Goblins Vs. Merfolk Duel Decks…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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At this point, my favorite sealed MTG product seems to be Duel Decks.  I own a ton of them.  And the only ones that I haven’t purchased since I began getting serious about the game are Mind vs. Might, the one released earlier this year.  That one was widely panned, and I couldn’t get excited about a Storm deck vs. a Beatdown deck.

But Merfold vs. Goblins.  That’s different.  First of all, Elves vs. Goblins is incredible fun.  What made that so successful was not only the intense tribal flavor, but also the gameply, where you really felt like you were piloting an army of elves vs an army of goblins.  Merfolk Vs. Goblins seemed positioned to do the same thing.  Does it?  Keep reading for my full review!

PACKAGING.

The box comes in the same kind of box that Duel Decks have been released in for awhile. It makes a nice display.  (pictured above)  Not sure why you would keep it MIB, but it looks like a sell-able product.  This box shows off the flashy foil rares.  The back of the box has good information.  I think this is to really sell the product to new players.

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The box isn’t easy to open and get the product out.  (unlike Commander boxes.)

I opened mine before a draft tournament.  So I took hasty pictures on the Tangled Web table sized playmats

Here’s what’s in that package.

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The main product is sealed in two trays that make up the bulk of the box.  THis is covered by a plastic blister that shows off the foil rares.  Behind the tray is the Quick Reference, a guide to playing the decks, and the two new boxes intended for each deck.

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Here are those deck boxes assembled.  Notably, these boxes are big enough to hold SLEEVED CARDS.  (Can you hear the SpartanNerd crying tears of joy?)  Virtually all of the other duel decks we have ever gotten have come with pretty “poker card” type of boxes.  The exception was the Duel Decks anthology.

These boxes still leave a little to be desired, but that they can hold sleeved cards is BIG.  The wizards apparently took cues from the design of the Nicol Bolas Archenemy set.  These are also side loaders, but they have the janky folding flap that tucks into the main box.  However, there is a slot for easy opening.  The boxes have art on them reflecting what they are intended to hold, and they also feature the set symbol on the other side, which the SpartanKid pointed out is a trident and an axe head combined.  After saying all of this, these boxes are still made of thin cardboard…thinner and cheaper than what the actual cards are made of.  And they couldn’t possibly stand up to heavy use if a person decided to say, carry around this box to alot of tournaments.  (Sleeving out the cards fills them to the max.  There is enough room for 60 cards plus the tokens in Dragon Shields, but you wouldn’t be able to carry a full sideboard.)

But if you are like me, and your duel decks stay together resting in an organized fashion, waiting to see some light play, then these boxes are just fine.

The other things…the quick reference guide is a must include, as this product will definitely find its way into the hands of beginning players.  This isn’t an intro deck, but new players are bound to be drawn into purchasing these at the low price point.  (Mine was $19.99 at the Tangled Web.)

The poster features nice artwork, and importantly, a DECKLIST.  (The last sealed product I opened for the SpartanNerd blog didn’t include a decklist. BOO.)  I keep my decklists all in one place for when I inventory my cards about three times a year.  (Occasionally I might borrow a card from a pre-con deck for Standard, Modern, or Commander.)

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You get two life counter dice, and that’s about it for the packaging.

THE DECKS.

Longtime Hub City Geeks will know that that SpartanNerd is running out of photo space on WordPress.  So I have minimized my pictures a little.  Here are the decks with the flashy rare cards.

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Warren Instigator.  This one wasn’t on my radar.  This is how you get alot of Goblins on the field, and trigger Enters the Battlefield effects.  Oh yeah.  DOUBLE STRIKE.  You Get TWO triggers.  Sick.  This is one of the sets money cards.  This foil printing is already worth around $5.

Goblin Diplomats.  This showcases the funnyness of the Goblin deck.  And they are hilarious.

