Magic: the Gathering Duels of the Planeswalker 2013 – Encounters Guide
The Encounters are back in Magic 2013 and that means single-minded AIs following patterns until you win or lose. These patterns will be the same every time, but keep in mind that they will still block and attack logically regardless of the pattern. Since this is a card game and you still have to draw cards normally in Encounters, it’s important to remember that sometimes you can’t win without the right cards. That’s perfectly fine, these may take a couple tries no matter how sound the strategy is. The first three are pretty simple Encounters so their solutions are pretty straightforward, but as you progress you’ll find these Encounters get more and more difficult (and more and more unfair), so we hope you’ll find this guide useful.
Also back are the puzzle challenges. These challenges dare you to solve intricate Magic puzzles with a very specific setup and solution set. You can find our solution set to those challenges here.
1. Disturbing the Nest
This is the first encounter, likewise it’s not too difficult. The premise is simple: one 1/1 white flyer every turn. Any that can attack will attack, ones that can’t will block, it’s pretty straightforward.
All you have to do here is be able to block the birds, this one should be easy. That said, the best deck for the job here is the Crosswinds deck. With so many flying creatures, you’ll be able to defend yourself easily. The other option is the Born of Flame deck due to the deck’s similar affinity for flyers as well as powerful burn cards.
2. Cult of Flame
While they have had many names over the years, ‘Plinker’, ‘Tim’, etc., the “Tap, deal 1 damage to target player/creature” creature always been a staple of the red mage. The “Cultist of Flame” card is typically scary because he makes all of your X/1 creatures dead, and that’s no fun. However, in this Encounter, the enemy will simply play one each turn, then each will deal 1 damage to you directly.
The solution to this encounter is almost the exact same as the one before it. However, in this case you’re going to start racking up damage exponentially as the game goes on, so unless you get luck with Crosswinds, the Born of Flame deck will be your best bet. Make sure you keep as many burn cards and flying creatures in there as possible.
3. Face of the Ghoulcaller
Every turn for four turns you’ll be forced to discard one card from your hand, and place the top of your library into your graveyard. This wouldn’t be a problem normally since the enemy doesn’t play creatures. However, on turn five he’ll play a card which returns a creature of his choosing to the battlefield under his control.
The key to this Encounter is his inability to deal with what’s already on the field. If you draw expensive or otherwise powerful creatures in your starting hand, you’d best draw a new one. That said, we’re going to take the Born of Flame deck for a couple of reasons here. The biggest reason of all is that this deck has burn (instants/sorceries that deal direct damage), that means if your enemy gets a powerful card from you, you can burn it to death. On top of that, many of the creatures are phoenixes which you can bring back from the graveyard once they’re discarded.
The best starting block with this deck will be any of the creatures that allow you to pay as much red mana as possible to grant +1/0 per mana spent. These creatures rely on only land to do damage, and will allow you to get some early pain in. Other than that, stave off the advances of the opponent-controlled creature and burn her to death; victory will be easy.
This is the first real challenge in the Encounters so far. Overrun is a very mean card, always has been, and this Encounter is all about Overrun. Here’s the turn order:
- Plays a 1/1
- Plays a 2/2
- Plays a 3/3
- Plays a 4/3
- Plays Overrun – grants all creatures +3/+3 and Trample
- Plays nothing
Ordinarily, turn five would be a very scary turn. All of those creatures math up to 22 damage with trample, which is pretty darn scary. However, we’re going to be using the Born of Flame deck, and with red decks comes burn! A 4/3 isn’t the most powerful creature in the game, yet it’s the most powerful creature the enemy casts, and you know when it’s going to show up.
The key is to destroy these creatures (or addle them, if you bring a different deck like Peacekeepers, for those of you who did the duel before the Encounters) before the Overrun turn. Also, prioritize the bigger creatures; save your more powerful instants and sorceries for the 3/3 and the 4/3. Lastly, block with any phoenixes you have since you can bring them back, and if you must double block (two blockers on one attacker) to bring down the more powerful creatures, do it.
