SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Star Wars Black Series Darth Maul (Chinese Version)

Once again, a blog entry about an item from the Hickory-Con!

I have been looking for Star Wars Black Darth Maul for some time.  And while I was at the Con, I was looking for figures and noticed almost NO Masters of the Universe Classics figures.  However, Star Wars Black Series was everywhere.  And I asked around until I found him.

Darth Maul is my favorite Sith Lord besides Anakin/Vader.  I have mentioned before, I am PARTIAL TO the prequel trilogy.  And Darth Maul was good enough to make all of Jar Jar Binks’ problems in The Phantom Menace into small details.

This figure was on the top shelf…right beside another.  This one was marked $30 and had “Chinese Version” labeled on it.  The other was marked $95.  They were virtually identical.  So which one did I get?

 

Notice..There is no way on Earth to tell this might not be the genuine article.  (The general consensus on the internet is that this is a near perfect bootleg copy.)  There is no chinese writing…the figure looks exactly like “the original” “American (not really)” version.

I am the guy who throws away the boxes.  Do I care?  I am a cheapskate.  Paying $30 for a perfect copy of Star Wars Black Darth Maul doesn’t bother me one bit.  That was an extra $60 I had left to spend on other stuff!

The box is slightly different than a genuine Star Wars Black box.  The Star Wars logo is a little off in color.  But the back showcases Darth Maul’s only line in “The Phantom Menace”

 

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So I ripped open the box.  Everything was in this blister.  I could tell that lightsaber was bent already…

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Here is Darth Maul standing for the first time with his accessories.  He has two lightsabers, Star Wars classic binocular system, and an alternate head.  Notice how incredibly bent the lightsaber is.

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Darth Maul can hold the binocular thing in one hand.  He cannot use both hands to hold it to his eyes, as he is too bulky.  The sculpt is amazing.  This plastic robe drapes over the figure perfectly, and he forever has a wind blown look.

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It is really hard to make Darth Maul hold the saber wth two hands in “I’m about to off Anakin Skywalker” mode.  The lightsaber doesn’t want to stay together, and his bulkiness keeps his arms from gripping it properly.

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Now you CAN remove the robe, supposedly by removing the head from the ball joint…it turns out though, that the bootleg version (if that is what this is) doesn’t have the head glued to the cape.  So Darth Maul has a second, bald head.  I must say, the Spikor effect happens when you try putting the head on the ball joint.  (The spikes hurt your hands.)  The other thing…Darth Maul’s neck seems to be a little awkward.  Just a little.

So enough playing dress up.  Let’s get down to business.

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Darth Maul continues to impress as far as his sculpt is concerned.  Some soft goods are visible as a part of his skirt.  This really adds to the figure, as it allows him to move his legs better.  The lightsaber…you see what’s going on.  The hilts connect together, but the only way to get them to do so stiffly is to make the buttons face in opposite directions…which seems it shouldn’t be.  The red blades suffer from being bent.  I might have to get the hair dryer after them…

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I tried putting the cloak on some other figures…Skeletor seemed to be a natural, but I thought it likely to fit Teela.  It actually doesn’t fit either.  Skeletor is too big.  Teela…it doesn’t fit right even with the hair chopped off the way I customized her.

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I found YouTube videos of people pointing out the differences between the genuine and the knock-off version of Darth Maul.  They all said the same thing.  This must be made from a batch of declined figures because of QC, or using tools that were discarded, or something.  The sculpt is perfect.  The paint here is right on the money, except for maybe the horns.  Reportedly, there is a different neck joint and different hip joints.  The neck joint seems a little obvious, but since we are not looking up his skirt…

I am going to rate this based on what it is as a figure.  An excellent Darth Maul figure.  The best I’ve ever owned.  It does have problems with the Lightsabers.  So I have to take off for that.  Darth Maul is articulated very well.  Sculpted and painted near perfectly.  Stands on his own.  Looks good on the shelf.  I have to award him a 4/5!

