Goblins Vs. Merfolk Duel Decks…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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At this point, my favorite sealed MTG product seems to be Duel Decks.  I own a ton of them.  And the only ones that I haven’t purchased since I began getting serious about the game are Mind vs. Might, the one released earlier this year.  That one was widely panned, and I couldn’t get excited about a Storm deck vs. a Beatdown deck.

But Merfold vs. Goblins.  That’s different.  First of all, Elves vs. Goblins is incredible fun.  What made that so successful was not only the intense tribal flavor, but also the gameply, where you really felt like you were piloting an army of elves vs an army of goblins.  Merfolk Vs. Goblins seemed positioned to do the same thing.  Does it?  Keep reading for my full review!

PACKAGING.

The box comes in the same kind of box that Duel Decks have been released in for awhile. It makes a nice display.  (pictured above)  Not sure why you would keep it MIB, but it looks like a sell-able product.  This box shows off the flashy foil rares.  The back of the box has good information.  I think this is to really sell the product to new players.

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The box isn’t easy to open and get the product out.  (unlike Commander boxes.)

I opened mine before a draft tournament.  So I took hasty pictures on the Tangled Web table sized playmats

Here’s what’s in that package.

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The main product is sealed in two trays that make up the bulk of the box.  THis is covered by a plastic blister that shows off the foil rares.  Behind the tray is the Quick Reference, a guide to playing the decks, and the two new boxes intended for each deck.

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Here are those deck boxes assembled.  Notably, these boxes are big enough to hold SLEEVED CARDS.  (Can you hear the SpartanNerd crying tears of joy?)  Virtually all of the other duel decks we have ever gotten have come with pretty “poker card” type of boxes.  The exception was the Duel Decks anthology.

These boxes still leave a little to be desired, but that they can hold sleeved cards is BIG.  The wizards apparently took cues from the design of the Nicol Bolas Archenemy set.  These are also side loaders, but they have the janky folding flap that tucks into the main box.  However, there is a slot for easy opening.  The boxes have art on them reflecting what they are intended to hold, and they also feature the set symbol on the other side, which the SpartanKid pointed out is a trident and an axe head combined.  After saying all of this, these boxes are still made of thin cardboard…thinner and cheaper than what the actual cards are made of.  And they couldn’t possibly stand up to heavy use if a person decided to say, carry around this box to alot of tournaments.  (Sleeving out the cards fills them to the max.  There is enough room for 60 cards plus the tokens in Dragon Shields, but you wouldn’t be able to carry a full sideboard.)

But if you are like me, and your duel decks stay together resting in an organized fashion, waiting to see some light play, then these boxes are just fine.

The other things…the quick reference guide is a must include, as this product will definitely find its way into the hands of beginning players.  This isn’t an intro deck, but new players are bound to be drawn into purchasing these at the low price point.  (Mine was $19.99 at the Tangled Web.)

The poster features nice artwork, and importantly, a DECKLIST.  (The last sealed product I opened for the SpartanNerd blog didn’t include a decklist. BOO.)  I keep my decklists all in one place for when I inventory my cards about three times a year.  (Occasionally I might borrow a card from a pre-con deck for Standard, Modern, or Commander.)

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You get two life counter dice, and that’s about it for the packaging.

THE DECKS.

Longtime Hub City Geeks will know that that SpartanNerd is running out of photo space on WordPress.  So I have minimized my pictures a little.  Here are the decks with the flashy rare cards.

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Warren Instigator.  This one wasn’t on my radar.  This is how you get alot of Goblins on the field, and trigger Enters the Battlefield effects.  Oh yeah.  DOUBLE STRIKE.  You Get TWO triggers.  Sick.  This is one of the sets money cards.  This foil printing is already worth around $5.

Goblin Diplomats.  This showcases the funnyness of the Goblin deck.  And they are hilarious.

Master of Waves.  Here is one from my favorite THEROS BLOCK.  Master of Waves is a BEAST.  in the Merfolk deck, you will definitely have a ton of devotion to blue, and so will get a bunch of elementals when he enters the battlefield.  And this new art makes it look like he’s been working out!

Harbinger of the Tides.  And iconic merfolk that is removal on a stick.  Amazing.

So I am going to show you a mat full of the strategy of each deck, starting with Merfolk.

