Archenemy: Nicol Bolas. SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

IMG_0109

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!

IMG_0110

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.

IMG_0111

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.)

IMG_0116

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.)

 

IMG_0135IMG_0136IMG_0137

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.

IMG_0117

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.

IMG_0120

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.

IMG_0122

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.

IMG_0123

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

IMG_0124

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.

IMG_0125

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

IMG_0130

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.

IMG_0132

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.

IMG_0127IMG_0129

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.

IMG_0133

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!

 

 

Jace Beleren and Chandra Nalaar Funko Legacy Collection unboxing and Review…SpartanNerd

Way back in January of 2015, I reviewed Funko’s Liliana Vess.  You can read that review here.  So do Jace and Chandra stack up to my favorite planeswalker?

I received these two as gifts from the SpartanChildren.  I happen to know that they were marked down to $5.00 a piece at Ross (discount store), which tends to happen when a figure warms the shelf at a mainline retailer for over two years.  (Notice I paid $25 for Liliana.)

(I am doing both reviews at the same time for the sake of WordPress memory…as these are largely the same unboxing experience…)

First of all…check out the new PLAYMAT!    Also a Christmas gift…from the SpartanWife!  The art shows none other than Jace Beleren groveling at Liliana for help in dealing with the Eldrazi during the “Battle for Zendikar” storyline.  I will be photographing Magic The Gathering related items on this mat from now on!

img_9612img_9613

Jace and Chandra both come in the same window style boxes.  The circlular bubble does NOT depict the card Jace Beleren nor Chandra Nalaar.  Jace’s art depicts “Jace, the Living Guildpact” and Chandra’s depicts “Chandra, Pyromaster.”  Not sure the reasoning here…Jace’s figure appears to be “Jace, Telepath Unbound.”  Chandra appears to be “Chandra, Flamecaller”, neither card was released quite yet when these figures first came out.  Maybe some insight into the design process can be found here?

The boxes use the M15 black and white styling for the packaging that you found everywhere when that set came out.  It is striking…a nifty design, really.  M15 was an interesting set…The Wizards talked at length about finding an identity for “the core set.”  M14 was largely a failure…M15 wasn’t much better, and aside from the “flip walkers,” Magic origins was also a little weak.  M15 was the first set to put holofoil stickers on the rare and promo cards.  Not that that has anything to do with these figures.

On the other hand, the M15 story was cool, showing the fight between Liliana and Garruk a little bit more intensely, and detailing how Ob Nixilis gets free.

img_9614

The back lists the other figures in this line.  As far as I know, there was only this one series of MTG figures.  Maybe I will be able to complete the collection with Garrk, Ajani, and Nissa someday.  I certainly will if they are this cheap!

img_9615

Each figure was wired in with Barbie style bread-tie wires.  It wasn’t too hard to get them out.

I tried to stand each figure up as best I could without “primping.”  These figures do not stand on their own easily, with Jace being the worse offender.  He cannot stand without being stooped over.  This was similar to Liliana, if you will recall I had to put her weight on one side.

Both figures have rocker ankles, that feature some ankle swivel.  But the way their shoes are designed, the articulation is limited.  This doesn’t help with the standing issues.

img_9616

Chandra comes with a fireball.  And Jace’s cloak is removable!  Who knew?  Notice, he doesn’t look like his picture on the playmat…must be a different cloak.

img_9618

Here are some alternate poses.  Notice that Jace just can’t do that much.

Chandra doesn’t have that much trouble holding that fireball.  She doesn’t “grip” it.  But it is sized correctly to match her fingers.  I love that they included this.  I wish she could have more flames, though.

img_9619img_9620

Both Chandra and Jace have beautiful, detailed scuplting.  And the paint is very nice as well.  I think Jace’s face could look a little less like a manequinn.

