Ajani Planeswalker Pack…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

Ajani, Valiant Protector is the foil for Tezzeret, Master of Metal as far as intro decks go for Aether Revolt.  I unboxed Tezzeret, and just felt I needed Ajani to complete the duel.

Ajani’s deck came in the exact same packaging as the other Planeswalker Packs have.  It is a printed sleeve, which covers plastic tray with a display window.

All the contents are actually inside a deckbox, (an excellent deckbox, by the way.)  The only piece that isn’t is the “splashy” planeswalker card.  Environmentally concerned MTG players can feel pretty good about the minimal use of packaging with these decks.

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Here is the entire contents.  The special Ajani, Valiant Protector card, a guide to playing the deck, a quick reference guide, two Aether Revolt booster packs, the nice deckbox, and the deck wrapped in cellophane.

Let’s have a look at the planeswalker.

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Right away I can tell you that this card isn’t as good as Tezzeret’s.  Tezzeret can reach ultimate after three turns.  It is going to take a lot longer for Ajani.  The upside is, getting two +1/+1 counters on a creature is not shabby at all.  His +1 ability lets you filter up your creatures. If you do happen to get to ultimate, you probably win.

The guide to playing the deck heavily features pictures of Ajani.  You also get a decklist.  And something I failed to mention about Tezzeret’s deck.  This insert kind of tells players what to purchase next if they really like playing MTG.

The Planeswalker Packs are great entry level products.  The only way they could really improve the experience is include sleeves…or even better.  Go ahead and sleeve the cards, so a person can crack the box and play in a tournament right away!  Pre-shuffle it even.

Here are the cards…

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It’s pretty clear that Ajani’s deck is supposed to depend on the Revolt mechanic.  Basically something canhappen if a permanent left the battlefield this turn.  In other words, the deck wants you to be able to bounce, sacrifice, or give up permanents.  But if you study the cards carefully, you will see tbat there aren’t that many ways to trigger revolt outside of losing permanents in combat.  There are a few exceptions…but not really enough in my opinion.

But am I getting ahead of myself?

There are a few cards that you can’t get anywhere else besides buying this product.  Ajani’s Aid is a big one.  And enchantment that lets you tutor Ajani out of the your deck or your graveyard.  (Hang onto that thought!)  You can sacrifice it to prevent damage from a singular creature.   Ajani’s Comrade is another, which gets a counter if you control a planeswalker called Ajani.  (Opening this card up to the other versions of Ajani out there.  Goldmane, Caller of the Pride, Mentor of Heroes, Steadfast, and Vengeant.  Did I miss one?)  Inspiring Roar is another card exclusive to this deck.  AND that card is indispensible for keeping the power level up against Tezzeret.  (Which is why there are four copies I’m sure.)  The other card is the white and green tapland.

This deck really only has one removal spell.  The classic, “Prey Upon.”  Everything you do in the deck depends on combat, pretty much.

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How does the deck play?  It is a weak white-weenie deck.  The creatures are typically slow.  While Narnham Renegade could be good in Modern if you cracked a fetchland on turn one, most of them aren’t that great.  They want Revolt to trigger, which usually means you have to wait until Main Phase 2 after you lost something in combat.  Which is a bad deal, typically for a deck whose card advantage rests almost entirely on the battlefield.

So, nope.  This deck isn’t as impressive, or effective as Tezzeret’s.

Planeswalker that isn’t as good.  Strategy that isn’t as good.  Let’s prove it!

Here is the showdown between the two decks, as promised.

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Round one.  SpartanKid (Tezzeret) vs. SpartanNerd (Ajani).

(Let’s keep in mind, that Tezzeret’s deck has Fatal Push and Tezzeret the Schemer added to it, which is fair because they were pulled from the boosters that came with the deck.  But this also means that his deck is 62 cards.  I could have added two cards from Ajani’s boosters, but I thought they were too skunky.)

Basically, Tezzeret only drew Islands for lands, giving Ajani the opportunity to get Narnham Renegade onboard and hit them over and over with Inspiring Roar.  Yes.  Three copies.

Round two.

This time Ajani’s deck began with three forests and drew into a fixer.  So a much slower start, made very clear as Tezzeret began to get things on the board.  Ajani loses round two to dumb luck.  The same way Tezzeret lost round one.  I held Solemn Recruit in my opening hand, who requires two whites to play.

Round three.  This is why we play the game of Magic!

Basically, Tezzeret, Master of Metal hit the board right on turn six.  It was another three turns before I drew into Ajani.  I played my Ajani, to a board where I had three creatures, including Solemn Recruit.  I +2 Ajani, knowing that Solemn Recruit has double strike, and would get ANOTHER counter because of revolt triggering.  This was my strategy to win!

