SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Zendikar vs. Eldrazi Duel Deck

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I for one am quite psyched about “Battle for Zendikar,” the next large set of MTG cards coming out in October.  I missed Zendikar the first time around, since I wasn’t playing at the time.  But the effects of that set have rippled through the gaming scene enough to where I know it was a big deal.  Everything from Fetch Lands like Verdant Catacombs, to full-art Zendikar basics are very sought after.  And this isn’t even adding in the eldrazi bosses!

The wizards have a little rotation…I should know by now.  I am obviously a collector of duel decks, and certainly wasn’t going to pass this one up.  The rotation goes like this…Duel deck in the fall just before rotation, that features cards with new mechanics,  Duel deck in the spring featuring two planeswalkers,  This duel deck is of the first type.  It features a few new cards from the upcoming set, and spoils some of the mechanics.  This time those mechanics are Devoid, Awaken, Ingest, Landfall, and Level-up, and Annihilator.

I purchased my copy of the deck at The Tangled Web in Spartanburg SC for $19.99.  I think you should go there now and get a copy…I don’t think this one is going to warm the shelves!

So how did my unboxing and initial play go?  Read on for a review!

Packaging

The Duel Decks, Zendikar vs. Eldrazi, came in the same kind of package as the last few.  It doesn’t use heavy plastic, but lighter more recyclable stuff.  It is made of thin poster-style cardboard.  Getting the seran wrap and the cardboard off reveals a thin blister covering a thicker black tray.  Here are the pieces that I removed from the package.

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You get two premium foil cards, “Avenger of Zendikar” and “Oblivion Sower.”  The Avenger has Landfall- Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, put a +1/+1 counter on each plant creature you control.  This card is a re-print, and the wizards stress that it will not be Standard legal.  Oblivion Sower is a new Eldrazi.  When it is cast, the target player exiles the top four cards, and you get to put any number of lands from the exile onto the battlefield for yourself.  (WHAT?  there is going to be some mill-exiling in the next set!)

The other things you get with this set are the two decks, (obviously,) two pieces of paper, one a reference card and the other propaganda with a deck list, two deck boxes, and TWO COUNTER DICE!  This is new, and quite a surprise!  These decks usually come don’t come with counters!  (The wizards recently began putting out fewer event decks, which usually included one.  I suppose this is a refiguring of their resources maybe?)

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The two deck lists…important!  While I generally throw away the reference guide, I keep these.  (I know…the information is on the internet.  This is how I am “prepping!”)

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The art is good.  Aren’t the Eldrazi ugly things!  They look like mutant-jellyfish-human-aliens.

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I am going to go over the Zendikar deck first, photographing the cards, and mentioning what is good about those cards specifically.

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The first cards are the rares.  This is something I have noticed recently about the intro decks as well.  Rares are on top.  No matter what kind of card they are.  Probably the most notable here is Primal Command, a real game-changer.  But none of these are junk rares.  Every one of them is good.  And Veteran Warleader has the potential to be HUGE.

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Lots of cards with landfall.  These cards would make Garruk very happy!  Large creatures that fight and love ramp.  Also notable, the card with level up.

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Khalni Heart Expedition and Harrow are two ways to trigger landfall on your opponents turn.  There are other ways, however.

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Repel the darkness….feels like a blue card.  And then their is Sheer Drop, a new card with Awaken.  (Awaken turns your lands into “man-lands.”

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You get these lands.  Pretty good…the non-basics are sort of average for Duel Decks, though.  (Refuges.  Gain life.  Evolving wilds, and then Forestlasher Grove, which is there for flavor.)

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And FIVE plant tokens.  Another new addition!  (If you’ll recall, regular readers.  I was quite critical of Elspeth vs. Kiora because it didn’t come with adequate tokens.)

Clearly Landfall has to work in order for this deck to win!

Now the Eldrazi deck.

