SpartanNerd Review Update…Customized Ultra-Pro Pro-Tower Deck Box!

Faithful readers, go back and read my review of the Ultra-Pro Pro-Tower Deck Box, first, and then read this article to be more informed about what product I am talking about!

So, I actually DID get the SpartanWife to do some work on the box for me!  I chose art from some comics I had doubles of, “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #8 and #9,” cut it out, and she decoupaged the art to the box.  See my results below!



This is the back of the box.  I chose a splash page, so that I might have a large image of He-Man holding his sword.  When you open the box, you get to see the full image!


This large image is SOOO IMPRESSIVE!

I chose smaller art for the two sides.



And instead of comic art, I chose the paper branding from a MOTUC figure that I hung onto for some occasion someday, such as this!  When the box is closed and you are looking at it, there is no mistake what brand of entertainment I am into!



As far as ease of project…I cut out the art that I wanted, and then she trimmed it up.  The splash page cut the sword into two, but she was able to work it so that it appears seamless.  She decoupaged with “Mod-Podge,” and it feels really natural, like it was branded there at the factory!  The intricate texture of the box didn’t hamper the process at all, as some people seemed to be afraid of when I mentioned this project to them.

And as far as the results I got at the Magic tournament on Saturday, many people said WOW when they saw it!  A few people wanted to touch it, which was cool…It was dry and all.  And I had double the EDH matches, so it worked for getting attention as well!

The SpartanNerd give the SpartanWife a full 5/5 on this project!  Please leave comments and let me know what you think.  She would also like to hear from you, oh Hub City Geeks!

SpartanNerd Review…Ultra Pro Pro-Tower Deck Box

Looks like I have a new problem.

From my WordPress stats, it seems I have had 62 views of my “Sworn To Darkness” post.  So that means many readers already know that I think that deck is great!  So time for some sleeves…

1 stock box

See my conundrum?  When sleeved, (I am using Dragon Shields), the cards do not fit in the box properly.  Much less can you put that oversized planeswalker card in there!  Bummer!

Let’s try another box.  The Legion Iconic Skull 100-card box.  (Approximately $5.00.)

2 skull box 3 skull box opened

This deck box with top down design can hold 100 sleeved cards.  But that’s it.  Oversized Ob Nixilis has to sit out.  Also the divider.  AND you’ll have to bring another container for dice and tokens.

There is now a solution!

The Ultra Pro Pro Tower Deck Box!

4 table

Here is a picture of it on the playing table at The Tangled Web, before I opened it.  Notice the price…$19.99.  There is a more expensive version that comes with sleeves and has art on it.  I didn’t care for the art, so I went for the cheaper black version.  I don’t know if other colors of this box exist.

So, on to the review!

5 house

Cellophane removed, the deck box has a rough finish.  It is rather nice, actually.  The texture captures the light different ways when viewed from different angles.  Not sure if that can come through on the photo.  The box seals from the top via a magnet that is surprisingly effective.  It is easy to open the box, though.  I’m sure dropping the box with cards in it might cause the magnet to let go.  (But that probably won’t happen, right?)  Other things about the appearance of the box; the words “Ultra Pro” are tattooed on both sides.  and it is pretty clear where the flap is looking at it in normal light.

6 empty

What makes this a great box is all that it has to offer!  Opening the box from the top reveals a compartment where you can store a deck.  Then there is a door that swings out, revealing a place to store your oversized cards!  Perfect for those big planeswalker and legendary Commander cards, and one of the only solutions for that problem I have seen!  With this door open, you can see another compartment below the top compartment.  This pulls out jewelry box style.  This piece is slightly smaller than the top compartment though.  I believe the intention was to store dice and tokens here.  Also notable…both compartments have a ribbon that makes it easier to grab hold of the cards if you can’t grasp them for some reason.

7 filled

Here is a pic of it loaded.  I stood the tokens up only for display here.  You can see Ob Nixilis’ big card staring at you through the access hole in the door.  You can see his small card in the access hole in the top compartment.  This is a great home for the Sworn to Darkness Deck!

8 drawer

Finally, I would point out that the bottom drawer can be removed..(I said it was jewelry box style)…and you can actually fit another sleeved commander deck here, if you load it flat rather than side loading.  Great for carrying two decks around with you!  Maybe you want to play with a friend and they forgot their deck.  If you lugged the Ultra-Pro Pro-Tower Deck Box with you with two decks, then you can still have a fun game!