MERFOLK

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Merfolk in Modern is a strategy that depends on lords, which are creatures that give others of the same type +1/+1,  and Islandwalk, which is a type of evasion.

The Merfolk deck here highlights this by including three merfolk lords.  If you get all three out, you win.  (But the odds are against you.)  The evasion piece here is Aquatech’s Will, which is a busted spell that makes an opponent’s land into an island (in addition to its other types) and also lets you draw a card.  There are FOUR COPIES in this deck!  That’s how important it is.  One of our lords, Master of the Pearl Trident, gives all merfolk you control islandwalk.

What else is here?  Some iconic merfolk.  In addition to Master of Waves, we also get Cold Eyed Selkie, who is big in Commander.  We get Scroll Thief, who would be an automatic inclusion into any merfolk deck, and is an important core set type of MTG card.  Harbinger of the Tides.  And Tidebinder Mage, who was important a few years ago in standard.  (M13-Innistraad-Return to Ravnica-M14 Standard).

Then this is a blue deck, so it also has plenty of control.  Notably here is Essence Scatter, because you KNOW your opponent is going to cast creature spells in this duel deck environment.  Concentrate and Misdirection, which are classics.  Tidal Wave, which gives you a quick, big blocker, and Engulf the Shore which is a sweeper.

GOBLINS

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It’s hard to put your finger on the strategy of goblins.  There is a randomness to it, that finds success anyway.  And they are also always pretty much hilarious.  In this deck, you want to build up a critical mass of goblins before the merfolk are able to get out their evasive lords.  So board presence is the key, rather than evasion.

There aren’t that many goblin lords, but they are still about spiritually the same.  Goblin Wardriver has Battle Cry, which means whenever he attacks, other attacking cratures get +1/+0.  Goblin Chieftain is a goblin lord.  Goblin Rabblemaster makes goblin tokens with haste everytime you get a combat stage.  (Rabblemaster was important in Khans block).

Other ways to get out tokens?  Krenko, Mob boss makes a ton of goblins if left unchecked. Goblin Ringleader lets you get goblin cards in your hand.  (Tribal instants and sorceries count as goblins!)  Also, when paired with Warren Instigator, this is just incredible.

Blue has control, but red has burn of course!  Very notable here is Goblin Grenade.  (This card wasn’t in the first Goblin Duel Deck.  It wasn’t a thing yet.)  Goblin Diplomats makes the merfolks swing into a bunch of goblins that can black and eat them up.  Tarfire, the aforementioned tribal instant which was in the previous duel deck, as was Gempalm Incinerator.  I haven’t got to see the Goblin Razerunners do his thing yet.  (I have played seven matches.  He seems busted though, as a goblin burn spell on a stick.)  Tokens are so important here that we have four token producing spells.  (Three copies of Krenko’s COmmand and one copy of Hordeling Outburst.)

Goblin Charbelcher.  Ahh.  The Eternal Masters art.  With Black Lotus among other things flying out of the cannon.  The way this works is, you pay to activate it, then reveal your cards until you hit a land.  The number of card revealedis the amount of damage assigned to target creature of player.  Now out there in the world, there is a Modern and a Legacy version of this strategy as a whole deck.  Basically, you will build a deck with only a single land, probably Stomping Ground.  You build up your mana base using Simian Spirit Guides and borderposts, or other fast mana tricks, and then you activate the cannon and reveal all of your cards.  Hopefully at least twenty damage is sent to your opponents face!  But here, you will probably only get a few damage ponts in as the deck has a bunch of lands.  But it is a flavorful and important inclusion.  This is reliable removal that the merfolk deck can’t stop.

Ghostfire.  A colorless burn spell that costs two generic and a mountain.  Why?  I think the wizards just wanted to reprint it.  But it is handy against something like Master of Waves, which has protection from red.  This card is important also historically, as it gave the wizards inspiration for the cards with DEVOID in the recent Battle for Innistraad block.

HOW THE DECKS PLAY OUT.

So far, the Goblins beat the Merfolk most of the time.  These decks are INCREDIBLY balanced against one another if both players hit a land drop every turn and play a spell every turn.  The experience here is not unlike Elves Vs. Goblins.  You just about have the same experience.  While the Elves work differently, trying to power out big green monsters, the Merfolk work organically together to create evasion and hit the opponent hard.  The Goblins work about the same as the previous decks, with the new tricks of Goblin Charbelcher, Goblin Grenade, and Goblin Rabblemaster.  DIfferent bosses, with the same strategy of go wide and do whatever it takes to damage the opponent.

