Modern Masters 2017…SpartanNerd Experience

I pre-ordered my box of Modern Masters 2017 for a steep discount…(information respectfully withheld.  Thanks!  You know who you are!)  Put it this way, I got a serious good deal.

Like the other “Masters” sets, this box only came with 24 packs.  But every pack contains a foil.  AND this time the set was loaded up with re-prints people have been asking for!

How did I fare?

This time I only have one picture, which will tell most of the story.


I already put my rares away…sorry guys.  These are the commons and uncommons.  The story is “Return to Ravnica/Innistraad” srandard.  You could even draft deck archetypes with this set.

Maybe you can’t tell from the picture, but the stack of “gold” cards is about 1/3 taller than the traditional cards.  This is a set that wants you to build multi-color decks.

So what rares did I pull?

The notable ones were.

Marsh Flats

Gifts Ungiven

Linvala, Keeper of Silence


Cavern of Souls

Goblin Guide

Abrupt Decay

Zur the Enchanter

Notably, I didn’t pull Snapcaster Mage, Liliana of the Veil, or Damnation.  I didn’t pull a Serum Visions or a Path to Exile either. But two awesome lands, Griselbrand, and the angel were all great pulls.

I decided to build a “cube commander” deck for Zur the Enchanter.  Basically a singleton deck with Esper colors.  I haven’t played it yet, but I know it will be janky when I do because there are only two valid enchantments!  (Seal of Doom and Gift of Orzova)

So did I draft?  Both me and the SpartanKid did so at the Tangled Web…$35 per entry fee…that’s steep!  But at $10 a pack, that’s why.

I think we both drafted traditional draft style decks.  Mine was based on “bloodrush”  Which was incredible Green Red strategy back in RtR block.  The SpartanKid drafted mono-white.  Probably not a great choice…but he crafted a successfully annoying Soul Sisters deck.  In fact, mine was annoying too if you were lucky!  Giantbaiting + Dragon Fodder+ Revive = YOU WIN.  But most of the time the opponent just had an early flier that I could only hold off for so long before I was ran over.

I did manage to draft Terminus, Obzedat, Goblin Guide, and Misty Rainforest.  But since I was in red green only the latter two made the cut…This set is so good that Misty Rainforest was actually passed to me!  I don’t know what they pulled….???

I wound up trading for a foil Damnation, and so I am all around happy with my investment.  If you read my blog, you know I have been burned a few times buying MTG boxes.  I felt confident that it would work out, and it did reasonably.

However, I did see “Rudy,” some You-Tube guy open a totally wack box, and follow that up with a box that contained all five fetch lands, Liliana, and Blood Moon.  So the potential for this to have gone either way in the other direction was there.

I was encouraged as one of my regular opponents sat beside me while I opened the packs from my box.  I was unaware of some of what I had.  I have a foil Grafdiggers Cage now.  Somehow that is a card that hasn’t been on my radar.  But I see incredible play value there now.  That guy also proclaimed jealousy when I opened Goblin Guide, and then drafted him as well!

I don’t know that I will get to draft this set anymore.  Opportunity dries up as the supply will.  If you read my previous post, you know I was looking forward to drafting Gifts Ungiven, or possibly pulling a foil Liliana of the Veil.  But I also realistically knew those were long shots.

I am going to refrain from rating this set based on my experience.  I have opened 27 packs and played with 24 of the cards, rather unsuccessfully.  I was fighting against myself as well, as I was really sick and started to get tired at around 10:00 PM.  I was making bonehead mistakes, like Traitorous Instinct on Ogre Jailbreaker, when I didn’t own a gate, for instance.  That really doesn’t say much for me and my skills on that day, and so I can’t rate it.  I do think the draft environment really wants you to aim for three colors.  At the Tangled Web, there are a few “fixer hogs.”  They take all of the fixers, and then they get to pick the best stuff on the last pack.  I can’t draft that way.  Maybe I should try it out.  But it seems I would rather know my strategy from the first twenty cards I draft.

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…


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.


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.


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!


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


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


The box has nice foil…as mentioned.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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?


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.


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.


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


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!


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.


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.


The cards in cellophane and inserts in cellophane.


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.


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.


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.


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…


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.


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.


The Next Big Thing in Magic…”Amulet of Vigor” combos!

I recently had a rare moment of dumb luck…(two months ago.)

I wanted to play The Mazes End deck in a modern tournament, and so I went to research ways to turn the GuildGate cards (read bad common cards) into something playable.  (Why try this strategy?  I have four copies of “Mazes End.”  One is foil.  One is Japanese.  I guess just for vanity.  I also wanted to play the new card, “Chromanticore”)

The reason why the guild gates are so bad is because though they are dual lands, they enter the battlefield tapped.  And that’s it.  In Modern,  at least locally, here’s what can happen…

  • Turn one.  You won the dice roll!  You play a GuildGate.  It is a tapped dual land that lets you do NOTHING until your next turn.
  • Turn one for your opponent.  He does something you figured impossible.  He gets out Griselbrand!  You lose.
  • And you never produced one mana.

