SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Commander 2014 “Forged In Stone” EDH Deck

This time I didn’t have the luxury of unboxing the product for you, oh Hub City Geeks.  The “Forged in Stone” Commander deck has been in play at the SpartanNerd’s house for some time, and I didn’t get a chance to unbox it for you.  Sorry!

The unboxing was similar to the unboxing of “Sworn to Darkness” from the same set, which you can see my review of here. (click the link)

Regardless, I am including a video of the cards.

I also have the main insert.

a1 insert frontIMG_5601

The art features Nahiri, the Lithomancer.  This has been a mysterious character in Magic the Gathering fiction, evidently.  I’ve only recently begun to read the online stories, but evidently Nahiri was the one who created the prison for the Eldrazi at the behest of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.  Fans have long said that the person featured on the card Stoneforge Mystic was the Lithomancer, though she was never named or had details officially given to her.  So now the wizards have made it official…

The art is good, but it was too much work for me to try and read that white text over that white background.  Come on. Wizards.  You know better than that!

The back is more of the same, but gives you a decklist as well.  Here is that image, extra large so you can read it!

IMG_5603

The “Forged in Stone” deck features a mainly white strategy, with an emphasis on artifacts.  Nahiri, the Lithomancer, is the main commander, a planeswalker that has a very dangerous ultimate ability…you get a sword called “Stoneforged Blade” that adds +5/+5 and double strike to a creature.  OUCH!!!

Her other two abilities are also very relevant, because as a mainly white strategy, the deck can get a lot of token creatures out easily.  And equipment cards can be attached to them for free.  That’s crazy!  Her -2 ability makes it possible to get equipment out of the graveyard in case it gets removed.

Nahiri is a great commander…Not as good as Ob Nixilis, though.  For instance, her abilities are conditional..you have to have an equipment card on the battlefield or graveyard in order for her top two abilities to be relevant.

The other possible commanders in this deck are Jazal Goldmane and Kemba,Kha Regent.  Jazal lets you pump your creatures, while Kemba is the real danger, putting new 2/2 Cat creatures out each turn for each equipment she has attached.

The other creatures do things that white creatures are supposed to do.  Sun Titan is here to get things back out of the graveyard upon entering the battlefield or attacking.  There are some clerics, angels, mentors, priest…each doing something classically white.  The angels are especially relevant…usually big fliers with abilities.  You know how I feel about angels in Magic!

In addition to the mana rocks that always seem to be included in these commander decks, you get some really good equipment.  You get Moonsliver Spear and Loxodon Warhammer…both really good in the hands of either a chump or a fighter. There is also Bonehoard, a card that can get rediculous in a multiplayer game with lots of board wipes.

The instants and sorceries are really good, with comeuppance usually being a star.  Basically you redirect damage back to either an attacker or a player.

This deck includes the double sided tokens…an idea that I hope the wizards use more in the future.  The packaging was cool, with tasteful white and black styling, but the box is the same box that all the other commander decks came with. It can’t hold the deck when sleeved.

When pitted against Ob Nixilis, Nahiri’s deck has problems with board wipes.   Because there is really only a token strategy for the early  game.  But usually when she can stage a turnaround, Nixilis will lose.  It’s usually an angel that causes the win.

Remember when I said some of Nahiri’s abilities were irrelevant sometimes?  They usually aren’t irrelevant.  There are enough equipment cards for her to do what she needs to do.  I haven’t played this deck in a multiplayer match yet..as I get the chance I will let you know.

The other deck I have played it against is a modified “Eternal Bargain” deck from Commander 2013.  Oloro,s life gain was significant, but Nahiri was able to pull off a win!

SpartanNerd’s rating of Magic the Gathering “Forged In Stone” Commander 2014 EDH deck is 4/5.  I am knocking the point off because I think Ob Nixilis’ deck is better.  Maybe that is bias, because I favor black over white.  But white is my secondary color, so…

The other thing might not be as relevant…it is difficult to read the text on the insert material.  Someone botched it when they decided to use white text over a white background.

Do you agree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

Advertisements

SpartanNerd Dual Deck Matchup…”Liliana” vs “Divine”

IMG_0341

Sorry for the break.  I actually have to work.  Anyways, the SpartanKid has been blogging away, and it has been no problem for me to feature him as a guest.  A little cutting and pasting, and it’s magic!

So now I get to tell everyone how awesome Liliana is AGAIN!  There are some decks that we just get…and I just “get” Liliana.