Master of Waves.  Here is one from my favorite THEROS BLOCK.  Master of Waves is a BEAST.  in the Merfolk deck, you will definitely have a ton of devotion to blue, and so will get a bunch of elementals when he enters the battlefield.  And this new art makes it look like he’s been working out!

Harbinger of the Tides.  And iconic merfolk that is removal on a stick.  Amazing.

So I am going to show you a mat full of the strategy of each deck, starting with Merfolk.

MERFOLK

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Merfolk in Modern is a strategy that depends on lords, which are creatures that give others of the same type +1/+1,  and Islandwalk, which is a type of evasion.

The Merfolk deck here highlights this by including three merfolk lords.  If you get all three out, you win.  (But the odds are against you.)  The evasion piece here is Aquatech’s Will, which is a busted spell that makes an opponent’s land into an island (in addition to its other types) and also lets you draw a card.  There are FOUR COPIES in this deck!  That’s how important it is.  One of our lords, Master of the Pearl Trident, gives all merfolk you control islandwalk.

What else is here?  Some iconic merfolk.  In addition to Master of Waves, we also get Cold Eyed Selkie, who is big in Commander.  We get Scroll Thief, who would be an automatic inclusion into any merfolk deck, and is an important core set type of MTG card.  Harbinger of the Tides.  And Tidebinder Mage, who was important a few years ago in standard.  (M13-Innistraad-Return to Ravnica-M14 Standard).

Then this is a blue deck, so it also has plenty of control.  Notably here is Essence Scatter, because you KNOW your opponent is going to cast creature spells in this duel deck environment.  Concentrate and Misdirection, which are classics.  Tidal Wave, which gives you a quick, big blocker, and Engulf the Shore which is a sweeper.

GOBLINS

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It’s hard to put your finger on the strategy of goblins.  There is a randomness to it, that finds success anyway.  And they are also always pretty much hilarious.  In this deck, you want to build up a critical mass of goblins before the merfolk are able to get out their evasive lords.  So board presence is the key, rather than evasion.

There aren’t that many goblin lords, but they are still about spiritually the same.  Goblin Wardriver has Battle Cry, which means whenever he attacks, other attacking cratures get +1/+0.  Goblin Chieftain is a goblin lord.  Goblin Rabblemaster makes goblin tokens with haste everytime you get a combat stage.  (Rabblemaster was important in Khans block).

Other ways to get out tokens?  Krenko, Mob boss makes a ton of goblins if left unchecked. Goblin Ringleader lets you get goblin cards in your hand.  (Tribal instants and sorceries count as goblins!)  Also, when paired with Warren Instigator, this is just incredible.

Blue has control, but red has burn of course!  Very notable here is Goblin Grenade.  (This card wasn’t in the first Goblin Duel Deck.  It wasn’t a thing yet.)  Goblin Diplomats makes the merfolks swing into a bunch of goblins that can black and eat them up.  Tarfire, the aforementioned tribal instant which was in the previous duel deck, as was Gempalm Incinerator.  I haven’t got to see the Goblin Razerunners do his thing yet.  (I have played seven matches.  He seems busted though, as a goblin burn spell on a stick.)  Tokens are so important here that we have four token producing spells.  (Three copies of Krenko’s COmmand and one copy of Hordeling Outburst.)

Goblin Charbelcher.  Ahh.  The Eternal Masters art.  With Black Lotus among other things flying out of the cannon.  The way this works is, you pay to activate it, then reveal your cards until you hit a land.  The number of card revealedis the amount of damage assigned to target creature of player.  Now out there in the world, there is a Modern and a Legacy version of this strategy as a whole deck.  Basically, you will build a deck with only a single land, probably Stomping Ground.  You build up your mana base using Simian Spirit Guides and borderposts, or other fast mana tricks, and then you activate the cannon and reveal all of your cards.  Hopefully at least twenty damage is sent to your opponents face!  But here, you will probably only get a few damage ponts in as the deck has a bunch of lands.  But it is a flavorful and important inclusion.  This is reliable removal that the merfolk deck can’t stop.

