Archenemy: Nicol Bolas. SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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Long time no blog.  Sorry, Hub City Geeks.

But I’m back with a treat!  As you can see, for Father’s Day I got the Archenemy Nicol Bolas set!  And I am unboxing it for you today!

The top image is the front of the box.  Nice artwork.  And you know you are getting something nice!  Mine was actually slightly cheaper, as the Tangled Web in Spartanburg is holding a sale…everything 15% off!

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The back has some inspiring words, and a picture of some of the content.

Opening the box, you are greeted with this.  I was a little puzzled at first.

Also, note that upon removing the cellophane and the price tag along with it, you can see some information.  Ages 13+, 2-4 players, and 30+ minutes.

What I’m telling you and showing you is that this is the first really successfully executed MTG all-in-one board game style set!  While there is Arena of the Planeswalkers, which is “Heroscape” with Magic characters, Archemeny: Nicol Bolas retains the gameplay of Magic the Gathering.  And just like any dedicated board game, there is some setup.

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IMG_0112I was confused by the big white thing.  What that is is an envelope, and it contained the four deckboxes, which you will have to assemble.

IMG_0134Adding to the board game feel of the set, you also get a special life counter, which can go up to 100.  This is the “Commander’s Arsenal” style of counter, that hasn’t been released in a long time.  (Incidentally, if you get the Commander’s Anthology,” you get four of these.  I won’t be getting that product and reviewing it, however.)

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The first pack of cards I opened were the scheme cards, of course!  These cards are the same size as the Planes from Planechase.  I am showing you the front and the back…I really like the design.  And the back is almost like, “What if Magic the Gathering came out this year?”  This might be what the card backs would look like.  The front features more of that Egyptian style art, and a device resembling the “Talon Gates.”  (Apparently, Nicol Bolas was one of the first planeswalkers, and the gates are a trophy remaining from the first planeswalker duel on Dominaria.)

 

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The scheme cards are loaded with flavor.  And I think there also may be some spoiler content from the upcoming “Hour of Devastation” set.  Check out “A Reckoning Approaches.”  Is that Razeketh on the card?

The Included Decks

Next I will unbox each deck and show you a picture of the rares.  I will also point out the important commons and uncommons.  All of these cards are reprints.

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OK.  First let me say I am disappointed that these aren’t foil planeswalkers.  AT LEAST BOLAS SHOULD BE FOIL.

And while we’re at it, why didn’t they give us an oversize Nicol Bolas as well?

OK.  Rant over.  Let’s look at the tokens first.

They are double sided.  One image shows one side.  The other shows the same cards flipped.

It seems we should be making lots of horrors, zombies, and soldiers.

Now for Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker‘s deck.

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Wow.  This is a lot of rares!  And so many things fly.  Blood Tyrant…That guy’s a winner! Don’t have what you need?  Prognostic Sphinx will get you there.   Here is a needed reprint of Dreadbore. I almost think Harvester of Souls is a little boring at this point.  How many times has that been reprinted?  Icefall Regent was recently a big deal in standard.  Archfiend of Depravity has been there…but never really shined.  Bolas is a three color card, and it’s good that we get Dragonskull Summit, a buddy land.

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Here are the commons and uncommons.  Lightning Bolt.  YES.  Doom Blade.  YES!  Extract from Darkness has been fun in commander.  Slave of Bolas.  This is my first “upgrade.”  I picked up a foil over my recent vacation.

Because Bolas is a three color character, you get some mana rocks that help you fix your colors.  And you get these lands, notably Crumbling Necropolis.

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Each of the Planeswalkers in this set are pretty good, but Bolas is the most satisfying.  Still, he costs a ton to play.  Luckily, his deck helps get him out a little earlier with certain cards.

Gideon Jura  ‘s deck

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These are some all-stars in white!  (well, maybe not Aegis Angel and Lightwielder Paladin.)  As I looked at these rares…I knew them right away.  In the case of Fiendslayer Paladin, that guy was incredible in Theros/M15 standard.  Sun Titan.  Need we say more?  Odric Master Tactician is so good he right out finishes regular matches of Magic if he hits the board with some friends.

Gideon Jura is an OK card.  There are certainly better versions of Gideon out there.  But this version is good and balanced for this set.  -2 the Gideon to remove some of Bolas pesky fliers.

