Selesnya Guild Kit…Guilds of Ravnica…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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I am continuing my series of reviews on the Guilds of Ravnica Guild Kits.  So far  have reviewed the Dimir and Golgari Guild Kits.  This week I will review the Selesnya guild kit.

The front of the box is another window box, this time featuring a foil alternate art of Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice.  You can see the Selesnya pin at the bottom of the box.  (This pin looks especially snazzy…The tree looks professional and eye catching.)

The back of the box has three pics that show off some of the product, and some information…and in bold…KNOW THAT YOU FIGHT WITH THE MIGHT OF LIFE UNITED!

In the story of the city-plane of Ravnica, there are ten guilds.  The Selesnya Conclave  (Green and White) are about working together for the greater good.  These cards are known to produce tokens quickly…lots of small creatures that work together to summon larger creatures or do other effects.  They also use musical terminology.  Like the word “Chorus”

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The box opens and a transparent tray slides out…this is useless packaging, by the way, for all the effort that went into it.  Here’s what you see.

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And here are the contents loosed.

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You get, from left to right in a circle…the deck, a “pamphlet” with information and artwork about the guild, as well as the all important decklist, a Selesnya pin, a Selesnya symbol sticker, a deckbox, and the foil featured card.

Here is a closer look at the pamphlet.

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I am especially fond of Tolsimir Wolfblood.  That is a pretty painting.

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The inside of the pamphlet contains a poetic and flavorful description of the guild, and also the decklist.

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Here is a look at Trostani.

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The important word here is POPULATE.  Populate means you can copy a crature token by paying that price, one colorless, one green, and one white.  Trostani would make a great commander.  But she is going to get jammed into Atraxa commander decks.

So what other cards are there?

Here are some pics, with commentary about the most important cards.

First, the rares.

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I am not real familiar with some of these cards.  I have a few of them, but have never played them competitively or causally.  But there is one standout here that I have seen across the table…Privileged Position.  Other permanents you control have HEXPROOF.

So…Black doesn’t easily get rid of enchantments…I generally play black…so guess what this means?  The person I was playing against that had this card whipped me bad!  My kill spells were useless.

I suppose I should mention Glare of Subdual and Growing Ranks.  Growing Ranks produces a copy of a token at every upkeep.  8/8 Grove of the Guardian token with Vigialance…No problem…Have two!  But it is Glare of Subdual that is backbreaking.  Your opponent works hard to build a big crature base, and other stuff.  But you can just tap your saprolings or other creatures, and tap down their big stuff in response to moving to combat…You can really frustrate some opponents this way.

Next, the tokens.  Double sided!  One side Saprolings.  The other…different other creatures.  Centaurs are sort of iconic for Green and White.

 

Next the common and uncommon creatures.

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Not bad.  I have sided Dryad Militant in a few times when playing White Weenie.

The lands.  Four Selesnya Guildgates…duals that enter tapped, Selesnya Sanctuary, Duals that enter tapped AND require you to return another land to your hand, with the upside of producing one of each color when you finally get to tap it.  And last…GREEN AND White GUILD LANDS.  (Awesome.)

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As I said in my last two reviews.  The wizards should have reprinted four copies of the shock lands here.  Or at least included one copy.  They wouldn’t even have broken the market.  Those lands are worth about $8.00 apiece.  And they are needed in Modern, and currently legal in Standard.

The last pics of the cards are of the other spells.

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Everything here is functional.  But not outstanding.  I am a fan of the charms.  Selesnya Signet and the other signets are the best “mana rocks” generally available…(I mean Sol RIng and Black Lotus are better…arguably…Lions Eye Diamond…But those are a different game than Kitchen Table “Guild Kit”)

 

 

PLAYING THE DECK

This deck’s record at the SpartanNerd house.

Dimir Guild Kit.  (two wins)

Golgari Guild Kit (One Win)

Jace (V. Chandra) duel deck (Two Wins)

Face the Hydra challenge deck.  (One win, One loss)

Defeat a God challenge deck. (one win)

Ajani (Vs. Nicol Bolas) Duel deck.  (One win, One Loss.)