Some things I love about this box…

I have all five 2013 Commander sets, and Sworn to Darkness from this year.  If you’ll recall, last year’s decks came with three oversized legendary cards.  All 15 of those fit in the drawer, as well as Ob Nixilis and Garruk, The Slayer.  It is safe to say that is AWESOME!

I love the multi-purpose compartment on the bottom!

I love that the top compartment allows side loading easily!

I love the handy ribbons that assist in getting the cards out easily.

What could be improved?…

Not much really.  I suppose the bottom compartment could be the same size as the top, allowing a second side-loaded deck.  But like I said, I’m not sure it was the full intention that that bottom compartment be for a second deck.  Sill, you can’t side load the bottom up with token cards either.  It is great for all of those dice though.

The other thing is more personal.  The SpartanWife is quite crafty…I believe she can really personalize this box for me.  The black color and interesting texture are great.  But if she could get some Masters of the Universe artwork on there, then this would be truly the ultimate deck box experience!

What do I rate the Ultra Pro Pro-Tower Deck Box?

I can’t see any reason to mark points off of this product.  While it might have a little room for improvement, I am really having to nit-pick at it just to point that stuff out.  It is a marvelous box, and every player should get one.  Maybe even two or three!  And since it is Christmas soon, this is a great present for a MTG player from a non-player who might not know what to get.

The box has a dedicated space for oversized cards, two storage compartments, is easy to carry, has a reasonably strong magnetic latch, and is quite affordable in the plain black version!

My rating is 5/5!  Do you agree with the SpartanNerd?  Let me know in the comments!



SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Commander 2014 “Sworn to Darkness” EDH Deck

This year, a big revision is made to the rules for Commander…Planeswalkers can now be your general!  I supposed technically only the five that were released for Commander 2014, but it isn’t much of a stretch to see all Planeswalkers allowed as commanders.  (Evidently some circles of players were already doing this regularly.)

The decks this year contrast the decks from the past two years, in that they are a single color.  At first I was like, “Mono-colored Commander decks…BORING!”  I didn’t do a lot of spoiler reading or anything, only really checking out what each Planeswalker Commander could do, and skimming deck lists for notable cards.  But after really looking at “Sworn to Darkness,” I see that this is one of the finest decks ever produced for the format!  (Remember, I unboxed and reviewed all five of the Commander 2013 sets.)

The first thing I have to say, though has nothing to do with the product so much.  Commander 2014 costs more than 2013.  $5 to $10 more.  I think when you see this review, you will see where that value is.

First, the packaging.


A nice package.  I finally learned… (five decks later!)…That it is best to OPEN FROM THE BOTTOM!  Anyways, the package shows the oversized “Ob Nixilis, of the Black Oath” card, with flavorful purple styling complimenting the black shadows.  The yellow burst says that there are 15 brand new cards in this set.  It also says that there is a 100 card deck meant for multiplayer formats.  The backside of the deck shows Ob Nixilis again, along with five amazing cards, including Ghoulcaller Gisa, who we will revisit in a minute.  You get some hype about the deck, and that’s about it.

IMG_5125_2 IMG_5126_2

Here are the contents.  Notably, this time, you only get one oversized foil card.  You get the same kind of deck box that we’ve seen before, which is really pretty nice.  All five of my others have stood the test of time!  You also get a guide to the deck, a general guide to playing Magic, (But commander is a variant, so…)  And then you also get the deck of course.  It’s cool that you get Ob Nixilis’s emblem on top.

IMG_5180_2 IMG_5181

The propaganda that comes with the deck gives you some of Ob Nixilis’s story.  You also get a blurb about Gisa.  The other side most importantly features the decklist.    I suppose I should mention that I think the art is pretty good.  Ob Nixilis is a pretty detailed character, if he does have a boring color scheme.  But hey, he is “Of the Black Oath,” so I guess that is forgivable.  (or is it unforgivable…hmmmm.??)

The Deck

When you get the cellophane off of the deck…first you get a ton of tokens on top!


But this time a new twist….DOUBLE SIDED TOKENS!  Great Idea, Wizards!

The backside of all of these cards is a Zombie.


Alright already!  What does this deck really do?

There are so many rares…I’m not even sure how many.  Most of the cards in this deck!

I am going to present the cards as pictures with some commentary where appropriate.


First the potential generals. Ob Nixiis of the Black Oath is VERY GOOD.  On turn five of every game, you have the opportunity to have a 5/5 flying demon.  WOW!  (That was his negative ability.)  Or you can choose to drain a little and plus him up 2.  But if you are able to get his ultimate to work, you can get a machine going

Ghoulcaller Gisa is a great sac outlet, and a way to get zombies out and over-run your opponent.  And this deck has plenty of fatties to sac!  (Anyone else notice that her initials are “GG”?