We have played four matches of Liliana vs. Divine.  The angels are just too slow.  While their synergy is very dangerous in certain combinations if they happen to get it right, Liliana’s less mana-hungry deck generally prevents this from happening.  Twilight Shepherd is a problem.  Luminous angel continual threatens to get flying chumps out.  You would think that there was no re-animation in the Divine deck, but Reya Dawnbringer does just that.  And that is sometimes a problem.  Otherwise, Liliana has ways of taking out virtually all of the angels. including Akroma.  Mutilate is just beast, and you can Enslave another angel to block for you.  Lilliana is also pretty good at life gain,  Maybe even better than the angels, with Tendrils of Corruption and Corrupt.  And if you are able to reanimate everything with Liliana, (difficult in this match because the angels are big flyers,) then you have won the game.

Of the four matches between the two decks, Divine has one win, and Liliana has three.

I have been looking into taking the Liliana deck to a modern tournament sometime.  Apparently most of the cards are legal in modern, with the exception of Snuff Out and the cycling lands.  Cool, because more Mutilate and Liliiana cards would be needed.  I don’t know if if it would be competitive against, say, say Pod, or Kiki Jiki.  But still it would be fun.  I have been playing a standard Liliana deck made of lots of discard effects and Waste Not.  It is something NOBODY ELSE is doing.  It’s good to be different.  But Jeskai is the match to beat right now in my meta-game.

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

Happy New Year!

IMG_0344

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

IMG_5338

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.

IMG_5341 IMG_5340 IMG_5339

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.

IMG_5342

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

IMG_5343

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

IMG_5344

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?

IMG_5345

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

IMG_5346 IMG_5347

You get more pump with these two.

IMG_5348 IMG_5349 IMG_5350

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!

IMG_5353

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

IMG_5352

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

IMG_5362

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.

IMG_5361

Now this is a useful artifact.

IMG_5360

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

IMG_5359

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

IMG_5358

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.

IMG_5355

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

IMG_5354

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

IMG_5357 IMG_5356

And finally, the other stuff.

IMG_5337

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

IMG_5365

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.

IMG_5366

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.

IMG_5367

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.

IMG_5368

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

IMG_5369

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

IMG_5372

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

IMG_5376

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.

IMG_5374

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.

IMG_5373 IMG_5375

IMG_5377

IMG_5378 IMG_5379

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.

IMG_5380

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?

IMG_5381

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…

IMG_5382

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…

IMG_5383

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)

IMG_5384

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

IMG_5385

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.

IMG_5386

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

IMG_5387

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?

IMG_5388

What Mono Black deck doesn’t run this?

IMG_5389

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

IMG_5390

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

IMG_5391

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

FInally, everything else.

IMG_5364

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 Review…Dual Decks Anthology “Elves vs. Goblins”

IMG_0342

So far, I have reviewed Garruk vs. Liliana and Jace vs. Chandra.  I thought I would save Divine vs Demonic for last, because that is the one that has the “money cards” in it that people were hotly interested in, and besides that, I have other reasons…(I will reveal them in time!)

So for now, you get my review of Elves vs. Goblins.  If I’m not mistaken, this was the first ever Dual Decks product from the Wizards of the Coast.

THE UNBOXING

I prefer unboxing these decks on video, rather than taking pictures of the cards.  This is a true unboxing…what you will see when you open the package.

Both decks come with a beautiful foil deckbox, that unfortunately has the cardboard catch that tears up after about the third opening.  I vow to put velcro on these!

And the tokens were boxed in the Elves deckbox.  (The goblin tokens are with the elf tokens.)  I will say that the Elf Tokens are a little disturbing…

Other than this, the cards have an “old school” aesthetic.  Sure, they are reprinted in modern frames.  But the art is of that older style you find when you open old packs or look through piles of bulk cards.

THE DECKS

GOBLINS

As before, featured rare cards are on the top.

Siege Gang Commander gets you three 1/1 goblin chumps on the battlefield.

Clickslither is one of the few cards in the deck that isn’t a Goblin.  Just the same, it’s ability…Sacrifice a Goblin to give him +2/+2…makes this THE CARD to fear in this deck when things are going well for you.

Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician can be insane.  Block something big with little chump goblins, and then sacrifice them on the way to the graveyard to burn whatever was blocked for four damage.  You can remove most anything this way!  But that’s not all…Ib lets you get more chumps if you sacrifice mountains.  Late game, when you don’t need all that Mana…(this deck isn’t a mana hungry deck), you can just outright win.  And there is a lot of synergy with Siege Gang and Clickslither

Then there’s Skirk Fire Marshall.  My issue with Skirk is that you sacrifice so many goblins all the time, you might not have five goblins to tap and burn the opponent for 10 damage.  He’s a fun threat, though, if the circumstances are right.

