SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic the Gathering “Blessed vs. Cursed” Duel Decks

I have truly arrived at enjoying, even reveling in the casual format “Duel Decks.”  The wizards constantly put out Duel Decks products, and I can’t wait to get a new copy upon its release.  The Duel Deck Anthology is EASILY the most played MTG cards at the SpartanNerd House…if we want to play a ready made deck that is no problem to just pick up, look no further than Jace, Garruck, Liliana, or Chandra.  I also have amassed quite a few of the more recent decks, the most favored of which seem to be Jace vs. Vraska.  The “Cunning” from Speed vs. Cunning is also pretty challenging…(It’s the morphs.)

I top-8-ed at the Tangled Web on Friday, February 26, and conceded to my opponent outright because I was getting tired and had Saturday morning obligations.  (That I reached the Top 8 at a Modern event at the Tangled Web is quite an accomplishment for me!  I was playing Black/White Tokens/Soul Sisters/Control.  White Weenie, I guess.)

On my way out the door, I happened to look at the corner shelf and set eyes for the first time on Blessed vs. Cursed, and knew I had to have it!

Now, it’s been awhile since its release…but I keep getting distracted from the review.  (Life is happening again.)

IMG_8140

IMG_8141

Really, the Wizards of the Coast do a good job of making their products look attractive.  And the information on the back is very thorough.  We can see the two premium cards on the front, and on the back we see all of the cards that either are knew or are getting new art for this set.  It is also good that they include a table of contents.

You’ll notice that this deck was only $19.99, which is the same as most of the duel decks products.  This time it is notable because one of the feature cards is Geist of St. Traft, a card that has been valuable in the past.  Currently on TCGplayer, the original Geist of  St. Traft in foil is worth $57!  This reprint is definitely bringing that value down, which brings up a whole other point.  Why doesn’t this deck feature Liliana of the Veil and Jace, Telepath Unbound?  Those two cards needed a reprint, and here was the chance.  AND traditionally, the Spring duel deck offering does feature planeswalkers….

(I believe Jace to be an important spot filler for Snapcaster Mage in Shadows Over Innistraad standard.  I believe they will reprint Liliana in that set.  Or at least in the following set, where she is prominently featured in the promotional art already.  I believe the Wizards KNOW that they would hurt the secondary market on a store level with those reprints, something they weren’t willing to do.  So here we are, Geist vs. Mindwrack Demon instead.)

Oh yes.  A SpartanNerd tangent!  On with the review!

IMG_8142.jpg

Prying the recycled paper off reveals these items.  Top to bottom…right to left.  MTG rules reference card.  Guide to playing the deck.  Cards and spin down counters in a plastic tray, and two deck boxes, one intended for Geist of St. Traft’s deck, and the other for Mindwrack Demon’s deck.  Neither deck box is good enough to hold sleeved cards.  But they are pretty!  The life counters feature the “planeswalker” symbol where the number 20 would be.

IMG_8145

The guide to playing the deck showcases the two lead characters…the knew art for Geist of St. Traft looks suspiciously like someone I play MTG against at the Tangled Web…(You know who you are, BC!)  The Mindwrack Demon is one of the ugliest creatures I’ve ever seen depicted…I believe the Wizards were trying to create a “predator” sort of character,  It’s like his whole head is a mouth!

You get some fiction.  I generally don’t read these.  I did this time.  It is very much the kind of writing that is meant to pull you into a story.

IMG_8146

The other side features instructions for playing each deck…and the ever important deck lists.

IMG_8147IMG_8148IMG_8149

Notice that I’ve said nothing about the other piece of paper…I just put it straight in the trash.  But this is the kind of product that a person might purchase to see if they are interested in playing Magic cards.  So it is definelty a good thing for them to add.  They need to refrain from putting that paper in Commander decks, though.

Onto the decks.

IMG_8143.jpg

 

So who is Geist of St. Traft anyway?  I have no idea, but I know what the card does well, as I was beaten down plenty by it during my early days   (He’s a small hex proof creature.  Whenever he attacks, he gets an Angel token buddy.