Then there’s Drana, who can destroy anything and swing in for nasty damage.  She really punishes large creature strategies.  But also she can be pumped by targeting your own creatures.

GG and Ob Nixilis are the two most obvious commanders for this deck.  It is good that we get Gisa in case some players object to the Planeswalker as a commander.

What else?  Here goes!  I will show you each rare with some commentary where it is most significant


Morbid is some of what makes this deck fun! Here you get a 5/5 black demon with flying if something died this turn. And lots of things die with this deck, either to kill spells, in combat, or being sacrificed!


I can’t say enough about Lashwrithe. If you get this on the field, then just pay two life to equip it, you make a creature with huge power. And then sac it with Gisa…BAM tons of zombie tokens!


Wow. The first command I own!


Black Sun Zenith. YES!


I really don’t like the art on this one. Look closely….


You get a suite of sweepers! The more stuff dies, the better creatures tend to get in this deck!

IMG_5161 IMG_5159 IMG_5158 IMG_5157

IMG_5155_2 IMG_5154_2


Check out the next four cards.




IMG_5153_2  IMG_5152 IMG_5151

Sadly, I find the first major quality control issue I have ever seen in a new Magic the Gathering product.  I’m sure there is some machine somewhere that prints these cards and assembles the decks in a uniform order.  The machine must have been malfunctioning.  All of the cards, fromPestilence Demon through Bad Moon had a blueish ink spot on them.  At first I thought it might be part of Pestilence Demon’s art…it made it look extra pestilence-y.  But apparently not after seeing the same smear on the other cards.


I intend to call the Wizards and see what was up with this.  Anyone else had such an issue?  I also hear there are people who collect misprinted cards.*(nope.  See below)




What? The D-word on the SpartanNerd blog?


GRAVE TITAN! Someone somewhere has read where this is one of my top three favorite cards! It is one of the first rares I ever pulled from a booster pack! It continues to be amazing!


Luitenant…a new mechanic for this set. It is way better than “tempting offer” in the last set.


This guy is scary!


Here is the opposite of Platinum Angel!

IMG_5148 IMG_5147 IMG_5146 IMG_5145 IMG_5142 IMG_5140 IMG_5139 IMG_5137_2 IMG_5136_2 IMG_5135_2


How the deck plays.

As of this review I have played exactly three games with this deck.  I tried out Ob Nixilis and Gisa both as generals.  They are both excellent!.  I am trying to get out a speedy review, so I might update this section later.*

My first matchup was great because it was against a largely vanilla Prossh, Skyraider of Kher deck, from Commander 2013.  The matchup was about an hour and fifteen minutes long.  Prossh tries to get tokens on the battlefield and then sacrifice those to make stuff bigger.  Most of those tokens are chump blockers.  Eventually, I barely lost.  Both of us were drawing cards and finding win-cons.  Prossh was just more ready at the right time.

Ob Nixilis’s ability to get out 5/5 flying demons is killer!  You can do a lot with those.  Big flyers.  Sacrifice them to get card draw or beef stuff up.  Block chump flyers.  Or pile up and attack!  The +2 drain ability is the almost irrelevant part.  I never got to ultimate him, so haven’t tried out the emblem thing yet.  The Prossh deck made a lot of irrelevant tokens.  I was able to sweep those several times, while the 5/5 fliers lived on!  I was able to remove Prossh and other baddies by bouncing Shriekmaw a few times, at least once with Profane Command.  Also, Drana’s ability is a great removal.

In my second match, against some kind of hexproof deck, I had mana screw.  The thing about this deck…It wants to have at least five mana.  So OH WELL!

The third match was against a Karn Silver Golem deck.  My opponent was able to get out all kinds of nasties.  Platinum Angel was one of them, Cranial Plating was another.  And lots of Myrs, and a Bonehoard.  I won this match, though.  This time I made Gisa my general, and I think I will use her from now on.  She is AMAZING in this deck!  I think she might have moved up on my list of favorite cards.  Her ability, pay a swamp and sac something for 2/2 zombie tokens equal to the sacrificed creature’s power, isn’t anything to sniff at.  Especially when you are making 5/5 demons pretty regularly, equipping Lashwrithe on something pumping its power big time, or other things.  In fact, you can just start a chain reaction of zombies, if you think about it, if you start with sacking one zombie, then you get two.  choose one of those, then you have three.  Get it?  She is amazing.  And this deck was able to overrun that wimpy affinity thing.

