From the Vault: Transform…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

I’ve been playing Magic, the Gathering for some years now, but this is the first time I’ve purchased a From the Fault product.  I DID purchase the dated “Graveborn” Premium Deck, which was an all-foil set.  I was highly tempted to get From the Vault: Angels last year, but never saw it anywhere for retail price.  (I had most of the angels anyway.)

 

This being my first one, I thought I would really take a look at the packaging.  This roduct feels like something a collector might like to keep MIB.  I don’t see the fun in that, but it is what some people do.  After spending time with this package, I’ve decided I am going to keep it to store the cards that I am not currently using.  It looks very nice.  The front is glossy and colorful with blue and orange graphics.  The back show off an image of one of the sides of each of the cards in the set.  There is a contents list on the bottom, and a message about the nature of the transforming cards.

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It opens up nicely, revealing the frontside of Huntmaster of the Fells, the backside of Liliana, Heretical Healer, and the frontside of Delver of Secrets.  You totally could stop here and just prop this product up on display somewhere.

The box feels like a display box, and upon further exploration, I discovered the correct way to open it.

 

There is a magnetic flap!  So you don’t even have to destroy the package.  NICE!

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Here’s what’s inside.

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The cards come in three cigarette wrappers.  There is a spindown life counter with a special From the Vault Transform symbol, and a nice informational poster.  Let’s look at that.

 

Nice art, with a description of each card and the story that goes along with it.  That is a nice picture of the new Delver of Secrets art, and yet another picture of Gideon on the other side.  (Gideon is very often depicted in promotional media like this.)

Now let’s look at and discuss the cards.

First of all, upon opening each pack, I discovered that they were stuck together.  I mean.  STUCK. TO. GETHER.

These cards have a special foil treatment, on both sides.  I have owned a couple of FTV printings, one of VESUVA and another of AKROMA, ANGEL OF WRATH, and those cards have the same foil treatment, but only on one side.  These cards being double sided…I guess what I’m saying is the foil treatment being on both sides is what made them glue each other together.  And it was pretty stout.  I mean, Bruna, the Fading Light was stuck to Elbrus the Binding Blade and Chandra was stuck to the Ixalan card while I began photographing.  I hadn’t even noticed!  Now separating them wasn’t scary, and there didn’t seem to be any accidents…no scratches or anything.  I just want to point out that this happened to the SpartanNerd the first time he opened a sealed From the Vault.

So here are the cards with some commentary.

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Garruk Relentless//Garruk, the Veil Cursed.

The first double sided planeswalker, and notable at that…he flips when he has a loyalty for two or less.  He is a token generator, and essentially a planeswalker with five abilities not counting the transform mechanic.  Having said all this, this is the least played of all of the cards in this set.  It is nice that they paid some attention to Garruk, however.  He hasn’t been seen since M14, when he was killing other planeswalkers all over the place.  The Wizards have decided to feature Nissa mainly as the green planeswalker mascot.

Chandra, Fire of Kaledesh//Chandra, Roaring Flame

This set features all five of the Magic Origins planeswalkers.  These each have a creature card on one side, that transforms into a planeswalker.  Chandra is the mascot for red burn strategies.  This card is a slow shock effect, and frankly a little hard to get transformed into the planeswalker form.  IF you do ever get her to level up to Chandra, Roaring Flame, you still don’t have that great of a planeswalker for all of your effort.  I supposed if you made Chandra a Commander, you might be able to do something with her.  I am placing her in my Archangel Avacyn commander deck.  (I played a match that heavily featured Chandra.  In Commander, she isn’t so bad when you have a board presence and every little bit of damage you can deal counts.)

Liliana, Heretical Healer//Liliana, Defiant Necromancer

I have been slowly building an entire foil mono-black Liliana tribal deck.  I have the stamped foil of this card, and thought that would be the prettiest version.  I was wrong.  The From the Vault printing with the extra awesome foil on both sides wins.  So I guess I am going to upgrade!