Unfortunately, the SpartanKid had drawn Tezzeeret the Schemer, and went ahead to ultimate Tezzeret Master of Metal.  This meant he took control of all of my artifacts and creatures.  And then proceeded to swing at Ajani.  Keep in mind that Solemn Recruit still had summoning sickness.

I drew the best card I could have drawn in this situation.  Ajani’s aid.  I had enough mana to play that card, as well as replay Ajani, who I then +1 into nothing really. (Narnham Renegade) The SpartanKid then unwisely sent all of his creatures at Ajani once again.  I chump-blocked the biggest thing I could with my deathtoucher, and Ajani hit the graveyard again.  But my next draw was the second copy of Ajani’s aid.  Still, there was too much momentum going for the SpartanKid.  I sacrificed both of the Ajani’s aid for the prevent combat damage effect on the double striker, but that wan’t enough to stave off a loss.

Just some commentary.  Sure, this proves the Tezzeret deck is better.  But the way that I was able to get Recurrance out of Ajani, that was fun.  And that is why this is a great product for a new player.  I failed to mention…Tezzeret also got one tutor back out of the graveyard as well along the course of the matches.

I am going to rate the Ajani Planeswalker Deck from Aether Revolt a 4/5.  It is a fun deck to play.  You get an almost perfect entry level MTG product.  You get exclusive cards.  I took the point off because it doesn’t seem to be that balanced against Tezzeret from Aether Revolt.  If I had to choose one of these to take to a tournament, it would certainly be Tezzeret.

The SpartanNerd rates Ajani’s Planeswalker Pack 4/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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Tezzeret Planeswalker Pack…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

Aether Revolt snuck up on me this time.  I wasn’t able to attend the pre-release, but did draft on release weekend.  I went to the draft “cold turkey,” having not researched any of the cards.  Believe it or not, I drafted two “Fatal Push,” probably the most important card released in the entire set.  In case you didn’t know, “Fatal Push” is a one-drop instant black kill spell.  A card that is bound to be useful in Modern, as the only cards that have filled that role until this point have been Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt.

I went through all that, hanging out at the Tangled Web all afternoon, and I never even saw the new Planeswalker decks.  Maybe they were there…maybe they were sold out?  The first time I even had a clue that such a thing had released was when I saw it at Wal-Mart.  I snatched up Tezzeret, and here was my experience.

The Tezzeret Planeswalker Pack came in the same style of packaging as the Nissa and Chandra Planeswalker Packs from Kaledesh.  Aether Revolt takes place on the same plane, (is actually an expansion of the set Kaledesh,) and so this deck adds more to the entire experience of the block.  Tezzeret is obviously foreshadowing the upcoming “Amonkhet” set, which is going to heavily feature the great villain of Magic the Gathering, Nicol Bolas.  (Tezzeret has been something of a henchman for Bolas, along with Sarkahn, at least as far as I understand.)

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Not pictured is the plastic case that is the main part of the packaging.  It forms a nifty little tray…I just haven’t figured out how to use it yet.  The contents of the box are really in this  deck box, which prominently features Tezzeret, Master of Metal for its art.  This is the same style of box that Nissa and Chandra came with, and it is a great little box to carry sleeved cards in.  I personally think the Wizards are hitting a homerun when they make these Planeswalker Packs.  New players want planewalker cards, rare cards, and new players want to feel like they fit in when they come to a tournament.  Most tournament players have fancy deckboxes, etc.  So this is an all around great product for the new player.  The only thing lacking is actual sleeves.

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Here are all of the contents.  Two packs of Aether Revolt.  One foil Tezzeret, Master of Metal (which can’t be acquired officially any other way than opening this product.)  The deck sealed in cellophane wrap.  And two pieces of paper.  One is the guide to playing the deck.  The other is the Magic the Gathering Quick Reference Guide.  If any Wizards product should include the Quick Reference Guide, it is the Planeswalker Packs.

Let’s have a look at this splashy card.

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Tezzeret is the strongest Intro Pack planeswalker I have seen.  His +1 ability could be a game changer.  It is so-so in this deck, but imagine a deck where there were four copies of some incredible artifact.  (Here’s a list.  Platinum Angel.  Sword of Feast and Famine.  Elbrus the Binding Blade.  Black Lotus.  Need I say more?)  Tezzeret can plus up and get that in your hand!  And all the extra cards you overturned?  You just shuffle them and put them on the bottom without consequence!

To -3 Tezzeret on what is likely turn five or six won’t be that great.

But the bottom -8 ability is bonkers.  And because the +1 ability, and the starting loyalty is 5, it’s not even that hard ultimate Tezzeret.  And then it’s GG.

What else is here?

The guide to playing the deck is a big pretty poster, featuring Tezzeret and giving us some story.  We also get the decklist, in case we modify the deck, or want to keep it together.  This information is available online, in case you lose it however.