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These cards are also pretty good, with excoriate exiling tapped cards.  Fencing Ace was the title of my deck back in Theros/Ravnica standard.  Pairing him with Fiendslayer is great.  The Flickerwisp…It turns out that Bolas can steal your planeswalkers pretty easy using the scheme cards.  But Flickerwisp says “return to the battlefield under its OWNERS’s control.”  Which is just sick.  Bolas can steal your Chandra, and you can just steal her back!

The SpartanKid made an observation…cards from Amonkhet have the Amonkhet expansion symbol.  But cards from other places get a special Archenemy symbol…

(I thought of this because of the Aerial Responder, even though he has the Archenemy symbol.  Somehow that triggered my memory, maybe because he is in Kaladesh?)

Chandra, Pyromaster‘s deck

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Dualcaster Mage, Grim Lavamancer, and Inferno Titan.  These cards are terrific!  I don’t know if Dualcaster made a splash in Vintage or not, but this was one of the predictions when it was first printed in Commander 2015.  This is my first copy of Grim Lavamancer…he is a staple in the Modern burn archetype.

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Hammerhand and Coordinated Assault help your guys get through.  Searing Spear…this is NOT LIGHTNING BOLT.  Chandra now has at least three pre-constructed decks, and none of them have the best burn spell in them.  That said, Searing Spear isn’t bad, it just can’t outpace Lightning Bolt.  Volcanic Geyser.  Why not just include Fireball?  The geyser has the advantage of being an instant, but it is one red slower.

Chandra’s card is one of the best Chandras they ever printed..  Seeing that she has NINE DIFFERENT CARDS, that’s saying something.  But a great many of those are not really tournament playable.  This one is a contender.

Nissa, Worldwaker‘s deck

IMG_0126Gavin Verhey, who was the lead designer on this set, proclaimed in the now famous preview duel on the Mothership website, said that Nissa’s deck could do the best with a long game.  And that may be because this is a two color deck, while the other two are mono colored.

She does have more resilient threats, but it takes longer for anything to get going.  If Bolas sweeps the board and Thragtusk is there, you at least get a beast in his place.  Forgotten Ancient can get out of hand really fast, (He was recently included in the Atraxa Commander deck.)  Oran-Rief Hydra is big to start with, and just gets bigger.

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Additionally, this deck can draw cards more easily, and Vision Skeins is incredible in a four player game.  (Of course, Bolas gets to draw also.)

The Nissa card here is the best of the three Gatewatch planeswalkers.  She pays for herself the turn she comes out.  She makes lands into man-lands.  And ultimateing her can be GG, if Bolas doesn’t sweep the board on the next turn.

PLAYING THIS SET.

I just got it yesterday!  But there has been some playing here in the SpartanNerd Household.  Last night me and the SpartanKid sleeved up Gideon and Bolas and had a traditional one-on-one.  The funny thing is, that worked pretty good.  It was a cute match, where each side would gain an advantage one after the other.  But eventually, Bolas overpowered him.

Today, I ran the Gatewatch myself against the SpartanKid, who played Bolas as Archenemy.  This match lasted about 70 minutes.  It seemed everytime I would get some traction, the scheme cards would undercut my progress.  That big splashy spell every turn really makes this a special set.  But it is also HARD.

Eventually Bolas accumulated enough flyers to just start picking planeswalkers off one at a time.  And what do you do when all you draw is pump spells while you have no creatures?  The last man standing was Nissa, and two Turntimber Basilisks, and two Fertilids.  Nissa had a ton of lands as well.  Bolas had the abovementioned flyers, but all were tapped, making death inevitable.  But I wasn’t going down without a fight.  He had three walking threats.  I landfalled the basilisks several times by using the Fertilid’s ability.  And at least removed the threats on the ground.  But it was a loss next turn.  Bolas scheme card even made me lose life before the defeat! (The Mighty Will Fall)

This was a fun time, and it could only be more fun with more players.  I will have to keep you posted here on SpartanNerd.com about future matchups.

SO WHAT DOES THE SPARTANNERD RATE ARCHENEMY:NICOL BOLAS?

It’s a terrific product, and the Board Game feel of it is very nice.  Check it out.