What will I change?

This deck needs some Lilianna.  Of every flavor.  I think I will switch out some of the mana rocks.  For instance, Charcoal Diamond enters the battlefield tapped, can be tapped for a swamp, and costs two.  WHY?  Welcome to the deck, Elbrus the Binding Blade.  (Oh how he loves Commander!)    Otherwise, I think I will keep this deck as it is.  Maybe changing in or out one or two creatures.  Maybe Geralf’s Messenger or something.  I don’t even really want to play Vampire Nighthawk, another favorite card!  I was really down on the inclusion of Swiftfoot Boots.  This was in EVERY DECK LAST TIME.  But then, I equipped in onto a 5/5 demon on the same turn he came out, and changed my mind.  Haste and Hexproof isn’t irrelevant after all!  Some of the mana could be made more interesting.  And why doesn’t this deck have “corrupt?”

My rating for “Commander 2014: Sworn to Darkness.”

Of the many official Commander decks I have seen, I think Sworn to Darkness stands a head taller than them all!  I would give it a 6 out of five if I could.  the only thing I found wrong is the little misprint that was on four or five of the cards.  I will keep my readers posted on how or if the Wizards make it better for me somehow.

SO I RATE “SWORN TO DARKNESS 5/5.  DO you agree?  Let me know in the comments!


 *Update #1…

I took “Sworn to Darkness” to the sealed deck two-headed giant tournament at the Tangled Web this past weekend, and got to play some multiplayer with this deck.  The mana-hunger of this deck is no joke.  And that seems to be where it is weakest.  On the other hand, sitting without that much land to do things makes you less of a threat.

I chose Ghoulcaller Gisa as my General.  People were surprisingly unfamiliar with her.  (The other commanders were Freyesa, the green planeswalker from this set.  Narset from Khans, and Derivi from last years set.)  Anyways, the green Planeswalker guy scooped early, frustrated because he “washed out” all of the islands, making the other two players choose him as a target.  This gave me plenty of time to bake my strategy.  The surprising card of the day was “Crypt of Aberdeen.”  That card produced insane mana as creatures were hitting the graveyard due to their sweepers, etc.  Once I had Gisa and Drana on the battlefield at one time.  Could you imagine!  Before I could activate the combo and load the board with zombies, they were both killed off!  Gisa was cast no less than five times, thanks to that cool little land. The other surprising card is Shriekmaw.  Because the deck reanimates things so readily, I was able to get several creatures destroyed with his enters-the-battlefield trigger.  One more big surprise…Aether Snap!  This kills off stuff with counters, including Planeswalkers!  Someone had a Gideon out attacking people.  Aether Snap put an end to that!  I wound up losing this match being next to last.  My opponent put Raving Dead under Mimic vat, and began attacking me with multiple copies.  Cards like that in the other set have also proven to be risky…(I’m thinking about Serra Avatar in Oloro. Ageless Ascetic’s deck.)  The deck was fun and held up, so once again, very satisfied!

I have since swapped a few cards.  I removed one of the lands and switched to Reliquary Tower…this deck gets enough card draw that it might be useful to hold cards.  On the other hand, ditching cards in the graveyard fuels stuff up…I swapped “bad sol ring” out for Elbrus, and added Lilliana Vess and Lilliana of the Dark Realms.  Someone asked me about Ob Nixilis Unshackled.  I DO have a copy, and might consider adding him.  My opponents were cracking fetch lands, so Ob Nixilis Unshackled’s ability would have been useful!  Can’t readily remember the other swaps.  But They were cheaper to cast, and involved zombies, usually.

One more thing.  People were really interested in the misprinted cards, especially Pestilence Demon.  I was encouraged to hang on to them, as the aftermarket value tends to be pretty high nowadays for such cards.  The wizards don’t let that stuff slip out too often anymore.  Even more so since it makes the Pestilence Demon look even cooler!  So I won’t be sending them in, Hub City Geeks.

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic The Gathering Duel Decks…”Speed vs. Cunning”

I rather enjoy the duel decks series of cards…I may just have to purchase that big box of four or five that is coming out soon, so I can see what the older ones were like before I started playing Magic.

