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Which Shadows Over Innistrad intro pack is best?

Magic: The Gathering recently welcomed in the new set, Shadows Over Innistrad, and with this new release we have the ever present intro packs. Time and again people always ask which intro pacck is best, so I cracked open every deck, grabbed a friend and played tonnes of matches to see which one would be victorious!
magic

Ghostly Tide (White-Blue)

Ghostly Tide is the white centered intro pack with spirits as its theme. The deck features many, many flyers and is still surprisingly quick out of the gates with at least a turn two play every match I played with the deck. Featuring six removal spells this deck also somewhat easily took care of most bigger threats.

The weakness of the deck is most certainly the late game. With no real heavy hitters, mana dumps and scaleable creatures you really had to apply heavy pressure early on to actually win. If you go too deep into the game you’ll have almost no removal against your opponents bigger creatures.

Because of how slow most of the other intro decks are, you almost never need to rush out everything you have, and therefore I very much like ‘Vessel of Ephemera’ on turn two followed by a crack on turn three, then on turn four an ‘Apotechary Geist’ or a ‘Nearheath Chaplain’. Most decks just can’t handle this curve very well and you can often times easily sacrifice your own creatures since many of them has an “exile from graveyard” effect.

To make this deck better I would add some more card engine cards, like card drawing or better use of your graveyard, it’s all to help the late game!

Unearthed Secrets (Blue-Green)

Unearthed Secrets is the blue centered intro deck and has clues at its theme. The deck is somewhat slow out of the gates but when you’re past turn four or so you’ll never ever run out of cards again, and with a constant stream of threats you’ll most likely win. I was personally surprised to see how many clues this deck generates and how hard it is to deal with once its engine has gone off. It’s also extremely fun to play when every little move you make pays off in such great numbers and the clues are hilarious!

This deck does play as a combo deck, where if all pieces fit together nicely you’ll gain tremendous amounts of value every time you either make or break a clue. The weakness lies in those cases when your curve is uneven and you stumble early on. The deck doesn’t feature that many flyers and little to no removal whatsoever, which is a problem, so when you play you better have that sweet curve and combo off as fast as possible.

If I were to add something to the deck to make it better, I would go ahead and add some removal and interaction aswell as a bit more consistency, currently there are only one or two of almost every card.
Unearthed Secrets (Blue-Green)

Vampiric Thirst (Black-Red)

Vampiric Thirst is the black centered intro deck and features vampires as its theme, but you probably already figured that out by now! This is an extremely high tempo aggro deck with massive early life swings, and I mean massive, massive to the level of “this would be good in standard”. The deck revolves around the ‘Madness’ ability and uses its many discard outlets to do all kinds of crazy things, like lightning bolt your opponents creatures, or perhaps just cast a card for a ridiculously low mana cost, it’s all there!

It’s important to note that this deck is extremely fast and is able to deal an enormous amount of damage in only a few turns so your opponents creatures will more than likely have to be put on chump duty if they want to survive. This also leads to the deck’s weakness; you run out of cards in no time and then you’re left to top deck your way through the rest of the game. Often times I would run out of cards to play as early as turn four and with my opponent on something like 4 life left I felt that I had to crawl my way to the finish line and really string together an amazing flurry of top decks.

To make this deck better I woul go ahead and add something more than that one single ‘Macabre Waltz’ to interact with the graveyard, since so many cards end up in your own graveyard it becomes excruciating to watch as all of these cards go to waste with no reason to use them.

Angelic Fury (Red-White)

Angelic Fury is the red centered intro deck and features… well no real theme at all. It’s all a crazy mix of creatures, noncreatures, hound like creatures and despite its name, only one single angel! This fact makes the deck a bit boring compared to the other decks, it doesn’t really embrace the Innistrad theme well, everyone has been playing with vanilla creatures and burn spells before, nothing new there!

The deck itself is fairly aggressive and surprisingly consistent, out of all of these five intro decks I feel like this is the one you can be most sure of will actually work in almost every game. It also has a nice balance between early and late game and has a nice enough amount of burn spells.

What this deck lacks other than the general fun of playing with Innistrad themed decks is actually quite hard to figure out, but if anything I feel like the deck would perform better late game especially if it had some kind of combo and finesse with the interaction between the different cards. If I had to improve on the deck, the first thing i’d do is give it a theme, maybe something like humans would be a good fit, and would also give it a combo theme since humans is such a strong and thought out theme of this set.