As far as all of these cards go, Liliana is the most popular commander.  She saw some fringe Standard play in her day, and still sees some Modern play sometimes in rack and zombie decks.  It is pretty easy in black to get her to flip, and then Liliana Defiant Necromancer is pretty close to Liliana of the Veil, clearly the best and most useful of Modern-legal planeswalkers.

Speaking of my Liliana tribal commander deck, the rules change that came with the release of Ixalan now lets me have multiple Lilianas out at a time.  And since I have each printing….

Huntmaster of the fells//Ravager of the Fells

A card that beat me a ton when I first began playing MTG.  I began playing in tournaments during Dark Ascension.  The Huntmaster is the definitive werewolf.

I haven’t seen this card played in Modern in awhile.  Modern wants to be a three-turn win format (It remains a four turn, teetering on three turn.), and because this card is a four drop that doesn’t have haste, it’s a little slow.  But if you can get it going, then it can win games all on its own.  Remember Kalitas?  Kalitas himself is just good enough.  And the Huntmaster of the Fells is also.

Arguel’s Blood Fast//Temple of Alcazotz

When I saw this, I said, “What??? Whoever heard of that card?”  Turns out that it is a new card from Ixalan.  This one transforms from enchantment to land.  I think this will be a nice addition to my Liliana tribal commander deck, as Necropotence is one of the things.  (Pay life for cards is a sub theme.)  The backside of the card is a powerful sac outlet.

Is this card a thing in Standard right now?  I’m not sure.  I have been out of the Standard scene for awhile.  I do have a Tezzeret deck, but have only played in two Ixalan standard tournaments.  This card has definitely not been on my radar.

Is there a precedent for this?  A Standard card in a From the Vault set?  I think they used to actually put preview cards in From the Vault sets.  So that would be pre-standard…

Arlinn Kord//Arlinn, Embraced By the Moon

Here’s one that I saw played in Standard back before the last rotation every now and then.  The “Shadows Over Inistraad” block didn’t feature as strong of a werewolf mechanic as did the original Inistraad.  Here we have a werewolf planeswalker.  She is also a planeswalker with five abilites, like Garruk, and she also makes wolves.  (Like Garruk.)  For werewolf tribal purposes, Arlinn is a must have.

Unfortunately, there is only one viable werewolf commander, Ulrich Krallenhorde, and he isn’t too great.  Still, if you are into that, jam Arlinn Kord into your deck.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer//Nissa, Sage Animist

Here is an Origins planeswalker that did see play in standard.  Really, anything that ramps for cheap works for green.  People would cram four copies of this in their deck, and play it to get out the lands they needed, and eventually they would do this and flip one of them, and proceed to have huge advantage on the board. This is one I was glad to see rotate out!

I haven’t seen her play in Modern, however.

Kytheon, Hero of Aroas//Gideon, Battle-Forged

Nothing to see here.  Move along.

(Just kidding.)  Really, this card didn’t see much play in Standard, and hasn’t in Modern or Commander either.  I think he is under-appreciated, and he probably would have fit better back in M13 standard.

He is basically a one-drop planeswalker.  That isn’t Tibalt.  So that’s something!

I think he is waiting for the right White Weenie moment to come along.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy//Jace, Telepath Unbound

And here is the money card in the set.  Jace can be had for about $25, regular printing, and $35 in foil outside of this set.  Back when he was Standard legal, he fetched $4o or more for the regular, not foil version.

Why is he so good?  He is a two drop looting creature.  You can play him early game or late game, and he is still good.  When you do his loot ability, if you have five or more cards in the graveyard, he becomes an incredible control planeswalker, with a negative three ability that lets you reliably snapcaster an instant or sorcery from your graveyard.

Is he better than Snapcaster Mage?  I don’t think so.  Almost nothing can beat the flash-in flashbacker, who becomes a great surprise chump blocker and lets you get something out of your graveyard.  Jace has to sit there for a turn before you can even activate his ability.  But he is still useful, and if you can get him to flip and keep him on board, you get great card advantage.

