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Duels 2013 Deck Evolutions – Kill It With Fire!

Flames of the Firebrand

I love me some Duels of the Planeswalkers.  I played the hell out of the first two, and this latest one is proving to be no exception.  In fact, this one might be more fun with the new Encounters.  Those things are a blast.  Since I don’t play all that much Magic (yeah yeah I know – “but you have two weekly Magic podcasts, how do you do that without playing?”  Think of sportscasters or something and you’ll figure it out), I really enjoy these games more than I probably should.

Because the game is so much fun and really helps kick my brain back into Magic mode, I wanted to exploit that for some content here on the site.  I mean, I thought I might give you some idea of how my brain works by explaining how I edited these decks as I unlocked cards.  To be honest, this is actually more of a writing exercise for me to get back into the groove of writing and thinking about Magic,  but hopefully you’ll enjoy it as well.  I really hope you do, because I plan on doing one for every deck in the game!  Possibly more than one for each deck, since there are a LOT of cards to unlock.  Let me know what you think.

I started off, as I have in all the DotP games thus far, with the burn deck that is unlocked at the beginning.  Here is the deck as it starts out.

Born of Flame

Land (24)
24  Mountain

Creatures (18)
Dragon Hatchling
Firewing Phoenix
Chandra’s Phoenix
Fiery Hellhound
Fire Elemental
Furnace Whelp
Magma Phoenix
Prodigal Pyromancer
Pyre Charger
Skarrgan Firebird
Torch Fiend

Spells (18)
Searing Spear
Chandra’s Fury
Flames of the Firebrand
Chandra’s Outrage
Flame Slash
Flame Wave
Rain of Embers
Ruby Medallion


As it starts it’s not bad, but it’s not especially good either.  I’ve personally never been a fan of so much firebreathing in a deck, because it forces you to make a decision between damage now and further improving your presence on the battlefield.  With a whopping seven firebreathers, I felt a little overwhelmed.  However, being attacked by multiple firebreathers will just make you curse.  A lot.  There really aren’t any good ways to handle it other than trading your creatures to kill as many as you can and eating the rest of the damage to the face.  There are pros and cons, so it’s really just a matter of personal preference.  I don’t like that many of them in a deck myself, so there you have it.

As for the rest of the deck, I basically enjoyed it.  Chandra’s Phoenix and the Firewing are both a lot of fun to play with, but there aren’t enough of  them in the deck for my tastes.  I find both Fire Elemental and Skarrgan Firebird…lacking.  Magma Phoenix kills lots of my creatures, that’s a bit of a problem.  Tom is always fun to play, and Hostility is completely ridiculous when it comes to ending games.

The noncreatures are a lot better.  I love Flames of the Firebrand.  A lot.  I think I might propose to it.  But all the burn spells are basically pretty good.  Chandra’s Fury is a little too niche for my tastes even if it is useful sometimes.  I’m not really a fan of Flamebreak.  Rain of Embers is one of those cards that just never seems to work for me.  All the rest are just fine.  My absolute favorite inclusion is the pair of Medallions though.  Holy crap they help a lot.  Being able to regrow and play the Firewing a turn earlier was a big deal far more often than I thought it would be.  Any time I could get both of the Medallions out early, the game was just over so long as I drew basically anything other than land after land after land.

Now bear in mind that I had the idea to write this AFTER I finished unlocking all the cards, so I don’t really have any insight into exactly how the deck was playing.  For future installments, I’ll take notes as I play games and unlock cards so I won’t have to go off of fading memories.  It just so happens that I found a list of the unlockable cards in the order you get them them.  I was able to piece it all together into a series of updates that were correct in spirit if not entirely factually correct.

One final note:  I decided for absolutely no reason other than the SEVERE time it takes to load the Deck Manager (what is this, 1992?) that I would not be doing any metagaming for these matches.  So I’m not going to put Rain of Embers back in when I’m playing against Krenko’s goblin deck.  I do want to finish playing at some point this year, so I’m just going to try to build the best, most well-rounded deck I can out of what I’ve got.  That may change with future editions, but that’s how I did Chandra’s deck.


1st Unlock: Magma Phoenix
Hey look, a five drop!  With evasion!  That means getting rid of a moronic vanilla guy (even though it’s kinda big) won’t be a problem!  So long, Fire Elemental.

2nd Unlock: Fire Servant
Sweet!  I love this guy in a deck with a sufficient amount of burn.  Of course, I’m going to then turn right around and remove a lame burn spell to make room for him, but still.  Rain of Embers is so incredibly situational that I have never liked it.  And since this is my deck and therefore my rules, out it goes.

3rd Unlock: Swiftfoot Boots
Seriously?  Is this deck based on creatures at all?  Well at the moment I’d say it probably is, but that’s not what I’m going for when it comes to the end goal for the deck.  I suppose I could use it to keep my Fire Servant safe from removal, but that’s just silly.  So the Boots don’t even get a chance to come in, because I’m just not going to give them a chance.