Horrific Visions (Green-Black)

Horrific Visions is the green centered intro deck and has delirium as its theme. With a high average mana cost and such a diverse spread of cards you can expect this to be a powerful late game deck, almost unmatched. Once you get delirium running and a few cards like ‘Tooth Collector’ or ‘Obsessive Skinner’ the hardest part for you will be to remember all of the upkeep/end step triggers. On top of that I really get the horror spooks theme of the deck which is fantastic to me, so a big plus there!

So if you like late game domination and lots of thinking and remembering, this should be the deck for you. After all, who doesn’t enjoy playing long games of magic?

The weakness of this deck is however fairly big, I feel like delirium is unnecessarily hard to activate. The deck focuses so much on delirium being turned on and therefore when it isn’t, the deck can barely play at all. With such a high overall casting cost of your cards, your opponents can easily tempo you out of the game with no way back, so to have a really enjoyable game you need a perfect hand. So I would say mulligan with this deck is more effective than with the others.

To make the deck better I would start of by having a more consistent and diverse spread of creatures and non creatues, then lower the overall mana cost a bit, but if you like huge beatdown creatures, this is the one for you!

Let battle commence!

Now that we have gone through all the strengths and weaknesses of the decks as well as potential improvements, it’s time to look at how the decks actually played out! My friend and I locked ourselves in the YoreMTG Studio with some snacks and about 300 sleeves and started sleeving the intro packs up for dueling, our motto was to not leave the stuido until we had tried every available matchup, and then we got to work. After 30 total games we had our results set and our bellies were empty, but before looking at the results, lets walk it all through!

First off I piloted the Ghostly Tide deck against my friend who played with every other one, and boy did it seem to dominate! It took out the Horrific Visions deck with only minor struggles, then beat the Vampiric Thirst one without any real issue.

The vampire deck got me down to below 10 life each game but always ran out of gas and my spirits did the job well. Then it also went ahead and beat the Angelic Fury deck without much issue at all, the flyers were just too much for the aggro deck to handle, and the 1/5 cards really had their golden time.

Then suddenly against the Unearthed Secrets deck it got completely smashed, gaining an early advantage but soon failing to get in damage and the Unearthed Secrets deck gaining massive amounts of life with ‘Graf Mole’ and ‘Ongoing Investigation’. The triumph was over after an intense and really fun game!

So after that game, did Unearthed Secrets just smash the other decks? Well.. No not really, after that one game the deck continued on to lose against Vampiric Thirst after two really quick games. It then lost to both Angelic Fury and Horrific Visions after some quick games. It really seems like the clue combo is weak normally and you just need luck and time to assemble it, interesting!

After the fall of Unearthed Secrets we only had about three matches left, which would decide the true victors. So first of, Vampiric Thirst squared off against Horrific Visions and won without any complications (my notes said it was all over in a matter of a few turns and stood no chance with its first creature being played on turn three).

Then Vampiric Thirst fought against Angelic Fury and after a long and intense game the Vampires lost 1-2. The Angelic Fury deck managed to play out its creatures early and fend off the attacking vampires long enough for the deck to run out of gas, then it could trump its opponent with a flurry of creatures and combat tricks.

Last game was Angelic Fury vs Horrific Visions, a match in which the Green-Black deck once again couldn’t keep up with the fast pace provided by all the dogs and foxes of the Red-White deck, and after a flurry of removal spells and a big swingy attack the Green-Black deck was once again defeated.

Final standings after ten matches and 30 games:

Ghostly Tide (White-Blue): 3-1
Unearthed Secrets (Blue-Green): 1-3
Vampiric Thirst (Black-Red): 2-2
Angelic Fury (Red-White): 3-1
Horrific Visions (Green-Black): 1-3

So, which deck is best?

So judging by the final results we can see that the Ghostly Tide deck as well as the random pile of aggressive hound animals deck clearly performed the best, but does this mean you should only have to choose between only these two? Well of course not, many factors have to be included.

First of all we can draw the conclusion that white seems to be a very strong colour, the strongest of the bunch. This is interesting, but I can understand why. White has it all, flyers, aggressive creatures and a bunch of removal.

So, all in all if I had to choose one intro deck for being the funniest to play with, I’d choose Unearthed Secrets, it’s highly flavourful and does so many things that we all love so much, putting things into play, drawing cards, gaining life and so on!

