From now on, I am going to title what product I am reviewing before the ever prevalent “SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review”. I fear people can’t see what I am unboxing on the index page…One more thing…this is my 300th post! (I have deleted 13 posts in the past. Making #287 actually #300!)
I have heaped praises on the “Duel Decks Anthology.” Rightly so. Of all of the decks I own, I get more use out of having those decks just ready made, ready to play, and having them handy in that box. It plays like its own board game. It was a reprint of valuable cards, Demonic Tutor and Ancestral Vision, AND Akroma Angel of Wrath, among many others. I also just enjoy Duel Decks, and have collected many of them apart from what is in the Anthology.
The Planechase Anthology aims to do the same things, but bring Planechase back into the front of the public again. Planechase is a CASUAL FORMAT. Like Commander and Duel Decks. I have owned one Planechase deck already, “Primordial Hunger,” featuring Thromok the Insatiable. That deck was the cheapest at an MTG store way out of town somewhere, that had alot of old sealed product. (You can read my review here. Sadly, I have removed the pictures.) And so I have limited exposure to Planechase. The Planechase Anthology is going to bring all kinds of MTG goodness to the SpartanNerd kitchen table.
Let me say right now, the old decks cost around $50 after market, give or take sealed. The $149.99 price tag on the Planechase Anthology is automatically a good deal. Besides that, each plane card individually costs about $5 on TCGplayer. But the six promotional cards included cost more…BUT I do have a complaint. This set only comes with Planechase 2012 theme decks. The original decks should be included…they could have been included. (The original decks are worth way more money. One of them is an affinity deck, pushing it up to around $150 after market value. THe zOmbie Empire deck is about $100 to piece together!)
OK, more information about the format. Planechase is a special Magic the Gathering variant where oversized “planes” cards are added to the game creating an additional layer of complexity. You roll the cubic planar dice, and change which plane you are on. (Planes are analogous to stadium cards in Pokemon TCG). Originally, the Wizards envisioned each person brings their own planes to the game…making it possible to play against another players constructed planar deck. (No one plays this way anymore.) What really happened was people found it more fun to put all the planes in a single deck, and then just see the craziness that resulted. Planechse is super fun when paired with Commander…
What’s this? The SpartanCat really enjoyed the new shipping box before I removed the product! For my unboxing and review today, you will be seeing some of my kitchen table. Apologies. But Planechase IS a kitchen table format…(Really, the box is very large.)
Here the box is, in all its cellophane sealed glory. I love the shiny foil treatment the Wizards gave it. This time it is purple and gold…a color that is difficult for me to describe…It isn’t brown at all. it is … shiny purplish purple-and-gold.
The back of the box displays a poster, which might find its way on my office wall at work…
The bottom picture shows you that the box is exactly the same size as the Duel Decks Anthology.
This box is important because it helps give this set the feeling of a premium board game. Want to quickly set up a game of Magic with some friends…just break out the Planechase Anthology. It also will make for nifty storage.
Now for the opening…(cue the angelic choir!)
Notable, five spots for the dice, ordered in the same way as the decks…and what was that?
The Planar die is twice the size of the conventional Planar die! (pictured on the right is a comparison shot.)
These dice are life-counters. I wiI will keep these in the box and not take them out to tournaments. I am partial to the green one and the orange one because I can see them more easily. (I was partial to one of the dice in the Duel Decks Anthology for the same reason.)
Lets open some cards!
Not quite yet. It looks like there is some propaganda hiding under the planar deck.
The poster features some of the planes…why these? They chose these because they are the planes that are best seated in the minds of players. Really new players are probably aware of the “Origins” stories. Zendikar and Innistrad are currently in Standard. Bolas’s Meditation Chamber is important because he IS the villain in MTG. But I think also the Wizards wanted to include something that is going to be important in upcoming sets. Amonkhet is the next big set, and is going to be all about Bolas according to the Wizards’ press releases.
The back of that insert tells you how to play. And remember what I told you about the way the Wizards originally intended players would play? This rules insert doesn’t mention that at all, which I suppose means that style is just about officially dead. There are some suggestions for playing in a variety of ways. Drafting the planes as a cube…that is an idea I hadn’t considered!
CARDS! CARDS! CARDS! CARDS!
“Slide Deck Box” eluded me…you have to experience it to get it. Turns out that it is exactly what it says it is. Notice the slanted top of the inner box. This is reminiscent of the “Bundle Box” design that is replacing “fat packs.” This makes it easier in THAT product to open the box. In this case, it makes it easier to grip the cards in order to remove them.
Without question, this deck box can’t hold sleeved planar cards. It’s a good thing I didn’t purchase sleeves for them in anticipation. (I really did mull it over, but decided to wait. Wise decision, SpartanNerd!)