The rest of the cards are variations on the theme of “Sacrifice me, or somebody else…do something bad to the opponent.”  But the cards are carefully chosen so that they balance well against the elf deck.  For instance, Gempalm Incinerator has a cycle ability.  There is a gempalm card in the elf deck.  There is a “goblin lord.”  (You folks who don’t know, “lords” in magic are cards that give other similar cards +1/+1.  Lords usually have some other upside as well.)  In this case, Goblin Warchief give your goblins haste.  This is the kind of card you want in your opening hand.

The only thing I am sort of unclear on in this deck, and the other is “tribal instant” or “tribal enchantment.”  Are there special “tribal” rules for these cards?  Sure, these are tribal decks.  But what do these special spells do that they can’t do in a non-tribal deck.  I guess I will look that up sometime.  The only thing I can figure is a card or two says “whenever you cast a Goblin spell this turn,” or something like that.  There would be synergy.

As a rule, I haven’t modified any of these decks.  Who would I “fire” from the goblin deck?  Skirk Drill Sergeant.  Usually, when I try and trigger his ability, which is costly, I might add, I get what I don’t want.  Clickslither winds up in the graveyard, or something else.  And there is almost no re-animation in this red deck.

ELVES

As before, first the rares.

Ambush Commander is a little odd, because it is a sac outlet for elves.  Still, it is a way of suddenly finding the tribal power the deck needs by making all of the forests into elves.

Allosaurus Rider is the card I fear.  It is the kind of card we ALL should fear.  What should be every bit of a seven drop, can be had as early as turn 1, and be a 2/2!  And then grows bigger the more forests you play.  It is actually harder to flip a Delver of Secrets!  I would say that this card is the matchup for Clickslither in the other deck.  But you know they won’t be out at the same time…

Remember Skirk Fire Marshall?  Well Voice of the Woods is the elf version.  You tap five elves, and you get a 7/7 Elemental.

The rest of the elves are all chumps, with some kind of ability that enhances other elves, or uses them as a resource, or what have you.  “The elf lord” to look for in the early game is Imperious Perfect.  And what elf deck would be complete without Llannowar Elves?

Literally, in just about every way, the elf deck matches the goblin deck.  The Wizards made their entry Dual Deck a real statement.  The only thing the Elves have that the Goblins don’t have counterparts to are the artifact cards.

THE MATCHUP

By now, I have had tons of experience with both decks.  I have only played Divine vs. Demonic more.  These decks are VERY EVENLY MATCHED.  I can’t stress that enough.  I have been playing Magic for awhile now, and could count on one hand how many “ties” happened where both teams killed each other simultaneously.  When you play these, it is almost like playing a speedy game of Commander, Not because of the singletons, but because each side plays offense or defense, and there are lots of card interactions.

Both decks are very tribal, but also exemplify the philosophy of their color.  The goblins sacrifice themselves or others to burn  the opponent out.  The Elves do things to make big creatures, or a swarm of creatures that over-runs the opponent.

So I am going to call this a tie.  It is what it is.  And it is always fun. If you want a good lengthy game of MTG, that uses lots of card synergy, then you should play Elves vs. Goblins.

SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF ELVES VS GOBLINS.

I have to give both decks a 5/5.  The only complaint I have about the decks are the tokens.  Both sets look kind of creepy.  In an oddly sexually specific way.  Your mind doesn’t even have to be in the gutter to think so.  My oldest child noticed what I am talking about, but the younger one doesn’t see anything odd.

Still, it’s just art.  And tokens aren’t the main product.

So I rate the Elves vs. Goblins Dual Deck from the Dual Decks Anthology 5/5.

Do you agree?  Let me know in the comments!

I rate both decks 5/5.

SpartanNerd Review…Dual Deck Anthology Matchup- “Jace Vs. Chandra”

IMG_0343

I have been more familiar with the cards in this deck than in say, Elves vs. Goblins or Divine vs. Demonic.  I have been exposed to this set because my brother owns a copy.  So the whole thing is an exercise in review for me.  Still, it is fun to see it completely unmodified.  (My brother tweaked his decks.)