If I had to pick the overall best deck I’d choose Ghostly Tides, since it has a theme and to me it is a better choice than Angelic Fury, plus I do love me some tempo instead of just some aggro!

Maybe you want to vote for which intro pack you like the most?

Thanks for reading this in depth post, let me know what you think in the comments! And remember that you can get 15% off your Deck Maniacs box by using the code “THIRE” in the checkout! Just head to www.deckmaniacs.com to pick up your Magic The Gathering monthly box!

Until next time
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Intro deck guide – Oath of the Gatewatch

With the new expansion set Oath of the Gatewatch, five new intro decks are also introduced.

These preconstructed decks, together with two boosters, are an easy way to start playing a casual and fun 1v1 game of Magic, or are great for starting players.

The decks are an excellent way to dive right into the new set, with new cards and a bit of flavour and lore around it.

I’m going to review all of these decks, find out the themes around them then let you know which one is my favourite!

Desperate Stand, Black and White

The first deck has a very clear title, and probably represents the inhabitants of Zendikar desperately trying to survive the Eldrazi onslaught.

A quick scan of the decklist reveals that this black and white deck focusses on the vampire ally lifegain theme. The new tap-ability Cohort also seems to be heavily present.

The two rares in the deck rely on your other allies to be a threat and both have cohort. ‘Drana’s Chosen’ is a four mana 2/2 creature with the new Cohort ability. It reads

“Cohort – Tap, tap an untapped ally you control: put a 2/2 Black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield tapped.”

Alright, not bad! Not that good either, why does this zombie enter tapped.

Tapped or not, you can generate a lot of zombie creatures to send towards the evil Eldrazi or your opponent.

The 3/3 creature ‘Munda’s Vanguard’ has the same ability, but instead of making zombies, it puts a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control, including any zombies of course. Nice.

These two cards will surely be effective, but we need more allies for this. Luckily, every single creature card in this build is an ally!

Other Cohort creatures gain and drain life. The uncommon card ‘Malakir Soothsayer’ even lets you draw a card at the expense of 1 life.

Speaking of life, you’ll probably be changing your life total die a lot with this deck. Besides tapping your own allies, lifegain and lifedrain is definitely a second theme in this deck, typical white and black stuff right?

‘Vampire Envoy’ gains life when you tap it, either by attacking or with your Cohort abilities. ‘Kalastria Healer’ from the Battle for Zendikar expansion has the Rally ability and every time you play an ally card, it should be draining and gaining life. All kinds of triggers happen when you gain life and play more allies.

The instants and sorceries are mostly different kind of removal spells, like ‘Tar Snare’ and ‘Gideon’s Reproach’. Nothing all that special here, but ‘Allied Reinforcements’ is worth a mention. It puts TWO 2/2 knight ally tokens onto the battlefield.

Very nice for Cohort, but also for your Rally which can be very strong in the right setting!

All together this deck seems like a lot of fun to play. You do have to keep in mind all your triggers and abilities though, else you’re not playing as efficient as it can be. However, this is a good way to improve your skills in Magic.

Another upside is that its effectiveness can be easily upgraded with more mythics and uncommons in the set.

If you find a ‘Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet’ in one of the two included boosters, put him in this deck for sure! It’s not an Ally, but his abilities are strong in this deck. Find some cool white or black cards in those packs to upgrade your strategy and also Be sure to check your Battle for Zendikar cards for more allies in this theme!

Twisted Reality, Blue and Colourless

It seems we’ve reached the blue Eldrazi and their weird, wonky way of living. A glimpse in the decklist shows me that these Eldrazi’s don’t mess around!

Flyers, creatures that can’t be blocked and bigass monstrosities rampage through the battlefield, tearing your whole boardstate apart. At least, that is what you want to achieve with this deck.

Let’s see what the two rares in this deck do. We have an Oath of the Gatewatch one, ‘Deepfathom Skulker’ and one we’ve already encountered in Battle for Zendikar: ‘Endless One’.

The Skulker is the real deal. A six mana, 4/4 devoid creature that draws a card whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player. On top of that, it uses the new colourless mana symbol in a very nasty way.

It takes four mana (including one pure colourless) to make any target creature unblockable for one turn. Very strong, very effective and very scary! ‘Endless One’ can be a pesky little 2/2 in the beginning of the game, but if you manage to find it later on in the game, it could very well become a 10/10 Eldrazi or even higher.