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Here is my Archenemy packed up and ready to play.  But believe it or not, I had just put the top back on it and shook it around.  The tray inside is perfect for keeping this set contained.  Even the life counter has a well designed spot in the set.  I haven’t sleeved the tokens or the schemes, but they fit nicely in their original spot underneath the deck box un-sleeved.

So this is a well designed package.  Well designed experience.

And I COULD take for instance, the Grim Lavamancer to a tournament to play.  And that is one of the rewarding things about collecting the sealed products the way I do, at least for Modern.  Some of the included cards here are very nice.

I wish the Planeswalkers were foil.  That is one of my complaints.  You pay $59.99 for a MTG product, there better be some foils.  Because these are all alternate art cards, they won’t be printed in foils unless the Wizards decide to reprint them in the future somehow.  You could get foil regular printing but that shouldn’t feel necessary.

The decks included are tailored for multiplayer matches, and so that is one of the narrow focus things about the set.  But you could play any decks against Bolas you wanted to, I suppose.

So I am going to rate this product a 4/5, knowing that my opinion will change the more I play the set.

Do you agree or disagree with the SpartanNerd’s rating of 4/5?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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“Breed Lethality” Commander 2016…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

FOUR COLORS.

Wow.  This was the selling point of Commander 2016.  The Wizards of the Coast put out five brand new decks, each with a four color general  And because designing four-color cards is such a difficult task, they created a new “partner” mechanic, that lets you mix and match a pair of two-color commanders, for some new EDH ideas.

If you have been reading the SpartanNerd Blog for awhile, you know I recently picked up Kaalia of the Vast, a three color “mardu” general.  I did this because I really like casting Angels, Demons, and Dragons.  But also…this is one of those cards serious EDH players should have.  And at this point, I do consider myself a little bit serious about Commander.  I think the “Breed Lethality” deck, with Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice will be the next deck along the same line as the Kaalia thing.  You can’t find it anywhere!  I have been looking patiently at the big box stores, knowing that they will stock it at MSRP.  But all I ever see are “Open Hostility” and “Stalwart Unity.”  Luckily, at the SC Comic Con I saw Atraxa’s deck…and in Japanese no less!

Because it is in Japanese, (Kanji I assume), I thought it a good idea to wait awhile and get some experience with the deck.  This was a great decision.  I feel like I have a thorough review for you today, chock full of experience!

This week has been Spring Break, and I spent a great bit of time playing Commander.   I saw “Breed Lethality” quite a few times…almost exactly the stock version.  I took my own baby out, the almost totally foiled out Liliana Tribal to a few tournaments this week.  There was one time that in a five player match, two players had Atraxa!  She’s good!  But there is also a little bit of sadness when a deck gets so popular “everyone is playing it.”

Well anyway.  Here’s my review!

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We get the same sort of box we always get.  This time, though, the writing is all in Japanese.

The window shows you a real clear view of the oversized foil general, Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice.  Flying.  Vigilance.  Deathtouch.  Lifelink.  At the end of your turn, Proliferate.  That is…add another counter of any kind on the board…on as many different permanents as you want.  This general is so good…, it’s no wonder people want to play it.  It is almost like a challenge for you to figure out how to use it!  Proliferate Poison Counters…Experience Counters.  Abuse cards that look for +1/+1 counters.  Suspense counters.  Time counters.  On and on.

Here’s the back.  It shows off some other cards.

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These three are the “Partner” generals.  You can mix and match them.  In fact, if you did buy the other Commander 2016 decks, you would have fifteen different cards to interchange all together!

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Here’s the contents of the box.  This time I am going to complain a little bit about the box.

This is the first time that I have DOUBLE SLEEVED an EDH deck.  This deckbox can’t accommodate Dragon Shields double sleeved.  It CAN hold Dragon Shields without the double sleeved system if you side load them into the box.  But not the double sleeved.  (Why did I double sleeve?  To write the english text in Sharpie on the card as an aid as I tested out the deck.)

The other items in the box are…The deck.  The General.  The box, along with a plastic tray that can double as a swimming pool for Lego Mini-Figures, a how to play reference guide, which is probably just as unsuitable in Japanese as in English for EDH, and then the insert which contains story, art, how to play the deck, and the all-important decklist.  But it’s all in Japanese, so I can’t tell you what it says!