The Selesnya Deck is selling at some online stores for 50+ dollars.  And the secret is Priveledged Position.  Some people are buying this deck just for that card.  It was a much needed re-print, and was around $25…(That value has tanked because of the reprint about 50%) . And why?  You resolve that card…all those tokens you have get hexproof.  No fun for your opponents except for when they force you to sacrifice, or when they can match you in battle.  The Hydra challenge deck thing…that is what it is…it starts off with creatures before the game even begins.  But the combo of quality, efficient cratures, plus token generators, plus populate, plus convoke, plus Priveledged Position…the odds are against other casual decks winning.

But it is th las match that is of the most interest…Ajani’s deck is mostly the same colors with a splash of red.  We found this to be a terrific match-up!

SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF THE SELESNYA GUILD KIT.

This deck is amazing as a preconstructed product.  BUT…it doesn’t seem to be balanced well against the other decks in the Guild Kit series…at least the other two I own.  Which takes the fun out of that Battle Box idea, doesn’t it.

The deckbox is the same as the Dimir and Golgari boxes.  Basic card-board with a top loader design.  Nothing great, but it can hold sleeved cards plus the tokens.

I rate this one a 4/5 only because of its seeming unbalance.  It is great to get a great pre-constructed deck, though.

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

 

(Remember, the SpartanNerd is gauging whether or not to let SpartanNerd.Com go dark, or not.  You feedback is valuable!  So far, I think I am hanging on.)

 

 

Golgari Guild Kit…Guilds of Ravnica…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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I am continuing my series of reviews on the Guilds of Ravnica Guild Kits.  Last week I reviewed the Dimir set.  This week I will review the Golgari.

The front of the box is another window box, this time featuring a foil alternate art of Izoni, Thousand Eyes.  You can see the Golgari pin at the bottom of the box.

The back of the box has three pics that show off some of the product, and some information…and in bold…Let your foes fear the wrath of the underworld.

In the story of the city-plane of Ravnica, there are ten guilds.  The Golgari guild is all about the synergy of life and death.  (Green and Black.) . There are cards about rot and fertilizer and decay.  And cards that show how life is born from this process.  It is the home of insects and gorgons and zombies…and similar.

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The box opens and a transparent tray slides out…this is useless packaging, by the way, for all the effort that went into it.  Here’s what you see.

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And here ate the contents loosed.

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You get, from left to right in a circle…the deck, with the incredible Deathrite Shaman on top, a “pamphlet” with information and artwork about the guild, as well as the all important decklist, a Golgari pin (NICE!), a Golgari symbol sticker, a deckbox, and the foil featured card.

Here is a closer look at the pamphlet.

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The decklist.  SO HANDY.  I know I will be borrowing Abrupt Decay, Golgari Charm, Deathrite Shaman, and so many other of these cards in the future.

Here is a picture of Izoni, Thousand-Eyed, which is big enough for you to read.  AND I feel this art is better than the regular art.  You can see some of Izoni’s figure.

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The Undergrowth ability is OK in decks that load their graveyard easily.  In Standard right now this isn’t that hard with Stitcher’s Supplier, a one-drop zombie that makes you mill cards when he enters the battlefield or when he dies.  (But this isn’t a Standard Deck, and Stitcher’s Supplier is in a different set.)

Izoni might make a good commander, or at least fit well in Maren, Nel Toth’s deck.  (A deck that cares about your creatures dying.)

So what other cards are there?

Here are some pics, with commentary about the most important cards.

First, the rares.

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And I knew all of these cards!  Deathrite Shaman…so abusable he is banned in Modern.  Lotleth Troll…discard cards to pump him.  And he can be regenerated.  Savvra…she wants you to sacrifice your stuff for advantages…and Jaraad, Lich Lord…you can get him back easily from the graveyard.  Abrupt Decay.  At one time the best removal in Modern that wasn’t white.  AND when Tiny Leaders was a thing, this card skyrocketed in price.   And Deadbridge Chant…a card that looks like a creature but is actually an enchantment.

The amount of rares here is impressive, with three of them being additional Green and Black commanders if you want to try and build it…or just awesome things to add to Maren.

Next, the tokens.  Double sided!  One side insects.  The other saprolings.

Next the common and uncommon creatures.