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Vampires, Imps, Hellions, and Eldrazi.  Many bad guys.  Why the bad guys would want to side with Eldrazi is beyond me.  They consume everything, regardless of alignment.  Notable is Dominator Drone, who has Devoid and Ingest.  Devoid means it is colorless, regardless of its required mana cost.  Ingest exiles the top card of their library.  (Remember what Oblivion Sower does?)

We also have It that Betrays.  A reprint.  But notable.

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And now some of my personal favorites.  (Remember, my color is Black!)  Vampire Nighthawk.  AWESOME!  Read the Bones.  Terrific!  Smother.  Can you say “Tiny Leaders?”

There are also some more Eldrazi.  Ulamogs Crusher and Artisan of Kozilek.

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I’m highlighting Corpsehatch because it mentions the 0/1 Eldrazi Spawn.  They are essential to making this deck work.  This deck ramps with them, but also requires sacrifices.

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The lands.  Refuges, Fetches, and Eldrazi Temple for flavor.

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You get these five tokens.  Three different printings of Eldrazi Spawn, and a 4/4 Hellion.

Duel Decks are maybe the most flavorful regular releases from the wizards.  These tokens really add to the story of what is happening during The Battle for Zendikar.

HOW THE DECKS PLAY OUT.

Me and the SpartanKid have played four matches, and it is 2 and 2.  (2 wins for each deck.)  This makes it great for me to write a review!  But it also says something about the decks being balanced against each other.

Both decks are ramp decks.  Both decks use tokens.  Both decks have very large creatures, however the Eldrazi have an edge here.  On the other hand Zendikar can do something with its tokens besides sacrifice them.

The first two matches were won by the Zendikar deck.  Primal Command was an ESSENTIAL card to play correctly.  When Avenger of Zendikar entered the battlefield, lots of plant tokens were produced.  Then the Avenger was targeted and killed.  But the Primal Command lets you shuffle him back into your library and then tutor him back out.  Awesome!  So that meant even more plant goodness on the next turn.  The turn after that, Evolving Wilds became the important card.  (THAT’S RIGHT! Evolving Wilds is GREAT in this deck.  Probably the only way, though.)  When the evolving wilds entered the battlefield, it triggered Landfall on the avenger, and all ten of those plants got a 1/1 counter.  Then you crack the Evolving wilds and get another land, triggering Landfall again.  And GG!  You just swung for 20+!

And all of the ways the deck gets land and triggers landfall really make it work.  While it is a fattie beatdown deck, it is more of an overrun deck.  Even if the Eldrazi sweep away the plant tokens with Marsh Casualties or similar, the creatures in the deck are still pretty formidable.  And every game we’ve played there has been like fourteen or more land on Zendikar’s side of the battlefield.  Then there are tricks like Retreat to Kazandu…an enchantment that has landfall abilities that either put counters on a creature or gain life. Remember, Evolving Wilds is GOOD in this deck.

The second two matches were won by the Eldrazi deck.  The Eldrazi win by finding advantage by producing Eldrazi Spawn tokens, which can be sacrificed for colorless mana, or sacrificed for other purposes.  They also can just be blockers if you are in a pinch.  Which seems to happen quite a bit with this deck.  There are chump creatures, the tokens, and then the massive Eldrazi which are normally un-castable, so you have to buy as much time as you can.  

A couple of favorite tricks…Butcher of Malakir…whenever a creature you control dies, the opponent has to sacrifice a creature.  Meaning that the Eldrazi Spawn tokens become Cruel Edict, but at instant speed.  YAY!  There is synergy here with Bloodthrone Vampire…he gets bigger when you sacrifice things.  These kinds of tricks work really well in Commander.  But with the level of ramp found in this deck, you get to use them here!

