SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic the Gathering “Blessed vs. Cursed” Duel Decks

I have truly arrived at enjoying, even reveling in the casual format “Duel Decks.”  The wizards constantly put out Duel Decks products, and I can’t wait to get a new copy upon its release.  The Duel Deck Anthology is EASILY the most played MTG cards at the SpartanNerd House…if we want to play a ready made deck that is no problem to just pick up, look no further than Jace, Garruck, Liliana, or Chandra.  I also have amassed quite a few of the more recent decks, the most favored of which seem to be Jace vs. Vraska.  The “Cunning” from Speed vs. Cunning is also pretty challenging…(It’s the morphs.)

I top-8-ed at the Tangled Web on Friday, February 26, and conceded to my opponent outright because I was getting tired and had Saturday morning obligations.  (That I reached the Top 8 at a Modern event at the Tangled Web is quite an accomplishment for me!  I was playing Black/White Tokens/Soul Sisters/Control.  White Weenie, I guess.)

On my way out the door, I happened to look at the corner shelf and set eyes for the first time on Blessed vs. Cursed, and knew I had to have it!

Now, it’s been awhile since its release…but I keep getting distracted from the review.  (Life is happening again.)

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Really, the Wizards of the Coast do a good job of making their products look attractive.  And the information on the back is very thorough.  We can see the two premium cards on the front, and on the back we see all of the cards that either are knew or are getting new art for this set.  It is also good that they include a table of contents.

You’ll notice that this deck was only $19.99, which is the same as most of the duel decks products.  This time it is notable because one of the feature cards is Geist of St. Traft, a card that has been valuable in the past.  Currently on TCGplayer, the original Geist of  St. Traft in foil is worth $57!  This reprint is definitely bringing that value down, which brings up a whole other point.  Why doesn’t this deck feature Liliana of the Veil and Jace, Telepath Unbound?  Those two cards needed a reprint, and here was the chance.  AND traditionally, the Spring duel deck offering does feature planeswalkers….

(I believe Jace to be an important spot filler for Snapcaster Mage in Shadows Over Innistraad standard.  I believe they will reprint Liliana in that set.  Or at least in the following set, where she is prominently featured in the promotional art already.  I believe the Wizards KNOW that they would hurt the secondary market on a store level with those reprints, something they weren’t willing to do.  So here we are, Geist vs. Mindwrack Demon instead.)

Oh yes.  A SpartanNerd tangent!  On with the review!

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Prying the recycled paper off reveals these items.  Top to bottom…right to left.  MTG rules reference card.  Guide to playing the deck.  Cards and spin down counters in a plastic tray, and two deck boxes, one intended for Geist of St. Traft’s deck, and the other for Mindwrack Demon’s deck.  Neither deck box is good enough to hold sleeved cards.  But they are pretty!  The life counters feature the “planeswalker” symbol where the number 20 would be.

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The guide to playing the deck showcases the two lead characters…the knew art for Geist of St. Traft looks suspiciously like someone I play MTG against at the Tangled Web…(You know who you are, BC!)  The Mindwrack Demon is one of the ugliest creatures I’ve ever seen depicted…I believe the Wizards were trying to create a “predator” sort of character,  It’s like his whole head is a mouth!

You get some fiction.  I generally don’t read these.  I did this time.  It is very much the kind of writing that is meant to pull you into a story.

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The other side features instructions for playing each deck…and the ever important deck lists.

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Notice that I’ve said nothing about the other piece of paper…I just put it straight in the trash.  But this is the kind of product that a person might purchase to see if they are interested in playing Magic cards.  So it is definelty a good thing for them to add.  They need to refrain from putting that paper in Commander decks, though.

Onto the decks.

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So who is Geist of St. Traft anyway?  I have no idea, but I know what the card does well, as I was beaten down plenty by it during my early days   (He’s a small hex proof creature.  Whenever he attacks, he gets an Angel token buddy.

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I am going to be going over the cards a little at a time…in groups of nine…

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Besides Geist, we get Champion of the Parish.  It is important that this card is a human.  In fact, this deck could easily be considered human tribal.  So whenever one of the many humans enters the battlefield, the Champion gets bigger.

I don’t think I’ve seen Dearly Departed before.  This is a card that likes the graveyard.  And it seems that just like during the last Innistraad set, this time we get more love for the graveyard.

Eerie Interlude…another card I’m not sure I’ve seen.  This is a “blink” effect, for multiple creatures…in this case humans…who could trigger enter the battlefield abilities and be totally busted in combination with Champion of the Parish.