I’ve heard of Jace played in almost every format, even Commander.  This might be the best card in this set.  Except it’s not…

Delver of Secrets//Insectile Aberation

This probably is (the best card.)  Not many Magic the Gathering cards are as good as Delver.  And he’s a common!  So this card doesn’t cost a ton to own four copies.  But this special art special foil printing is bound to be popular with people who relaly like hitting their opponents hard and fast.

Delver is great.  He gets you card advantage.  You don’t have to trigger his transform ability if you don’t want to.  If you do want to, on turn  you can begin wrecking your opponent in the air.

Check this scenerio.  Turn one, shock in Breeding Pool.  Play Delver of Secrets.  Turn two, reveal Giant growth from the top of your library, flip your Delver  Play your Forest as land for the turn.  Declare attack for 3 in the air.  Hit Insectile Aberation with Giant Growth twice, (Because you started with one in your opening hand.)  You brought nine damage in the air on turn two.  Congratulations.  You are a jerk!

Delver is played in every eternal format.  Because he is eternally good.  That’s why!

Archangel Avacyn//Avacyn the Purifier

This is one of the funnest cards in the set.  She has Flash.  Flying.  Vigilance.  Makes things Indestructible, Sweltering Suns.  All in one Legally Blonde package.  Lots of flavor here, too.  If you followed the story of Shadows Over Inistraad, you saw Avacyn twist into a self-righteous evil.  When you Flash her in (Angel to the rescue!) everyone else on your team has indestructible until the end of turn.  And incredible shock to your opponent if you played her from your hand.  An incredible threat if she is your Commander.  And when she flips, (because one of your non-token cratures died,) she hits everything on the board for 3, and lightning bolts your opponent (s) as well.  And yes.  That’s Commander Damage!

Fun!  If you like a card that does stuff, look no further than this card.

Bloodline Keeper//Lord of Lineage

Here is the card that I think I will have the least use for.  Maybe not.  I like Vampires, and played Black Red vampires occasionally in the last Standard environment.  And here is where I think I am not that interested in building a Vampire Tibal Commander deck.  Vampires are OK.  But how often have I had a ton of them?  Not that often.

This guy is good, if you are interested in buiding such a deck.  Most Vampire decks have Olivia VOldaren as their Commander.  (She’s just sick!)  But maybe Kalitas would be good.  (No.  I know he would be good.  See above!)

Elbrus the Binding Blade//Withengar Unbound

I remember the first time I saw this card.  I knew I had to have it!  The flavor of the thing is pretty cool.  This was in the very early days of playing MTG for me, and the idea of getting that giant flyer out and smashing people was just awesome.  I had alot to learn…it is pretty hard to get seven mana to play an equipment.  Then pay to equip that to a viable attacker.  It really is pretty hard.  (I was playing this in Standard, belive it or not!)

Now Elbrus remains one of my favorite cards.  And to have this incredibly cool foi printing is just great.  And it is something else to put into Liliana’s Commander deck!

I left the weirdest for last…

Bruna,the Fading Light//…//Gisela, the Broken Blade/////Brisela, Voice of Nightmares

Weird.

Basically, the Wizards pushed the transform mechanic as far as it could go, inventing the meld mechanic, and making six cards with the ability.  Melding pieces two halves of a card on the backside of two creatures, combining them together into an eldrazi.  Brisela here represents that, as she was the best example of a played meld pair in Standard.

Gisela actually made her way into decks that didn’t feature her other half.  She is a good angel, with Flying, First Strike, and Lifelink.

It is Bruna that makes this a devastating thing.  Say you played Gisela early on, and the opponent doom bladed her.  No problem.  Play your Bruna in your second main phase (turn six or seven) and at the end step, you have Brisela!  An incredob;e 9/10 flying vigilance lifelink first strike hate machine!

THE SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF FROM THE VAULT TRANSFORM

Well.  A couple of things.  The cards sticking together is a little unnerving.  I don’t know when these were printed and packaged, but I imagine the problem might be worse if they sit unopened on a store shelf for a long period of time.  I immediately put “snugs” on mine.  (form fitting side loading card sleeves for double sleeving.)

