SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Guided By Nature Commander Deck

Should I call this a “Vintage Review”?  Surely not!  I went on a hunt for this deck when I heard the news that the Wizards are going to be re-printing the deck as a part of next Summer’s “Commander Anthology.”  That product is to contain four reprinted decks, and by adding Freylise’s “Guided By Nature” deck to my collection, I already own three of the four decks!  (The other decks are “Invasive Manuevers,” “Plunder the Graves,” and the money-card loaded “Heavenly Inferno” which is the only deck I don’t have.)

I picked up my copy at Toys-R-Us.  Yes.  Still on the shelf.  I paid $40.  MSRP was $35.  But this deck is selling on the internet for way more money.  And I could piece it out and get well over my $40 worth of cards back if I wanted to.

I owned two of the Commander 2014 decks already, Ob Nixilis and Nahiri the Lithomancer.  I truly hadn’t stopped to appreciate Freylise’s deck until the Wizards brought so much attention to it.  I have found it to be a thing of beauty, and certainly worthy of a re-print.

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“Guided By Nature” came in this traditional window box packaging, showcasing the Planeswalker Freylise, who can also be used as a Commander.  We are told it is a 100 card deck, and there are 15 new Magic cards in the deck.

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On the back we see some of those new cards.  We get lots of propaganda.  You can see the names of the other two decks I don’t have, “Built from Scratch” and “Peer Through Time.”  This doesn’t really inspire me to get Deretti, Scrap Savant or Tefuri, Temporal Archmage’s decks.

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Freylise’s deck didn’t open any differently than the Ob Nixills deck.  You get the big splashy oversized card, a cellophane wrapped deck, a piece of poster just for this deck, the guide to playing Magic, and a pretty good deckbox, which has a tray inside that is more useful if you take it out.  The Guide to Playing Magic is completely useless for this Commander product, and should be disregarded by new players.  That guide only tells you how to play regular Magic, not Commander.

We get even more double sided tokens.  (The same cards are featured in both images, just flipped over.)I already expressed that I feel that it is likely more challenging to make double sided cards for the Wizards.  While they have access to the factory to do so, (for the main purpose of Origins Planeswalkers and Shadows Over Innistrad block), they have gotten lots of milage printing double sided tokens.  These are great!  And very useful as you play the game.

Should I show you a picture of plain basic lands…Nope.  I’ll skip that.

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We get these special lands.  Notable is Crystal Vein ad Havenwood Battleground.  These a “Sac Lands.”  Ghost Quarter, Haunted Fengraf, and Evolving Wilds are also quite useful.

So on with the real cards…

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So what does Freylise do?  Rolling her up gets you a mana elf.  You really want THAT in this deck!  Rolling her down will get you Naturalize.  And her -6 is important because that green card draw is hard to come by!

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We get two more commanders.  I have yet to try Titania.  But Ezuri is a super “elf lord,” and I couldn’t help but give him a try!

img_9413img_9414As usual, the rares are on top.  And you get an INCREDIBLE amount of them.  From Seer’s Sundial to Thunderous Baloth, to Beastmaster Ascencion.  The rares in this deck work wonders to bring you a win.  You get lots of regular green stuff too…stuff that should be in every green Commander deck, like Silklash Spider and Emerald Medallion.

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This deck is TRIBAL ELVES.  And that becomes clear when you look at the rest of the cards.

 

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Question:  How many mana elves does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

But you need this critical mass of elves to make some of the effects in the deck work.  Think by to Ezuri, the alternate commander.  Lots of elves means Ezuri wins!  It is also great that most of these creatures are small, with low converted-mana-cost.  That makes a card like Thunderous Baloth, with its Lieutenant ability, really shine!

img_9417And finally we get to some of the usual stuff.  Sol Ring has to be in EVERY deck.  Commander’s Sphere and Swiftfoot Boots.  Also worthy must includes.  Overrun.  How many times and different ways can you give your creatures +x/+x and trample?

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Here is the full decklist from the poster.

HOW DOES GUIDED BY NATURE PLAY OUT?

Great.  For real!  I haven’t seen this deck lose.  The mono-green elf strategy is tried and true, and the Wizards have given us one of the finest mono-green decks of this sort.