Ghostfire.  A colorless burn spell that costs two generic and a mountain.  Why?  I think the wizards just wanted to reprint it.  But it is handy against something like Master of Waves, which has protection from red.  This card is important also historically, as it gave the wizards inspiration for the cards with DEVOID in the recent Battle for Innistraad block.

HOW THE DECKS PLAY OUT.

So far, the Goblins beat the Merfolk most of the time.  These decks are INCREDIBLY balanced against one another if both players hit a land drop every turn and play a spell every turn.  The experience here is not unlike Elves Vs. Goblins.  You just about have the same experience.  While the Elves work differently, trying to power out big green monsters, the Merfolk work organically together to create evasion and hit the opponent hard.  The Goblins work about the same as the previous decks, with the new tricks of Goblin Charbelcher, Goblin Grenade, and Goblin Rabblemaster.  DIfferent bosses, with the same strategy of go wide and do whatever it takes to damage the opponent.

It is pretty much hilarious when someone gets Master of Waves out and gets a huge board presence, only to suddenly lose it to Ghostfire or Goblin Charbelcher.  On the other hand, it is humorous to make the Goblins have a Mountain Island and then hit them hard with islandwalkers.  Also, the Merfolk get that sweeper spell, which does away with the tokens.  It also wipes their board, but they don’t rely on creature tokens as a base strategy the way Goblins do.  (I really think Master of Waves is here for the new players.  He is splashy and flashy and fun.  But another merfolk lord would have been better.  Or a devastating artifact along the lines of the charbelcher.)

THE SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF DUEL DECKS: MEFOLK VS. GOBLINS.

Maybe you think I’m a fanboy.  But I’m giving this a 5/5.  The WIzards must be listening.  They improved the deckboxes and included a decklist.  Mind Vs. Might was poorly received because it was considered unbalanced, and therefore unfun.  This set is the opposite.  So the Wizards ARE LISTENING.

The SpartanNerd rates Merfolk Vs. Goblins a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments, oh Hub City Geeks!.

 

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SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis Duel Deck

Let me first of all say…I have placed this set through the ringer!  Check out my review…

I unfortunately found myself bored, and at Wal-Mart, and so I unfortunately bought this there, which was money that unfortunately could have gone to a real comic book/ card shop, but instead unfortunately fed the beast and unfortunately has me confessing here on the SpartanNerd blog.  Do as I say…not as I do.  By yours at a specialty store…a place where you can actually play Magic the Gathering!

Enough of that…

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The box is exactly the same as we saw with the last two Duel decks…Zendikar vs. Eldrazi and Blessed vs. Cursed.  A foil treatment, with pictures and propaganda on the back.  The pictures showcase some of the alternate-art cards, especially for long-time collectors who would be aware.

The front showcases the two planeswalker cards, Nissa and Ob Nixilis, with new art and foil treatment.

 

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Here’s what’s in the box.  Two decks…one for each planeswalker…the decks are wrapped in “cigarette wrapping”.  You get two life counter dice, and a poster-instruction-decklist insert, and a general guide to playing MTG.  (I just throw that away.)  You also get two deck boxes that can’t hold the cards in sleeves, nor can they hold the unsleeved deck and tokens.

 

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As big a fan as I am of Ob Nixilis, and playing black, this is the first copy of “reignited” that I own.  This art is SO MUCH BETTER than the regular art from Battle for Zendikar, which I have come to call “Ob Smiley.”  In Standard, this card is a big piece in black control decks, which vary from Esper or Grixis Dragons, to Super-Friends planeswalkers, to even finding use in Green Black aristocrats.  (One of my favorite decks.)

He isn’t better than “Flip Liliana” though.

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I also haven’t owned a copy of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.  I also prefer this art to the conventional card art.  This one has a bit more action to it.

Next, pics of the posters, with the all-important deck lists!  (I won’t be picturing the cards as intensely as I have in the past…in the interest of conserving memory on this blog.)