What’s here is good.  But I think there is a glaring ommision or two.  How about Westvale Abbey//Ormandahl, Profane Prince?  I could have taken this over the Vampire, or over the Arguel’s Blood Fast.  Thing in the Ice…Hello!

The Wizards also ignored Morph and Champions of Kamigawa Flip cards.  Maybe it was economically better for the Wizards to print the double sided cards instead, but if they wanted us to get maximum power out of similar mechanics, when we could have done with Nazumi Graverobber or Willbender.

But I am happy enough.  The new printings of Liliana, Jace, Withengar, the three angels, and Garruk make me pretty happy.  I don’t play much red-green, but I am glad the Wizards printed Huntmaster of the Fells, which is about a $12 card.

The value I got for $39.99 (retail) at the Tangled Web in Spartanburg was very nice.  You already can’t find this product cheaper than $65 on TCGplayer.com.  And if the story of From the Vault Angels happens to From the Vault Transform, then it will eventually make its way above $80.

So I am happy to rate this product at 4/5, marking off because the cards sticking together worries me a little bit.  It is a great selection of cards, that came in a nice, displayable package.

Do you agree or disagree, oh Hub City Geeks?  Let me know in the comments!

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Jace Beleren and Chandra Nalaar Funko Legacy Collection unboxing and Review…SpartanNerd

Way back in January of 2015, I reviewed Funko’s Liliana Vess.  You can read that review here.  So do Jace and Chandra stack up to my favorite planeswalker?

I received these two as gifts from the SpartanChildren.  I happen to know that they were marked down to $5.00 a piece at Ross (discount store), which tends to happen when a figure warms the shelf at a mainline retailer for over two years.  (Notice I paid $25 for Liliana.)

(I am doing both reviews at the same time for the sake of WordPress memory…as these are largely the same unboxing experience…)

First of all…check out the new PLAYMAT!    Also a Christmas gift…from the SpartanWife!  The art shows none other than Jace Beleren groveling at Liliana for help in dealing with the Eldrazi during the “Battle for Zendikar” storyline.  I will be photographing Magic The Gathering related items on this mat from now on!

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Jace and Chandra both come in the same window style boxes.  The circlular bubble does NOT depict the card Jace Beleren nor Chandra Nalaar.  Jace’s art depicts “Jace, the Living Guildpact” and Chandra’s depicts “Chandra, Pyromaster.”  Not sure the reasoning here…Jace’s figure appears to be “Jace, Telepath Unbound.”  Chandra appears to be “Chandra, Flamecaller”, neither card was released quite yet when these figures first came out.  Maybe some insight into the design process can be found here?

The boxes use the M15 black and white styling for the packaging that you found everywhere when that set came out.  It is striking…a nifty design, really.  M15 was an interesting set…The Wizards talked at length about finding an identity for “the core set.”  M14 was largely a failure…M15 wasn’t much better, and aside from the “flip walkers,” Magic origins was also a little weak.  M15 was the first set to put holofoil stickers on the rare and promo cards.  Not that that has anything to do with these figures.

On the other hand, the M15 story was cool, showing the fight between Liliana and Garruk a little bit more intensely, and detailing how Ob Nixilis gets free.

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The back lists the other figures in this line.  As far as I know, there was only this one series of MTG figures.  Maybe I will be able to complete the collection with Garrk, Ajani, and Nissa someday.  I certainly will if they are this cheap!

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Each figure was wired in with Barbie style bread-tie wires.  It wasn’t too hard to get them out.

I tried to stand each figure up as best I could without “primping.”  These figures do not stand on their own easily, with Jace being the worse offender.  He cannot stand without being stooped over.  This was similar to Liliana, if you will recall I had to put her weight on one side.

Both figures have rocker ankles, that feature some ankle swivel.  But the way their shoes are designed, the articulation is limited.  This doesn’t help with the standing issues.

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Chandra comes with a fireball.  And Jace’s cloak is removable!  Who knew?  Notice, he doesn’t look like his picture on the playmat…must be a different cloak.

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Here are some alternate poses.  Notice that Jace just can’t do that much.

