Archenemy: Nicol Bolas. SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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Long time no blog.  Sorry, Hub City Geeks.

But I’m back with a treat!  As you can see, for Father’s Day I got the Archenemy Nicol Bolas set!  And I am unboxing it for you today!

The top image is the front of the box.  Nice artwork.  And you know you are getting something nice!  Mine was actually slightly cheaper, as the Tangled Web in Spartanburg is holding a sale…everything 15% off!

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The back has some inspiring words, and a picture of some of the content.

Opening the box, you are greeted with this.  I was a little puzzled at first.

Also, note that upon removing the cellophane and the price tag along with it, you can see some information.  Ages 13+, 2-4 players, and 30+ minutes.

What I’m telling you and showing you is that this is the first really successfully executed MTG all-in-one board game style set!  While there is Arena of the Planeswalkers, which is “Heroscape” with Magic characters, Archemeny: Nicol Bolas retains the gameplay of Magic the Gathering.  And just like any dedicated board game, there is some setup.

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IMG_0112I was confused by the big white thing.  What that is is an envelope, and it contained the four deckboxes, which you will have to assemble.

IMG_0134Adding to the board game feel of the set, you also get a special life counter, which can go up to 100.  This is the “Commander’s Arsenal” style of counter, that hasn’t been released in a long time.  (Incidentally, if you get the Commander’s Anthology,” you get four of these.  I won’t be getting that product and reviewing it, however.)

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The first pack of cards I opened were the scheme cards, of course!  These cards are the same size as the Planes from Planechase.  I am showing you the front and the back…I really like the design.  And the back is almost like, “What if Magic the Gathering came out this year?”  This might be what the card backs would look like.  The front features more of that Egyptian style art, and a device resembling the “Talon Gates.”  (Apparently, Nicol Bolas was one of the first planeswalkers, and the gates are a trophy remaining from the first planeswalker duel on Dominaria.)

 

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The scheme cards are loaded with flavor.  And I think there also may be some spoiler content from the upcoming “Hour of Devastation” set.  Check out “A Reckoning Approaches.”  Is that Razeketh on the card?

The Included Decks

Next I will unbox each deck and show you a picture of the rares.  I will also point out the important commons and uncommons.  All of these cards are reprints.

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OK.  First let me say I am disappointed that these aren’t foil planeswalkers.  AT LEAST BOLAS SHOULD BE FOIL.

And while we’re at it, why didn’t they give us an oversize Nicol Bolas as well?

OK.  Rant over.  Let’s look at the tokens first.

They are double sided.  One image shows one side.  The other shows the same cards flipped.

It seems we should be making lots of horrors, zombies, and soldiers.

Now for Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker‘s deck.

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Wow.  This is a lot of rares!  And so many things fly.  Blood Tyrant…That guy’s a winner! Don’t have what you need?  Prognostic Sphinx will get you there.   Here is a needed reprint of Dreadbore. I almost think Harvester of Souls is a little boring at this point.  How many times has that been reprinted?  Icefall Regent was recently a big deal in standard.  Archfiend of Depravity has been there…but never really shined.  Bolas is a three color card, and it’s good that we get Dragonskull Summit, a buddy land.

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Here are the commons and uncommons.  Lightning Bolt.  YES.  Doom Blade.  YES!  Extract from Darkness has been fun in commander.  Slave of Bolas.  This is my first “upgrade.”  I picked up a foil over my recent vacation.

Because Bolas is a three color character, you get some mana rocks that help you fix your colors.  And you get these lands, notably Crumbling Necropolis.

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Each of the Planeswalkers in this set are pretty good, but Bolas is the most satisfying.  Still, he costs a ton to play.  Luckily, his deck helps get him out a little earlier with certain cards.

Gideon Jura  ‘s deck

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These are some all-stars in white!  (well, maybe not Aegis Angel and Lightwielder Paladin.)  As I looked at these rares…I knew them right away.  In the case of Fiendslayer Paladin, that guy was incredible in Theros/M15 standard.  Sun Titan.  Need we say more?  Odric Master Tactician is so good he right out finishes regular matches of Magic if he hits the board with some friends.

Gideon Jura is an OK card.  There are certainly better versions of Gideon out there.  But this version is good and balanced for this set.  -2 the Gideon to remove some of Bolas pesky fliers.

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These cards are also pretty good, with excoriate exiling tapped cards.  Fencing Ace was the title of my deck back in Theros/Ravnica standard.  Pairing him with Fiendslayer is great.  The Flickerwisp…It turns out that Bolas can steal your planeswalkers pretty easy using the scheme cards.  But Flickerwisp says “return to the battlefield under its OWNERS’s control.”  Which is just sick.  Bolas can steal your Chandra, and you can just steal her back!

