The latest Magic premium deck, Graveborn, came out a few weeks ago, and it’s packed with graveyard filling goodies. They’re all decked out with special foil treatments, too. I’m just not quite sure who these decks are for.
Magic’s premium deck series is a pretty cool concept. They build a constructed deck using cards from across Magic’s history (except those on the reserve list), following a particular theme like Slivers or Fire & Lightning. Then they seriously fancy up the cards with a special premium foiling process that makes them far shinier and impressive than your typical foil.
Conceptually, that’s fantastic. I love the decks, and I love the sweet cards they put in them. I’m just not sure what they think people do with them. You can’t really play them against any other decks — they’d crush the average preconstructed theme deck, and even the other premium decks match up poorly. The Slivers deck is insane, and the Graveborn deck would obliterate Fire & Lightning.
The decks are a little too expensive to appeal to the casual player, so the typical person who buys one of these is going to immediately disassemble it and use the cards to jazz up their Cubes or Commander decks. Oddly, Wizards already has a product aimed at that market, the From the Vaults series. FtV sets are simple reprints with some new art and fancy foils — they aren’t built into decks, so you don’t end up with bizarre and unnecessary things like a pimped out premium foil Ebon Stronghold. It actually looks really cool, but who is ever going to use that?
Despite being puzzled at the market for premium decks, I’m glad they exist, and I’m super glad they made Graveborn. I love reanimator decks and this thing is a perfect example. It’s got a bunch of ridiculously huge, powerful creatures, a bunch of ways to send them off to graveyardland, and many cards that will bring them straight to the battlefield while skipping the whole pesky “paying their casting cost” part, which is only for suckers anyway. So you Entomb your Inkwell Leviathan on turn one, then play Animate Dead on turn two, then win. Can you see why these decks are horribly unbalanced compared to any other preconstructed deck product? Awesome, but honestly not a lot of fun around the kitchen table.
From the “I just want sweet foils for my Commander deck” perspective, these cards do look pretty sweet. Graveborn suffers slightly from the drawback that black cards don’t as good in foil as other colors — I always think they look a bit washed out, and I actually avoid black foils because of this. The premium foiling improves this somewhat, but they still look a little faded, particularly the card frame. On the other hand, there are a bunch of non-black cards in here that are mind-blowingly awesome. The foil Blazing Archon is a thing of beauty, and the premium foil versions of those Innistrad swamps with the graveyard on them look so good I want to buy 10 copies of Graveborn just so I can outfit an entire deck with them. I do wish they’d used the original art for Animate Dead. It’s nice to have a new version of a classic card, but that art is iconic, and it would have been great to have a foil version of it. The new art for Crosis, the Purger is really cool, though, and that should make Commander players very happy.
Graveborn also comes with a custom life counter, a spin-down D20 with the Graveborn emblem in place of the 20. The emblem is a skull, which also appears as the set symbol on all the cards. A skull D20 is very cool.
This is simple: if you’re in the market for some aesthetic upgrades to any of the cards in Graveborn, buying this will make your Commander deck or Cube extra special. Head over to the official Graveborn guide to see the full decklist and decide if there’s enough bling in here to make it worth your while.