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First, Nissa’s deck, with five rares on top.  The land is the green Hideaway Land.  When you control a creatures with ten or greater power total,  you get to cast the card exiled under it sans timing restrictions…FUN!  The three creatures are each really big threats, and Abundance helps you get card draw.  (Just don’t forget the trigger….)

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You also get these special lands.  Sighfigant is Treetop Village, a “man land.”

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This deck, as well as Ob Nixilis’s deck has about two copies of each card, making these decks play really smoothly!

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Ob Nixilis’ rares…

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Good old “Double D!”  Desecration Demon is back, and is a great early game bomb to keep it fun for Nissa’s deck…But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I will be upgrading to my foil Double D.  And I will likely swap Pestilence Demon with the misprinted one I got in the “Sworn to Darkness” Commander deck.  That misprint makes it appear as though the mist, smoke, or fog surrounding the figure is painted over the rules text.  Despoiler of Souls makes it easy to keep a threat or at least something to sacrifice on the game board.  Priest of the Blood Rite…I loaded up on these when it came out in Origins.  It hasn’t made a splash at all anywhere, really.  Finally, Indulgent Tormenter.  Offer your opponent choices in how you will beat them!

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Here are the black tokens.  There were green ones too, but somehow the photo eludes me.  Significantly, the green ones feature 0/1 plant creatures for Nissa, and a 4/4 elemental as well.  Ob Nixilis tokens importantly include his emblem.

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And a land I never owned…Leechridden Swamp.  You can build a strategy around this card…It can be fetched with a fetch land.  A lot of good things going on here.  These are my first two copies of this card.  I might pick up another one to add to Liliana, Heretical Healer’s homemade Commander deck!

PLAYING THE DUEL DECKS

I have played these two decks over and over in different situations.  And I have found them terrifically balanced against each other.  The Wizards have given us an Elf deck and a Demon deck before.  These decks feel nothing  like those two as far as flavor is concerned.  Nixilis’ deck isn’t really a demon deck…it happens to have a couple of big flying bombs.  What you generally do is play chump creatures early and then drop one of these bombs.  Pestilence Demon is likely the most powerful card in the deck….if you are willing to pay the life to kill off Nissa’s stuff.

Nissa’s deck does about the same thing.  It ramps from small creatures to large.  Being green, the large creatures just happen to work very well.

Getting either planeswalker on the field can mean GG!  Nissan makes a terrific finisher, believe it or not.  Ob Nixilis is a removal spell, basically, and a discard outlet.  And this deck can get cards back out of the graveyard and into your hand or on the battlefield.

Basically, Nixilis deck represents all that black can do, and Nissa’s highlights what green can do.  The decks operate the same…ramp from small to big.  And then play Magic.

Ob Nixilis has the most wins, by the way.

I can only give Nissa vs Ob Nixilis a 5/5.  The only thing I can mark off for is the deck box.  I wish the wizards would fix that problem?

Why these two planeswalkers is the second question.  We need a Liliana of the Veil and Jace, Telepath Unbound reprint!  Nissan and Ob are great enemies, and important to the Battle for Zendikar block story, (odd because now we are in Shadows Over Innistrad block.)

But they gave us a great product, if a little late and different.

So I offer up a 5/5 on Magic the Gathering Duel Decks Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

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.)

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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..

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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)

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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!

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Zendikar vs. Eldrazi Duel Deck

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I for one am quite psyched about “Battle for Zendikar,” the next large set of MTG cards coming out in October.  I missed Zendikar the first time around, since I wasn’t playing at the time.  But the effects of that set have rippled through the gaming scene enough to where I know it was a big deal.  Everything from Fetch Lands like Verdant Catacombs, to full-art Zendikar basics are very sought after.  And this isn’t even adding in the eldrazi bosses!

