SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Fate Reforged Clash Pack “Power vs. Profit”

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First of all, let me say I haven’t been ABLE to play MTG lately, it seems much less review products or blog.  Life has been busy, and I have been tired.  I managed to play on the past couple of Friday nights, one tournament was cool because it was draft.  But I had almost no practice with my standard deck, and lost badly last week with my “Windswept Heath” Junk (abzan) deck.  I intend to play Liliana again this Friday night, but still haven’t got to practice much.  Incidently, also, I have been “drawing” a lot playing the three color style.  Maybe that is really what is motivating me to go back to mono black.

I purchased this product, Fate Reforged Clash Pack…”Power vs. Profit” on release day for Fate Reforged.  It was about $30 at the Tangled Web in Spartanburg.  I skipped the previous Clash Pack, “M15,” because it seemed like a weak offering.  So this is the first such product I have bought.

Some thoughts about it, verses say, getting an Event Deck.  An event deck is similar to an intro deck, but maybe only a little better.  You get 75 cards, a nice box, and a life counter.  Event Decks are kind of what you buy as a casual player, coming in to try Magic for the first time, or whatever.  They might win a match or two, but rarely more than two.  I’m saying this knowing that a lot of SpartanNerd.com traffic comes from me reviewing Event Decks, but in general, they just aren’t that good because the Wizards don’t construct them to be tournament winners.  For instance, they will only have one or two copies of a card that there should be four of.  Or the mana-fixing is slow.  Some of the reason they do it like this is so that new players get more different cards.  I didn’t realize it, until spending some time with some new players, especially kids…there is a “collectors” aspect to what they want.  I’m OK with that, I’m just saying that it makes the Event Decks weaker in general than they should be to be truly competitive.

The Clash Pack idea takes some of the philosophy of the Event Deck, and addresses some of the weaker points.  The Fate Reforged Clash Pack comes with two “better-than-intro-pack” decks.  (a total of 120 cards).  You don’t get a spin-down life counter, but you DO get a box that can hold both decks unsleeved, or one deck sleeved with a sideboard.  (The box is similar to those boxes that came with the “Dual Deck Anthology,” but a little different.)

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The idea is that a player will play with both decks, presumably against each other.  And then craft a competitive deck from the stronger pieces of each one.  I like this better than the “I came in.  Let me buy some cards to play.”  The clash pack makes it so that you are thinking about what you are playing ahead of time.  Then do what you are supposed to do for a Standard tournament, and “construct” a deck.

You can see the cards in the video below.   Both the “Power” and the “Profit” deck are featured.  If you are a veteran player, you will notice right away that some of the first cards are “alternate art.”  For me, this was a major reason to purchase the product.  I love the Whip of Erebos alternate art, as well as Hero’s Downfall and Reaper of the Wilds.

The “Power” Deck

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This deck is Sultai; Black, Green, and Blue.  It is very clear that the deck is great at getting cards into the graveyard.  The idea is that you will load your graveyard, cast a few flyers with delve, and maybe control the game with the graveyard using Necropolis FIend’s ability.  A big positive…there are four copies of Satyr Wayfinder, a big clue that the design here is better than an Event Deck.  The mana-fixing is of the slow “gain-land” variety, and I’m not sure a person should ever play a banner outside of draft, sealed, and commander styles.  The instants and sorceries are perfect for their respective color, and both Sulai Charm and Sultai Ascendancy are really great for this deck.  Oh yes…did I mention Treasure Cruise, a card that is so good it is already banned everywhere except Standard?  I believe that fixing the mana better, using Polluted Delta, Mana Confluence, or similar, then this deck might be really good as it is.  You might trade up to four copies of Hero’s downfall, but Murderous Cut is really good.  And you have a backup win condition, Scuttling Doom Engine!  You could modify it by adding Taisigur or Sidisi…I’m not sure Herald of Torment is the best choice here, as it usually won’t do anything but hurt you.

The “Profit” deck

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There is no blue in this deck, so we could call it “Galgari.”  What “Profit” tries to do is use the “constellation” mechanic.  For me, historically, this has been weak sauce.  Eidolon of Blossoms is really … so-so.  And it is a good case study for most of Constellation.  For four mana, you get a 2/2 with a card draw ability triggering when it enters the battlefield and whenever another enchantment enters the battlefield.  Maybe I’m just dumb, but the trigger doesn’t go off if your spell gets canceled, and that is exactly usually what happens.  (sadness).  If not, the Eidolon just gets murdered before you can trigger constellation and draw a second time.  (more sadness).  But I really like the other thing this deck does…It keeps cards in the graveyard for more power.  Nighthowler is a key card here, and there should be more of them in this deck.  (I suppose they didn’t want to add TOO MANY RARES.) But you get Nemesis of Mortals, who is a big guy for cheap with more stuff in the graveyard.  The deck has a few spiders to catch those flyers in the other deck, including one of my personal favorites, Nyx Weaver.    Dark Betrayal is no good against opponents who are not playing black creatures…Not a problem when clashing against “Power,” but no good except for side boarding in tournaments.  This deck tries to have more life gain.  The Courser of Kruphix is ALWAYS a good card.  The Whip of Erebos as well, and this is a card where a one-of is welcomed.  Finally, the Wizards must have their eye on the meta-game…Doomwake Giant is a currently good card against Jeskai “prowess” decks and Blue-White “heroic” decks.