Can it be improved?  Absolutely.  Add some more expensive cards.  Craterhoof Behemoth.  Crucible of Worlds.  Gaia’s Cradle.  And so on!  Allosaurus Rider.  Nylea, God of the Hunt.

I see why this deck has elevated to Anthology level.  And am proud to own it.  I score it a 5/5.  I have found that “Evasive Maneuvers” and “Plunder the Graves” are also rated 5/5.  I can only imagine that “Heavenly Inferno” would be a 5/5 as well, but I think I can affort to piece that together rather than purchasing it.  Either way, I WON’T be getting the Commander Anthology this summer.  It would take some serious enticing, like foiling it out for me to change my mind.  I mean, I already own the bulk of the product!

The SpartanNerd gives Frealise’s “Guided By Nature” deck a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis Duel Deck

Let me first of all say…I have placed this set through the ringer!  Check out my review…

I unfortunately found myself bored, and at Wal-Mart, and so I unfortunately bought this there, which was money that unfortunately could have gone to a real comic book/ card shop, but instead unfortunately fed the beast and unfortunately has me confessing here on the SpartanNerd blog.  Do as I say…not as I do.  By yours at a specialty store…a place where you can actually play Magic the Gathering!

Enough of that…

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The box is exactly the same as we saw with the last two Duel decks…Zendikar vs. Eldrazi and Blessed vs. Cursed.  A foil treatment, with pictures and propaganda on the back.  The pictures showcase some of the alternate-art cards, especially for long-time collectors who would be aware.

The front showcases the two planeswalker cards, Nissa and Ob Nixilis, with new art and foil treatment.

 

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Here’s what’s in the box.  Two decks…one for each planeswalker…the decks are wrapped in “cigarette wrapping”.  You get two life counter dice, and a poster-instruction-decklist insert, and a general guide to playing MTG.  (I just throw that away.)  You also get two deck boxes that can’t hold the cards in sleeves, nor can they hold the unsleeved deck and tokens.

 

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As big a fan as I am of Ob Nixilis, and playing black, this is the first copy of “reignited” that I own.  This art is SO MUCH BETTER than the regular art from Battle for Zendikar, which I have come to call “Ob Smiley.”  In Standard, this card is a big piece in black control decks, which vary from Esper or Grixis Dragons, to Super-Friends planeswalkers, to even finding use in Green Black aristocrats.  (One of my favorite decks.)

He isn’t better than “Flip Liliana” though.

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I also haven’t owned a copy of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.  I also prefer this art to the conventional card art.  This one has a bit more action to it.

Next, pics of the posters, with the all-important deck lists!  (I won’t be picturing the cards as intensely as I have in the past…in the interest of conserving memory on this blog.)

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First, Nissa’s deck, with five rares on top.  The land is the green Hideaway Land.  When you control a creatures with ten or greater power total,  you get to cast the card exiled under it sans timing restrictions…FUN!  The three creatures are each really big threats, and Abundance helps you get card draw.  (Just don’t forget the trigger….)

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You also get these special lands.  Sighfigant is Treetop Village, a “man land.”

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This deck, as well as Ob Nixilis’s deck has about two copies of each card, making these decks play really smoothly!

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Ob Nixilis’ rares…

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Good old “Double D!”  Desecration Demon is back, and is a great early game bomb to keep it fun for Nissa’s deck…But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I will be upgrading to my foil Double D.  And I will likely swap Pestilence Demon with the misprinted one I got in the “Sworn to Darkness” Commander deck.  That misprint makes it appear as though the mist, smoke, or fog surrounding the figure is painted over the rules text.  Despoiler of Souls makes it easy to keep a threat or at least something to sacrifice on the game board.  Priest of the Blood Rite…I loaded up on these when it came out in Origins.  It hasn’t made a splash at all anywhere, really.  Finally, Indulgent Tormenter.  Offer your opponent choices in how you will beat them!

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Here are the black tokens.  There were green ones too, but somehow the photo eludes me.  Significantly, the green ones feature 0/1 plant creatures for Nissa, and a 4/4 elemental as well.  Ob Nixilis tokens importantly include his emblem.