Increasing Devotion…yet another printing.  This card is better than say, Raise the Alarm, because it cites that the tokens entering the battlefield are humans.  (But this is an expensive sorcery.)  Oh yeah…it also has Flashback!  More graveyard strategy.  You would never mind discarding or milling this card from your deck.  While the flashback cost is even higher, you get the benefit of DOUBLE the humans!  (Imagine casting this twice…)

Captain of the Mist…at least he’s a human.  For real, he is great for shenanigans.

Cathedral Sanctifier…another printing.  How many are there?  A good life gain human.

Doomed Traveler.  For real, I like casting this card and shaking my head.  I always say “he’s doomed!”  (I am LILLIANA, after all….)

Napahlia Smuggler.  I’m not sure what Naphalia is.  Some kind of drug?  Anyways, at least he’s a human.  But its a sad day if you have to pay four to blink one of your own creatures..

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Moorland Inquisitor.  He can get first strike.  He’s usually good if he is alone on the battlefield.

Topplegeist.  Definitely a new card.  Delirium is a new mechanic from Shadows over Innistraad.  He’s good.  Oh yes.  And uncommon!  This is reliable removal.  Who isn’t going to draft this!

Thraben Heretic…you can hate on the opponents graveyard with this card, similar to Relic of Progenitus.

Elder Cathar is classic.  A human, and you expect him to die to benefit the rest of the army.

Village Bell Ringer…this has flash.  As a 1/4,he can reliably block, but he can also turn your tapped-from-attacking army around to be blockers.  Sick!  Tandem Lookout.  You get card draw when you attack.  And then Chapel Geist…(Yawn)

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Emancipation Angel…My problem with this card is that you HAVE to return a permanent you control to your hand.  I know I’m thinking about it wrong, but what usually happens is that I keep an opening hand with this in it, and then I don’t have hardly anything but land to return after I play it.

Fiend Hunter is a classic O-Ring effect.

Slayer of the Wicked…he specifically wants to  go after bad guys.

Tower Geist.  Has anyone played “Wizards Tower” with this guy?

Mist Raven.  When he enters the battlefield, return target creature to its owners hand.

Spectral Gateguards.  A big blocker.

Grief Vanguard.  Why?  It is a blue human.  But like Naphalia Smuggler, seems to be weak sauce for what it does.

Goodnight Redeemer could be good if you maximize the amount of creatures you have.

Voice of the Provinces.  Another pretty card.  But at six mana, too costly.

Next, the other cards and lands.

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All good spells except Pore over the Pages…..Well, maybe that’s ok.  Rebuke is good removal.  Both pieces of equipment like Humans.  Gather the Townsfolk produces tokens.  I don’t think I’ve seen Momentary Blink.  I prefer Otherworldy Journey to it, though.  And Bonds of Faith.  One of my Favorite.  Cards.  Ever..!  (For real.  I love the art.  And what it does.)

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Lands.  Yawn.  Seraph sanctuary is good if you cast one of your three angels.  Or if you happen to land a Geist of Saint Traft.  Gain lands.  Really?  Why not scry lands.  Or buddy lands.  We get lots of human tokens.

 

What about the other deck?  Here are its cards, presented the same way.

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First of all, Mindwrack Demon.  Who is this guy?  He wants you to fill the graveyard.  And if you can’t, he hurts you.  And does it ever hurt.  If you don’t have four different card types in your yard, you lose four life at your upkeep, (A Delirium trigger).  Typical for an MTG demon.  He’s a 4/5 for four mana. And he can make you lose.

Havengul Runebinder…doesn’t this guy work against you if you have Mindwrack Demon?  I’m just saying…

Gravecrawler. I’m glad to finally own one of these.  This card needed a new printing.  And I might just order more.

Harvester of Souls.  One of my first demons.  This guy is usually good.  But this is the severalth printing.  I wish they could have given us something else..

Sever the Bloodline.  Removal for all those human tokens.  Too bad it’s a sorcery.

Unbreathing Horde.  A 0/0 unless there are Zombies on the battlefield or in the graveyard.

Butcher Ghoul.  Undying.  It is always good!

 

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Three copies of Screeching Skaab.  Self mill.  Yes!

Tooth Collector.  A brand new card.  His delirium triggers the one of the opponents creatures to get -1/-1.

Scrapskin Drake.  It flies.

Ghoul raiser.  This card always seems so slow.

Stitched Drake.  I’m happy to give up a card in my yard to have a big flyer.

