SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Guided By Nature Commander Deck

Should I call this a “Vintage Review”?  Surely not!  I went on a hunt for this deck when I heard the news that the Wizards are going to be re-printing the deck as a part of next Summer’s “Commander Anthology.”  That product is to contain four reprinted decks, and by adding Freylise’s “Guided By Nature” deck to my collection, I already own three of the four decks!  (The other decks are “Invasive Manuevers,” “Plunder the Graves,” and the money-card loaded “Heavenly Inferno” which is the only deck I don’t have.)

I picked up my copy at Toys-R-Us.  Yes.  Still on the shelf.  I paid $40.  MSRP was $35.  But this deck is selling on the internet for way more money.  And I could piece it out and get well over my $40 worth of cards back if I wanted to.

I owned two of the Commander 2014 decks already, Ob Nixilis and Nahiri the Lithomancer.  I truly hadn’t stopped to appreciate Freylise’s deck until the Wizards brought so much attention to it.  I have found it to be a thing of beauty, and certainly worthy of a re-print.

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“Guided By Nature” came in this traditional window box packaging, showcasing the Planeswalker Freylise, who can also be used as a Commander.  We are told it is a 100 card deck, and there are 15 new Magic cards in the deck.

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On the back we see some of those new cards.  We get lots of propaganda.  You can see the names of the other two decks I don’t have, “Built from Scratch” and “Peer Through Time.”  This doesn’t really inspire me to get Deretti, Scrap Savant or Tefuri, Temporal Archmage’s decks.

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Freylise’s deck didn’t open any differently than the Ob Nixills deck.  You get the big splashy oversized card, a cellophane wrapped deck, a piece of poster just for this deck, the guide to playing Magic, and a pretty good deckbox, which has a tray inside that is more useful if you take it out.  The Guide to Playing Magic is completely useless for this Commander product, and should be disregarded by new players.  That guide only tells you how to play regular Magic, not Commander.

We get even more double sided tokens.  (The same cards are featured in both images, just flipped over.)I already expressed that I feel that it is likely more challenging to make double sided cards for the Wizards.  While they have access to the factory to do so, (for the main purpose of Origins Planeswalkers and Shadows Over Innistrad block), they have gotten lots of milage printing double sided tokens.  These are great!  And very useful as you play the game.

Should I show you a picture of plain basic lands…Nope.  I’ll skip that.

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We get these special lands.  Notable is Crystal Vein ad Havenwood Battleground.  These a “Sac Lands.”  Ghost Quarter, Haunted Fengraf, and Evolving Wilds are also quite useful.

So on with the real cards…

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So what does Freylise do?  Rolling her up gets you a mana elf.  You really want THAT in this deck!  Rolling her down will get you Naturalize.  And her -6 is important because that green card draw is hard to come by!

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We get two more commanders.  I have yet to try Titania.  But Ezuri is a super “elf lord,” and I couldn’t help but give him a try!

img_9413img_9414As usual, the rares are on top.  And you get an INCREDIBLE amount of them.  From Seer’s Sundial to Thunderous Baloth, to Beastmaster Ascencion.  The rares in this deck work wonders to bring you a win.  You get lots of regular green stuff too…stuff that should be in every green Commander deck, like Silklash Spider and Emerald Medallion.

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This deck is TRIBAL ELVES.  And that becomes clear when you look at the rest of the cards.

 

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Question:  How many mana elves does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

But you need this critical mass of elves to make some of the effects in the deck work.  Think by to Ezuri, the alternate commander.  Lots of elves means Ezuri wins!  It is also great that most of these creatures are small, with low converted-mana-cost.  That makes a card like Thunderous Baloth, with its Lieutenant ability, really shine!

img_9417And finally we get to some of the usual stuff.  Sol Ring has to be in EVERY deck.  Commander’s Sphere and Swiftfoot Boots.  Also worthy must includes.  Overrun.  How many times and different ways can you give your creatures +x/+x and trample?

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Here is the full decklist from the poster.

HOW DOES GUIDED BY NATURE PLAY OUT?

