SpartanNerd…Dragons of Tarkir insights

Sorry I haven’t said much about it folks.  I played in the pre-release two headed giant event at the Tangled Web with the SpartanKid, and we beat some good players.  But as a whole, I felt I had never been as hosed as far as cards were concerned.  Neither he nor I had a Dragonlord.  And I saw (and defeated) one Narset Transcendent at the event.  We didn’t place, however.  So it was sort of like we walked away with fifty dollars worth of “bulk cards.”  When we got home, I took all of the black cards, and gave the rest to him.  That’s how sad it was.

Our pre-release two headed giant strategy was SpartanNerd as the control player, SpartanKid as the aggro player.  I put together a five color deck.  This opened all of the options for me, and I was able to play cards in every color during each match of the evening.  The SpartanKid put together a blue and white beat-down deck.  (That’s what he wanted it to be…)  And I covered him.  Oh yes…he insisted on playing “Blessed Reincarnation.”  This was described as “jank.”  But then we beat the person who said that, so….

I drafted this past weekend, (on Dragons release day at the FNM.)  I also didn’t get any significant cards!  What’s up with that!  Still, I broke the top eight and took home a pack.

I decided to draft Grixis (Black Blue Red).  My first pack had a big green monster.  I passed it for some black card.  At the end of the day, I still had three rares, so it came out fair, I suppose.  One of the stars was “Living Lore.”  This guy was great!  I passed my second  rare “Volcanic Vision,” a big red sorcery that should have been unplayable, and it came back to me with only white and green cards as its mates.  Guess what card made Living Lore work?  He became a 7/7, with the upside of getting to be sacked and casting “Volcanic Vision.”  Just sick, really.  I also used exploit whenever I could, and targeted things that gave me card draw, my favorite being Jeskai Sage.  (I generally hate prowess.  But it made him into a threat.  And then when I sacked him, I drew a card.  GREAT!)

The reason I have such a bad taste is because the set Dragons of Tarkir is SO POWERFUL.  But I don’t have any commands.  Not many minor dragons (which generally suck), or dragonlords.  I do have some of the uncommon dragons, just none of the big guys.  I don’t even have a copy of the new Durees!  This means I have opened nine packs and pulled just about zilch.

I have a ton of cards on order to rebuild the Liliana/Waste Not deck.  The card I am looking forward to the most, I think is Kolaghan’s Command.  For three mana, I get to choose from my four favorite things to do at instant speed.  But the big one is DISCARD AT INSTANT SPEED, WITHOUT KILLING BLACK CATS!  The Wizards seem to be promoting Waste Not style decks in printing this, and if my cards arrive by this weekend, I will be playing them in Standard.  Another card I have on order is “Damnable Pact.”  I’m hoping the card advantage will come easier playing this.  I have two copies of Dragonlord Silumgar on order, and I need to figure out how to work the “take control of their creatures” angle.  I also have Kolaghan on order, and think it might be awesome to pair her with Ob Nixilis, Unshackled.  (Break their creatures and their fetches.)  Still, I might keep it simpler, and leave the Dragonlords out in favor of Lava Axes as finishing moves.

SpartanNerd Vintage Comic Review…He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1 (DC 1982)

I picked up this book last summer for $10 at a comics store at Myrtle Beach…It has remained sealed since I purchased it on vacation at Myrtle Beach last summer of 2014.  Here is a pic of the cover, in its sleeve, with the price tag attached.  As far as I know, outside of mini-comics, this is the first ever strait-up He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comic book!  It was printed by DC in 1982.  I’ve never read this book before…I’m going to break the seal and replace the bag and board.  Might as well read it!

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I must say, this book has some physical signs of oldness.  There is some discoloration on the pages, and maybe some mold or mildew.  As I read through, My eyes felt itchy.  Who knows…maybe its been in that sleeve since 1982?  I didn’t cause any of the damage…this book has been sitting in my nerd closet in a display thing.  I moved the whole thing to my office at work last week.