This week while playing, I heard the Atraxa’s story.  Basically, four of the Praetors, Elesh Norn, Jin Gitaxias, Sheoldred, and Vorinclex each decided to transform an angel into a Phyrexian Horror.  Urabrask, the red Praetor, decided to stay out of it.  This is why Atraxa is all four colors except red.

This is a pretty cool story.  I don’t really know that much about the Praetors.  I do have Elesh Norn for my Gifts Ungiven deck in Modern.  And I have a foil Sheoldred coming in the mail to add to Liliana’s deck.  But really, neither would be all that great added to this deck…that’s not really how this deck wants to play out.

So…On with a review of the cards!

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First of all, here are the generals.

Atraxa, Who I already explained.  You get this smaller card to shuffle and be discreet with in your hand, in case someone out there was wondering.

Inkra Shidiqi, the Usurper…this person lets you gain life equal to the toughness of your creatures when they deal combat damage to a player.  I find this an odd ability in the colors Green and Black.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to play or play against this card yet.

Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker.  He flies, and lets you put counters on him whenever your opponents play a spell.  (And since this game is titled MAGIC….)

Reyhan, the Last of the Abzan.  This character gains the +1/+1 counters of other creatures when they are put in the graveyard.

I have partnered Ishai and Reyhan….they are an incredible combination!  I was able to 132 +1/+1 counters on Reyhan!

Here are the tokens…next in the deck.  How cool is it to have a Japanese “Germ” token!

Now for the main deck.  As before…I will really only comment on cards that I find to be really significant through my experiences.  But this time the deck is terrific, so…

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Thrummingbird.  A 2/2 flyer that lets you proliferate.  This is getting you there!  Abzan Falconer.  Do you like fliers?  I thought you did!  Tuskguard Captain…everyone gets trample if they have a +1/+1 counter on them!  Juniper Order Ranger.  Everyone deserves a counter!  Whenever another creature enters the battlefield, they get a +1/+1 counter, and so does the Juniper Order Ranger!

The Signets.  And Darksteel Ingot.  One thing about this deck…if you are playing Atraxa, and you can’t get all of your colors, you might just be behind everyone else.  The Wizards wisely reprinted the signets and Darksteel Ingot to help you fix your mana.  (Commander’s Sphere is practically the same thing as Darksteel Ingot.  It isn’t indestructable, however.)

Mortify and Putrefy.  This deck doesn’t have that much targeted removal.  These two do nicely, if not as well as Fatal Push, Path to Exile, or Vendetta.

Crystalline Crawler, Deepglow Skate, and Duelists Heritage…these are all new cards.  They all work really well.  You get to load counters on the Crystalline Crawler, who is colorless herself.  So you can play that without all of that fixing.  Deepglow Skate lets you double the counters on a permanent, and then Duelists Heritage helps you play politics, as you can choose an attacking creature to give double strike too!  Forgotten Ancient…He gets a counter whenever anyone casts a spell…even you!

Kalonia Hydra…double counters every turn!  Ghave, Guru of Spores.   I remember the first time I ever saw this guy as a general…wow.  He can make a ton of Saprolings.  Scavenging Ooze.  Need I say more about that card!

Of the cards on the bottom…Fathom Mage lets you draw a TON of cards.  Merciless Eviction and Spitting Image.  Merciless Eviction is almost the only sweeper in the deck.  Spitting Image…It is frustrating to see this card across the table.  Not pictured…Treasure Cruise…

There are plenty of basic lands, but here are the fixers.  You need the power of ALL OF THESE!

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Command Tower AND Opal Palace.  Bounce lands.  Tri-Lands.  And Evolving Wilds.

As I have played against this deck this week, I have noticed one of the most striking modifications is to add Fetch Lands and Shock Lands to help with the fixing.  This is something I have rarely seen in Commander…but it makes sense for these four color decks.

 

Playing the Deck

All week I have played this deck, and played against it.  In different places.  So I have a varied look at it.

The deck is great as is.  And I have seen it played like that some.  When I have played it, I like Forgotten Ancient/ Ishai Ojutai Dragonspeaker combo.  The Mana Fixing has to be right…But I haven’t had any trouble myself.  I have seen other people have trouble assembling the necessary mana base, however.