So that tells you the other half of the story.  The Eldrazi themselves are winners.  Period.  They can be removed, Ousted, Etc. But they are winners if not answered.  Ulamog’s Crusher and It that Betrays have Annihilate 2.  The opponent has to sacrifice two permanents when they are declared as an attacker. Artisan of Kozilek has it also, but when you cast it you also get to reanimate something from the graveyard.  The new guy, Oblivion Sower, hasn’t shown up yet.  He is meant to have synergy with the new cards with Ingest.  The deck has a few Dominator Drones, and when they attack the player exiles their top card.  Playing Oblivion Sower puts even more cards in the exile zone, and then you can put the exiled lands into play for whatever nefarious purpose you have planned!

Of the two decks, I prefer the Eldrazi.  All those vampires and black cards are just really good.  But there is no denying the goodness of Primal Command and all of the Landfall abilities the other deck can swing.

I’d say this is one of the funnest duel decks I own.  It is every bit as flavorful as Elves vs. Goblins and Liliana vs. Garruk.

SpartanNerd Rating of Zendikar vs. Eldrazi Duel Deck…

I have to give this deck a solid 5/5!  The only real complaint I have is similar to the other complaints I have had about Duel Decks.  This time the deck comes with lots of tokens, but those tokens don’t fit in the boxes.  In fact, you can only fit two plants or two Eldrazi Spawn in either deck with the rest of the cards.

This product has flavor, is fun, has allternate art cards (I hadn’t mentioned that!) ,and comes with plenty of tokens and TWO life counters.  The Wizards went over the top this time.

SpartanNerd rates Duel Decks:  Zendikar vs. Eldrazi a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

SpartanNerd and SpartanKid Unboxing and Review…D-Arts Vile

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D-Arts Vile is the first villain for Mega-Man X that we have at the SpartanNerd household.  How do I know he is a villain?  Who’s name is “Vile?”

Vile comes in this nice window box.  I am going to apologize up front about some of the pictures in this review.  It seems my lights have gone out for the light box.  Here is the item photographed on the kitchen table.

The box shows the figure nicely, and the side is similar to the other D-Arts figures we have opened.

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The parts all come in this nice blister.

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Here are some of the accessories.

You get alternate hands.  Cannons for the back.  Different barrel ends for the guns.  Chain gun ammunition.  Knee guns (not pictured), and What??  Some kind of beverage!

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Not really sure how this works, since he doesn’t have a mouth…at least he doesn’t have an alternate face or removable helmet.

The SpartanKid thinks this during must be Coke.  I think sweet tea, though.  It is a detailed piece, with ice cubes.  You can remove the contents to have an empty cup as well.

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The figure has excellent articulation.  He has movable wrists, elbows on a hinge, biceps swivels, ball jointed shoulders, a ball jointed head.articulated torso, moving waist, ball jointed hips, double jointed knees, and ball jointed feet.

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Vile looks menacing with the double guns attached to his backpack.  SpartanKid says that only rarely is Vile seen with both guns armed in the video games.  (Maybe even never.)

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The knee gun is an interesting feature.  The SpartanNerd would like to say that it was very difficult to achieve.  Mostly because the gold ring around the upper part of the figures boot doesn’t want to let go, and is necessary to put the knee gun on properly.  In fact, it was highly frustrating, and will be rarely done.

Following are a few action poses versus other figures in the D-Arts line, so you can compare.

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SpartanKid has a few statements to make about this figure…

“The guns are pretty detailed and an essential accessory for this figure, for he’s never seen without one of his precious cannons.”

“He looks pretty cool without the shoulder pads, because it appears as if he’s been fighting for awhile, and they got knocked off.”

“His feet are different, made for flying.  I like that they made them different.”

“The blue backpack on his back were originally used for flight until he was upgraded with feet thrusters  (Mega-Man X-3)”

SpartaNerd Rating of D-Arts “Vile” is 4/5.  The figure is well articulated and beautifully painted and detailed.  It comes with lots of accessories.  However, there is a little problem with changing the knee guns.