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And a land I never owned…Leechridden Swamp.  You can build a strategy around this card…It can be fetched with a fetch land.  A lot of good things going on here.  These are my first two copies of this card.  I might pick up another one to add to Liliana, Heretical Healer’s homemade Commander deck!

PLAYING THE DUEL DECKS

I have played these two decks over and over in different situations.  And I have found them terrifically balanced against each other.  The Wizards have given us an Elf deck and a Demon deck before.  These decks feel nothing  like those two as far as flavor is concerned.  Nixilis’ deck isn’t really a demon deck…it happens to have a couple of big flying bombs.  What you generally do is play chump creatures early and then drop one of these bombs.  Pestilence Demon is likely the most powerful card in the deck….if you are willing to pay the life to kill off Nissa’s stuff.

Nissa’s deck does about the same thing.  It ramps from small creatures to large.  Being green, the large creatures just happen to work very well.

Getting either planeswalker on the field can mean GG!  Nissan makes a terrific finisher, believe it or not.  Ob Nixilis is a removal spell, basically, and a discard outlet.  And this deck can get cards back out of the graveyard and into your hand or on the battlefield.

Basically, Nixilis deck represents all that black can do, and Nissa’s highlights what green can do.  The decks operate the same…ramp from small to big.  And then play Magic.

Ob Nixilis has the most wins, by the way.

I can only give Nissa vs Ob Nixilis a 5/5.  The only thing I can mark off for is the deck box.  I wish the wizards would fix that problem?

Why these two planeswalkers is the second question.  We need a Liliana of the Veil and Jace, Telepath Unbound reprint!  Nissan and Ob are great enemies, and important to the Battle for Zendikar block story, (odd because now we are in Shadows Over Innistrad block.)

But they gave us a great product, if a little late and different.

So I offer up a 5/5 on Magic the Gathering Duel Decks Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…”Swell the Host” Commander 2015

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So I am at my next to final unboxing and review of the 2015 Commander set, this time reviewing the green and blue deck “Swell the Host.”

Right off the bat I would like to say that the color scheme on this packaging is an eye catcher.  The general featured also looks very menacing.

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The back shows off some other feature cards from the deck.

I don’t believe I have ever made a Green-Blue commander deck before.  Keep reading if you want to see how it turned out for me!

 

I unboxed this product as I have learned to do it best…open from the bottom first.

Then you get a plastic blister, and you can see the deck box and the oversized commander card.

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And here is all of the product.  Left to right, Ezuri, Claw of Progress oversized general card, Swell the host box top.  Commander guide to playing the deck.  MTG rules reference card.  The bottom of the deck box, with he plastic tray standing, and the deck in cellophane with the new “experience counter” token on top.

The deck boxes are truly pretty crappy.  As I have accumulated all of these, I am finding that I am annoyed by trying to put 100 sleeved cards into one of these boxes.  They are fine for unsleeved cards.  But if you want to take care of the cards, these boxes barely cut the mustard.  I try side-loading them into the boxes and angling them, and then they fit, but I don’t believe that to be the best solution.  That little tray is even more useless than the old cardboard spacer they used to contain way back in 2013 and 2014.

I generally try to be optimistic about these boxes.  They look really cool.  But I now have something like twelve commander decks in these boxes stacked up in my “nerd closet.”  And there problems are showing.

This time I thought I would take a closer look at the rules reference card before tossing it.  I was curious if it gave us rules for Commander?  Nope.  Just regular magic rules.  Making this a big idiot thing to include for new players.

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Notice it says “Each player starts with 20 life.”  Wrong style of rules for a Commander deck.

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The other piece of paper is the guide to playing the deck.  More of that delightful color scheme found here, and images and story for this general.

Oh yes.  Also the decklist.

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Let’s spend some more time looking at this general.  “Whenever a creature with power 2 or less enters the battlefield under you control, you get an experience counter.”  This means this deck is going to be filled with useful chumps.  The second rules text is “At the beginning of combat on your turn, put X +1/+1 counters on another target creature you control, where X is the number of experience counters you have.  Oh yeah…Ezuri is only a four drop, so….

I am going to go ahead and tell you…this deck makes the best use of the experience counters than any of the other decks in this series I have reviewed.  Maybe it’s me, the player.  But I think not.  I believe you are getting lots of value from the cards in this deck.  Ezuri begs to be removed, because you can easily get those counters, and at your combat step, someone is growing huge!

