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!

Masters of the Universe Minicomics Collection

I reviewed the Masters of the Universe Minicomics Collection back in May, after having a tough time getting my hands on a copy.  Since then, I have slowly read through every page, and can give you more of a review of the contents rather than just the product.

VINTAGE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE

First thing first.  “Miniternia” is definitely a favorite universe of mine now.  I was aware of it, and had read a few books from it.  When I was a kid, these books just confused me because they were so different from what I was used to (the Filmation cartoon.)  But reading these as an adult, there is a definite vibe to those books not found anywhere else.  There are comparisons to Conan the Barbarian, but as a Conan fan, I don’t think so.  Miniternia is a great comic story…an innocent story in a way, and in a way more pure of a story from a writers standpoint.  Mattel gave the writers carte blanche, as long as they depicted the toys.  The barbarian He-Man is awesome, and the miniternia Skeletor is more insane than his other versions.

I remember hearing that there were fundamentalist Christians boycotting and protesting He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.  I was vaguely aware of this as a child (I AM a Christian, and was raised in a Christian home.)  But as an adult, I heard people talk about it on the Roast Gooble Dinner podcasts.  I can see how, after reading over half of the book, I’d bet the word “demon” and “devil” were invoked in almost every single story!  Watching the Filmation show, this also comes up…I don’t know if that was daring on the part of the writers, or what?

 

You can clearly see transitional guidance between Miniternia and the comics that more closely resembled Filmation shows.  The stories become even flimsier sometimes, and highlighting of the products becomes central, rather than story and character development.  Then one day, out of nowhere, the Evil Horde becomes more prominent.  As a kid, the Horde annoyed me because to me, Skeletor was supposed to be the ultimate baddy.  And Hordak was apparently his teacher.  I came to love the Horde as much as anything else in MOTU, but I can see why I felt that way.  Mattel began to push the Horde in the mini comics, and there were more Horde figures on the shelves, and the commercials depicted the Horde more.  They were supposed to be another faction…which worked well in a house with three kids.  Hordes became She-Ra’s main villain, but I didn’t watch She-Ra…(yeah, right!)

I remember the Snake Men story vibrantly from when I was a child…my oldest brother was very interested in them.  My mother (and grandmother) are deathly terrified of snakes, so…I never really thought of them as another faction…just as a side team that worked for Skeletor, which is exactly how the mini comics portray them.  Throw in that Kobra Kahn and Tongue Lasher appeared on Skeletor’s team on the Filmation show working with Skeletor, and you can see why.  It was the Mike Young 200x show that really highlighted them as another team…an even deadlier team that Skeletor’s bunch.

Of all of the things about He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, I rarely ever complain. But now is my chance.  The “Three Towers” really annoy me.  It is one of the rarest toys to be found, and is therefore a valuable item.  But I don’t care.  The whole concept is STUPID.

Lets replace Castle Grayskull and Snake mountain with two smaller versions, and put a stupid lion tower in the middle.  We can connect the whole universe together with a roller coaster thingy.

There are SOO many reasons why I dislike the three towers.  It is billed as “playset Eternia.”  So the whole planet of Eternia can fit into one Playset?  This was EXACTLY how it was depicted in the minicomics.  I heard someone call it “Grayskull 2.0.”  Castle Grayskull was supposed to be this ultimate place of power.  But the Three Towers were meant to supplant all of that.

Eternia must be about the size of Spartanburg or upstate South Carolina…It seems it takes King Grayskull in the Mike Young cartoon about three days to cross the whole place.  Maybe the three towers fit that scheme?  There is a map in the He-Man art book, it came with certain characters if you subscribed to the “Club Grayskull” or whatever.  That map shows the towers stretched out across a huge central continent.  That MIGHT be plausible.  But why would they all connect together by a vehicle?  And if “Viper Tower” was meant to be Snake Mountain (It DID more closely resemble the cartoon version), and Grayskull tower was supposed to be the base for the good guys…just why?  I believe Mattel sensed that the vintage line was coming to an end, and were getting desperate.

SHE-RA, PRINCESS OF POWER

The She-Ra comics were pretty cute.   One of the interviews mentions that there were strict guidelines for drawing female characters.  That is apparent…the depictions of all those she-ra women are not sexy at all.  Sometimes they are child-like and pretty.  The She-Ra comics “de-evolve” from Minicomics format into Storybook format.  There is an incorrect footnote in the first She-Ra story, that says the Evil Horde is not mentioned in the comics ever again after the first one.  But that was inaccurate as the final two She-Ra stories have Catra mentioning the Horde, and also depict Horde troopers.