And as bootlegs go, there couldn’t be a more perfect item to purchase as the not-so genuine product.

So the SpartanNerd rates Star Wars Black Series Darth Maul (Chinese Version) 4/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

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SpartanNerd…Vintage Cards Opening

So, at the Hickory-con I picked up several vintage booster packs.  I am going to start with the Magic the Gathering pack from “Fallen Empires.”  I paid $5 for an eight card pack.  NO RARES.  I believe this to be a re-pack.  Maybe not, though, after reading up on Fallen Empires.  From what I gather from the internet, Hymn to Tourache is the best card in the set, and I opened it…

I had the Homarid and the Homarid Warrior already.  Goblin Churigeon also.  But I got a cool land and the Hymn to Tourache.  meh.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cards!  These are from the first cartoon show, 1989-mid nineties-ish.  Actually, these cards chronicle the first seven episodes of the cartoon, which even in my adult memory I remember being INCREDIBLE.  (The foot soldiers were worthy foes even as robots.  The turtles just barely thumped them in later episodes and they would explode, so it seemed.)  You can see the gum was still intact!  There is a puzzle piece here too, which you could collect and make a big picture.  I remember having these as a child, but seeing them in the wax pack there, I knew I just had to have them.  The backs just give a little synopsis of what the front portrays.

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The MAIN EVENT.  These are the ones that caught my eye first.  The seller had about five more packs…but at $6.00…These cards are basically the same as the Ninja Turtles cards.  But the gum was melted to the back of one of the cards.  😦   By the way.  Don’t try and eat that gum.  The MOTU trading cards are interesting because they have a mix of ways they portray the characters.  For instance, the “Like Father, Like Daughter” title card depicts Sorceress armor Teela, but the episode shows Filmation art.  The sticker art depicts box art from the toys.  Who drew that He-Man on the front of the wax pack?

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And finally, The Simpsons cards.  I definitely remember getting these from a teacher at church…he used trading cards as his classroom management technique.  He was always careful we didn’t get cards that had curse words on them…but I knew they were out there because I bought my own packs.  My parents didn’t like me (and my brothers) watching The Simpsons because of the profanity and the bad influence of Bart Simpson.  These cards really capture those early days of the show, where Bart and his misbehavior seemed to be the focus of the show  The sticker (with Bart in army gear) has Bart writing “Krusty the Clown is not God” on the chalkboard a hundred times.  Homer Simpson calling Bart a Smart@$$ is on one of the cards.  These, and the Ninja Turtles cards, were the ones I remember from my childhood.  I don’t have a memory of the Masters of the Universe cards though.

SpartanNerd Haul…Hickorycon


What did I do with my family instead of playing inthe “Kaladesh” pre-release?

We went about two hours north to “Hickorycon” in Hickory North Carolina!   Really more of a comics event.  Nonetheless, I grabbed these items, soon to be reviewed right here on the SpartanNerd blog!

Final Fantasy X and X-2. 

Metal Gear Solid. 

Star Wars Black Series Darth Maul (Chinese Version)

Magic the Gathering “Fallen Empires” booster.  (Possibly re-sealed)

Vintage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trading cards. 

Vintage Masters of the Universe trading cards. 

Vintage “The Simpsons” trading cards. 

SpartanNerd- Micro Reviews 2

What a cramped week!  Perfect time for some Micro-Reviews.  (Don’t you miss Micro-Machines?)

All-Star Batman #2…I like where this is going.  We are getting some of Batman’s analysis of Harvey Dent/Two-Face’s condition, and some of his motivations.  That Harvey subconsciously makes Two-Face screw up and vice-versa is an interesting nuance.

Batman #6…Here is a funny thing.  Gotham Girl is going “Sinead O-Connor,” shaving off what must truly be gorgeous blond hair, and going around talking to her brother, who was killed in the last issue (and so he isn’t really there…she is going crazy…).  Batman calls Alfred and asks how he “helped” him grieve as a boy when his parents were killed.  And Alfred replies…”Sir.  With all due respect.  You go around at night dressed as a giant bat punching people out!”  Hilarious!

