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!

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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!

 

SpartanNerd Review…TruForce Collectibles Designer Series Megaman X

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My review of the TruForce Collectibles Designer Series Megaman X can’t be a true unboxing.  This item was on display at the Tangled Web Comics and Games store in Spartanburg SC.  But I have the packaging, and here it is…very brilliant!  We picked it up for the price of $79.

Neither I nor the SpartanKid had ever heard of this brand name.  When we saw it, I of course thought it was a new line of D-Arts figure.  But this figure is superior to the D-Arts figures in several ways.  Keep on reading for more details!

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You can see why we thought it was D-Arts when you see the figure.  Here is a front and back view…the size and scale is very similar, and there is a similar design to the figure.  The D-Arts set a very high bar…those figures look exactly like their media counterparts.  AND those toys came with lots of accessories. AND they were generally durable.  (Generally.  Sometimes parts come off, but they snap back on with a little work.  We only have one figure that is broken, and that was after over a year of really rough play.)

A big difference is the way the figure highlights the “panel lines.”  They are bold black or in some other way pronounced.

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Notice the words…”Beware of blast.”  The SpartanKid LOVES this detail.  It’s not for me, but it does the trick for him.  Megaman X has these words tattooed all over his body in places.  I think they are trying to make a “living diagram” or something.

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Megaman X came with two different blast effects.  One regular, and one charged.  In the picture below, you can see where we changed his face.  The figure came with two faces, one regular and one yelling.

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Megaman X doesn’t have to have his blaster out all the time…he came with alternate fist hands as well.

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Here is TruForce Megaman X facing a potential blast from D-Arts Zero Type 2.  You can see a little comparison here…The SpartanKid tells me that in the fiction and video games that Zero actually should be taller than X.  (I reviewed the Black Zero version of this figure here.  They are the same except for the color scheme.)

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Designer Series X came with something else…something very welcome!  An articulated flight stand!  I haven’t mentioned it yet, but this figure is fairly substantial.  It really feels like you are holding something weighty.  This is because there are lots of DIE CAST parts.  Not just regular plastic.  Which is why this flight stand is all the more useful.

That it has TWO arms, it can hold him up.  But also….

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You can pose two figures in battle.

All of this is great, and already I believe this figure to be a 5/5.  But for $79, we have EVEN MORE cool value.  Check it out!

When you bend Megaman’s knees, you get this awesome detail.  You can see the machine parts inside.  And this requires nothing more than bending the knee.

D-arts Vile Type 2 had an issue where he had a “knee blast” that required disassembling the leg.  Thankfully, this figure forgoes any of that nonsense.

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Remember “Beware of Blast” tattooed on the back of his calves?  Those are actually panel doors that open to reveal rocket boosters!

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And if all of this wasn’t enough, the true icing on the cake is the working LED light in the blaster!

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I had to finagle around with the mechanism to make it work correctly…but after I got it going, it worked like a charm!

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Tell me this isn’t a 5/5!

SO the SpartanNerd rates the TruForce Collectibles Designer Series MegaMan X a solid 5/5.  What an incredible figure.  And true to the spirit of the character.  There are also lots of features to keep an adult or a kid busy.  This figure would look great in an office or a man-cave.  I couldn’t recommend it more!

 

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

The Grieving SpartanNerd

Today, (June 22) I just learned that Earl Norem passed away.  (He died on June 19, 2015, at the age of 91.)

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Earl Norem was the incredible artist who did posters and covers for the Masters of the Universe magazine back in the 1980’s.  My mother subscribed to this for me, and I never knew why I stopped getting it.  (Later as an adult I would learn that it was discontinued.)

Norem leaves a legacy of Masters of the Universe work, not only including magazines, but all kinds of books.  Think “Little Golden Books” type.  Also the paperback kind you could get at Book Fairs in elementary school.

I reconnected with Norem’s work back in the late 1990’s, when I was just learning to explore the internet.  I was a part of Adam Tyner’s page, which eventually evolved into He-Man.org.  (I am only a member of the forums there now.  Oh.  And one of my songs was published on the Roast Gooble Dinner soundtrack.)  Back then, I scoured the internet for images of He-Man, and kept a folder on my computer so I could look at them anytime and reminisce.  This folder would follow me to today, where I have it on my mac to circulate desktop pictures.  Norem’s work is the most classically spectacular of all of Masters of the Universe paintings.

Eventually, I would listen to Roast Gooble Dinner, and Val Staples, Emiliano Santalucia, Eamon O’Donahue, and Pixel Dan Eardly would interview Norem.  I listened to this interview at least three times!  Just to hear him talk about his work…and the guy was almost completely clueless that he was revered as a great artist!

To hear his story, he was a painter for advertisements.  It was cheaper for magazines to print artistic work than photographs. Eventually he landed the gig to do some Marvel comics, and then pick up with Conan the Barbarian, eventually leading to He-Man.

He worked in paints.  I recently visited Bob Jones’ University’s Classical Art Gallery, and I dare say Earl Norem’s painting is on par with the great classical masters.  A person might argue that his subject matter didn’t lend to the best examples of classical art, with exaggerated muscles or femininity.  But he always made He-Man, Skeletor, Teela, Gwildor, or whoever look tasteful.  His work emphasised action…his painting always give a sense of energy.

I came up with the idea to try and emulate some of Earl Norem’s paintings with the incredibly posable Masters of the Universe Classics figures.  I will be featuring some of my results here on SpartanNerd.com in the future.

Until then, please go by Earl Norem’s fan page.  (You can see some of his art.  I believe Eamon O’Donahue runs this site.)  Also swing by He-Man.org.