The wizards have a little rotation…I should know by now.  I am obviously a collector of duel decks, and certainly wasn’t going to pass this one up.  The rotation goes like this…Duel deck in the fall just before rotation, that features cards with new mechanics,  Duel deck in the spring featuring two planeswalkers,  This duel deck is of the first type.  It features a few new cards from the upcoming set, and spoils some of the mechanics.  This time those mechanics are Devoid, Awaken, Ingest, Landfall, and Level-up, and Annihilator.

I purchased my copy of the deck at The Tangled Web in Spartanburg SC for $19.99.  I think you should go there now and get a copy…I don’t think this one is going to warm the shelves!

So how did my unboxing and initial play go?  Read on for a review!

Packaging

The Duel Decks, Zendikar vs. Eldrazi, came in the same kind of package as the last few.  It doesn’t use heavy plastic, but lighter more recyclable stuff.  It is made of thin poster-style cardboard.  Getting the seran wrap and the cardboard off reveals a thin blister covering a thicker black tray.  Here are the pieces that I removed from the package.

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You get two premium foil cards, “Avenger of Zendikar” and “Oblivion Sower.”  The Avenger has Landfall- Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, put a +1/+1 counter on each plant creature you control.  This card is a re-print, and the wizards stress that it will not be Standard legal.  Oblivion Sower is a new Eldrazi.  When it is cast, the target player exiles the top four cards, and you get to put any number of lands from the exile onto the battlefield for yourself.  (WHAT?  there is going to be some mill-exiling in the next set!)

The other things you get with this set are the two decks, (obviously,) two pieces of paper, one a reference card and the other propaganda with a deck list, two deck boxes, and TWO COUNTER DICE!  This is new, and quite a surprise!  These decks usually come don’t come with counters!  (The wizards recently began putting out fewer event decks, which usually included one.  I suppose this is a refiguring of their resources maybe?)

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The two deck lists…important!  While I generally throw away the reference guide, I keep these.  (I know…the information is on the internet.  This is how I am “prepping!”)

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The art is good.  Aren’t the Eldrazi ugly things!  They look like mutant-jellyfish-human-aliens.

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I am going to go over the Zendikar deck first, photographing the cards, and mentioning what is good about those cards specifically.

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The first cards are the rares.  This is something I have noticed recently about the intro decks as well.  Rares are on top.  No matter what kind of card they are.  Probably the most notable here is Primal Command, a real game-changer.  But none of these are junk rares.  Every one of them is good.  And Veteran Warleader has the potential to be HUGE.

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Lots of cards with landfall.  These cards would make Garruk very happy!  Large creatures that fight and love ramp.  Also notable, the card with level up.

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Khalni Heart Expedition and Harrow are two ways to trigger landfall on your opponents turn.  There are other ways, however.

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Repel the darkness….feels like a blue card.  And then their is Sheer Drop, a new card with Awaken.  (Awaken turns your lands into “man-lands.”

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You get these lands.  Pretty good…the non-basics are sort of average for Duel Decks, though.  (Refuges.  Gain life.  Evolving wilds, and then Forestlasher Grove, which is there for flavor.)

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And FIVE plant tokens.  Another new addition!  (If you’ll recall, regular readers.  I was quite critical of Elspeth vs. Kiora because it didn’t come with adequate tokens.)

Clearly Landfall has to work in order for this deck to win!

Now the Eldrazi deck.

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Vampires, Imps, Hellions, and Eldrazi.  Many bad guys.  Why the bad guys would want to side with Eldrazi is beyond me.  They consume everything, regardless of alignment.  Notable is Dominator Drone, who has Devoid and Ingest.  Devoid means it is colorless, regardless of its required mana cost.  Ingest exiles the top card of their library.  (Remember what Oblivion Sower does?)

We also have It that Betrays.  A reprint.  But notable.

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And now some of my personal favorites.  (Remember, my color is Black!)  Vampire Nighthawk.  AWESOME!  Read the Bones.  Terrific!  Smother.  Can you say “Tiny Leaders?”

