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