SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Chandra Planeswalker Pack

img_9432Now for my second review of the new Planeswalker Packs…Chandra Pyrogenius.

If you read my review of Nissa, Nature’s Artisan Planeswalker Pack, then you know exactly what I am about to unbox!  Only this time flavored with Chandra, the reddest of the planeswalkers.

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You get a different blurb on the back of this one.  It accomplishes the goal of letting you know what the deck is all about.  And it mentions the uniqueness of the cards in this deck.

Things were packaged exactly the same.  In fact my pictures look eerily similar.  Almost like it wasn’t worth wasting WordPress memory…

Here is the Decklist.

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So here’s Chandra herself.  Take in this Jank!  You get a “Shock” as a +2 ability.  Or “Flamelash” as a -3 ability.  For six mana.  The -10 ability is a sweeper, which is of some interest.

The Wizards purposely “nerfed” this card.  It isn’t supposed to be big in Standard and Modern, though it is legal in those formats.  In other words.  They made a janky card on purpose.  BUT WHY?

True story.  The second time I visited a comic book store to shop for MTG cards, I asked the store owner about planeswalker cards.  Not only did he not have any, he said they were expensive to obtain.  And he was right.  Five or six years ago, when I started playing this game, planeswalkers were relatively new, and there weren’t that many even printed yet. (I started playing in tournaments during Dark Ascension, though I wasn’t really that aware of sets and blocks.)  The Wizards are doing a smart thing by printing Dual Decks that contain Planeswalkers, and it is also smart to make Intro Packs that include planeswalkers.  It helps new players feel that they have something nice.  And she is nice and splashy, and foil.  All of the things that the premium cards that were included in the now defunct intro packs generally failed to be.  (other than being foil.)

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Being a “burn” planeswalker, you would think that Chandra’s deck would be loaded up with Lightning Bolts and similar.  Not so much.  Instead, she has lots of creatures.  Chandra has vehicles, while Nissa didn’t.  Some of these cratures are really good.  Fleetwheel Cruiser is awesome right away, and might be the most valuable card in this deck as far as tournament play is concerned.  Speedway Fanatic has Haste, and Gearshift Ace has First Strike…these guys pretty much force players to learn the rules of combat.  Chandra has flyers, something else that Nissa’s deck didn’t have.

Here are the rest of the spells (and lands.)

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Flame Lash, Stone Quarry, Liberating Combustion, and Renegade Firebrand can all only be found here in this deck.  Liberating Combustion lets you tutor out your Chandra, and as I said in Nissa’s review, it serves an important role.  I don’t think Renegade Firebrand is going to matter that much.    But what might matter is Flame Lash, a four-drop instant burn spell that does four damage to a creature or player.  No, it’s not as good as Lightning Bolt.  But this could be an important card in Standard.  Recently Stoke the Flames was very relevant, and it had a similar effect.

HOW DOES THE CHANDRA PLANESWALKER PACK PLAY?

Like Nissa, I have tried this against several decks, and it generally wins.  A good bit actually.  It isn’t anywhere near as good as the Chandra Nalaar Duel Deck that was balanced against Jace.  But against other duel decks, intro decks, and challenge decks, this deck usually wins.  I think MTG has powered down since the Dual Deck anthology decks were printed.  But this deck does fine against anything printed since Return to Ravnica.

I have the opportunity to tell you now that Chandra, Pyromancer has beaten Nissa, Natures Artisan” soundly every time.  The two decks feel like they were meant to be a duel deck balanced against each other.  Maybe I’m just better with Chandra’s deck.  Not sure.  But I haven’t seen Nissa get a win yet when playing against Chandra.  Partly because there is sufficient creature removal in four copies of Flame Lash and in rolling Chandra down. The first striking and vigilance (and flying) creatures in Chandra’s deck are just better than the tramplers in Nissa’s deck.

So I am going to give Chandra a 75/100 as far as this is a playable deck.

I RATE THIS DECK A 5/5!

The Wizards are doing a good thing by printing this as an entry level product.  Planeswalkers have lots of appeal to new players.  Especially in foil.  The deck works well against most pre-constructed decks.  The after-market value of this deck is better than $15 with the inclusion of Fleetwheel Cruiser and Flame Lash.

The SpartanNerd gives Chandra, Pyromaster’s Planeswalker Pack a 5/5.

