SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic the Gathering Premium Deck Series “Graveborn”

It’s almost Father’s Day…and I was told to order some cards…


Not these kind!  Magic Cards…Did I have you fooled?  (I’m sure such cards will be coming my way, though.)

Because it is pretty hard for non Magic players to know what to get Magic players, I was told I could just order what I wanted.  So I ordered “Graveborn,” a Legacy MTG deck from 2010 or 2011.  It looked pretty sweet on the internet, and the allure of all foil swamps hypnotized me into making the purchase.  Have I found it to be worth the $83.00 paid through TCGplayer?  Keep reading to find out more!

The “Graveborn” deck is from what was called (is called?) the “Premium Deck Series.”  There are two other decks out there, one a red burn deck and the other a Slivers deck.  But the Zombies and the color black are my thing.  So I’m just offering that as background information.  The Premium Deck Series gives you a deck in all foil, with some alternate art.  The foil is special, though.  I would call it “Super Foil.”

The package looked like this.


A transluscent tube of plastic that let you see the of the most important cards in the deck.  Featured as spokeswoman is Avatar or Woe…a card that could be Legendary, but isn’t.


On the back, you can see the deck box, which is also notably foil, with the Reanimate art prominently featured on the packaging.  You also get some inspiring messages and a contents list.  The deck was wisely cellophane…This  tube of a package would be no trouble for a dishonest person to hack.

But I’m just throwing away the packaging, right!


Opening the box, you see this.  The spin down life counter is visible.


Removing the product from package lets you see all of this.  Have a look at the foil detail!


The box has nice foil…as mentioned.


This card really shows off the foil.  This foil is a little better than what we usually see.  It might be equivalent to what they put on Planeswalkers in the Dual Decks.


I wanted to mention that the spin down counter feels a little chalky.  It is also a little bit lighter than the kind we had before Dragons of Tarkir.  But it doesn’t feel like the dice that came in those pre-release boxes.  It doesn’t feel like the dice that came in the Dual Deck Anthology either.

I am going to go over each card featured in the packaging.


This is a handy card.  This deck needs ways to discard things from your hand.  In this case you are rewarded with 2/2 Zombie Tokens.  You will probably just use them to block on the ground or as things to sac.


The Avatar of Woe is good as a beater…but better as reliable removal.


Animate Dead is an odd card with a contentious history.  Evidently an aura can’t attach to things in the graveyard…


Cabal Therapy.  I had this card before, but not with this art.  I have only played it in Commander…it is a fun card with a lot of utility.  You can use it as a Thoughtsieze effect, or you can target yourself and get one of the bombs out of your hand into the graveyard.  It’s just fun!  Someone recently asked if the wizards would be reprinting this for Standard.  I wonder why they wouldn’t?


Of all the cards in this deck, this is the most “money card” of them all.  Priced at $30 or roundabout.  You can get whatever creature you NEED and put in your graveyard for re-animation.  And at instant speed too…so you wait until they are tapped out, then drop this bomb.


Reanimate is banned in Modern for a reason…One mana to get back whatever bomb you have.  OK…Turn one, Entomb.  Turn Two Reanimate.  GG.


At sorcery speed, and for three mana, you get entomb times three.  SICK!


A card from my early days of playing.  I always thought it was bad.  But it is great in this deck, where you need to discard things!


As mentioned, this deck is a MONO BLACK deck.  So you can’t cast this card from your hand…Crosis will have to be reanimated.  But he is great!  He is also the only legendary in this deck, surprisingly.


I had this card from Commander.  I always thought it good in esper colors.  Pro Red and Green makes it great to entomb out at instant speed when needed.

Onto what is in the deck box.


The cards in cellophane and inserts in cellophane.


I just threw away the insert which is a general guide to playing Magic.  I am keeping this insert.  The historical information here is pretty nice to know…I wasn’t aware of who was successful with reanimator decks before.


The decklist is on the other side.  Good for future reference when I piece out the deck for different purposes.

I am going to go over the cards a little at a time.  

Starting with the bombs.


These four cards are just sick.  Think how absurd it is to have any one of them out on turn two…

Blazing Archon is probably the most annoying!

Casting Terastadon late enough in the game means you probably have Terastadon plus three elephant friends!

