Elves For The Win strategy: Managorger Hydra, Timberpack Wolf, Skysnare Spider, for instance. Some players may see them as a mistake, but for me they are quirks: interesting inspirations to show novice players what cool things they can find in Magic and which cards they can change to make a stock Intro Deck their own, unique, individual. If they want to enrich the deck, they may put more Elves with various abilities (like Gnarlroot Trapper, Gilt-Leaf Winnower), useful effects (Wild Instincts, Read the Bones, Reave Soul, Touch of Moonglove, Infernal Scarring, big finishers (Sengir Vampire, Terra Stomper, Woodland Bellower). Those are suggestions from Magic Origins only. If you consider other sets available in Standard or in Modern… oh, boy. As long as a number of Elves isn’t lowered than 17-19, changes are okay.
An All-Star of the deck is definitely Joraga Invocation.
During test matches against other two Intro Decks, this was a clear winner both in wins and in flavour. For me, Hunting Pack deserves an A.
I’m not a fan of Devils nor Demons. They are not nice beings. They remind me of banks that lure customers talking about cheap and easy money, then slam their dreams down saying you are not creditworthy.
This deck shows it too well (about Demons, not banks). Kothophed, Soul Hoarder‘s ability is a powerful one. It can provide you with resources that will win you a game. But in the same time this ability can kill you, if you’re not careful. 6 mana casting cost means the Demon Leader shows his face on the battlefield late. Your life points are probably lower than 10, because of how the deck’s been built (I’ll explain that in a moment). If you start to clear the board with removal (Reave Soul, Chandra’s Fury, or Treason-Sac combo of Act of Treason + Nantuko Husk), you activate Kothophed’s obligatory trigger. You face an impossible choice: either you kill everything and die in the process, or you leave something on the board and die from that. All this is great in terms of flavour, but the deck rather rarely gets to this point due to how it’s been built. At least until enriching the deck with Shadows of the Past or more Unholy Hungers, that bring some life points back.
Here is the decklist:
As you see, there are zero 1-mana creatures, four 2-mana creatures, four 3-mana creatures, and ten 4-mana creatures. In games I played an average hand contained one creature of 2-3 mana and two creatures of 4-mana. This meant up until turn 4 I had very few blockers, so I was getting damage from early attackers. After turn 5 things were getting better, especially if I established Treason-Sac engine. However, a lack of clear curving out in the beginning made playing the deck an exercise in surviving to five lands than playing my own game. Getting to those five lands was not easy, even though the deck was running 25 lands. I was stopped at four lands, or got no Mountains to play Red cards. Very, very strange.
I lost the most games with this deck against the Elves deck and went about 35-65 against the UW Skies deck.
It’s not a bad deck: it’s just a difficult one to play and to enrich. You’ll probably need a seasoned Magic player to help you with it. If you do, it’s going to be a powerful deck that deserves B. Without that kind of experienced friend, Demonic Deals is a C- only.
A powerful Sphinx rules the air, while is placing defenses on the ground, is controlling what gets played, and is tricking opponents into benefitless attacking.
That’s the flavour I like!
However, this particular Sphinx didn’t pay enough attention in a deck-building class and now it struggles a bit with winning.
Here is the decklist:
Do you see problems? The first one is about too few powerful finishers. The Skies decks usually relied on creatures like Mahamoti Djinn or Serra Angel, or even Air Elemental as four-ofs. Here we have Alhammarret, High Arbiter and Soulblade Djinn, both as singles. I don’t count Watercourser since it doesn’t fly and practically dies to every blocker. I’d happily take two copies of Patron of the Valiant instead of this Thunderclap Wyvern.
The second problem with the deck winning more is its strategy. The decklist above is a mix of Blue-based Tempo deck (Faerie Miscreant and Watercourser (but without Jhessian Thief, which is strange) and traditional Blue-based Skies (Yoked Ox and Sigiled Starfish). When you draw cards relevant to only one of them, the deck performs smoothly and usually wins nicely. But when you open with Faerie Miscreant, Yoked Ox, Turn to Frog, and Charging Griffin, there are some creatures on board that ping an opponent for 1 in the air at best. Meanwhile, the opponent builds a scary-looking army of Elves or Zombies. And you have no mass sweeper to reset the board in your favour.
Enriching this deck means focusing on one of those strategies and maximizing it with creatures, or effects like counters, bounces, card drawers. It’s pretty straightforward, so playing with the enriched version provides much more fun than playing the stock one. At least for the deck’s pilot, because we all know how non-Control fans react when their third spell in a row gets countered.
An All-Star of the deck: Suppression Bonds. Especially when you put it on Kothophed, Soul Hoarder. It can’t attack nor block, but it still triggers getting opponent’s life lower and lower. This is how Good prevails over Evil.
For me, Take to the Sky deck is a B-, with a potential to go to B+ after changing a few cards.
These decks appear to be mono-coloured on the package, but in fact they are double-coloured. The choice was a risky one, because all used colours combinations are not easy to understand and to play. Golgari-GB is usually a weird fellow with graveyard triggers and interactions. Rakdos-BR looks like it has no plan of winning at all, other than throwing random rocks at opponents. A lack of attacking from Azorius-UW makes a player who is a non-Control fan getting bored after five minutes.
Flavour-wise, all three decks are good (Kothophed) or very good (Elves, Alhammarret). But playing-wise, they aim for different players. The most friendly is definitely Elves deck (Hunting Pack). Then it’s UW Skies deck (Take to the Sky), because it requires a bit of prior knowledge of Magic and a will to wait patiently for a victory. Then it’s the Kothophed deck (Demonic Deals), which needs a lot of changes and knowing of Magic before it can win consistently.
So, my recommendation is: Hunting Pack > Take to the Sky > Demonic Deals.
Community Question: Do you purchase Intro Packs when a new set is released? Explain.
Thanks for reading,