IMG_8144.jpg

I am going to be going over the cards a little at a time…in groups of nine…

IMG_8150IMG_8151

Besides Geist, we get Champion of the Parish.  It is important that this card is a human.  In fact, this deck could easily be considered human tribal.  So whenever one of the many humans enters the battlefield, the Champion gets bigger.

I don’t think I’ve seen Dearly Departed before.  This is a card that likes the graveyard.  And it seems that just like during the last Innistraad set, this time we get more love for the graveyard.

Eerie Interlude…another card I’m not sure I’ve seen.  This is a “blink” effect, for multiple creatures…in this case humans…who could trigger enter the battlefield abilities and be totally busted in combination with Champion of the Parish.

Increasing Devotion…yet another printing.  This card is better than say, Raise the Alarm, because it cites that the tokens entering the battlefield are humans.  (But this is an expensive sorcery.)  Oh yeah…it also has Flashback!  More graveyard strategy.  You would never mind discarding or milling this card from your deck.  While the flashback cost is even higher, you get the benefit of DOUBLE the humans!  (Imagine casting this twice…)

Captain of the Mist…at least he’s a human.  For real, he is great for shenanigans.

Cathedral Sanctifier…another printing.  How many are there?  A good life gain human.

Doomed Traveler.  For real, I like casting this card and shaking my head.  I always say “he’s doomed!”  (I am LILLIANA, after all….)

Napahlia Smuggler.  I’m not sure what Naphalia is.  Some kind of drug?  Anyways, at least he’s a human.  But its a sad day if you have to pay four to blink one of your own creatures..

IMG_8152

Moorland Inquisitor.  He can get first strike.  He’s usually good if he is alone on the battlefield.

Topplegeist.  Definitely a new card.  Delirium is a new mechanic from Shadows over Innistraad.  He’s good.  Oh yes.  And uncommon!  This is reliable removal.  Who isn’t going to draft this!

Thraben Heretic…you can hate on the opponents graveyard with this card, similar to Relic of Progenitus.

Elder Cathar is classic.  A human, and you expect him to die to benefit the rest of the army.

Village Bell Ringer…this has flash.  As a 1/4,he can reliably block, but he can also turn your tapped-from-attacking army around to be blockers.  Sick!  Tandem Lookout.  You get card draw when you attack.  And then Chapel Geist…(Yawn)

IMG_8153

Emancipation Angel…My problem with this card is that you HAVE to return a permanent you control to your hand.  I know I’m thinking about it wrong, but what usually happens is that I keep an opening hand with this in it, and then I don’t have hardly anything but land to return after I play it.

Fiend Hunter is a classic O-Ring effect.

Slayer of the Wicked…he specifically wants to  go after bad guys.

Tower Geist.  Has anyone played “Wizards Tower” with this guy?

Mist Raven.  When he enters the battlefield, return target creature to its owners hand.

Spectral Gateguards.  A big blocker.

Grief Vanguard.  Why?  It is a blue human.  But like Naphalia Smuggler, seems to be weak sauce for what it does.

Goodnight Redeemer could be good if you maximize the amount of creatures you have.

Voice of the Provinces.  Another pretty card.  But at six mana, too costly.

Next, the other cards and lands.

IMG_8154IMG_8155

All good spells except Pore over the Pages…..Well, maybe that’s ok.  Rebuke is good removal.  Both pieces of equipment like Humans.  Gather the Townsfolk produces tokens.  I don’t think I’ve seen Momentary Blink.  I prefer Otherworldy Journey to it, though.  And Bonds of Faith.  One of my Favorite.  Cards.  Ever..!  (For real.  I love the art.  And what it does.)

IMG_8156

Lands.  Yawn.  Seraph sanctuary is good if you cast one of your three angels.  Or if you happen to land a Geist of Saint Traft.  Gain lands.  Really?  Why not scry lands.  Or buddy lands.  We get lots of human tokens.