Chandra doesn’t have that much trouble holding that fireball.  She doesn’t “grip” it.  But it is sized correctly to match her fingers.  I love that they included this.  I wish she could have more flames, though.

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Both Chandra and Jace have beautiful, detailed scuplting.  And the paint is very nice as well.  I think Jace’s face could look a little less like a manequinn.

Below is each character beside their deckbox from Duel Deck Anthology….The card art depicted is “Jace Beleren,” known as “baby Jace” amongst players.  (I went and looked.  The original card art does resemble the figure.  The Duel Deck has alternate art.)

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On the other hand, Chandra doesn’t look like either version of her card art.  She looks like Chandra Flamecaller.

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These figures are pretty cool.  I am going to rate them the same as I rated Liliana.  3/5.  The whole issue of not being able to stand is really the problem.  The sculpting and painting are fine.  They are more statue than action figure, though…they look incredible, but their articulation suffers because of the extreme detail.  They could have better accessories.  Jace’s cloak is more of a liability.  Chandra could have more fire.

So the SpartanNerd rates Funko Magic the Gathering Legacy Collection Jace Beleren and Chandra Nalaar both at 3/5.  They look like who they are supposed to represent.  But they suffer as action figures.  They are really more like mini statues, that have trouble standing.  (Liliana is forever propped up in my office at work.)

Do you agree with my rating of 3/5?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

SpartanNerd Review…Dual Deck Anthology Matchup- “Jace Vs. Chandra”

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I have been more familiar with the cards in this deck than in say, Elves vs. Goblins or Divine vs. Demonic.  I have been exposed to this set because my brother owns a copy.  So the whole thing is an exercise in review for me.  Still, it is fun to see it completely unmodified.  (My brother tweaked his decks.)

First, the unboxing.  This is the only time that the unboxing was really different.  Chandra’s box had some extra materials inside…

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The white thing is what we’ve all seen at this point.  A quick start guide to playing Magic.  I normally point out how I throw this away.  But if for instance, someone bought the Dual Deck anthology as a gift for someone who didn’t know how to play then this could be super valuable.  I think it would have been better if they packaged it in a different and more conspicuous way, though.  For instance, I just unboxed these cards today and found it.  I have had the Dual Deck Anthology since the day it came out! (Dec 5, over two weeks ago!)

The blue thing is basically the poster that was on the back of the Dual Decks Anthology…but this time with more biographical information and information about the story context each dual deck represented during the course of the story of Magic the Gathering.

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The art on the deck boxes is really cool…a big foil picture featuring the key cards, this time Chandra Nalaar and Jace Beleren.

I am going to complain big time about the paper clasps on these boxes.  If we pay $100 for a product like this then the clasp should be better.  That paper slot system just tears up too easily.  I already mentioned this before when I did my initial unboxing, but in the case of Jace vs. Chandra, neither box can function correctly.  They can hold the sixty cards plus a few tokens sleeved.  But the box only stays closed if cajoled to do so.  I am going to apply some velcro…

As with Garruk vs. Liliana, I am giving you a video again of what I saw after removing the cellophane…This time both together in the same film.

Jace Beleren

Jace gets a nickname…”Baby Jace.”  Not really sure what that is about, except that maybe it is supposed to be Jace in his early career.  This card is good for card draw.  His +2 gets both players a card.  His -1 gets only you a card, (or the rare corner case where you get in the final “mill” against your opponent.  But his -10 mills 20 cards for someone.  It is probably safe to say Jace will never get to -10, Chandra will burn him off anytime he gets close.  So this card is probably good to +2 once, and -1 after that.  Might as well forget that -10 ability.  It isn’t useful for you.  And Jace’s deck isn’t a mill deck.

Jace’s deck is NOT a classic control deck, as you might expect.  (If it were, it wouldn’t be a fun matchup against Chandra, in my opinion.)  There are a few counterspells, (actually “Counterspell!”) but besides that, the deck relies more on Morph.  There are several blue morph creatures in this deck…I counted 8!  So Chandra is going to have a hard time deciding whether or not to burn off the morphs, or wait and see what bad thing for her is going to happen.