The “Speed Vs. Cunning” deck is meant to be a preview product for the upcoming set, “Khans of Tarkir.”  I picked it up…kind of as an impulse buy.  My oldest child had already seen the spoiler for “Zurgo Helmsmasher,” and said that he wanted that card really badly.  So when I saw this at Wal-Mart, I grabbed it.  I guess I couldn’t resist the foil…

I’ll start with pictures of the packaging and all of that jazz.  (I meant, all that Heavy Metal.)

1 package2 back package


Here is the front and back of the packaging.  First thing I notices was that this packaging wasn’t quite as spectacular as the last Duel Deck offering, “Jace vs. Vraska.”  But I guess this time we don’t get planeswalkers either.


3 what's inside


Here is what’s inside, besides the cards.  Two deck boxes, both featuring Arcanis the Omnipotent and Zurgo Helmsmasher respectively.  There is a poster exclusively for this set….and what’s that?  No extra useless poster?  YES!  They have improved that situation!  Now there is a quick reference rules card for new players.  This is SO MUCH BETTER.  Who knows how many of those blue posters that featured Chandra that I threw away.  This might still find its way to the trash, but the Wizards are always talking about reaching and teaching new players.  This is a step in the right direction.  I am including a photo of the front and back of that rules card below.



4 new rules card5 new rules card back


The two-sided poster inside didn’t disappoint.  Here the art is good, and it gives you plenty of information about each deck.  I like how the fantasy flavor is sprinkled in as well.  This Duel Deck is supposed to highlight the fight between the Mardu and the Jeskai.  The next set, “Kahns of Tarkir” is supposed to feature three-color cards.  Mardu is Red White and Black.  Jeskai is Red white and Blue.



6 poster arcanus

7  poster zurgo

Below is the deck list.  I thought it best to make this as large as I could, so you could read it.  There is a list on both sides of the poster.  The first is the Arcanis the Omnipotent deck.  The second is the Zurgo Helmsmasher deck.

8 arcanus decklist9 Zurgo decklist


Now it’s time to see some actual cards!

10 Arcanus and ZurgoThe two premium foils that come with this deck are really powerful cards.  No question.  I think Arcanis is an odd choice to showcase because he is all blue, rather than a three color card, however.  Here are my thoughts on each card.


Zurgo Helmsmasher has haste and swings for 7.  WOW.  He is a 7/2, however.  He is indestructible on your turn, though.  And if he kills a blocker or blockers, then he gets +1/+1 counters, which makes his stronger and even harder to kill when it isn’t your turn.  Having to attack each turn is fine for a card like this.  But he isn’t a blocker, unfortunately…He is generally tapped when you get to block.

Arcanis the Omnipotent is clearly different.  A good contrast.  He is only a 3/4, but has built in evasion in that you can return him to your hand for two others and two blues…which you probably have out.  Also, you can tap him in response to a sweeper or something if he isn’t already tapped, and then you get to draw three cards.  Not what control players across the table want.  So Arcanis is hard to kill in his own way.

I will go over the components of Arcanis’ deck, “Cunning” first.

First the boring lands.

11 arcanus lands

Notable here is Mystic Monastary, a “tri-land” that taps for all three colors.  (you have to choose which you want each turn) That’s about it.  The two fetch lands are Terramorphic Expanse…also unremarkable.  There is more blue land here than any of the other kinds.

12 arcanus white cards 13 arcanus red card 14 arcanus blue cards 15 arcanus gold cards


Here is a little survey of the cards.  There is only one red creature.  Lots of blue creatures.  a bit of a mixture of white cards.  And two gold cards.  Hussar Patrol and Lightning Angel.  The only completely new cards here are Thousand Winds and Jeskai Elder.  Thousand Winds is a creature with “Morph” a returning mechanic from the past.  This time, when he morphs, all other creatures go to their owners hands.  NICE!  I thought Lighning Angel was pretty good.  With a CMC of 4, flying, vigilance, and haste.  The Cunning Sparkmage is usually just a chump blocker.

Many of the blue cards feature “morph.”  This is where the beauty of this deck lies.  While it isn’t good to pay three for a 2/2 bland vanilla creature, morphing them is always a good thing to do.  They all have some benefit for you that your opponent will not like.

16 Traumatic visions 17 repeal 18 Lightning Helix 19 steam augury 20 stave off

(Not photographed…”Impulse”  How did I leave that out?)

Here are the instants.  These guys are all good.  I would argue that “God’s Willing” is better than “Stave Off,” because you get to scry.  But scrying isn’t in this deck, so…Repeal and Lightning Helix are always cards people ask for to be reprinted…so here’s your chance, people!