The SpartanKid made an observation…cards from Amonkhet have the Amonkhet expansion symbol.  But cards from other places get a special Archenemy symbol…

(I thought of this because of the Aerial Responder, even though he has the Archenemy symbol.  Somehow that triggered my memory, maybe because he is in Kaladesh?)

Chandra, Pyromaster‘s deck

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Dualcaster Mage, Grim Lavamancer, and Inferno Titan.  These cards are terrific!  I don’t know if Dualcaster made a splash in Vintage or not, but this was one of the predictions when it was first printed in Commander 2015.  This is my first copy of Grim Lavamancer…he is a staple in the Modern burn archetype.

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Hammerhand and Coordinated Assault help your guys get through.  Searing Spear…this is NOT LIGHTNING BOLT.  Chandra now has at least three pre-constructed decks, and none of them have the best burn spell in them.  That said, Searing Spear isn’t bad, it just can’t outpace Lightning Bolt.  Volcanic Geyser.  Why not just include Fireball?  The geyser has the advantage of being an instant, but it is one red slower.

Chandra’s card is one of the best Chandras they ever printed..  Seeing that she has NINE DIFFERENT CARDS, that’s saying something.  But a great many of those are not really tournament playable.  This one is a contender.

Nissa, Worldwaker‘s deck

IMG_0126Gavin Verhey, who was the lead designer on this set, proclaimed in the now famous preview duel on the Mothership website, said that Nissa’s deck could do the best with a long game.  And that may be because this is a two color deck, while the other two are mono colored.

She does have more resilient threats, but it takes longer for anything to get going.  If Bolas sweeps the board and Thragtusk is there, you at least get a beast in his place.  Forgotten Ancient can get out of hand really fast, (He was recently included in the Atraxa Commander deck.)  Oran-Rief Hydra is big to start with, and just gets bigger.

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Additionally, this deck can draw cards more easily, and Vision Skeins is incredible in a four player game.  (Of course, Bolas gets to draw also.)

The Nissa card here is the best of the three Gatewatch planeswalkers.  She pays for herself the turn she comes out.  She makes lands into man-lands.  And ultimateing her can be GG, if Bolas doesn’t sweep the board on the next turn.

PLAYING THIS SET.

I just got it yesterday!  But there has been some playing here in the SpartanNerd Household.  Last night me and the SpartanKid sleeved up Gideon and Bolas and had a traditional one-on-one.  The funny thing is, that worked pretty good.  It was a cute match, where each side would gain an advantage one after the other.  But eventually, Bolas overpowered him.

Today, I ran the Gatewatch myself against the SpartanKid, who played Bolas as Archenemy.  This match lasted about 70 minutes.  It seemed everytime I would get some traction, the scheme cards would undercut my progress.  That big splashy spell every turn really makes this a special set.  But it is also HARD.

Eventually Bolas accumulated enough flyers to just start picking planeswalkers off one at a time.  And what do you do when all you draw is pump spells while you have no creatures?  The last man standing was Nissa, and two Turntimber Basilisks, and two Fertilids.  Nissa had a ton of lands as well.  Bolas had the abovementioned flyers, but all were tapped, making death inevitable.  But I wasn’t going down without a fight.  He had three walking threats.  I landfalled the basilisks several times by using the Fertilid’s ability.  And at least removed the threats on the ground.  But it was a loss next turn.  Bolas scheme card even made me lose life before the defeat! (The Mighty Will Fall)

This was a fun time, and it could only be more fun with more players.  I will have to keep you posted here on SpartanNerd.com about future matchups.

SO WHAT DOES THE SPARTANNERD RATE ARCHENEMY:NICOL BOLAS?

It’s a terrific product, and the Board Game feel of it is very nice.  Check it out.

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Here is my Archenemy packed up and ready to play.  But believe it or not, I had just put the top back on it and shook it around.  The tray inside is perfect for keeping this set contained.  Even the life counter has a well designed spot in the set.  I haven’t sleeved the tokens or the schemes, but they fit nicely in their original spot underneath the deck box un-sleeved.

So this is a well designed package.  Well designed experience.

And I COULD take for instance, the Grim Lavamancer to a tournament to play.  And that is one of the rewarding things about collecting the sealed products the way I do, at least for Modern.  Some of the included cards here are very nice.