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Diregraf Captain.  A zombie lord.  He’s good.  And he hurts your opponents for killing zombies.

Abattoir Ghoul.  He’s big and has first strike.

Driver of the Dead.  Another guy who always seems to be too slow.  Who are you going to get back?  Some 2/2 chump.

Falkenrath Noble.  A drain effect that triggers when someone dies.  Good for this deck.

Makeshift Mauler.  He has semi-delve.  He’s big, I suppose.

Relentless Skaabs.  A big blue undying zombie.  Always good!

Appetite for Brains.  Kind of the opposite of Inquisition of Kozilek.

Human Frailty.  Great removal against humans.

Next, the other cards and lands.

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Cobbled Wings.  This deck lacks so many flyers, so this will be useful.  Compelling Deterence.  A new card, I believe.  Victim of Night.  The opposite spiritually of Slayer of the Wicked, I suppose.  Tribute to Hunger.  Against the humans, they are just going to sac Doomed Traveler.  Forbidden Alchemy.  Good filter and graveyard filler.  Barter in Blood.  So glad we get this art for the card, rather than the old art.  Dread Return.  This is new art for an old classic.  And moans of the unhallowed.  A great token producer.

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Lands.  Couldn’t they have given us something to balance out against Seraph Sanctuary?  Four gain lands and then the plain kind.  So we get another token.  A spirit.  And three zombies.  I wish they gave us different art on these tokens.

 

PLAYING THE DECKS

Zendikar vs. Eldrazi seemed to be perfectly balanced, and so it seems Blessed Vs. Cursed is as well.  Me and the SpartanKid have played four two out of threes, and the record is 2-2.  You can almost always count of Geist of St. Traft winning for you, if you happen to get him.  Mindwrack Demon is good, but not reliable as you might not have the required four card types in the graveyard.

A lot of the enters-the-battlefield effects are dependent on lucky draws and a good opening hand.  You might wish to have Increasing Devotion at the same time Champion of the Parish is on the battlefield, but more often than not, this won’t be the case.  And then there is the chance that you get Emancipation Angel, with almost nothing to return to your hand.

The guide suggests that the Cursed deck doesn’t have flyers…there seems to be enough.  It’s true that the other deck has more flyers, with the spirits and all, but there is enough here.  Grave crawler can be a real problem…a recurring threat that their flying spirits can’t ignore.  (Those things are meant to be blockers.  Lingering Souls, anyone?)

What is the most cool about these decks is the flavor.  It is humans verses zombies.  With a splash of Angels vs. Demons.  It is like playing “The Walking Dead” as a card game.  And that has to be applauded.  The tribal-ness of the two decks is on par with Elves vs. Goblins.  That is saying something!

This product is great.  I can’t imagine giving it anything less that a 5/5.  It’s good!  The only bad thing is the flimsiness of the deck boxes.

This review has been well over a week in the making.  I am just so exhausted from my jobs.  I am also fairly unhealthy…my weight problem plus age is catching up with me.  Sorry, Hub City Geeks, but my output might be a little slower in the future.  Maybe I can turn things around.

So, the SpartanNerd gives Duel Decks, Blessed vs. Cursed a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SpartanNerd Review…Dual Decks Anthology “Elves vs. Goblins”

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So far, I have reviewed Garruk vs. Liliana and Jace vs. Chandra.  I thought I would save Divine vs Demonic for last, because that is the one that has the “money cards” in it that people were hotly interested in, and besides that, I have other reasons…(I will reveal them in time!)

So for now, you get my review of Elves vs. Goblins.  If I’m not mistaken, this was the first ever Dual Decks product from the Wizards of the Coast.

THE UNBOXING

I prefer unboxing these decks on video, rather than taking pictures of the cards.  This is a true unboxing…what you will see when you open the package.

Both decks come with a beautiful foil deckbox, that unfortunately has the cardboard catch that tears up after about the third opening.  I vow to put velcro on these!

And the tokens were boxed in the Elves deckbox.  (The goblin tokens are with the elf tokens.)  I will say that the Elf Tokens are a little disturbing…

Other than this, the cards have an “old school” aesthetic.  Sure, they are reprinted in modern frames.  But the art is of that older style you find when you open old packs or look through piles of bulk cards.

THE DECKS

GOBLINS

As before, featured rare cards are on the top.

Siege Gang Commander gets you three 1/1 goblin chumps on the battlefield.