The Matchup

The decks are fun to play against each other.  That’s why the clash pack is a great product.  It combines the fun of the Dual Deck, with the collection builder of an Intro deck, and the ambition of an event deck.  The Wizards pitted two graveyard philosophies against one another, with tremendous success.  The flying killers of Power verses the giant graveyard lovers of Profit.

The Mixup

The promotional insert provides a suggested deck.  I don’t think it is as good as it could be.  For one thing, it splashes the blue for the Sultai cards, but the designers decided to mana-fix with Jungle Hollow instead of Dismal Backwater.  That seems a little wrong to me.  Thankfully they opted for only two Opulent Palace, which has been the correct choice for the current Standard environment.  I think Herald of Torment just doesn’t fit this deck.  It would be better with another Hero’s Downfall, or maybe Nighthowler.  I even think a fourth copy of Nyx Weaver would be better if the purpose of the Herald of Torment was to provide evasion on turn three.  I will even go as far to say that Sultai Scavenger is a better, probably cheaper flyer.  The Herald needs to bestow on something with Heroic to be worthwhile.

Just the same, I think it is great that the Wizards are encouraging people to mix the decks.  If all you had were these 120 cards in your collection, then you have some good tools to really get going in making your preferred “Delve” or “Dredge” deck.  And the experience can even be educational, as your tournament opponent drops “Polluted Delta” on the battlefield, turn one, and you have played “Dismal Backwater.”  The opponent gets to Thoughtsieze that Necropolis Fiend right out of your hand on turn one, while you cry because your land … couldn’t ..even …do ………anything.

(Maybe that was a little too mean…)

SpartanNerd’s Rating of Magic the Gathering Fate Reforged Clash Pack “Power vs. Profit”

I am going to examine the merits of the product first.

You get 120 cards, with lots of rares, and six special art promo cards.  The promotional material is pretty good, and it includes the guide for new players.  You also get a reasonably good box with a divider, if the latch is one of those weak ones that I detest.

But that doesn’t do enough to knock off a point.  SO the actual product gets 5/5.

Next I will examine each deck on its strong and weak points.

“Power” leans on the graveyard for Delve costs, and hopes to drop Necropolis Fiend on the battlefield early, and control the opponent with even more delve.  It has a backup strategy of Scuttling Doom Engine.  This deck is more of a control deck, featuring two Murderous Cuts and cancel-type spells.  Of the two, I like it the best, but I am taking off a point because the Mana-fixing is slow, and Herald of Torment sucks.  It gets 4/5.

“Profit” leans on the graveyard as a way of boosting creature power and toughness, and also leans on Constellation.  Constellation works great against the Power deck, but not in the current metagame for tournaments.  This is more of an aggro” deck, with the aim of getting Nighthowler bestowed onto something and beat you down with that suddenly huge creature, or getting Nemesis of Mortals out and activating Monstrosity sooner than you normally should.  Most of the creatures help load the graveyard and trigger constellation if you are lucky.  One of the best inclusions is Doomwake Giant, who is hot in the meta-game against Prowess decks.  This deck gets 3/5.

And the experience as a whole this time gets a score.  

This clash pack stands a head taller than any of the last three Event Decks I purchased.  It was five more dollars, but worth every bit of it.  I am going to give this part a 4/5, because it could have been a weak offering just as easily.

As if the SpartanNerd’s ratings really meant anything out there in the Blogosohere.  It seems I am giving the Fate Regorged Clash Pack a 4/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

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SpartanNerd Review…Fate Reforged Pre-Release Sealed Deck Experience

Fate Reforged, the second set in the Kahns of Tarkir block in Magic the Gathering, comes out this Friday,(1/23/2015) So naturally the Pre-Release was the weekend prior.  How did it go for me?  Read on, oh Hub City Geeks!

I decided to skip out on the midnight event at the Tangled Web in Spartanburg, SC.  I have played in those kinds of events a few times, and figure I am just too old.  My driving isn’t good at night, and my card playing isn’t either.  At about 3:00, my brain feels like it’s going to melt.  So I figured I would do better at the 1:00 tournament the next afternoon.  (Incidently, the Tangled Web also had a Sunday tournament, but I skipped that one on account of church and some other business.  Ah…Life.)

