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…Micro Reviews 1

New thing.  MICRO REVIEWS!

These posts will be brief summary thoughts concerning my feelings about various “nerdtainment” items.  This is becoming a necessity, as I am getting more content than I have time for a formal review.

 

SUICIDE SQUAD.  I promise, I will bring a full review after I see it a second time.  I saw this on opening weekend, and was impressed.  Very nice movie, that remained faithful to the comic book characters.  Harley Quinn stole the show…

 

HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: “THE THREE TERRORS” (Short Animation)…This is now available on iTunes, and I watched it today.  It is ten minutes of an attempt by Super7 to revive the Filmation style of animation.  This little cartoon hit it at about 80%.  Alan Oppenheimer still voices Skeletor, but he just doesn’t have the high pitches that he carried in his younger days.

 

SPEAKING OF SUPER7…I was shocked to hear of their takeover of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS.  I think their small figure line is cute and interesting, maybe even worth the $5 a figure.  But I don’t own any…I am in the camp with many other fans that jittery times are ahead.  Why would Mattel pass that property?  I am glad Digital River is done.  Maybe shipping will be cheaper.

 

METALLICA: “HARDWIRED FOR DESTRUCTION”…This is the only track and also is the title track) released so far, for an album slated to release on November 18.  It’s about time!  The few reviews on iTunes so far compare the song to stuff on “Justice for All.”  I think the singing might be a little smoother than what was on “Death Magnetic,” but the band’s all around sound is about the same.  Robert Trujillo is KILLING that bass!

 

YOUNG JUSTICE…I began watching this again…I watched it last year.  What a great cartoon!  I wish more would happen.

 

DC COMICS: REBIRTH..I have been reading Batman as well as Robin, Son of Batman, and also I picked up All Star Batman.  So far, the most powerful story is the Batman book that came out this week.  Batman #5 dropped a couple of bombs, that they are going to kill Batman ONCE AGAIN.  And that Duke Thomas is going to marry Gotham Girl.

 

MAGIC THE GATHERING: CONSPIRACY-TAKE THE CROWN…The spoilers released so far have fans scratching their heads.  This set looks to bring more power and almost better reprints than Eternal Masters and Modern Masters 2015.  Very odd!

 

First Ever Micro-Reviews!  Let me know what you think in the comments!

 

 

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…MTG Eldritch Moon Intro Deck “Shallow Graves”

Sadly, I bought this as an impulse buy while standing in line at Wal-Mart.  The back to school shopping crowd had maybe fifty customers waiting in line at three registers.  While I stood and waited, I thought, (I guess) “I would like some more punishment.  Why not buy and intro pack.”

So was it punishment?  Keep reading!

I chose “Shallow Graves” because it is in the colors Black and Blue.  I am interested in making a zombie deck with my foil Liliana, The Last Hope, and my four copies of Gisa and Geralf.  I have worked at this at home a little bit, but not really tested it out, and didn’t really feel all that inspired with my results.  What I made at home was simply with the cards I owned that fit the theme in Standard right now…the kind of thing I might have made when I first began playing Magic.  I thought maybe opening a pre-constructed Black Blue Zombie deck might let me attack the problem from a different angle.

That said, I also like the foil alternate art Noosegraf Mob card feature.  I own several copies of Noosegraf Mob, from drafts and from pre-release.  In limited it is the kind of card that makes your opponent sweat.  I feel it is probably too slow for standard, but we will see!

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Shallow Graves came in the standard window box intro pack package.  This one was wrapped in tight fitting thick plastic, which I’m sure was meant to deter thievery.

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Here are the contents of the box.  The deck, with the foil Noosegraf Mob, shrink wrapped in a cigarette wrapper.  Two Eldritch Moon booster packs.  A Quick Reference Guide.  (Trash).  And a nice poster with propaganda and a decklist.  Here is the front side of the insert, notably featuring the fantastic art of Liliana.  (The SpartanNerd IS Liliana.  What else COULD I say?)