Steam Augury has seen some play lately…This card fits well with Impulse and Sphinx of Uthuun.  Basically you are getting card advantage on your opponents terms somehow.

And a card that has a spiritual opposite in the other deck…”Traumatic Visions.”  This card gets to be cycled for a basic land of any type, or you can play it as a bad “cancel” for five CMC.  It isn’t a bad card, though.  You get the option for either one which better fits your situation…

22 trap cards

And finally something else cool…TRAP CARDS!  One for each color…

I didn’t know there were trap cards in Magic?  These are really bad for your opponent.  You get to play them for a cheaper mana cost under certain circumstances.  otherwise, it’s good for you, not for your opponent playing Zurgo.


Speaking of Zurgo Helmsmasher, what does his deck contain?

The “Speed” Deck has these lands.

23 zurgo lands

Notable here is Nomad Outpost, a new tri-land.  Also a “Man land,” Ghitu Encampment.  Speaking of spiritual opposites, this deck has two fetch lands, “Evolving Wilds.”  (Evolving wilds and Terramorphic expanse are the exact same thing with different titles.)

Now for the good stuff.

25 zurgo red cards 29 zurgo gold cards 30 zurgo sorcery and enchantment 31 zurgo instants

This deck is notable for its red creatures, its reliance on Goblins, and combat tricks…with a touch of burn.  I would say that this deck is mainly red, and the other is mainly blue.

26 hell's thunder 27 scourge devil 28 goblin warchief

Here are some notable examples.  Notice the “Unearth” mechanic.  You get kind of a “whip of erebos” trick with it.  The wizards said that a quick play or effect and then exile is now going to be a regular thing.  That last Chandra did this.  The Goblin Warchief goes well with the other goblins in this deck.

32 fiery fall

And the spiritual opposite of Traumatic visions…Fiery Fall.  You can cycle for any basic land you need, or you get a Lava Axe with CMC 6.


This says it all pretty much for Zurgo Helmsmasher’s deck.


SO how did the decks play against each other?  I have played against Arcanis several times.  Clearly that is the better deck.  Zurgo’s deck is supposed to be about speed, but the mana curve isn’t quite right or something.  Zurgo himself is impressive, but everything else just isn’t good enough against all of the ability for Arcanis to respond.  Arcanis has the traps, the instants, and the morphs going for him, as well as card draw.  Zurgo is supposed to be a beatdown deck, but unless you draw the right goblins early and curve into the big stuff just right, you won’t have a chance against Arcanis.


I also played the “Paulkranos World Eater” deck from the same time last year that introduced “Theros”  This Hydra did better against Arcanis.  But Arcanis still had plenty of answers.


My rating for this product?

Well, Arcanis’s deck is good.  It gets a 5/5.  I substituted for the four new cards with “Platinum Angel” and “Scuttling Doom Engine” and the SpartanKid played it in the most recent Modern tournament…He beat three people!  (generally newbies, but still…) So it is a competitive deck as well if you tweak it a little.  (Also, Arcanis is a re-print.  Who knew?  He was legal!)

But Zurgo’s deck falls flat.  I am going to give it a 2/5.  If it curves out wrong, you don’t stand a chance against it’s opposite.

The packaging was less spectacular than the last similar product, but on the other hand they improved the introductory propaganda for new players.  I always just ditch the packaging anyways.

So Magic the Gathering Duel Decks “Speed vs. Cunning” gets a 3/5 from the SpartanNerd.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments!


SpartanNerd Review…M15 Pre-release sealed deck experience

For the first time ever, this weekend I made it to the top 4 of a magic tournament.  But this time was even more extra special…It was a sealed deck pre-release!

In case the reader is unfamiliar, Sealed Deck is a limited form of MTG that requires you only play with cards you open.  Generally, you get five booster packs, open them, and build your deck from those cards and those cards only.  The Pre-Release is just a little different, because you get to play with a promo card and an extra “seeded” pack, which is meant to support your strategy.  You choose a color when you sign up, and your seeded pack will contain cards of that color and with synergy with your strategy.  (was that redundant?)

This time was different, I believe, because I studied for the event well ahead of time.  And I went into the event with a plan in mind.

But it didn’t hurt that my cards worked really well together!

Here are pics and commentary!

0 whole deck

I crafted this deck from my card pool.  Green and Black were my star colors.  I felt very comfortable playing these two colors together.  I splashed a little red and white for added removal.


1 drops

These one drops really didn’t do that much.  They became targets for Yisan, who I will be discussing shortly.