So what cards are here?

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There are some cards here that are exclusinve to this set.  These are Standard Legal, too, incidentally.  They are Submerged Boneyard (the blue and black tap land), Pendulum of Patterns (four copies), Tezzeret’s Simulicrum (which gets a bonus if you control any Tezzeret Planeswalker), and Tezzeret’s Betrayal which lets you kill something and tutor Tezzeret Master of Metal.

I’m a fan of decks like this because the cards have lots of value built in.  Many of the artifacts here have card-draw effects attached to them.  Notable, when Treasure Keeper dies, you get to cascade!  Because tricks like this are built in, Tezzeret doesn’t have to rely so much on cards like Reverse Engineer.

Another feature of the deck is Tezzeret’s Touch.  This card is reminiscent of Ensoul Artifact from M15…a card that made the “death scissors” a fringe winning strategy during the Kahns of Tarkir period.  This card has an advantage on that one, though, in that it has the ability to return the artifact to your hand if it gets destroyed.

The creatures in this deck are value-types.  Tezzeret’s Simulicrum is just good stuff.  And even better if you have a Tezzeret on the board.  (Lightning Bolt every turn.  Ouch!)  Augmenting Automaton has the classic pump ability built in.  I will say that I don’t get much out of Improvise as a mechanic.  It is just bad Convoke.  Most artifacts have “tap to activate ability.”  If you tap them to pay for a ridiculous creature, then you just lost value.

How does it play out?  Well, this deck really works!  I have yet to test it against the other Planeswalker Pack, Ajani.  And I think that will be the true test.  So far the deck has taken out the SpartanKid’s Tron deck, BUT, he did have a bad draw.

I suppose this time I will let you in on what I pulled from the booster packs.  Prepare to be JEALOUS.

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Yep.  The other Tezzeret!  And ANOTHER copy of Fatal Push to go with the other two I drafted.  (How is it that I drafted 2?  I opened one in my first pack.  First pack first pick.  In second pack, the player to my left must have pulled an incredible rare, because they passed me my second one!)

It might be early to rate this deck because I haven’t played it that much.  However, I suspect I will be rating it a 5/5.  Like I said, this is my style of deck, with lots of tricks.  And it is black and blue, two of my personal best colors.

I will update my rating after I get my hands on the Ajani deck, and have them play each other!

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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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

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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!

 

 

Planechase Anthology…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

From now on, I am going to title what product I am reviewing before the ever prevalent “SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review”.  I fear people can’t see what I am unboxing on the index page…One more thing…this is my 300th post!  (I have deleted 13 posts in the past.  Making #287 actually #300!)

I have heaped praises on the “Duel Decks Anthology.”  Rightly so.  Of all of the decks I own, I get more use out of having those decks just ready made, ready to play, and having them handy in that box.  It plays like its own board game.  It was a reprint of valuable cards, Demonic Tutor and Ancestral Vision, AND Akroma Angel of Wrath, among many others.  I also just enjoy Duel Decks, and have collected many of them apart from what is in the Anthology.

The Planechase Anthology aims to do the same things, but bring Planechase back into the front of the public again.  Planechase is a CASUAL FORMAT.  Like Commander and Duel Decks.  I have owned one Planechase deck already, “Primordial Hunger,” featuring Thromok the Insatiable.  That deck was the cheapest at an MTG store way out of town somewhere, that had alot of old sealed product.  (You can read my review here.  Sadly, I have removed the pictures.)  And so I have limited exposure to Planechase.  The Planechase Anthology is going to bring all kinds of MTG goodness to the SpartanNerd kitchen table.

Let me say right now, the old decks cost around $50 after market, give or take sealed.  The $149.99 price tag on the Planechase Anthology is automatically a good deal.  Besides that, each plane card individually costs about $5 on TCGplayer.  But the six promotional cards included cost more…BUT I do have a complaint.  This set only comes with Planechase 2012 theme decks.  The original decks should be included…they could have been included.  (The original decks are worth way more money.  One of them is an affinity deck, pushing it up to around $150 after market value.  THe zOmbie Empire deck is about $100 to piece together!)

OK,  more information about the format.  Planechase is a special Magic the Gathering variant where oversized “planes” cards are added to the game creating an additional layer of complexity.   You roll the cubic planar dice, and change which plane you are on.  (Planes are analogous to stadium cards in Pokemon TCG).   Originally, the Wizards envisioned each person brings their own planes to the game…making it possible to play against another players constructed planar deck.  (No one plays this way anymore.)  What really happened was people found it more fun to put all the planes in a single deck, and then just see the craziness that resulted.  Planechse is super fun when paired with Commander…

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What’s this?  The SpartanCat really enjoyed the new shipping box before I removed the product!  For my unboxing and review today, you will be seeing some of my kitchen table.  Apologies.  But Planechase IS a kitchen table format…(Really, the box is very large.)