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So, basically the deck is designed to flood the board with hard casted zombies.  Crypt breaker here is a new card for me.  The “Discard a card” will enable two things…Madness and Delirium.  The card I can’t get out of my head on this is Voldaren Pariah.  Not a zombie, but a powerful black card with madness.  Sacrificing three creatures lets it flip, and forces the opponent to sacrifice three creatures.  So here is at least one way the deck might be improved…if I had more copies of Cryptbreaker, that is.

Noosegraf Mob is so good because he lets you keep a board presence against players trying to control the game.  You are trading six mana for ten power, basically. which is good, but it is all around deterrent.

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Another card I would like to point out is Ghostly Wings…a card that enables a creature to fly, and creates discard for you.  Spontaneous Mutation is a new trick…flash it onto a creature, and slowly bing down that creatures attack power as the game progresses!

So what was in my booster packs? I am trying to save memory space on WordPress, so let me summarize that a little bit.

I opened Ulvenwald Observer.  A lame tree folk.  I won’t waste a picture.  That pack also had Tamiyo’s emblem.  Graf Rats was here too. That card permeates this set.  I’m glad the Wizards wanted to push the meld mechanic so much.

It was the rare on the second pack that caught my attention.  A card I had never seen.

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Cast him from exile.  WOW!  A THREE DROP.  There is a deck here.

So how does “Shallow Graves” play out?

I tested it against a few non-standard decks, and this time I uploaded a copy to image and tried it out against a standard environment.

In short, this deck is unsurprisingly unfit for a tournament.  New players will like casting the foil Noosegraf Mob, if they survive long enough!

The dominant deck in standard, Bant Humans, just is too much for “Shallow Graves.”  But not just that.  Just about ANY constructed deck can take out this pre-con.

I love its flavor…but I would rather save the flavor for Dual Decks and Commander.  The Wizards are rightly retiring this product.  I have reviewed several intro decks as the SpartanNerd.  This one is “meh.”  Lots of points for flavor.  Not so much for function.

This time, my booster packs were geared more towards other decks.  One pack had almost all black and red cards.  So that one would be better for a vampires player.  Vampires, by the way, are pretty good in standard.  A good Olivia Mobilized for War deck can eat up Shallow Graves.  I did get some black and blue Eldrazi with Emerge.  If I really wanted to altar the deck, thinking BIG, I could add those.  So this time thats a plus.

I RATE “SHALLOW GRAVES”  2/5.

The art is good.  The flavor is good, even though that doesn’t really belong here in my opinion.  It is fun.  But it is a loser.  There are possibilities for expansion.  Throw in Kalitas.  Lilian, Heretical Healer, Liliana, the Last Hope, and Prized Amalgam and you have something decent!

The Spartannerd rates his FINAL INTRO DECK 2/5.  DO you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

(There are not going to be any more intro packs.  The Wizards are going to put out “Planeswalker Packs” starting with Kaledesh!)

Masters of the Universe Minicomics Collection

I reviewed the Masters of the Universe Minicomics Collection back in May, after having a tough time getting my hands on a copy.  Since then, I have slowly read through every page, and can give you more of a review of the contents rather than just the product.

VINTAGE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE

First thing first.  “Miniternia” is definitely a favorite universe of mine now.  I was aware of it, and had read a few books from it.  When I was a kid, these books just confused me because they were so different from what I was used to (the Filmation cartoon.)  But reading these as an adult, there is a definite vibe to those books not found anywhere else.  There are comparisons to Conan the Barbarian, but as a Conan fan, I don’t think so.  Miniternia is a great comic story…an innocent story in a way, and in a way more pure of a story from a writers standpoint.  Mattel gave the writers carte blanche, as long as they depicted the toys.  The barbarian He-Man is awesome, and the miniternia Skeletor is more insane than his other versions.

I remember hearing that there were fundamentalist Christians boycotting and protesting He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.  I was vaguely aware of this as a child (I AM a Christian, and was raised in a Christian home.)  But as an adult, I heard people talk about it on the Roast Gooble Dinner podcasts.  I can see how, after reading over half of the book, I’d bet the word “demon” and “devil” were invoked in almost every single story!  Watching the Filmation show, this also comes up…I don’t know if that was daring on the part of the writers, or what?