The subtitle across the top, “To Tempt the Gods” is what really caught my eye and inspired me to read this one.  As I started reading, I realized how I was thoroughly enjoying it, and decided I would begin this feature on SpartanNerd.com   And I have lots of vintage comics, so….
The cover art leaves a little to be desired as MOTU art goes.  This isn’t Earl Norem, sadly.  But it is a #1, and if I’m not mistaken, the first newsstand title for MOTU ever.  (Besides the elusive Justice League etc backup stories that featured MOTU a few months prior…a warmup for what DC was going to be doing!)  (And are still doing…if they only knew!)
I’m going to discuss the ads here as well.  They are almost as enjoyable as the comic!
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This LEGO ad seems so different from what LEGO does today.  (No minifigs, no special branding, a kid prominently featured, having built something.  This was from the Expert Builders series.  Seems serious!
The introductory page features…wait for it…Teela with blonde hair!  (Battleground Teela…I suppose!)  If you look past the colorful figures of Teela, He-Man, Battlecat, the Wind Raider, and Stratos, you can see the outline of Skeletor.
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More skin on the next page…the middle of the page shows a scantily clad royal lady partying down.  It is interesting how midieval Eternia is portrayed.  Randor has gray hair, and is sitting at a table while watching the party.  Man-at-arms is beardless, just like his action figure.
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We get our first appearance of Prince Adam on page 3.  He’s wearing blue!  Randor and Man-at-Arms have been bashing his lazy character, and we see that he has been with a lady friend!
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Page four we get some reminiscing…in this story apparently Marlena did crash on Eternia when on a space mission from Earth.
There is a Bubble Yum ad.  “It’s longer lasting!!!”  “It’s smoother and blows great bubbles!!!”  I promise after I read this ad, I felt like hopping to the gas station to try and find some Bubble Yum!
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Behind that ad is another interesting ad.  “Saturday Sept 25th is PAC-MAN day on ABC-TV!”  We get multiple spots…all of these were cartoons evidently…actually I’m not sure.  I remember Pac-Man and Richy Rich.  But didn’t know about the Little Rascals cartoon, or Mork and Mindy with the Fonz, or The Puppy’s New Adventures.  (I do remember Scooby and scrappy). I remember watching Mork and Mindy and Laverne and Shirly.  But not as cartoons.  I think it might have been too difficult or strange for them to put a screenshot in the ad, so they instead drew the characters.
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The next page features some edgy script.  “GODDESS!  Demons and monstrosities from hell…attacking me!”  I like how Adam says he has been keeping up his teenage rebellion facade to hide his identity.  It reminds me of the 200x series.(Filmation eluded to this too, but not as heavily).  Speaking of Filmation, this Cringer can talk!
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Turning the page presents us with a never-before seen transformation.  Adam and Cringer run into the Cavern of Power, and this triggers their transformation into He-Man and Battlecat!  (How come I never heard of this before?)  I would like to point out a tremendous hole in the plot.  What happened to the demons?  How were Adam and Cringer able to escape to the Cavern of Power.  On the page earlier they were talking to each other under the bed?  Weird!  Anyways, this is our first real glimpse of Skeletor.  And the MOTUC folks of today absolutely nailed the Alcala head.  It looks exactly like it jumped off the page of this comic book.  (I don’t have the head, so I can’t include a personal photo.  Sorry!  I do have the most recent Masters of the Universe comic alternate cover that has Skeletor sporting this head.)
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I love the way He-Man talks!  “Speak to me the TRUTH ‘ere my Battle Axe finds a place to rest ‘twixt your foul eyes!”  On this page He-Man refers to Skeletor as being from Hell again.  There is also some more banter about the Goddess.  Skeletor has her captured, and intends to get the two pieces of the power sword to open Castle Greyskull (this is how the comic spells it!).  He can then be king of Eternia.  Notice that the Goddess appears to be Teela with a snake mask on.  Anyways, I have always heard about people protesting Masters of the Universe in the early days, but never witnessed that or anything.  Reading what was printed here in this comic in 1982, I can see why!  Conservative Christians would have had a big problem with the fantasy side of He-Man as presented here.  And they would have said it was a way to target and corrupt the young children.  As an adult reading this, I am feeling highly entertained.  I don’t know if it is only the “He-Man-ness” of it all.  Or if I find it entertaining the same way as if I was reading Thor or Conan.  If my parents bought me this book as a four year old SpartanNerd, I wouldn’t have been allowed to read it.  I believe as a comic book, it was being aimed at the Dungeons and Dragons/Iron Maiden crowd.  But another part of me thinks it was written for children.  The toyline, the ads in this book.  Would I have let my four year old read it?  No.  I believe the nine-year-old Magic the Gathering/Final Fantasy loving SpartanKid could handle it.  (But wouldn’t be interested.  He reads Mega-Man and Sonic the Hedgehog comics…both of which are clean as a whistle.)  The Thirty-Six year old, liscenced minister SpartanNerd isn’t offended at this work as it stands today in 2015.  That’s what I have to say about it, if anyone cares!
Anyways, enough of that!
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The next page details some of the fight between Skeletor and the Goddess.  And we are interrupted by another ad.  This time for Lifesavers.  It is an ad with a maze to work.  Reading that ad makes me remember Christmas.  He-Man and Lifesavers.  Two things I seemed to always have at Christmas!
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The page after the ad shows how the fight ended.  The Goddess banished the sword to some dimension.  Skeletor was really mad.  So he PUNCHED HER IN THE FACE!  Then captured her.  The following page has He-Man charged by Skeletor to find three talismans.  One of the Sea, another of the sky, and another of the cosmos.  These three things supposedly will lead He-Man to the power sword.  Skeletor also can keep his eye on He-Man mystically…his floating head talking in the air reminds me of the 1987 movie, where Skeletor did the same thing.  And I can’t help but think the writers of that film were inspired by this scene.
