Archenemy: Nicol Bolas. SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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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!

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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.

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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.)

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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.)

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

SpartanNerd Thoughts…Modern Masters 2017

OK.  WOW!

What has me so enamored?

Liliana of the Veil

Snapcaster Mage

Damnation

Enemy Fetch Lands

Cavern of Souls

Gifts Ungiven (Can you imagine drafting this card?)

Double D (Desecration Demon…again, an amazing card to draft.)

Blood Moon

Tarmogoyf

Abrupt Decay

Domri Rade

Harmonize  (Green card draw…draft this!)

Path to exile

I mean…these are just some of the main cards everyone is talking about.  The reprinting of the top four…these have been called for by fans for a long time.  Liliana, Damnation, Snappy, and enemy fetches have all only ever been printed one time.  Their aftermarket values are super high.  Oh and Cavern of Souls too.

I think MTG has been in trouble.  At least Standard and Modern have been.  Standard, because “Stale Standard.”  Modern…It is so expensive to get the above staples, coupled with the Wizards stopped running Pro-Tour Modern events, and then the little fad called “Frontier.”  (Is is really just a fad?)  And MTG players love EDH…the top selling product for the Wizards is reportedly their yearly Commander release.

I look forward to drafting with these cards…that’s going to be great.  The cards scream ARCHETYPES!.  (Reanimator, Red-Green beatdown, Esper Blink, and so many more.)  And the box I pre-ordered…that is already an epic win.  If I don’t get Liliana or the D-word…I will pull something I want to trade for them.

I just keep going back to the card image gallery, and salivating.  Never have I been so pleased with a set.  I was psyched for Theros block releases.  But this goes beyond any hype…  Liliana and D….have been on the radar for a re-print.  The Wizards even said they considered her for M-15.  How that other card didn’t make it into “From the Vault: Annihilation,” I just don’t know.  We didn’t need another Wrath of God, especially with Heliod on it.

Back when they did the other two Modern Masters sets…people said, “Nah.  They won’t re-print Blood Moon or fetch lands.  That would be crazy.”  They have, people.  Draft and buy this thing.  And get back into Modern.  I’m getting bored!

(Technically, Tarmogoyf is the most valuable card up there in my list.  Not sure how…it has seen a few re-prints.  Yes.  Great card.  But in Modern, you pretty much need four copies of that $200 card in order to play the Zoo or Jund archetype decks.  Just saying!)

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Eldritch Moon Fat Pack

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True story.  I attended the Eldritch Moon pre-release.  It was my hope to score a Liliana, the Last Hope.  I did not during that event.

The LGS (The Tangled Web in Spartanburg,) does random rolls for the losers.  I was one of those losers!  I won an extra pack.  My wife picked me up, and I opened it on the way home, and what was in that pack?  Not only a Liliana, but a FOIL LILIANA.

At the time, that card was worth over $100.  Now it is hovering around $70.  But hey, that was fun!

My most recent problem has been storage.  I didn’t buy a fat pack box for Shadows Over Innistrad.  Instead, I purchased a booster box.  That box has held all of my cards from that set.  It is a flimsy box, but serves its purpose…the problem is I have a fat pack box from every expansion set since Return to Ravnica.  So….

Making the problem worse, I decided with Eldritch Moon that I wouldn’t get any boosters I didn’t draft or obtain in sealed products.  My Shadows Over Innistrad box was a real stinker, and just about swore me off of booster packs.  (The only legendary creature I got was The Gitrog Monster.  And I got no planeswalkers.)  So I have been storing my Eldritch Moon cards in Pre-Release boxes…which have eventually become inadequate.

I also swore off the “Fat Pack” back during Theros block.  Fat Packs come with a ton of lands.  I have a giant box of lands!  I started finding the Fat Pack boxes here and there.  Sometimes the Tangled Web sells them for $5.  Sometimes people don’t want them and donate them to whoever wants one.  And this is how I have come to get half of the Fat Pack storage boxes that I have.

But recently, my land collection has been dwindling.  The SpartanKid has been making lots of decks.  And that’s great.  So I needed the box.  I needed the land.  I like Liliana alot.  So I went ahead and shelled out the money.

Notably, this is the final Fat Pack I will get to unbox and review.  From Kaladesh forward, the basically same product is called “Bundle Box” or similar.  (It is a better storage box, too!)