So do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

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SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Nissa Planeswalker Pack

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So the age of the SpartanNerd reviewing Intro Packs is over.  Recently, a few intro decks have been fun.  But they were never competitive.  Sometimes I would feel like gambling…Hey lets buy some boosters and see what we get.  A Zendikar Expedition land?  A Kaladesh Masterpiece Invention?  But then I would see that an INTRO DECK came with two boosters, and the certainty of a playable deck, at least at the kitchen table.  And so that’s why Intro decks had alure to me.  Throw in that I get A TON OF HITS off of unboxing and reviewing sealed MTG products, and then you see my motivation.

But too often, the intro deck was a lackluster offering, enjoyable mostly by kids and people learning the basic HOW the game is played.  So is the PLANESWALKER PACK any better?  Did the Wizards of the Coast just UPGRADE the “getting into the game” experience?  I know the guy who can tell you.  Me.  That’s who.

The Intro Pack Planeswalker Pack comes in the box shown above.  Mine was shrinkwrapped with an extra “tough” piece of plastic. around the middle.  I wonder why?

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The back gives us some information about what we are getting, with a little blurb about what the deck is about.  Now if I was a new player, I might be interested in the deck from reading this.  In fact, I saw a new player yesterday purchasing this deck, and he definitely said he was more interested in this than the other intro decks on sale.  (I was at Wal-Mart in line coincidentally close by.)

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I was surprised when I opened the box to find  similar packing strategy to the Commander decks.  There is a big plastic sleeve over a tray.  I like this…it keeps the cards well protected…and this stuff is re-usable.  I don’t use it, but it can be used by people who want to make some effort.

The next thing about made me want to shout exaltations!

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What you are seeing is the contents of the package, all placed into a deck box.  Not just any deck box, but a deck box that is large enough to hold the shrink wrapped deck, two booster packs, and all o the promotional materials.  In short.  The deck box is big enough to hold the deck SLEEVED OUT!

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Here is the Nicol Bolas deck I recently reviewed, sleeved in Dragon Shields.  The sixty cards fit perfectly!

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Besides that nifty box, here are the other contents.  I just throw away the “quick reference guide.”  But this is the kind of thing that should include it.  New players encounter questions as they learn at their kitchen table.  I feel this thing isn’t really adequate compared to experience time at the table.  But it is at least a start.  Other than this we get a nice poster, which includes a decklist.

So on with the review…I spent a little time talking about the Nissa (and Chandra) Intro Deck cards already.  In short, the cards are a little unrealistic for tournament play.  They cost six mana, meaning that in most competititve tournaments a player will be run over before they can play the card.  The cards have minimal upticks…Nissa here gives you three life gain if you plus her…and you get to dig through the top two (WOW) cards to find some lands.  Not much of a payout for six mana.  (Heroes Reunion.  One Green and one White mana.  Instant speed.  Seven life gain.  See what I mean?)  The bottom ability at 12 loyalty is basically over-run.

No, the Nissa won’t be a tournament splash.  But she IS supposedly balanced against Chandra from the other available intro pack.  (Chandra’s top ability is basically Shock.  So Nissa’s three points of life gain can outlast Chandra in a head to head fight.)

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Packed on top in the cellophane wrapped deck are these four rares…

Bristling Hydra…it gets you energy and lets you use energy.  Energy is a tentpole mechanic of the current Kaladesh block.

Aethersquall Ancient…a Leviathon that also gets you energy, and lets you use it to sweep the board.  A pretty incredible card.

And Verdant Crescendo, a card SPECIFICALLY FOR the Nissa, Nature’s Artisan planeswalker.  It even says so.  This is an important addition…the card acts basically as a second and third copy (when you figure the odds.)  It makes it that much more likely to get to play with your “big, splashy card.”  Which is one of the important things about the “planeswalker pack” that is supposed to be better than the “intro pack.”

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Here are the creatures and lands.  All common and uncommon.  Classic wierdo green and blue stuff, with some energy counter usage.  Nissa basically aims to run over her opponent with big creatures, either with trample or flying.  Of more interest is “Woodland Stream,” a mana fixer that can’t be had any other way than purchasing this product…

img_9365Nissa doesn’t use that much other magic other than creatures.  Attune with the Aether is ramp an energy, Apetite for the Unnatural is artifact removal, and Malfunction is creature removal (blue style.)