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This book keeps surprising us!  The next page we see Zodac having some internal struggle.  he decides to wait and see what he is supposed to do.  Even here we see the dual nature of Zodac and his modus operandus.  I like the way he muses about Skeletor and He-Man, and he says that they are polar opposites.
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As the story continues, it is interesting to see that the guards do not recognize He-Man!  Teela has to intervene!  And He-Man says to himself, “Never before have I been in their presence as any other than their carousing son, Adam!”  So this was the first meeting of Randor, Marlena, and He-Man.
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Then we get a DOUBLE PAGE AD!  “STARCADE  Saturday Morning Megafun on CBS.”  Besides the loony toons characters, I don’t remember these cartoons.  It is interesting that Gilligan’s Island had an associated cartoon.  At the bottom, you get the schedule.  Notable is Backstar at 1:00, another Filmation show associated closely with He-Man!
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After the megafun mega-ad, He-Man says something startling about the situation of meeting his parents.  He says the same thing we’ve all been wondering all these years…”Save for my garb, what is there to prevent their recognizing me as the heir to the throne?”  Wow.  He-Man bro the fourth wall sort of!  The battle on the facing page in defense of the wizard Tarrak contrasts the fighting styles of He-Man, Battle Cat, and Teela quite nicely, Teela using a gun, He-Man his axe, and Battlecat pouncing and using his claws.  Since they are fighting “demons from hell” no big deal in killing them right?
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On the next page we have the famous image of Battleground Teela.  I believe this was used on her bio on the packaging.  When Man-At-Arms joins in on the next page, notable is the word “THOK.”  He-Man is messing up a demon!  And the battle ends with smiles and happiness!
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Another ad!  New from Remco toys.  “SGT. ROCK playsets”  The the way this toy looks in the artwork reminds me of The CORPS.  You know, the generic version of GI JOE.
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He-Man gets mad and hits the table.  Out of character for his later stories.  And this makes me wonder who else might be after the constellation talisman?  Not Hordak, this early in the career….probably Zodac.
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Tele says something especially original on the next page.  “Deeds’ Chain!”  Another thought.  I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of Tarrak before?  On the next page, we see Avion.  So it looks like Stratos’ story was developed this early.  However it appears that everyone here isn’t of the same species as Stratos.  That’s a different touch.  Several things that look like Beastman’s now attack!  The book explains on the next page that these are Beastmen.  This is a similar concept to what we saw in the Sir Lazer-Lot One Shot.  And I can’t help but think Geoff Johns was inspired by this page.
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Another ad follows…Star Frontiers.  Reading this, I gather it is a D&D knock off, with a science fiction twist.  I don’t recognize TSR The Game Wizards brand.  That bears researching, I suppose.
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The Beastmen follow Stratos into the air on the backs of dragons on the next page.  Tarok makes Stratos invisivble on the next page.  I think it odd that Stratos was able to fly to Eternia so quickly…I’ve heard arguments that Eternia must be a small planet.  This book seems to think so, or Avion is really close to the Palace.
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On the final page of this action packed story, Stratos finds safety with He-Man, Teela, and Tarrak, and He-Man seems to rip that amulet from Stratos neck and shout, “This is one of the Talismans!”  (in my translation.)
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Four ads follow this page.
An ad for a comic called “Camelot 3000”  There is a hand holding up a sword gleaming with energy. reaching out of a pool…I gather the Lady of the Lake holding Excalibur.  But it is interesting that this image appears in a He-Man comic book.
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A toy offer for “Tough Wheels.”  and “Burnin’ Key Cars.”  This toy was manufactuerd by KidCo.  Something else I don’t recognize.  One of the few ads to have photographs in it.
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An ad for Milk Duds, Clark, and Zagnut.  Interesting that Zagnut is mentioned here…this is the candy bar that was recently shoplifted by Plastique in DC’s weekly (and wrapping up) Futures End.  You could mail in some wrappers and get a headset radio.
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Finally, WOW!  They’re Out of this World Super Heroes Character Time Sticks, Time Capsules, and Watches.  I don’t know what Time Sticks and Time Capsules are….Oh yeah…a description.  Time sticks are ink-pens with a watch build in.  Time Capsules are some kind of sticky watch face that you can put anywhere.  The Wonder-Woman watch here does look nostalgic to me.  And these are digital items.  So 1980’s!  These seem to cost a lot of money for 1982…the pens were $8.00.  That’s like $20 in today’s money!
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Hopefully, oh Hub City Geeks, you have enjoyed reading my summary and commentary of this classic book.  Here’s what I like and what I don’t like about it….
The art is OK.  It’s not McFarlane, but it is good for its time.  Teela can be seen in the same pose a few different times, which is odd to me, considering this was art done the old school way without computers.
It is refreshing to see Blonde Bombshell Teela.  I am convinced that the Skeletor and He-Man presented in this book are actually different characters than what most people, including me, know and love.  They just aren’t the same as the Filmation version.
I don’t like the “small Eternia.”  I don’t like that in any media.
I do think this book pushed the edges a little bit for young children.  Aside from the demons, the word “Damnation” also was uttered.  A little too edgy for the four and five years olds.  Maybe not the ten year olds of today, but of 1982, probably so.
I like how this book has echoes in other media.  The reference in the live action movie to Skeletor communicating as a head in the sky.  The Beastmen.  Avon became a regular stop in the Mike Young cartoon.  Yes…this was an influential comic.  Why the Cave of Power?  I don’t know.
I’m glad to own a copy of this piece of history.  I won’t bother giving it a rating.  If you want to know my rating, you should read this entry on what I consider the “Gold Standard” of comics.
Good Journey, and keep reading!