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Here the box is, in all its cellophane sealed glory.  I love the shiny foil treatment the Wizards gave it.  This time it is purple and gold…a color that is difficult for me to describe…It isn’t brown at all.  it is … shiny purplish purple-and-gold.

The back of the box displays a poster, which might find its way on my office wall at work…

The bottom picture shows you that the box is exactly the same size as the Duel Decks Anthology.

This box is important because it helps give this set the feeling of a premium board game.  Want to quickly set up a game of Magic with some friends…just break out the Planechase Anthology.  It also will make for nifty storage.

Now for the opening…(cue the angelic choir!)

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Notable, five spots for the dice, ordered in the same way as the decks…and what was that?

The Planar die is twice the size of the conventional Planar die!  (pictured on the right is a comparison shot.)

These dice are life-counters.  I wiI will keep these in the box and not take them out to tournaments.  I am partial to the green one and the orange one because I can see them more easily.  (I was partial to one of the dice in the Duel Decks Anthology for the same reason.)

Lets open some cards!

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Not quite yet.  It looks like there is some propaganda hiding under the planar deck.

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The poster features some of the planes…why these?  They chose these because they are the planes that are best seated in the minds of players.  Really new players are probably aware of the “Origins” stories.  Zendikar and Innistrad are currently in Standard.  Bolas’s Meditation Chamber is important because he IS the villain in MTG.  But I think also the Wizards wanted to include something that is going to be important in upcoming sets.  Amonkhet is the next big set, and is going to be all about Bolas according to the Wizards’ press releases.

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The back of that insert tells you how to play.  And remember what I told you about the way the Wizards originally intended players would play?  This rules insert doesn’t mention that at all, which I suppose means that  style is just about officially dead.  There are some suggestions for playing in a variety of ways.  Drafting the planes as a cube…that is an idea I hadn’t considered!

CARDS! CARDS! CARDS! CARDS!

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“Slide Deck Box” eluded me…you have to experience it to get it.  Turns out that it is exactly what it says it is.  Notice the slanted top of the inner box.  This is reminiscent of the “Bundle Box” design that is replacing “fat packs.”  This makes it easier in THAT product to open the box.  In this case, it makes it easier to grip the cards in order to remove them.

Without question, this deck box can’t hold sleeved planar cards.  It’s a good thing I didn’t purchase sleeves for them in anticipation.  (I really did mull it over, but decided to wait.  Wise decision, SpartanNerd!)

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After breaking the cellophane seal, you can see that the “phenomenon” cards are on top.  These function as powerful effects that change the game.  Chaotic Aether can really shake up the game if people are willing to pay the tax to roll the Planar die  (to roll the die at any time, a player must pay a land at first, then two lands for a second roll, then three for a third, etc.)  Morphic Tide can be devastating!  And it can totally turn the tables in a game of Magic.

After the Phenomenon cards come the planes.

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Onnake Catacomb…this is the place where Liliana got the Chain Veil!

Llanowar is funny…it makes all of your creatures into “better-than” Llanowar Elves.  (Lannowar Elves taps to add one green mana to your mana pool.)

There are over 70 different planes!  I haven’t heard of most of them.

The thing about this set…it is all about FLAVOR.  A person might not know anything about MTG.  Having them sit down and play the game this way will immerse them in the basic lore and the basic “What is this game Magic the Gathering all about?”  The game becomes more than just fun decks to play with cool art.  It becomes a story.  And that is very good because the flavor or MTG is really awesome.

A little rant.  It has been said that Mortal Kombat (and its associated video games) isn’t that great as far as fighting games go.  But it is so cool in flavor that it remains appealing, even though it is trumped by the mechanics of other games in its genre.  MTG has the opposite problem sometimes.  The game is so cool and fun, but people don’t have to be aware of the story surrounding it for the game to work.  How many times have I seen new players ask about the flavor text of a card, and what purpose does it serve?  It serves no mechanical purpose…it is only there for extra fun.  Extra flavor.  Extra points in the coolness department.  At one time I didn’t care about the story.  Over the years, I have picked up on some of it, and even read through some of it, like the Battle for Zendikar story and the way Nissa and Chandra drew up a “Channel-Fireball” combo to kill the titans.  I still have a lot to learn about the story.  The Planechase Anthology is without a doubt going to inspire me to look up information about the different planes and locations in MTG.

Onto the rest of the decks.  Each one comes with its own “slide deck box.”  The colored “Planeswalker Symbol” is the only indication of which deck is inside besides the label on the flat side of the inside box.  Notice the one of the far left…the “orange” symbol.  That box has extra items inside.

One of those items is the basic guide to playing Magic (quick reference card).  Which is not a guide to playing Planechase.  So I’m not sure if including it was a good idea.  (I just threw it away, as usual.)