You want to be sure to get some creatures on the battlefield, and then to have some counters on those creatures.  Besides not assembling the colors you need, the other way to lose is to have “counter screw.”  This actually has happened to me, and it’s frustrating.  But it was all about the luck of the draw that time.

You want to get cards like Corpsejack Menace, which doubles the counters.  You have to be careful about the order of the triggers in order to maximize your value, however.

When playing against other people who play this deck, I have seen one standout strategy for a custom deck: infect.  In EDH, you still are dead with ten poison counters.  Not twenty as you would hope.  I saw one guy kill everyone at his table in one turn.  I was holding an excellent mono-black hand, and that guy ruined my game!

SpartanNerd’s Rating of “Breed Lethality” Magic the Gathering Commander 2016

I’m going to give this product a 5/5.  It’s goodness all around.  The Wizards were able to give us a functioning deck with cool new game play.  They didn’t have to reprint fetches and shocks, (which would have wrecked the product availability and after-market price even more.)  The four color commander Atraxa is great, and promises a future of creative deckbuilds.

I’m not sure how the “infect” problem should be handled, though.  Atraxa is well loved, and so a ban probably isn’t going to happen.  But getting killed off frequently by infect isn’t fun.  So there’s a problem for the EDH rules committee.

THE SPARTANNERD RATES “BREED LETHALITY” 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

SpartanNerd Thoughts…Modern Masters 2017

OK.  WOW!

What has me so enamored?

Liliana of the Veil

Snapcaster Mage

Damnation

Enemy Fetch Lands

Cavern of Souls

Gifts Ungiven (Can you imagine drafting this card?)

Double D (Desecration Demon…again, an amazing card to draft.)

Blood Moon

Tarmogoyf

Abrupt Decay

Domri Rade

Harmonize  (Green card draw…draft this!)

Path to exile

I mean…these are just some of the main cards everyone is talking about.  The reprinting of the top four…these have been called for by fans for a long time.  Liliana, Damnation, Snappy, and enemy fetches have all only ever been printed one time.  Their aftermarket values are super high.  Oh and Cavern of Souls too.

I think MTG has been in trouble.  At least Standard and Modern have been.  Standard, because “Stale Standard.”  Modern…It is so expensive to get the above staples, coupled with the Wizards stopped running Pro-Tour Modern events, and then the little fad called “Frontier.”  (Is is really just a fad?)  And MTG players love EDH…the top selling product for the Wizards is reportedly their yearly Commander release.

I look forward to drafting with these cards…that’s going to be great.  The cards scream ARCHETYPES!.  (Reanimator, Red-Green beatdown, Esper Blink, and so many more.)  And the box I pre-ordered…that is already an epic win.  If I don’t get Liliana or the D-word…I will pull something I want to trade for them.

I just keep going back to the card image gallery, and salivating.  Never have I been so pleased with a set.  I was psyched for Theros block releases.  But this goes beyond any hype…  Liliana and D….have been on the radar for a re-print.  The Wizards even said they considered her for M-15.  How that other card didn’t make it into “From the Vault: Annihilation,” I just don’t know.  We didn’t need another Wrath of God, especially with Heliod on it.

Back when they did the other two Modern Masters sets…people said, “Nah.  They won’t re-print Blood Moon or fetch lands.  That would be crazy.”  They have, people.  Draft and buy this thing.  And get back into Modern.  I’m getting bored!

(Technically, Tarmogoyf is the most valuable card up there in my list.  Not sure how…it has seen a few re-prints.  Yes.  Great card.  But in Modern, you pretty much need four copies of that $200 card in order to play the Zoo or Jund archetype decks.  Just saying!)

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Guided By Nature Commander Deck

Should I call this a “Vintage Review”?  Surely not!  I went on a hunt for this deck when I heard the news that the Wizards are going to be re-printing the deck as a part of next Summer’s “Commander Anthology.”  That product is to contain four reprinted decks, and by adding Freylise’s “Guided By Nature” deck to my collection, I already own three of the four decks!  (The other decks are “Invasive Manuevers,” “Plunder the Graves,” and the money-card loaded “Heavenly Inferno” which is the only deck I don’t have.)