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Also an impressive lineup, with little repetition.  I particularly like Plaguecrafter…who beats Fleshbag Marauder because he also causes players to discard a card.  And good old Stinkweed Imp.  Dredge 5 is broken.

The lands.  Four Golgari Guildgates…duals that enter tapped, Golgari Rot Farm, Duals that enter tapped AND require you to return another land to your hand, with the upside of producing one of each color when you finally get to tap it.  And last…GREEN AND BLACK GUILD LANDS.  (Awesome.)

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As I said in my last review.  The wizards should have reprinted four copies of the shock lands here.  Or at least included one copy.  They wouldn’t even have broken the market.  Those lands are worth about $8.00 apiece.  And they are needed in Modern, and currently legal in Standard.

The last pics of the cards are of the other spells.

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Golgari Charm and Treasured find are the awesome cards here.  Treasured find.  Get whatever card you want back out of the graveyard and put it in your hand.  Golgari Charm does three things at instant speed, and all of them are good.

PLAYING THE DECK

This deck’s record at the SpartanNerd house.

The Minotaur Horde challenge deck.  (One win)

Face the Hydra challenge deck.  (One win, One loss)

Defeat a God challenge deck. (one win)

Dimir Guild Kit deck.  (three losses.  But two of them were close.)

What does this say?  It is a pretty good deck.  In all of these, I don’t believe I have ever resolved Izoni.  Savvra was pretty good, and Jaraad is always good.

The deck has slowness issues because of the bad interaction between bounce lands and guldgates.

Abrupt Decay is a star!!!  And so is Deathrite Shaman.

SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF THE GOLGARI GUILD KIT.

I think it is terrific.  I am a fan of the color combination.  I like the reprints of the legendaries.  You know I felt that Dimir was kind of trying to do to many different things at once.  But this deck wants to attack, attack, attack.  And if something dies, it is probably good news because it will be back, or serve some use.

The deckbox is the same as the Dimir one.  Basic card-board with a top loader design.  Nothing great, but it can hold sleeved cards plus the tokens.

I rate this one a 4/5.  Mostly because of the slowness problem.  And it isn’t even that big a deal here, but there is a Boros one out there…that is where it is going to matter.  Red White just wants speed.  (But I am not reviewing that one…at least yet.)

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

 

(Remember, the SpartanNerd is gauging whether or not to let SpartanNerd.Com go dark, or not.  You feedback is valuable!)

 

 

Keyforge…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

I visited the Tangled Web in Spartanburg, SC, when I was presented with these decks for the first time.  Never heard of the game.  I purchased one for me and the other for the SpartanKid at $10 apiece.  So what’s Keyforge all about?

Keyforge is a new type of collectible card game.  Emphasis on collectible.  Each deck is unique.  When you purchase a deck, you are not supposed to change it.  You are not to trade the cards, or sell them aftermarket as singles.  I was mystified at first of how this can possibly work.  But there are safeguards in place.

But first.  The decks come in little cardboard boxes, which I suggest keeping to store each deck.  Here is the back of the boxes.

You are taking control of the deck as an Archon (a stand-in for Planeswalker), and are battling another Archon in a place called the Crucible.  (Not very original.) . I would like to point out that Richard Garfield designed this game.  So he absolutely has a right to riff on his other little creation…MAGIC: THE GATHERING.

What’s in the box?  Well the decks are sealed in cellophane with a cigarette wrapper.  And this top card is the decklist for each deck.  Both decks have a unique name…”Fatebreaker Brumhilde Landchess” and “Flashgrin, the Conscript of Knives.”  This name also is printed on the back of each card, as well as in the bottom corner.  Daniel Maccabee (the owener of the Tangled Web) explaned to me that in a sanctioned tournament (not happening anywhere yet, ) you would have to have the decklist to prove your deck is genuine and untampered with.

Each deck comes with an identity card as well.  This is where you are supposed to place your “Aember,” which is how you win the game, as well as chains and other counters that the game produces.  Each one is unique, and displays the “houses” that each deck is made of.

(This game requires you to declare a house for each turn…only cards from that house can do anything.  The three houses from  Fatebreaker Brumhilde Landchess are LOGOS, MARS, and DIS.  The three houses from Flashgrin, the Conscript of Knives are UNTAMED, DIS, and SANCTUM.