Onto the reveal of the cards.

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First, tokens.  These are the double sided kind…I am showing both sides to you.When these enter the battlefield, you typically will get a counter.  The red dragon jumped out at me right away.  How can that fit in this deck?  Well it does!

I am revealing the cards in order of packaging.

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Each one of these cards gets you an experience counter if Ezuri is on the battlefield.  Very notable is Ninja of the Deep Hours.  I never had this card before, but he has “Bushido”, a neat trick that can get you surprise card draw.  The others all have some utility.  Eternal Witness gets you a creature back.  Elvish Visionary gets you  a card.  Lorescale Coatl, gets you a card.  Coiling Oracle.  More card advantage.  Wistful Selkie…draw a card.  In fact, I am impressed overall with the amount of card advantage this deck can get you.  Stingerflinger Spider will destroy a flyer.  Trigon Predator is a big flyer.  You get options with Noble Quarry.  Right away these are really good, low cost cards.  And any one can be a target for Ezuri.

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This batch off the top of the stack features some of the more ubiquitous cards in Commander.  Sol Ring, Krosan Grip, Swiftfoot Boots.  Etc.  Snake form is notable…this deck almost has a snake tribal feel to it, there are so many snakes.  Also Muldrifter is here, and the new mana rock, Thought Vessel…I like to call this card “reliquary rock.”  You get the effect of Reliquary Tower and an artifact that taps for mana.  Maybe my favorite new non-legendary from this set as a whole as a general addition to the game of Commander.

It is important that I mention that a lot of things in this deck can happen on top of the stack.  (Instant Speed).  The other Commander decks that I have unboxed and reviewed in this set were really light on instant speed.  I don’t even think “Call the Spirits” had any instants in the whole deck!  This deck has flash, instants, “cast only during the declare blockers step” etc.

Now for a look at the three legendary creatures.

Ezuri, Claw of Progress gets a regular sized card, of course.  Then we have Kasuto, Orichi Archmage, and Prime Speaker Zegana .

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I haven’t tried Prime Speaker Zegana yet.  She was the Simic boss from Return to Ravnica.  I have already spoken alot about Ezuri….Remember how I mentioned the Snake tribal theme…now the reason becomes apparent when you try Kasuto as your general.  You can reliably make your snakes huge and unblock able.  Kasuto has brought me a couple of wins!

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Next, a bunch of rares.  As always, the Commander deck gives us a ton.  And they do so much.  Someone who keeps coming up for me, Cold Eyed Selkie.  This card nets you a ton of cards in this deck!  Solemn Simulacrum is fun if you can destroy him right after he enters the battlefield, netting you a land and card draw (an an experience counter!).  Arbor Colossus is great for endgame.  Command Beacon is new…you can sac it to return your general to your hand from the command zone.  (Skirting the rules of Commander.)  Arachnogenesis can save your butt unexpectedly, as well as trigger a ton of experience counters if you have Ezuri on the field.  Mystic Snake has flash, and can counter a target spell.  (That’s just sick!)  Scythe claw can really scare an opponent.

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Bident of Thassa is an awesome card in this deck, and Orochi Hatchery lets you get snake chumps to trigger experience counters.  High Market is a land that is a sac outlet (use with Solemn Simulacrum)  Remember that red dragon token?  In a pinch, you can play Day of Dragons, and turn your critical mass of chumps into 5/5 flying dragons!  (Play carefully…I got a game loss with this card.)

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Basic lands.  Boring.  Following them were the non-basics.

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The only one of these that I really hate is Simic Guildgate.  Why not give us a scry land instead?  I never had Zoetic Cavern before, but it is a land with morph.  Since there is no other morph in this deck….(not sure it belongs here?)

 

PLAYING THE DECK

This is the funnest Commander deck I have played since Oloro, Ageless Ascetic or Derevi, Empyrial Tactician.  Those two decks were fun because their Commanders were so effective.  This deck is fun because not only is Ezuri, really good, but also Kasuto.  (He COULD be a tiny leader as well, if anyone cares.)

