SpartanNerd Vintage Unboxing and Review…”Obscure Ascension” Magic the Gathering Event Deck (Dark Ascension, French)

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The SpartanNerd has been on vacation!  In case any readers haven’t figured that out!  I have been shopping at places not local to Spartanburg.  I was looking for things I have never seen, or can’t get here.  No luck in some cases.  For instance, I would like a Star Wars Black Darth Maul.

At White Widow Games in Myrtle Beach, SC, I came across this gem.  It is the Dark Ascension Event Deck, only entirely in FRENCH!  A truly unique find.  And only $20!  Maybe the only one in South Carolina.  SEALED!  I have reviewed many Magic the Gathering Event Decks… Keep on reading to see how this one measures up!  This is the oldest event deck I have ever reviewed.

“Obscure Ascension” means “Dark Ascension.”  I have limited, and generally negative, experience with the French language. Just some singing in college that kicked my butt!  Interesting that the word “Obscure” equals “Dark.”  But that kind of makes sense, right?  The French would probably only use “dark” for absence of light, rather than meaning “mysteriously evil.”  One thing I picked up from the study of foreign language, is that English is just about the only language to have tons of different meanings for the same word.

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The back has all of this French wording.  I have no idea what it says.  Probably similar to what is on the back of the other event decks I have reviewed.  “The right deck for now.  Jump right in…this deck is competitive.”  They generally aren’t, however.  This deck is actually titled “Flammes Espiegel.”  “Flames of Joy,” or “Flames of Glee.”  Something like that.

So it is a burn deck.

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You get the exact same crummy box that the other event decks come in.  As much as I am down on them, I use them!  Here you can see what it looks like on the inside when you first open it.

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Here are the contents.  A deck with a sideboard, two pieces of paper…one a guide to playing Magic, and the other a guide to playing this deck.  Both in French, so I can’t read them.  Then there is the handy divider and the life counter, which has the Dark Ascension expansion symbol on the number 20.

I just threw away the guide to playing.  It probably says “You are a planeswalker!” in French.  I don’t have to be told that anymore!

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This deck is a mono-red deck.  A little odd..most of the Event decks I have reviewed are two color decks.  There are 21 mountains in this deck, each with the word “Montagne” across the top, and the text “Terrain de base: montagne”.  The lands are the same lands from the Innistraad block.

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You get five utility lands, including…WHAT’s THAT?!!!  “Nexus des enormities”…Where have I seen this…?  KABAAM!

“Ink moth Nexus.”  TWO COPIES!  Basically one of the greatest “man-lands” ever printed.  You can pay one colorless to transform it into a 1/1 flyer with infect.

These two cards make the deck TRIPLE THE VALUE of what I paid for it!  So, the SpartanNerd is a happy boy!

The other three lands are “Haunted Fengraf.”  You can pay three, sac the land, and return a creature to your hand.

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The creatures in this deck…I will just tell you who they are and what they do.

Forge Devil, top left.  When he enters the battlefield, you take a damage, as well as target creature.

Goblin Arsonist, top middle, When he dies, target player loses one life.

Top right, Flameslinger Goblin. tap him to send one damage to target player.

Goblin Gaveleer, bottom left, he gets an extra +2/+0 for each equipment attached to him.  He also has trample.

Torch Fiend, bottom middle, pay a red mana, sacrifice him, and destroy target artifact.

Hellrider, bottom right. the largest creature and about the highest mana cost in the deck.  He sends one damage to target player for each attacking creature.  He also has haste!  Not currently a valuable card.  However, back close to the time Innistraad block was about to rotate out, he was fairly valuable.  About a twelve dollar card.

So studying the creatures reveals to us that this deck is not only a burn deck, but almost a a Goblin Tribal deck as well.  And the creatures here exist for the sole purpose of smash, destroy, and damage.

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The other main-deck spells are…

Infiltration Lens, top left, whenever equipped creature becomes blocked by a creature, draw two cards.  An artifact equipment.

Faithless Looting, top middle, draw two cards, then discard two cards.  This one’s french name almost threw me…”Pillage sans foi.”  My thought was “Pillar of Flame.”  But that didn’t seem right…as the art didn’t seem to indicate it.  So I looked it up.  This is the card that really helped me figure out how to translate the others!