 

You can clearly see transitional guidance between Miniternia and the comics that more closely resembled Filmation shows.  The stories become even flimsier sometimes, and highlighting of the products becomes central, rather than story and character development.  Then one day, out of nowhere, the Evil Horde becomes more prominent.  As a kid, the Horde annoyed me because to me, Skeletor was supposed to be the ultimate baddy.  And Hordak was apparently his teacher.  I came to love the Horde as much as anything else in MOTU, but I can see why I felt that way.  Mattel began to push the Horde in the mini comics, and there were more Horde figures on the shelves, and the commercials depicted the Horde more.  They were supposed to be another faction…which worked well in a house with three kids.  Hordes became She-Ra’s main villain, but I didn’t watch She-Ra…(yeah, right!)

I remember the Snake Men story vibrantly from when I was a child…my oldest brother was very interested in them.  My mother (and grandmother) are deathly terrified of snakes, so…I never really thought of them as another faction…just as a side team that worked for Skeletor, which is exactly how the mini comics portray them.  Throw in that Kobra Kahn and Tongue Lasher appeared on Skeletor’s team on the Filmation show working with Skeletor, and you can see why.  It was the Mike Young 200x show that really highlighted them as another team…an even deadlier team that Skeletor’s bunch.

Of all of the things about He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, I rarely ever complain. But now is my chance.  The “Three Towers” really annoy me.  It is one of the rarest toys to be found, and is therefore a valuable item.  But I don’t care.  The whole concept is STUPID.

Lets replace Castle Grayskull and Snake mountain with two smaller versions, and put a stupid lion tower in the middle.  We can connect the whole universe together with a roller coaster thingy.

There are SOO many reasons why I dislike the three towers.  It is billed as “playset Eternia.”  So the whole planet of Eternia can fit into one Playset?  This was EXACTLY how it was depicted in the minicomics.  I heard someone call it “Grayskull 2.0.”  Castle Grayskull was supposed to be this ultimate place of power.  But the Three Towers were meant to supplant all of that.

Eternia must be about the size of Spartanburg or upstate South Carolina…It seems it takes King Grayskull in the Mike Young cartoon about three days to cross the whole place.  Maybe the three towers fit that scheme?  There is a map in the He-Man art book, it came with certain characters if you subscribed to the “Club Grayskull” or whatever.  That map shows the towers stretched out across a huge central continent.  That MIGHT be plausible.  But why would they all connect together by a vehicle?  And if “Viper Tower” was meant to be Snake Mountain (It DID more closely resemble the cartoon version), and Grayskull tower was supposed to be the base for the good guys…just why?  I believe Mattel sensed that the vintage line was coming to an end, and were getting desperate.

SHE-RA, PRINCESS OF POWER

The She-Ra comics were pretty cute.   One of the interviews mentions that there were strict guidelines for drawing female characters.  That is apparent…the depictions of all those she-ra women are not sexy at all.  Sometimes they are child-like and pretty.  The She-Ra comics “de-evolve” from Minicomics format into Storybook format.  There is an incorrect footnote in the first She-Ra story, that says the Evil Horde is not mentioned in the comics ever again after the first one.  But that was inaccurate as the final two She-Ra stories have Catra mentioning the Horde, and also depict Horde troopers.

These books give you less of a sense of “the great rebellion,” and more just sweet little stories.  Catra, “the jealous beauty” is the main villain in these stories, but she can’t really do anything worse than children do to each other, it seems.  She steals a treasure box, she crashes a party by spraying everyone with water.  She spreads a rumor.  SERIOUSLY?

I made it through all of the She-Ra books, and rather enjoyed them.  But they are far too shallow.  I enjoyed the way they usually depicted She-Ra with the mask and Adora with the headband…A device you never saw on the cartoon.  And I thought the story of “Crystal Dimension” was interesting, where Swift Wind was transformed into a crystal version of himself.

I never really got a sense that The Crystal Castle was a She-Ra’s place of power?  It seemed to be a place where she and her friends lived instead.  The enchanted forest was there.  But Catra seemed to be homeless.