I believe it to be so fun because of the reactivity of the deck, and the consistently scary thing of always having a fatty on the board.  Because there really isn’t a way to remove experience counters, if you can get Ezuri on the board and protect him, you are never a player that can be ignored.  And because there is so much card draw here, you rarely gave mana screw.  Some of the other decks have Thought Vessel or Reliquary Tower, but I have scripted my head about why, they seem to rarely have enough relevant card draw.  Not a problem with this deck.

I have played this deck only against actual opponents, no solitaire this time.  It has a record of 4 to 2.  It lost to Prossk, Skyraider of Kerr, which is just a tricky deck to play with surprise win conditions.  And it lost to Forged in Stone, after a long and grindy match.  But it also beat that deck once.  The deck also beat Call the Spirits soundly, Plunder the Graves, and Wade into Battle from the same set soundly.  I believe it is because the plan of keeping chumps on the board and having them beefed up at instant speed or whatever is just a better strategy!

SPARTANNERD RATING

Besides my complaints about the deck box, this deck is really good.  It is quite fun!  I played Ob Nixilis for a long time, but eventually got bored with the mono black demons theme, which lost about seventy percent of the time.  This deck is almost the exact opposite of that deck.  And I never ventured to make a blue green commander deck before of my own, playing this one vanilla has been all new for me.

So I rate this deck 5/5!  It does the “Fun” thing better than any of the other Commander 2015 decks I have opened so far!

SpartanNerd Review…Ultra Pro Pro-Tower Deck Box

Looks like I have a new problem.

From my WordPress stats, it seems I have had 62 views of my “Sworn To Darkness” post.  So that means many readers already know that I think that deck is great!  So time for some sleeves…

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See my conundrum?  When sleeved, (I am using Dragon Shields), the cards do not fit in the box properly.  Much less can you put that oversized planeswalker card in there!  Bummer!

Let’s try another box.  The Legion Iconic Skull 100-card box.  (Approximately $5.00.)

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This deck box with top down design can hold 100 sleeved cards.  But that’s it.  Oversized Ob Nixilis has to sit out.  Also the divider.  AND you’ll have to bring another container for dice and tokens.

There is now a solution!

The Ultra Pro Pro Tower Deck Box!

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Here is a picture of it on the playing table at The Tangled Web, before I opened it.  Notice the price…$19.99.  There is a more expensive version that comes with sleeves and has art on it.  I didn’t care for the art, so I went for the cheaper black version.  I don’t know if other colors of this box exist.

So, on to the review!

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Cellophane removed, the deck box has a rough finish.  It is rather nice, actually.  The texture captures the light different ways when viewed from different angles.  Not sure if that can come through on the photo.  The box seals from the top via a magnet that is surprisingly effective.  It is easy to open the box, though.  I’m sure dropping the box with cards in it might cause the magnet to let go.  (But that probably won’t happen, right?)  Other things about the appearance of the box; the words “Ultra Pro” are tattooed on both sides.  and it is pretty clear where the flap is looking at it in normal light.

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What makes this a great box is all that it has to offer!  Opening the box from the top reveals a compartment where you can store a deck.  Then there is a door that swings out, revealing a place to store your oversized cards!  Perfect for those big planeswalker and legendary Commander cards, and one of the only solutions for that problem I have seen!  With this door open, you can see another compartment below the top compartment.  This pulls out jewelry box style.  This piece is slightly smaller than the top compartment though.  I believe the intention was to store dice and tokens here.  Also notable…both compartments have a ribbon that makes it easier to grab hold of the cards if you can’t grasp them for some reason.

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Here is a pic of it loaded.  I stood the tokens up only for display here.  You can see Ob Nixilis’ big card staring at you through the access hole in the door.  You can see his small card in the access hole in the top compartment.  This is a great home for the Sworn to Darkness Deck!

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Finally, I would point out that the bottom drawer can be removed..(I said it was jewelry box style)…and you can actually fit another sleeved commander deck here, if you load it flat rather than side loading.  Great for carrying two decks around with you!  Maybe you want to play with a friend and they forgot their deck.  If you lugged the Ultra-Pro Pro-Tower Deck Box with you with two decks, then you can still have a fun game!

