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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Now for the cards!IMG_0303

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

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

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

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

Which means we have instant and sorcery cards remaining.

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

Playing the deck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review- “Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas” Duel Deck (Vintage Review)

If you can call decks this young “vintage,” that is.  It has only been about five years since they were first released.  That was around the time I was discovering trading card games.  Bolas was THE BEAST back then, and he recieved a reprint in M13 when I began playing in tournaments, and I would see him on my opponents side of the table, and be envious.  Good times!

I saw the Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas” duel deck at the Tangled Web behind the counter, and asked about it.  I purchased it for $45…let’s remember this is an item you just don’t see on a shelf anymore….I was looking for stuff like this when I went to the Hickory Con, but just couldn’t find anything, at least that I  could afford…

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Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas comes in this foil box.  We get some information about this story…clearly Ajani is outmatched…but at least you can play him on turn four.  Bolas is an EIGHT DROP.  Bolas destroyed a plane called Alara, and Ajani is mad.  That summarizes it.

For this review, I hope to show some of the older elements that I find.

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Here is what you get in the box.  The deck boxes are pretty, but once again useless for sleeved cards.  This time I am going to cut these up and glue them to Dragon Shields boxes…Ivory for Ajani, and Maroon for Bolas.

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The artwork here … we see Bolas from a different angle in this art.  We see what might be the size difference between the two characters.

Here is the deck list for each deck.

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Here’s one of those old elements I was talking about…the guide to playing magic!  This poster gives you a lot of information.  In fact, I believe when me and the SpartanChildren began to play this game, we kept this same item on hand for reference.

Nowadays the wizards just use a tiny little card that doesn’t explain much.

OK ALREADY.  LETS UNWRAP SOME CARDS!

First, Ajani’s deck.

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Kird Ape.  The poster boy for red-green decks.  I was surprised to see green cards…I guess Ajani held is battle on the shard of Naya.  Wild Nacatl, a posterboy for Naya (red-green-white.)  Wild Nacatl has a legacy of being banned in modern, but recently was taken off of the banlist.

We’ve seen the pridemate printed a few times it seems.

IMG_9300.jpgQasali Pridemage has been printed a few times as well.  He is good…with exalted and a control ability.

IMG_9301.jpgLightning Helix…now we’re talking!  a great card.

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Here we have useful to rediculous cards.  Naya Charm…if it’s a charm, it’s good.  Titanic Ultimatum…the opposite of Cruel Ultimatun…a spell of rediculous power, that demands intense color loyalty.

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Ajani goes after Bolas with lots of different land options.  Notice “Evolving Wilds…”  The Jungle Shrine is a Tri-Land, one that I didn’t have.  Sapseep Forest…is a FOREST.  You can tutor for it with a real fetch.  (Not with evolving wilds.)  I belive I had Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree already.

Ajani’s deck is a dedicated aggro deck with a few tricks.  It yells the colors of Naya.  And it does what those colors do.  The green makes bigger creatures.  The white gains life.  The red does damage.  All of Ajani’s stuff can impact the game in a big way.

Nicol Bolas’ deck

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Bolas’ deck is obviously of Grixis…the shard that represents his evil alignment.  From Faerie to Toads to Hounds.  Bolas deck looks to be slower right away, and that is because his deck is poised to be a control deck.  Each card has a fun controlling effect.  The Morgue Toad is a card that scrams “GRIXIS.”

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I never owned a Moroii before.  Apparently an infamous flyer that hurts you each turn.  He has a drawback for all the power he has to offer, similar to the demons in the duel deck with Lord of the Pit.  Shriekmaw…this guy belongs in every casual black deck.  Blazing Specter unsurpsingly makes someone discard a card.  The specter family of cards typically do something with cards in hand.

Vapor Snag.  NICE.  I have a foil from Modern Masters, and I think I will make my first swap.

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More control.  Countersquall.  Recoil.  Undermine.  Icy Manipulator.  (The manipulator has brought me a few win!)  Just more control.

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And even more control.  Profane Command could only be supplanted by Similagar’s command, which wouldn’t be printed for another five years.  Come on guys.  Why not Cryptic Command?  🙂  Turn/Burn, Pain/Suffering.  Bolas has to cheat.  So why not draw two different cards when he was only supposed to draw one!

And then the imfamous Cruel Ultimatum.  Wow.  The card that won MTG pro finals back in 2011.  But like the other Ultimatum in this collection, it is color intensive.  You have to have everything lined up just right to get it to work.  Cruel is better than Titanic because Titanic is meant to be announced before attackers are declared.  Your window of opportunity is wider with Cruel Ultimatum.  Take away their life irregardless of blockers.  Make them ditch cards, and get one of Bolas’ few but great creatures back from the graveyard.

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Bolas doesn’t have as many special lands as Ajani.  He gets two Tri-Lands.  (That’s only fiar.)  He gets two copiews of Terramorphic Expanse (See what they did there.  The two cards have opposing flavor but are functional reprints.)  And then there’s Rupture Spire, which is a City of Brass with the caveat of entering tapped and having to have a many spent on it.  (You don’t have to lose life.)

So who’s better?  Playing the decks

I say, Bolas’ deck has a better plan.  Deal with whatever Ajani throws at him.    That’s what makes this deck fun.  But Ajani can “run over” Bolas before he can win.  And that means these two are perfectly balanced.  So far, I have played eight matches between the two, and both have four wins.  GREAT WORK, WIZARDS (Five years later.)  The decks are fun.  Just remember, AGGRO for Ajani.  CONTROL for Bolas.  Have small fast creatures in your opeing hand with Ajani.  Have fast removal and card draw in Bolas CONTROL deck.

DID THE SPARTANNERD GET A GOOD DEAL.

Here is what some of my readers is asking.

The Duel Deck version of Ajani and of Bolas, in premium foil, are about a $6 value.

Wild Nacatl and Kird Ape get you about $4 (together).

So I’m at $16…

Lightning Helix will get you about $6.00.

So I’m at $21…

Changing tactics.  That was TCG player.  Lets look at MTGprice.com

Basically, I got a $70 value for about about $45.  Not bad!

I rate this great product 5/5.  It has wonderful flavor, and I got a great deal.  I will happily add this to my Duel Decks collection!