2 drops

Satyr Wayfinder and Black Cat are old friends of mine.  They accomplished their jobs well.  The Satyr Wayfinder made sure there were things in my graveyard to use as resources.  This was one of my goals.

3 drops

Now for the good stuff.  Netcaster Spider was a star at blocking flyers.  In limited formats, such as sealed deck, people choose flyers when they can.  The Necrogen Scudder is an old friend.  He hurts you when he enters the battlefield, though.  And then there is Yisan.

Yisan deserves his own paragraph.  Yisan the Wanderer Bard is a music card.  Right up my alley!  Never once was he removed. I guess my opponents didn’t think him that big a threat.  But guess what?  Oh yes.  He was the secret to winning most of my games.  You pay his ability cost, onc green and two others, and then tap him.  You get a “verse counter.”  Then you get to find a creature from your deck with the Convereted Mana Cost of the number of verse counters he has on him.  SICK!  As mentioned already, the one drops were usually elvish mystics.  The two drops, well they were the Satyr Wayfinders usually.  The three drops were the only two possibilities.  And the four drops were the next card I want to discuss.


4 drops

Undergrowth Scavenger.  His power and toughness are equal to the number of creature cards in the graveyard.  And I scored two of these guys in my sealed deck!  He was almost always a 6 or 7 power and toughness and demanded an answer from my opponent, that they usually wouldn’t have.

5 drops 6 lilliana

Other cards that took advantage of the graveyard were Rotfeaster Maggot, and Lilliana Vess.  Have I ever Mentioned that Lilliana is my favorite Magic card ever?  (I actually have a top three.  All black.  Lilliana Vess, Grave Titan, and Elbrus the Binding Blade/Withengar Unbound.)

Once during the evening I got to ultimate Lilliana.  My opponent just scooped right away!

The Rotfeaster Maggot was included to help me recoup life loss from Necrogen Scudder and from a few other cards that had me paying life.


7 promo

Ah, the promo of the evening.  If he wasn’t answered, GG.  Usually my opponents wouldn’t sac someone or pay three life right away.  But card advantage is one secret to winning in Magic.  It didn’t usually take but two card draws and them being hammered a couple of times with him for them to pay the life.

10 soul of inistrad

One more worthy mention.  I actually got Soul of Innistrad.  One of the cards I had my eye on since it was previewed.  The Soul was a star if I ever got him out.  at 6/6, he’s hard to kill.  In the graveyard, he can get creatures into your hand from your graveyard.  On the battlefield he can too.  Only once was he removed.  (Pillar of Light.  A white exile spell with the condition that the toughness of the creature must be 4 or greater.)  Exiling him is just about the only way to deal with him.


Onto my removal.  I passed up a few cards in my card pool.  Festergloom and Crippling Blight, as well as Covenant of Blood.  All black spells that should have worked.  But I opted for the better options in other colors instead.  This was a critical choice, especially with the splash of red.  Heat Ray and Lightning Strike were just too good to pass up.  Oppressive Rays is a star in sealed deck limited.  It rarely got used during this event, however. Ulcerate was one of those cards that penalized my life total.  But it is so powerful at one drop.

8 removal and splash 9 removal


11 other spells

There were three other spells.  I thoroughly enjoyed playing Necrobite.  I would surprise my opponent…he would think he was trading creatures with me, then, BAM.  I got one over on him.  Stab Wound was cited as putting pressure on one opponent.  And I was able to finish off two opponents with Sign In Blood.  This card was also useful in getting me cards a couple of times.

12 swamps 13 forests 14 other lands and radiant fountain


Now for the boring part.  LANDS.  I didn’t get any pain lands.  I did get two Radiant Fountain.  But in the end I thought it better to just run one copy.

So my deck did several  things well!

Flyers.  Check!

Graveyard Digging.  Check!

Life Gain.  Check!

Card Advantage.  Check!

I may never be so lucky with a set of cards again!

I went 3 and 1.  The only loss for the night was against a mirror.  The guy had more Sign in Blood than I had.  He told me I dumped the game against him by playing cautious near the end and not swinging all out.

Other people I played didn’t hardly stand a chance.  I played one White Weenie guy.  The flyers took him out.  I played a guy who played control.  But he couldn’t respond to the graveyard strategy or to Yisan the Wanderer Bard’s ability.  One guy was trying to take advantage of Convoke.  (Bad idea.)

I saw almost no one else play a planes walker, or a Soul.  Wonder why I was so lucky?