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF HE-MAN

As a child, I was just getting “too old” for toys as New Adventures came out.  My oldest brother wasted no time in getting a few toys, but I don’t think I ever saw a single episode of the cartoon.  I DID remember reading the comic, however.

I wasn’t aware that there were only four comics ever produced for that toy-line.  I DID know that it was short lived.

Basically, the vintage He-Man and Skeletor characters translated smoothly over to the futuristic versions, with Skeletor getting burned badly while witnessing Adam transform into He-Man, and having to “fix himself” with bionic parts.  The only idiotic thing is that He-Man’s sword is already a “techno sword.”  They should have been able to draw the classic sword in those few panels.  I always thought it was kind of stupid that the power of Grayskull had to be transferred into that starship…Really?  The art and the storytelling in these books is good, but different from the earlier ones.  As we read through all of these, we really see Bruce Timm’s art style mature up.  Once, He-Man even looks like we would see Batman on the nineties cartoon!  (Not in a New Adventures book…one of the final vintage comics.)

200x COMICS

I almost forgot!  The singular “pack-in” comic is included here.  With Val Staples and Emiliano Santalucia forming the bond that would become MV Creations, (and eventually break apart into the saddest schism maybe in the whole brand.) There are two comics here, one that never made it to print.

These are similar to the 200x comics that Image and Cross Gen would publish, but shorter and having a lot less content.  The art is just about exactly the same.  Emiliano is great!  (The second book was drawn by someone else, who somewhat emulated Emiliano’s style.)

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS MINI COMICS

Before the collection, I had no opportunities to read these stories.  I heard fans complain about them because they leave out a lot of story details that should be filled in.  The first one is a modern retelling of the first vintage Preternia book, and the following two pull together the entire story to include even the New Adventures.  An interesting detail, this story portrays He-Ro as the originator of the Power of Grayskull when he passes the Sword of He over to King Grayskull in death.  Funny how it ended, with a remark about building a castle and naming it after He-Ro.  (It would be named Castle Grayskull!)

I also thought the twist where Skeletor gets the techno virus from Bionatops in order to transform into his New Adventures form was also fun!  I was confused about King Grayskull, King He-man (he makes an appearance!) and King Miro.  What was that all about?

The art on these books are terrifically modern, and yes, they COULD have gave us more story.  I see how these serve the same purpose as the earlier mini comics…justify more toys.  They even introduced members of He-Ro’s team that have never been produced, simply to spark interest.  Ultimately, mini-comics aren’t the best vehicle for telling a grand story…they are a place to jump off and use your imagination.  And since Scott Neitlich was the guy in charge of these, that statement sounds exactly like something he would have said.

EXTRAS

The Mini-Comic collection contains lots of interviews…most of them seem to have come directly from Roast Gooble Dinner podcasts.  Maybe the DID actually re-interview some of the people…and maybe these are redacted and edited versions of those interviews.  I enjoyed reading them all, thought they didn’t teach me much of anything new because I had already heard it from the mouth of the person being interviewed.

So, just when I think James Eatock has astounded me with his intense Fanhood and knowledge of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, he surprises me yet again!

James “Bustatoons” Eatock apparently is the owner of a discarded and never produced mini comic, which is published at the back of this book.  It apparently never made it to the coloring stage.  I wonder if more stuff like this is out there?  And what a find…AND how does someone like him find all this stuff?  The comic is apparently the supposed pack-in with Flying Fists He-Man…it has some details issues, which might be why it was scrapped.  But it is a terrific read.

And finally we have an outline of a never-produced mini comic, which would have featured Faker prominently.  It is cool to read over, and I wonder if any fans who are good artists have made this book as fan art?

I enjoyed reading the Minicomics collection, and recommend it to anyone who is a fan of He-Man…a great value at under $30.  Reading this kept me from purchasing other comics for awhile…I always had something new to read, and this will make its way to my office at work to read in my “spare time.”

