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!

 

 

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Planechase Anthology…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

From now on, I am going to title what product I am reviewing before the ever prevalent “SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review”.  I fear people can’t see what I am unboxing on the index page…One more thing…this is my 300th post!  (I have deleted 13 posts in the past.  Making #287 actually #300!)

I have heaped praises on the “Duel Decks Anthology.”  Rightly so.  Of all of the decks I own, I get more use out of having those decks just ready made, ready to play, and having them handy in that box.  It plays like its own board game.  It was a reprint of valuable cards, Demonic Tutor and Ancestral Vision, AND Akroma Angel of Wrath, among many others.  I also just enjoy Duel Decks, and have collected many of them apart from what is in the Anthology.

The Planechase Anthology aims to do the same things, but bring Planechase back into the front of the public again.  Planechase is a CASUAL FORMAT.  Like Commander and Duel Decks.  I have owned one Planechase deck already, “Primordial Hunger,” featuring Thromok the Insatiable.  That deck was the cheapest at an MTG store way out of town somewhere, that had alot of old sealed product.  (You can read my review here.  Sadly, I have removed the pictures.)  And so I have limited exposure to Planechase.  The Planechase Anthology is going to bring all kinds of MTG goodness to the SpartanNerd kitchen table.

Let me say right now, the old decks cost around $50 after market, give or take sealed.  The $149.99 price tag on the Planechase Anthology is automatically a good deal.  Besides that, each plane card individually costs about $5 on TCGplayer.  But the six promotional cards included cost more…BUT I do have a complaint.  This set only comes with Planechase 2012 theme decks.  The original decks should be included…they could have been included.  (The original decks are worth way more money.  One of them is an affinity deck, pushing it up to around $150 after market value.  THe zOmbie Empire deck is about $100 to piece together!)

OK,  more information about the format.  Planechase is a special Magic the Gathering variant where oversized “planes” cards are added to the game creating an additional layer of complexity.   You roll the cubic planar dice, and change which plane you are on.  (Planes are analogous to stadium cards in Pokemon TCG).   Originally, the Wizards envisioned each person brings their own planes to the game…making it possible to play against another players constructed planar deck.  (No one plays this way anymore.)  What really happened was people found it more fun to put all the planes in a single deck, and then just see the craziness that resulted.  Planechse is super fun when paired with Commander…

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What’s this?  The SpartanCat really enjoyed the new shipping box before I removed the product!  For my unboxing and review today, you will be seeing some of my kitchen table.  Apologies.  But Planechase IS a kitchen table format…(Really, the box is very large.)

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Here the box is, in all its cellophane sealed glory.  I love the shiny foil treatment the Wizards gave it.  This time it is purple and gold…a color that is difficult for me to describe…It isn’t brown at all.  it is … shiny purplish purple-and-gold.

The back of the box displays a poster, which might find its way on my office wall at work…

The bottom picture shows you that the box is exactly the same size as the Duel Decks Anthology.

This box is important because it helps give this set the feeling of a premium board game.  Want to quickly set up a game of Magic with some friends…just break out the Planechase Anthology.  It also will make for nifty storage.

Now for the opening…(cue the angelic choir!)

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Notable, five spots for the dice, ordered in the same way as the decks…and what was that?

The Planar die is twice the size of the conventional Planar die!  (pictured on the right is a comparison shot.)

These dice are life-counters.  I wiI will keep these in the box and not take them out to tournaments.  I am partial to the green one and the orange one because I can see them more easily.  (I was partial to one of the dice in the Duel Decks Anthology for the same reason.)

Lets open some cards!

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Not quite yet.  It looks like there is some propaganda hiding under the planar deck.

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The poster features some of the planes…why these?  They chose these because they are the planes that are best seated in the minds of players.  Really new players are probably aware of the “Origins” stories.  Zendikar and Innistrad are currently in Standard.  Bolas’s Meditation Chamber is important because he IS the villain in MTG.  But I think also the Wizards wanted to include something that is going to be important in upcoming sets.  Amonkhet is the next big set, and is going to be all about Bolas according to the Wizards’ press releases.

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The back of that insert tells you how to play.  And remember what I told you about the way the Wizards originally intended players would play?  This rules insert doesn’t mention that at all, which I suppose means that  style is just about officially dead.  There are some suggestions for playing in a variety of ways.  Drafting the planes as a cube…that is an idea I hadn’t considered!

CARDS! CARDS! CARDS! CARDS!

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“Slide Deck Box” eluded me…you have to experience it to get it.  Turns out that it is exactly what it says it is.  Notice the slanted top of the inner box.  This is reminiscent of the “Bundle Box” design that is replacing “fat packs.”  This makes it easier in THAT product to open the box.  In this case, it makes it easier to grip the cards in order to remove them.

Without question, this deck box can’t hold sleeved planar cards.  It’s a good thing I didn’t purchase sleeves for them in anticipation.  (I really did mull it over, but decided to wait.  Wise decision, SpartanNerd!)