SpartanNerd….Dragons of Tarkir anticipation!

Sorry no blog entries for awhile, Hub City Geeks!  I really just haven’t had anything to say…

Dragons of Tarkir is set to be a HUGE set.  And brings a lot of power to standard that I haven’t seen since I began playing.  This set has COMMANDS!  (two drop cards with four choices…sometimes with “X” values.  “Cryptic Command” is the most famous one from the past.)

OK.  And there are tons of DRAGONS.  Still, Silumgar (spelling?) seems to be my pick.  But most of the black dragons appeal to me.

Liliana’s deck is getting some great new stuff…DURESS IS BACK.  The cool thing is the art shows Zurgo about to be eaten by a dragon.  Duress is decidedly superior to Despise.  Right now I am testing Liliana with two copies of Despise and two copies of Duress, and thinking I may side in Durress against control players and despise against aggro players.  Also Gravepurge is back.  We get a new sweeper reminiscent of some of the demons in Divine vs. Demonic with Deathbringer Regent.  Then there are lots of new tricks to try out.  Cards with Exploit allow you to sac something upon it entering the battlefield…creating effects.

I intend to play in a sealed event next weekend.  I will let you know what goes down, readers!

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Masters of the Universe Classics “Snake Armor He-Man vs. Battle Armor King Hsss” Two Pack

I always wanted to have Snake Armor He-Man from the 200x line.  Unfortunately, I’ve never seen one in stores, and apparently it only was sold in Europe.