So here is a picture of the cards from each deck.  The art is reminiscent of FORTNITE, in my opinion.  Not exactly….but cartoony in a similar way.  (SpartanKid dissents from this opinion.  How about you?)

Fatebreaker Brumhilde Landchess

Flashgrin, the Conscript of Knives

PLAYING THE GAME.

This game has a few moving parts.  First of all, the aforementioned houses.  You declare a house each turn, and can only use cards from that house.

The purpose of the game is to forge keys.  (Imagine that…Keyforge…) . If you forge three keys, you win the game.

The battle system is creature on creature…similar to Yu Gi Oh.   You also have Artifacts, Action Cards (sorceries), and Upgrades (Enchantment Auras in MTG).  Everything pretty much takes place on the active player’s turn.  There is no “instant speed” yet in this game.  There is a discard pile, an exile zone, and an “archive” (exiled face down to play).  Oddly, the draw step is at the end of each turn.

The houses feel like the colors of MTG.  There are ten different houses, but me and the SpartanKid only got to experience five.  In short, LOGOS feels like it is blue combo.  DIS feels like it is black sacrifice.  MARS feels like red goblins, UNTAMED feels like green creatures, and SANCTUM feels like white weenie.

I personally think it is novel to have a unique deck…one unlike anyone else’s.  But there were some glaring weaknesses in these two decks.  For instance, I have a DIS card called Sacrificial Altar, where you are supposed to sacrifice a human to draw a card.  But…there are only two humans in the deck.   It seems that the other deck has more doubles, creating a more consistent deck…and plays UNTAMED but is lacking creatures in that house.

I saw where one deck creates Aember more easily by only playing cards.  The other wants you to work extra hard to create that aember.

 

I could see a person getting a great deck…and then another getting a really bad deck.  The great decks will inevitably start selling in the secondary market for a bunch.  The others…they will become bulk.

 

I suppose it is too early, and I don’t have that much experience with this game to really make a rating…I am pleased sort of with the novelty of the idea.  I think this game will probably suffer from some of the after-market problems that other card games suffer from.

 

For now, I am going to rate this a cautious 3/5.  I don’t necessarily feel the urge to play this game that much more often.  On the other hand, if I bought a better deck, I might enjoy it more.  (But that would be $10 more for a product sight-unseen.) . I guess we will see!

 

SPARTANKID’S THOUGHTS.

 

Keyforge, (at least to me) was a blast. it had instantly immersive gameplay, cool art, and not-too familiar but similar mechanics to mtg. as each deck is unseen by the eyes of anybody else, you have something that only one exists of. that, in my opinion, is a brilliant marketing gimmick to get money from players, and occupy them. it worked for me, as i’m loving the fact that they figured out how to mass produce custom decks. Flashgrin, the Conscript of Knives won me the only game i have so far played, and i enjoyed it. my father, i believe, is biased because he thinks i got a better deck, but i did not, my duplicates were basically all in UNTAMED, and so i only had two UNTAMED creatures, and only one of which was even a good card.

 

i rate Keyforge a 4/5, not believing it is 5/5 material like magic or yugoh, but it would still be fun to sit down and play casually (or competitively) every once in awhile.

Kubros He-Man…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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I received this from the SpartanWife for Christmas. I’m thankful for it…but this isn’t a product that I picked up on my own on purpose…Why you ask?

I saw this…and the Skeletor on the shelves at Wal-Mart for around $12 (I believe).    If you’ve been reading the SpartanNerd blog, then you know that I have been getting a subscription to a mystery box from Funko featuring DC comics characters for a year.  This box has been fantastic…and sometimes includes unexpected and quirky things.  But mainly it features Funko Pop! figures.  I take these figures and put them around my middle school classroom, where the children really mostly enjoy them.

To me, the Kubros are trying too hard to be Funko Pop!.  The figures are basic deformed…and because they are meant to be a Lego-style pop figure, the mouths on all of them look pretty wrong, and in the case of He-Man, the eyes do too.

Maybe I changed my mind…Keep reading!