The other item is the tokens.  Double Sided.

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I am showing you one side, then flipping them.  Notice a ton of Goblin tokens, and Saproling tokens.  If you have ever played decks that produce these kinds of token creatures, then you know you might just need this many.  Saproling token decks can get out of control!

NOW FOR THE INDIVIDUAL DECKS.

Each deck is called a “theme deck.”  What this means is, each deck showcases a mechanic, and has cards that support that mechanic.

I will be showing you the eight rares (YES!) from each deck first.  And then I will show you notable things about the decks as well.

PRIMORDIAL HUNGER

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This is the only deck I already have spent time with playing, and you saw what I had to say if you clicked the link in the top paragraphs.  Since I wrote that review, I have played this deck on numerous occasions.  The Dragonlair Spider is ALWAYS a winner.  Lots of times, people underestimate him.  Hellion Eruption is also an amazing win-con.  The Devour mechanic, showcased in this deck, requires a little work.  You have to sacrifice things…you are giving up board presence in order to make a big creature.  This is risky, and sometimes doesn’t pay off.  I think it better to “go wide,” load up the board, and then either over run the opponent, or do the Hellion Eruption.

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Of the Devour creatures, this one is the most playable.  On turn three or four, you can have a fatty that can’t be ignored.

Most of the pre-con decks the Wizards put out contain mana-fixers.  This deck has “bounce lands,” and a few other things.  Skaarg the Rage Pit can be a really good mana-sink.

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These other spells can’t be ignored!  Overrun, Fires of Yavimya, and Fling are excellent finishers.  Fires of Yavimaya is like a trap…people tend to forget that you can sacrifice it to give all of your creatures +2/+2!

One more incidental thing…Will the deck fit in the “slide deck box” when properly sleeved?  (Drum roll)

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YES!!!

NIGHT OF THE NINJA

This is the deck the SpartanKid is most excited about.  I looked at purchasing this about a year ago for him…he is very interested in Ninjas.  After-market, the deck gets about $7o.  It came down to either Night of the Ninja or some Mega-Man thing.  He went with the Mega-Man…

But now, I own a copy, and he can play it all he wants!

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The theme of this deck is Evasion.  Virtually every creature in this deck has some form.  Flying, Intimidate, Fear, Shroud, Deathtouch, Hexproof, and the feature mechanic, Ninjutsu.  With Ninjutsu, you can swap out an attacking creature that doesn’t have a blocker with the creature with Ninjutsu from your hand.  Surprise!  Throw on a “when this deals combat damage” effect, and you get some cool advantages.

Notable here, is Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni.  This guy is the general for a rat-tribal commander deck!

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Baleful Strix.  One of the best Two-Drop creatures in all of MTG.  Flying, Deathtouch, AND card draw.  Sick.

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Here are the lands.  Nothing noteworthy here.  (Why didn’t we get Rogue’s Passage?  I think it’s because every creature here already can’t be blocked at least without consequences.)

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The other spells.  Farsight Mask…that’s hilarious!  Why would it be tapped unless an opponent tapped it?

CHAOS REIGNS

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A little story…The original picture of the eight rares was very blurry, so at 3:00 AM I retook the picture.  And this is when I noticed that the “slide deck boxes” all have outline artwork for their featured rare card.  So this is why these cards are sleeved, and why I included the inner box.

Maelstrom Wanderer.  A Three-Color creature, with “Cascade, cascade.”  Yes.  This isn’t a typo!  Chaos Reigns is aptly named because of the Cascade mechanic.  When you cast (important!) a spell with Cascade, you get to reveal cards off the top of your library until you reveal a card with a lower mana cost, and then you cast that card for free.  So Maelstrom Wanderer lets you Cascade twice.

(The other use of the Cascade mechanic is to wash your dishes.  HA HA HA!)

Cascade is one of the flashiest mechanics in MTG, and also the most unpredictable.  It is at the heart of “Restore Balance” decks, as well as “Living Death” decks.

The other thing about the Maelstrom Wanderer.  Three color creatures, especially in the combination of BLUE RED GREEN, are rather rare historically.  We got a few recently in Khans block.  But this guy seemed to stand alone for a long while.

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The Shardless Agent…This is a ten-dollar card!  In the right deck, it can almost be a Collected Company.

It seems I forgot another important picture…Bloodbraid Elf.  (Banned in Modern!)

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It was recently brought to my attention that this guy is banned in Pauper.  I wonder why? (It’s obvious.)

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Here is a notable card.  Do you want to know what a vanilla creature is if it takes a mana of every color to cast?  Fusion Elemental provides that standard baseline.  8/8.

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This is a five color deck.  Such a deck has a hard time finding the resources it needs.  Shimmering Grotto and Rupture Spire help with this.  Vivid Creek and Terramorphic Expanse are also always useful.