 

What about the other deck?  Here are its cards, presented the same way.

IMG_8157IMG_8158

First of all, Mindwrack Demon.  Who is this guy?  He wants you to fill the graveyard.  And if you can’t, he hurts you.  And does it ever hurt.  If you don’t have four different card types in your yard, you lose four life at your upkeep, (A Delirium trigger).  Typical for an MTG demon.  He’s a 4/5 for four mana. And he can make you lose.

Havengul Runebinder…doesn’t this guy work against you if you have Mindwrack Demon?  I’m just saying…

Gravecrawler. I’m glad to finally own one of these.  This card needed a new printing.  And I might just order more.

Harvester of Souls.  One of my first demons.  This guy is usually good.  But this is the severalth printing.  I wish they could have given us something else..

Sever the Bloodline.  Removal for all those human tokens.  Too bad it’s a sorcery.

Unbreathing Horde.  A 0/0 unless there are Zombies on the battlefield or in the graveyard.

Butcher Ghoul.  Undying.  It is always good!

 

IMG_8159

Three copies of Screeching Skaab.  Self mill.  Yes!

Tooth Collector.  A brand new card.  His delirium triggers the one of the opponents creatures to get -1/-1.

Scrapskin Drake.  It flies.

Ghoul raiser.  This card always seems so slow.

Stitched Drake.  I’m happy to give up a card in my yard to have a big flyer.

IMG_8160

Diregraf Captain.  A zombie lord.  He’s good.  And he hurts your opponents for killing zombies.

Abattoir Ghoul.  He’s big and has first strike.

Driver of the Dead.  Another guy who always seems to be too slow.  Who are you going to get back?  Some 2/2 chump.

Falkenrath Noble.  A drain effect that triggers when someone dies.  Good for this deck.

Makeshift Mauler.  He has semi-delve.  He’s big, I suppose.

Relentless Skaabs.  A big blue undying zombie.  Always good!

Appetite for Brains.  Kind of the opposite of Inquisition of Kozilek.

Human Frailty.  Great removal against humans.

Next, the other cards and lands.

IMG_8161IMG_8162

Cobbled Wings.  This deck lacks so many flyers, so this will be useful.  Compelling Deterence.  A new card, I believe.  Victim of Night.  The opposite spiritually of Slayer of the Wicked, I suppose.  Tribute to Hunger.  Against the humans, they are just going to sac Doomed Traveler.  Forbidden Alchemy.  Good filter and graveyard filler.  Barter in Blood.  So glad we get this art for the card, rather than the old art.  Dread Return.  This is new art for an old classic.  And moans of the unhallowed.  A great token producer.

IMG_8163

Lands.  Couldn’t they have given us something to balance out against Seraph Sanctuary?  Four gain lands and then the plain kind.  So we get another token.  A spirit.  And three zombies.  I wish they gave us different art on these tokens.

 

PLAYING THE DECKS

Zendikar vs. Eldrazi seemed to be perfectly balanced, and so it seems Blessed Vs. Cursed is as well.  Me and the SpartanKid have played four two out of threes, and the record is 2-2.  You can almost always count of Geist of St. Traft winning for you, if you happen to get him.  Mindwrack Demon is good, but not reliable as you might not have the required four card types in the graveyard.

A lot of the enters-the-battlefield effects are dependent on lucky draws and a good opening hand.  You might wish to have Increasing Devotion at the same time Champion of the Parish is on the battlefield, but more often than not, this won’t be the case.  And then there is the chance that you get Emancipation Angel, with almost nothing to return to your hand.

The guide suggests that the Cursed deck doesn’t have flyers…there seems to be enough.  It’s true that the other deck has more flyers, with the spirits and all, but there is enough here.  Grave crawler can be a real problem…a recurring threat that their flying spirits can’t ignore.  (Those things are meant to be blockers.  Lingering Souls, anyone?)

What is the most cool about these decks is the flavor.  It is humans verses zombies.  With a splash of Angels vs. Demons.  It is like playing “The Walking Dead” as a card game.  And that has to be applauded.  The tribal-ness of the two decks is on par with Elves vs. Goblins.  That is saying something!