The front of the box looks like what you see above!  The sides of the box feature Filmation style He-Man pics.  And the back looks like this…featuring Skeletor, Spock, Master Chief, Ezio (who?), and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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So the brand IS trying to make a diverse array of stylized characters.  I find it interesting that there are 25 different characters being offered…

Down at the bottom, notice that this is a MEGABLOKS product.  Did you know that Mattel just purchased MEGABLOKS, and that recently they renamed them MEGA CONSTRUX?  Not sure where this leaves the Kubros figures…but it seems Mattel had the licenses to make toys of all the things pictured…(MOTU, Star Trek, Terminator, Halo.)

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Opening the box…SURPRISE.  the box is lined with stylized Kubros art.  This reminds me exactly of what Funko did with their mystery box.  And then there are those creepy eyeballs again…

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So what’s inside?

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Five polybags of pieces, and an instruction book.

It took me about 30 minutes to build this figure.  A couple of notable things…the eyes are not stickers…they are pieced together.  I dropped the eyelid…there really is no replacing that.  Luckily, I found it.  The back of one foot has a hole in it, and this was mysterious to me until the very end.  It is where you place the “K” emblem which stands for Kubros.

The basic assembly is three steps.  First the head, which is made of layer after layer of “skinny” bricks.  The legs and body are all one big step basically.  And finally the weapons.

The eyes gave me a hard time, but I think it was the arms and hands that had me scratching my head.  One of the shoulder pieces was hiding under something until the build was almost completely over.  I was going into “compromise mode,” when suddenly the SpartanKid found it!

Here is the finished product.

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Slightly smaller that I expected…the box made me think he would be larger.

Here is a comparison to Masters of the Universe Classics He-Man.

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Comical, I know.  This reminds me of Groo vs. Conan.  (Which I haven’t read…only seen the covers of.)

After you build the Kubro, the only display options you have are to use weapons or not.  You can move his arms at the shoulder, and his neck is also articulated as a peg-joint swivel.

I am going to rate the Kubros He-Man a 2/5.  Sorry guys…As a Mattel Lego…not doing it for me the same way as the recent Mega Construx Heroes.  This design doesn’t work as well as a POP! figure.  The line of studs for teeth in the mouth…the strange looking eyes.  Where is his nose?   And He-Man doesn’t have THAT SEVERE of eyebrows.  They got the “fish head” haircut shape OK.  But where is the cross or 200x symbol on his chest?  To be fair, it doesn’t seem that Skeletor or Spock have proper symbols either from the images provided.

This figure is going in my classroom, or maybe my office…Adding to my collection of pop style figures.  It is OK…I think the Kubros brand is just TRYING TOO HARD to establish something in a market that is already flooded with successful products like Funko POP!  Kubros isn’t adding anything to any of these brands, other than throwing out more plastic to completist collectors.

So the SpartanNerd rates the Kubros He-Man at 2/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

From the Vault: Transform…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

I’ve been playing Magic, the Gathering for some years now, but this is the first time I’ve purchased a From the Fault product.  I DID purchase the dated “Graveborn” Premium Deck, which was an all-foil set.  I was highly tempted to get From the Vault: Angels last year, but never saw it anywhere for retail price.  (I had most of the angels anyway.)

 

This being my first one, I thought I would really take a look at the packaging.  This roduct feels like something a collector might like to keep MIB.  I don’t see the fun in that, but it is what some people do.  After spending time with this package, I’ve decided I am going to keep it to store the cards that I am not currently using.  It looks very nice.  The front is glossy and colorful with blue and orange graphics.  The back show off an image of one of the sides of each of the cards in the set.  There is a contents list on the bottom, and a message about the nature of the transforming cards.

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It opens up nicely, revealing the frontside of Huntmaster of the Fells, the backside of Liliana, Heretical Healer, and the frontside of Delver of Secrets.  You totally could stop here and just prop this product up on display somewhere.

The box feels like a display box, and upon further exploration, I discovered the correct way to open it.

 

There is a magnetic flap!  So you don’t even have to destroy the package.  NICE!

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Here’s what’s inside.

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The cards come in three cigarette wrappers.  There is a spindown life counter with a special From the Vault Transform symbol, and a nice informational poster.  Let’s look at that.