I picked up my copy at Toys-R-Us.  Yes.  Still on the shelf.  I paid $40.  MSRP was $35.  But this deck is selling on the internet for way more money.  And I could piece it out and get well over my $40 worth of cards back if I wanted to.

I owned two of the Commander 2014 decks already, Ob Nixilis and Nahiri the Lithomancer.  I truly hadn’t stopped to appreciate Freylise’s deck until the Wizards brought so much attention to it.  I have found it to be a thing of beauty, and certainly worthy of a re-print.

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“Guided By Nature” came in this traditional window box packaging, showcasing the Planeswalker Freylise, who can also be used as a Commander.  We are told it is a 100 card deck, and there are 15 new Magic cards in the deck.

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On the back we see some of those new cards.  We get lots of propaganda.  You can see the names of the other two decks I don’t have, “Built from Scratch” and “Peer Through Time.”  This doesn’t really inspire me to get Deretti, Scrap Savant or Tefuri, Temporal Archmage’s decks.

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Freylise’s deck didn’t open any differently than the Ob Nixills deck.  You get the big splashy oversized card, a cellophane wrapped deck, a piece of poster just for this deck, the guide to playing Magic, and a pretty good deckbox, which has a tray inside that is more useful if you take it out.  The Guide to Playing Magic is completely useless for this Commander product, and should be disregarded by new players.  That guide only tells you how to play regular Magic, not Commander.

We get even more double sided tokens.  (The same cards are featured in both images, just flipped over.)I already expressed that I feel that it is likely more challenging to make double sided cards for the Wizards.  While they have access to the factory to do so, (for the main purpose of Origins Planeswalkers and Shadows Over Innistrad block), they have gotten lots of milage printing double sided tokens.  These are great!  And very useful as you play the game.

Should I show you a picture of plain basic lands…Nope.  I’ll skip that.

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We get these special lands.  Notable is Crystal Vein ad Havenwood Battleground.  These a “Sac Lands.”  Ghost Quarter, Haunted Fengraf, and Evolving Wilds are also quite useful.

So on with the real cards…

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So what does Freylise do?  Rolling her up gets you a mana elf.  You really want THAT in this deck!  Rolling her down will get you Naturalize.  And her -6 is important because that green card draw is hard to come by!

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We get two more commanders.  I have yet to try Titania.  But Ezuri is a super “elf lord,” and I couldn’t help but give him a try!

img_9413img_9414As usual, the rares are on top.  And you get an INCREDIBLE amount of them.  From Seer’s Sundial to Thunderous Baloth, to Beastmaster Ascencion.  The rares in this deck work wonders to bring you a win.  You get lots of regular green stuff too…stuff that should be in every green Commander deck, like Silklash Spider and Emerald Medallion.

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This deck is TRIBAL ELVES.  And that becomes clear when you look at the rest of the cards.

 

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Question:  How many mana elves does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

But you need this critical mass of elves to make some of the effects in the deck work.  Think by to Ezuri, the alternate commander.  Lots of elves means Ezuri wins!  It is also great that most of these creatures are small, with low converted-mana-cost.  That makes a card like Thunderous Baloth, with its Lieutenant ability, really shine!

img_9417And finally we get to some of the usual stuff.  Sol Ring has to be in EVERY deck.  Commander’s Sphere and Swiftfoot Boots.  Also worthy must includes.  Overrun.  How many times and different ways can you give your creatures +x/+x and trample?

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Here is the full decklist from the poster.

HOW DOES GUIDED BY NATURE PLAY OUT?

Great.  For real!  I haven’t seen this deck lose.  The mono-green elf strategy is tried and true, and the Wizards have given us one of the finest mono-green decks of this sort.

Can it be improved?  Absolutely.  Add some more expensive cards.  Craterhoof Behemoth.  Crucible of Worlds.  Gaia’s Cradle.  And so on!  Allosaurus Rider.  Nylea, God of the Hunt.

I see why this deck has elevated to Anthology level.  And am proud to own it.  I score it a 5/5.  I have found that “Evasive Maneuvers” and “Plunder the Graves” are also rated 5/5.  I can only imagine that “Heavenly Inferno” would be a 5/5 as well, but I think I can affort to piece that together rather than purchasing it.  Either way, I WON’T be getting the Commander Anthology this summer.  It would take some serious enticing, like foiling it out for me to change my mind.  I mean, I already own the bulk of the product!