It is pretty much hilarious when someone gets Master of Waves out and gets a huge board presence, only to suddenly lose it to Ghostfire or Goblin Charbelcher.  On the other hand, it is humorous to make the Goblins have a Mountain Island and then hit them hard with islandwalkers.  Also, the Merfolk get that sweeper spell, which does away with the tokens.  It also wipes their board, but they don’t rely on creature tokens as a base strategy the way Goblins do.  (I really think Master of Waves is here for the new players.  He is splashy and flashy and fun.  But another merfolk lord would have been better.  Or a devastating artifact along the lines of the charbelcher.)

THE SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF DUEL DECKS: MEFOLK VS. GOBLINS.

Maybe you think I’m a fanboy.  But I’m giving this a 5/5.  The WIzards must be listening.  They improved the deckboxes and included a decklist.  Mind Vs. Might was poorly received because it was considered unbalanced, and therefore unfun.  This set is the opposite.  So the Wizards ARE LISTENING.

The SpartanNerd rates Merfolk Vs. Goblins a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments, oh Hub City Geeks!.

 

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Nintendo Switch…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

I saved for months.  That’s something!  I never save money.  Last time I saved money, it was 50 dollars, that I used to purchase new cards for MTG Standard…I matched those funds from my regular account.

This time, I saved the $300.  Too bad.  I couldn’t even find one for sale!

So I kept saving.  Eventually, the SpartanWife said for me to go ahead and pull the trigger on a GameStop bundle.  But even then, they were scarce.  I kept watching the headlines, and pounced on GameStop Prestige in Gaffney South Carolina as soon as I had the chance.

My bundle included the Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition remake, Zelda Breath of the Wild, and Has Been Heroes, as well as two YOK steering wheel accessories, and the Switch, and it costed out at around $475.  I figured I would have gotten Zelda anyway, and I enjoy Mario Kart.  I never heard of the other game.

I have been playing the Switch now for two weeks.  Here are pictures of the unboxing, and my thoughts about the new system.

 

The box is pretty straightforward.  In fact, you can find a ton of these empty boxes at Wal-Mart, which are just placeholders for the actual product, which they don’t even have in stock!

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AHHH!  Angelic Choirs!  This is the most interesting part of opening the box.  I assure you, underneath is the dock, the JoyCon Grip, the power chord, the HDMI cable, and some paperwork…oh and some safety straps I probably will never use.

The dock has an access door that you open up, and track the chords through an access hole.  So basically, you get two unglamourous wires hanging out.  But who cares?  I don’t!

The Nintendo Switch console is kind of like a large smartphone, or a small tablet.  It’s bigger than my iPhone 6, but smaller than my iPad Mini.

The idea is that you can carry the thing around like a portable system, but at home you can hook it up to your TV and play like a home console.

The two controllers are called JoyCon.  They are not symettrical, as some might have thought.  One is labled “+” and the other “-“, which I eventually discovered were actual buttons  .  They are very responsive…they have a gyroscope function like the WiiMote has, and they are totally covered in ergonomic buttons.

The JoyCon connect to the sides of the console, or they disconnect, and you can play with the JoyCon propped on the table.  Or you can mount them on an accessory like the steering wheels or the included JoyCon Grip.   The Joycon can play for 13 hours on full charge!   (The Switch can only make it to 3 hours)

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I purchased the Zelda themed carrying case, and have been on the lookout for the Sheikah Slate Skin for the system.  It does have a multi-touch screen, but that isn’t really where the action is with the switch so far.

Carrying it around is pretty easy.  It can fit in a pocket, with the JoyCon attached.  You can set it on a table and prop it up like a separate TV screen and console all-in-one.  It truly can do what it is advertised to do.  This is where the success of the system will be, and why X-Box and Playstation will have to follow suit.

There has been some talk of this device being inferior in the power department compared to the X-Box and Playstation offerings…Maybe so.  But Nintendo seems to embrace their innovative playstyle over that power.  It has worked for them in the past with Wii, and seems poised to be a success this time as well.

I haven’t noticed a lack of power.  Zelda has been incredibly fun.  It is a beautiful game, and has an explorative quality that say, MineCraft has.  Mario Cart works excellently as well.  Though I’ll admit, I’m not as into that as I am Zelda.