But even this wouldn’t be enough.

img_9516The five spells on the left also help you fix your mana.

Every other spell is pretty good.  Our main plan, though is to smash the opponent with our creatures.

SAVAGE AURAS

This deck is based on enchantment auras, specifically Totem Armor.

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The Kor Spiritdancer is important…It is a strong piece of the Hexproof deck in Modern.  Maybe I can make my Bogles deck work better now that I own a copy.  (I will need three more, of course.  Do-able…it is a ten-dollar card.)

Krond, of the Dawn-Clad.  If you can get this guy going, you have no business losing.  You can exile their permanents all over the place.  He is a flying, vigilant threat.

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I thought these two notable…Silhana Ledgewalker has the aforementioned Hexproof.  If you get a few auras on it, there is little that the opponent can do.  It also is hard to block…

Dreampod Druid…remember all of those Saproling tokens?

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Nothing spectacular about the lands.  The City Tree is a notable inclusion.

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You might have noticed that this deck is a little light on creatures.  This is because it is heavy on other spells, especially auras…especially totem armor.  The deck also generates tokens, helping ensure you aren’t holding unusable “dead” cards.  (Totem Armor.  If enchanted creature would be destroyed, destroy the aura with Totem Armor instead.)

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS AFTER UNBOXING.

This is a terrific product.  Thanks to the SpartanWife for getting it for me on our anniversary.  Thanks to the Tangled Web as well, who gave me a discount.  A great thing too, because today I have been fighting a Kidney Stone.  And the store owner, Daniel Macabee, is a super nice guy.  If you ever find yourself in Spartanburg, SC, go by the Tangled Web Comic Book store.  You won’t regret it.

As I have been typing into the wee hours of the night/morning, dealing with my problem, I have spent some time thinking about it.  There is only one physical problem with the Planechase Anthology.  There is nowhere to put the 35 double-sided tokens.  I sleeved them in transparent Dragon Shields.  But even if I didn’t, the slide deck boxes wouldn’t accomodate them.  And besides that, which tokens go with which deck?  This is a nit-picking thing, but notable.If the Wizards hadn’t put that giant Magic The Gathering logo on the plastic tray under the dice, but instead gave us another deck box for the tokens, that would have been better.  True, I could remove the tray and store the tokens underneath, but that takes away from the convenience of the the thing as a dedicated board game.

The only other negative thing I could say is…we don’t have Planes cards for Tarkir, Kaladesh, or Theros.  All of these planes have been introduced to us since these decks were originally printed.  The Wizards could have given us some exclusive planes cards featuring those locations just for this set.  And that would drive some collectors crazy…crazy enough to purchase this product even if they already owned the rest of it.

But besides those two items, I haven’t got any complaints.  I really had to dig for that second one…but maybe its the pain medicine.

I give the Planechase Anthology a 5/5!

It is a terrific box set that promises hours of fun at the kitchen table in the future.  It is a great collection of re-prints, including some scarce rares.  It is four ready-to-play decks for anytime.  It is good Magic.  Plain and simple.

THE SPARTANNERD GIVES THE PLANECHASE ANTHOLOGY A 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review- “Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas” Duel Deck (Vintage Review)

If you can call decks this young “vintage,” that is.  It has only been about five years since they were first released.  That was around the time I was discovering trading card games.  Bolas was THE BEAST back then, and he recieved a reprint in M13 when I began playing in tournaments, and I would see him on my opponents side of the table, and be envious.  Good times!

I saw the Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas” duel deck at the Tangled Web behind the counter, and asked about it.  I purchased it for $45…let’s remember this is an item you just don’t see on a shelf anymore….I was looking for stuff like this when I went to the Hickory Con, but just couldn’t find anything, at least that I  could afford…

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Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas comes in this foil box.  We get some information about this story…clearly Ajani is outmatched…but at least you can play him on turn four.  Bolas is an EIGHT DROP.  Bolas destroyed a plane called Alara, and Ajani is mad.  That summarizes it.

For this review, I hope to show some of the older elements that I find.

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Here is what you get in the box.  The deck boxes are pretty, but once again useless for sleeved cards.  This time I am going to cut these up and glue them to Dragon Shields boxes…Ivory for Ajani, and Maroon for Bolas.

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The artwork here … we see Bolas from a different angle in this art.  We see what might be the size difference between the two characters.

Here is the deck list for each deck.

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Here’s one of those old elements I was talking about…the guide to playing magic!  This poster gives you a lot of information.  In fact, I believe when me and the SpartanChildren began to play this game, we kept this same item on hand for reference.

Nowadays the wizards just use a tiny little card that doesn’t explain much.

OK ALREADY.  LETS UNWRAP SOME CARDS!

First, Ajani’s deck.