Goblin Grenade. Top right.  A sorcery, and one of your main game plans.  Sac a goblin, send five damage to your opponent.  The beautiful thing to do is attack first with Goblin Arsonist, who they generally avoid blocking, then in second main phase sacrifice him to Goblin Grenade.  BAM.  Seven damage.

Curse of the Stalked Prey.  Bottom left.  Aura Curse.  You enchant your opponent, and then any creatures that hit them get a +1/+1 counter.

Brimstone Volley, bottom center.  Your other “main plan.”  An instant with a “morbid” trigger.  Three damage to target creature or player.  But if something had already died this turn, then the spell does five damage instead!

Artillerize, bottom right  Sacrifice an artifact or creature as an additional cost, and then Artilleries deals five damage to target creature or player!

Playing the Deck

Playing this deck means using the goblins, and maximizing value with them by sacrificing them in many cases.

I like how solidly focused on that goal the deck is!  You have four copies of most creatures!  And four copies of other things you need, like Artillerize and Brimstone Volley!

This deck could be a little stronger if it used “Lightning Bolt.”  But I’m thinking that wasn’t allowed in Standard at the time.  Maybe a way to appease burn players who had recently lost their Lightning Bolts.

In its day, it probably was a great Standard deck!

There is a sideboard…

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Gut Shot, top left, a card with pharexian mana as the cost.  At instant speed, you get one damage to target creature or player.

Torpor orb, top center, this prevents “enters the battlefield” triggers from happening.  Important!

Act of Treason, top right, gain control of the opponents creature, untap it, and give it haste.  Then use it as your attacker for this turn!  Or even sacrifice it!

Arc Trail, bottom left, deals two damage to target creature or player, and one damage to another target creature or player.  Another card with four copies!

Dismember, bottom middle, the only black card in this deck, uses pherexian mana, and is handy to get an indestructible creature.  (Target creature gets -5/-5 until the end of turn.)  This card is currently a popular choice; it was re-printed in Modern Masters 2015!

Into the Core, exile two target artifacts.

Thinking back to what I know, this sideboard addresses affinity decks, cards with indisctructible, and land destruction., giving you something to do using Pharexian mana.  At the time of Innistrad/Scars of Mirrodin, this would have been really sound.  Scars was really before my time of playing Magic.  But I am somewhat aware of “Caw Blade.”

SpartanNerd Thoughts on “Dark Ascension Event Deck.”

I don’t play burn.  And I don’t play infect.  (Infect isn’t the main plan of this deck.  The Inkmoth Nexus is here so you can be assured to have a creature to sac..)

The SpartanTeen used to play burn, and Goblins when he used to play MTG.  If he ever comes back, he can use this deck!

I’ll admit, though, it is a fun deck to play.  I was tempted to take it to the Modern Tournament, just for its fun, and to test it some more for this review.  But I really wanted to win Path to Exile, (and I did!  With Esper Reanimator Control.)

This deck stands up against most of the pre-constructed decks I own.

It has beaten Elves (From the Duel Deck Anthology) as well as the Angel deck.  It has beaten the Monsters deck from Heroes vs. Monsters.  Not that it hasn’t lost some to these decks as well.  But it is competitive against them.  Oh yes.  It beat Chandra from Jace vs. Chandra as well!  That’s burn vs. burn!

Changing the deck

How could we update or change it for Modern?  First of all, I believe switching the strategy from Artillerize to Lightning bolt will be important.  Then maybe switching out Infiltration lens to faithless looting for card draw.  Then updating the creature bombs some.I would avoid any Planeswalkers.  I can’t think of any that would help with the goal of send as much damage as possible.  Maybe add some scry via Magma Jet or something.

SpartanNerd’s rating of “Obscure Ascension” Magic the Gathering Event Deck (Dark Ascension, French)

I can’t take off any points. For any reason.  And the fact that it is worth three times what I paid for it, and in French, makes this a SOLID 5/5!  It is by far the best event deck I have ever purchased, with four copies of each important card.  None of the other event decks I have purchased or reviewed even approach this deck.  Most of them have three copies or two copies of two cards.  Most of them feel like souped up starter decks.  This one, definitely competitive.