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Notably Has Been Heroes didn’t come in a physical form.  I had to download it with a code, which I only got by calling the GameStop headquarters.

And I just can’t get into that game.  It is alot like an app on an iPhone.  One that I wouldn’t play.  (Or buy.)  Maybe I will get more into it later.

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The YOK steering wheels.  These are pretty crappy.  It takes wrangling to get the triggers to interact with the buttons on the backside of the JoyCon.  And that seriously hampers some Mario Cart fun if you can’t shoot turtle shells at people.

They DO work.  But it takes wrangling like I said.  They should “just work.”

The Nintendo Switch gets a 5/5.  There is a promising future for this device up ahead!

The YOK steering wheels get a 1/5.  I am thinking about getting NINTENDO BRAND steering wheels.  In fact, I thought that the first time I played with them.  BOO.

The games.

Zelda Breath of the Wild gets 5/5.  I have completed only a small part of the game, and have been playing about three hours a day, for two weeks.  I like the “cooking” that you have to do…this is something to do when you have your switch out on the go.  But plug the switch in to the TV to fight the bosses!  I just freed the “Divine Beast Ruta.”  I’ve already successfully raided a small section of Hyrule castle.  The game is a sprawling open world, and you never know what’s around the corner.  A thunderstorm to make you drop all your stuff?  A fortress full of goblins? (Bokoblins, Moblins, Lizalfos).  A town.  A waterfall, a stable, a wild horse, some wild game, or a traveler who is an enemy in disguise?  You almost never know.  This is a killer app that sets the bar high for the system.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that many of the available games so far reach that level.

Mario Cart 8 Deluxe gets a 4/5.  This is a remake.  It’s a good remake.  But this is really the only Mario Title available for the switch right now, until October when Mario Odysee drops.  (The trailers look incredible!)

The only thing I am really disappointed about is the lack of classic gameplay.  Really.  The reason I even got this is because Nintendo has been doing so well honoring their legacy software.  NES Classic.  Wii Virtual Console.  I digured right out the gate the Nintendo library would be available.  

Nope.  BOO!!

Is the Nintendo Switch for you?   If you like Zelda, and the portability of a 3DS, and Wii.   Then this will do you well. 

If all tou want to do is casually play a classic game during your lunchbreak, as of July 2017 this device doesn’t do that.  You could play Zelda or other new games easily though. 

The SpartanNerd rates the Nintendo Switch 5/5.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Nicol Bolas, the Deceiver Planeswalker Pack…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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Here it is.  A week early!  (I bought it at the pre-release, and the SpartanKid also won a copy!)  So we now have two…

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For this unboxing and review…in the interest of saving what little WordPress space I have left, I will just get down to it.

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You get the new foil card “Nicol Bolas, the Deceiver.”  As Bolas cards go, this one is the worst.  To be clear, we now have three Bolas planeswalker cards.  The classic version remains the most iconic and powerful.  There is a new Nicol Bolas, the God Pharoah, and then there’s this.  His mana cost is more or less the same.  He has three relevant abilities.  He might be the worst of the three, but he is still quite significant.  With Intro Packs Planeswalker Packs, the Wizards said they want to give people splashy cards to learn to play with.  If this isn’t splashy, I don’t know what is.

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I assure you…if you’ve read my other reviews of Planeswalker Packs, then you know what unboxing this is like.  It is exactly the same!  There is a plastic bubble and a little black tray.  All of the other contents are in a deck box.  Here is the deck box, posing alongside my FUNKO POP! version of Bolas.

Inside you get two booster packs, two pieces of paper, and the deck sealed in cellophane.

I will go ahead and tell you that I didn’t get any important cards in my two packs.

The two pieces of paper are a guide to playing Magic, and a poster that has strategy for playing this deck.  There is also a handy decklist.

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Here are the rares that came with the intro deck.  This makes my fourth copy of the Throne.  Visage of Bolas is new, and I’m certain can only be gotten by purchasing this deck.

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This deck is surprisingly creature-heavy.  Normally, Bolas wants a control deck.  But here are the creatures.  The Wasp of the Bitter End is a card that you can only get in this deck as well, but it notably says “a Nicol Bolas” planeswalker, meaning that it is a card that can work with the other two versions of Bolas.