Great.  For real!  I haven’t seen this deck lose.  The mono-green elf strategy is tried and true, and the Wizards have given us one of the finest mono-green decks of this sort.

Can it be improved?  Absolutely.  Add some more expensive cards.  Craterhoof Behemoth.  Crucible of Worlds.  Gaia’s Cradle.  And so on!  Allosaurus Rider.  Nylea, God of the Hunt.

I see why this deck has elevated to Anthology level.  And am proud to own it.  I score it a 5/5.  I have found that “Evasive Maneuvers” and “Plunder the Graves” are also rated 5/5.  I can only imagine that “Heavenly Inferno” would be a 5/5 as well, but I think I can affort to piece that together rather than purchasing it.  Either way, I WON’T be getting the Commander Anthology this summer.  It would take some serious enticing, like foiling it out for me to change my mind.  I mean, I already own the bulk of the product!

The SpartanNerd gives Frealise’s “Guided By Nature” deck a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Commander 2014 “Sworn to Darkness” EDH Deck

This year, a big revision is made to the rules for Commander…Planeswalkers can now be your general!  I supposed technically only the five that were released for Commander 2014, but it isn’t much of a stretch to see all Planeswalkers allowed as commanders.  (Evidently some circles of players were already doing this regularly.)

The decks this year contrast the decks from the past two years, in that they are a single color.  At first I was like, “Mono-colored Commander decks…BORING!”  I didn’t do a lot of spoiler reading or anything, only really checking out what each Planeswalker Commander could do, and skimming deck lists for notable cards.  But after really looking at “Sworn to Darkness,” I see that this is one of the finest decks ever produced for the format!  (Remember, I unboxed and reviewed all five of the Commander 2013 sets.)

The first thing I have to say, though has nothing to do with the product so much.  Commander 2014 costs more than 2013.  $5 to $10 more.  I think when you see this review, you will see where that value is.

First, the packaging.

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A nice package.  I finally learned… (five decks later!)…That it is best to OPEN FROM THE BOTTOM!  Anyways, the package shows the oversized “Ob Nixilis, of the Black Oath” card, with flavorful purple styling complimenting the black shadows.  The yellow burst says that there are 15 brand new cards in this set.  It also says that there is a 100 card deck meant for multiplayer formats.  The backside of the deck shows Ob Nixilis again, along with five amazing cards, including Ghoulcaller Gisa, who we will revisit in a minute.  You get some hype about the deck, and that’s about it.

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Here are the contents.  Notably, this time, you only get one oversized foil card.  You get the same kind of deck box that we’ve seen before, which is really pretty nice.  All five of my others have stood the test of time!  You also get a guide to the deck, a general guide to playing Magic, (But commander is a variant, so…)  And then you also get the deck of course.  It’s cool that you get Ob Nixilis’s emblem on top.

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The propaganda that comes with the deck gives you some of Ob Nixilis’s story.  You also get a blurb about Gisa.  The other side most importantly features the decklist.    I suppose I should mention that I think the art is pretty good.  Ob Nixilis is a pretty detailed character, if he does have a boring color scheme.  But hey, he is “Of the Black Oath,” so I guess that is forgivable.  (or is it unforgivable…hmmmm.??)

The Deck

When you get the cellophane off of the deck…first you get a ton of tokens on top!

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But this time a new twist….DOUBLE SIDED TOKENS!  Great Idea, Wizards!

The backside of all of these cards is a Zombie.

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Alright already!  What does this deck really do?

There are so many rares…I’m not even sure how many.  Most of the cards in this deck!

I am going to present the cards as pictures with some commentary where appropriate.

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First the potential generals. Ob Nixiis of the Black Oath is VERY GOOD.  On turn five of every game, you have the opportunity to have a 5/5 flying demon.  WOW!  (That was his negative ability.)  Or you can choose to drain a little and plus him up 2.  But if you are able to get his ultimate to work, you can get a machine going

Ghoulcaller Gisa is a great sac outlet, and a way to get zombies out and over-run your opponent.  And this deck has plenty of fatties to sac!  (Anyone else notice that her initials are “GG”?