 

Nice art, with a description of each card and the story that goes along with it.  That is a nice picture of the new Delver of Secrets art, and yet another picture of Gideon on the other side.  (Gideon is very often depicted in promotional media like this.)

Now let’s look at and discuss the cards.

First of all, upon opening each pack, I discovered that they were stuck together.  I mean.  STUCK. TO. GETHER.

These cards have a special foil treatment, on both sides.  I have owned a couple of FTV printings, one of VESUVA and another of AKROMA, ANGEL OF WRATH, and those cards have the same foil treatment, but only on one side.  These cards being double sided…I guess what I’m saying is the foil treatment being on both sides is what made them glue each other together.  And it was pretty stout.  I mean, Bruna, the Fading Light was stuck to Elbrus the Binding Blade and Chandra was stuck to the Ixalan card while I began photographing.  I hadn’t even noticed!  Now separating them wasn’t scary, and there didn’t seem to be any accidents…no scratches or anything.  I just want to point out that this happened to the SpartanNerd the first time he opened a sealed From the Vault.

So here are the cards with some commentary.

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Garruk Relentless//Garruk, the Veil Cursed.

The first double sided planeswalker, and notable at that…he flips when he has a loyalty for two or less.  He is a token generator, and essentially a planeswalker with five abilities not counting the transform mechanic.  Having said all this, this is the least played of all of the cards in this set.  It is nice that they paid some attention to Garruk, however.  He hasn’t been seen since M14, when he was killing other planeswalkers all over the place.  The Wizards have decided to feature Nissa mainly as the green planeswalker mascot.

Chandra, Fire of Kaledesh//Chandra, Roaring Flame

This set features all five of the Magic Origins planeswalkers.  These each have a creature card on one side, that transforms into a planeswalker.  Chandra is the mascot for red burn strategies.  This card is a slow shock effect, and frankly a little hard to get transformed into the planeswalker form.  IF you do ever get her to level up to Chandra, Roaring Flame, you still don’t have that great of a planeswalker for all of your effort.  I supposed if you made Chandra a Commander, you might be able to do something with her.  I am placing her in my Archangel Avacyn commander deck.  (I played a match that heavily featured Chandra.  In Commander, she isn’t so bad when you have a board presence and every little bit of damage you can deal counts.)

Liliana, Heretical Healer//Liliana, Defiant Necromancer

I have been slowly building an entire foil mono-black Liliana tribal deck.  I have the stamped foil of this card, and thought that would be the prettiest version.  I was wrong.  The From the Vault printing with the extra awesome foil on both sides wins.  So I guess I am going to upgrade!

As far as all of these cards go, Liliana is the most popular commander.  She saw some fringe Standard play in her day, and still sees some Modern play sometimes in rack and zombie decks.  It is pretty easy in black to get her to flip, and then Liliana Defiant Necromancer is pretty close to Liliana of the Veil, clearly the best and most useful of Modern-legal planeswalkers.

Speaking of my Liliana tribal commander deck, the rules change that came with the release of Ixalan now lets me have multiple Lilianas out at a time.  And since I have each printing….

Huntmaster of the fells//Ravager of the Fells

A card that beat me a ton when I first began playing MTG.  I began playing in tournaments during Dark Ascension.  The Huntmaster is the definitive werewolf.

I haven’t seen this card played in Modern in awhile.  Modern wants to be a three-turn win format (It remains a four turn, teetering on three turn.), and because this card is a four drop that doesn’t have haste, it’s a little slow.  But if you can get it going, then it can win games all on its own.  Remember Kalitas?  Kalitas himself is just good enough.  And the Huntmaster of the Fells is also.

Arguel’s Blood Fast//Temple of Alcazotz

When I saw this, I said, “What??? Whoever heard of that card?”  Turns out that it is a new card from Ixalan.  This one transforms from enchantment to land.  I think this will be a nice addition to my Liliana tribal commander deck, as Necropotence is one of the things.  (Pay life for cards is a sub theme.)  The backside of the card is a powerful sac outlet.

Is this card a thing in Standard right now?  I’m not sure.  I have been out of the Standard scene for awhile.  I do have a Tezzeret deck, but have only played in two Ixalan standard tournaments.  This card has definitely not been on my radar.