These creatures represent something else…apparently the story is that Bolas used the plane of Amonkhet to harvest the strongest warriors and make them into “eternals.”

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We get a bunch of basics, and importantly eight fixers.  Cinder Barrens is one of those intro-deck-only cards.  Crypt of the Eternals is a clever new Grixis tri-land.

Which means we have instant and sorcery cards remaining.

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Not a whole lot.  Magma Spray is the most competitive here.  Open Fire is a really bad lightning  Bolt.  Final Reward.  A five drop removal spell.  BOOO.  (AT LEAST it stops players who might be trying to Eternalize or Embalm.)

Playing the deck.

Normally, you would cancel and destroy everything until you could draw and cast Bolas, pretty much for the win.  In a normal constructed deck.

This time, your strategy is a little different.  You are going to play creatures, (I will mention that Aerial Guide is probably the best card for this deck, since it flies and draws you cards.)  You hope to get the Visage of Bolas, which will then get him in your hand pretty much guaranteed, and then you will pretty much guaranteed be able to cast him if you do all of this at the appropriate time.

Now this plan depends on who you are playing against.  Against other intro decks, great!

But in a serious environment, when you fetch up your Bolas, they will know you have him, and either cancel him, hold their kill spell, or do some kind of Thoughtsieze (Liliana) effect and make you discard him.  Visage of Bolas is a four drop, meaning you are probably never going to be able to play him on the same turn that you cast it.  (If that were the case with this deck, we would be talking about turn 12 at least!  Competitive Magic decks want a turn four or five kill.

I think this is a great product to get people interested in playing MTG.  But it is wrong to call it a Standard deck.  It IS.  But it isn’t competitive.  You could just as easily discourage people from playing if they bought this, and then played it in a tournament and find themselves wrecked every game.

I’m not saying it is impossible for you to win a match or two.  But aren’t competitive players going to have a sideboard?  There are now at LEAST three different cheap removal spells for Bolas (the Defeat cycle.)

The packaging is nice.  The box can hold sleeved cards, but has no solution for dice or tokens.  It’s still better than the old intro pack boxes.  I’m still asserting that if they want people to feel like they should play these decks in a tournament, then they should include sleeves.  I played against a newcomer during the sealed tournament this weekend…and how did I know he was a newcomer?  First impression…no sleeves.  Then they way he played reflected that.

I have played four matches using this deck, even a few “mirror matches,” and I just can’t get excited about it.  I do like the new Bolas card, but Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh is better for Standard.  Maybe there is a good way to exploit the specific cards in this deck that only come with this product…like Visage of Bolas.  But you better be able to produce a ton of mana early.  The wasp thing is cool, but I think it better for a Bolas Tribal commander deck.  It’s just going to net you some extra value for playing Bolas.

So I am going to rate this deck at 2/5.  It’s kind of flat.

Now the SpartanKid thinks otherwise.  He believes I am being too harsh, and he likes the idea of an “Eternals” tribal deck.  I will keep you posted about what happens…He might even make a standard deck that riffs on the intro deck.

So the SpartanNerd rates Nicol Bolas, The Deceiver Planeswalker Pack 2/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis Duel Deck

Let me first of all say…I have placed this set through the ringer!  Check out my review…

I unfortunately found myself bored, and at Wal-Mart, and so I unfortunately bought this there, which was money that unfortunately could have gone to a real comic book/ card shop, but instead unfortunately fed the beast and unfortunately has me confessing here on the SpartanNerd blog.  Do as I say…not as I do.  By yours at a specialty store…a place where you can actually play Magic the Gathering!

Enough of that…

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The box is exactly the same as we saw with the last two Duel decks…Zendikar vs. Eldrazi and Blessed vs. Cursed.  A foil treatment, with pictures and propaganda on the back.  The pictures showcase some of the alternate-art cards, especially for long-time collectors who would be aware.

The front showcases the two planeswalker cards, Nissa and Ob Nixilis, with new art and foil treatment.

 

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Here’s what’s in the box.  Two decks…one for each planeswalker…the decks are wrapped in “cigarette wrapping”.  You get two life counter dice, and a poster-instruction-decklist insert, and a general guide to playing MTG.  (I just throw that away.)  You also get two deck boxes that can’t hold the cards in sleeves, nor can they hold the unsleeved deck and tokens.