Then there’s Drana, who can destroy anything and swing in for nasty damage.  She really punishes large creature strategies.  But also she can be pumped by targeting your own creatures.

GG and Ob Nixilis are the two most obvious commanders for this deck.  It is good that we get Gisa in case some players object to the Planeswalker as a commander.

What else?  Here goes!  I will show you each rare with some commentary where it is most significant

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Morbid is some of what makes this deck fun! Here you get a 5/5 black demon with flying if something died this turn. And lots of things die with this deck, either to kill spells, in combat, or being sacrificed!

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I can’t say enough about Lashwrithe. If you get this on the field, then just pay two life to equip it, you make a creature with huge power. And then sac it with Gisa…BAM tons of zombie tokens!

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Wow. The first command I own!

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Black Sun Zenith. YES!

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I really don’t like the art on this one. Look closely….

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You get a suite of sweepers! The more stuff dies, the better creatures tend to get in this deck!

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Check out the next four cards.

 

 

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Sadly, I find the first major quality control issue I have ever seen in a new Magic the Gathering product.  I’m sure there is some machine somewhere that prints these cards and assembles the decks in a uniform order.  The machine must have been malfunctioning.  All of the cards, fromPestilence Demon through Bad Moon had a blueish ink spot on them.  At first I thought it might be part of Pestilence Demon’s art…it made it look extra pestilence-y.  But apparently not after seeing the same smear on the other cards.

 

I intend to call the Wizards and see what was up with this.  Anyone else had such an issue?  I also hear there are people who collect misprinted cards.*(nope.  See below)

 

 

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What? The D-word on the SpartanNerd blog?

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GRAVE TITAN! Someone somewhere has read where this is one of my top three favorite cards! It is one of the first rares I ever pulled from a booster pack! It continues to be amazing!

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Luitenant…a new mechanic for this set. It is way better than “tempting offer” in the last set.

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This guy is scary!

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Here is the opposite of Platinum Angel!

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How the deck plays.

As of this review I have played exactly three games with this deck.  I tried out Ob Nixilis and Gisa both as generals.  They are both excellent!.  I am trying to get out a speedy review, so I might update this section later.*

My first matchup was great because it was against a largely vanilla Prossh, Skyraider of Kher deck, from Commander 2013.  The matchup was about an hour and fifteen minutes long.  Prossh tries to get tokens on the battlefield and then sacrifice those to make stuff bigger.  Most of those tokens are chump blockers.  Eventually, I barely lost.  Both of us were drawing cards and finding win-cons.  Prossh was just more ready at the right time.

Ob Nixilis’s ability to get out 5/5 flying demons is killer!  You can do a lot with those.  Big flyers.  Sacrifice them to get card draw or beef stuff up.  Block chump flyers.  Or pile up and attack!  The +2 drain ability is the almost irrelevant part.  I never got to ultimate him, so haven’t tried out the emblem thing yet.  The Prossh deck made a lot of irrelevant tokens.  I was able to sweep those several times, while the 5/5 fliers lived on!  I was able to remove Prossh and other baddies by bouncing Shriekmaw a few times, at least once with Profane Command.  Also, Drana’s ability is a great removal.

In my second match, against some kind of hexproof deck, I had mana screw.  The thing about this deck…It wants to have at least five mana.  So OH WELL!

The third match was against a Karn Silver Golem deck.  My opponent was able to get out all kinds of nasties.  Platinum Angel was one of them, Cranial Plating was another.  And lots of Myrs, and a Bonehoard.  I won this match, though.  This time I made Gisa my general, and I think I will use her from now on.  She is AMAZING in this deck!  I think she might have moved up on my list of favorite cards.  Her ability, pay a swamp and sac something for 2/2 zombie tokens equal to the sacrificed creature’s power, isn’t anything to sniff at.  Especially when you are making 5/5 demons pretty regularly, equipping Lashwrithe on something pumping its power big time, or other things.  In fact, you can just start a chain reaction of zombies, if you think about it, if you start with sacking one zombie, then you get two.  choose one of those, then you have three.  Get it?  She is amazing.  And this deck was able to overrun that wimpy affinity thing.