NOW FOR THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL THING.

You can only get the cards in the picture below by purchasing this product.  And they are all considered STANDARD LEGAL.  Guardian of the Great Conduit is a wonderful creature, who gets better if you control a NISSA planeswalker.  Notice it doesn’t say which one…

Counting the one from this set, there are three two other Nissa cards that are legal in Standard right now.  The Guardian could be a big deal to some people.(Nissa Vital Force, Nissa Voice of Zendikar, and when this Intro pack was released, very briefly Nissa the flip walker)

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The blue-green mana fixing might be important too.  Woodland Stream isn’t as good as Lumbering Falls.  But it COULD be important when things rotate.

HOW DOES THE DECK PERFORM?

I am going to disagree with the vast amount of other product reviewers.  I think this is a terrific product.  And a pretty good casual deck.  I have played it against lots of other decks, and it wins some and loses some.  Loses more often, but still, it isn’t completely lame.  I appreciate Verdant Crescendo alot, in that it makes it possible to get Nissa, though it is a dead card draw later in the game if you already have her out.

I would grade this deck at 60/100 as far as playablity.  I believe a kid out there could walk into a gaming store, buy this deck and play it on Friday Night Magic, lose to a few competitive decks, and maybe gets some wins in the lower rung of the tournament against other new players.

I rate this product 5/5.  It is fun, and accomplishes some of what it aims to do.  I’m not sure how format warping the exclusive cards could be, but I don’t think these will matter that much.  In future Planeswalker Packs, who knows what could happen?

So the SpartanNerd rates Nissa, Nature’s Artisan Planeswalker Pack a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

(For a review of the similar Chandra Planeswalker Pack, click this link.)

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic the Gathering “Demonic Deals” Intro pack

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I picked up this intro pack for a couple of reasons…

The Origins Clash Pack seems a little lame.  I DO like the new art for Siege Rhino.  But other than that, there is almost no reason for me to purchase that.  I don’t have many cards from the Origins set.  Much less black cards from the set.  I already had a Kothophed, but have yet to play him.  This intro pack has an alternate, better art in foil.  It also has another Fleshbag Marauder, and I only had three copies.  So…throw in two booster packs, and it seemed like an OK deal this time.

But, just so you know, the last intro pack I purchased was so lame I didn’t bother posting a review…(It was an intro pack from Born of the Gods…the one featuring Silent Sentinel.)

So does “Demonic Deals” change things?  Keep reading!

The box has the regular packaging.  No surprise here.  You get a little blurb about what this deck is about.  And that’s it.  But on the front we see Kothophed, Soul Hoarder.

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Opening the box reveals the contents…the deck in cellophane with Kothophed on front, a guide to playing Magic, a guide to playing this deck, and two Origins Booster Packs.

The guide to playing Magic is notable this time, it is an updated version…still, it will land in my trashcan, but here is a picture just so you can see.

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The other paper features some really nice Liliana artwork and the decklist for each deck.  I am including a close-up for this specific deck.

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I’m going to take a broad picture of the cards as I open the cellophane, and then talk about the significant cards only.

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I have yet to cast Kothophed and use his ability.  I don’t know if he’s that good or not.  A 6/6 flyer for six mana, including two blacks isn’t so bad.  He would be good for devotion, but only as a one of in any competitive deck at that mana cost.  I could potentially see a Drown In Sorrow or similar creating massive card advantage for you.  One of the two rares in this deck.  The other rare is Chandra’s Ignition.

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A five drop sweeper meant for Red-Deck-Wins.  It works well in this deck, whose secondary color is red.  Whatever deck it is in has to be reliant on creatures.  Black decks don’t generally mind sweepers.  More card advantage!

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I love this guy!  He is always a great enabler, and as a 3/1 is a great attacker.  This makes my fourth copy, so I am now happy!    I do like the older art better.  (But really, they are both butt-ugly.)

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I was surprised how good Undead Servant and Nantuko Husk work so nicely together when playing the deck.  Great synergy!

Now for the lands…

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Nothing special at all, really.  Evolving wilds is really sort of unnecessary.  You generally draw the land you need.  I suppose it helps a little.