Inkwell Leviathon.  Great against blue players.

Verdant Force is here not only as a bomb, but also for historical significance, if you pay attention to what they told you in the insert.

There are also black creatures you CAN hard cast.


I don’t care much for Putrid Imp.  I would rather Stinkweed Imp be here…

Faceless Butcher is a black Banisher Priest.

And Twisted Abomination rides the line between bomb and chump for this deck.  He is better for swampcycling.  You might find him to be the only “bomb” you can reanimate on a bad occasion.

The other spells…


All spells are singularly focused on discarding or getting bombs out of the library and into the graveyard.  There is no cancel or burn.  No ramp.  No pump.  Just all re-animator business.  I am highly impressed with the foil on Duress.  I mentioned before that Duress is one of my favorite spells!  It is funny when you play Exhume on turn two against someone who hasn’t played any creatures.  Diabolic Servitude and Animate Dead are about the same thing.

Then there are the lands…

21 foil swamps.  Just about enough said!  The other three lands are utility lands that let you do colorless mana or sac for ramp.  There is also a cycling land.  Dakmor Salvage would be good here.


Playing the deck…

This deck works as advertised.  I heard someone say “It is from the Golden Age of pre-constructed decks.”  Very true.  There is no comparison to some of the tripe I have reviewed that they have put out…(Virtually all of the event decks I have reviewed lack important consistency.  Those intro decks are lackluster.  And recent dual decks, like Elspeth Vs. Kiora, feel really weak by comparison.)

Get your bomb in the graveyard early…and bring them back to life.  Swing in for damage. Rinse and repeat.

Deck Matchups.

I played this against the SpartanKid, piloting various decks from the Dual Deck Anthology.

The first deck I wanted to try it against was Divine, from the Dual Decks Anthology.  Because that deck is generally a winner.  A good matchup.  But almost without fail, GG for Graveborn by turn 5.

Chandra’s deck From the DDA was an interesting matchup.  Burn is meaningless against Sphinx of the Steel Wind on Turn three.  All of the progress Chandra could bring was just displaced by the giant, lifelink, vigilance, first striker.

But Jace from the DDA was a different story.  If the reanimator spells get canceled, this deck does nothing.  And worse, if the bombs get bounced back to your hand, you have to work to get them back to the graveyard to reanimate.  Graveborn lost two matches to Jace Beleren’s deck.  And it was mostly because trick creatures with morph redirected spells, or bounced things.

I am going to continue testing, and will update this post to reflect the results.  (hopefully!)

Changing the Deck

Because this deck is Legacy, I will have to modify it for play.  I am thinking about how to use it in Standard.  But that is really probably out of the question.  The Whip of Erebos is good, except the cards brought back from the graveyard to swing are exiled after they leave the battlefield.  Rescue from the Underworld is a mana-intensive spell.  I am going to experiment some before the Standard tournament at the Tangled Web on Friday night this week.  But I suspect I will just sleeve up my foil Duress cards and foil lands and continue to play Liliana/Waste Not.

Modern has some possibilities though.  I have already ordered “Gifts Ungiven,” which means introducing blue to this deck.  However, I think it will improve the deck where it is weak.  Adding blue means I get to use my own cancel spells.  Unburial rights is also a possibility.  In fact, someone recently flashed back Unburied rights and got Emrakul out on me when I was playing my Amulet/Bloom deck.  This would mean introducing white.  So now we are talking esper…

The other way this deck can be modified is by changing the bombs.  Since 2010/2011 a lot more cards have been released.  You can re-animate Iona, Shield of Emeria, and break your opponents colors.  You can re-animate Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or other Eldrazi.  Avacyn Angel of Hope and Akroma Angel of Wrath are good choices.  Re-animate Aurelia and take extra combat steps.  Reanimate Ashen Rider and remove a threat…Reanimate Medomai the Ageless and take an extra turn.  Reanimate Griselbrand…Reanimate …….. any Titan….  So many broken things to do!

SpartanNerd’s Rating of Magic the Gathering Premium Deck Series Graveborn is 4/5.  Here’s why.

The foil cards look incredible.  The deck is fun and consistent.  The Spindown Counter is unique and cool, if a little different.  The special insert with historical information was cool.  There is a lot of monetary value here as well, especially with “entomb”.