 

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As big a fan as I am of Ob Nixilis, and playing black, this is the first copy of “reignited” that I own.  This art is SO MUCH BETTER than the regular art from Battle for Zendikar, which I have come to call “Ob Smiley.”  In Standard, this card is a big piece in black control decks, which vary from Esper or Grixis Dragons, to Super-Friends planeswalkers, to even finding use in Green Black aristocrats.  (One of my favorite decks.)

He isn’t better than “Flip Liliana” though.

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I also haven’t owned a copy of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.  I also prefer this art to the conventional card art.  This one has a bit more action to it.

Next, pics of the posters, with the all-important deck lists!  (I won’t be picturing the cards as intensely as I have in the past…in the interest of conserving memory on this blog.)

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First, Nissa’s deck, with five rares on top.  The land is the green Hideaway Land.  When you control a creatures with ten or greater power total,  you get to cast the card exiled under it sans timing restrictions…FUN!  The three creatures are each really big threats, and Abundance helps you get card draw.  (Just don’t forget the trigger….)

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You also get these special lands.  Sighfigant is Treetop Village, a “man land.”

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This deck, as well as Ob Nixilis’s deck has about two copies of each card, making these decks play really smoothly!

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Ob Nixilis’ rares…

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Good old “Double D!”  Desecration Demon is back, and is a great early game bomb to keep it fun for Nissa’s deck…But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I will be upgrading to my foil Double D.  And I will likely swap Pestilence Demon with the misprinted one I got in the “Sworn to Darkness” Commander deck.  That misprint makes it appear as though the mist, smoke, or fog surrounding the figure is painted over the rules text.  Despoiler of Souls makes it easy to keep a threat or at least something to sacrifice on the game board.  Priest of the Blood Rite…I loaded up on these when it came out in Origins.  It hasn’t made a splash at all anywhere, really.  Finally, Indulgent Tormenter.  Offer your opponent choices in how you will beat them!

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Here are the black tokens.  There were green ones too, but somehow the photo eludes me.  Significantly, the green ones feature 0/1 plant creatures for Nissa, and a 4/4 elemental as well.  Ob Nixilis tokens importantly include his emblem.

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And a land I never owned…Leechridden Swamp.  You can build a strategy around this card…It can be fetched with a fetch land.  A lot of good things going on here.  These are my first two copies of this card.  I might pick up another one to add to Liliana, Heretical Healer’s homemade Commander deck!

PLAYING THE DUEL DECKS

I have played these two decks over and over in different situations.  And I have found them terrifically balanced against each other.  The Wizards have given us an Elf deck and a Demon deck before.  These decks feel nothing  like those two as far as flavor is concerned.  Nixilis’ deck isn’t really a demon deck…it happens to have a couple of big flying bombs.  What you generally do is play chump creatures early and then drop one of these bombs.  Pestilence Demon is likely the most powerful card in the deck….if you are willing to pay the life to kill off Nissa’s stuff.

Nissa’s deck does about the same thing.  It ramps from small creatures to large.  Being green, the large creatures just happen to work very well.

Getting either planeswalker on the field can mean GG!  Nissan makes a terrific finisher, believe it or not.  Ob Nixilis is a removal spell, basically, and a discard outlet.  And this deck can get cards back out of the graveyard and into your hand or on the battlefield.

Basically, Nixilis deck represents all that black can do, and Nissa’s highlights what green can do.  The decks operate the same…ramp from small to big.  And then play Magic.

Ob Nixilis has the most wins, by the way.

I can only give Nissa vs Ob Nixilis a 5/5.  The only thing I can mark off for is the deck box.  I wish the wizards would fix that problem?

Why these two planeswalkers is the second question.  We need a Liliana of the Veil and Jace, Telepath Unbound reprint!  Nissan and Ob are great enemies, and important to the Battle for Zendikar block story, (odd because now we are in Shadows Over Innistrad block.)

But they gave us a great product, if a little late and different.

So I offer up a 5/5 on Magic the Gathering Duel Decks Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review Serpentine King Hssss.

 

Behold.  A figure I should already have….

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When Mattel decided to make 200x Snake Armor He-Man and 200x Battle Armor King Hssss into a two pack, they didn’t account for the amount of money required to have a rubber torso alt form for King Hssss.  Notably, they also didn’t include a transforming sword or snake armor shield for He-Man.  This pretty much left a bad taste in my mouth.  (If you read my review, also a bad smell!)  The two figures were incredibly well sculpted and painted, so much so that I stand by my rating after all this time. ( And they don’t stink anymore.)