There are also some more Eldrazi.  Ulamogs Crusher and Artisan of Kozilek.

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I’m highlighting Corpsehatch because it mentions the 0/1 Eldrazi Spawn.  They are essential to making this deck work.  This deck ramps with them, but also requires sacrifices.

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The lands.  Refuges, Fetches, and Eldrazi Temple for flavor.

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You get these five tokens.  Three different printings of Eldrazi Spawn, and a 4/4 Hellion.

Duel Decks are maybe the most flavorful regular releases from the wizards.  These tokens really add to the story of what is happening during The Battle for Zendikar.

HOW THE DECKS PLAY OUT.

Me and the SpartanKid have played four matches, and it is 2 and 2.  (2 wins for each deck.)  This makes it great for me to write a review!  But it also says something about the decks being balanced against each other.

Both decks are ramp decks.  Both decks use tokens.  Both decks have very large creatures, however the Eldrazi have an edge here.  On the other hand Zendikar can do something with its tokens besides sacrifice them.

The first two matches were won by the Zendikar deck.  Primal Command was an ESSENTIAL card to play correctly.  When Avenger of Zendikar entered the battlefield, lots of plant tokens were produced.  Then the Avenger was targeted and killed.  But the Primal Command lets you shuffle him back into your library and then tutor him back out.  Awesome!  So that meant even more plant goodness on the next turn.  The turn after that, Evolving Wilds became the important card.  (THAT’S RIGHT! Evolving Wilds is GREAT in this deck.  Probably the only way, though.)  When the evolving wilds entered the battlefield, it triggered Landfall on the avenger, and all ten of those plants got a 1/1 counter.  Then you crack the Evolving wilds and get another land, triggering Landfall again.  And GG!  You just swung for 20+!

And all of the ways the deck gets land and triggers landfall really make it work.  While it is a fattie beatdown deck, it is more of an overrun deck.  Even if the Eldrazi sweep away the plant tokens with Marsh Casualties or similar, the creatures in the deck are still pretty formidable.  And every game we’ve played there has been like fourteen or more land on Zendikar’s side of the battlefield.  Then there are tricks like Retreat to Kazandu…an enchantment that has landfall abilities that either put counters on a creature or gain life. Remember, Evolving Wilds is GOOD in this deck.

The second two matches were won by the Eldrazi deck.  The Eldrazi win by finding advantage by producing Eldrazi Spawn tokens, which can be sacrificed for colorless mana, or sacrificed for other purposes.  They also can just be blockers if you are in a pinch.  Which seems to happen quite a bit with this deck.  There are chump creatures, the tokens, and then the massive Eldrazi which are normally un-castable, so you have to buy as much time as you can.  

A couple of favorite tricks…Butcher of Malakir…whenever a creature you control dies, the opponent has to sacrifice a creature.  Meaning that the Eldrazi Spawn tokens become Cruel Edict, but at instant speed.  YAY!  There is synergy here with Bloodthrone Vampire…he gets bigger when you sacrifice things.  These kinds of tricks work really well in Commander.  But with the level of ramp found in this deck, you get to use them here!

So that tells you the other half of the story.  The Eldrazi themselves are winners.  Period.  They can be removed, Ousted, Etc. But they are winners if not answered.  Ulamog’s Crusher and It that Betrays have Annihilate 2.  The opponent has to sacrifice two permanents when they are declared as an attacker. Artisan of Kozilek has it also, but when you cast it you also get to reanimate something from the graveyard.  The new guy, Oblivion Sower, hasn’t shown up yet.  He is meant to have synergy with the new cards with Ingest.  The deck has a few Dominator Drones, and when they attack the player exiles their top card.  Playing Oblivion Sower puts even more cards in the exile zone, and then you can put the exiled lands into play for whatever nefarious purpose you have planned!

Of the two decks, I prefer the Eldrazi.  All those vampires and black cards are just really good.  But there is no denying the goodness of Primal Command and all of the Landfall abilities the other deck can swing.