In the end, I won TEN PACKS OF M15 cards!  (The top four were tied at 3-1.  We all voted to split the box.)  My winnings netted me an Avacyn, Guardian Angel, and a Chord of Calling, as well as a black-green pain land and a red-blue pain land.  I also traded for Ob Nixilis, Unshackled, and Scuttling Doom Engine.  Not bad!  I even traded for a Jace, the Living Guildpact!

Compared to M14, M15 is THE BOMB.  The power level here is similar to what was in M13, with all those legendary creatures.  The Soul cards also sort of remind you of the Titans.  (M14 was a dud.  It just couldn’t cut it.  The slivers were lame.  Red was good.  Mutavault and Doom Blade were good.  But other things really weren’t so good in the end.

I rate M15 based on my Sealed Deck experience at 5/5.  How did your experience go?  Do you feel the same as me?  Let me know in the comments!

SpartanNerd Reflection…Magic the Gathering Conspiracy Draft


So I have drafted cards about 10 times throughout my MTG career.

And I love to play commander at home free for all style with my two boys….

Mix the two things together and you SHOULD come up with something like Conspiracy Draft, in Theory anyway.


We drafted this game at The Tangled Web (where else?).  The drafting was more difficult this time, however.  There were SO MANY GREAT CARDS!  My first pack had “Squirrel Nest”  “Brainstorm” “Tragic Slip” and “Swords to Plowshares.”  In a pool like that, what do you pick?  And there was a rare! But the other cards are just awesome too.  I chose “Squirrel Nest.”  (Not the best choice.)


You also got to draft conspiracy cards, which could be game changers.  These cards sit in your “command zone” and may or may not have a big impact on the game.  A couple let you add a booster pack to the draft, which tended to confuse things a little bit…an extra pack floating around.


This game offered a few new game mechanics.  The one that hurt me the most was “Will of the Council.”  Your multiplayer game of 4 or five gets to vote on two choices.  For instance, “Bite of the Black Rose” offered you to vote for “Sickness” (All creatures except for those that belong to the caster get -2/-2 until the end of the turn) or “Psychosis” (everyone discards two cards).I would have rather not had either one!  Regardless, I lost the vote EVERY TIME, because someone’s conspiracy card gave them an extra vote.  See how this game works?


Other multiplayer mechanics worked out better for me.  “Parley” was good for me.  I Made a Green Blue deck, and got to play “Selvala’s Enforcer.”  The Parley on the card said that everyone revealed and drew the top card.  The creature entered the battlefield with a number of counters on it determined by the non land cards revealed.  This allowed me to put some scary stuff on the board.  Too bad they didn’t fly.

I thought the game was fun, and would draft it again maybe next month given the opportunity.  My children liked it as well.  But none of us did over-the-top great.

I am going to list the upsides and the downsides of this set, and offer a rating based on that, rather than on my poor skills of drafting.


U*   You get new access to a lot of iconic cards, some of which are Modern playable.  (I don’t know of anywhere that had legacy or   vintage tournaments, at least not nearby.  And if I could afford to play those formats, I guess I could fly!)


U*  It is a Multiplayer Draft.  TOTALLY NEW!  You get to know the other players, as well as yourself, better through this game.


U*  There are a few odd valuable cards in this set.  A foil “Brainstorm” came to everyones attention.  Then there’s “Dack Fayden,” a Planeswalker card just for this set, Legacy, and Vintage.  He is worth $50 currently.  I saw one opened all night at the store.


U*  There is some beautiful new art.  One of the cards, “Magister of Worth,” was given as the promo of rthe night, but the promo and the regular card are absolutely gorgeous.  The regular art has an angel, that reminds you sort of of 1920’s type of style.  The promo is a glamorous classic angel.





D*  Believe it or not, in my “pod” of drafters, there was someone there who this was their very first Magic Tournament.  This guy was a little confused.  Conspiracy isn’t necessarily for new players.


D*  Many of the cards you get are not playable in any formats local to Spartanburg.  We just don’t have Legacy or Vintage tournaments.  And this is true for large swaths of the world.


D*  This isn’t me, but many people who are longtime collectors are complaining that some cards are being reprinted and losing value, etc.  Maybe that’s you, oh reader.


So I came up with four upsides and three downsides.  This set for me gets a 3/5.  If you are good at drafting, maybe you’ll like it better.  If you need old cards like I do, that will make it worth your while.  If you are brand new, this game might not be for you.


What do you think, oh Hub City Geeks?  Leave a comment!