Some things I love about this box…

I have all five 2013 Commander sets, and Sworn to Darkness from this year.  If you’ll recall, last year’s decks came with three oversized legendary cards.  All 15 of those fit in the drawer, as well as Ob Nixilis and Garruk, The Slayer.  It is safe to say that is AWESOME!

I love the multi-purpose compartment on the bottom!

I love that the top compartment allows side loading easily!

I love the handy ribbons that assist in getting the cards out easily.

What could be improved?…

Not much really.  I suppose the bottom compartment could be the same size as the top, allowing a second side-loaded deck.  But like I said, I’m not sure it was the full intention that that bottom compartment be for a second deck.  Sill, you can’t side load the bottom up with token cards either.  It is great for all of those dice though.

The other thing is more personal.  The SpartanWife is quite crafty…I believe she can really personalize this box for me.  The black color and interesting texture are great.  But if she could get some Masters of the Universe artwork on there, then this would be truly the ultimate deck box experience!

What do I rate the Ultra Pro Pro-Tower Deck Box?

I can’t see any reason to mark points off of this product.  While it might have a little room for improvement, I am really having to nit-pick at it just to point that stuff out.  It is a marvelous box, and every player should get one.  Maybe even two or three!  And since it is Christmas soon, this is a great present for a MTG player from a non-player who might not know what to get.

The box has a dedicated space for oversized cards, two storage compartments, is easy to carry, has a reasonably strong magnetic latch, and is quite affordable in the plain black version!

My rating is 5/5!  Do you agree with the SpartanNerd?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Commander 2014 “Sworn to Darkness” EDH Deck

This year, a big revision is made to the rules for Commander…Planeswalkers can now be your general!  I supposed technically only the five that were released for Commander 2014, but it isn’t much of a stretch to see all Planeswalkers allowed as commanders.  (Evidently some circles of players were already doing this regularly.)

The decks this year contrast the decks from the past two years, in that they are a single color.  At first I was like, “Mono-colored Commander decks…BORING!”  I didn’t do a lot of spoiler reading or anything, only really checking out what each Planeswalker Commander could do, and skimming deck lists for notable cards.  But after really looking at “Sworn to Darkness,” I see that this is one of the finest decks ever produced for the format!  (Remember, I unboxed and reviewed all five of the Commander 2013 sets.)

The first thing I have to say, though has nothing to do with the product so much.  Commander 2014 costs more than 2013.  $5 to $10 more.  I think when you see this review, you will see where that value is.

First, the packaging.

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A nice package.  I finally learned… (five decks later!)…That it is best to OPEN FROM THE BOTTOM!  Anyways, the package shows the oversized “Ob Nixilis, of the Black Oath” card, with flavorful purple styling complimenting the black shadows.  The yellow burst says that there are 15 brand new cards in this set.  It also says that there is a 100 card deck meant for multiplayer formats.  The backside of the deck shows Ob Nixilis again, along with five amazing cards, including Ghoulcaller Gisa, who we will revisit in a minute.  You get some hype about the deck, and that’s about it.

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Here are the contents.  Notably, this time, you only get one oversized foil card.  You get the same kind of deck box that we’ve seen before, which is really pretty nice.  All five of my others have stood the test of time!  You also get a guide to the deck, a general guide to playing Magic, (But commander is a variant, so…)  And then you also get the deck of course.  It’s cool that you get Ob Nixilis’s emblem on top.

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The propaganda that comes with the deck gives you some of Ob Nixilis’s story.  You also get a blurb about Gisa.  The other side most importantly features the decklist.    I suppose I should mention that I think the art is pretty good.  Ob Nixilis is a pretty detailed character, if he does have a boring color scheme.  But hey, he is “Of the Black Oath,” so I guess that is forgivable.  (or is it unforgivable…hmmmm.??)

The Deck

When you get the cellophane off of the deck…first you get a ton of tokens on top!

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But this time a new twist….DOUBLE SIDED TOKENS!  Great Idea, Wizards!

The backside of all of these cards is a Zombie.

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Alright already!  What does this deck really do?

There are so many rares…I’m not even sure how many.  Most of the cards in this deck!

I am going to present the cards as pictures with some commentary where appropriate.