The deck box cannot hold the deck when sleeved with Dragon Shields.  And these premium foils demand to be sleeved.  I felt really paranoid I was going to scratch them by their rubbing together in the most natural way that cards do.  This is a Legacy deck, and in my area, I have never seen a Legacy tournament.  I have encountered players who brought decks to practice with.  But I can’t just take this item to a local tournament and playtest it against a metagame.  And then, the single-mindedness of this deck is also its downfall.  If someone can prevent you from…Discarding cards, tutoring cards to the graveyard, or reanimating cards, all three of which are required to make this deck work like the organic machine it is, then that person will win.  There is no sideboard included.

But saying all of that negative stuff doesn’t detract from the sheer coolness of the deck.  It is something most people won’t see coming.  I ordered it for its beauty and for what it stands for, and for a way to help me do more things with the graveyard, and this deck has delivered this.


SpartanNerd…What happened at the Modern Masters 2015 draft? (Set Review)

Driving home after midnight…on the first time I ever drafted Modern Masters.  I have come to really look forward to draft in my short career as a Magic player, but I have never been as satisfied as I was tonight!
(Apology, readers.  Somehow when I cut and pasted this from my cell phone, the formatting was lost!)
I have spent all week studying tips and things to prepare…and have been feeling a lot of apprehension about taking things like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.  I studied the archetypes, and everything.  But this draft went way left of any preparation that I made.
As the draft began, I opened my first pack, and went to the rare.  It was Wildfire.  Not a card I am too crazy about.  Behind it where the basic land normally is was a foil Ulamog’s Crusher.  I opted to pass the crusher…good move!  (In Modern Masters, no basic lands are released…instead foils are substituted.)
I know the guy beside me was going to draft black…he always does.  I fretted about this, hoping to draft Black/Green sacrifices.  But to my surprise, he passed me Profane Command!  Wow!  I had this card already, but in my studies of the set this week, this card was easily in the top three of everyone’s picks.  (Later he told me he took a foil All is Dust…)  I mention this because it was indeed a defining moment for the rest of the night.
I felt crazy, picking cards from the first pack.  I grabbed a black and green card here and there, but nothing seemed to synergistic.  And as pack 1 rounded out, I had no idea what direction I was heading.
The summary of pack 2 was Dark Confidant!  I seemed to be seated firmly into black anyways!  More about this card later.  Pack two had me seeing Skyreach Manta and Etched Monstrosity.  As pack two wrapped up, I felt even more confused.  Sure I had the Command and Dark Confidant, as well as a few big bombs.  But my colors weren’t lining up to the archetypes of the draft…My thought was…I will pull something out of pack 3 that will glue this deck together.
Pack 3…The rare was Karn, Liberated.  I had to take him!  I snatched another Skyreach Manta, and knew I was going to pull together a FIVE COLOR DECK!  It became my mission to find some fixers…find a little more removal…and to get some chumps.  (I was light on chumps.)
Because my bombs were colorless…five colors worked out for me.  I also had Matca Rioters, which is just as good as Tarmogoyf if you are playing five colors!  Because I had Gorehorn Minotaurs, a card I knew would be a winner in a deck with good flyers like Skyreach Manta, I decided my primary color would be black, secondary color red, and then splash the other colors.  It helped that my two bounce lands were blue.
My deck looked like….
1 Forest
1 Plains
1 Island
7 Swamp
5 Mountain
Izzet Boilerworks
Simi Growth Chamber
Gorehorn Minotaurs
Etched Monstrosity
Gust Skimmer
2 Viashino Slaughtermaster
Runed Servitor
Ulamog’s Crusher
Reassembling Skeleton
Court Homunculus
Matca Rioters
2 Skyreach Manta
Dark Confidant
Expedition Map
Mana Leak
2 Sylvan Bounty
Fiery Fall
Tribal Flames
Savage Twister
Profane Command
Karn Liberated
Blades of Velis Vel
Sphere of the Suns
I have never, ever felt like I have put together a more fun deck.  