Serpentine King Hssss arrived in a mailer not unlike all the others.  (I’m not showing you that boring picture to save data.)  There is a prominent “Snake Men” sticker on the front.  And you can see King Hssss crammed comically into the package.  Notably, he was tethered down tight with rubber bands!  I paid $26 for the figure, with free shipping thanks to Mattel “opening the vault” in honor of the San Diego Comic Con this year.

Here is the back of the box.  A new bio is here, furthering the mythos of King Hssss in the Masters of the Universe Classics canon.

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So what’s inside, SpartanNerd.  Here is everything!

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Notice that awesome transforming sword for He-Man, and his extendable Snake shield?  I didn’t see that either….We got the figure, which for the first time ever sports snake legs for King Hssss, a snake inspired spear, short sword, shield, rattlesnake club, and a mid-transformation head.  (These weapons are repaints of what came with the Snake Army builders.  I don’t have those.)

A little bit of rant.  The mid-transformation head is undeniably cool.  But by all accounts, head sculpts are the most expensive part of a figure.  WHY NO SHIELD AND SWORD FOR HE-MAN INSTEAD OF THESE REPAINTS!

I said that.  Now I’m going to move on.  I guess if I really want those items, I can get them custom made.  Now that Masters of the Universe Classics has switched hands from Mattel  to Super 7, I’d bet we never see those items.  Not that I don’t give those guys any credit.  I just think someone who has been nagged at by millions of fans and is a multi million dollar company will probably listen more readily.  Maybe.  Finishing He-Man properly is probably on the bottom of their list.

The figure is tan colored, and adorned with snake markings up and down his body, including his legs.  The legs are just regular legs like you would expect.  My figure has weak ankles.  But this is the case forty percent of the time with this line of figures.

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Now, allay your concerns about the bendy plastic.  This toy can seriously bend every way you want.  The main head is hard plastic, the same as the “buck,” and can only swivel back and forth.  But every other snake on this figure is pliable and can be posed how you want.  And will stick, for the most part.

How bendy is he?  Lets ask Vikor.

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You can properly flatten him.

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You can make him look very big to scare off predators.  (Mongoose eat snakes.)

It turns out that King Hsss here can hold all of the weapons he came with as well.

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I am becoming more of a fan of the figure that can hold lots of weapons.  (Modulok, ahem.)  These fit loosely in the snake mouths, but make an intimidating effect, similar to General Grievous from Star Wars.

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The transformation works just the way you would expect.  You just pop the torso off, and attach it to the pair of legs you want.  Making not only an impressive 200x snake form King Hssss, but also for the first time ever, King Hssss Saturday morning cartoon watcher. (He appears to be wearing a shirt but only underwear down below.)

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Now Snake Armor He-Man has a proper foe to do battle with!

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So lets look at that other head, shall we?

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This really could pass as a different snake man.  It’s cool.  It has the green around the back, and the monster snake face on the front.  The green doesn’t so much match the 200x figure however.  Check the picture below.  The backdrop of green will help you see the different shades

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This head definitely works better on the MOTUC vintage take on King Hssss.

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I should note that the head seemed a little harder to snap onto the ball joint of both figures.  I believe it to be the way the neck is built up on the figures main buck.  The colors certainly match the vintage style better.  A puzzler,…we get an alt head meant for the vintage figure, with the torso for the 200x line…

Finally, we can get some proper comparison in.

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Yes.  I compared these in my earlier review.  This time, I wanted to reminisce about how me and my brothers used to think of King Hiss.  (That’s his correct name!)  The green body suit, with mask or eye make-up, was considered the “good guy” disguise.  Then when he earned He-Man and the other heroes trust, the skin would come off!  When you look at the figure on the right, you can really see how we might have thought that.  He doesn’t really look evil.  Unless you are scared of snakes, which none of us were.  (Our mother is, however!)

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Now lets compare the two snake forms.  I don’t think a single Masters fan will prefer the vintage style torso to the 200x torso.  It is much larger and more impressive.  There are snakes everywhere.  While King Hsss the first was bendy to a point, you get an incredible range of poses with the newer one.  Finally, the new version doesn’t have the rabbit teeth effect.  Yes, I understand it was modeled after the vintage toy.  But it just sucks compared to the 200x version.  The only thing that the older torso can do that the new one can’t is that it had a hinged jaw.