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First the potential generals. Ob Nixiis of the Black Oath is VERY GOOD.  On turn five of every game, you have the opportunity to have a 5/5 flying demon.  WOW!  (That was his negative ability.)  Or you can choose to drain a little and plus him up 2.  But if you are able to get his ultimate to work, you can get a machine going

Ghoulcaller Gisa is a great sac outlet, and a way to get zombies out and over-run your opponent.  And this deck has plenty of fatties to sac!  (Anyone else notice that her initials are “GG”?

Then there’s Drana, who can destroy anything and swing in for nasty damage.  She really punishes large creature strategies.  But also she can be pumped by targeting your own creatures.

GG and Ob Nixilis are the two most obvious commanders for this deck.  It is good that we get Gisa in case some players object to the Planeswalker as a commander.

What else?  Here goes!  I will show you each rare with some commentary where it is most significant

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Morbid is some of what makes this deck fun! Here you get a 5/5 black demon with flying if something died this turn. And lots of things die with this deck, either to kill spells, in combat, or being sacrificed!

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I can’t say enough about Lashwrithe. If you get this on the field, then just pay two life to equip it, you make a creature with huge power. And then sac it with Gisa…BAM tons of zombie tokens!

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Wow. The first command I own!

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Black Sun Zenith. YES!

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I really don’t like the art on this one. Look closely….

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You get a suite of sweepers! The more stuff dies, the better creatures tend to get in this deck!

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Check out the next four cards.

 

 

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Sadly, I find the first major quality control issue I have ever seen in a new Magic the Gathering product.  I’m sure there is some machine somewhere that prints these cards and assembles the decks in a uniform order.  The machine must have been malfunctioning.  All of the cards, fromPestilence Demon through Bad Moon had a blueish ink spot on them.  At first I thought it might be part of Pestilence Demon’s art…it made it look extra pestilence-y.  But apparently not after seeing the same smear on the other cards.

 

I intend to call the Wizards and see what was up with this.  Anyone else had such an issue?  I also hear there are people who collect misprinted cards.*(nope.  See below)

 

 

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What? The D-word on the SpartanNerd blog?

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GRAVE TITAN! Someone somewhere has read where this is one of my top three favorite cards! It is one of the first rares I ever pulled from a booster pack! It continues to be amazing!

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Luitenant…a new mechanic for this set. It is way better than “tempting offer” in the last set.

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This guy is scary!

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Here is the opposite of Platinum Angel!

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How the deck plays.

As of this review I have played exactly three games with this deck.  I tried out Ob Nixilis and Gisa both as generals.  They are both excellent!.  I am trying to get out a speedy review, so I might update this section later.*

My first matchup was great because it was against a largely vanilla Prossh, Skyraider of Kher deck, from Commander 2013.  The matchup was about an hour and fifteen minutes long.  Prossh tries to get tokens on the battlefield and then sacrifice those to make stuff bigger.  Most of those tokens are chump blockers.  Eventually, I barely lost.  Both of us were drawing cards and finding win-cons.  Prossh was just more ready at the right time.

Ob Nixilis’s ability to get out 5/5 flying demons is killer!  You can do a lot with those.  Big flyers.  Sacrifice them to get card draw or beef stuff up.  Block chump flyers.  Or pile up and attack!  The +2 drain ability is the almost irrelevant part.  I never got to ultimate him, so haven’t tried out the emblem thing yet.  The Prossh deck made a lot of irrelevant tokens.  I was able to sweep those several times, while the 5/5 fliers lived on!  I was able to remove Prossh and other baddies by bouncing Shriekmaw a few times, at least once with Profane Command.  Also, Drana’s ability is a great removal.

In my second match, against some kind of hexproof deck, I had mana screw.  The thing about this deck…It wants to have at least five mana.  So OH WELL!

The third match was against a Karn Silver Golem deck.  My opponent was able to get out all kinds of nasties.  Platinum Angel was one of them, Cranial Plating was another.  And lots of Myrs, and a Bonehoard.  I won this match, though.  This time I made Gisa my general, and I think I will use her from now on.  She is AMAZING in this deck!  I think she might have moved up on my list of favorite cards.  Her ability, pay a swamp and sac something for 2/2 zombie tokens equal to the sacrificed creature’s power, isn’t anything to sniff at.  Especially when you are making 5/5 demons pretty regularly, equipping Lashwrithe on something pumping its power big time, or other things.  In fact, you can just start a chain reaction of zombies, if you think about it, if you start with sacking one zombie, then you get two.  choose one of those, then you have three.  Get it?  She is amazing.  And this deck was able to overrun that wimpy affinity thing.