 

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic the Gathering “Blessed vs. Cursed” Duel Decks

I have truly arrived at enjoying, even reveling in the casual format “Duel Decks.”  The wizards constantly put out Duel Decks products, and I can’t wait to get a new copy upon its release.  The Duel Deck Anthology is EASILY the most played MTG cards at the SpartanNerd House…if we want to play a ready made deck that is no problem to just pick up, look no further than Jace, Garruck, Liliana, or Chandra.  I also have amassed quite a few of the more recent decks, the most favored of which seem to be Jace vs. Vraska.  The “Cunning” from Speed vs. Cunning is also pretty challenging…(It’s the morphs.)

I top-8-ed at the Tangled Web on Friday, February 26, and conceded to my opponent outright because I was getting tired and had Saturday morning obligations.  (That I reached the Top 8 at a Modern event at the Tangled Web is quite an accomplishment for me!  I was playing Black/White Tokens/Soul Sisters/Control.  White Weenie, I guess.)

On my way out the door, I happened to look at the corner shelf and set eyes for the first time on Blessed vs. Cursed, and knew I had to have it!

Now, it’s been awhile since its release…but I keep getting distracted from the review.  (Life is happening again.)

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Really, the Wizards of the Coast do a good job of making their products look attractive.  And the information on the back is very thorough.  We can see the two premium cards on the front, and on the back we see all of the cards that either are knew or are getting new art for this set.  It is also good that they include a table of contents.

You’ll notice that this deck was only $19.99, which is the same as most of the duel decks products.  This time it is notable because one of the feature cards is Geist of St. Traft, a card that has been valuable in the past.  Currently on TCGplayer, the original Geist of  St. Traft in foil is worth $57!  This reprint is definitely bringing that value down, which brings up a whole other point.  Why doesn’t this deck feature Liliana of the Veil and Jace, Telepath Unbound?  Those two cards needed a reprint, and here was the chance.  AND traditionally, the Spring duel deck offering does feature planeswalkers….

(I believe Jace to be an important spot filler for Snapcaster Mage in Shadows Over Innistraad standard.  I believe they will reprint Liliana in that set.  Or at least in the following set, where she is prominently featured in the promotional art already.  I believe the Wizards KNOW that they would hurt the secondary market on a store level with those reprints, something they weren’t willing to do.  So here we are, Geist vs. Mindwrack Demon instead.)

Oh yes.  A SpartanNerd tangent!  On with the review!

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Prying the recycled paper off reveals these items.  Top to bottom…right to left.  MTG rules reference card.  Guide to playing the deck.  Cards and spin down counters in a plastic tray, and two deck boxes, one intended for Geist of St. Traft’s deck, and the other for Mindwrack Demon’s deck.  Neither deck box is good enough to hold sleeved cards.  But they are pretty!  The life counters feature the “planeswalker” symbol where the number 20 would be.

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The guide to playing the deck showcases the two lead characters…the knew art for Geist of St. Traft looks suspiciously like someone I play MTG against at the Tangled Web…(You know who you are, BC!)  The Mindwrack Demon is one of the ugliest creatures I’ve ever seen depicted…I believe the Wizards were trying to create a “predator” sort of character,  It’s like his whole head is a mouth!

You get some fiction.  I generally don’t read these.  I did this time.  It is very much the kind of writing that is meant to pull you into a story.

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The other side features instructions for playing each deck…and the ever important deck lists.

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Notice that I’ve said nothing about the other piece of paper…I just put it straight in the trash.  But this is the kind of product that a person might purchase to see if they are interested in playing Magic cards.  So it is definelty a good thing for them to add.  They need to refrain from putting that paper in Commander decks, though.

Onto the decks.

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So who is Geist of St. Traft anyway?  I have no idea, but I know what the card does well, as I was beaten down plenty by it during my early days   (He’s a small hex proof creature.  Whenever he attacks, he gets an Angel token buddy.

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I am going to be going over the cards a little at a time…in groups of nine…

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Besides Geist, we get Champion of the Parish.  It is important that this card is a human.  In fact, this deck could easily be considered human tribal.  So whenever one of the many humans enters the battlefield, the Champion gets bigger.

I don’t think I’ve seen Dearly Departed before.  This is a card that likes the graveyard.  And it seems that just like during the last Innistraad set, this time we get more love for the graveyard.