5. Spiraling Mana
There are only a few “win the game” cards in Magic, and Helix Pinnacle is one of them. The goal here is simple, beat the enemy before they auto-victory. Each turn they’ll play an intricate combination of mean things: they’ll play a Cloudpost and a Wall of Vines. Wall of Vines is a 0/3 defender with reach (meaning it can stop flyers, but cannot attack) and Cloudpost gives additional colorless mana per Cloudpost. Helix Pinnacle allows the enemy to pay X mana to put X counters on Helix Pinnacle, if it accumulates 100 counters they win at the beginning of their next turn.
Guess which deck we’re picking! Guess… Did you guess Born of Flame? I hope so, because that’s what we’re picking. Unfortunately we can’t destroy Helix Pinnacle since it has shroud, but we can certainly destroy our enemy despite their crummy wall of walls. Now, we’ll need some key cards here to make this work, but that’s why it’s called Magic, isn’t it?
The key to winning this time is doing direct damage to the enemy player. Since they’ll win in about 8 turns, we have to shoot them to death before that. Now if you have the means to win with creatures by burning the walls instead (e.g. you’re drawing lots of powerful creatures and only a few burn cards) then by all means that works as well. Ideally, however, you’ll want to hope for (or just re-draw until you have) a creature which doubles your instant/sorcery damage. Another strategy is to simply have two or more of the “pay red, get +1/+0” cards. After whittling down the walls, eventually you’ll be able to hit for 5, 6, 7 etc. damage each turn.
6. Into the Mine
Magic is often considered to be a game of “kill the other person”, but there is another losing condition: if you attempt to draw a card with no cards remaining in your library, you lose. In this Encounter, we will deal with that very condition. It’s like beating a special sort of cancer, except this guide does not suggest you smoke marijuana (or have cancer). The pattern is much like the previous encounter: he’ll play a howling mine, then play defenders to stop you from killing him as well as countering your creature summons.
There are a couple of ways to beat this encounter, but we will be using the Crosswinds deck here. We will do this because Crosswinds needs certain kinds of cards to be effective, and being forced to draw so many cards helps achieve this goal. The idea here is to out-produce the enemy and overwhelm them with drakes. Since the enemy can’t destroy your creatures, only counter things you play, you should have no problem accruing a large enough force before you’re decked (run out of cards to draw).
A key focus here is implementing one of the oldest tricks in the blue mage’s spellbook. Plenty of cards in this deck “return target permanent to its owner’s hand”. While there isn’t much to be gained from that alone since the enemy will just play them again, the key is to follow up with a counter; any countered spells (all cards except lands are spells while being played) are immediately sent to the graveyard. In this fashion you can do one of two things: either get rid of walls, or get rid of the mines. We advise you get rid of the mines to slow down the cascade of cards you’ll be drawing, but if you’ve got a strong army on the field then by all means bulldoze the enemy.
7. Righteous Anger
Being burnt to death is never fun. In this encounter, your enemy will cast Lightning Helix, each turn for three turns after the first. This card does 3 damage to a creature (if you have any) or 3 to you, and heals the enemy for 3 health each time. It’s a pretty brutal card, only made worse by the Fire Servant she’ll play on turn 5, a 4/3 which doubles instant and sorcery damage. After this, he won’t cast anything for a turn. Then the cycle begins anew.
Peacekeepers, Crosswinds, and Born of Flame can beat this encounter with very specific strategies, the former two decks in fact use the same strategy. Born of Flame‘s strategy is simple: shoot them to death. Well not quite that simple. You’ll want to keep at least one of the fire-fuel for +1/+0 creatures around after the first volley of burns, but after that play as many phoenixes as you can. Save your burn cards for destroying the Fire Servant so you don’t get burned to death yourself and victory should be easily attainable. Since the phoenixes will always draw the attention of the enemy and you can just bring them back, you should be protected for life.
With the other two decks, the key is to play your weaklings out first and stock up on the “Put X amount of X/X tokens into play” cards. Use any sort of creature management (return to hand, exile, counter, etc.) to deal with the Fire Servant so you don’t get burned to death. Then, just attack like crazy! It’s that simple, even as your guys are dying one at a time, you should be able to overwhelm your foe.