Super Mario World…I never had a Super Nintendo as a kid.  We couldn’t afford it.  In college I played through SMW, but it was on my college friend’s allready finished save state…I never played though it myslef.  I am about 80% complete.  It is a fun game…I just figured out how to generate a ton of lives yesterday.  Would you believe me if I told you I am doing this on my own…no internet cheating!

Magic the Gathering: Kaledesh and the Kaledesh Inventions Masterpiece Series…The set looks good.  But the Masterpieces look exactly like what they are called.  Msterpieces.  I’d bet I own ten copies of Sol Ring.  But never have I wanted a reprint so badly!  Not sure if I am going to play in the pre-release.

Son of Batman…I am watching this animated movie.  It’s great to see Damien in a form other than comics.  Speaking of which, I have missed “Robin: Son of Batman.”  I have all the issues.  Not enough Damien and Tim are happening for me.  Duke Thomas…in the yellow Batman suit…that’s just strange to me.  I would rather see him in a traditional Robin role.  The whole gig was supposed to be a “black Robin,” right?  He was presented thus in Detective Comics #27…(does that even matter anymore?)

Conan the Barbarian…I was recently reviewing my collection of Conan books.  Mine are all digital…I like it that way.  It seems I have an investment of over a hundred dollars of digital goods related to Conan comics!  I like him that much.  Why did I ever think he was boring…plain…unintersting.  That was how it was back about ten years ago!

SpartanNerd…Early Thoughts on Planeswalker Packs.

The Wizards decided to discontinue the age-old practice of putting out “intro decks.”  They seem to want new players to be able to learn the game, become competitive, and eventually successful in local area tournaments.  The intro deck was the beginning of this ramp, but it had some problems.  First of all, virtually every intro deck ever put out is weak…They are generally missing mana-fixing, and generally have only one or two copies of cards that would be essential, but are often easily replaced with better options.

I, the SpartanNerd, have reviewed several intro decks.  And in virtually every case, the booster packs that came with the deck had more usefulness.

Not that no intro deck ever came with useful and valuable cards.  The intro-deck with Spear of Heliod comes to mind.  That card saw legitimate play in Theros block.  And I famously picked up a Dark Ascencion deck that came with two Inkmoth Nexus, and Hellrider to boot.  But most of them…have been lackluster offerings.  Decks that frustrate new players, especially kids, when they try and play them in constructed tournments and get their face re-arranged by someone who built their deck to work against a metagame.  Throw in that other sealed products, like Duel Decks and Commander contain cards that aren’t Standard or sometimes even Modern legal, and new players can hit a brick wall of confusion and frustration.

This is why the Planeswalker Pack is already destined to be a failure.  And I haven’t even seen the contents!

I want to talk about what we have been shown from the “Kaledesh” block Planeswalker packs.

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These two cards are pretty.  They are flashy.  They WILL  capture the young player’s attention.  When I started playing, you couldn’t find Planeswalker cards anywhere.  Now you get fresh new ones that come with a deck.  Fresh new FOIL ones at that.

But these two cards are instantly nerfed.  They both cost six…so say for instance on turn six you play Chandra, Pyrogenius, and you get to “shock” an opponent.

The problem with this of course is this…

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You are getting a six drop, sorcery speed “Shock.”  And while Shock isn’t in the Standard game right now, there are better burn spells than Chandra.

But SpartanNerd, She will be at 7 loyalty.

This is true.  And this is why Chandra, Pyrogenius will work as an intro product.  She will be fun against the Nissa, Nature’s Artisan deck.  You can even bump her down and she will be at 2 loyalty…she lives for another turn at least.  She might be fun in a duel deck type of situation.  But not against a metagame of Battle for Zendikar block, Shadows Over Innistrad block, and Kaladesh block.