Clickslither is one of the few cards in the deck that isn’t a Goblin.  Just the same, it’s ability…Sacrifice a Goblin to give him +2/+2…makes this THE CARD to fear in this deck when things are going well for you.

Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician can be insane.  Block something big with little chump goblins, and then sacrifice them on the way to the graveyard to burn whatever was blocked for four damage.  You can remove most anything this way!  But that’s not all…Ib lets you get more chumps if you sacrifice mountains.  Late game, when you don’t need all that Mana…(this deck isn’t a mana hungry deck), you can just outright win.  And there is a lot of synergy with Siege Gang and Clickslither

Then there’s Skirk Fire Marshall.  My issue with Skirk is that you sacrifice so many goblins all the time, you might not have five goblins to tap and burn the opponent for 10 damage.  He’s a fun threat, though, if the circumstances are right.

The rest of the cards are variations on the theme of “Sacrifice me, or somebody else…do something bad to the opponent.”  But the cards are carefully chosen so that they balance well against the elf deck.  For instance, Gempalm Incinerator has a cycle ability.  There is a gempalm card in the elf deck.  There is a “goblin lord.”  (You folks who don’t know, “lords” in magic are cards that give other similar cards +1/+1.  Lords usually have some other upside as well.)  In this case, Goblin Warchief give your goblins haste.  This is the kind of card you want in your opening hand.

The only thing I am sort of unclear on in this deck, and the other is “tribal instant” or “tribal enchantment.”  Are there special “tribal” rules for these cards?  Sure, these are tribal decks.  But what do these special spells do that they can’t do in a non-tribal deck.  I guess I will look that up sometime.  The only thing I can figure is a card or two says “whenever you cast a Goblin spell this turn,” or something like that.  There would be synergy.

As a rule, I haven’t modified any of these decks.  Who would I “fire” from the goblin deck?  Skirk Drill Sergeant.  Usually, when I try and trigger his ability, which is costly, I might add, I get what I don’t want.  Clickslither winds up in the graveyard, or something else.  And there is almost no re-animation in this red deck.

ELVES

As before, first the rares.

Ambush Commander is a little odd, because it is a sac outlet for elves.  Still, it is a way of suddenly finding the tribal power the deck needs by making all of the forests into elves.

Allosaurus Rider is the card I fear.  It is the kind of card we ALL should fear.  What should be every bit of a seven drop, can be had as early as turn 1, and be a 2/2!  And then grows bigger the more forests you play.  It is actually harder to flip a Delver of Secrets!  I would say that this card is the matchup for Clickslither in the other deck.  But you know they won’t be out at the same time…

Remember Skirk Fire Marshall?  Well Voice of the Woods is the elf version.  You tap five elves, and you get a 7/7 Elemental.

The rest of the elves are all chumps, with some kind of ability that enhances other elves, or uses them as a resource, or what have you.  “The elf lord” to look for in the early game is Imperious Perfect.  And what elf deck would be complete without Llannowar Elves?

Literally, in just about every way, the elf deck matches the goblin deck.  The Wizards made their entry Dual Deck a real statement.  The only thing the Elves have that the Goblins don’t have counterparts to are the artifact cards.

THE MATCHUP

By now, I have had tons of experience with both decks.  I have only played Divine vs. Demonic more.  These decks are VERY EVENLY MATCHED.  I can’t stress that enough.  I have been playing Magic for awhile now, and could count on one hand how many “ties” happened where both teams killed each other simultaneously.  When you play these, it is almost like playing a speedy game of Commander, Not because of the singletons, but because each side plays offense or defense, and there are lots of card interactions.

Both decks are very tribal, but also exemplify the philosophy of their color.  The goblins sacrifice themselves or others to burn  the opponent out.  The Elves do things to make big creatures, or a swarm of creatures that over-runs the opponent.

So I am going to call this a tie.  It is what it is.  And it is always fun. If you want a good lengthy game of MTG, that uses lots of card synergy, then you should play Elves vs. Goblins.

SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF ELVES VS GOBLINS.

I have to give both decks a 5/5.  The only complaint I have about the decks are the tokens.  Both sets look kind of creepy.  In an oddly sexually specific way.  Your mind doesn’t even have to be in the gutter to think so.  My oldest child noticed what I am talking about, but the younger one doesn’t see anything odd.

Still, it’s just art.  And tokens aren’t the main product.

So I rate the Elves vs. Goblins Dual Deck from the Dual Decks Anthology 5/5.

Do you agree?  Let me know in the comments!

I rate both decks 5/5.