These books give you less of a sense of “the great rebellion,” and more just sweet little stories.  Catra, “the jealous beauty” is the main villain in these stories, but she can’t really do anything worse than children do to each other, it seems.  She steals a treasure box, she crashes a party by spraying everyone with water.  She spreads a rumor.  SERIOUSLY?

I made it through all of the She-Ra books, and rather enjoyed them.  But they are far too shallow.  I enjoyed the way they usually depicted She-Ra with the mask and Adora with the headband…A device you never saw on the cartoon.  And I thought the story of “Crystal Dimension” was interesting, where Swift Wind was transformed into a crystal version of himself.

I never really got a sense that The Crystal Castle was a She-Ra’s place of power?  It seemed to be a place where she and her friends lived instead.  The enchanted forest was there.  But Catra seemed to be homeless.

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF HE-MAN

As a child, I was just getting “too old” for toys as New Adventures came out.  My oldest brother wasted no time in getting a few toys, but I don’t think I ever saw a single episode of the cartoon.  I DID remember reading the comic, however.

I wasn’t aware that there were only four comics ever produced for that toy-line.  I DID know that it was short lived.

Basically, the vintage He-Man and Skeletor characters translated smoothly over to the futuristic versions, with Skeletor getting burned badly while witnessing Adam transform into He-Man, and having to “fix himself” with bionic parts.  The only idiotic thing is that He-Man’s sword is already a “techno sword.”  They should have been able to draw the classic sword in those few panels.  I always thought it was kind of stupid that the power of Grayskull had to be transferred into that starship…Really?  The art and the storytelling in these books is good, but different from the earlier ones.  As we read through all of these, we really see Bruce Timm’s art style mature up.  Once, He-Man even looks like we would see Batman on the nineties cartoon!  (Not in a New Adventures book…one of the final vintage comics.)

200x COMICS

I almost forgot!  The singular “pack-in” comic is included here.  With Val Staples and Emiliano Santalucia forming the bond that would become MV Creations, (and eventually break apart into the saddest schism maybe in the whole brand.) There are two comics here, one that never made it to print.

These are similar to the 200x comics that Image and Cross Gen would publish, but shorter and having a lot less content.  The art is just about exactly the same.  Emiliano is great!  (The second book was drawn by someone else, who somewhat emulated Emiliano’s style.)

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS MINI COMICS

Before the collection, I had no opportunities to read these stories.  I heard fans complain about them because they leave out a lot of story details that should be filled in.  The first one is a modern retelling of the first vintage Preternia book, and the following two pull together the entire story to include even the New Adventures.  An interesting detail, this story portrays He-Ro as the originator of the Power of Grayskull when he passes the Sword of He over to King Grayskull in death.  Funny how it ended, with a remark about building a castle and naming it after He-Ro.  (It would be named Castle Grayskull!)

I also thought the twist where Skeletor gets the techno virus from Bionatops in order to transform into his New Adventures form was also fun!  I was confused about King Grayskull, King He-man (he makes an appearance!) and King Miro.  What was that all about?

The art on these books are terrifically modern, and yes, they COULD have gave us more story.  I see how these serve the same purpose as the earlier mini comics…justify more toys.  They even introduced members of He-Ro’s team that have never been produced, simply to spark interest.  Ultimately, mini-comics aren’t the best vehicle for telling a grand story…they are a place to jump off and use your imagination.  And since Scott Neitlich was the guy in charge of these, that statement sounds exactly like something he would have said.

EXTRAS

The Mini-Comic collection contains lots of interviews…most of them seem to have come directly from Roast Gooble Dinner podcasts.  Maybe the DID actually re-interview some of the people…and maybe these are redacted and edited versions of those interviews.  I enjoyed reading them all, thought they didn’t teach me much of anything new because I had already heard it from the mouth of the person being interviewed.

So, just when I think James Eatock has astounded me with his intense Fanhood and knowledge of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, he surprises me yet again!

James “Bustatoons” Eatock apparently is the owner of a discarded and never produced mini comic, which is published at the back of this book.  It apparently never made it to the coloring stage.  I wonder if more stuff like this is out there?  And what a find…AND how does someone like him find all this stuff?  The comic is apparently the supposed pack-in with Flying Fists He-Man…it has some details issues, which might be why it was scrapped.  But it is a terrific read.

And finally we have an outline of a never-produced mini comic, which would have featured Faker prominently.  It is cool to read over, and I wonder if any fans who are good artists have made this book as fan art?