I am exaggerating a little bit.  The guy I played who was able to do this did it on turn two.  But my GuildGate was useless just the same.

The most common card coming up as a solution was “Amulet of Vigor.”

Anyways.  I went shopping, and found four copies of “Amulet of Vigor” online.  (It wasn’t in any local stores.)  Each copy only cost about $2.50.  To me, not a bad price for a card that can allow the dumb GuildGates to untap when they enter the battlefield, and therefore not be so dang useless.

Well…I didn’t know the amount of POWER I was getting into…

There is this story floating around out there.  In the first ever sanctioned Modern championship tournament, the “Amulet of Vigor” was used with “Cloudpost” so effectively that “Cloudpost” was banned from the format!

With the banning of “Cloudpost,” the amulet fell by the wayside, taking up space in binders everywhere.

But someone recently figured it out.  And now the Amulet is selling for around $20!  (So I could sell mine off now and make a big profit. Not gonna happen!)

Here’s what you can do with an amulet, and a couple of other “bad cards.”

  • Turn One.  You have this in your hand.  A “forest”, “Summer Bloom”, “Simic Growth Chamber,” “Primeval Titan,” “Boros Garrison,” “Summoner’s Pact,” and “Amulet of Vigor”  You play your forest, and the Amulet.
  • Your Opponent does something that you hope isn’t Thoughtsieze or some kind of “Griselbrand Now”
  • Turn two.  You draw “Hive Mind.”  Play “Simic Growth Chamber.”  Here is the trick.  It actually enters the battlefield tapped, but then the Amulet of Vigor ability goes on the stack, which causes it to untap.  Normally you would have to bounce a land.  But you can go ahead and tap the land for its two mana first.  Having used it up, you can bounce it back to your hand!  (Now you have a floating green and a floating blue.)  Use the two floating mana to play “Summer Bloom”.  This card lets you play up to three lands from your hand….Guess what three lands you are going to play?  “Simic Growth Chamber”!  Get its floating mana, and bounce it three times!  This gets you three blue and three green floating mana, which you are now going to use to play “Primeval Titan!”  I suggest getting utility lands for the Titan when he enters the battlefield.  Or maybe “Slayers Stronghold” and “Boros Garrison,” which you can use to give him haste and an extra +2/+0″!  Swing with your Titan, on turn two for 8 my friend, and go get two more lands.  I suggest “Simic Growth Chamber” and “Galgori Rot Farm.”  Return the original “forest” and “Slayers Stonghold” to your hand.  ON TURN TWO YOU ARE SERIOUSLY AHEAD!
  • Your opponent looks sad as he responds on Turn two.  He can’t do anything much.  Maybe he can remove your titan.  But it’s too late.  A new plan is forming….
  • Turn 3.  You draw …. It doesn’t matter, really.  You play down “Hive Mind” by playing, tapping, and bouncing one of your green bounce lands and tapping the other two you had out.  Then play “Summoners Pact.”  The first card is an enchantment that says “players cast copies of instants and sorceries at the same time.  They may choose new targets.”  When you played “Summoner’s Pact,” it was a free card for you.  You get to search your library for a green creature card.  It will probably be another “Primeval Titan,” and put it in your hand.  Your opponent gets to do the same.  He’d better hope he is playing green….The downside to “Summoner’s Pact” is you have to pay two green and two colorless at the beginning of your upkeep, or else you lose the game.  Not a problem for you.  But on turn three can your opponent do that at the beginning of his upkeep.  (before he gets a land drop.)  NOPE.  YOU WIN!

Let me just say that I didn’t invent this.  I read about it.  And then some championship type people started doing it.  Mathias Hunt posted a video about the deck he played at the last championship tournament.  Also, Gerry Thompson out there has a version of this deck.  It is JUST SICK.  And It is the next big thing I expect.

You heard it here from the SpartanNerd first.  I haven’t seen anyone actually play this deck in a tournament.  One guy saw me playing the deck before I had the complete combo, and commented that he was building one too at home.  (I played a hybrid Amulet and Mono Black Devotion Deck at the last modern tournament.  It lost pretty bad.)

But at home I have built a version that doesn’t have as many great lands as I wish it had.  I mean, I don’t have “Gemstone Mine” or any “fetch lands.”  I don’t have “City of Brass”.  I do have “Tolaria West,” which can let me get “Summoner’s Pact” or some other pact card.  (“Slaughter Pact”)  And I have four copies of each bounce land.  So I built this deck on a budget.

I already mentioned I got my amulets for $2.50.  The bounce lands cost around $20 for the whole set, mint condition.  Summer Bloom was like $1.50 apiece.    The pacts cost about $5.  Basically, the Primeval Titans are the most expensive thing.  I might have a total of $120 invested in it so far.  That’s a pretty good deal for a deck that I expect to win at the next Modern Tournament I can make it to!

(As for the Mazes End.  I played the Amulets with it.  In multiples, the Amulet triggers over and over, so you can produce either color of the land that you want. several times on the turn the gate comes out.  Otherwise, it still doesn’t work that good as a strategy.)