SpartanNerd…Dual Deck Anthology Vacation matchups.

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The only Magic cards I took with me on my recent vacation was pre-constructed decks.  I took the entire Duel Deck Anthology box, and stuffed it with loads of Commander, other duel decks, and the solitaire decks.  The box was great for transporting my cards!  (I removed the tray for the first time, and discovered a Serial Number!

I held two memorable Duel Deck matches with the SpartanKid, before our interest shifted to testing the French Dark Ascension deck I purchased.

Following is a record of what happened during those two matches!

Elves Vs. Liliana

The match was generally unfair at first.  I was piloting Liliana, of course, and knew what I was up against.  I kept a hand full of removal!  I knew it would be important to keep as many elves from sticking to the board as possible.  At around turn six, the SpartanKid wasn’t having any fun.  He began saying,”This isn’t fair!”  Deathgreeter ensured that I kept gaining life as creatures died.  Lucky for him, I was out of removal.  But I had Enslave ready because I knew eventually the SpartanKid would try for Allosaurus Rider, one of the Elf deck’s most insane cards, controlled by one of Liliana’s most broken cards!

True to form, he played that Allosaurus Rider, and then I hit it with Enslave.  .

It was Lys Alana, Huntmaster that landed next, and I had no response.  The game became very grindy, eventually getting lots of traction for the elf deck.  That Allosaurus Rider went down to the Voice of the Woods token.

Down but not out, I cast Rise from the Grave, getting the Allosaurus Rider back, and even better than ever late in the game, with ten lands on the field!

But all of this effort was not removal.  Imperious Perfect and Ambush Commander hit the battlefield, and the game was pretty much over.  In fact, Liliana Vess was the final thing I cast.  Too little, too late.  It was GG.  Elves took the victory!  I was two turns away from Mutilate, which would have totally shifted the game back in Liliana’s favor.

Later, we would play Divine vs. Liliana.

It all seemed grim.  The Angels were truly beating down Liliana’s deck.  (Recently, when I read the fiction put on the Mothership Site, Liliana would remark that Angels were “goody two-shoes.”)

Then I drew Liliana, and used her to tutor up Mutilate in the face of Twilight Shepherd and Akroma.  But Twilight Shepherd has that pesky persist ability, and also brings things back to the battlefield from the graveyard that died on the same turn.

And that was pretty much it.  The Divine Deck truly is a casual masterpiece of destruction!  Really, almost none of the decks can stand against them except for Jace and Chandra…Jace who controls and cancels and bounces angels, and chandra who burns everything except Akroma, (but it doesn’t matter, because it takes so long to cast Akroma.  However, the life gain of the Divine deck can be frustrating against burn.)

(I posted a review of matches between Liliana and the Angels once before, and had different things to say…)

The Duel Deck Anthology has proven to be one of the greatest gifts for a Magic player.  It was reasonably priced.  Resaonably rare.  Reasonably cool.  And nicely archival.  I hope the Wizards release more of these Anthologys in the future.  I am a dedicated purchaser at this point!

SpartanNerd and SpartanKid Unboxing and Review…Sengoku Astray Gundam (SD)

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Once again…a SD model of a Gundam the SpartanNerd has no investment in.  The title clearly says it is from “Build Fighters.”  I watched about one half of an episode of “Gundam Build Fighters Try” on Netflix.  The Japanese (no offense intended,) plus the presentation of the characters, and just the show in general didn’t agree with me.  I get it.  It’s just not my thing.  The SpartanChildren, however, eat it up.

SpartanTeen tells me that the correct pronunciation for this model is “Astree”.  Don’t know if that is true.  When I see the word “astray,” I think, “All we like sheep have gone astray.”

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Here are the parts before assembly.  It took SpartanKid about two hours to make this.  He is nine years old, so…

I helped a little.  You have to really clear the “nubs” off of the pieces after you break them from this blister.  Also, the pieces are meant to fit together tightly.