After breaking the cellophane seal, you can see that the “phenomenon” cards are on top. These function as powerful effects that change the game. Chaotic Aether can really shake up the game if people are willing to pay the tax to roll the Planar die (to roll the die at any time, a player must pay a land at first, then two lands for a second roll, then three for a third, etc.) Morphic Tide can be devastating! And it can totally turn the tables in a game of Magic.
After the Phenomenon cards come the planes.
Onnake Catacomb…this is the place where Liliana got the Chain Veil!
Llanowar is funny…it makes all of your creatures into “better-than” Llanowar Elves. (Lannowar Elves taps to add one green mana to your mana pool.)
There are over 70 different planes! I haven’t heard of most of them.
The thing about this set…it is all about FLAVOR. A person might not know anything about MTG. Having them sit down and play the game this way will immerse them in the basic lore and the basic “What is this game Magic the Gathering all about?” The game becomes more than just fun decks to play with cool art. It becomes a story. And that is very good because the flavor or MTG is really awesome.
A little rant. It has been said that Mortal Kombat (and its associated video games) isn’t that great as far as fighting games go. But it is so cool in flavor that it remains appealing, even though it is trumped by the mechanics of other games in its genre. MTG has the opposite problem sometimes. The game is so cool and fun, but people don’t have to be aware of the story surrounding it for the game to work. How many times have I seen new players ask about the flavor text of a card, and what purpose does it serve? It serves no mechanical purpose…it is only there for extra fun. Extra flavor. Extra points in the coolness department. At one time I didn’t care about the story. Over the years, I have picked up on some of it, and even read through some of it, like the Battle for Zendikar story and the way Nissa and Chandra drew up a “Channel-Fireball” combo to kill the titans. I still have a lot to learn about the story. The Planechase Anthology is without a doubt going to inspire me to look up information about the different planes and locations in MTG.
Onto the rest of the decks. Each one comes with its own “slide deck box.” The colored “Planeswalker Symbol” is the only indication of which deck is inside besides the label on the flat side of the inside box. Notice the one of the far left…the “orange” symbol. That box has extra items inside.
One of those items is the basic guide to playing Magic (quick reference card). Which is not a guide to playing Planechase. So I’m not sure if including it was a good idea. (I just threw it away, as usual.)
The other item is the tokens. Double Sided.
I am showing you one side, then flipping them. Notice a ton of Goblin tokens, and Saproling tokens. If you have ever played decks that produce these kinds of token creatures, then you know you might just need this many. Saproling token decks can get out of control!
NOW FOR THE INDIVIDUAL DECKS.
Each deck is called a “theme deck.” What this means is, each deck showcases a mechanic, and has cards that support that mechanic.
I will be showing you the eight rares (YES!) from each deck first. And then I will show you notable things about the decks as well.
This is the only deck I already have spent time with playing, and you saw what I had to say if you clicked the link in the top paragraphs. Since I wrote that review, I have played this deck on numerous occasions. The Dragonlair Spider is ALWAYS a winner. Lots of times, people underestimate him. Hellion Eruption is also an amazing win-con. The Devour mechanic, showcased in this deck, requires a little work. You have to sacrifice things…you are giving up board presence in order to make a big creature. This is risky, and sometimes doesn’t pay off. I think it better to “go wide,” load up the board, and then either over run the opponent, or do the Hellion Eruption.
Of the Devour creatures, this one is the most playable. On turn three or four, you can have a fatty that can’t be ignored.
Most of the pre-con decks the Wizards put out contain mana-fixers. This deck has “bounce lands,” and a few other things. Skaarg the Rage Pit can be a really good mana-sink.
These other spells can’t be ignored! Overrun, Fires of Yavimya, and Fling are excellent finishers. Fires of Yavimaya is like a trap…people tend to forget that you can sacrifice it to give all of your creatures +2/+2!
One more incidental thing…Will the deck fit in the “slide deck box” when properly sleeved? (Drum roll)
NIGHT OF THE NINJA
This is the deck the SpartanKid is most excited about. I looked at purchasing this about a year ago for him…he is very interested in Ninjas. After-market, the deck gets about $7o. It came down to either Night of the Ninja or some Mega-Man thing. He went with the Mega-Man…
But now, I own a copy, and he can play it all he wants!
The theme of this deck is Evasion. Virtually every creature in this deck has some form. Flying, Intimidate, Fear, Shroud, Deathtouch, Hexproof, and the feature mechanic, Ninjutsu. With Ninjutsu, you can swap out an attacking creature that doesn’t have a blocker with the creature with Ninjutsu from your hand. Surprise! Throw on a “when this deals combat damage” effect, and you get some cool advantages.
Notable here, is Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni. This guy is the general for a rat-tribal commander deck!
Baleful Strix. One of the best Two-Drop creatures in all of MTG. Flying, Deathtouch, AND card draw. Sick.
Here are the lands. Nothing noteworthy here. (Why didn’t we get Rogue’s Passage? I think it’s because every creature here already can’t be blocked at least without consequences.)