When Mattel revealed the MOTUC version, as a double pack with 200x King Hsss…I was very surprised.  Here is a company that has consistently said they weren’t going to do “anime stylized” figures.  I, like everyone else interested, watched Pixel Dan’s video review…and I knew this would be my next purchase.  Then came the big news of a 200x subscription line…I am still deciding on that.  But I am very glad to know that they are visiting that old line and bringing new figures from the show that were never released, like Ceratus and Calix.

I ordered this as soon as it was available on February 16, and today it arrived on March 2.  Not so good.  Not that the amount of time the shipping took has anything to do with the value of the figure, but it is kind of a bummer that it took so long.

Anyways, on with the review!

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The toys arrived in this mailer box.  Similar to what we have seen in the past.  You can see the names of the figures prominently on the front.

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Removing the inner box from the mailer reveals this packaging.  It is similar pakaging to what we got with the Palace Guard two pack.  There is a Snake Men sticker conspicuously on the blister bubble.

Flipping the box over…wait a minute.  (sniff sniff).  What’s that (sniff sniff) smell?

I’ve heard of new car smell.  And there is/was a blog or show on the web “That New Toy Smell.”  But I never actually smelled a new toy outside of a toy that was supposed to smell.  And I have to say, it isn’t very pleasant.  It is a strong smell, that overcomes the packaging.  I heard complaints on Roast Gooble Dinner podcast about some of the new plastic Mattel using smelling “like urinal cakes.”  I wouldn’t quite describe this smell as that bad.  It smells of chemicals, though.  And like new paint.

Onto flipping the box.

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We get some pictures of other snake men in the line, notably Tongue Lasher, my favorite Snake Man…until today!

The bios are interesting, and you can read them on your own time, Hub City Geeks.  I am just throwing this packaging away.  (As I type this, I am looking at the two figures on my kitchen table, and they continue to smell funny.)

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Both figures are MAGNIFICENT!  The sculpt of He-Man’s armor…what they’ve done with the concept is incredible!  And there are lots of tiny details.  He-Man is one of those figures I could stare at for a while and keep finding new things.  King Hsss likewise, has a remarkable sculpt, and this time, they adapted the 200x look into his Armor instead of making a new buck, or whatever.  Both figures feature loin cloths reminiscent of the 200x time period.  King Hsss comes with a snake staff and a shield, just like the older version…

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No shoulder swapping has been done to the new King Hsss!  The older version has a certain nostalgia, but the newer version carries Egyptian details.

He-Man has received a new head sculpt, and this is what has people excited the most about getting these figures, I think.

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No more fish-head haircut for He-Man  Notice that there is a sword holder on his back, designed to hold the 200x sword!

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He-Man also has the claw accessory that was prominently featured in the cartoon.  It just clips right into his gauntlet.

He-Man and King Hsss have all of the articulation of other MOTUC figures: Ball jointed head, ball jointed shoulders, bicep swivels, rotating wrists, an ab crunch, rotating waist, ball jointed legs, knees with a hinge, and rocker ankles.  Neither figure has a boot cut swivel, but that is generally unnecessary.

King Hsss’ head swivel is hampered by his headdress a little bit.  Otherwise, all of the joints feel tight and the figures stand very nicely.  I would like to point out that the loin cloth on both figures hampers their ability to ride on a steed…He-Man can’t properly ride Battle Cat (if you happened to get Battle Lion and armor swap.)

You can remove King Hsss torso and swap out with the snake form from the previous figure.  Mattel is promising a 200x snake form to be packed with a different figure.   I feel that the older snake form looks like a buck-toothed rabbit.

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You can try trading He-Man’s head sculpt onto different figures, and vice versa. You can make a truly 200x regular He-Man now if you have King Grayskull’s armor.  Or you could take the armor off of the 200x He-Man, and use that…it fits the classics figures just fine.  (I don’t have these options available, sadly.)

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But putting that 200x head on Prince Adam looks SWEET!  He looks like some kind of model, don’t you think!

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Here is a COMPARISON TIME:  Wolf Armor He-Man 200x and Snake Armor He-Man MOTUC

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Hsss’ staff and shield are given to us in muted colors this time.  I especially like the staff in this color.  It looks extra evil.  And the darker colored shield is also better than the brighter shield we got before.