I enjoyed reading the Minicomics collection, and recommend it to anyone who is a fan of He-Man…a great value at under $30.  Reading this kept me from purchasing other comics for awhile…I always had something new to read, and this will make its way to my office at work to read in my “spare time.”

 

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…”Swell the Host” Commander 2015

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So I am at my next to final unboxing and review of the 2015 Commander set, this time reviewing the green and blue deck “Swell the Host.”

Right off the bat I would like to say that the color scheme on this packaging is an eye catcher.  The general featured also looks very menacing.

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The back shows off some other feature cards from the deck.

I don’t believe I have ever made a Green-Blue commander deck before.  Keep reading if you want to see how it turned out for me!

 

I unboxed this product as I have learned to do it best…open from the bottom first.

Then you get a plastic blister, and you can see the deck box and the oversized commander card.

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And here is all of the product.  Left to right, Ezuri, Claw of Progress oversized general card, Swell the host box top.  Commander guide to playing the deck.  MTG rules reference card.  The bottom of the deck box, with he plastic tray standing, and the deck in cellophane with the new “experience counter” token on top.

The deck boxes are truly pretty crappy.  As I have accumulated all of these, I am finding that I am annoyed by trying to put 100 sleeved cards into one of these boxes.  They are fine for unsleeved cards.  But if you want to take care of the cards, these boxes barely cut the mustard.  I try side-loading them into the boxes and angling them, and then they fit, but I don’t believe that to be the best solution.  That little tray is even more useless than the old cardboard spacer they used to contain way back in 2013 and 2014.

I generally try to be optimistic about these boxes.  They look really cool.  But I now have something like twelve commander decks in these boxes stacked up in my “nerd closet.”  And there problems are showing.

This time I thought I would take a closer look at the rules reference card before tossing it.  I was curious if it gave us rules for Commander?  Nope.  Just regular magic rules.  Making this a big idiot thing to include for new players.

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Notice it says “Each player starts with 20 life.”  Wrong style of rules for a Commander deck.

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The other piece of paper is the guide to playing the deck.  More of that delightful color scheme found here, and images and story for this general.

Oh yes.  Also the decklist.

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Let’s spend some more time looking at this general.  “Whenever a creature with power 2 or less enters the battlefield under you control, you get an experience counter.”  This means this deck is going to be filled with useful chumps.  The second rules text is “At the beginning of combat on your turn, put X +1/+1 counters on another target creature you control, where X is the number of experience counters you have.  Oh yeah…Ezuri is only a four drop, so….

I am going to go ahead and tell you…this deck makes the best use of the experience counters than any of the other decks in this series I have reviewed.  Maybe it’s me, the player.  But I think not.  I believe you are getting lots of value from the cards in this deck.  Ezuri begs to be removed, because you can easily get those counters, and at your combat step, someone is growing huge!

Onto the reveal of the cards.

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First, tokens.  These are the double sided kind…I am showing both sides to you.When these enter the battlefield, you typically will get a counter.  The red dragon jumped out at me right away.  How can that fit in this deck?  Well it does!

I am revealing the cards in order of packaging.

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Each one of these cards gets you an experience counter if Ezuri is on the battlefield.  Very notable is Ninja of the Deep Hours.  I never had this card before, but he has “Bushido”, a neat trick that can get you surprise card draw.  The others all have some utility.  Eternal Witness gets you a creature back.  Elvish Visionary gets you  a card.  Lorescale Coatl, gets you a card.  Coiling Oracle.  More card advantage.  Wistful Selkie…draw a card.  In fact, I am impressed overall with the amount of card advantage this deck can get you.  Stingerflinger Spider will destroy a flyer.  Trigon Predator is a big flyer.  You get options with Noble Quarry.  Right away these are really good, low cost cards.  And any one can be a target for Ezuri.

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This batch off the top of the stack features some of the more ubiquitous cards in Commander.  Sol Ring, Krosan Grip, Swiftfoot Boots.  Etc.  Snake form is notable…this deck almost has a snake tribal feel to it, there are so many snakes.  Also Muldrifter is here, and the new mana rock, Thought Vessel…I like to call this card “reliquary rock.”  You get the effect of Reliquary Tower and an artifact that taps for mana.  Maybe my favorite new non-legendary from this set as a whole as a general addition to the game of Commander.