The SpartanNerd gives Frealise’s “Guided By Nature” deck a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Wade into Battle

Today I present to the world the SpartanNerd’s third review of a Commander deck from the 2015 set.  This deck is titled “Wade Into Battle,” and features a red-white color scheme and a nifty new general named Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas.”  Read on for a complete review!

“Wade Into Battle” comes in the same kind of box as all of the other Commander decks from the past few years, featuring a large window showcasing the main card in the deck, oversized and in foil.  The package has a nice red-yellow look too it, like fire, or glowing metal, or lava.

Flipping the box over reveals some of the cards from the deck, and an inspiring message.  (All of the propaganda doesn’t really mean anything to me.  My big question is “how fun is the deck?”)

I am going to go ahead and apologize.  I had some technical difficulties with the pictures.  I’m not sure how, but I took some pictures, and only some of the image ever made it through.  Nothing too important, as this didn’t happen to the main part of the deck.  But the unboxing pictures fell victim of this.  Sorry!  But I assure you, that the deck was packaged exactly like the other two decks I have reviewed.

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You get a nice deck box, with a plastic tray (trash) and a guide to playing Magic (also trash.)  You get a poster with a decklist and instructions, which I always keep.  And the cards wrapped in cellophane.

Who is this general?

A double striking, vigilant giant 3/3 soldier!

This chick is ooooozing with flavor.  Apparently in the early sets of Magic, there was a card called “Hill Giant.”  And he was a 3/3 red creature.  Kalemne captures that.  She also captures the flavor of the Theros block, Iroas being the god of war in Theros, who also had a red-white color scheme.  Double-Strike was prominently featured on cards during the Theros block as well.

It is the bottom ability that is all-new.  With this set of Commander, we get a new thing called Experience Counters, counters for the player that are permanent.  Poison Counters were the only kind of counters before this set.  But Experience Counters are a positive thing, and Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas gets +1/+1 for each experience counter you have.  And how do you get these?  By casting creatures with a converted mana cost of five or greater.  (It goes without saying, Kalemne must be on the battlefield for you to get the Experience counters.)

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Sorry for the blurry pics.  But we get two other possible commanders.  Anya, Merciless Angel, and Gisela, Knight of Goldblade.

These other two generals want you to build around their abilities and the fact that they are ANGELS!  Gisela is a reputable Commander.  Anya is looking for other players to have a pretty low life-total.

 

Here are the cards.  I am going to drop some commentary below each picture.

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First of all, the RARES.  These pre-constructed Commander decks always contain an incredible amount of rares!  And notice the converted mana costs…most of them are five-or-greater!

Almost all of the creatures in this deck are GIANTS.  I would say this was a tribal deck.

We get two Titans.  You can’t sniff at any of the cards in that cycle!  Blade of Selves is a money card in this deck, giving the person it is equipped to “Myriad.”  This new mechanic causes all of your opponents to be attacked by a copy of the same creature it is equipped to.  Unfortunately, Myriad is a dead ability if you are playing two player Commander.

Hostility is an incredibly fun card that can get you tokens…but you have to be able to cast spells that cause damage.  Still, he is a 6/6 with a six CMC.

We get a giant legendary Leonin (to further add to the Theros flavor and offer a new white commander)  and Hamletback Goliath.  (This guy…they sell a promo version of him on three-pack sets at Wal-Mart…the packs are from Return to Ravnica block.)

Angel of Serenity…an Angel with an O-RIng ability for three creatures.

And tons more giants including Fumiko, the Lowblood…a legendary red creature with Bushido, and is a possible red general for another deck.

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Here are the lands.  (This is one of those pictures with the bug, luckily it was still usable.)

Teramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds are begging to be replaced by better fetches.  Command Tower is dedicated commander fixing.  There are a few dual lands, most entering the battlefield tapped…Boros Garrison is notable because it is a bounce land.  We get two vivid lands, that also enter the battlefield tapped, but have charge counters so you can produce the other color if you need to.  And cycle lands.

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We get a new rare dual land this time…Ancient Amphitheater.

