From the Vault: Transform…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

I’ve been playing Magic, the Gathering for some years now, but this is the first time I’ve purchased a From the Fault product.  I DID purchase the dated “Graveborn” Premium Deck, which was an all-foil set.  I was highly tempted to get From the Vault: Angels last year, but never saw it anywhere for retail price.  (I had most of the angels anyway.)

 

This being my first one, I thought I would really take a look at the packaging.  This roduct feels like something a collector might like to keep MIB.  I don’t see the fun in that, but it is what some people do.  After spending time with this package, I’ve decided I am going to keep it to store the cards that I am not currently using.  It looks very nice.  The front is glossy and colorful with blue and orange graphics.  The back show off an image of one of the sides of each of the cards in the set.  There is a contents list on the bottom, and a message about the nature of the transforming cards.

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It opens up nicely, revealing the frontside of Huntmaster of the Fells, the backside of Liliana, Heretical Healer, and the frontside of Delver of Secrets.  You totally could stop here and just prop this product up on display somewhere.

The box feels like a display box, and upon further exploration, I discovered the correct way to open it.

 

There is a magnetic flap!  So you don’t even have to destroy the package.  NICE!

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Here’s what’s inside.

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The cards come in three cigarette wrappers.  There is a spindown life counter with a special From the Vault Transform symbol, and a nice informational poster.  Let’s look at that.

 

Nice art, with a description of each card and the story that goes along with it.  That is a nice picture of the new Delver of Secrets art, and yet another picture of Gideon on the other side.  (Gideon is very often depicted in promotional media like this.)

Now let’s look at and discuss the cards.

First of all, upon opening each pack, I discovered that they were stuck together.  I mean.  STUCK. TO. GETHER.

These cards have a special foil treatment, on both sides.  I have owned a couple of FTV printings, one of VESUVA and another of AKROMA, ANGEL OF WRATH, and those cards have the same foil treatment, but only on one side.  These cards being double sided…I guess what I’m saying is the foil treatment being on both sides is what made them glue each other together.  And it was pretty stout.  I mean, Bruna, the Fading Light was stuck to Elbrus the Binding Blade and Chandra was stuck to the Ixalan card while I began photographing.  I hadn’t even noticed!  Now separating them wasn’t scary, and there didn’t seem to be any accidents…no scratches or anything.  I just want to point out that this happened to the SpartanNerd the first time he opened a sealed From the Vault.

So here are the cards with some commentary.

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Garruk Relentless//Garruk, the Veil Cursed.

The first double sided planeswalker, and notable at that…he flips when he has a loyalty for two or less.  He is a token generator, and essentially a planeswalker with five abilities not counting the transform mechanic.  Having said all this, this is the least played of all of the cards in this set.  It is nice that they paid some attention to Garruk, however.  He hasn’t been seen since M14, when he was killing other planeswalkers all over the place.  The Wizards have decided to feature Nissa mainly as the green planeswalker mascot.

Chandra, Fire of Kaledesh//Chandra, Roaring Flame

This set features all five of the Magic Origins planeswalkers.  These each have a creature card on one side, that transforms into a planeswalker.  Chandra is the mascot for red burn strategies.  This card is a slow shock effect, and frankly a little hard to get transformed into the planeswalker form.  IF you do ever get her to level up to Chandra, Roaring Flame, you still don’t have that great of a planeswalker for all of your effort.  I supposed if you made Chandra a Commander, you might be able to do something with her.  I am placing her in my Archangel Avacyn commander deck.  (I played a match that heavily featured Chandra.  In Commander, she isn’t so bad when you have a board presence and every little bit of damage you can deal counts.)

Liliana, Heretical Healer//Liliana, Defiant Necromancer

I have been slowly building an entire foil mono-black Liliana tribal deck.  I have the stamped foil of this card, and thought that would be the prettiest version.  I was wrong.  The From the Vault printing with the extra awesome foil on both sides wins.  So I guess I am going to upgrade!

As far as all of these cards go, Liliana is the most popular commander.  She saw some fringe Standard play in her day, and still sees some Modern play sometimes in rack and zombie decks.  It is pretty easy in black to get her to flip, and then Liliana Defiant Necromancer is pretty close to Liliana of the Veil, clearly the best and most useful of Modern-legal planeswalkers.

Speaking of my Liliana tribal commander deck, the rules change that came with the release of Ixalan now lets me have multiple Lilianas out at a time.  And since I have each printing….