4th Unlock: Dragon Hatchling
Firebreathing is especially great with evasion.  Firebreathing is a little bit less great with haste.  Sure in the late game it gives you a sudden big dude, but in the early game it just seems lacking to me.  Come to think of it, I’ve never really liked Pyre Charger.  So I’m gonna replace him.  I might take the other one out in the next round too.

5th Unlock: Searing Blaze
Yup!  I like Searing Blaze, even though I seem to have a hard time drawing it when I have a land to play and a worthy target.  And since it’s multipurpose burn, it’s pretty great.  Rather than think too hard about it, I’ll just lose the other Pyre Charger like I said I would.  Take that, fast elemental guy!

6thUnlock: Chandra’s Phoenix
This is what I’ve been waiting for!  And I even managed to put in another spell that hurts a player, thereby increasing the value of the Phoenix.  I know I just put it in there, but that second Dragon Hatchling just doesn’t compare to another one of these.  Sorry cute little dude, you’ll grow up one day!

7th Unlock: Obsidian Fireheart
Holy CRAP I love this guy!  He’s a 4/4 for 4 that does crazy things for a long game, giving me a sort of inevitability that a burn deck really needs.  He’s also the perfect reason to lose the second Fire Elemental, which is still just big and vanilla.

8th Unlock: Inferno Titan
Really?  A titan?  My other favorite titan at that?  I love it!  There have been more than a couple cases where I didn’t want to play a Magma Phoenix, because if it died I would either be dead or completely screwed.  So maybe having two of those is a bit much.  Let’s put in this Inferno Titan who is ALWAYS AMAZING instead.  Sounds like a moderately decent idea to me.

9th Unlock: Cone of Flame
This is one of those cards that I’ve never actually played with more than…once or twice.  I think I might own one.  So let’s throw it in and see what comes of it.  You know what?  Having only one baby dragon in the deck just doesn’t seem that intelligent.  For a small evasive dude with an offensive combat ability, you’d think I’d want more than one.  And you’d be right.  So let’s go ahead and just take the other Dragon Hatchling out too, because he’s kind of silly by himself.

10th Unlock: Blaze
Sweet!  Another win condition, another creature removal spell, and another way to have some inevitability.  This is great.  Remember the reason I took out the Magma Phoenix earlier?  That applies to Flamebreak too, so let’s go ahead and take it out.

11th Unlock: Disaster Radius
One of the great things about this edition of Duels of the Planeswalkers is how they managed to squeeze in multiple directions for each deck to take.  Disaster Radius is one of those cards that belongs in a deck I’m not building.  For seven mana, I’m pretty sure I’d want a minimum of four damage to each creature.  I’m not really running enough creatures that cost enough to do this properly, so I’m not even gonna bother.  It would be pretty great in a Two-Headed Giant or Planechase game though.

12th Unlock: Earthquake
Sweet!  The only problem is that Earthquake is going to kill all my ground guys, even the ones that are doing the heavy lifting.  So let’s just get rid of them.  I’ll knock out the two copies of Fiery Hellhound and put a Dragon Hatchling back in.  That will help relieve me of some of the groundling dependency.

13 Unlock: Flames of the Blood Hand
Dude!  I LOVED this card back in the day!  There’s not much that was better than hitting an opponent with a Flames in response to their Loxodon Hierarch hitting the battlefield.  Or responding to a Lightning Helix.  So much awesome.  And since I’m slowly increasing my spell count, how about I just go ahead and get rid of this less-than-impressive Skarrgan Firebird?  It never seems to work out the way I want it to, and I have yet to bother regrowing it.  If it’s just taking up space in the deck, it can definitely come out.

14th Unlock: Chandra’s Spitfire
Ooo, that’s perfect for the deck I’m trying to build here.  Let’s go ahead and knock out that Dragon Hatchling I just put back in a few updates ago.  This thing can block better and can attack for 1 no matter how much mana I have open.  Plus sometimes it just goes BOOM and hits for some stupidly large amount.

15th Unlock: Flamebreak
You know, I took one of these out already.  And now I have Earthquake, which scales up or down to whatever I need.  I’ll go ahead and skip this one.

16th Unlock:  Fireblast
There’s nothing like four free points of damage to end a game.  And it can hit creatures too if I need it.  How about I take out that Chandra’s Fury to make room for this one?  Most of the time that one-damage clause doesn’t actually do much anyway.

17th Unlock: Red Sun’s Zenith
As much as I’ve talked about it since I threw it in the deck, Earthquake just hasn’t really done much for me.  I’m not real big on the sweepers in this deck for some reason.  You’d think I would be, but I’m always hesitant to play them unless I’m REALLY far behind.  I’ll just swap this in for it so I can avoid the cards I don’t seem to want to cast.