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Kird Ape.  The poster boy for red-green decks.  I was surprised to see green cards…I guess Ajani held is battle on the shard of Naya.  Wild Nacatl, a posterboy for Naya (red-green-white.)  Wild Nacatl has a legacy of being banned in modern, but recently was taken off of the banlist.

We’ve seen the pridemate printed a few times it seems.

IMG_9300.jpgQasali Pridemage has been printed a few times as well.  He is good…with exalted and a control ability.

IMG_9301.jpgLightning Helix…now we’re talking!  a great card.

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Here we have useful to rediculous cards.  Naya Charm…if it’s a charm, it’s good.  Titanic Ultimatum…the opposite of Cruel Ultimatun…a spell of rediculous power, that demands intense color loyalty.

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Ajani goes after Bolas with lots of different land options.  Notice “Evolving Wilds…”  The Jungle Shrine is a Tri-Land, one that I didn’t have.  Sapseep Forest…is a FOREST.  You can tutor for it with a real fetch.  (Not with evolving wilds.)  I belive I had Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree already.

Ajani’s deck is a dedicated aggro deck with a few tricks.  It yells the colors of Naya.  And it does what those colors do.  The green makes bigger creatures.  The white gains life.  The red does damage.  All of Ajani’s stuff can impact the game in a big way.

Nicol Bolas’ deck

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Bolas’ deck is obviously of Grixis…the shard that represents his evil alignment.  From Faerie to Toads to Hounds.  Bolas deck looks to be slower right away, and that is because his deck is poised to be a control deck.  Each card has a fun controlling effect.  The Morgue Toad is a card that scrams “GRIXIS.”

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I never owned a Moroii before.  Apparently an infamous flyer that hurts you each turn.  He has a drawback for all the power he has to offer, similar to the demons in the duel deck with Lord of the Pit.  Shriekmaw…this guy belongs in every casual black deck.  Blazing Specter unsurpsingly makes someone discard a card.  The specter family of cards typically do something with cards in hand.

Vapor Snag.  NICE.  I have a foil from Modern Masters, and I think I will make my first swap.

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More control.  Countersquall.  Recoil.  Undermine.  Icy Manipulator.  (The manipulator has brought me a few win!)  Just more control.

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And even more control.  Profane Command could only be supplanted by Similagar’s command, which wouldn’t be printed for another five years.  Come on guys.  Why not Cryptic Command?  🙂  Turn/Burn, Pain/Suffering.  Bolas has to cheat.  So why not draw two different cards when he was only supposed to draw one!

And then the imfamous Cruel Ultimatum.  Wow.  The card that won MTG pro finals back in 2011.  But like the other Ultimatum in this collection, it is color intensive.  You have to have everything lined up just right to get it to work.  Cruel is better than Titanic because Titanic is meant to be announced before attackers are declared.  Your window of opportunity is wider with Cruel Ultimatum.  Take away their life irregardless of blockers.  Make them ditch cards, and get one of Bolas’ few but great creatures back from the graveyard.

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Bolas doesn’t have as many special lands as Ajani.  He gets two Tri-Lands.  (That’s only fiar.)  He gets two copiews of Terramorphic Expanse (See what they did there.  The two cards have opposing flavor but are functional reprints.)  And then there’s Rupture Spire, which is a City of Brass with the caveat of entering tapped and having to have a many spent on it.  (You don’t have to lose life.)

So who’s better?  Playing the decks

I say, Bolas’ deck has a better plan.  Deal with whatever Ajani throws at him.    That’s what makes this deck fun.  But Ajani can “run over” Bolas before he can win.  And that means these two are perfectly balanced.  So far, I have played eight matches between the two, and both have four wins.  GREAT WORK, WIZARDS (Five years later.)  The decks are fun.  Just remember, AGGRO for Ajani.  CONTROL for Bolas.  Have small fast creatures in your opeing hand with Ajani.  Have fast removal and card draw in Bolas CONTROL deck.

DID THE SPARTANNERD GET A GOOD DEAL.

Here is what some of my readers is asking.

The Duel Deck version of Ajani and of Bolas, in premium foil, are about a $6 value.

Wild Nacatl and Kird Ape get you about $4 (together).

So I’m at $16…

Lightning Helix will get you about $6.00.

So I’m at $21…

Changing tactics.  That was TCG player.  Lets look at MTGprice.com

Basically, I got a $70 value for about about $45.  Not bad!

I rate this great product 5/5.  It has wonderful flavor, and I got a great deal.  I will happily add this to my Duel Decks collection!

 

 

 

 

 

SpartanNerd…Early Thoughts on Planeswalker Packs.