Is there a precedent for this?  A Standard card in a From the Vault set?  I think they used to actually put preview cards in From the Vault sets.  So that would be pre-standard…

Arlinn Kord//Arlinn, Embraced By the Moon

Here’s one that I saw played in Standard back before the last rotation every now and then.  The “Shadows Over Inistraad” block didn’t feature as strong of a werewolf mechanic as did the original Inistraad.  Here we have a werewolf planeswalker.  She is also a planeswalker with five abilites, like Garruk, and she also makes wolves.  (Like Garruk.)  For werewolf tribal purposes, Arlinn is a must have.

Unfortunately, there is only one viable werewolf commander, Ulrich Krallenhorde, and he isn’t too great.  Still, if you are into that, jam Arlinn Kord into your deck.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer//Nissa, Sage Animist

Here is an Origins planeswalker that did see play in standard.  Really, anything that ramps for cheap works for green.  People would cram four copies of this in their deck, and play it to get out the lands they needed, and eventually they would do this and flip one of them, and proceed to have huge advantage on the board. This is one I was glad to see rotate out!

I haven’t seen her play in Modern, however.

Kytheon, Hero of Aroas//Gideon, Battle-Forged

Nothing to see here.  Move along.

(Just kidding.)  Really, this card didn’t see much play in Standard, and hasn’t in Modern or Commander either.  I think he is under-appreciated, and he probably would have fit better back in M13 standard.

He is basically a one-drop planeswalker.  That isn’t Tibalt.  So that’s something!

I think he is waiting for the right White Weenie moment to come along.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy//Jace, Telepath Unbound

And here is the money card in the set.  Jace can be had for about $25, regular printing, and $35 in foil outside of this set.  Back when he was Standard legal, he fetched $4o or more for the regular, not foil version.

Why is he so good?  He is a two drop looting creature.  You can play him early game or late game, and he is still good.  When you do his loot ability, if you have five or more cards in the graveyard, he becomes an incredible control planeswalker, with a negative three ability that lets you reliably snapcaster an instant or sorcery from your graveyard.

Is he better than Snapcaster Mage?  I don’t think so.  Almost nothing can beat the flash-in flashbacker, who becomes a great surprise chump blocker and lets you get something out of your graveyard.  Jace has to sit there for a turn before you can even activate his ability.  But he is still useful, and if you can get him to flip and keep him on board, you get great card advantage.

I’ve heard of Jace played in almost every format, even Commander.  This might be the best card in this set.  Except it’s not…

Delver of Secrets//Insectile Aberation

This probably is (the best card.)  Not many Magic the Gathering cards are as good as Delver.  And he’s a common!  So this card doesn’t cost a ton to own four copies.  But this special art special foil printing is bound to be popular with people who relaly like hitting their opponents hard and fast.

Delver is great.  He gets you card advantage.  You don’t have to trigger his transform ability if you don’t want to.  If you do want to, on turn  you can begin wrecking your opponent in the air.

Check this scenerio.  Turn one, shock in Breeding Pool.  Play Delver of Secrets.  Turn two, reveal Giant growth from the top of your library, flip your Delver  Play your Forest as land for the turn.  Declare attack for 3 in the air.  Hit Insectile Aberation with Giant Growth twice, (Because you started with one in your opening hand.)  You brought nine damage in the air on turn two.  Congratulations.  You are a jerk!

Delver is played in every eternal format.  Because he is eternally good.  That’s why!

Archangel Avacyn//Avacyn the Purifier

This is one of the funnest cards in the set.  She has Flash.  Flying.  Vigilance.  Makes things Indestructible, Sweltering Suns.  All in one Legally Blonde package.  Lots of flavor here, too.  If you followed the story of Shadows Over Inistraad, you saw Avacyn twist into a self-righteous evil.  When you Flash her in (Angel to the rescue!) everyone else on your team has indestructible until the end of turn.  And incredible shock to your opponent if you played her from your hand.  An incredible threat if she is your Commander.  And when she flips, (because one of your non-token cratures died,) she hits everything on the board for 3, and lightning bolts your opponent (s) as well.  And yes.  That’s Commander Damage!

