SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic the Gathering Modern Event Deck

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Nobody panic!  The SpartanNerd purchased something he originally said he had no interest in!

But there is a story…

First of all, I didn’t pay $79.99.

I am going to take a moment to talk about how wonderful the folks at the Tangled Web Comics and Games are in Spartanburg, SC.  I came to their store yesterday with two cards to trade, Inkmoth Nexus from the French Event Deck I recently purchased and reviewed.  I won’t divulge the details of our trade.  But these decent folks made sure I had a good deal.  This was the last copy of the event deck they had, and I needed five of the cards in the deck.  As well as I didn’t have the sword or the Elspeth.

The Tangled Web is just good, small business.  They are forever nice.  And reward their loyal customers.  Daniel, Anna, Danny, and Josh, this is a shout out to you.  Thanks for being so nice!  I have visited a ton of different similar shops and gaming places, but The Tangled Web stands a head taller than everyone else.

I have done tons of reviews of event decks since I began the SpartanNerd blog.  And I purchased all of them from the Tangled Web except for the French Event Deck.  Links to some of my reviews are below.

M14 Event Deck

Theros Event Deck

Born of the Gods Event Deck

Journey Into Nyx Event Deck

Dark Ascension Event Deck (French)

So, back to the review!

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This event deck starts off like any other.  With some inspiring information of the back.  This time what is different is the cover sleeve feels like an essential part of the packaging.

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Removing the sleeve reveals this SICK box.  It has foil detailing.  I thought it might be a bait and switch kind of situation, like you might encounter in some Magic products, where there is some kind of cardboard spacer or something.  Nope.  This box is a solid two piece construction.  I think I will get a lot of use out of this box!

The top slides right off, and this is what your see.

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Notable…this deck comes with sleeves!   The life counter features the Modern Event Deck Set Symbol on the #20.

This time you only have one piece of paper.  Finally, reason prevails!  No general guide to playing Magic.  A person doesn’t just walk into a Modern tournament without a deck, never having played Magic before, and drop $50+ on a product they don’t even know how to play!

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Here is the ever-important decklist.

I am going to go through the cards, with comments.  I have been hesitant to purchase this product because I had so many of the cards anyway.

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I had these cards already.  The Tidehollow Sculler is similar to the Brain Maggot.  He has stronger power and toughness, but at white and black in the cost, he is harder to cast.  I recently encountered Soul Warden when playing against a deck called “Soul Sisters.”  Basically, mostly female characters that amount to little advantages, as well as some “hate bears.”

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Path To Exile…One of my main reasons to purchase this.  I recently won a copy.  I need them for my Esper Control Deck.  (I will cover that deck later.)

Inquisition of Kozilek.  Another big reason for me to purchase this deck.  Basically a Thoughtsieze effect, with a restriction that the discarded card has CMC of three or less.  Think how much better than Gitaxian Probe this is.  Of course, that is a cantrip, but still, if you put this in your Rack deck, or Waste Not deck, then you didn’t have to pay the two life for Thoughtsieze as often for the same effect.  And then you might know if it is worth Thoutsiezing.

Shrine to the Loyal Legions…the first true White Weenie card in this deck.  The Soul Warden and the Tidehollow Sculler are the only real creatures in this deck.  Everything else is spells that generate tokens.

Lingering Souls…a wildly fun card.  I already had four copies, and made that the base for my Esper deck.

Honor of the Pure…an anthem effect.  You could put the Spear of Heliod here for an even better effect, and with he added bonus of removal.

Intangible Virtue…this card was insane during the Innistrad block!  One of the best cards I remember from when I started playing Magic.

Raise the Alarm…another chump token generator.  Again, a card I didn’t really need.

Zealous Persecution…a great way to suddenly boost your white weenie army’s power, while at the same time weakening your opponents creatures.

Spectral Procession…I only had one copy of this card before.  It is just right for this deck, which is really a white-based deck.

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I didn’t have either of these cards.  I like how this Elspeth has a lower mana cost than the more recent one.  But she isn’t as good either.  She’s still pretty good.  She can suddenly pump one of your guys and give him flying.

The sword is broken.  It always has been!  I didn’t own this card either.  The Sword and the Elspeth are a good portion of the value in this deck.  Both cards are around $15 dollars apiece.

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The lands…I already had four copies of Caves of Koilos.  This is being reprinted yet again in Origins, so I don’t see that much value.  I only had two copies of City of Brass, neither of which had as good of art as featured here.  So that’s good!  (I like City of Brass better than Mana Confluence.  Mostly for flavor reasons.)  I only had one Isolated Chapel, a buddy land.  I had Vault of the Archangel,  but I didn’t have Windbrisk Heights.  That land is a great source of on-the-battlefield card advantage in this deck.  Then there are five plains, all of the same art, and three swamps.  Same art.

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This deck, like all of the event decks I have reviewed, comes with a sideboard.  The question is, what metagame is it addressing?  Here are some ideas.

Dismember can take out indestructible things.

Kataki, War’s Wage is meant to slow down Tron and Affinity decks.  Burrenton Forge Tender is meant to cost a burn player two cards.  (if you play both copies.)

Relic of Progenitus will shut down Lingering Souls and Unburial Rites.  It is also good against a mirror match, (concievable!)

And then Durress, a general thoughtsieze effect, but it can’t get creatures.  Good against Planeswalkers, burn spells, etc.

For the first time ever, I get to review how a deck plays before ever playing it!  I guess I’m a little late to the unboxing party!  I have faced this deck a few times in tournaments, with occasional slight modifications.

The way this deck works is, “overrun your opponent.”  Get lots of chump tokens on the field.  Use the Lingering Souls to block flyers.  Reach critical mass, get the sword on a flyer, and GG.  The Soul Warden works against burn.  The Intangible Virtue doubles the effectiveness of your creatures.  And then the anthem effects are very strong.

The Elspeth is dangerous.  Many times I have seen players substitute the newer Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.  And it’s possible to slide in a large creature, usually an angel.

I have beaten this deck a few times…probably more than I have lost to it.  It is weak against a turn one Thoughtsieze.  It has no response to Blue…it hopes to move faster than blue.  But you can easily remand these spells, and then prepare for them.  The creatures don’t have haste…so you get a second to remove them.  It becomes a race against green.  Sometimes it can beat green with a larger number of creatures.  And green doesn’t have too many flyers…

SpartanNerd Rating of the Magic the Gathering Modern Event Deck…

My colors are white and black.  This deck is mostly a “White Weenie” strategy, but it is a pretty strong take on it.  I don’t have many gripes about it in that respect.

The box is excellent.  It came with sleeves and an exclusive spin down counter.

If I have any complaint, it is that there are no foil cards in this deck.  I love me some foil.  But this really isn’t enough to take a point off.

So I am going to give it a 5/5.  It is the best event deck I have seen, except maybe the French thing.

Do you agree or disagree, oh Hub City Geeks?  Let me know in the comments!  And go by and visit the Tangled Web sometime!

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!