A little talk about how this deck really worked.  The Basic Landcycling on Sylvan Bounty and Fiery Fall were partially the “glue” that held this thing together…I like to say they were the oil in the machine…they kept it fluid and going.  I only casted Fiery fall once to do five damage to a creature.Early game I would mulligan if I didn’t have anything to play …. if my land didn’t match up or there were no chumps, for instance.  The only exception being if I could land cycle or pop Expedition Map.  I also was on the draw whenever possible.  I knew this deck would amount to control until I had as many colors available as possible.
Dark Confidant is a beast…he is also painful.  More than once did he bring me to a low life total.  One opponent foolishly didn’t block him after seeing Skyreach Manta burn me for five…(YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, A.F.!)  Thought cast was a real thing all night, but I had none…Dark Confidant filled that card advantage spot for me.  However, usually I would side him out after the first game.  I felt a little uneasy with ulamog’s Crusher and Karn Liberated in the deck, and had to sigh a sigh of relief a couple of times when I revealed a basic land.  I generally sided him out for Blades of Velis Vel.
Karn Liberated just wins.  Period!  The one time that I was able to cast him, I targeted and exiled a Pelakka Wurm.  The game ended before I had the chance to ultimate him.  I never realized until today why he was so expensive?  Now I know!
Etched Monstrosity…When I drafted this…I thought “No way I will EVER get to draw three cards with this.”  I was wrong…I casted him twice…the first time he died to removal.  The second time I removed those -1/-1 counters and drew three cards, then Cast Profane Command, making him unbloackable and burning the opponent for the win!
Tribal Flames…A nuts card in a deck with lots of different basic land on the battlefield.
Savage Twister…My only sweeper.  This card worked miracles against loaded board states.  And since Skyreach Manta and Gorehorn Minotaurs are as big as 5/5, I usually killed all of my opponents cards and had things still standing.
Skyreach Manta and Matca Rioters were two early/midgame cards that were very annoying to my opponents.  The Manta was usually at least a 4/4, and the Matca Rioters as well.
Remember how I Profane Command-ed my opponent…Banefire does about the same thing.   My opponent tried to counter it, but there is a line of text that says “If X is greater than five, Banefire cannot be countered.”  (GG, C.M.!)
Viashino Slaughtermaster was generally an early chump in my deck, but if I was able to get Blades of Velis Vel on him in game two, my opponent would start to panic.  The double strike makes them refrain from blocking, and then because I wasn’t playing “pump spells” in game one, they just didn’t see it coming.  This was on Turn 4 agains M.  I was able to activate the pump ability on the card, as well as cast the blades.  This brought 8 damage.  And then he said on the next turn “I have had quite enough of that!” and removed him.  Good move for him, because I had another blades in my hand…
Gorehorn Minotaurs was also really good.  All week I saw this card on lists for fun in draft.  Because Skyreach Manta Gust Skimmers had such reliable evasion, I never casted him without triggering Bloodthirsty, making him yet another 5/5 for them to deal with.
I wished I could have casted Profane Command more often, and I never casted Mana Leak even once.  I only sided in Blades of Velis Vei, Sphere of the Suns, (which was countered once.)  And Plagued Rusulka, which never saw play.  The only time I casted Ulamogs’s Crusher, I wound up blocking the same card on the other side.  It didn’t hurt me to sacrifice Reassembling Skeleton and the card that was tapped down with Narcolepsy!
My feelings about tonight are really good!  I was ranked 14 at the end of round 4, and know I must have moved up to ten or eleven after winning my final match of the evening.  But the store owner at The Tangled Web said “You pulled Dark Confidant and Karn, Liberated, so you really won!”  He was right!  I would have never purchased Dark Confidant, a card that stays around $80, and have passed up on Karn Liberated before when I build an artifact deck…because his price is generally about $40.  Was it worth the $35 gamble for this draft…absolutely, at least for me!
Based on my feelings about drafting Modern Masters 2015, I give the set a 5/5!  What are your feelings, oh Hub City Geeks?  Leave some comments!

SpartanNerd Review…Dollar General Market Starscream

Today I would like to talk about one of my growing interests…Transformers!