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The instructions were easy to read, but in Japanese.

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You also get an apparent advertisement for the Gundam markers and pens, and a Manga comic, just like the others in this line I have reviewed.

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The assembled model looks like this.  The two swords are very nice.  But it is the headpiece that gets your attention!

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He is really busy, and so doesn’t seem as posable as some of the others in this line.  He also tends to want to fall apart.

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The SpartanKid assembled both of these…so here are some statements from him.

“Astray looks really awesome and is pretty solid, except for the arm, which keeps giving me problems…it wants to come off and come apart.”

“I like the coloration, and the parts are unpainted, so you can choose how you want to paint it.  I am going to paint it in a few weeks.  I don’t know what colors yet.”

“I forgot to put the stickers on it for the most part.”  (Plans to use the stickers later.)

The SpartanNerd rates Sengoku Astray Gundam 3/5.  The markdown comes from the limited articulation and the fact that the  pieces want to come loose, especially the arm.

Otherwise, the Astray is pretty cool with the huge headress and the two swords.

SpartanNerd and SpartanKid Unboxing and Review…D-Arts Megaman X (Ultimate Armor X)

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SpartanKid purchased D-Arts Ultimate Armor X with some money that he saved up.  It was $47.29 on Ebay.  The other figures in this line have been excellent.  Does Ultimate Armor X measure up?  Keep reading to find out!

(Link to SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review of Megaman X Black Zero)

(Link to pictures of Megaman X…no review was done for that figure…)

Megaman X came in this window box.  There is Japanese writing all over it, except for the branding and the name of the character.  I suspect the words in the black under the window explain that this is the Ultimate Armor version.

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The back of the box shows some suggested poses for Megaman X.  Everything is in Japanese…so…

The sides of the box deliver just as good of an experience as the other toys in this line.

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Opening the box you see this double blister tray.

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You can see all of Megaman’s parts and accessories in this tray.

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You also get this nifty sheet of instructions.  Good thing there are good pictures!  I need to scan that QR code and see where it takes me.  (I did.  The site is in Japanese, with no translation button evident.  It appears to have a shopping cart, however.)

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Megaman X looks like this standing up.  His big feet insure that he doesn’t fall over.  Noteworthy, those feet have two rocket boosters on the soles, as opposed to one on the other figures.  I suppose this means he flies faster…

(SpartanKid tells me that the others can’t fly at all!  Zero can double jump depending on your upgrade.)

He has some gems that are very evident…this alongside the blue and gold color scheme as well as the purple armor color makes this character very colorful when compared to Black Zero and regular Megaman X.

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These were the accessories that came with Megaman X (that weren’t currently on the figure…with exception to the face for comparison purposes.)  One face is shifty eyed.  One is screaming from battle.  The other is normal.

The green blast is from a halfway charged shot.  (According to the SpartanKid.)

Megaman X comes with an arm to change out the buster cannon, and two extra hands.  The other round thing is the end of the buster cannon to use the charged shot.

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At first I thought the shifty eyed face would be kind of dumb, until I saw this pose.  It looks spectacular!

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The screaming face lets you do a Mortal Kombat inspired uppercut.

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Megaman X firing the halfway charged X-Buster cannon….

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The SpartanKid said that Ultimate Armor Megaman X doesn’t always have the wings out on the backpack.  The wings are removable for those special times.  I really like the circuitry details on the backpack.  (This detail is all over the figure…his plastic is semi-transluscent, giving a very cool effect.

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Comparison Time…(Oh, Pixel Dan!)

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Black Zero is still in good shape.  Regular Megaman X has taken some…abuse…his arm had to be super-glued into place after over a year of rambunctious SpartanKid play.  Really a testament to the surprising durability of these figures.  As an adult, I would expect as much from figures that cost so much.

We didn’t take any pictures, but the accessories are all interchangeable, as are the faces.