I’d say this is one of the funnest duel decks I own.  It is every bit as flavorful as Elves vs. Goblins and Liliana vs. Garruk.

SpartanNerd Rating of Zendikar vs. Eldrazi Duel Deck…

I have to give this deck a solid 5/5!  The only real complaint I have is similar to the other complaints I have had about Duel Decks.  This time the deck comes with lots of tokens, but those tokens don’t fit in the boxes.  In fact, you can only fit two plants or two Eldrazi Spawn in either deck with the rest of the cards.

This product has flavor, is fun, has allternate art cards (I hadn’t mentioned that!) ,and comes with plenty of tokens and TWO life counters.  The Wizards went over the top this time.

SpartanNerd rates Duel Decks:  Zendikar vs. Eldrazi a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

SpartanNerd…Dual Deck Anthology Vacation matchups.

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The only Magic cards I took with me on my recent vacation was pre-constructed decks.  I took the entire Duel Deck Anthology box, and stuffed it with loads of Commander, other duel decks, and the solitaire decks.  The box was great for transporting my cards!  (I removed the tray for the first time, and discovered a Serial Number!

I held two memorable Duel Deck matches with the SpartanKid, before our interest shifted to testing the French Dark Ascension deck I purchased.

Following is a record of what happened during those two matches!

Elves Vs. Liliana

The match was generally unfair at first.  I was piloting Liliana, of course, and knew what I was up against.  I kept a hand full of removal!  I knew it would be important to keep as many elves from sticking to the board as possible.  At around turn six, the SpartanKid wasn’t having any fun.  He began saying,”This isn’t fair!”  Deathgreeter ensured that I kept gaining life as creatures died.  Lucky for him, I was out of removal.  But I had Enslave ready because I knew eventually the SpartanKid would try for Allosaurus Rider, one of the Elf deck’s most insane cards, controlled by one of Liliana’s most broken cards!

True to form, he played that Allosaurus Rider, and then I hit it with Enslave.  .

It was Lys Alana, Huntmaster that landed next, and I had no response.  The game became very grindy, eventually getting lots of traction for the elf deck.  That Allosaurus Rider went down to the Voice of the Woods token.

Down but not out, I cast Rise from the Grave, getting the Allosaurus Rider back, and even better than ever late in the game, with ten lands on the field!

But all of this effort was not removal.  Imperious Perfect and Ambush Commander hit the battlefield, and the game was pretty much over.  In fact, Liliana Vess was the final thing I cast.  Too little, too late.  It was GG.  Elves took the victory!  I was two turns away from Mutilate, which would have totally shifted the game back in Liliana’s favor.

Later, we would play Divine vs. Liliana.

It all seemed grim.  The Angels were truly beating down Liliana’s deck.  (Recently, when I read the fiction put on the Mothership Site, Liliana would remark that Angels were “goody two-shoes.”)

Then I drew Liliana, and used her to tutor up Mutilate in the face of Twilight Shepherd and Akroma.  But Twilight Shepherd has that pesky persist ability, and also brings things back to the battlefield from the graveyard that died on the same turn.

And that was pretty much it.  The Divine Deck truly is a casual masterpiece of destruction!  Really, almost none of the decks can stand against them except for Jace and Chandra…Jace who controls and cancels and bounces angels, and chandra who burns everything except Akroma, (but it doesn’t matter, because it takes so long to cast Akroma.  However, the life gain of the Divine deck can be frustrating against burn.)

(I posted a review of matches between Liliana and the Angels once before, and had different things to say…)

The Duel Deck Anthology has proven to be one of the greatest gifts for a Magic player.  It was reasonably priced.  Resaonably rare.  Reasonably cool.  And nicely archival.  I hope the Wizards release more of these Anthologys in the future.  I am a dedicated purchaser at this point!

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

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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! 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Here are the uncommon creatures.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

KIORA, THE CRASHING WAVE

Another dumb thing of equal dumbness.

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

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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!