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The Players Guide.  I almost forgot about this important piece.  The players guide fills the player in on the story, and has a catalog of all of the cards availiable in the set.  Here are some pictures.  Actually, when I removed the cellophane, the package fell apart, and this fell out into the floor, giving me a sudden reminder.

This time the guide takes a moment to explain the “meld” cards.  Basically you get to pair two cards with meld instructions together to make an oversized card.  The most notable is the combination of Bruna and Gisela, sister angels who become Eldrazi-ed up and combined into Brisela.

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The sleeve for the box unfolds to make this poster.  Which is really nice.  Especially since it depicts the SpartanNerd Liliana.

The storage box looks like this…

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These boxes are pretty good.  Sometimes if they get overstuffed, cards on the ends can be damaged.  I use these Fat Pack boxes to store my common and uncommon cards.  I keep all my rares sleeved in binders.  (Incidently, I organize my cards by CMC, grouped by name, alphabetically.  Is that excessive?)

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Here is the package contents.  The only thing I am not showing you is the cardboard spacers that helped the package maintain its girth.  You can see the deck boxes.  The Spindown Counter.  The stack of lands.  And the nine booster packs.

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These deck boxes are good for a sixty card deck without sleeves.  Good art.  But I have said repeatedly that the Wizards could do better.  And they have proven it by giving us better boxes in some other products.  (Duel Deck Anthology, Chandra and Nissa Planeswalker packs, Commander decks, and Planeschase decks.)

At least it has Liliana on one!  (The other is Emrakul)

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The only way this spindown counter could be better is…I guess this is as good as they get, besides my lucky one with a skull on it from “Graveborn.”

img_9457Here are the lands I assured you I would get.  And YIPPEE.  Checklist cards.  I needed more of those too.  (not)

img_9458Now for the MAIN EVENT.  Nine (9) booster packs.  I wonder what they will contain?  Here is alot of hopefulness.  Liliana is the most expensive card in this set..about $40 for a regular printing.  Emrakul is second place, at around $15.  Thalia is worth about $5.00, but is expected to go up.  Tamiyo is worth about $10. Gisela is worth $10. Not much else of value in this set.  So what did I get?

NONE OF THE ABOVE.

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About $7.20 (TCG Median) worth of value.  The most valuable card I pulled was Summary Dismissal, which exiles the cards on the stack.  It will never be a Remand, at four-drop.  The two foils I got were not worth more than fifty cents combined.

In short.  This box was a stinker.  Adding everything up gets you about $17.20.  The Fat Pack costed $4o, so….

Now it could have gone the other way, of course.  I could have had a TON of Lilianas.  Fat Packs are supposedly even more randomized than Booster Boxes.

But it didn’t.  I gambled, and lost.

Is the product worth it?  Now I have an Eldritch Moon box that matches the size of all my others.  It is making me want to seek out and find a Shadows Over Innistrad Fat Pack Box.  SO there’s that.  It has great arwork depicting Liliana.  We haven’t had that since…I guess we had it in Origins, and in the first Innistrad block.  But this is the one I now own.

The guide…all of that information is available on the internet.  The lands and checklist.  Meh.  My boosters were lame.  So…

This Eldritch Moon Fat Pack gets a D+.  It could be a higher score if I pulled better cards.  (you CAN pull up to three rares and mythics from a pack if Eldritch Moon and Shadows Over Innistrad packs….the regular rare.  A foil.  And a double-sided.  But none of this happened for me this time!)

The SpartanNerd is going to rate his Eldritch Moon Fat Pack at 2/5.  The box is the best part.

 

Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

Magic Challenge Deck review…"Face the Hydra"

I was sooo excited to see the Hydra deck for sale last Friday!  I snatched that thing up as soon as I could!

The Hydra is a challenge.  He is hard to beat.  The way this works is you get however many heads you want to slay out, and then shuffle his deck.  He uses no mana.  He gets to play whatever card he draws.  (That is why it is a self running deck.)  You on the other hand are restricted to the rules of magic, except that discard and mill spells don’t work against the Hydra.

And when you kill a Hydra head, he gets to draw two cards…And if they are Hydra heads, you guessed it…You put them on the battlefield immediately.

The Hydra is no chump either…He can burn you with cards like “Unified Lunge” (See below), and there is not hardly anything you can do about it.  Furthermore, he swings every turn unless you can tap his heads.  I predicted that a white and blue azorius type deck would beat him easily, because that kind of deck can tap things.  I was correct to a point.  It depends on how lucky the hydra is..and how early he is lucky!  (I guess this is true of all Magic playing, isn’t it.)