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He-Man’s sword is the same as the other swords we have from 200x, but this time the cross on the hilt is highlighted in black.  Some things are lacking in this department for He-Man.

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Sure we have awesome new armor…(incidentally, non-removable armor).  But Snake Armor He-Man needs a snake shield.  He also needs a sword that can open up to fire the power of Grayskull at Serpos, like we saw in the final episode of the 200x series.

So what’s my rating?

I had a blast coming up with cool poses for each figure.  They look absolutely awesome together.  My favorite thing is the action pose you see above, where He-Man is fighting King Hsss.  This armor lends makes you believe this figure is a real snake fighter!

But no way around it…I have to take off some for a couple of reasons.  We didn’t get all we need with these figures.  King Hsss missing his alt mode.  He-man not having a transforming sword or a shield.  And then there is that smell.  That has to be enough to really effect some people’s fun.

But the positives really outweigh the negatives.  The sculpts are amazing.  The customizability that is opened up with these figures is also very nice.  The figures are fun to play with and look at.  I can’t say enough about all of the details.  The paint is very intricate as well.  This has to make up for some of the bad.

So I am going to rate this set a solid 3/5 or a cautious 4/5.  If you are a fan of 200x, or just the snake men in general, then this product is for you.  I mentioned above, this sculpt of King Hsss has promoted him to my favorite snake man.  And I really like the part swapping options opened up with the new 200x head sculpt.

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic the Gathering Duel Decks “Elspeth vs. Kiora”

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Once again, the Wizards have given us a duel deck, this time featuring the Theros block planeswalkers Elspeth and Kiora.

Elspeth has seen a lot of play in the Standard environment, being the bomb of choice for both midrange and control decks.  She can undo much of the work you accomplished in the early game if you are playing aggro.  And she provides the necessary bite during the end game for control decks.

Kiora is a good early game planeswalker who can really “bring it” if she gets to her ultimate ability, otherwise preventing damage and creating ramp and card draw.

No denying what the money cards are here…the two planeswalkers combined could bring $30.00 at some places. (Elspeth vs Kiora was only priced at $19.99.)  So you are getting value for your purchase, no question.

And because these are alternate art versions, let me just say that I find them superior to the earlier printings.  I never liked the old Kiora…it was just too creepy with that tentacle hanging out front prominently featured…and why?  There is a tentacle here, but it isn’t as ugly.  Elspeth’s card is very similar to the earlier printing,  but I think the portrait is “prettier” this time.

Onto the unboxing! 

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The box (seen above) is of a celebrated new type of cardboard, which is supposedly recyclable.  Nice…it seems a little lighter.  But it has just as much of a premium look as the previous planeswalker duel decks.  If you will recall, I didn’t think “Speed vs. Cunning” had too great of packaging.  But the Wizards like to save the foil for the planeswalker decks, and that’s understandable, I guess.

The back of the box shows off some of the featured cards, and has propaganda to help you get excited about playing the deck.

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Removing the box…which is really more of a carton, revealed a plastic blister over a black plastic tray, which held all of the items seen above.  The two deck boxes are nice, but cannot hold the entire decks sleeved.  The white insert is the guide to playing magic…for new players.  (Incidentally, I believe this Duel Deck to be a product for beginners.)  And then there is another insert which contains details for playing both decks, and decklists.

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The decks were sealed in “cigarette style” cellophane wrappers.  This time I thought I would photograph the cards, as it was more convenient for me.  And besides, I couldn’t wait to play it.

ELSPETH, SUN’S CHAMPION

The first thing I noticed was something really dumb.

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You get two soldier tokens.  ONLY TWO.  Let me point out, that Elspeth’s top ability is “put three 1/1 soldier creatures onto the battlefield.  They should have at least included one more!  And what about the emblem?!

Here are the rare’s from the deck.

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These rares are really good for battle.  Especially Gustcloak Savior.

Here are the uncommon creatures.

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Last I checked, Mother of Runes is ALSO a money card, at around $5.00.  Banisher Priest is really good with his O-ring effect.  Both uncommon are every bit as good as the rares.

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The common creatures are generally soldier themed…and there are other Gustcloaks!  Also notable…Veteran Armorsmith and Veteran Swordsmith…both have echoes in the current Kahns of Tarkir block with the warriors.