It is important that I mention that a lot of things in this deck can happen on top of the stack.  (Instant Speed).  The other Commander decks that I have unboxed and reviewed in this set were really light on instant speed.  I don’t even think “Call the Spirits” had any instants in the whole deck!  This deck has flash, instants, “cast only during the declare blockers step” etc.

Now for a look at the three legendary creatures.

Ezuri, Claw of Progress gets a regular sized card, of course.  Then we have Kasuto, Orichi Archmage, and Prime Speaker Zegana .

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I haven’t tried Prime Speaker Zegana yet.  She was the Simic boss from Return to Ravnica.  I have already spoken alot about Ezuri….Remember how I mentioned the Snake tribal theme…now the reason becomes apparent when you try Kasuto as your general.  You can reliably make your snakes huge and unblock able.  Kasuto has brought me a couple of wins!

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Next, a bunch of rares.  As always, the Commander deck gives us a ton.  And they do so much.  Someone who keeps coming up for me, Cold Eyed Selkie.  This card nets you a ton of cards in this deck!  Solemn Simulacrum is fun if you can destroy him right after he enters the battlefield, netting you a land and card draw (an an experience counter!).  Arbor Colossus is great for endgame.  Command Beacon is new…you can sac it to return your general to your hand from the command zone.  (Skirting the rules of Commander.)  Arachnogenesis can save your butt unexpectedly, as well as trigger a ton of experience counters if you have Ezuri on the field.  Mystic Snake has flash, and can counter a target spell.  (That’s just sick!)  Scythe claw can really scare an opponent.

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Bident of Thassa is an awesome card in this deck, and Orochi Hatchery lets you get snake chumps to trigger experience counters.  High Market is a land that is a sac outlet (use with Solemn Simulacrum)  Remember that red dragon token?  In a pinch, you can play Day of Dragons, and turn your critical mass of chumps into 5/5 flying dragons!  (Play carefully…I got a game loss with this card.)

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Basic lands.  Boring.  Following them were the non-basics.

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The only one of these that I really hate is Simic Guildgate.  Why not give us a scry land instead?  I never had Zoetic Cavern before, but it is a land with morph.  Since there is no other morph in this deck….(not sure it belongs here?)

 

PLAYING THE DECK

This is the funnest Commander deck I have played since Oloro, Ageless Ascetic or Derevi, Empyrial Tactician.  Those two decks were fun because their Commanders were so effective.  This deck is fun because not only is Ezuri, really good, but also Kasuto.  (He COULD be a tiny leader as well, if anyone cares.)

I believe it to be so fun because of the reactivity of the deck, and the consistently scary thing of always having a fatty on the board.  Because there really isn’t a way to remove experience counters, if you can get Ezuri on the board and protect him, you are never a player that can be ignored.  And because there is so much card draw here, you rarely gave mana screw.  Some of the other decks have Thought Vessel or Reliquary Tower, but I have scripted my head about why, they seem to rarely have enough relevant card draw.  Not a problem with this deck.

I have played this deck only against actual opponents, no solitaire this time.  It has a record of 4 to 2.  It lost to Prossk, Skyraider of Kerr, which is just a tricky deck to play with surprise win conditions.  And it lost to Forged in Stone, after a long and grindy match.  But it also beat that deck once.  The deck also beat Call the Spirits soundly, Plunder the Graves, and Wade into Battle from the same set soundly.  I believe it is because the plan of keeping chumps on the board and having them beefed up at instant speed or whatever is just a better strategy!

SPARTANNERD RATING

Besides my complaints about the deck box, this deck is really good.  It is quite fun!  I played Ob Nixilis for a long time, but eventually got bored with the mono black demons theme, which lost about seventy percent of the time.  This deck is almost the exact opposite of that deck.  And I never ventured to make a blue green commander deck before of my own, playing this one vanilla has been all new for me.

So I rate this deck 5/5!  It does the “Fun” thing better than any of the other Commander 2015 decks I have opened so far!

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Lego Nexo Knights “Ultimate Lavaria”

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The SpartanNerd spent some time this past weekend at the Toys R Us in Spartanburg, SC, this weekend.  I was immediately drawn to the display right at the entrance….a new item, “Lego Nexo Knights.”  I don’t know why…I kept coming back to it.

A little research unearthed the fact that this line just launched on January 2, 2016.  (Saturday was January 9.  So the line was only a week old.)

I expect it will replace Lego Ninjago and Lego Chima.  Or maybe it will be an attempt.

There were a wide variety of different things for the new line, but I didn’t want to commit too much…or anything at all.  But since I kept coming back, I decided to make a purchase.