I have played the Hydra with my boys several times…It is a good thing to play Magic a different way…In a teamwork kind of way.

And the Hydra deck makes a great game of Magic Solitaire…In fact, this is something Magic has been sorely lacking…Sure there are a few rules for a Solitaire game floating around out there, but those games aren’t that good.  The Hydra is a good option if you don’t have a playing opponent.

The Challenge Deck is a new kind of deck, and more are promised in the future.  That said, I’m not sure how to rate it.  I Really Like It!  But it COULD have better art, I suppose.  Some of the Hydra heads look kind of “cartoony”.  On the other hand, I love the back of the cards…They look cool…It makes me wish that sometimes MTG cards had a different back, but I guess the “deck master” back is a consistent choice that promotes a variety of formats.

So I’m going to rate the deck with 4/5.  The point was lost for the cartoony heads.  Otherwise, this is an awesome product, and every Magic fan should get one!

Enjoy pictures of my Hydra deck below!

Dragon’s Maze, Magic the Gathering Trading Card Game Review

I got my pre-order in for a Fat Pack of Magic The Gathering Dragon’s Maze cards on Wednesday at Mad Max’s Comics and Games, and picked it up after work on Friday, as I was permitted.  I also bought the pre-made Azorius deck that goes with Dragon Maze.  Me and my two boys played “Booster Draft” with the included 9 booster packs from the Fat Pack.  Last night I tweaked that Azorius deck.  Here are my thoughts.

Booster Drafting was kind of hard….we only had two “mythic rare” cards.  Also the “rare” cards were also scant.  Each pack come with a guild gate, and it seems that each of our packs also came with at least one “cluestone.”  (Similar to the “keyrunes” in the previous two sets.  Basically throwaway cards.)
But after we got going, and pulled the cards we wanted, I can kind of see what is happening here.

You see, “Dragon’s Maze” is a kind of set meant to overturn the applecart of the previous two sets.  For instance, in my experience, Azorius was kind of weak.  Detain was great, until, you couldn’t detain.  Then you were screwed.  The creatures tend to be smaller and detain tends to trigger only when the creatures enter the battlefield.  So people playing against Azorius kind of knew what to expect.  So the Dragon Maze comes along, and adds more detain, and gives a few more larger creatures to play.  BAM.  Forget that janky three-color mess.  Azorius is strong enough on its on.

For Simic, evolve never really took off.  It was OK to add to your already working green deck, but didn’t seem to be a strategy that worked on its own.  Dragon’s maze is set to fix that.

Boros was too strong.  So in Dragon’s Maze, most of the cards that are worth anything seem to be more expensive to cast.  Hence, a way that some other guilds might be able to get out front.

How about some other things of note….I believe the new “Maze’s End” legendary land is rediculus.  Come on.  Really?  Control 10 gates with different names, you win the game.  Did anyone try and play “Hellkite Tyrant” in Gatecrash?  So you load your deck up with keyrunes and other artifacts, you might be able to build up to 20 if the other players play artifacts.  When you control 20 artifacts, you win the game.  Maybe this card will work in Commander?  Otherwise, there is just no way.  And that is my feeling with Maze’s End, except that there are no legendary’s (in my knowledge) that are five color.

So this card is there just so you can say you have one, I guess.

Also, this time each guild gets a legendary creature to run the maze.  We pulled exactly two of these out of the booster packs.  One kid got the Gruul one.  The other got the Izzet.  Neither seemed that great to me.  Maybe time will give a different answer.  Since I bought the Azorius deck, I have the foil Azorius legendary.  She detains creatures of four converted mana cost or less.  By the time you are on turn 5, which is the minimum for casting her, an opponent likely has a fatty out. So, it works good against the weak cards…..not the endgame cards.  At least she has protection from red!

Fuse is another different idea.  Now you can cast a split card as a single play.  “Turn” and “Burn” for instance.

I like it so far.  Of the three, “Return to Ravnica” “Gatecrash” and “Dragon’s Maze,” I would say that “Gatecrash” was the best.  It got me thinking more aggressively about the game, with Boros and the “battalion” ability finding synergy with “exalted” and “haste,” and Grull with it’s crazy aggro “bloodrush” ability.  I suppose “Dragon Maze” is so far my least favorite of the block.

“Chronic Flooding”  (It has rained gallons lately!)