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The other spells in this deck are instants, except for Sunlance, which is a sorcery.  All good stuff.

The flavor of this deck is very strong…Elspeth, Sun’s Champion would TOTALLY lead these soldiers and use these spells.

The lands are unremarkable.

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Those two are lands with cycling.  Everything else is a Basic Plains.

KIORA, THE CRASHING WAVE

Another dumb thing of equal dumbness.

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Kiora has two associated tokens, and no emblem.  Why didn’t the wizards use the double sided tokens they gave us in Commander 2014?

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Kiora’s rares are absolutely frightening.  Elspeth’s deck has the means of dealing with them.  Including her middle ability…….(-3 destroy all creatures with power 4 or greater.)

But if Kiora’s fatties go unchecked, it is GG.  (Good Game.)

Plasm Capture is the odd one here.  While Kiora needs some cancel, this spell almost never goes right.  It costs a ton, and since Kiora is an Aggro style deck trying to get big creatures on the field, why would you have the mana available to use this spell?  But a properly casted Whelming Wave can net you a win.  Unfortunately, many of Kiora’s creatures are not Octopuses, Leviathans, Krakens, or Serpents.  There are Merfolk and Snakes, notably.

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Kiora has more cards at uncommon than Elspeth.  The most notable one here is Lorescale Coatle, who gets a counter each time you draw a card.  He can get REDICULOUS!  This deck has lots of ways to draw cards, beside the regular draw step.

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We’ve seen some of these cards in duel decks before…I’m thinking Man-O-War was in Jace’s deck.  And Grazing Gladeheart was in Garruk’s deck.  Except for Coiling Oracle and Omenspeaker, these cards just feel like preliminary cards to the main giant creatures.  It is cool how there are some card draw effects and control effects attached to some of these.

Don’t ask the SpartanNerd how, but somehow he lost the photo of the instants and sorceries.  But I assure you, there aren’t that many defensive spells.  There are four copies of Accumulated Knowledge, a card that I didn’t know before.  It says “Draw a card, then draw cards equal to the number of cards named Acumulated Knowledge in the graveyard.  Basically you get to draw two cards for two mana at the least, and the number of cards only gets more the more of these cards you cast.  And with Lorescale Coatl on the battlefield…

There is also explore, a ramp card with card draw.  This card reflects Kiora’s roll down ability. (-1 Draw a card.  You may play an additional land this turn)

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The lands are also cripplingly slow, as expected.  No shock lands.  Not even any cycling lands.  No pain lands.  No gain lands.  Just basics, Evolving Wilds, and Temple of the False God.  (I think I have only seen that in Commander decks before this…)

So Kiora’s flavor is Ramp, Card Draw, and Fatties.  I could totally see her leading this group of cards in a fight with Elspeth.

The Matchup

No way around it.  Elspeth’s deck is better.  It has cheaper creatures, and ways of dealing with things that are huge.  Not that Kiora’s deck doesn’t put up a fight…But Elspeth’s “white weenie” strategy is just faster and designed to fight against big green monsters.  To be fair, we have only played five times since we got the product.  I will update if things change…but I’m not sure they will.

The SpartanNerd’s rating of Magic the Gathering Duel Decks “Elspeth vs. Kiora”.

The packaging is beautiful, and the fact that it is recyclable now is another bonus.  The propaganda makes everything clear about how to play the decks.  This would be a great product for new players.  And for seasoned players, you get some alternate art cards, especially the two planeswalkers.

It is a bummer that we only got two tokens with each deck…even more-so that we didn’t get an emblem either for the planeswalkers.

And Elspeth’s deck seems to outdo and undercut Kiora’s deck.  Just a quick survey on the web and others are reporting that Elspeth generally beats Kiora.

So, the SpartanNerd rates Magic the Gathering Duel Decks “Elspeth vs. Kiora” a cautious 3/5.  There isn’t enough wrong here to warrant 2/5…maybe with more play we’ll see Kiora bring some wins.  Elspeth, at least, needed another Soldier token…and knowing that the Wizards could have printed double sided tokens and gave us an emblem is even more frustrating.  But that doesn’t have a huge impact on the gameplay, and the insert does tell new players that they don’t have to use tokens.

So what’s your rating of “Elspeth vs. Kiora”?  Let me know in the comments, oh Hub City Geeks!