Huntmaster of the fells//Ravager of the Fells

A card that beat me a ton when I first began playing MTG.  I began playing in tournaments during Dark Ascension.  The Huntmaster is the definitive werewolf.

I haven’t seen this card played in Modern in awhile.  Modern wants to be a three-turn win format (It remains a four turn, teetering on three turn.), and because this card is a four drop that doesn’t have haste, it’s a little slow.  But if you can get it going, then it can win games all on its own.  Remember Kalitas?  Kalitas himself is just good enough.  And the Huntmaster of the Fells is also.

Arguel’s Blood Fast//Temple of Alcazotz

When I saw this, I said, “What??? Whoever heard of that card?”  Turns out that it is a new card from Ixalan.  This one transforms from enchantment to land.  I think this will be a nice addition to my Liliana tribal commander deck, as Necropotence is one of the things.  (Pay life for cards is a sub theme.)  The backside of the card is a powerful sac outlet.

Is this card a thing in Standard right now?  I’m not sure.  I have been out of the Standard scene for awhile.  I do have a Tezzeret deck, but have only played in two Ixalan standard tournaments.  This card has definitely not been on my radar.

Is there a precedent for this?  A Standard card in a From the Vault set?  I think they used to actually put preview cards in From the Vault sets.  So that would be pre-standard…

Arlinn Kord//Arlinn, Embraced By the Moon

Here’s one that I saw played in Standard back before the last rotation every now and then.  The “Shadows Over Inistraad” block didn’t feature as strong of a werewolf mechanic as did the original Inistraad.  Here we have a werewolf planeswalker.  She is also a planeswalker with five abilites, like Garruk, and she also makes wolves.  (Like Garruk.)  For werewolf tribal purposes, Arlinn is a must have.

Unfortunately, there is only one viable werewolf commander, Ulrich Krallenhorde, and he isn’t too great.  Still, if you are into that, jam Arlinn Kord into your deck.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer//Nissa, Sage Animist

Here is an Origins planeswalker that did see play in standard.  Really, anything that ramps for cheap works for green.  People would cram four copies of this in their deck, and play it to get out the lands they needed, and eventually they would do this and flip one of them, and proceed to have huge advantage on the board. This is one I was glad to see rotate out!

I haven’t seen her play in Modern, however.

Kytheon, Hero of Aroas//Gideon, Battle-Forged

Nothing to see here.  Move along.

(Just kidding.)  Really, this card didn’t see much play in Standard, and hasn’t in Modern or Commander either.  I think he is under-appreciated, and he probably would have fit better back in M13 standard.

He is basically a one-drop planeswalker.  That isn’t Tibalt.  So that’s something!

I think he is waiting for the right White Weenie moment to come along.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy//Jace, Telepath Unbound

And here is the money card in the set.  Jace can be had for about $25, regular printing, and $35 in foil outside of this set.  Back when he was Standard legal, he fetched $4o or more for the regular, not foil version.

Why is he so good?  He is a two drop looting creature.  You can play him early game or late game, and he is still good.  When you do his loot ability, if you have five or more cards in the graveyard, he becomes an incredible control planeswalker, with a negative three ability that lets you reliably snapcaster an instant or sorcery from your graveyard.

Is he better than Snapcaster Mage?  I don’t think so.  Almost nothing can beat the flash-in flashbacker, who becomes a great surprise chump blocker and lets you get something out of your graveyard.  Jace has to sit there for a turn before you can even activate his ability.  But he is still useful, and if you can get him to flip and keep him on board, you get great card advantage.

I’ve heard of Jace played in almost every format, even Commander.  This might be the best card in this set.  Except it’s not…

Delver of Secrets//Insectile Aberation

This probably is (the best card.)  Not many Magic the Gathering cards are as good as Delver.  And he’s a common!  So this card doesn’t cost a ton to own four copies.  But this special art special foil printing is bound to be popular with people who relaly like hitting their opponents hard and fast.

Delver is great.  He gets you card advantage.  You don’t have to trigger his transform ability if you don’t want to.  If you do want to, on turn  you can begin wrecking your opponent in the air.

Check this scenerio.  Turn one, shock in Breeding Pool.  Play Delver of Secrets.  Turn two, reveal Giant growth from the top of your library, flip your Delver  Play your Forest as land for the turn.  Declare attack for 3 in the air.  Hit Insectile Aberation with Giant Growth twice, (Because you started with one in your opening hand.)  You brought nine damage in the air on turn two.  Congratulations.  You are a jerk!