This product is great.  I can’t imagine giving it anything less that a 5/5.  It’s good!  The only bad thing is the flimsiness of the deck boxes.

This review has been well over a week in the making.  I am just so exhausted from my jobs.  I am also fairly unhealthy…my weight problem plus age is catching up with me.  Sorry, Hub City Geeks, but my output might be a little slower in the future.  Maybe I can turn things around.

So, the SpartanNerd gives Duel Decks, Blessed vs. Cursed a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic the Gathering Duel Decks “Elspeth vs. Kiora”

IMG_5608

Once again, the Wizards have given us a duel deck, this time featuring the Theros block planeswalkers Elspeth and Kiora.

Elspeth has seen a lot of play in the Standard environment, being the bomb of choice for both midrange and control decks.  She can undo much of the work you accomplished in the early game if you are playing aggro.  And she provides the necessary bite during the end game for control decks.

Kiora is a good early game planeswalker who can really “bring it” if she gets to her ultimate ability, otherwise preventing damage and creating ramp and card draw.

No denying what the money cards are here…the two planeswalkers combined could bring $30.00 at some places. (Elspeth vs Kiora was only priced at $19.99.)  So you are getting value for your purchase, no question.

And because these are alternate art versions, let me just say that I find them superior to the earlier printings.  I never liked the old Kiora…it was just too creepy with that tentacle hanging out front prominently featured…and why?  There is a tentacle here, but it isn’t as ugly.  Elspeth’s card is very similar to the earlier printing,  but I think the portrait is “prettier” this time.

Onto the unboxing! 

IMG_5611

The box (seen above) is of a celebrated new type of cardboard, which is supposedly recyclable.  Nice…it seems a little lighter.  But it has just as much of a premium look as the previous planeswalker duel decks.  If you will recall, I didn’t think “Speed vs. Cunning” had too great of packaging.  But the Wizards like to save the foil for the planeswalker decks, and that’s understandable, I guess.

The back of the box shows off some of the featured cards, and has propaganda to help you get excited about playing the deck.

IMG_5609

Removing the box…which is really more of a carton, revealed a plastic blister over a black plastic tray, which held all of the items seen above.  The two deck boxes are nice, but cannot hold the entire decks sleeved.  The white insert is the guide to playing magic…for new players.  (Incidentally, I believe this Duel Deck to be a product for beginners.)  And then there is another insert which contains details for playing both decks, and decklists.

IMG_5657

The decks were sealed in “cigarette style” cellophane wrappers.  This time I thought I would photograph the cards, as it was more convenient for me.  And besides, I couldn’t wait to play it.

ELSPETH, SUN’S CHAMPION

The first thing I noticed was something really dumb.

IMG_5645

You get two soldier tokens.  ONLY TWO.  Let me point out, that Elspeth’s top ability is “put three 1/1 soldier creatures onto the battlefield.  They should have at least included one more!  And what about the emblem?!

Here are the rare’s from the deck.

IMG_5646

These rares are really good for battle.  Especially Gustcloak Savior.

Here are the uncommon creatures.

IMG_5649

Last I checked, Mother of Runes is ALSO a money card, at around $5.00.  Banisher Priest is really good with his O-ring effect.  Both uncommon are every bit as good as the rares.

IMG_5648

The common creatures are generally soldier themed…and there are other Gustcloaks!  Also notable…Veteran Armorsmith and Veteran Swordsmith…both have echoes in the current Kahns of Tarkir block with the warriors.

IMG_5650

The other spells in this deck are instants, except for Sunlance, which is a sorcery.  All good stuff.

The flavor of this deck is very strong…Elspeth, Sun’s Champion would TOTALLY lead these soldiers and use these spells.

The lands are unremarkable.

IMG_5647

Those two are lands with cycling.  Everything else is a Basic Plains.

KIORA, THE CRASHING WAVE

Another dumb thing of equal dumbness.

