The Ajani vs Nicol Bolas Duel Deck is the eighth instalment of this popular series. Duel Decks allow players to battle out old hatreds (Jace vs Chandra) or champion one side in an age-long battle (Angels vs Demons). This instalment visits the Plane of Alara. Without giving a long history lesson, Alara got split into five shards, each shard missing two of the colours of mana completely.
This resulted in some idyllic, and some nefarious, worlds. Nicol Bolas, an elder dragon Planeswalker, was recently stripped of his world-destroying power, and now hunts for abundant sources of mana in an attempt to regain godhood. However, he is by no means weak, and is powerful enough to destroy all five shards of Alara if he is uncontested.
Ajani is a tortured soul hell-bent on vengeance after the murder of his brother. The vengeful Leonin embraces the power of the shard of Naya to do battle with the nefarious Nicol Bolas, who has been skulking in the shadows of the shard of Grixis. Can raw might and fury beat cunning and deception? Can one blinded by rage cause the millennia-old conqueror to stumble?
In a deviation from the storyline (Nicol Bolas was defeated by a slew of Planeswalkers, as he was too powerful to confront alone), Ajani must do solitary battle with Nicol Bolas.
Duel Decks make for great gifts because they are dual decks. Two 60-card decks, both armed with a Planeswalker and five rares each, are ready to do bloody battle straight out of the box. Fairly new to MTG and want to sink your teeth into something, or been out of the loop for a few years and want to start playing casually again? This duel deck is a brilliant gift, and you might even convince your significant other or a friend to play against you with these fairly balanced decks.
Ajani embraces the power of Naya (Red, Green and White) and pulls out some really fast, nasty creatures to beat down quickly and without pause. Bolas, has a slower, more devious approach, with the power of Grixis (Blue, Black and Red) and will appear to be on the back foot for the first few turns, as he repels the initial assault. Surviving up to this point can cause Ajani to change strategy and attempt to get the last few points of damage in with direct damage spells and Enchantments. His various life-gain mechanics also allow several of his creatures to get larger and more fearful, while keeping enough life to survive.
Sound like a drawn out, epic battle? This Duel Deck will often last way past turn eight, which is a refreshing change for most Standard players! The fight is long and hard, and both players will be equally fearful of the next card their opponent plays.
Those using the power of Grixis will relish playing Cruel Ultimatum, which can absolutely tip the scales from guaranteed defeat to a fighting chance, while the champions of Naya will love Titanic Ultimatum, as their already impressive creatures become engines of unstoppable destruction.
One of my absolute favourite Nayan creatures, the Woolly Thoctar, is one of the meatiest cheap creatures ever. This 5/4 for 3 mana is a great engine of destruction and a living wall, who really shines with any of the deck’s power boosting cards. Nicol Bolas, as to be expected, has a counter for it in the form of the Fire-Field Ogre. This mutant gets a hit in before anyone else, which could cause Ajani to halt his assault, which is not a good strategy.
Everybody loves seeing old cards get new artworks, especially when they are done well, and continue to convey the theme. I must say though, that Nicol Bolas won in this department, as his new appearance is fearsome, and his two other cards really convey the magnitude of his power.
Ajani and Bolas are itching for each others’ blood.
I can see how The Behemoth Sledge has been modelled on Ajani’s weapon, but it isn’t inspiring enough for me. Lightning Helix really shines though, and the expression of pure rage is near palpable on Ajani’s face.
Deep Analysis shows Bolas playing with an Icy Manipulator (another artifact in his deck), and to the right of that massive vortex in Countersquall you can see him again, charging the spell.
Some may feel that Nicol Bolas is too powerful for a deck like this. If you play him, you can use his plus three ability to destroy Ajani Vengeant. To be fair, if you leave the player alive long enough to cast his Planeswalker, you are probably going to die a miserable death. Using the powers of Grixis, if you are playing this deck and don’t feel like a git, you are possibly not playing it properly. I must say I find it strange that Blightning is not in the deck, but there are so many cards that would work well in this deck, and dual cards like Spite / Malice, Pain / Suffering and Rise / Fall, Grixis Charm and Profane Command effectively give Bolas more spells.
Ajani gets great synergy with creatures like Ageless Entity getting bigger with Ajani’s mantra, Behemoth Sledge and Loxodon Heirarch. I really enjoy the thematic link of Ajani’s deck, using Lions, Leonins and Nacatls to keep with his feral resemblance. On a side note though, three colour decks are a big gamble, especially in a deck with only three Mountains! Getting mana-screwed will slow you down, which is never a good thing.Â The set symbol for the duel deck is a great show of attention to detail. It has Nicol Bolas’ horns superimposed on the head of Ajani’s dire axe.
Given the cost of the deck, you get some really nice cards, but nothing that will cause it to become a sold-out, hard-to-find set the way that the Elspeth vs Tezzeret Duel Deck is.
Duel Decks are made for fighting each other, with counters to the other’s machinations, rather than competitive play. However, some collectors may want to pick this box up for the alternate art cards, or to bolster their collections.
If you want to have a lot of fun fights with decks that were made to kill each other, this Duel Deck is a great way to get your claws bloody.
Â Oh, and just to make sure people are readingâ€¦we have 5 sets of the Ajani vs Bolas Duel deck to give away.Â All you have to do is tell us in the comments which Wizards manufacture and distributes Magic The Gathering cards. Remember, you can stay up to date on Magic The Gathering in South Africa by visiting magicsa.co.za
Last Updated: September 8, 2011