First, the unboxing.  This is the only time that the unboxing was really different.  Chandra’s box had some extra materials inside…

IMG_0371

The white thing is what we’ve all seen at this point.  A quick start guide to playing Magic.  I normally point out how I throw this away.  But if for instance, someone bought the Dual Deck anthology as a gift for someone who didn’t know how to play then this could be super valuable.  I think it would have been better if they packaged it in a different and more conspicuous way, though.  For instance, I just unboxed these cards today and found it.  I have had the Dual Deck Anthology since the day it came out! (Dec 5, over two weeks ago!)

The blue thing is basically the poster that was on the back of the Dual Decks Anthology…but this time with more biographical information and information about the story context each dual deck represented during the course of the story of Magic the Gathering.

IMG_0369

The art on the deck boxes is really cool…a big foil picture featuring the key cards, this time Chandra Nalaar and Jace Beleren.

I am going to complain big time about the paper clasps on these boxes.  If we pay $100 for a product like this then the clasp should be better.  That paper slot system just tears up too easily.  I already mentioned this before when I did my initial unboxing, but in the case of Jace vs. Chandra, neither box can function correctly.  They can hold the sixty cards plus a few tokens sleeved.  But the box only stays closed if cajoled to do so.  I am going to apply some velcro…

As with Garruk vs. Liliana, I am giving you a video again of what I saw after removing the cellophane…This time both together in the same film.

Jace Beleren

Jace gets a nickname…”Baby Jace.”  Not really sure what that is about, except that maybe it is supposed to be Jace in his early career.  This card is good for card draw.  His +2 gets both players a card.  His -1 gets only you a card, (or the rare corner case where you get in the final “mill” against your opponent.  But his -10 mills 20 cards for someone.  It is probably safe to say Jace will never get to -10, Chandra will burn him off anytime he gets close.  So this card is probably good to +2 once, and -1 after that.  Might as well forget that -10 ability.  It isn’t useful for you.  And Jace’s deck isn’t a mill deck.

Jace’s deck is NOT a classic control deck, as you might expect.  (If it were, it wouldn’t be a fun matchup against Chandra, in my opinion.)  There are a few counterspells, (actually “Counterspell!”) but besides that, the deck relies more on Morph.  There are several blue morph creatures in this deck…I counted 8!  So Chandra is going to have a hard time deciding whether or not to burn off the morphs, or wait and see what bad thing for her is going to happen.

The deck also features two other mechanics really well, Evoke and Suspend.  Ancestral Vision is the main card you are going to suspend.  Exile it for one blue at the beginning of the game, and just about the time when you need it, at the beginning of your upkeep you get three bonus cards.

And then there is Mulldrifter.  I need to play with this guy more outside of Jace vs. Chandra.  Mulldrifter evokes and you draw two cards.  So…try re-animating this guy!  (Jace can’t do it.)

The other thing I would like to say about this deck that was surprisingly fun was the unconventional mana costs of cards or abilities.  The least of which is suspend, some cards just ask you to return islands to your hand instead of paying a huge cost!

If there is a game finisher in the deck, it is Guile.  Guile lets you play free counter magic.  But that isn’t all that relevant.  What is relevant is it is a 6/6.  Can’t be chumped blocked by one guy.  And if he dies, then he gets shuffled back in the deck, where you can draw him later.  Sick!

Chandra

Chandra is one of my children’s favorite planeswalker.  I don’t have the heart to tell him that “Candra Nalaar” is UNPLAYABLE IN CONSTRUCTED.  Let’s just say, you do her +1, you just pinged your opponent for one damage.  For five mana.  Maybe on the last life point the person has, this is an OK strategy.  Ok, so instead of doing the +1 on the first turn she is out, you do the -x to toast a creature.  Then Chandra has almost no loyalty left and gets killed by an attacking creature next turn, (if not removed another way).  If you can get her to -8, then the ability is awesome.  But in Modern or Legacy, she will be gone before she has a chance.

She is a good card for this matchup, however.

This deck tries to burn you opponent off as quickly as possible, and contrary to Jace, seems to want to get cards out of your hand to trigger “Hellbent” abilities.  For instance, Rakdos Pit Dragon gets double strike if you have no cards in hand.  And you easily might not have any, because you played spells directly to Jace’s face, or burned off his morphs.

Then there’s hostility.  You counter your own first main phase burn spell, to enhance it with 3/1 elemental tokens.  Ok.  So burn spells becoming aggro spells…sick!

Several of Chandra’s cards have “fire breathing”.  This is Magic player talk for “pay one red mana to pile up damage points.”  (It comes from an old mechanic.)