Besides an Eldrazi beatdown, ingesting cards (exiling top cards) is a subtheme. Battle for Zendikar creatures like ‘Mist Intrude’r and ‘Salvage Drone’, together with the new 2/4 flyer ‘Thought Harvester’ provide enough exiled cards to abuse with for example; ‘Murk Strider’.

However, looking at the deck, I don’t think it is ever possible to fully ingest a whole deck with this build.

It doesn’t have enough of that in it. It really is an extra thing that happens, instead of a win condition. Which is fine, but also a bit of a disappointment. MUST INGEST ALL OF ZENDIKAR!

The new basic land Wastes are featured in the manabase of this deck and makes cards like ‘Spatial Contortion’ very playable. But ‘Walker of the Wastes’ is really the card you want to put onto the battlefield in this deck.

There are two of them included and become stronger for each Waste you have. And they’re already a whopping 4/4 Trample for five mana!

The deck seems alright. Not too funky in my opinion but it’s easy to play and it basically comes down to playing creatures and attacking.

If you’re a starting player and want a deck that isn’t difficult to play, this is the deck I would recommend.

Still, there are enough tricks to pull off and so increase your Magic knowledge, which is always valuable.

Try adding more beatsticks like ‘Reality Smasher’ or ‘Endbringer’ in this deck-list and you’ll be eating away at your opponents life total. Fly away little Eldrazi! Fly!

Vicious Cycle, Black and Green

Life and death are very prominent in this deck and after a quick look, it does indeed have a knack for sacrificing and returning creatures. I think we’ll be using the graveyard a lot more than any other intro pack so far. Interesting.

Behold the rares! A massive 6/8 devoid Eldrazi called ‘Dread Defiler’ emerges above all the other creatures with an impressive body and useful ability.

If you pay four mana (one of that mana has to be colourless) and exile a creature card in your graveyard, you’ll let an opponent lose life equal to that exiled creature’s power. Wow, that can end games in a flash!

The other rare, ‘Smothering Abomination’, provides your sacrifice outlet and turns that into an upside, because of its drawing ability.

That, plus the fact it’s a 4/3 flyer. The two work really well together but you’ll need more creatures, beasts and bodies to feed this strategy!

Luckily, it seems this deck has just the right thing for that. ‘Blisterpod’ and ‘Carrier Thrall’ both leave an ‘Eldrazi Scion’ behind when they die.

Other creatures in the deck become stronger or use the dead creatures in the graveyard to turn them into creatures tokens, ready to kill the opposition!

There are three six mana creatures who all help with this suicidal colourless way of living.

‘Brood Monitor’ provides more Scions, ‘Baloth Null’ returns not one, but two creatures back to your hand and ‘Kozilek’s Pathfinder’ thrives on colourless mana.

The noncreature spells focus not only on removal, but help with returning and getting more cards from your library or graveyard as well. ‘Bone Splinters’ kills one of yours and one enemy creature, ‘Corpse Churn’ fills the graveyard together with returning a deceased creature and ‘Natural Connection’ helps finding the right mana.

I’m all hyped about this deck. This seems really cool and entertaining! Sacrificing your own stuff to kill your marked targets and ultimately not have any problems with returning them for a second round of slaughter, seems really enjoyable to play with over and over again.

‘Catacomb Sifter’ should be included in this deck-list and there are so many other amazing cards to add in here.

How about ‘Sifter of Skulls’? Or even ‘World Breaker’, if you are lucky with the two boosters that come with an intro pack.

‘Hissing Quagmire’ seems like a decent add to the deck as well too. Let your imagination go wild with this one! Yeah, this is probably my favourite!

Surge of Resistance, Blue and Red

It seems the name of this deck is exactly what it wants to do. Surge is the new mechanic in Oath that is used in this blue-red deck.

We probably won’t find any Eldrazi in this deck-list, since it represents another group of resistance striders against the Eldrazi. Goblins and mages stand together, surging their way to victory!

And Surge is decent, even if you don’t play in a Two-Headed Giant match. As the Surge-rare ‘Tyrant of Valakut’ demonstrates, it’s nothing to underestimate.

If you manage to cast the Tyrant for its Surge-cost of five mana, instead of seven, you’ll deal three damage to any target.

That, plus you end up having a 5/4 flying Dragon on the battlefield, ready to crush your enemy. The other rare is a sorcery called ‘Ugin’s Insight’. This also comes from the Battle of Zendikar expansion.

It has Scry X, where X is the highest converted mana cost among permanents you control. After the scrying, you draw three cards.