What will I change?

This deck needs some Lilianna.  Of every flavor.  I think I will switch out some of the mana rocks.  For instance, Charcoal Diamond enters the battlefield tapped, can be tapped for a swamp, and costs two.  WHY?  Welcome to the deck, Elbrus the Binding Blade.  (Oh how he loves Commander!)    Otherwise, I think I will keep this deck as it is.  Maybe changing in or out one or two creatures.  Maybe Geralf’s Messenger or something.  I don’t even really want to play Vampire Nighthawk, another favorite card!  I was really down on the inclusion of Swiftfoot Boots.  This was in EVERY DECK LAST TIME.  But then, I equipped in onto a 5/5 demon on the same turn he came out, and changed my mind.  Haste and Hexproof isn’t irrelevant after all!  Some of the mana could be made more interesting.  And why doesn’t this deck have “corrupt?”

My rating for “Commander 2014: Sworn to Darkness.”

Of the many official Commander decks I have seen, I think Sworn to Darkness stands a head taller than them all!  I would give it a 6 out of five if I could.  the only thing I found wrong is the little misprint that was on four or five of the cards.  I will keep my readers posted on how or if the Wizards make it better for me somehow.

SO I RATE “SWORN TO DARKNESS 5/5.  DO you agree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 *Update #1…

I took “Sworn to Darkness” to the sealed deck two-headed giant tournament at the Tangled Web this past weekend, and got to play some multiplayer with this deck.  The mana-hunger of this deck is no joke.  And that seems to be where it is weakest.  On the other hand, sitting without that much land to do things makes you less of a threat.

I chose Ghoulcaller Gisa as my General.  People were surprisingly unfamiliar with her.  (The other commanders were Freyesa, the green planeswalker from this set.  Narset from Khans, and Derivi from last years set.)  Anyways, the green Planeswalker guy scooped early, frustrated because he “washed out” all of the islands, making the other two players choose him as a target.  This gave me plenty of time to bake my strategy.  The surprising card of the day was “Crypt of Aberdeen.”  That card produced insane mana as creatures were hitting the graveyard due to their sweepers, etc.  Once I had Gisa and Drana on the battlefield at one time.  Could you imagine!  Before I could activate the combo and load the board with zombies, they were both killed off!  Gisa was cast no less than five times, thanks to that cool little land. The other surprising card is Shriekmaw.  Because the deck reanimates things so readily, I was able to get several creatures destroyed with his enters-the-battlefield trigger.  One more big surprise…Aether Snap!  This kills off stuff with counters, including Planeswalkers!  Someone had a Gideon out attacking people.  Aether Snap put an end to that!  I wound up losing this match being next to last.  My opponent put Raving Dead under Mimic vat, and began attacking me with multiple copies.  Cards like that in the other set have also proven to be risky…(I’m thinking about Serra Avatar in Oloro. Ageless Ascetic’s deck.)  The deck was fun and held up, so once again, very satisfied!

I have since swapped a few cards.  I removed one of the lands and switched to Reliquary Tower…this deck gets enough card draw that it might be useful to hold cards.  On the other hand, ditching cards in the graveyard fuels stuff up…I swapped “bad sol ring” out for Elbrus, and added Lilliana Vess and Lilliana of the Dark Realms.  Someone asked me about Ob Nixilis Unshackled.  I DO have a copy, and might consider adding him.  My opponents were cracking fetch lands, so Ob Nixilis Unshackled’s ability would have been useful!  Can’t readily remember the other swaps.  But They were cheaper to cast, and involved zombies, usually.

One more thing.  People were really interested in the misprinted cards, especially Pestilence Demon.  I was encouraged to hang on to them, as the aftermarket value tends to be pretty high nowadays for such cards.  The wizards don’t let that stuff slip out too often anymore.  Even more so since it makes the Pestilence Demon look even cooler!  So I won’t be sending them in, Hub City Geeks.