Every time I have played against Chandra with Jace, Slith Firewalker has been a threat.  What Jace wants to do is send it back to Chandra’s hand.  The Slith Firewalker gets a counter every time it deals damage.  Evoking something like Inner-Flame Acolyte can be about like the Bloodrush tricks from the RTR block.

Firebolt is good.  It’s flashback mirrors playing Chandra and +1 ing her.

Fireblast is great for late-game burn.  when you probably have more mountains than you need.  Sacrifice two of them to get in four burn damage.

And then Fireball, of course.

The Matchup

So Chandra tries to undermine Jace through the philosophy of burn, while Jace tries to undermine Chandra with combat tricks and control.

Jace lost to Chandra in the first two out of three match with the SpartanKid.  Jace’s deck might not be good to play against noobs….they might think you are cheating sometimes with some of the things his deck can do.  “when Brine Elemental is turned face up, each opponent skips their next untap step.”  a good chandra player will use up their resources every turn, while a good Jace player will reserve mana.  so…But in our first match, the philosophy of Burn set in, and all of the morph tricks weren’t enough for Baby Jace.  Chandra’s creatures tend to have haste, which is bad for Jace.  On the other hand, Chandra tends to have to start top-decking, while Jace tends to have cards to play and scheme with.

This set isn’t as fun as Liliana vs. Garruk.  Still, it is nice to have a foil of each Planeswalker.  (Chandra is probably Commander only material, though).

My rating of Dual Decks Anthology Jace vs. Chandra.

As a burn deck, Chandra gets 4/5.  I am taking a point off for Chandra being so bad.  Jace gets a 4/5 for losing the first 2/3 matches to the speedy stuff the Chandra deck does, and besides that, why is Jace’s bottom ability a mill ability, when there is almost no mill in the blue deck?

So I give the Jace vs. Chandra Dual Deck a 4/5.  Do you agree?  Let me know in the comments!

SpartanNerd Review- Dual Deck Matchup…”Garruk vs. Liliana”

IMG_0345

 

Longtime readers know that Liliana Vess is one of my favorite cards EVER.  I have cracked two of them from booster packs, one of them in my early days of playing, one in the m15 pre-release sealed deck!  I love her bottom ability, which makes her a true re-animator bomb.  Maybe THE reanimator bomb.  If only I could spell her name correctly…

Then there’s Garruk Wildspeaker.  Maybe I should learn to pronounce his name correctly.  (Gare-ook).

When we started playing Magic, I chose black as my color.  Not sure why.  My two kids chose other colors.  One green and the other red.  Supposedly your personality ties into your color somehow.

In my early days of Magic the Gathering, when mainly M13 was being played at the SpartanNerd household, Liliana and Grave Titan were my two favorites.  Eventually I added in Elbrus the Binding Blade, when I began looking for the best cards.  (At the time, I considered that a BEST card.  Maybe not so much anymore, but the flavor is still amazing.)  SO somehow a Youth Pastor and Worship Leader became the Zombie/Demon guy.  Who knew?  Good thing it is only fantasy!  (White IS my secondary color.)

Oh yes.  A review is supposed to be happening!  And this is a SpartanNerd first…I show you each card on video as I look at them myself the first time!

Garruk vs. Liliana is a very balanced pair.  Both are mono-colored decks.  And both do what their colors are known for.  Garruk gets large threats and makes them bigger.  Lilliana makes Garruk discard and re-animates stuff from both graveyards.  (sometimes the good stuff that you made him discard!)

GARRUK

Garruk himself is pretty good.  Maybe the “best” Garruk.  His +1 lets you find two more mana.  His -1 gives you a non-chump at 3/3.  And his ultimate is basically Overrun.  I don’t have a lot of personal experience with playing this card.  But the abilities are flavored really well with the rest of the deck.  And they are all classical “green.”

I am going to point out that Garruk’s deck is REALLY NUTS if you don’t remove the threats he puts out.  But then there is a card called Rude Awakening, which has an “entwine” cost.  The only other card I have seen with this is Promise of Power.  Basically, you can pay the listed entwine cost, and get what amounts to two spells for one card.  Rude Awakening untaps Garruk’s lands and changes them into 2/2 creatures, that he can hit you with.  I lost to this once.  It was SHOCKING.  Because by the time you can pay for the card with it’s entwine cost, he probably has eight lands out.

The other surprising thing that Garruk can do is card draw.  That’s right.  Green card draw.  Normally this is off-color for green.  But Garruk pulls it off with Harmonize and other effects.  This balances against Liliana’s ability to make him drop cards.