Not just “any” Transformers will do for me.  I really am only sort of interested in G1.  I am a fan of Megatron as a “Gun”…Not as a tank.  I don’t even like Galvatron.  (And definitely not Rodimus Prime.  That sissy…)

I’m interested in toys that resemble the G1 friends from the past.  I largely never owned many Transformers as a child.  They were generally too expensive.  Masters of the Universe was the perfect price level, at around $5 a piece, my mom didn’t feel she was dropping a lot on the SpartanNerd as a kid.  But Transformers were reserved as Christmas and Birthday presents.

And it seemed every time I had the money to purchase a Transformer, the ones I wanted weren’t available.  For instance, I never saw the “Big Guys”… Optimus Prime, Megatron, Soundwave, Shockwave, Starscream, Wheel Jack, Bumblebee, or whoever.  It was always guys never seen on TV.

So I am on the lookout for Transformers that look like their G1 versions, or like they appeared on the G1 cartoon.  I already found a Grimlock that I like pretty good.

The desire for the type of Transformer I’m looking for brought me to purchase this at the Dollar General Market in Pacolet.


Starscream came in this package, and cost $6.oo.  (I purchased toys from Dollar General Market before to review. ) 

Notice the top says “Level 1 Very Easy”

To be fair, as a kid I did have some Transformers on this scale and level.  Most of them were trucks and cars.  The kind you pull the trunk down to make the spoiler into feet, pull the doors out for arms, and flip the hood back to reveal the head.  Starscream here is a little bit more complicated that that, as we will see.

But have a look!  He looks exactly like his cartoon version!  And this is why I purchased!

Here is the back of the package.


You can see that Starscream can be transformed in ten steps.

Also prominent are Starscreams stats…Oh how I miss the age of “rub decals” and that little piece of red film that you could overlay a graph and read the stats in a “high tech” way!

Taking him out of the box, he looks like this…


He is armed and ready for battle!  The guns are removable…


Tell me that these guns don’t look “G1”!

Starscreams hands are really just sort of “hooks” that you fit the pegs of the guns, which serve as the handle as well.

I transformed Starscream without incident.


To me, the niftiest part of the transformation is that the fore-arms fold back over the top of the jet, forming the area behind the cockpit.

The jet really does look like the cartoon version.  I affixed the guns to the wings on the underside, which seems to look the most natural…kind of like they are missiles…or kind of like the ships in the game “Galaga.”  Speaking of the underside…Starscream only looks good if you view him from the top.  Viewing him underneath exposes his chest, hands and face.

The only thing I don’t like is that the head is still visible as a black stripe right at the nosecone.

So is it really a “Level 1 Very Easy”?  Well, I let the SpartanKid give it a try…he hasn’t been able to do it without assistance, and he is nine years old…

SpartanNerd’s rating of “Starscream” from Dollar General Market is 4/5.  I am taking the point off because a nine year old has made two attempts and been unable to change it.  And then their is the issue with the nosecone.  But this is a perfectly playable Transformer, and it touches a certain “nerve” in the SpartanNerd.

If I see a Thundercracker of the same model, I will definitely pick it up.

Note…I have seen some “clacicized” transformers.  Almost none of them have seemed to me to be worth their price tag.

I hope to do more Transformers in the future.  I just am a picky customer…

SpartanNerd and SpartanTeen…Evaluating Gundams

Just for you, Hub City Geeks, the SpartanNerd and the SpartanTeen have teamed up!  Together we created a checklist for evaluating Gundam models!

For now, we are only evaluating Master Grade and higher…  We may adjust the checklist in the future.

So without further ceremony, here is our checklist.  You can see the checklist in action if you click here

Each item gets a score…
1 Too wrong
2 not right enough
3 could be better
4 pretty good, but…
5 perfect
There are five areas that we will score for our models… Construction, Articulation, Accessories, Playability, and Figure-Specific features.  Each area has five criteria.
Was it difficult considering the level it is supposed to be?
Stupid problems?
Instructions easy to read?
Diagrams clear?
Stickers? Paint
stands easily?
moves without falling apart
posable/interchangeable hands
lots of articulation points
Dynamic poses
holds weapons/appropriate weapons
Weapon storage
holds weapons?
Reasonalbe Facimile to media representation
Figure-specific features
morph/ transform/ change form
action feature
LED lights
Pilot included?  Does he fit in the cockpit or is he in scale or not.
To tabulate the score, we add up all of the values, and then come up with an average.