As in every Pre-Release I’ve been to outside of the core sets, I was handed a box with my materials for building a sealed deck.  The box contained some promotional materials, a “Sultai” button.  (Sultai was the color combination I chose.  Blue, Black, and Green.)  A life counter, four Fate Reforged booster packs, one Kahns of Tarkir booster pack, and a “seeded” pack meant to weigh the color choices towards Sultai.  All this for $25 is a pretty good deal…basically six packs, and a counter, plus the entry fee.  The box has long been in the trash…usually these are flimsy and useless.

But I do have pictures of the best cards of the night, and some commentary         IMG_5470 Here are the rares from Fate Reforged.  (Destructor dragon is uncommon…sorry!)

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And I got these two cards from Khans of Tarkir.  What actually happened was that the Polluted Delta was packed in one of the Fate Reforged boosters instead of a basic land or a gain land.  The wizards said that a lucky few would get a fetch land, I guess I am one of them!

And then the other significant cards…

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I decided to keep my colors as Sultai, so any rare red or white cards were useless.  Kind of a shame, really.  Flamewake Phoenix would surely be a star in sealed deck.

I decided that in my main deck I wouldn’t play Tasigar, the Golden Fang.  I probably made a mistake in that…I played him some in other decks since this tournament, and if you Delve him in, you have a fatty for only one swamp.  His other ability is fun, but because the opponent gets to choose the card from the graveyard to go to your hand, there is an element of stupidity, and I think this is what threw me off of this card for this particular event.  I decided to go with Archfiend of Depravity as my bomb instead.

Below are some cards with battle stories!

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Sandsteppe Mastadon…the fatty of fatties.  He has maybe the best war story of all from this tournament.  Me and my opponent had full board states, with my side slightly better.  Instead of combat, he casted a sweeper, “End Hostilities.”  All creatures, bam.  Gone.  Leaving me with six lands.  And his lands were all tapped.  I only had this card in hand.  I smiled as I drew a forest, and GG!  (I had a 10/10 elephant as a response to that sweeper!)  Moments like this keep you playing Magic.

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This guy was pretty reliable.  But because this is sealed deck, the only non creature permanents to destroy were generally lands.

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The bomb of this deck, Archfiend of Depravity, was pretty good.  He’s a big flyer with non-targeted removal.  Unfortunately, usually the opponent didn’t have but two creatures on the battlefield.  If I was going to fire someone, it would be Sultai Skullkeeper, who causes you to mill two cards when he enters the battlefield.  Guess who got milled more than twice during the tournament…(this big demon, that’s who.)

And one more honorable mention…sorry, no big photo.  You’ll have to look at the collage above.  Archers of Qarsi.  5/2 with defender and reach.  These guys were just good deterrent.  So many people were playing big flyers…the dragons, Wingate Roc, etc.  The archers caused them to hold off.  Which let me find time to get out my bombs.

SO HOW DID THE SPARTANNERD DO WITH THIS LIMITED POOL OF CARDS?

So how did I do?  At the conclusion of round five I had two wins and THREE DRAWS…  Basically, me and a slew of people were all tied after the fifth round, according to the standings.  So all of us were destined for ninth place or worse, and the top eight were locked in.  Sadness!  I gave a half hearted effort and called it a day after losing round six.

I didn’t get an Ugin.  But if I had, I doubt I would have been able to play him.  He would have broken up the creature stalls I suppose.  (I didn’t see an Ugin all day.  Is he real?)

SPARTANNERD’S RATING

I am glad to see dragons in Magic finally.  There have been an odd few every now and then, but they haven’t been a focus so much since I began playing.  The experience of the sealed deck box is OK.  The box leaves a lot to be desired.  The seeded pack did its job, but I probably could have gone red-white/ splashing black with my card pool and ignored Sultai.  (I chose Sultai because I thought the cards were stronger, when looking at the gallery on the Magic website.)

Still, I think this is a weak set.  Maybe even weaker than Born of the Gods from last year.  The dragons are nice, but the uncommon ones are take-it-or-leave-it.  I only saw one rare dragon all night.  He was no chump, but he steered clear of TWO archers.  A weak set that is designed to shake up the Standard environment.  At the Tangled Web, Jeskai is the deck to beat. There may be more diversity ahead.  I have found places for a few of my cards in other decks already, including Tasigur.

I’m a little underwhelmed.  But not too much.  So I’m going to give the set based on my pre-release experience a 3/5.  I have read very little in the way of spoilers, and haven’t played the new Standard yet.  We’ll see if I’m wrong…