Nissa, Natures Artisan suffers from the same problem.  How many better ways in all of MTG are there to gain three life? Filtering for land?

Chandra becomes a sweeper with additional burn if she ultimates, and Nissa becomes “Overrun”.  But you have to get to ten loyalty counters.  Not going to happen in a real tournament environment.

Now we haven’t seen the rest of the decks.  But we are promised at least five more cards designed to go with these planeswalkers specifically.  Those cards might make it possible to play these in a tournament successfully.  We’ll just have to see.

But I say the Wizards are going about getting new players ALL WRONG.  I am a teacher, and I love teaching kids new skills.  I love it when the light comes on and they “get” a new concept.  MTG is a FUN game, worthy of brainpower and thinking through strategies like deckbuilding, etc.  I like playing against new players, and helping them to see their triggers, phase changes, combat tactics, etc.  New players are LUCKY if they play against me.  I remember when I started, too many players were cut-throat, and beat me on what I thought were technicalities.  Problems that I didn’t see, and wasn’t sure they were even playing fair.  I just loved the game, so kept on playing with determination.

But news flash.  Kids don’t like to lose.  And you pay, say $5.00 of your allowance to play in a tournament for 4-6 hours on a Friday night, only to get smashed in every game, and it becomes clear why new players don’t feel successful.  All this is WORSE if you happen to be running illegal cards that you JUST PURCHASED in a Commander deck.  A deck that costed $35, and took your birthday money.

I propose a completely different approach than just putting out new eye-catching product.

The Wizards should go back to the CORE SET.  But this time, structure tournaments around it for NEW PLAYERS.  A product like Planeswalker Packs (and intro decks) could fit right in with what I propose.  Core Set tournaments would LOCK OUT anyone who has a DCI number oder than say, two years old.  This would have to be policed by the TO.  But I believe this to be the best way for the Wizards to help the new players learn the game and find some success.  Such a tournament would be independent of the Standard environment.  I remember seeing the words “expert set” on some MTG expansions.  (Dragon’s Maze comes to mind.)  Standard would be made of “Expert Sets.”  The Core Set beginner tournaments would play like Magic in its purest form.  Just use the evergreen keywords, and examples of each card type.  Use basic lands and Evolving Wilds.  Or maybe tap lands.  The most successful Core Set in my opinion was M13.  This set reprinted the Titans.  It had Legendary creatures.  It had staples.  It was great fun!  This set captured my kids’ imaginations.  But when we played decks make from this set against Innistrad block cards, we would lose.  I think we would have had a good shot in a closed off, core set only environment.

So when the Planeswalker Pack bites the big one, and the Wizards try a different plan, just point them to the SpartanNerd Blog!

 

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis Duel Deck

Let me first of all say…I have placed this set through the ringer!  Check out my review…

I unfortunately found myself bored, and at Wal-Mart, and so I unfortunately bought this there, which was money that unfortunately could have gone to a real comic book/ card shop, but instead unfortunately fed the beast and unfortunately has me confessing here on the SpartanNerd blog.  Do as I say…not as I do.  By yours at a specialty store…a place where you can actually play Magic the Gathering!

Enough of that…

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The box is exactly the same as we saw with the last two Duel decks…Zendikar vs. Eldrazi and Blessed vs. Cursed.  A foil treatment, with pictures and propaganda on the back.  The pictures showcase some of the alternate-art cards, especially for long-time collectors who would be aware.

The front showcases the two planeswalker cards, Nissa and Ob Nixilis, with new art and foil treatment.

 

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Here’s what’s in the box.  Two decks…one for each planeswalker…the decks are wrapped in “cigarette wrapping”.  You get two life counter dice, and a poster-instruction-decklist insert, and a general guide to playing MTG.  (I just throw that away.)  You also get two deck boxes that can’t hold the cards in sleeves, nor can they hold the unsleeved deck and tokens.