18th Unlock: Chandra’s Fury
Hey look, just after I take this out I get a third copy!  Guess that’s going right into the unused pile!

19th Unlock: Swiftfoot Boots
Another example of the game giving you options for deckbuilding.  I’m moving away from creatures for the most part, so let’s just leave this to the side.

20th Unlock: Searing Blaze
I’ve found that Chandra’s Outrage is just really expensive.  Four mana is quite the pain a lot of the time, so I decided to cut one for Searing Blaze instead.  Hopefully the landfall restriction won’t be too much of a problem.

21st Unlock: Fire Servant
Whenever I’m able to stick a Fire Servant, the game just ends more quickly.  Apparently being able to deal 6 with a single Spear is a good thing.  Who knew?  I’m going to remove Cone of Flame, because it is a large pain in my ass.  Needing multiple targets has caused me to ping my own dudes or even myself in an effort to wipe out my opponent’s stuff, and that’s just not cool, especially when it costs me said creature (stupid combat tricks).  So back out it comes.

22nd Unlock: Flames of the Blood Hand
YES!  I still love this spell with all my heart, and having a second copy just makes me all giddy inside.  Remember what I said earlier about not liking sweepers so much in this deck?  Yeah, let’s go ahead and lose the other Magma Phoenix already.

23rd Unlock: Chandra’s Outrage
Didn’t I just get done saying that this thing is just a bit too expensive?  I swear.  Let’s just leave this one on the cutting room floor.  Two is a good number.

24th Unlock: Obsidian Fireheart
A second copy of this guy makes me feel good.  He’s an efficient beater and a wonderful source of damage.  Let’s see…what do I take out for him?  Well as much as I love him, I’m going to have to remove good old Tom.  The Pyromancer is great and all, but there’s only one of him and I can never seem to draw him when I need him, only when he’s mostly pointless.  So it is with a heavy heart (but entirely without regret) that I send him on his way.

25th Unlock: Searing Blaze
Hmmm, I think two of these is probably good enough.  Especially since they’re pretty terrible without landfall.  No thank you.

26th Unlock: Cone of Flame
Having a second one of these might be fun.  But since I took the first one out for good reasons (to me anyway) other than its singleton status, how about no?

27th Unlock: Red Sun’s Zenith
Well this is just Blaze plus a nifty reusability clause.  So let’s lose it and keep two of these.  Good stuff.

28th Unlock: Flames of the Blood Hand
You have got to be kidding me.  I get three of these in a single deck?  SOLD!  Let’s go ahead and lose that last Chandra’s Fury, since this does the same four damage for two less mana.  Again, the pinging everyone on the other side is only good sometimes, whereas saving two mana is good all the time.

29th Unlock: Firewing Phoenix
I really like this guy, but I think having two of them is probably good enough since they’re so fragile and fairly mana-intensive to bring back.  That is definitely something that might change as I continue to play the deck though.

30th Unlock: Beacon of Destruction
Nice.  This has always been another of my favorite burn spells, probably because a single copy can be used over and over again provided you have a way to get it out of your library.  As the last card to remove (or so I thought), it took me forever to finally figure out what to remove to make room.  And it’s going to seem a little strange.  Okay, very strange.  I decided to take out one of the four copies of Searing Spear.  I know, I know, it’s the most basic and one of the most efficient burn spells in the deck, so why remove it?  Well…because I couldn’t think of anything better, that’s why.  My deck, my rules, remember?

So that’s that.  But wait, while I was in the process of writing this, VexingDevil over on our forums posted the various and sundry promotional unlock codes for new cards!  Well let me just enter those in and see what I get!


Promo Unlock 1: Worldfire
How about no.  Must be out of your mind, thinking I’m gonna play Worldfire in a deck I don’t have full control over.  I’m sure someone will play it and it’ll be awesome, and that’s great.  Let me know how that works out, I’ll have mine in the unplayed pile.

Promo Unlock 2: Flame Wave
I think two of these seems a bit much, especially given all the other stuff that currently lives at the top of my curve.  Stuff like…

Promo Unlock 3: Dragon Mage
Whoa.  A red mage’s best friend, this thing hits hard in the air AND refills your hand.  Sure it refills everyone else’s hands too, but I’m the BURN deck, remember?  In theory, this thing only has to hit once before someone dies in a fire.  I’m gonna leave it in and see how I like it.  As for what to take out…I think I’m finally going to remove the two Torch Fiends.  They’re only marginally useful and can easily be brought in if something is absolutely killing me.  So out they go, and I’ll bring back the Prodigal Pyromancer, because I really do miss that guy.  Pinging is in my blood, it’s part of my genetic makeup, and I love it.