A support card, that works okay with the permanent spells you have cast with Surge, since that cost is often less than their own converted mana cost.

Hmmm, I wish they added ‘Jori En, Ruin Diver’ instead. That is the perfect card for a Surge themed deck. You’ll have to add this one yourself!

The creatures in this deck are actually pretty basic. They either have Surge, Flying or Prowess.

It’s beneficial to play multiple spells in one turn, to grow your warriors on the battlefield and also enable your surging warriors. ‘Goblin Freerunner’ and ‘Reckless Bushwacker’ really pack a punch, where ‘Windrider Patrol’ and the two ‘Jwar Isle Avengers’ fly straight over your opponents defenses.

This deck features the most copies of the same card than any other so far. Three different cards are included three times!

Besides the creatures, there are a few notable noncreature spells to keep an eye out for. ‘Anticipate’ and ‘Expedite’ both are cheap cards to draw and find more cards.

Use them wisely with Surge! ‘Pyromancer’s Assault’ rewards you directly with damage when you cast a second spell each turn. For only four mana, this could work pretty well!

Overall this deck could be very fast and dangerous. Although, I think it’s vulnerable when you can’t keep using Surge or drawing cards.

Then again, I do think the challenge of playing the right cards in the right order can keep you hooked on this way of playing.

Other cards in Oath of the Gatewatch that certainly have potential in this deck are (of course) ‘Crush of Tentacles’, ‘Wandering Fumarole’ and ‘Fall of the Titans’. There’s probably something interesting in the provided boosters.

Concerned Effort, Green and White

The first cards that I noticed in this deck were the same white ones I encountered in the other ally deck, but I saw green there as well.

The theme became clear as soon as I saw the rest of the deck. Supporting your creatures with the new Support ability with +1/+1 counters and simply smash into the fray, is the main objective. Sounds tough!

The rares embody this eagerness to crush. The new Oath rare is ‘Gladehart Cavalry’. One bigass 6/6 for seven mana and the immense boost in the form of Support 6!

I wonder if you ever have six other creatures on the battlefield, but supporting three or four other creatures also sounds good enough. It does not stop with that. It also has “Whenever a creature you control with a +1/+1 counter on it dies, you gain 2 life.”

The more you support, the better this card becomes. A real endgame finisher. If you find yourself against this Elf Knight you better find something to kill it with, or it will be hard for you to endure.

The second rare is from Battle for Zendikar, but has meaning in this deck. ‘Veteran Warleader’ (also featured in the Duel Decks:

Eldrazi vs Zendikar) changes when you play more creatures and you’ll need multiple creatures on the board, since you want to Support.

The other ally creatures you play can be tapped for a choice of three different abilities; First Strike, Vigilance or Trample. Together with some counters, this Human can be a real threat.

‘Relief Captain’ and ‘Joraga Auxiliary’ are the two best supporters in this deck I think and luckily, they are both included twice.

A lot of one, two and three drops are necessary to use the full potential of putting those +1/+1 counters on creatures. There are eighteen creatures that can be played on turn one, two and three.

That should do the trick. ‘Expedition Envoy’ is very aggressive, together with ‘Kor Castigator’. Yeah, this surely hits you hard, but does it hit hard enough? Without the right early game, this deck is in big trouble.

The sorceries, instants and enchantments all focus on removal or boosting your creatures even more. ‘Isolation Zon’e is a semi ‘Oblivion Ring’ and, besides being a very good card in limited as well, will surely help with your victory.

‘Lead by Example’ gives you some tricks in combat since it is an instant, where ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ draws a new card in exchange that it’s on sorcery speed.

This deck can be very effective, but I don’t like the lack of tricks. There is not anything exciting going on besides using the counters and attacking.

Then again, beating with your evergrowing creatures is something many players precisely do like. ‘Nissa, Voice of Zendikar’ is strong and synergetic in this deck, so if you have the luck of finding one, please add her to this list!

Maybe ‘Captain’s Claws’ can help you with more creatures on the field and ‘Wall of Resurgence’ is a good addition too. More creatures, with +1/+1 counters and defending your own life total. Perfect!

Final thoughts

And that are the five intro packs reviewed! I still like Vicious Cycle best, and if I had to choose and adjust one, that would be my pick.

Every Magic player is different though, so maybe you’ll like one of the others even more.

Thank you all for reading this review, if you want to add, comment or tell me something that’s on your mind about this, feel free to leave a comment!

 
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