Below is each character beside their deckbox from Duel Deck Anthology….The card art depicted is “Jace Beleren,” known as “baby Jace” amongst players.  (I went and looked.  The original card art does resemble the figure.  The Duel Deck has alternate art.)

img_9622

On the other hand, Chandra doesn’t look like either version of her card art.  She looks like Chandra Flamecaller.

img_9623

These figures are pretty cool.  I am going to rate them the same as I rated Liliana.  3/5.  The whole issue of not being able to stand is really the problem.  The sculpting and painting are fine.  They are more statue than action figure, though…they look incredible, but their articulation suffers because of the extreme detail.  They could have better accessories.  Jace’s cloak is more of a liability.  Chandra could have more fire.

So the SpartanNerd rates Funko Magic the Gathering Legacy Collection Jace Beleren and Chandra Nalaar both at 3/5.  They look like who they are supposed to represent.  But they suffer as action figures.  They are really more like mini statues, that have trouble standing.  (Liliana is forever propped up in my office at work.)

Do you agree with my rating of 3/5?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

SpartanNerd Review…Dual Deck Anthology Matchup- “Jace Vs. Chandra”

IMG_0343

I have been more familiar with the cards in this deck than in say, Elves vs. Goblins or Divine vs. Demonic.  I have been exposed to this set because my brother owns a copy.  So the whole thing is an exercise in review for me.  Still, it is fun to see it completely unmodified.  (My brother tweaked his decks.)

First, the unboxing.  This is the only time that the unboxing was really different.  Chandra’s box had some extra materials inside…

IMG_0371

The white thing is what we’ve all seen at this point.  A quick start guide to playing Magic.  I normally point out how I throw this away.  But if for instance, someone bought the Dual Deck anthology as a gift for someone who didn’t know how to play then this could be super valuable.  I think it would have been better if they packaged it in a different and more conspicuous way, though.  For instance, I just unboxed these cards today and found it.  I have had the Dual Deck Anthology since the day it came out! (Dec 5, over two weeks ago!)

The blue thing is basically the poster that was on the back of the Dual Decks Anthology…but this time with more biographical information and information about the story context each dual deck represented during the course of the story of Magic the Gathering.

IMG_0369

The art on the deck boxes is really cool…a big foil picture featuring the key cards, this time Chandra Nalaar and Jace Beleren.

I am going to complain big time about the paper clasps on these boxes.  If we pay $100 for a product like this then the clasp should be better.  That paper slot system just tears up too easily.  I already mentioned this before when I did my initial unboxing, but in the case of Jace vs. Chandra, neither box can function correctly.  They can hold the sixty cards plus a few tokens sleeved.  But the box only stays closed if cajoled to do so.  I am going to apply some velcro…

As with Garruk vs. Liliana, I am giving you a video again of what I saw after removing the cellophane…This time both together in the same film.

Jace Beleren

Jace gets a nickname…”Baby Jace.”  Not really sure what that is about, except that maybe it is supposed to be Jace in his early career.  This card is good for card draw.  His +2 gets both players a card.  His -1 gets only you a card, (or the rare corner case where you get in the final “mill” against your opponent.  But his -10 mills 20 cards for someone.  It is probably safe to say Jace will never get to -10, Chandra will burn him off anytime he gets close.  So this card is probably good to +2 once, and -1 after that.  Might as well forget that -10 ability.  It isn’t useful for you.  And Jace’s deck isn’t a mill deck.

Jace’s deck is NOT a classic control deck, as you might expect.  (If it were, it wouldn’t be a fun matchup against Chandra, in my opinion.)  There are a few counterspells, (actually “Counterspell!”) but besides that, the deck relies more on Morph.  There are several blue morph creatures in this deck…I counted 8!  So Chandra is going to have a hard time deciding whether or not to burn off the morphs, or wait and see what bad thing for her is going to happen.

The deck also features two other mechanics really well, Evoke and Suspend.  Ancestral Vision is the main card you are going to suspend.  Exile it for one blue at the beginning of the game, and just about the time when you need it, at the beginning of your upkeep you get three bonus cards.