The SpartanNerd rates the French printing of the Dark Ascension Event Deck a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

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SpartanNerd Matchup and Review…Dual Deck Matchup “Divine vs. Demonic”

Happy New Year!

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Reviewing the Magic the Gathering Dual Decks Anthology has been a labor of love.  From requesting a free sample (and being ignored), to managing to get my copy at the Tangled Web, to opening it at midnight, making unboxing videos to save time, to finally making the decision to do Divine vs. Demonic last.

Here are links to all of my past reviews on the unboxing and matchup.  (I suggest you read the following before reading the review of Divine Vs. Demonic first…)

Link to the original unboxing

Link to Garruk vs. Liliana

Link to Jace Vs. Chandra

Link to Elves vs. Goblins.

First I would like to share my reasoning for doing Divine vs. Demonic last.

VALUE

“Divine vs. Demonic” has the money cards.  There is an alternate art “Demonic Tutor,” which was apparently only printed in this set the first go around.  You get a foil “Akroma, Angel of Wrath,” which has been a $20 card.  You also get some other pricey angels.  Basically, leading up to getting this set, when I was reading about the anticipation, etc, I came across the fact that the original sealed “Divine vs. Demonic” set was selling for around $130.  And the Anthology was $100, so…

I don’t collect Magic cards for their value.  I like to play the game.  And I like collecting them, managing them, and building neat decks.  But I couldn’t ignore the financial issue here.  This is one reason I have consistently seen people excited about the Anthology.

WHAT THE CARDS MEAN TO ME PERSONALLY

My color is black.  And my secondary color is white.  I have collected my share of Angels and Demons since I began playing the game.

With the Dual Decks Anthology, I have THE collection of angels and demons ready to play.  I even let the SpartanKid play the angel deck at the last Modern tournament.  (we had to make a few substitutions…the deck is legacy legal.  Incidentally, it also isn’t competitive at a tournament.)

All this said, the first matchups at the SpartanNerd household were of these decks.  And the Angels were winning consistently.  Almost no matter what I did to try and beat them with the Demonic deck.  And this became a problem for me, and prompted me to delay this review until last.  A nine year old was consistently beating someone who had STUDIED the deck ahead of time.  I had to figure it out.  (I did eventually.)

WHAT THESE CARDS HAVE MEANT IN MY HOUSE

We started playing this game around three and a half years ago.  At first I was unaware of Demon cards.  But when I caught wind of them, I decided to keep it quiet and think about it for awhile.  We are a Christian family.  Angels and Demons both have a special significance to us.

We had read Harry Potter books, watched lots of Masters of the Universe, seen Star Wars, etc.  And in this stuff, there is sometimes a hint of larger evil behind the fantasy.  I wanted to be sure that my children could separate fantasy from reality.  In reality, I have taught them that Demons are definitely something not to mess with.  And Angels are something to think about and not forget.  I have taught them that there IS a larger spiritual war going on around us, and that no less than Satan desires to tear us down.  Everything from movies, to music, video games, and yes card games can be an outlet of influence if we are not guarded.

After awhile, I talked them more and more about this, and slowly introduced the angels and demons as fantasy creatures…not the real thing.  And it has stuck!  My children are very level headed, thankfully.  And they had less trouble thinking on the Theros block with its “God” cards.  There was no need at all really to have a Sunday School lesson about it.

ONE FINAL REASON

I got a new iPhone 6!  Time to test out the camera!  What better product to photograph.  This time I am not doing a little video.  The product has long since been opened.

OH YES!!! A REVIEW IS SUPPOSED TO BE HAPPENING!

On with the show.

The “Divine” Deck

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Akroma IS a win condition.  The Demon deck has basically only two answers to Akroma.  Because she is Pro-Black, she can’t even be killed by anything in the Demon deck.  Basically, if the person piloting the angel deck gets this card on the battlefield, it probably spells GG.

Akroma isn’t the only “boss” in this deck.  There are three others.

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Reya is a white re-animator.  OUCH!  Luminous Angel gets out a bunch of flying tokens.  And Twilight Shepherd is ANNOYING.  Flying Vigilance.  AND PERSIST.

These four cards are unfair.  Especially Akroma, though.