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After breaking the cellophane seal, you can see that the “phenomenon” cards are on top.  These function as powerful effects that change the game.  Chaotic Aether can really shake up the game if people are willing to pay the tax to roll the Planar die  (to roll the die at any time, a player must pay a land at first, then two lands for a second roll, then three for a third, etc.)  Morphic Tide can be devastating!  And it can totally turn the tables in a game of Magic.

After the Phenomenon cards come the planes.

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Onnake Catacomb…this is the place where Liliana got the Chain Veil!

Llanowar is funny…it makes all of your creatures into “better-than” Llanowar Elves.  (Lannowar Elves taps to add one green mana to your mana pool.)

There are over 70 different planes!  I haven’t heard of most of them.

The thing about this set…it is all about FLAVOR.  A person might not know anything about MTG.  Having them sit down and play the game this way will immerse them in the basic lore and the basic “What is this game Magic the Gathering all about?”  The game becomes more than just fun decks to play with cool art.  It becomes a story.  And that is very good because the flavor or MTG is really awesome.

A little rant.  It has been said that Mortal Kombat (and its associated video games) isn’t that great as far as fighting games go.  But it is so cool in flavor that it remains appealing, even though it is trumped by the mechanics of other games in its genre.  MTG has the opposite problem sometimes.  The game is so cool and fun, but people don’t have to be aware of the story surrounding it for the game to work.  How many times have I seen new players ask about the flavor text of a card, and what purpose does it serve?  It serves no mechanical purpose…it is only there for extra fun.  Extra flavor.  Extra points in the coolness department.  At one time I didn’t care about the story.  Over the years, I have picked up on some of it, and even read through some of it, like the Battle for Zendikar story and the way Nissa and Chandra drew up a “Channel-Fireball” combo to kill the titans.  I still have a lot to learn about the story.  The Planechase Anthology is without a doubt going to inspire me to look up information about the different planes and locations in MTG.

Onto the rest of the decks.  Each one comes with its own “slide deck box.”  The colored “Planeswalker Symbol” is the only indication of which deck is inside besides the label on the flat side of the inside box.  Notice the one of the far left…the “orange” symbol.  That box has extra items inside.

One of those items is the basic guide to playing Magic (quick reference card).  Which is not a guide to playing Planechase.  So I’m not sure if including it was a good idea.  (I just threw it away, as usual.)

The other item is the tokens.  Double Sided.

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I am showing you one side, then flipping them.  Notice a ton of Goblin tokens, and Saproling tokens.  If you have ever played decks that produce these kinds of token creatures, then you know you might just need this many.  Saproling token decks can get out of control!

NOW FOR THE INDIVIDUAL DECKS.

Each deck is called a “theme deck.”  What this means is, each deck showcases a mechanic, and has cards that support that mechanic.

I will be showing you the eight rares (YES!) from each deck first.  And then I will show you notable things about the decks as well.

PRIMORDIAL HUNGER

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This is the only deck I already have spent time with playing, and you saw what I had to say if you clicked the link in the top paragraphs.  Since I wrote that review, I have played this deck on numerous occasions.  The Dragonlair Spider is ALWAYS a winner.  Lots of times, people underestimate him.  Hellion Eruption is also an amazing win-con.  The Devour mechanic, showcased in this deck, requires a little work.  You have to sacrifice things…you are giving up board presence in order to make a big creature.  This is risky, and sometimes doesn’t pay off.  I think it better to “go wide,” load up the board, and then either over run the opponent, or do the Hellion Eruption.

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Of the Devour creatures, this one is the most playable.  On turn three or four, you can have a fatty that can’t be ignored.

Most of the pre-con decks the Wizards put out contain mana-fixers.  This deck has “bounce lands,” and a few other things.  Skaarg the Rage Pit can be a really good mana-sink.

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These other spells can’t be ignored!  Overrun, Fires of Yavimya, and Fling are excellent finishers.  Fires of Yavimaya is like a trap…people tend to forget that you can sacrifice it to give all of your creatures +2/+2!

One more incidental thing…Will the deck fit in the “slide deck box” when properly sleeved?  (Drum roll)

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YES!!!

NIGHT OF THE NINJA

This is the deck the SpartanKid is most excited about.  I looked at purchasing this about a year ago for him…he is very interested in Ninjas.  After-market, the deck gets about $7o.  It came down to either Night of the Ninja or some Mega-Man thing.  He went with the Mega-Man…

But now, I own a copy, and he can play it all he wants!

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The theme of this deck is Evasion.  Virtually every creature in this deck has some form.  Flying, Intimidate, Fear, Shroud, Deathtouch, Hexproof, and the feature mechanic, Ninjutsu.  With Ninjutsu, you can swap out an attacking creature that doesn’t have a blocker with the creature with Ninjutsu from your hand.  Surprise!  Throw on a “when this deals combat damage” effect, and you get some cool advantages.

Notable here, is Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni.  This guy is the general for a rat-tribal commander deck!

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Baleful Strix.  One of the best Two-Drop creatures in all of MTG.  Flying, Deathtouch, AND card draw.  Sick.