Delver is played in every eternal format.  Because he is eternally good.  That’s why!

Archangel Avacyn//Avacyn the Purifier

This is one of the funnest cards in the set.  She has Flash.  Flying.  Vigilance.  Makes things Indestructible, Sweltering Suns.  All in one Legally Blonde package.  Lots of flavor here, too.  If you followed the story of Shadows Over Inistraad, you saw Avacyn twist into a self-righteous evil.  When you Flash her in (Angel to the rescue!) everyone else on your team has indestructible until the end of turn.  And incredible shock to your opponent if you played her from your hand.  An incredible threat if she is your Commander.  And when she flips, (because one of your non-token cratures died,) she hits everything on the board for 3, and lightning bolts your opponent (s) as well.  And yes.  That’s Commander Damage!

Fun!  If you like a card that does stuff, look no further than this card.

Bloodline Keeper//Lord of Lineage

Here is the card that I think I will have the least use for.  Maybe not.  I like Vampires, and played Black Red vampires occasionally in the last Standard environment.  And here is where I think I am not that interested in building a Vampire Tibal Commander deck.  Vampires are OK.  But how often have I had a ton of them?  Not that often.

This guy is good, if you are interested in buiding such a deck.  Most Vampire decks have Olivia VOldaren as their Commander.  (She’s just sick!)  But maybe Kalitas would be good.  (No.  I know he would be good.  See above!)

Elbrus the Binding Blade//Withengar Unbound

I remember the first time I saw this card.  I knew I had to have it!  The flavor of the thing is pretty cool.  This was in the very early days of playing MTG for me, and the idea of getting that giant flyer out and smashing people was just awesome.  I had alot to learn…it is pretty hard to get seven mana to play an equipment.  Then pay to equip that to a viable attacker.  It really is pretty hard.  (I was playing this in Standard, belive it or not!)

Now Elbrus remains one of my favorite cards.  And to have this incredibly cool foi printing is just great.  And it is something else to put into Liliana’s Commander deck!

I left the weirdest for last…

Bruna,the Fading Light//…//Gisela, the Broken Blade/////Brisela, Voice of Nightmares

Weird.

Basically, the Wizards pushed the transform mechanic as far as it could go, inventing the meld mechanic, and making six cards with the ability.  Melding pieces two halves of a card on the backside of two creatures, combining them together into an eldrazi.  Brisela here represents that, as she was the best example of a played meld pair in Standard.

Gisela actually made her way into decks that didn’t feature her other half.  She is a good angel, with Flying, First Strike, and Lifelink.

It is Bruna that makes this a devastating thing.  Say you played Gisela early on, and the opponent doom bladed her.  No problem.  Play your Bruna in your second main phase (turn six or seven) and at the end step, you have Brisela!  An incredob;e 9/10 flying vigilance lifelink first strike hate machine!

THE SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF FROM THE VAULT TRANSFORM

Well.  A couple of things.  The cards sticking together is a little unnerving.  I don’t know when these were printed and packaged, but I imagine the problem might be worse if they sit unopened on a store shelf for a long period of time.  I immediately put “snugs” on mine.  (form fitting side loading card sleeves for double sleeving.)

What’s here is good.  But I think there is a glaring ommision or two.  How about Westvale Abbey//Ormandahl, Profane Prince?  I could have taken this over the Vampire, or over the Arguel’s Blood Fast.  Thing in the Ice…Hello!

The Wizards also ignored Morph and Champions of Kamigawa Flip cards.  Maybe it was economically better for the Wizards to print the double sided cards instead, but if they wanted us to get maximum power out of similar mechanics, when we could have done with Nazumi Graverobber or Willbender.

But I am happy enough.  The new printings of Liliana, Jace, Withengar, the three angels, and Garruk make me pretty happy.  I don’t play much red-green, but I am glad the Wizards printed Huntmaster of the Fells, which is about a $12 card.

The value I got for $39.99 (retail) at the Tangled Web in Spartanburg was very nice.  You already can’t find this product cheaper than $65 on TCGplayer.com.  And if the story of From the Vault Angels happens to From the Vault Transform, then it will eventually make its way above $80.

So I am happy to rate this product at 4/5, marking off because the cards sticking together worries me a little bit.  It is a great selection of cards, that came in a nice, displayable package.

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

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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!