The rest of the creatures aren’t anything to sniff at, either.

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This card has “a big butt” whenever it blocks.

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OK, TAP ME! I want to give someone a hand.

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You’ll notice that I have switched the regular printing to this foil I had in my binder. I have so far been pretty good about not making substitutions in these decks. In this case, the Serra Angel actually has a good use, besides just looking pretty in my binder. If I’m not mistaken, Serra Angel is the original angel in MTG, right?

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Here is one of the things that makes this deck unfair. The Divine deck has life GAIN. The black deck, more like life loss.

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You get more pump with these two.

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And I suppose the angels are protecting these humans.  These six cards tip the scale.  The Angel deck is also THE MONO WHITE deck.

And the SpartanNerd can say something that he has heard mis-spoken several times by other people who have reviewed this deck.  Icatian Priest is pronounced like this.  I (like in “is”)   KAY  SHUN.  It is a Schwa, people.

Creatures alone could win this matchup.  But of course there are OTHER SPELLS!

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This amounts to an “escape hatch” for an Angel in trouble.

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A pacifism with life gain. Which incidentally could be put on a Planeswalker, if needed. (It isn’t needed for this matchup.)

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This is the worst card in the whole deck. Why not just put two more plains in here? There is no land destruction. Cards like this are the worst kind of card except for in two cases usually, Draft and Commander. Why it is in the Divine deck is beyond me.

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Now this is a useful artifact.

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I like cards like this! It can be either offensive or defensive.

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Another good card. This one sort of reminds me of a charm.

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I think I might order more of these. The art on this Pacifism is FAR BETTER than the modern version. The modern version is so annoying/disturbing/ugly…my children have consistently avoided playing it.

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This is a good card. It has exalted and suppresses the opponent. Nice!

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Besides protect, what is that other thing that Angels do…oh yeah. Make you feel bad for doing bad stuff.

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And finally, the other stuff.

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The cycling lands are cool. That is what they should have given us more of, instead of “Marble Diamond” The spirit tokens here aren’t my favorite.

I think above all else, the Divine deck is very flavorful.  Elves and Goblins were flavorful.  But the Angels definitely are too in every way.

The Demonic Deck

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The counterpart of Akroma…Lord of the Pit.  A 7/7 flyer that hurts you if you can’t sacrifice someone every turn.  Lord of the Pit sets the tone for the rest of this deck pretty much.  The demons can help you…for a price….

Assuming you are Liliana…(the SpartanNerd is TOTALLY Liliana.  Ask the people I play with.)

Luckily, LotP has only appeared ONCE in all the times I have played this deck.  It seems that Kuro, Pit Lord shows up more often, thankfully.  And I’d rather have him anyways.

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Being BLACK is great.  I don’t even mind paying the life to kill off target angels.

But TARGET angels is the problem, isn’t it.  When Akroma has Hexproof and is PRO-BLACK (shudder).

Luckily, there is this guy.  But unfortunately, he is about it.

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The Demonic deck has these three bosses.  That’s it.  Remember that the Divine deck had four?  Not fair, right!

OK, I’ll continue with the chumps creatures in this deck.  Almost everything has flying, thankfully.

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Aren’t all Demons fallen angels? (So says the Bible. Not in MTG.)

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Fallen Angel and Souldrinker are the only two creatures in this deck that aren’t Demons or Imps.

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Usually, you don’t get to activate the Hellbent ability operating this deck, if you are playing it correctly.

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Oops. There is a Specter in here too. Good thing, too. Specter’s are usually good. In this case, the Angels have to discard a card.

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This one’s a puzzle. The Demonic deck has ZERO re-animation. Why you would Dredge 5 is beyond me. Otherwise, he is a perfectly good death-toucher

After these notable guys, there are lots of other “chumps”.  Mostly flying imps with varying abilities.

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When playing this deck, you DON”T WANT any bosses in your opening hand.  Look for these guys first.  This is what I have learned about playing the Demonic Deck and standing a chance against the angels!  The bosses are a useless card in hand, generally.  While you can play the chumps and have some utility, usually.  (with the exception Daggerclaw Imp.  If I ever fire someone, he will be the first to go!)