IMG_5651

Kiora has two associated tokens, and no emblem.  Why didn’t the wizards use the double sided tokens they gave us in Commander 2014?

IMG_5652

Kiora’s rares are absolutely frightening.  Elspeth’s deck has the means of dealing with them.  Including her middle ability…….(-3 destroy all creatures with power 4 or greater.)

But if Kiora’s fatties go unchecked, it is GG.  (Good Game.)

Plasm Capture is the odd one here.  While Kiora needs some cancel, this spell almost never goes right.  It costs a ton, and since Kiora is an Aggro style deck trying to get big creatures on the field, why would you have the mana available to use this spell?  But a properly casted Whelming Wave can net you a win.  Unfortunately, many of Kiora’s creatures are not Octopuses, Leviathans, Krakens, or Serpents.  There are Merfolk and Snakes, notably.

IMG_5655

Kiora has more cards at uncommon than Elspeth.  The most notable one here is Lorescale Coatle, who gets a counter each time you draw a card.  He can get REDICULOUS!  This deck has lots of ways to draw cards, beside the regular draw step.

IMG_5654

We’ve seen some of these cards in duel decks before…I’m thinking Man-O-War was in Jace’s deck.  And Grazing Gladeheart was in Garruk’s deck.  Except for Coiling Oracle and Omenspeaker, these cards just feel like preliminary cards to the main giant creatures.  It is cool how there are some card draw effects and control effects attached to some of these.

Don’t ask the SpartanNerd how, but somehow he lost the photo of the instants and sorceries.  But I assure you, there aren’t that many defensive spells.  There are four copies of Accumulated Knowledge, a card that I didn’t know before.  It says “Draw a card, then draw cards equal to the number of cards named Acumulated Knowledge in the graveyard.  Basically you get to draw two cards for two mana at the least, and the number of cards only gets more the more of these cards you cast.  And with Lorescale Coatl on the battlefield…

There is also explore, a ramp card with card draw.  This card reflects Kiora’s roll down ability. (-1 Draw a card.  You may play an additional land this turn)

IMG_5653

The lands are also cripplingly slow, as expected.  No shock lands.  Not even any cycling lands.  No pain lands.  No gain lands.  Just basics, Evolving Wilds, and Temple of the False God.  (I think I have only seen that in Commander decks before this…)

So Kiora’s flavor is Ramp, Card Draw, and Fatties.  I could totally see her leading this group of cards in a fight with Elspeth.

The Matchup

No way around it.  Elspeth’s deck is better.  It has cheaper creatures, and ways of dealing with things that are huge.  Not that Kiora’s deck doesn’t put up a fight…But Elspeth’s “white weenie” strategy is just faster and designed to fight against big green monsters.  To be fair, we have only played five times since we got the product.  I will update if things change…but I’m not sure they will.

The SpartanNerd’s rating of Magic the Gathering Duel Decks “Elspeth vs. Kiora”.

The packaging is beautiful, and the fact that it is recyclable now is another bonus.  The propaganda makes everything clear about how to play the decks.  This would be a great product for new players.  And for seasoned players, you get some alternate art cards, especially the two planeswalkers.

It is a bummer that we only got two tokens with each deck…even more-so that we didn’t get an emblem either for the planeswalkers.

And Elspeth’s deck seems to outdo and undercut Kiora’s deck.  Just a quick survey on the web and others are reporting that Elspeth generally beats Kiora.

So, the SpartanNerd rates Magic the Gathering Duel Decks “Elspeth vs. Kiora” a cautious 3/5.  There isn’t enough wrong here to warrant 2/5…maybe with more play we’ll see Kiora bring some wins.  Elspeth, at least, needed another Soldier token…and knowing that the Wizards could have printed double sided tokens and gave us an emblem is even more frustrating.  But that doesn’t have a huge impact on the gameplay, and the insert does tell new players that they don’t have to use tokens.

So what’s your rating of “Elspeth vs. Kiora”?  Let me know in the comments, oh Hub City Geeks!