The other spells. Farsight Mask…that’s hilarious! Why would it be tapped unless an opponent tapped it?
A little story…The original picture of the eight rares was very blurry, so at 3:00 AM I retook the picture. And this is when I noticed that the “slide deck boxes” all have outline artwork for their featured rare card. So this is why these cards are sleeved, and why I included the inner box.
Maelstrom Wanderer. A Three-Color creature, with “Cascade, cascade.” Yes. This isn’t a typo! Chaos Reigns is aptly named because of the Cascade mechanic. When you cast (important!) a spell with Cascade, you get to reveal cards off the top of your library until you reveal a card with a lower mana cost, and then you cast that card for free. So Maelstrom Wanderer lets you Cascade twice.
(The other use of the Cascade mechanic is to wash your dishes. HA HA HA!)
Cascade is one of the flashiest mechanics in MTG, and also the most unpredictable. It is at the heart of “Restore Balance” decks, as well as “Living Death” decks.
The other thing about the Maelstrom Wanderer. Three color creatures, especially in the combination of BLUE RED GREEN, are rather rare historically. We got a few recently in Khans block. But this guy seemed to stand alone for a long while.
The Shardless Agent…This is a ten-dollar card! In the right deck, it can almost be a Collected Company.
It seems I forgot another important picture…Bloodbraid Elf. (Banned in Modern!)
It was recently brought to my attention that this guy is banned in Pauper. I wonder why? (It’s obvious.)
Here is a notable card. Do you want to know what a vanilla creature is if it takes a mana of every color to cast? Fusion Elemental provides that standard baseline. 8/8.
This is a five color deck. Such a deck has a hard time finding the resources it needs. Shimmering Grotto and Rupture Spire help with this. Vivid Creek and Terramorphic Expanse are also always useful.
But even this wouldn’t be enough.
The five spells on the left also help you fix your mana.
Every other spell is pretty good. Our main plan, though is to smash the opponent with our creatures.
This deck is based on enchantment auras, specifically Totem Armor.
The Kor Spiritdancer is important…It is a strong piece of the Hexproof deck in Modern. Maybe I can make my Bogles deck work better now that I own a copy. (I will need three more, of course. Do-able…it is a ten-dollar card.)
Krond, of the Dawn-Clad. If you can get this guy going, you have no business losing. You can exile their permanents all over the place. He is a flying, vigilant threat.
I thought these two notable…Silhana Ledgewalker has the aforementioned Hexproof. If you get a few auras on it, there is little that the opponent can do. It also is hard to block…
Dreampod Druid…remember all of those Saproling tokens?
Nothing spectacular about the lands. The City Tree is a notable inclusion.
You might have noticed that this deck is a little light on creatures. This is because it is heavy on other spells, especially auras…especially totem armor. The deck also generates tokens, helping ensure you aren’t holding unusable “dead” cards. (Totem Armor. If enchanted creature would be destroyed, destroy the aura with Totem Armor instead.)
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS AFTER UNBOXING.
This is a terrific product. Thanks to the SpartanWife for getting it for me on our anniversary. Thanks to the Tangled Web as well, who gave me a discount. A great thing too, because today I have been fighting a Kidney Stone. And the store owner, Daniel Macabee, is a super nice guy. If you ever find yourself in Spartanburg, SC, go by the Tangled Web Comic Book store. You won’t regret it.
As I have been typing into the wee hours of the night/morning, dealing with my problem, I have spent some time thinking about it. There is only one physical problem with the Planechase Anthology. There is nowhere to put the 35 double-sided tokens. I sleeved them in transparent Dragon Shields. But even if I didn’t, the slide deck boxes wouldn’t accomodate them. And besides that, which tokens go with which deck? This is a nit-picking thing, but notable.If the Wizards hadn’t put that giant Magic The Gathering logo on the plastic tray under the dice, but instead gave us another deck box for the tokens, that would have been better. True, I could remove the tray and store the tokens underneath, but that takes away from the convenience of the the thing as a dedicated board game.
The only other negative thing I could say is…we don’t have Planes cards for Tarkir, Kaladesh, or Theros. All of these planes have been introduced to us since these decks were originally printed. The Wizards could have given us some exclusive planes cards featuring those locations just for this set. And that would drive some collectors crazy…crazy enough to purchase this product even if they already owned the rest of it.
But besides those two items, I haven’t got any complaints. I really had to dig for that second one…but maybe its the pain medicine.
I give the Planechase Anthology a 5/5!
It is a terrific box set that promises hours of fun at the kitchen table in the future. It is a great collection of re-prints, including some scarce rares. It is four ready-to-play decks for anytime. It is good Magic. Plain and simple.
THE SPARTANNERD GIVES THE PLANECHASE ANTHOLOGY A 5/5. Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!
I was on the fence dropping the insane $$$ (For a part-timer, at least) on a new hobby for me, but this review cinched it. Time to start the planechase!