Fun!  If you like a card that does stuff, look no further than this card.

Bloodline Keeper//Lord of Lineage

Here is the card that I think I will have the least use for.  Maybe not.  I like Vampires, and played Black Red vampires occasionally in the last Standard environment.  And here is where I think I am not that interested in building a Vampire Tibal Commander deck.  Vampires are OK.  But how often have I had a ton of them?  Not that often.

This guy is good, if you are interested in buiding such a deck.  Most Vampire decks have Olivia VOldaren as their Commander.  (She’s just sick!)  But maybe Kalitas would be good.  (No.  I know he would be good.  See above!)

Elbrus the Binding Blade//Withengar Unbound

I remember the first time I saw this card.  I knew I had to have it!  The flavor of the thing is pretty cool.  This was in the very early days of playing MTG for me, and the idea of getting that giant flyer out and smashing people was just awesome.  I had alot to learn…it is pretty hard to get seven mana to play an equipment.  Then pay to equip that to a viable attacker.  It really is pretty hard.  (I was playing this in Standard, belive it or not!)

Now Elbrus remains one of my favorite cards.  And to have this incredibly cool foi printing is just great.  And it is something else to put into Liliana’s Commander deck!

I left the weirdest for last…

Bruna,the Fading Light//…//Gisela, the Broken Blade/////Brisela, Voice of Nightmares

Weird.

Basically, the Wizards pushed the transform mechanic as far as it could go, inventing the meld mechanic, and making six cards with the ability.  Melding pieces two halves of a card on the backside of two creatures, combining them together into an eldrazi.  Brisela here represents that, as she was the best example of a played meld pair in Standard.

Gisela actually made her way into decks that didn’t feature her other half.  She is a good angel, with Flying, First Strike, and Lifelink.

It is Bruna that makes this a devastating thing.  Say you played Gisela early on, and the opponent doom bladed her.  No problem.  Play your Bruna in your second main phase (turn six or seven) and at the end step, you have Brisela!  An incredob;e 9/10 flying vigilance lifelink first strike hate machine!

THE SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF FROM THE VAULT TRANSFORM

Well.  A couple of things.  The cards sticking together is a little unnerving.  I don’t know when these were printed and packaged, but I imagine the problem might be worse if they sit unopened on a store shelf for a long period of time.  I immediately put “snugs” on mine.  (form fitting side loading card sleeves for double sleeving.)

What’s here is good.  But I think there is a glaring ommision or two.  How about Westvale Abbey//Ormandahl, Profane Prince?  I could have taken this over the Vampire, or over the Arguel’s Blood Fast.  Thing in the Ice…Hello!

The Wizards also ignored Morph and Champions of Kamigawa Flip cards.  Maybe it was economically better for the Wizards to print the double sided cards instead, but if they wanted us to get maximum power out of similar mechanics, when we could have done with Nazumi Graverobber or Willbender.

But I am happy enough.  The new printings of Liliana, Jace, Withengar, the three angels, and Garruk make me pretty happy.  I don’t play much red-green, but I am glad the Wizards printed Huntmaster of the Fells, which is about a $12 card.

The value I got for $39.99 (retail) at the Tangled Web in Spartanburg was very nice.  You already can’t find this product cheaper than $65 on TCGplayer.com.  And if the story of From the Vault Angels happens to From the Vault Transform, then it will eventually make its way above $80.

So I am happy to rate this product at 4/5, marking off because the cards sticking together worries me a little bit.  It is a great selection of cards, that came in a nice, displayable package.

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

Goblins Vs. Merfolk Duel Decks…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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

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

PACKAGING.

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

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

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

Here’s what’s in that package.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE DECKS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

MERFOLK

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

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

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

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

GOBLINS

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW THE DECKS PLAY OUT.

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

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

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

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

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

 

***I eventually DID pick up the “Mind Vs. Might” Duel Decjs.  As told by everyone else, one there is no balance at all.  One deck gets early advantage and then pancakes the other.  However, notable that each deck contained ten rares, and also the storage boxes are of the same design we have with Merfolk Vs. Goblins.  Incidentally, I got mine for $8 off of TCGplayer!  I am going to piece these out, and am excited about making a commander deck with the blue/red legendary.