 

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As big a fan as I am of Ob Nixilis, and playing black, this is the first copy of “reignited” that I own.  This art is SO MUCH BETTER than the regular art from Battle for Zendikar, which I have come to call “Ob Smiley.”  In Standard, this card is a big piece in black control decks, which vary from Esper or Grixis Dragons, to Super-Friends planeswalkers, to even finding use in Green Black aristocrats.  (One of my favorite decks.)

He isn’t better than “Flip Liliana” though.

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I also haven’t owned a copy of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.  I also prefer this art to the conventional card art.  This one has a bit more action to it.

Next, pics of the posters, with the all-important deck lists!  (I won’t be picturing the cards as intensely as I have in the past…in the interest of conserving memory on this blog.)

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First, Nissa’s deck, with five rares on top.  The land is the green Hideaway Land.  When you control a creatures with ten or greater power total,  you get to cast the card exiled under it sans timing restrictions…FUN!  The three creatures are each really big threats, and Abundance helps you get card draw.  (Just don’t forget the trigger….)

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You also get these special lands.  Sighfigant is Treetop Village, a “man land.”

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This deck, as well as Ob Nixilis’s deck has about two copies of each card, making these decks play really smoothly!

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Ob Nixilis’ rares…

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Good old “Double D!”  Desecration Demon is back, and is a great early game bomb to keep it fun for Nissa’s deck…But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I will be upgrading to my foil Double D.  And I will likely swap Pestilence Demon with the misprinted one I got in the “Sworn to Darkness” Commander deck.  That misprint makes it appear as though the mist, smoke, or fog surrounding the figure is painted over the rules text.  Despoiler of Souls makes it easy to keep a threat or at least something to sacrifice on the game board.  Priest of the Blood Rite…I loaded up on these when it came out in Origins.  It hasn’t made a splash at all anywhere, really.  Finally, Indulgent Tormenter.  Offer your opponent choices in how you will beat them!

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Here are the black tokens.  There were green ones too, but somehow the photo eludes me.  Significantly, the green ones feature 0/1 plant creatures for Nissa, and a 4/4 elemental as well.  Ob Nixilis tokens importantly include his emblem.

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And a land I never owned…Leechridden Swamp.  You can build a strategy around this card…It can be fetched with a fetch land.  A lot of good things going on here.  These are my first two copies of this card.  I might pick up another one to add to Liliana, Heretical Healer’s homemade Commander deck!

PLAYING THE DUEL DECKS

I have played these two decks over and over in different situations.  And I have found them terrifically balanced against each other.  The Wizards have given us an Elf deck and a Demon deck before.  These decks feel nothing  like those two as far as flavor is concerned.  Nixilis’ deck isn’t really a demon deck…it happens to have a couple of big flying bombs.  What you generally do is play chump creatures early and then drop one of these bombs.  Pestilence Demon is likely the most powerful card in the deck….if you are willing to pay the life to kill off Nissa’s stuff.

Nissa’s deck does about the same thing.  It ramps from small creatures to large.  Being green, the large creatures just happen to work very well.

Getting either planeswalker on the field can mean GG!  Nissan makes a terrific finisher, believe it or not.  Ob Nixilis is a removal spell, basically, and a discard outlet.  And this deck can get cards back out of the graveyard and into your hand or on the battlefield.

Basically, Nixilis deck represents all that black can do, and Nissa’s highlights what green can do.  The decks operate the same…ramp from small to big.  And then play Magic.

Ob Nixilis has the most wins, by the way.

I can only give Nissa vs Ob Nixilis a 5/5.  The only thing I can mark off for is the deck box.  I wish the wizards would fix that problem?

Why these two planeswalkers is the second question.  We need a Liliana of the Veil and Jace, Telepath Unbound reprint!  Nissan and Ob are great enemies, and important to the Battle for Zendikar block story, (odd because now we are in Shadows Over Innistrad block.)

But they gave us a great product, if a little late and different.

So I offer up a 5/5 on Magic the Gathering Duel Decks Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!