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Here are the lands.  Nothing noteworthy here.  (Why didn’t we get Rogue’s Passage?  I think it’s because every creature here already can’t be blocked at least without consequences.)

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The other spells.  Farsight Mask…that’s hilarious!  Why would it be tapped unless an opponent tapped it?

CHAOS REIGNS

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A little story…The original picture of the eight rares was very blurry, so at 3:00 AM I retook the picture.  And this is when I noticed that the “slide deck boxes” all have outline artwork for their featured rare card.  So this is why these cards are sleeved, and why I included the inner box.

Maelstrom Wanderer.  A Three-Color creature, with “Cascade, cascade.”  Yes.  This isn’t a typo!  Chaos Reigns is aptly named because of the Cascade mechanic.  When you cast (important!) a spell with Cascade, you get to reveal cards off the top of your library until you reveal a card with a lower mana cost, and then you cast that card for free.  So Maelstrom Wanderer lets you Cascade twice.

(The other use of the Cascade mechanic is to wash your dishes.  HA HA HA!)

Cascade is one of the flashiest mechanics in MTG, and also the most unpredictable.  It is at the heart of “Restore Balance” decks, as well as “Living Death” decks.

The other thing about the Maelstrom Wanderer.  Three color creatures, especially in the combination of BLUE RED GREEN, are rather rare historically.  We got a few recently in Khans block.  But this guy seemed to stand alone for a long while.

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The Shardless Agent…This is a ten-dollar card!  In the right deck, it can almost be a Collected Company.

It seems I forgot another important picture…Bloodbraid Elf.  (Banned in Modern!)

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It was recently brought to my attention that this guy is banned in Pauper.  I wonder why? (It’s obvious.)

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Here is a notable card.  Do you want to know what a vanilla creature is if it takes a mana of every color to cast?  Fusion Elemental provides that standard baseline.  8/8.

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This is a five color deck.  Such a deck has a hard time finding the resources it needs.  Shimmering Grotto and Rupture Spire help with this.  Vivid Creek and Terramorphic Expanse are also always useful.

But even this wouldn’t be enough.

img_9516The five spells on the left also help you fix your mana.

Every other spell is pretty good.  Our main plan, though is to smash the opponent with our creatures.

SAVAGE AURAS

This deck is based on enchantment auras, specifically Totem Armor.

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The Kor Spiritdancer is important…It is a strong piece of the Hexproof deck in Modern.  Maybe I can make my Bogles deck work better now that I own a copy.  (I will need three more, of course.  Do-able…it is a ten-dollar card.)

Krond, of the Dawn-Clad.  If you can get this guy going, you have no business losing.  You can exile their permanents all over the place.  He is a flying, vigilant threat.

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I thought these two notable…Silhana Ledgewalker has the aforementioned Hexproof.  If you get a few auras on it, there is little that the opponent can do.  It also is hard to block…

Dreampod Druid…remember all of those Saproling tokens?

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Nothing spectacular about the lands.  The City Tree is a notable inclusion.

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You might have noticed that this deck is a little light on creatures.  This is because it is heavy on other spells, especially auras…especially totem armor.  The deck also generates tokens, helping ensure you aren’t holding unusable “dead” cards.  (Totem Armor.  If enchanted creature would be destroyed, destroy the aura with Totem Armor instead.)

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS AFTER UNBOXING.

This is a terrific product.  Thanks to the SpartanWife for getting it for me on our anniversary.  Thanks to the Tangled Web as well, who gave me a discount.  A great thing too, because today I have been fighting a Kidney Stone.  And the store owner, Daniel Macabee, is a super nice guy.  If you ever find yourself in Spartanburg, SC, go by the Tangled Web Comic Book store.  You won’t regret it.

As I have been typing into the wee hours of the night/morning, dealing with my problem, I have spent some time thinking about it.  There is only one physical problem with the Planechase Anthology.  There is nowhere to put the 35 double-sided tokens.  I sleeved them in transparent Dragon Shields.  But even if I didn’t, the slide deck boxes wouldn’t accomodate them.  And besides that, which tokens go with which deck?  This is a nit-picking thing, but notable.If the Wizards hadn’t put that giant Magic The Gathering logo on the plastic tray under the dice, but instead gave us another deck box for the tokens, that would have been better.  True, I could remove the tray and store the tokens underneath, but that takes away from the convenience of the the thing as a dedicated board game.

The only other negative thing I could say is…we don’t have Planes cards for Tarkir, Kaladesh, or Theros.  All of these planes have been introduced to us since these decks were originally printed.  The Wizards could have given us some exclusive planes cards featuring those locations just for this set.  And that would drive some collectors crazy…crazy enough to purchase this product even if they already owned the rest of it.

But besides those two items, I haven’t got any complaints.  I really had to dig for that second one…but maybe its the pain medicine.

I give the Planechase Anthology a 5/5!

It is a terrific box set that promises hours of fun at the kitchen table in the future.  It is a great collection of re-prints, including some scarce rares.  It is four ready-to-play decks for anytime.  It is good Magic.  Plain and simple.

THE SPARTANNERD GIVES THE PLANECHASE ANTHOLOGY A 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!