I wish the Planeswalkers were foil.  That is one of my complaints.  You pay $59.99 for a MTG product, there better be some foils.  Because these are all alternate art cards, they won’t be printed in foils unless the Wizards decide to reprint them in the future somehow.  You could get foil regular printing but that shouldn’t feel necessary.

The decks included are tailored for multiplayer matches, and so that is one of the narrow focus things about the set.  But you could play any decks against Bolas you wanted to, I suppose.

So I am going to rate this product a 4/5, knowing that my opinion will change the more I play the set.

Do you agree or disagree with the SpartanNerd’s rating of 4/5?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

“Breed Lethality” Commander 2016…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

FOUR COLORS.

Wow.  This was the selling point of Commander 2016.  The Wizards of the Coast put out five brand new decks, each with a four color general  And because designing four-color cards is such a difficult task, they created a new “partner” mechanic, that lets you mix and match a pair of two-color commanders, for some new EDH ideas.

If you have been reading the SpartanNerd Blog for awhile, you know I recently picked up Kaalia of the Vast, a three color “mardu” general.  I did this because I really like casting Angels, Demons, and Dragons.  But also…this is one of those cards serious EDH players should have.  And at this point, I do consider myself a little bit serious about Commander.  I think the “Breed Lethality” deck, with Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice will be the next deck along the same line as the Kaalia thing.  You can’t find it anywhere!  I have been looking patiently at the big box stores, knowing that they will stock it at MSRP.  But all I ever see are “Open Hostility” and “Stalwart Unity.”  Luckily, at the SC Comic Con I saw Atraxa’s deck…and in Japanese no less!

Because it is in Japanese, (Kanji I assume), I thought it a good idea to wait awhile and get some experience with the deck.  This was a great decision.  I feel like I have a thorough review for you today, chock full of experience!

This week has been Spring Break, and I spent a great bit of time playing Commander.   I saw “Breed Lethality” quite a few times…almost exactly the stock version.  I took my own baby out, the almost totally foiled out Liliana Tribal to a few tournaments this week.  There was one time that in a five player match, two players had Atraxa!  She’s good!  But there is also a little bit of sadness when a deck gets so popular “everyone is playing it.”

Well anyway.  Here’s my review!

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We get the same sort of box we always get.  This time, though, the writing is all in Japanese.

The window shows you a real clear view of the oversized foil general, Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice.  Flying.  Vigilance.  Deathtouch.  Lifelink.  At the end of your turn, Proliferate.  That is…add another counter of any kind on the board…on as many different permanents as you want.  This general is so good…, it’s no wonder people want to play it.  It is almost like a challenge for you to figure out how to use it!  Proliferate Poison Counters…Experience Counters.  Abuse cards that look for +1/+1 counters.  Suspense counters.  Time counters.  On and on.

Here’s the back.  It shows off some other cards.

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These three are the “Partner” generals.  You can mix and match them.  In fact, if you did buy the other Commander 2016 decks, you would have fifteen different cards to interchange all together!

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Here’s the contents of the box.  This time I am going to complain a little bit about the box.

This is the first time that I have DOUBLE SLEEVED an EDH deck.  This deckbox can’t accommodate Dragon Shields double sleeved.  It CAN hold Dragon Shields without the double sleeved system if you side load them into the box.  But not the double sleeved.  (Why did I double sleeve?  To write the english text in Sharpie on the card as an aid as I tested out the deck.)

The other items in the box are…The deck.  The General.  The box, along with a plastic tray that can double as a swimming pool for Lego Mini-Figures, a how to play reference guide, which is probably just as unsuitable in Japanese as in English for EDH, and then the insert which contains story, art, how to play the deck, and the all-important decklist.  But it’s all in Japanese, so I can’t tell you what it says!

This week while playing, I heard the Atraxa’s story.  Basically, four of the Praetors, Elesh Norn, Jin Gitaxias, Sheoldred, and Vorinclex each decided to transform an angel into a Phyrexian Horror.  Urabrask, the red Praetor, decided to stay out of it.  This is why Atraxa is all four colors except red.

This is a pretty cool story.  I don’t really know that much about the Praetors.  I do have Elesh Norn for my Gifts Ungiven deck in Modern.  And I have a foil Sheoldred coming in the mail to add to Liliana’s deck.  But really, neither would be all that great added to this deck…that’s not really how this deck wants to play out.

So…On with a review of the cards!

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First of all, here are the generals.

Atraxa, Who I already explained.  You get this smaller card to shuffle and be discreet with in your hand, in case someone out there was wondering.

Inkra Shidiqi, the Usurper…this person lets you gain life equal to the toughness of your creatures when they deal combat damage to a player.  I find this an odd ability in the colors Green and Black.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to play or play against this card yet.

Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker.  He flies, and lets you put counters on him whenever your opponents play a spell.  (And since this game is titled MAGIC….)

Reyhan, the Last of the Abzan.  This character gains the +1/+1 counters of other creatures when they are put in the graveyard.

I have partnered Ishai and Reyhan….they are an incredible combination!  I was able to 132 +1/+1 counters on Reyhan!

Here are the tokens…next in the deck.  How cool is it to have a Japanese “Germ” token!

Now for the main deck.  As before…I will really only comment on cards that I find to be really significant through my experiences.  But this time the deck is terrific, so…

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Thrummingbird.  A 2/2 flyer that lets you proliferate.  This is getting you there!  Abzan Falconer.  Do you like fliers?  I thought you did!  Tuskguard Captain…everyone gets trample if they have a +1/+1 counter on them!  Juniper Order Ranger.  Everyone deserves a counter!  Whenever another creature enters the battlefield, they get a +1/+1 counter, and so does the Juniper Order Ranger!

The Signets.  And Darksteel Ingot.  One thing about this deck…if you are playing Atraxa, and you can’t get all of your colors, you might just be behind everyone else.  The Wizards wisely reprinted the signets and Darksteel Ingot to help you fix your mana.  (Commander’s Sphere is practically the same thing as Darksteel Ingot.  It isn’t indestructable, however.)

Mortify and Putrefy.  This deck doesn’t have that much targeted removal.  These two do nicely, if not as well as Fatal Push, Path to Exile, or Vendetta.

Crystalline Crawler, Deepglow Skate, and Duelists Heritage…these are all new cards.  They all work really well.  You get to load counters on the Crystalline Crawler, who is colorless herself.  So you can play that without all of that fixing.  Deepglow Skate lets you double the counters on a permanent, and then Duelists Heritage helps you play politics, as you can choose an attacking creature to give double strike too!  Forgotten Ancient…He gets a counter whenever anyone casts a spell…even you!

Kalonia Hydra…double counters every turn!  Ghave, Guru of Spores.   I remember the first time I ever saw this guy as a general…wow.  He can make a ton of Saprolings.  Scavenging Ooze.  Need I say more about that card!

Of the cards on the bottom…Fathom Mage lets you draw a TON of cards.  Merciless Eviction and Spitting Image.  Merciless Eviction is almost the only sweeper in the deck.  Spitting Image…It is frustrating to see this card across the table.  Not pictured…Treasure Cruise…

There are plenty of basic lands, but here are the fixers.  You need the power of ALL OF THESE!

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Command Tower AND Opal Palace.  Bounce lands.  Tri-Lands.  And Evolving Wilds.

As I have played against this deck this week, I have noticed one of the most striking modifications is to add Fetch Lands and Shock Lands to help with the fixing.  This is something I have rarely seen in Commander…but it makes sense for these four color decks.

 

Playing the Deck

All week I have played this deck, and played against it.  In different places.  So I have a varied look at it.

The deck is great as is.  And I have seen it played like that some.  When I have played it, I like Forgotten Ancient/ Ishai Ojutai Dragonspeaker combo.  The Mana Fixing has to be right…But I haven’t had any trouble myself.  I have seen other people have trouble assembling the necessary mana base, however.

You want to be sure to get some creatures on the battlefield, and then to have some counters on those creatures.  Besides not assembling the colors you need, the other way to lose is to have “counter screw.”  This actually has happened to me, and it’s frustrating.  But it was all about the luck of the draw that time.

You want to get cards like Corpsejack Menace, which doubles the counters.  You have to be careful about the order of the triggers in order to maximize your value, however.

When playing against other people who play this deck, I have seen one standout strategy for a custom deck: infect.  In EDH, you still are dead with ten poison counters.  Not twenty as you would hope.  I saw one guy kill everyone at his table in one turn.  I was holding an excellent mono-black hand, and that guy ruined my game!

SpartanNerd’s Rating of “Breed Lethality” Magic the Gathering Commander 2016

I’m going to give this product a 5/5.  It’s goodness all around.  The Wizards were able to give us a functioning deck with cool new game play.  They didn’t have to reprint fetches and shocks, (which would have wrecked the product availability and after-market price even more.)  The four color commander Atraxa is great, and promises a future of creative deckbuilds.

I’m not sure how the “infect” problem should be handled, though.  Atraxa is well loved, and so a ban probably isn’t going to happen.  But getting killed off frequently by infect isn’t fun.  So there’s a problem for the EDH rules committee.

THE SPARTANNERD RATES “BREED LETHALITY” 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

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!