I purchased “Ultimate Lavaria.”  Keep reading for a review of my experience so far!

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Lavaria came in this little box.  Above is what caught my eye, and then there is the backside, showing that there are things that can be done on tablets and phones with the figure.

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I’m not a Lego collector, and have talked about the price of Minifigures before.  But if there is even a CHANCE I am going to get into these, I want to have a system of keeping them organized.  So I opened the box carefully from underneath in order to preserve it as a storage space.

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As  expected, there was an instruction book and polybags with the bricks inside.

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The instructions are your general instructions.  Large simple pictures with arrows.  (I had a picture, but lost it somehow?)

There was also lots of cross-sell for this new line.

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And here was the parts list.

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I went ahead and arranged the bricks the exact way they are listed, because I’m insane like that…that’s why.  I found there were a few anomalies…

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These extra parts.  Also, there were some bucks with a long peg that weren’t listed.  I went ahead and began assembly.

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I don’t know why, but I decided to pause here, seven minutes into the build.  I took this picture.  I think this was right after I put the wings on.  Its a pretty ingenious idea, making a backpack out of a two-studded flat piece by adding a part that fits over the neck.  The legs here are on a thing that looks like a floating thing from a boat or something.  I have seen this design before on Ninjago things.

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And here is Lavaria completed.  Next, I put together the “base.”

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The base doesn’t really make sense.  The character is a spider, sitting on an amber thing, and there are two “wings.”  This is actually a weapons rack.  You can change the front of the shield to have the fireballs or the beetle on it.  The “wings” are a storage area for those.  Also, the right side had a shooting mechanism.  Only today, three days after assembly, has it dawned on me that that is another weapon, a crossbow!  (I would have taken a pic with Lavaria holding it if I had figured it out.)  The other side has two tiny rubber snakes either as weapons or as guardians over the beetle shield.  (who knows.)

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There is al alternate pair of legs, so Lavaria doesn’t have to be on four spider legs.  Also, you can turn the head around to get a different expression.

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I think what caught my attention with Lavaria is the similarity to Darth Maul.  The double sided spear.  The mechanical spider-legs.

It dawned on me that Lavaria is a female!  And I was pronouncing it “le-VAIR-EE-ah.”  But it must be LAVA-ria.

Remember I mentioned the electronic features of Lego Nexo Nights?  I have played through the first level, and this character has made no appearance whatsoever.  But all of the enemies have some “lava” component to them.  The main enemy is named “Jestro,” a cross between the Joker and Destro?

But that gave me a hint about the characters intended name, and also what that amber thing on the base is (it’s lava.  DUH!)

As far as the game is concerned, I have encountered a glitch already.  The game feels “unfinished.”  It is the kind of game that you just tap the screen to make the character attack the enemies.  So far, you can only be the “good guys.”  These are Clay, Lance, Macy, and Aaron, with the promise of another character coming soon.  The name of the app is Merlok 2.0, which points out the futuristic knight theme that these guys are to have. (Merlok’s voice in the game is the exact same voice as Sensei Wu from Lego Ninjago.)

How does the toy interact with he game?  Remember those different shield that came with Lavaria?  The app can scan those, and this adds special moves to your chosen Nexo Knight. (What does “Nexo” mean anyway?)  It is notable that choosing “beetle bomb” causes your Nexo Knight to suddenly have the four legs that Lavaria has, only in their color scheme.  So maybe she isn’t supposed to always have those spider legs on?

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The shield shown here is “incinerate.”  Basically it makes fire fall out of the sky to burn up your lava enemies?

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And you can see the Venom attack on this shield.

The game encourages you to “re-scan” your shields over and over to increase their power. I think this is to discourage people from “faking out” the app.  I could be wrong.  It seems it only let me scan in three within a few minutes.  (The game comes with two to get you started, so I have five special moves unlocked, basically.)

But it looks like there are dozens of moves you could unlock if you collected the whole line.

SO was this a good impulse purchase?

I’ll admit.  Whatever I thought was cool about it in the store has worn off a little.  Maybe it’s the simplistic game.  Or maybe it was that the kit wasn’t the least bit challenging.  Or maybe it is because this is the only thing I have from this set.  Not sure.

Will I get more?  Not sure!

I think Lavaria is cool looking.  She is pretty fun to play with.  She has to get a 4/5.

The app has to get a 2/5 for now.

So the SpartanNerd Rating of Lego Nexo Knights Ultimate Lavaria is 3/5.

Do you agree or disagree, Hub City Geeks?  Let me know in the comments!