So.  Ratings time.

I suppose to be fair, I have to rate what came in the box.  I am going to give this item, as it came in the box, as it stands as a stand-alone figure, a 5/5.

It has lots of play value.  It looks impressive.  You get lots of weapons.  The only negative about this particular item is the ankles are a little weak.  But not so bad that it can’t stand.

But I have to give Mattel a 2/5 on this one.  We should have got the Snake Armor He-Man shield, as well as the sword that could open up and blast snake men.  It is all a big mis-handling of the property.  The Horsemen delivered an incredible sculpt.  The toys themselves are filled with fantasy play value.  But we should have gotten all of that the first time around.  They could have charged more money for the figures, or maybe split them up into two separate items.  This is essentially what they wound up doing.  Using another SKU that they were trying to save.

 

BOO Mattel.  However, this is an incredible figure, and I have enjoyed playing with it for a few hours today, and it has a prominent spot on display in my nerd closet.

The SpartanNerd rates Serpentine King Hssss 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree, Hub City geeks?  Let me know in the comments!

 

SpartanNerd Thoughts…Batman and Robin Eternal (Vol. 1 and 2)

After getting every issue of Batman Eternal, I decided to skip Batman and Robin Eternal in favor of getting the Graphic Novel when it came out.  It came out in two volumes, and I picked up both at Barnes and Noble during there recent sale.

It took me about four days to read the whole story.  (I get interrupted a lot.)

This story isn’t really what I thought it would be.  I thought it would be “What happened with Damien during Batman Eternal.”  Damien was dead…and resurrected while the whole event was happening.

Instead, this story went right alongside the regular New 52 continuity, where Batman was forgotten by Bruce Wayne.  Jim Gordon was the Batman, with “We are Robin” filling that role.  I avoided the whole story, but this is important context for knowing what was going on in Batman and Robin Eternal.

I have said for a while that I wanted to see more Dick Grayson as Robin stories.  Batman and Robin Eternal delivered that, as almost each issue had a flashback to events that happened the first time DIck Grayson encountered The Scarecrow.  The whole story centers around a villain called “Mother,” and we learn that Batman caused some collateral damage through some of his deception tactics in an attempt to defeat “Mother.”

The other big thing…virtually every New 52 Batman sidekick gets a big feature, with Cassandra Cain getting a new identity.  She was raised an assassin, and I could only imagine that DC is positioning her as a love interest for Damian.  (They have alot in common.)

The whole “Court of the Owls” story revealed to us that Dick Grayson was supposed to be a Talon.  Batman and Robin Eternal goes into the motivations that Batman had in guiding Dick to be a superhero with his own ways, and elaborates this to a point for each of the Robins and sidekicks.

Harper Row.  I expressed disdain for Harper before.  This story makes her an “illegitimate Robin,” (that’s a really crass way of putting it, but I don’t want to spoil too much.)  I love how it all gets explained, and Batman’s motivations make it clear that he believes each superhero should take their own path and do things there own way.

Red Hood is in this story alot.  I just am not really a fan of the resurrected Jason Todd.  He seems part baddie and part good guy.  He wears the bat on his chest, but is a killer.  He wears the red hood.  He just doesn’t fit with Tim Drake (historically, the Robin I knew best.)

Stephanie Brown is treated like the biggest amateur.  I’d like to see more of her.

The Midnighter.  I never heard of this guy.  Pretty cool character, who can supply “Magic Doors.”  It was annoying that Tim Drake sort of suddenly had the idea of sending parties all over the world at basically “Portal” speed.  An interesting twist, but silly just the same. Oh, and Cullen Row took right up with The Midnighter…

Duke Thomas.  We don’t see Duke do too much.  Kind of like Stephanie.  But I think she got more story time because of close association with Harper Row.

If anything, reading this has just about motivated me to try out the current run on Detective Comics, where apparently Batman and Batwoman are training these Sidekick types to be better.

I recommend this graphic novel…it kept me turning pages.  My problem is….I know what happens.  When will I be motivated to read it again?  I Own “Hush,” and have only read it twice.  “War Games” is tedious.

I won’t rate this.  Just let me know what you think in the comments!