SpartanNerd Thoughts…Death of Batman and Joker, as well as the New 52

We all knew it was coming…The Convergence, and the end of the New 52 branding.  Months of announcements.  Lots of speculation and a few spoilers.

We read “Batman Eternal” all the way through, and slogged through Forever Evil, Future’s End, and Batman Zero Year.  We saw Robin (Damien Wayne) fall and rise.

It has been thrilling, really.  A far better expense than buying satellite or cable TV.  Much better investment.  (The only thing I miss about live TV is no NFL.  Otherwise, Netflix and DVDs and other media do just fine.)

I have to say it hasn’t been without its problems, though.  I haven’t been entirely happy with every storyline.  I canceled my subscription to Action Comics, Justice League, and Aquaman.  I didn’t even care about the characters or the story the way a good comic book should make you.  Shazam!  (who cares?)  (The Others. Etc)  I would receive my books ninety percent of the time over a week after the release date, and with these three titles, I would not even have remembered what happened in the issue prior.  In the case of Masters of the Universe (which I still will be reading) I cancelled the subscription because many of the books arrived damaged!  (I will be picking up my MOTU books from The Tangled Web from now on.)

But Batman has been different.  When I started reading The New 52, I found a character that I could really relate to.  I watched “Batman the Animated Series” and all of the Batman movies as a kid, and also watched re-runs of that campy TV show from the 1960’s.  We had some Batman comics around as well, and Batman was something my Grandma could relate to and talk about some…she said she read Batman comics as a child.  The character of Robin has always had some appeal to me as well.  Always somehow balancing the seriousness of Batman.  Robin is someone usually missing from the movies, and it makes me feel like the stories are missing a crucial element.

So I hung onto the titles Detective Comics, Batman, and Batman and Robin.  And didn’t even think twice about purchasing the weekly Batman Eternal title…I was dedicated!

The Joker is the other part of this.  Readers were captivated by Detective comics #1.  Joker’s face was cut off!  What did this mean?  How would this work?  DC got our attention!  And it about drove me insane.  For an entire year I loyally read every Batman book (except Batman Incorporated, a lingering soul from the old universe), and was then rewarded with the HUGE “Death of the Family” story arc.  It was brilliant!

And after the epic conclusion to that story, we went right into Robin’s death, and the Batman and Robin title became a sort of variety show, with Batman either teaming up with or having drama with some other main character.

I could go on and on.  But I am finally satisfied at where it all ends.

Batman #40 is the finale of the Joker returns story…And at the end of this strangely covered issue, (in contrast to the other covers in the “Endgame” arc,) the two arch enemies find their demise.  The fight was SO EPIC!  Of all the Batman fights, this one may be the most gruesome.  More blood spilt in this comic than almost any other Batman book before now.  And did I see Batman bite off the Joker’s ear?  Incredible.  And then he turns the Joker’s own deception against him.

For me, this is the perfect conclusion.  I’m still a little shocked.  I didn’t really see it coming.  Sure, I heard the spoiler about the Jim Gordon in the robotic Batman suit.  But killing Batman and Joker seemed out of the question.  This is sort of old hat, no?  Bruce Wayne has been killed before.  And we always know that Joker will be back.  And Bruce was just re-unified with Damien…

With Batman and Joker’s deaths…I feel I have a complete Batman collection of stories.  I picked up the free comic book…which confirms at least Bruce Wayne Batman is gone for the next foreseeable run of DC books.  We all know both characters will be back…But I don’t feel the need to read this for awhile.  I have a story from Zero Year (beginning) to Endgame (conclusion).  And feel a sense of relief.

Thanks, DC for a great run on Batman!

What’s next for the SpartanNerd?

More Masters of the Universe…

More Gundams…(forthcoming!)

More action figure reviews…

More Magic the Gathering posts…

Possibly a return to Spider-Man.

I am interested in Transformers…especially classic types.

But I am going to take the time to go back and re-read my Batman books, from beginning to end.  And enjoy them.  Summer Vacation is just around the corner!  Maybe I’ll even post reviews about the story arcs, like I originally intended.

Keep reading, oh Hub City Geeks!