The Wizards decided to discontinue the age-old practice of putting out “intro decks.”  They seem to want new players to be able to learn the game, become competitive, and eventually successful in local area tournaments.  The intro deck was the beginning of this ramp, but it had some problems.  First of all, virtually every intro deck ever put out is weak…They are generally missing mana-fixing, and generally have only one or two copies of cards that would be essential, but are often easily replaced with better options.

I, the SpartanNerd, have reviewed several intro decks.  And in virtually every case, the booster packs that came with the deck had more usefulness.

Not that no intro deck ever came with useful and valuable cards.  The intro-deck with Spear of Heliod comes to mind.  That card saw legitimate play in Theros block.  And I famously picked up a Dark Ascencion deck that came with two Inkmoth Nexus, and Hellrider to boot.  But most of them…have been lackluster offerings.  Decks that frustrate new players, especially kids, when they try and play them in constructed tournments and get their face re-arranged by someone who built their deck to work against a metagame.  Throw in that other sealed products, like Duel Decks and Commander contain cards that aren’t Standard or sometimes even Modern legal, and new players can hit a brick wall of confusion and frustration.

This is why the Planeswalker Pack is already destined to be a failure.  And I haven’t even seen the contents!

I want to talk about what we have been shown from the “Kaledesh” block Planeswalker packs.

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These two cards are pretty.  They are flashy.  They WILL  capture the young player’s attention.  When I started playing, you couldn’t find Planeswalker cards anywhere.  Now you get fresh new ones that come with a deck.  Fresh new FOIL ones at that.

But these two cards are instantly nerfed.  They both cost six…so say for instance on turn six you play Chandra, Pyrogenius, and you get to “shock” an opponent.

The problem with this of course is this…

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You are getting a six drop, sorcery speed “Shock.”  And while Shock isn’t in the Standard game right now, there are better burn spells than Chandra.

But SpartanNerd, She will be at 7 loyalty.

This is true.  And this is why Chandra, Pyrogenius will work as an intro product.  She will be fun against the Nissa, Nature’s Artisan deck.  You can even bump her down and she will be at 2 loyalty…she lives for another turn at least.  She might be fun in a duel deck type of situation.  But not against a metagame of Battle for Zendikar block, Shadows Over Innistrad block, and Kaladesh block.

Nissa, Natures Artisan suffers from the same problem.  How many better ways in all of MTG are there to gain three life? Filtering for land?

Chandra becomes a sweeper with additional burn if she ultimates, and Nissa becomes “Overrun”.  But you have to get to ten loyalty counters.  Not going to happen in a real tournament environment.

Now we haven’t seen the rest of the decks.  But we are promised at least five more cards designed to go with these planeswalkers specifically.  Those cards might make it possible to play these in a tournament successfully.  We’ll just have to see.

But I say the Wizards are going about getting new players ALL WRONG.  I am a teacher, and I love teaching kids new skills.  I love it when the light comes on and they “get” a new concept.  MTG is a FUN game, worthy of brainpower and thinking through strategies like deckbuilding, etc.  I like playing against new players, and helping them to see their triggers, phase changes, combat tactics, etc.  New players are LUCKY if they play against me.  I remember when I started, too many players were cut-throat, and beat me on what I thought were technicalities.  Problems that I didn’t see, and wasn’t sure they were even playing fair.  I just loved the game, so kept on playing with determination.

But news flash.  Kids don’t like to lose.  And you pay, say $5.00 of your allowance to play in a tournament for 4-6 hours on a Friday night, only to get smashed in every game, and it becomes clear why new players don’t feel successful.  All this is WORSE if you happen to be running illegal cards that you JUST PURCHASED in a Commander deck.  A deck that costed $35, and took your birthday money.

I propose a completely different approach than just putting out new eye-catching product.

The Wizards should go back to the CORE SET.  But this time, structure tournaments around it for NEW PLAYERS.  A product like Planeswalker Packs (and intro decks) could fit right in with what I propose.  Core Set tournaments would LOCK OUT anyone who has a DCI number oder than say, two years old.  This would have to be policed by the TO.  But I believe this to be the best way for the Wizards to help the new players learn the game and find some success.  Such a tournament would be independent of the Standard environment.  I remember seeing the words “expert set” on some MTG expansions.  (Dragon’s Maze comes to mind.)  Standard would be made of “Expert Sets.”  The Core Set beginner tournaments would play like Magic in its purest form.  Just use the evergreen keywords, and examples of each card type.  Use basic lands and Evolving Wilds.  Or maybe tap lands.  The most successful Core Set in my opinion was M13.  This set reprinted the Titans.  It had Legendary creatures.  It had staples.  It was great fun!  This set captured my kids’ imaginations.  But when we played decks make from this set against Innistrad block cards, we would lose.  I think we would have had a good shot in a closed off, core set only environment.

So when the Planeswalker Pack bites the big one, and the Wizards try a different plan, just point them to the SpartanNerd Blog!