And then there is Mulldrifter.  I need to play with this guy more outside of Jace vs. Chandra.  Mulldrifter evokes and you draw two cards.  So…try re-animating this guy!  (Jace can’t do it.)

The other thing I would like to say about this deck that was surprisingly fun was the unconventional mana costs of cards or abilities.  The least of which is suspend, some cards just ask you to return islands to your hand instead of paying a huge cost!

If there is a game finisher in the deck, it is Guile.  Guile lets you play free counter magic.  But that isn’t all that relevant.  What is relevant is it is a 6/6.  Can’t be chumped blocked by one guy.  And if he dies, then he gets shuffled back in the deck, where you can draw him later.  Sick!

Chandra

Chandra is one of my children’s favorite planeswalker.  I don’t have the heart to tell him that “Candra Nalaar” is UNPLAYABLE IN CONSTRUCTED.  Let’s just say, you do her +1, you just pinged your opponent for one damage.  For five mana.  Maybe on the last life point the person has, this is an OK strategy.  Ok, so instead of doing the +1 on the first turn she is out, you do the -x to toast a creature.  Then Chandra has almost no loyalty left and gets killed by an attacking creature next turn, (if not removed another way).  If you can get her to -8, then the ability is awesome.  But in Modern or Legacy, she will be gone before she has a chance.

She is a good card for this matchup, however.

This deck tries to burn you opponent off as quickly as possible, and contrary to Jace, seems to want to get cards out of your hand to trigger “Hellbent” abilities.  For instance, Rakdos Pit Dragon gets double strike if you have no cards in hand.  And you easily might not have any, because you played spells directly to Jace’s face, or burned off his morphs.

Then there’s hostility.  You counter your own first main phase burn spell, to enhance it with 3/1 elemental tokens.  Ok.  So burn spells becoming aggro spells…sick!

Several of Chandra’s cards have “fire breathing”.  This is Magic player talk for “pay one red mana to pile up damage points.”  (It comes from an old mechanic.)

Every time I have played against Chandra with Jace, Slith Firewalker has been a threat.  What Jace wants to do is send it back to Chandra’s hand.  The Slith Firewalker gets a counter every time it deals damage.  Evoking something like Inner-Flame Acolyte can be about like the Bloodrush tricks from the RTR block.

Firebolt is good.  It’s flashback mirrors playing Chandra and +1 ing her.

Fireblast is great for late-game burn.  when you probably have more mountains than you need.  Sacrifice two of them to get in four burn damage.

And then Fireball, of course.

The Matchup

So Chandra tries to undermine Jace through the philosophy of burn, while Jace tries to undermine Chandra with combat tricks and control.

Jace lost to Chandra in the first two out of three match with the SpartanKid.  Jace’s deck might not be good to play against noobs….they might think you are cheating sometimes with some of the things his deck can do.  “when Brine Elemental is turned face up, each opponent skips their next untap step.”  a good chandra player will use up their resources every turn, while a good Jace player will reserve mana.  so…But in our first match, the philosophy of Burn set in, and all of the morph tricks weren’t enough for Baby Jace.  Chandra’s creatures tend to have haste, which is bad for Jace.  On the other hand, Chandra tends to have to start top-decking, while Jace tends to have cards to play and scheme with.

This set isn’t as fun as Liliana vs. Garruk.  Still, it is nice to have a foil of each Planeswalker.  (Chandra is probably Commander only material, though).

My rating of Dual Decks Anthology Jace vs. Chandra.

As a burn deck, Chandra gets 4/5.  I am taking a point off for Chandra being so bad.  Jace gets a 4/5 for losing the first 2/3 matches to the speedy stuff the Chandra deck does, and besides that, why is Jace’s bottom ability a mill ability, when there is almost no mill in the blue deck?

So I give the Jace vs. Chandra Dual Deck a 4/5.  Do you agree?  Let me know in the comments!