The Divine Deck can win with its creatures alone.  Unfortunately, the Demonic Deck can’t.  You will have to play dirty!  Luckily, there are lots of ways to get something over on you opponent!  First of all, the card that is one of the draws to buy this set.

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SAVE THIS CARD!  When you open the game with it in your hand.  Hang on to it!  Use it to summon River Demon in case Akroma hits the board.

What else dirty and rotten is going down?

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Don’t burn this card at the wrong time.  It will cost you the game.  Burning Dark Ritual early will net you a loss.  And it is an instant, so you will be tempted.

Other pieces of this dark puzzle…

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You need this card to make some useless Thrull chumps to sacrifice to Lord of the Pit and others. Too bad they don’t block angels, though. The problem with this card is the upkeep cost. Every upkeep you have to decide “Hmmm.. keep this around? The deck is Mana Hungry. So…

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This guy with the creepy art appears in the Ob Nixilis Commander deck as well. You can entwine it, and get two big effect in one card. Too bad it costs 10 mana to make all of that happen. (Easier in Commander than here in the Dual Deck)

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Isn’t Doom Blade better? The angels can’t regenerate anyways.

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This is a good card to put on a flyer. Unfortunately, it is going to take more than this one card to save your creature from dying, as most of the angels can kill things with as much as 4 toughness.

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This amounts to removal for an angel. A boost for a demon.

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The other way of dealing with Akroma. Besides sweeping the board with Riever Demon, you can force your opponent to sacrifice someone. And that lone angel might be Akroma.  Barter in Blood is also in the deck…somehow I didn’t get that photo?

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What Mono Black deck doesn’t run this?

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A bad Thoughtsieze. You can’t get a creature 😦

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This is sort of like Corrupt. Not as good, though.

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And a lone artifact. The Demon’s Horn is like the Angel’s Feather.

FInally, everything else.

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Barren Moor is best when cycled.  Yes.  You need mana.  But probably more than that you need the right cards.

As for the tokens, there is a big classical style Demon.  This is the same token that came with Ob Nixilis.  And you get some Thrulls.  I wish they had included as many as they had elves and goblins.  You don’t need that many spirits for the angel deck.  But the demons like sacrificial chumps.

THE MATCHUP

I have finally figured out how to take the Divine Deck out with the Demonic Deck.  It took me awhile.  The Angels seem an impossible matchup.  Sometimes they get all the way up to 30+ life before the Demons can start doing their thing.  You just have to work the early game with the imps and smaller creatures.  You bide your time until finally you can drop Kuro Pitlord or Lord of the Pit.  As for Riever Demon, save him for Akroma.  Lord of the Pit can be bad for YOU if you don’t have enough life, or if you don’t have anyone to sacrifice.  And then there’s Unholy Strength.  It is cheap enough to build a voltron in early game if you happen to be able to pile two onto Foul Imp or someone.  You just have to be ready to scrap it up in the early game, then power out a big guy in the mid game.  Unfortunately, most of the cards are a one-of…Demonic Tutor, for instance, so you can’t ever count on getting someone.

Most games with these two decks start pretty slow.  But the Angels gain early advantage, just by enter-the-battlefield abilities that gain the pilot life and make it harder on the opponent.  The Angel deck also slows down the demonic deck with Righteous Cause.  This usually makes an appearance.  And Demonic cannot remove enchantments.

The Divine deck is a winner out of the box.  Most everything flies, is hard to kill, or gains you life.  With the downside of being expensive to get things going.  I think the Angels might be a good enhancement to the White Weenie strategy, say, the Modern Event Deck, for instance.

SPARTANNERD’S RATING

My Rating of Magic the Gathering Dual Decks Anthology “Divine vs. Demonic” is a cautious 5/5.  Everything is the same about these decks as with the others, as far as aesthetics.  The decks DO have the older school art, and that feel of the old days of Magic.  (Days I never experienced.  But know of.)  They are boxed the same way in beautiful deck boxes, and have the modern card frames.

The Demonic deck has been an entertaining challenge to learn, and the Angels have been strong opponents.

I rate Dual Decks Anthology “Divine vs. Demonic” 5/5.  Do you agree?  Let me know in the comments!