8. Dragon’s Aerie
In this encounter our dragon opponent plays flying dragons which can be fed red mana to gain +1/+0. First a 0/1, then a 2/2, then a 5/5. These guys don’t mess around and can defeat you in roughly 5 turns or so if you’re not careful, so be prepared. You have a turn between each dragon being summoned where he’ll attack and feed as much mana to these dragons as possible. Luckily, these dragons are all he plays; no burn, no trample, nothing of the sort.
Since he’s all flying, we’ll have to take lots of flying creatures into battle to chump block until we can win. Chump blocking is blocking a super-powerful creature with a weak one. The best deck for this job, then, is Crosswinds. If you’ve been messing with your deck, make sure you have as many flyers (especially the Defender flyer) in your deck as possible.
Once you’ve got the deck it’s a pretty simple solution. To guarantee victory, you may want to draw cards and restart until you’ve got Talrand in your hand. From there, simply play as many flyers as you can. Save your counters and “return target permanent” cards for the 5/5. This is a pretty easy encounter considering how scary these dragons can get. Don’t be afraid to lose some guys chump blocking your enemies, and double or triple block as necessary.
9. Double Trouble
On turn three and every subsequent turn this evil opponent will play a Hydra. Hydras are not fun to deal with — ever. These guys cost X(green)(green). That X is their starting amount of +1/+1 counters. Every turn, the amount of +1/+1 counters they have doubles, and at 10 or more counters they gain trample. Eventually I’d imagine their heads would be so heavy, they’d just sink into the ground, but that is not the case unfortunately, so instead we’ll have to pacify them.
With pacifism! And exile. So bring Peacekeepers. This won’t be easy even with those cards, so if you have to do this Encounter a couple times that’s perfectly reasonable. However, there’s plenty of ways to deal with our enemies here, so we should be able to win this one. First of all, the +10/+10 threshold is very important. Playing Pacifism on the Hydras too early wastes the Pacifism. If you can’t kill the enemy, then yes pacify it, but there are also plenty of exile cards floating around in that deck.
The goal here is to win as quickly as possible using literally everything at our disposal. Use soldier tokens to chump block hydras early on, exile and pacify them as they get bigger, and use first strike to take them out as they attack. Remember, while they may be weaker (since they were just summoned) pacifying or exiling the newest Hydra means you’ll have nobody to block your attacks — this is your key to victory. As such, it is very likely your health will fall below 5 in this Encounter, so be prepared to take lots of damage. If the game goes on too long, it may be time to restart as hydras are starting with +6/+6.
10. Snap Judgments
Mass destruction is a strangely common concept in Magic. There are plenty of cards which kill everyone, or destroy everything, or otherwise make you go “Well sh–“. In this case, we’ve got Day of Judgment, a card which destroys all creatures on both sides of the field. To work around this, the enemy plays two 2/1 creatures who come back to the battlefield every time he plays a land. These guys gain haste if you hit 10 health or less. So don’t. On turn one he does nothing, on two and three he plays the two creatures, then on turn four plays Day of Judgment; repeat ad infinitum until you drown in damage.
This can be done a number of ways, but we’ve only done it one way: with a return to the Born of Flame deck! This time we’re taking advantage of the phoenixes to circumvent the gratuitous death caused by Day of Judgment. Lots of mana helps with that, so make sure your starting hand has plenty of land. You should be able to win quicker if you render them blocker-less, so take advantage of burn and creatures to simply do more damage to them than they do to you. It’s a race to the finish with this deck!
The other way to do this is with the Crosswinds deck. The solution is pretty simple (compared to the Born of Fire solution) but a bit riskier. You’ll need to have at least one counter or recovering from the Day of Judgment could be difficult. Since this deck comes with cheap 0/4s, they can easily block the 2/1 creatures, and all the drakes get a free pass for dealing damage. You may prefer this deck over the other if you’ve used it more.
You can also likely accomplish this with the Celestial Light deck by simply having lots of health and inexpensive creatures, but we haven’t tried this.