Promo Unlock 4: Inferno Titan
Speaking of the top of my curve, hello Titan!  This guy is entirely too much fun and too much concentrated ass-kick to not run the second copy.  And as much as I love Fireblast, it’s really only useful as one of the last few spells of the game.  As a six-cost spell, it sucks a lot.  As a free finisher, it’s great.  Sadly, I never really seem to have it when I need it, but I keep managing to have it in my opening hand.  So let’s make that six-drop swap official!

Promo Unlock 5: Hostility
This is where I’m a little weird.  I really love Hostility.  It does wonderful things with the spells in the deck.  It’s a 6/6 with haste.  But for some reason, I just don’t want to run two of them.  Other than being a big dude with haste, he requires other cards in hand to be completely ridiculous.  Which is completely unlike Mr. Burnybeard in the paragraph above, who is just awesome on his own.  Next!

Promo Unlock 6: Furnace of Rath
No.  Definitely not.  It’s way too easy for this to backfire on me, and my luck is terrible.

Promo Unlock 7: Chain Reaction
Remember when I said I didn’t like the sweepers in the deck?  I don’t like sweepers that hurt me.  This doesn’t hurt me.  And it costs four mana, and it doesn’t care if they’re in the air or not.  But what do I take out?  Well I’ve been meaning to rethink my status on the Firewing Phoenix for a while now.  How about I remove both copies of Furnace Whelp and throw in the Reaction and the sidelined Phoenix?  That way I can maximize my chances of regrowing birdies.  Nothing like freshly regrown fiery birds to really make a day go by quickly!

Promo Unlock 8: Chandra’s Phoenix
Hey, speak of the devil!  I really love this one, and a third copy is great.  Let’s go ahead and swap this out straight for the one Chandra’s Spitfire, which is unfortunately not as good as I had hoped.  It gets huge on defense when I have a Fireheart out there burninating the countryside and it can occasionally explode all over everyone.  But “occasionally” isn’t really worth the slot in the deck, you know?

Promo Unlock 9: Sulfuric Vortex
This adds that sense of inevitability that I love so much, but it’s a little too symmetrical for my tastes.  Remember what I said earlier in the Furnace of Rath paragraph?  Yeah, same thing applies.

Promo Unlock 10: Lightning Bolt
Oh HELL YEAH!  I’ve missed my little three-damage-for-one-mana baby.  Oh it’s going in, don’t even think otherwise.  I know, I’ll knock out a Flame Slash for it.  But that leaves me with only one Slash, and that’s just silly.  How about I toss it out and bring back that fourth Searing Spear.  That gives me more versatility in my low-cost burn spells.  Yeah, sounds good.


So that’s the way my brain works.  Here’s the final decklist to make it easier for you to compare to the initial list.


Born of Flame (Chewie-Style)

Land (24)
24  Mountain

Creatures (15)
Firewing Phoenix
Chandra’s Phoenix
Fire Servant
Prodigal Pyromancer
Obsidian Fireheart
Inferno Titan
Dragon Mage

Spells (21)
Searing Spear
Lightning Bolt
Red Sun’s Zenith
Searing Blaze
Flames of the Blood Hand
Chain Reaction
Flames of the Firebrand
Chandra’s Outrage
Beacon of Destruction
Flame Wave
Ruby Medallion


And there you have it.  I have no idea if this is even remotely worth reading, but that’s the great thing about having your own site.  I’m going to do the next one of these DotP deck evolutions about the Talrand deck, and this will actually have some information about the games themselves.  That might make it a little more relevant.  But either way, I hope you enjoyed this look at the functioning of my brain.  Let me know what you thought!

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  1. Clayton
    August 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Very cool. I like the justification for each pick, and it’s also cool to notice how DotP lets you play with different themes even in the same deck. Would definitely be interested in reading more of these. Good way to spend a lunch break!

  2. Jonnie Cain
    August 9, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    As a fellow DotP player this was enjoyable to read, especially since I haven’t had a chance to play Chandra’s deck yet. I tihnk not playing the third Searing Blaze is a mistake that card is absolutely bonkers, but aside from that I agree with most of the choices.

    • August 9, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Ha! I read this in your voice!

      • Jonnie
        August 9, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

        I feel like this is a dig at my podcast going the way of Avant Card Show… =P

  3. PottsRox
    August 9, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Unlock #23, Chandra’s Outrage, links to Chandra’s Fury. Just a little nitpick for the otherwise entertaining feature.

  4. timswar
    August 10, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the list and justifications. Chandra’s deck is the one I have the second most trouble using (Talrand’s is first, I was surprised how easily I adjusted to Ajani and Liliana’s deck styles).

    Hopefully I’ll be able to grind through her deck without feeling TOO foolish!

One Trackback

  1. […] charting how the decks change as cards are unlocked.  After burning through Chandra’s deck last time, I needed a change of pace.  So I went with red’s polar opposite and picked up […]

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