What will I change?

This deck needs some Lilianna.  Of every flavor.  I think I will switch out some of the mana rocks.  For instance, Charcoal Diamond enters the battlefield tapped, can be tapped for a swamp, and costs two.  WHY?  Welcome to the deck, Elbrus the Binding Blade.  (Oh how he loves Commander!)    Otherwise, I think I will keep this deck as it is.  Maybe changing in or out one or two creatures.  Maybe Geralf’s Messenger or something.  I don’t even really want to play Vampire Nighthawk, another favorite card!  I was really down on the inclusion of Swiftfoot Boots.  This was in EVERY DECK LAST TIME.  But then, I equipped in onto a 5/5 demon on the same turn he came out, and changed my mind.  Haste and Hexproof isn’t irrelevant after all!  Some of the mana could be made more interesting.  And why doesn’t this deck have “corrupt?”

My rating for “Commander 2014: Sworn to Darkness.”

Of the many official Commander decks I have seen, I think Sworn to Darkness stands a head taller than them all!  I would give it a 6 out of five if I could.  the only thing I found wrong is the little misprint that was on four or five of the cards.  I will keep my readers posted on how or if the Wizards make it better for me somehow.

SO I RATE “SWORN TO DARKNESS 5/5.  DO you agree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 *Update #1…

I took “Sworn to Darkness” to the sealed deck two-headed giant tournament at the Tangled Web this past weekend, and got to play some multiplayer with this deck.  The mana-hunger of this deck is no joke.  And that seems to be where it is weakest.  On the other hand, sitting without that much land to do things makes you less of a threat.

I chose Ghoulcaller Gisa as my General.  People were surprisingly unfamiliar with her.  (The other commanders were Freyesa, the green planeswalker from this set.  Narset from Khans, and Derivi from last years set.)  Anyways, the green Planeswalker guy scooped early, frustrated because he “washed out” all of the islands, making the other two players choose him as a target.  This gave me plenty of time to bake my strategy.  The surprising card of the day was “Crypt of Aberdeen.”  That card produced insane mana as creatures were hitting the graveyard due to their sweepers, etc.  Once I had Gisa and Drana on the battlefield at one time.  Could you imagine!  Before I could activate the combo and load the board with zombies, they were both killed off!  Gisa was cast no less than five times, thanks to that cool little land. The other surprising card is Shriekmaw.  Because the deck reanimates things so readily, I was able to get several creatures destroyed with his enters-the-battlefield trigger.  One more big surprise…Aether Snap!  This kills off stuff with counters, including Planeswalkers!  Someone had a Gideon out attacking people.  Aether Snap put an end to that!  I wound up losing this match being next to last.  My opponent put Raving Dead under Mimic vat, and began attacking me with multiple copies.  Cards like that in the other set have also proven to be risky…(I’m thinking about Serra Avatar in Oloro. Ageless Ascetic’s deck.)  The deck was fun and held up, so once again, very satisfied!

I have since swapped a few cards.  I removed one of the lands and switched to Reliquary Tower…this deck gets enough card draw that it might be useful to hold cards.  On the other hand, ditching cards in the graveyard fuels stuff up…I swapped “bad sol ring” out for Elbrus, and added Lilliana Vess and Lilliana of the Dark Realms.  Someone asked me about Ob Nixilis Unshackled.  I DO have a copy, and might consider adding him.  My opponents were cracking fetch lands, so Ob Nixilis Unshackled’s ability would have been useful!  Can’t readily remember the other swaps.  But They were cheaper to cast, and involved zombies, usually.

One more thing.  People were really interested in the misprinted cards, especially Pestilence Demon.  I was encouraged to hang on to them, as the aftermarket value tends to be pretty high nowadays for such cards.  The wizards don’t let that stuff slip out too often anymore.  Even more so since it makes the Pestilence Demon look even cooler!  So I won’t be sending them in, Hub City Geeks.