(I am not showing you the basic lands.  They are…basic…)

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With these huge CMC cards, there better be some ramp.  And there is!  This deck has a ton of MANA ROCKS.  All of these are mana rocks except Lightning Greaves, which is equipment.

Notable here is Thought Vessel, a new mana rock that lets you have an unlimited hand size.  Also Dreamstone Hedron, which reflects the current storyline in Magic.  (The Current storyline is Battle for Zendikar/ Oath of the Gatewatch).

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Other spells in this deck, and there aren’t that many, include Fiery Confluence, which is part of a new cycle where you can make up to three choices, and can choose something more than once.  This is a powerful card in this format!

Earthquake is a sweeper, as is Breath of Dirigaz.

There aren’t that many instants…(I noticed in one of the other decks there were ZERO instants.)  This time we get Crib Swap, which is just creepy.  Also, Orim’s Thunder, which can really hurt voltron style players.

Finally, this time I am going to show you the tokens.  They are double sided as in the other decks.  Here is the front side and back side.

$$$THE VALUE OF THE CARDS$$$

Not much here.  Blade of Selves is the money card for this deck.  I looked up the value of everything I thought might be worth something.  Nothing else really.  The titans here are under three dollars.  Rumiko the Lowblood is also.  Turns out that our “new” leonine giant is a reprint.  Gisela isn’t worth much.  And Kalemne is worth less than a dollar.

So if you are in the game for money, this deck isn’t for you!

EXPERIENCES PLAYING THIS DECK.

The first match was against “Call the Spirits.”  This deck came out the winner!  Call the Spirits created many tokens, but  Earthquake took them out, and then the giants coming in after that were just too much.

Matches two and three were solitaire against “Defeat a God” and “Face the Hydra.”  The first deck was just too much, too fast…several times in a row.  The Hydra deck was a blast..giant hydras against giant giants!  But Kalemne came out the winner.

“Forged In Stone” from Commander 2014 lost in a similar way to “Call the Spirits.”  Tis time is was Breath of Diregaz, followed by Kalemne herself and a few angel friends crunching in behind.  The thing about Breath of Diregaz, when it is kicked, it only deals four damage to each creature.  SO….the giants and angels survive through that!

And finally, a matchup against “Plunder the Graves,” this time piloted by the SpartanKid.  He discovered a combo, and made a REAL challenge for “Wade into Battle.”  The combo went like this.   Champion of Stray Souls plus Kraul Death Priest plus Terastodon= Churning through the graveyard to create card advantage.    Terastodon continually destroys things and replaces them with 3/3 green elephants.  I managed to break this combo by playing Angel of Serenity and exiling all three pieces of the combo.  It had taken awhile for the SpartanKid to get that combo going, and so he was at a low life-total.  Unfortunately so was I.  But I top-decked Fiery Confluence for the win!

SPARTANNERD’s RATING OF “WADE INTO BATTLE.”

It took me awhile to get this review out.  I haven’t had that much of a chance to play.  I also had issues with the pictures.  But it has been fun every time.  Kalemne is a great commander who makes great use of those experience counters.

The deck could have a better mana base.  And I wish the wizards would have printed the cycle of temples for us this time.  The new dual land is perfect for this deck.  And the inclusion of all those mana-rocks…that’s just dumb.  There should be a better way, or at least better mana rocks.  Why not Boros Keyrune, which can become a creature?  Why no man-lands?  If you are going to have fixers enter the battlefield tapped, they should do something.  Guildgates are useless outside of limited.

But the creatures in this deck are fun.  It is good to have no less than five legendary creatures.

And that ton of rares was also nice.

Like I mentioned, Myriad is useless against a single player.  You have to have multi-player games for that to matter.

But like I said, the deck has been fun overtime.  So I am going to rate it a cautious 4/5, because of the strange mana base.  But it is a winner, and is fun.

Do you agree or disagree…let me know in the comments, oh Hub City Geeks!

 

 

 

 

 

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…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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

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The box has nice foil…as mentioned.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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The cards in cellophane and inserts in cellophane.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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’S RATING OF “GRAVEBORN” IS 4/5.  DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE.  LEAVE NOTES IN THE COMMENTS, OH HUB CITY GEEKS!