The deck also features two other mechanics really well, Evoke and Suspend.  Ancestral Vision is the main card you are going to suspend.  Exile it for one blue at the beginning of the game, and just about the time when you need it, at the beginning of your upkeep you get three bonus cards.

And then there is Mulldrifter.  I need to play with this guy more outside of Jace vs. Chandra.  Mulldrifter evokes and you draw two cards.  So…try re-animating this guy!  (Jace can’t do it.)

The other thing I would like to say about this deck that was surprisingly fun was the unconventional mana costs of cards or abilities.  The least of which is suspend, some cards just ask you to return islands to your hand instead of paying a huge cost!

If there is a game finisher in the deck, it is Guile.  Guile lets you play free counter magic.  But that isn’t all that relevant.  What is relevant is it is a 6/6.  Can’t be chumped blocked by one guy.  And if he dies, then he gets shuffled back in the deck, where you can draw him later.  Sick!

Chandra

Chandra is one of my children’s favorite planeswalker.  I don’t have the heart to tell him that “Candra Nalaar” is UNPLAYABLE IN CONSTRUCTED.  Let’s just say, you do her +1, you just pinged your opponent for one damage.  For five mana.  Maybe on the last life point the person has, this is an OK strategy.  Ok, so instead of doing the +1 on the first turn she is out, you do the -x to toast a creature.  Then Chandra has almost no loyalty left and gets killed by an attacking creature next turn, (if not removed another way).  If you can get her to -8, then the ability is awesome.  But in Modern or Legacy, she will be gone before she has a chance.

She is a good card for this matchup, however.

This deck tries to burn you opponent off as quickly as possible, and contrary to Jace, seems to want to get cards out of your hand to trigger “Hellbent” abilities.  For instance, Rakdos Pit Dragon gets double strike if you have no cards in hand.  And you easily might not have any, because you played spells directly to Jace’s face, or burned off his morphs.

Then there’s hostility.  You counter your own first main phase burn spell, to enhance it with 3/1 elemental tokens.  Ok.  So burn spells becoming aggro spells…sick!

Several of Chandra’s cards have “fire breathing”.  This is Magic player talk for “pay one red mana to pile up damage points.”  (It comes from an old mechanic.)

Every time I have played against Chandra with Jace, Slith Firewalker has been a threat.  What Jace wants to do is send it back to Chandra’s hand.  The Slith Firewalker gets a counter every time it deals damage.  Evoking something like Inner-Flame Acolyte can be about like the Bloodrush tricks from the RTR block.

Firebolt is good.  It’s flashback mirrors playing Chandra and +1 ing her.

Fireblast is great for late-game burn.  when you probably have more mountains than you need.  Sacrifice two of them to get in four burn damage.

And then Fireball, of course.

The Matchup

So Chandra tries to undermine Jace through the philosophy of burn, while Jace tries to undermine Chandra with combat tricks and control.

Jace lost to Chandra in the first two out of three match with the SpartanKid.  Jace’s deck might not be good to play against noobs….they might think you are cheating sometimes with some of the things his deck can do.  “when Brine Elemental is turned face up, each opponent skips their next untap step.”  a good chandra player will use up their resources every turn, while a good Jace player will reserve mana.  so…But in our first match, the philosophy of Burn set in, and all of the morph tricks weren’t enough for Baby Jace.  Chandra’s creatures tend to have haste, which is bad for Jace.  On the other hand, Chandra tends to have to start top-decking, while Jace tends to have cards to play and scheme with.

This set isn’t as fun as Liliana vs. Garruk.  Still, it is nice to have a foil of each Planeswalker.  (Chandra is probably Commander only material, though).

My rating of Dual Decks Anthology Jace vs. Chandra.

As a burn deck, Chandra gets 4/5.  I am taking a point off for Chandra being so bad.  Jace gets a 4/5 for losing the first 2/3 matches to the speedy stuff the Chandra deck does, and besides that, why is Jace’s bottom ability a mill ability, when there is almost no mill in the blue deck?

So I give the Jace vs. Chandra Dual Deck a 4/5.  Do you agree?  Let me know in the comments!