I will continue playing all of these decks against one another.  Hopefully will have a big match one day pitting them all together at the same time!

SpartanNerd Sundays…Faith and Mulligans

Ephesians 6:10-18- The Armor of God

My favorite style of Magic The Gathering play is called “constructed”.  I like either “standard” or “modern”. But Legacy and Vintage are beyond me (I’m a cheapskate, remember?).   And I am not good at limited and drafting….

So, you load up a constructed deck…   Maybe 25 lands and your favorite 35 other cards.  And play!
You are putting your faith in what you put in the deck, right?  You know there is nothing there that you didn’t provide ahead of time.  You know that there are no red cards if you are playing black and white.  You know there are four Fencing Aces double striking the truth…You put them there!

I generally mulligan….draw six different cards after the first draw…when I have no land or nothing worthy to play.   Here’s the devotional bit….if I have 5 lands in hand, what are the odds of Mana flood?  I have faith that there is NO WAY the next three turns are going to be all land….I mean, it could happen…(this IS a card game) But probably not.

Does that make sense?   Statistically the odds are in that favor.  
This principle runs truer than true with the Mazes End strategy, where you might just run three copies of each guild gate…If one Dimir Guildgate is out, and the other was milled…guess what…You know you have one more!  You hold Three Boros guild gates?  You need not worry about losing them, and furthermore you know you will be drawing something different each turn.

What does this have to do with anything?

Your deck, ahem, “library” in Magic is like your Christian testimony.  When the old devil tries to vex you away from the truth, you can think back on your life and say to him…”I remember when Jesus did this in my life, or did that in my life.”  It is called “The Shield of Faith.”  You can use it to protect yourself against the fiery arrows of Satan!  You can rely on the things God has provided in you!  You can have those experiences…that spiritual growth…always in mind.

But you have to keep your faith in those things.  The Bible says you have to “Take Up” that shield of faith!  Then swing that sword of truth!

Comment?  Let me know!  I’m waiting on some blog subscribers.  Subscribe people!  You won’t be sorry!

SpartanNerd Sunday……Playmat…..Protector of the Keep

I mentioned that I picked this playmat out as a Father’s Day present in an earlier Magic the Gathering related post.

I saw many people use a playmat, but I never really understood it until I used one of my own.  The cards are more comfortable to use all around with this item.  It helps keep them clean, and they slide around easlily on one.

I chose this one over several other choices.  I didn’t make the choice lightly.  There are a lot of pretty ones out there, but I knew I probably wouldn’t use any other playmat for awhile.

The Protector of the Keep is not a Magic the Gathering product.  It is marketed towards that, but is not officially from the wizards.  Just the same, she fits in very well.

Why this one…over say, this one?

Serenity Angel

This one caught my eye at the Tangled Web.  I think it is in fact a much prettier angel.

The other two I considered were…

Sacred Foundry
Godless Shrine

I actually play both of these cards, and find Godless Shrine to be especially pretty.  (I like stained glass windows, and play Orzov a good bit.  Not a very uplifting name, though.  But this is fiction, people!)

No, the Protector of the Keep won out.  She is a seraph.  In the Bible, an angel that remains in the presence of God has six wings.  Two to fly, two to cover its face, and two to cover its feet.  (Isaiah 6:8) This angel is a protector as well.  In the Bible, Micheal is the protector of God’s people.  This Angel is Protector of the Keep.  She reminds me of Michael.  (I always see Michael as a man, but…..) The protector here is stylized as a strong woman, armed to the teeth, those six wings ready to protect.  I’m down with that.

Whenever anyone asks me about my Angel, or comments on my playmat, I get a chance to talk about God’s holiness.  This can lead to discussing Jesus Christ and the wonderful work he has done for humanity in granting us access to such a holy God!

So is talking about something so serious welcome at a Friday Night Magic Tournament?  Most of the time, people look at me and say, “Really?  I didn’t know that.”

SpartanNerd Sunday may become a regular feature of this blog.  Anyone interested?  There are many connections in nerd-tainment to the Bible, God, religion, and other things of a spiritual nature.  And there are a ton of run-of-the-mill devotions on Facebook and whatnot.  Mine could be really different.

Comment People!  I need to hear from the Hub City Geeks!