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The next group of cards is the other spells.  Notable here is Act of Treason, a classic trick where you steal their creature and attack with it or use it as you see fit.  In this deck, you are meant to sacrifice their creature while it is under your control.  I’ve never felt that Weight of the Underworld was good for removal.  Nightsnare is a new expensive Thoughtsieze type of spell.  Reave Soul is a really bad doom blade.  Cruel Revival lets you kill their guy at instant speed and return a zombie from your graveyard to your hand.

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A couple of the new spells have “Spell Mastery” abilities.  They let you do something extra if you have spells in your graveyard.  This is going to be very relevant in the upcoming  Standard format.

How the Deck Plays…

I played three matches against the SpartanKid’s most recent deck, a blue-while control deck featuring Dragonlord Ojutai and Narset, Transcendent.  The deck lost miserably on its first testing, however performed wonderfully in the second and third rounds, really slam dunking the third.

It is a great start to a good aggro deck.  I believe a person could be competitive if they adjusted it for standard.  Switch out the poor removal options with Heroes Downfall, Bile Blight, or similar.  Drop the expensive spells in favor for Mogis Marauders.  The instructions suggests Liliana, Heretical Healer of course.  And she would be great for this deck as your lots of creatures should be dying a lot to gain you incremental advantage.  But this deck isn’t really a discard deck at heart.  It wants to focus more on beatdown and sacrifice.

What came in my booster packs?

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Pack 1

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The commons were fairly meh…Playable in this deck are Shambling Ghoul, Dark Dabbling, Lightning Javelin, and Bonded Construct.  Probably only Dark Dabbling to make any kind of improvement.

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The uncommons…not bad.  Another Fleshbag Marauder.  And that other removal spell I’m not yet that fond of.

And what rare(s)???

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Pia and Kiran Nalaar…Everyone says they remind us of Anax and Cymede.  Casting them gets you two flyers.  I got a foil Evolving Wilds, a forest, and an Elemental Token.

Pack 2

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At common, more playable cards.  A one-drop elf.  Another Cobblebrute.  Weight of the Underworld, and Fiery Impulse.  Returned Centaur also can help you load your graveyard to help Spell Mastery and re-animation tricks.

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The only thing playable here is Chief of the Foundry, a lord for artifact creatures.  he would work well with Pia and Kiren.

And what rares?  (Drum roll)

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Mage Ring Responder.  I have prior experience with the responder from when I drafted Origins.  He can be a beast!

Also notable is the checklist card for the new double-sided planeswalkers.  It is apparently a new rule that you may no longer just use a sleeve to conceal your double-sided card.  This “backpack card” is now required in serious tournaments.

How does the SpartanNerd rate Magic the Gathering “Demonic Deals” Intro pack?

This deck stands a head taller than the past couple of intro decks I reviewed.  That in itself is an accomplishment.  And that this pre-constructed deck beat a constructed deck meant for a tournament says something else.  More testing will be required to really say.

I think I would like to say a few things about this as an entry-level product.

The only thing working against it is the deck’s title.  Ok, grandma says to grandson, “What would you like for Christmas.”  Grandson indicates Magic cards.  So she goes to Wal-Mart, and sees the name of the deck is “Demonic Deals.”  Not such a good move…

I have written about demons in MTG before, and the Wizards also addressed their use.  In Magic, they are purely fantasy.  Any level-headed person should be able to figure that out.  But people don’t take demons lightly, and shouldn’t.

But other than that gripe, this is a wonderful product!  The two booster packs gave you enough cards that you could create a semi-sideboard.  It could have gone the other way, but didn’t.  In this here and now.  And that’s why this was an over-the top successful offering for the new Magic player.  The boosters also pave the way to make a person interested in Planeswalker cards, building an elf tribal deck, and an artifact deck.  The inclusion of the Forest means a new player with NO OTHER cards now has another mana source to try and build a deck with some of the new green cards.  A new player would be left wondering about blue and white cards as well.  And the foil Evolving Wilds is very nice for a new player.

This time, the addition of the two booster packs that contained relevant cards for new players made me up my rating.  I was very satisfied, and know that Wizards customers will be too.

My rating of Magic the Gathering “Demonic Deals” Intro pack is 4/5.  It is marked down because of the name, and because of its “not-quite-ready-for-standard-tournaments” status.  I don’t believe it was meant for that though…it was meant to be played and home and learned with.

The SpartanNerd rates “Demonic Deals” 4/5.  Do you agree or disagree, Hub City Geeks?  Let me know in the comments!