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Here is a battle pose between Megaman X, Black Zero, and Axl.  Note that Axl isn’t a D-Arts figure…

SpartanKid has some things to say….

“Ultimate Armor X has a lot of details not evident in the games.”

“In Megaman X 5, Ultimate Armor X is a cheat code, and an unlockable thing…(the same for Black zero as well.)”

“One of my only complaints is that he DID NOT come with a Z-Saber…Like he had in Megaman X 6.”

SpartanNerd Rating of D-Arts Megaman X Ultimate Armor version is 5/5.  While Black Zero had an issue with the pegs for the hands right out of the box, no such issue has been apparent on this figure.  This figure is over the top as far as details, accessories, articulation, and posibility.

SpartanNerd Rating of D-Arts Megaman X Ultimate Armor version is 5/5. Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

SpartanNerd…Dragons of Tarkir insights

Sorry I haven’t said much about it folks.  I played in the pre-release two headed giant event at the Tangled Web with the SpartanKid, and we beat some good players.  But as a whole, I felt I had never been as hosed as far as cards were concerned.  Neither he nor I had a Dragonlord.  And I saw (and defeated) one Narset Transcendent at the event.  We didn’t place, however.  So it was sort of like we walked away with fifty dollars worth of “bulk cards.”  When we got home, I took all of the black cards, and gave the rest to him.  That’s how sad it was.

Our pre-release two headed giant strategy was SpartanNerd as the control player, SpartanKid as the aggro player.  I put together a five color deck.  This opened all of the options for me, and I was able to play cards in every color during each match of the evening.  The SpartanKid put together a blue and white beat-down deck.  (That’s what he wanted it to be…)  And I covered him.  Oh yes…he insisted on playing “Blessed Reincarnation.”  This was described as “jank.”  But then we beat the person who said that, so….

I drafted this past weekend, (on Dragons release day at the FNM.)  I also didn’t get any significant cards!  What’s up with that!  Still, I broke the top eight and took home a pack.

I decided to draft Grixis (Black Blue Red).  My first pack had a big green monster.  I passed it for some black card.  At the end of the day, I still had three rares, so it came out fair, I suppose.  One of the stars was “Living Lore.”  This guy was great!  I passed my second  rare “Volcanic Vision,” a big red sorcery that should have been unplayable, and it came back to me with only white and green cards as its mates.  Guess what card made Living Lore work?  He became a 7/7, with the upside of getting to be sacked and casting “Volcanic Vision.”  Just sick, really.  I also used exploit whenever I could, and targeted things that gave me card draw, my favorite being Jeskai Sage.  (I generally hate prowess.  But it made him into a threat.  And then when I sacked him, I drew a card.  GREAT!)

The reason I have such a bad taste is because the set Dragons of Tarkir is SO POWERFUL.  But I don’t have any commands.  Not many minor dragons (which generally suck), or dragonlords.  I do have some of the uncommon dragons, just none of the big guys.  I don’t even have a copy of the new Durees!  This means I have opened nine packs and pulled just about zilch.

I have a ton of cards on order to rebuild the Liliana/Waste Not deck.  The card I am looking forward to the most, I think is Kolaghan’s Command.  For three mana, I get to choose from my four favorite things to do at instant speed.  But the big one is DISCARD AT INSTANT SPEED, WITHOUT KILLING BLACK CATS!  The Wizards seem to be promoting Waste Not style decks in printing this, and if my cards arrive by this weekend, I will be playing them in Standard.  Another card I have on order is “Damnable Pact.”  I’m hoping the card advantage will come easier playing this.  I have two copies of Dragonlord Silumgar on order, and I need to figure out how to work the “take control of their creatures” angle.  I also have Kolaghan on order, and think it might be awesome to pair her with Ob Nixilis, Unshackled.  (Break their creatures and their fetches.)  Still, I might keep it simpler, and leave the Dragonlords out in favor of Lava Axes as finishing moves.