Today I’m going to take a shot at predicting what the next walker versus walker Duel Deck is going to be. I think I know, and I’m going to tell you how.
While the duel decks have always alternated between “faction versus faction” and “Planeswalker versus Planeswalker” decks, for the longest time there wasn’t a real pattern to how the themes were chosen. Starting with “Izzet versus Golgari” and continuing onward from there, the fall set is a faction versus faction deck showcasing themes and cards from the upcoming fall block (this year’s “Speed versus Cunning” showing of a theoretical skirmish between two of Tarkir’s clans, the Mardu and the Temur) and the spring deck features two Planeswalkers from the block that will soon rotate, starting with “Sorin versus Tibalt”. I imagine that the Planeswalker duel decks are used as a way of establishing future story hooks by cementing a rivalry between walker characters.
In the case of the walker decks, there is one key aspect to the rivalry that we can use to guess at what the duel decks will be: It’s never based on the main story of the block. Sorin v Tibalt and Jace v Vraksa both feature duels that were not central conflicts of their respective blocks, and even earlier duel decks held true to this. Let’s look at where our Theros walkers are at to deduce what’s coming. I am going to assume that you’re familiar with Theros block’s plot, so if you’re not and want to be, I’d recommend that you go read the books first (Godsend parts I and II).
Elspeth and Xenagos managed to get themselves killed as a result of their animosity towards one another. Even if they are surviving in the underworld, they were part of the main conflict of the block, so we can rule them out. In the aftermath of this, Ajani seems to largely defining himself by his hatred of the pantheon, specifically Heliod. The only two left are Ashiok and Kiora, and I think that’s where Wizards is going to take us.
Let’s examine this relationship. Ashiok is a horrible monster that uses fear as a weapon and equalizer, traveling the planes in the name of its demented art. Kiora is a callous and indifferent foreigner, recruiting sea monsters from various planes to fight against the Eldrazi menace that ravages her homeworld, Zendikar. What else in the multiverse is as scary as Cthulu-Galactus? Ashiok would be prone to agree, and would surely love to harvest some of Kiora’s nightmares for its benefit.
Mechanically, Kiora would probably be a blue-green deck that uses bounce and ramp spells to last long enough to stick some enormous sea monsters in play. I imagine that Ashiok could have a milling theme, a lot of the strongest mill cards are blue and black, or have a lot of cards that take advantage of the opponent’s resources, which would be very dangerous against a deck full of fatties.
If we were to get into specifics, I imagine that all of Kiora’s threats should be things that wouldn’t be bounced by Whelming Wave. She might also have Whelming Wave and Quest for Ula’s Temple to enable such a strategy. Simic Sky Swallower is the poster child for this sort of effect. Isleback Spawn seems like a good inclusion, particularly if Ashiok were to go the mill deck route. A variety of lower rarity sea monsters could fill up a lot of the lower powered bodies and generally being less swingy. I doubt there will be anything with Islandwalk, because they like the duel decks to be balanced, and something enormous like Stormtide Leviathan or Inkwell Leviathan that can’t be blocked ends the game in a hurry.
For Ashiok’s deck, I forsee a lot of offensive library manipulation. Exiling and discard themes a plenty, with a focus on creatures that are Nightmares or Horrors. Given that Ashiok mills, I could see R&D going the mill route, which is something they’ve never done in earnest in a duel deck, and something that blue black excels in. Glimpse the Unthinkable (which is vastly overpriced at the moment), and to a lesser extent Mind Funeral, are powerful mill enablers that could really use reprints. Nemesis of Reason mills for a ton, and has the added irony of being a sea monster which would render it immune to a theoretical Whelming Wave.
What do you think of my reasoning? What sort of cards do you think would show up in such a duel deck?