This deck also “ramps” really well.  You need that to get things out like Plated Slagwurm.  The deck doesn’t have hardly any removal.  So if Liliana drops a fatty, then it is up to the giant creatures and combat tricks to take care of them.  Serrated Arrows seems to be the most effective removal for chumpy creatures, while there is a copy of Windstorm to take out a big flyer.  One more important signature thing for Garruk, Overrun.  Give everything a boost and trample.  Too bad it is a sorcery.  (It would probably be too good as an instant.)

LILIANA

Lilliana does all she can to best Garruk’s strategy.  Remove, discard, and re-animate.  In Standard, a lot of times Liliana amounts to a bad Demonic Tutor.  (Demonic Tutor…a two drop Legacy card that gets a card and puts it in your hand.  Not in this deck…See the upcoming review for “Divine vs. Demonic”*)  In standard nowadays, she gets Heroes Downfall-ed before you can make your opponent’s graveyard re-animate.  But in the limited environment between these two decks, she is better.  Because the deck does a good job of forcing discards, so she is ready to +1 on up to her ultimate.  And if you re-animate the big threats in Garruk’s deck, then GG.  (Good Game!)

Some of Liliana’s stuff has “cycling” or “swamp cycling,”  This is good because it gets stuff into your graveyard to pull back out cheaply.  Once I swampcycled Twisted Abomination, a 5/3), and next turn played Rise from the Grave.  Ouch for Garruk!

Lilliana’s cards have removal built in.  You have Corrupt and similar effects that get your opponent or their creatures because YOU have swamps.  (a strategy you were doing anyway, so your power is essentially free.)  I would like to point out that I enjoy the art for Mutilate better here than in other places.

There is a really cool card called Snuff Out.  You pay 4 life to remove a creature.  It is an instant, which is cool.  But at sorcery speed it is actually BETTER.  You heard me.  This time a sorcery is better than an instant.  Lilliana’s deck isn’t a control deck.  I suppose it is black midrange.  So on your turn, you remove one of Garruk’s green creatures.  (All of his creatures are green.)  And then you Corrupt another creature.  Sick!  You can remove two giant fatties with little effort!

The most controversial card in the SpartanNerd household has been Enslave.  The SpartanKid, (a green connoisseur,) has argued about this card.  It is another two-for-one.  You steal his big green monster, and  use it against him.  Similar to the red cards that do something similar.  Traitorous Blood for instance.  But this is an enchantment.  So you permanently control the creature.  And then its OWNER gets pinged for one damage at the beginning of your upkeep.  (not it’s controller…)  At first I was confused too.  But after looking it up, it means Garruk gets pinged!  I have one two matches with this card.  It is truly dirty!  And Garruk can’t hardly deal with enchantments.

(SO biased…  I had more to say about Liliana’s deck…I think I understand it a little better.)

GARRUK VS LILIANA…THE MATCHUP!

Pitting these two against each other really is like pitting Green against Black, a larger, more classical MTG matchup.  In the SpartanNerd house, Garruk has won only one match, while Liliana has won three.  (This is with two days of playing.)

Rude Awakening and Overrun have been the two biggest hits against Liliana.  Garruk himself hasn’t appeared in these matchups but once.  So that may be a luck thing.  Lilliana’s deck wants you to have some removal in the early game to get traction.  She doesn’t ramp that well, unless you cycle.  But if you can get out four swamps before getting stomped too bad, you will probably be OK.

SpartanNerd’s rating and review.

I think Liliana’s deck is the funnest deck I have played so far from the set.  I still have yet to actually pilot six of the decks myself.  I am happy to have an alternate art of Liliana Vess.  I think the two decks are PERFECTLY matched against each other.  While Liliana has more wins currently, It may be that SpartanKid hasn’t had as good of luck.  But the scary things that deck can do are definitely fun to be matched against.

The cards are beautiful in the modern frame.  There are several tokens that go with the decks…Liliana gets bats, while Garruk gets Beasts and an Elephant.  As I mentioned in my unboxing, both decks have a beautiful deck box that will accommodate the cards when sleeved.

Is there monetary value here?  The two planeswalker cards are where the value is.  Both cards fetch varying amounts, usually less than ten dollars.

So my rating here is 5/5 for both decks.  What do you think, oh Hub City Geeks?  Let me know in the comments.  I am curious to know about how you have pitted your dual decks against each other!

*(I will get to Divine vs. Demonic EVENTUALLY.  Be patient.  I need some more time, readers!)