Eerie Interlude…another card I’m not sure I’ve seen.  This is a “blink” effect, for multiple creatures…in this case humans…who could trigger enter the battlefield abilities and be totally busted in combination with Champion of the Parish.

Increasing Devotion…yet another printing.  This card is better than say, Raise the Alarm, because it cites that the tokens entering the battlefield are humans.  (But this is an expensive sorcery.)  Oh yeah…it also has Flashback!  More graveyard strategy.  You would never mind discarding or milling this card from your deck.  While the flashback cost is even higher, you get the benefit of DOUBLE the humans!  (Imagine casting this twice…)

Captain of the Mist…at least he’s a human.  For real, he is great for shenanigans.

Cathedral Sanctifier…another printing.  How many are there?  A good life gain human.

Doomed Traveler.  For real, I like casting this card and shaking my head.  I always say “he’s doomed!”  (I am LILLIANA, after all….)

Napahlia Smuggler.  I’m not sure what Naphalia is.  Some kind of drug?  Anyways, at least he’s a human.  But its a sad day if you have to pay four to blink one of your own creatures..

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Moorland Inquisitor.  He can get first strike.  He’s usually good if he is alone on the battlefield.

Topplegeist.  Definitely a new card.  Delirium is a new mechanic from Shadows over Innistraad.  He’s good.  Oh yes.  And uncommon!  This is reliable removal.  Who isn’t going to draft this!

Thraben Heretic…you can hate on the opponents graveyard with this card, similar to Relic of Progenitus.

Elder Cathar is classic.  A human, and you expect him to die to benefit the rest of the army.

Village Bell Ringer…this has flash.  As a 1/4,he can reliably block, but he can also turn your tapped-from-attacking army around to be blockers.  Sick!  Tandem Lookout.  You get card draw when you attack.  And then Chapel Geist…(Yawn)

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Emancipation Angel…My problem with this card is that you HAVE to return a permanent you control to your hand.  I know I’m thinking about it wrong, but what usually happens is that I keep an opening hand with this in it, and then I don’t have hardly anything but land to return after I play it.

Fiend Hunter is a classic O-Ring effect.

Slayer of the Wicked…he specifically wants to  go after bad guys.

Tower Geist.  Has anyone played “Wizards Tower” with this guy?

Mist Raven.  When he enters the battlefield, return target creature to its owners hand.

Spectral Gateguards.  A big blocker.

Grief Vanguard.  Why?  It is a blue human.  But like Naphalia Smuggler, seems to be weak sauce for what it does.

Goodnight Redeemer could be good if you maximize the amount of creatures you have.

Voice of the Provinces.  Another pretty card.  But at six mana, too costly.

Next, the other cards and lands.

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All good spells except Pore over the Pages…..Well, maybe that’s ok.  Rebuke is good removal.  Both pieces of equipment like Humans.  Gather the Townsfolk produces tokens.  I don’t think I’ve seen Momentary Blink.  I prefer Otherworldy Journey to it, though.  And Bonds of Faith.  One of my Favorite.  Cards.  Ever..!  (For real.  I love the art.  And what it does.)

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Lands.  Yawn.  Seraph sanctuary is good if you cast one of your three angels.  Or if you happen to land a Geist of Saint Traft.  Gain lands.  Really?  Why not scry lands.  Or buddy lands.  We get lots of human tokens.

 

What about the other deck?  Here are its cards, presented the same way.

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First of all, Mindwrack Demon.  Who is this guy?  He wants you to fill the graveyard.  And if you can’t, he hurts you.  And does it ever hurt.  If you don’t have four different card types in your yard, you lose four life at your upkeep, (A Delirium trigger).  Typical for an MTG demon.  He’s a 4/5 for four mana. And he can make you lose.

Havengul Runebinder…doesn’t this guy work against you if you have Mindwrack Demon?  I’m just saying…

Gravecrawler. I’m glad to finally own one of these.  This card needed a new printing.  And I might just order more.

Harvester of Souls.  One of my first demons.  This guy is usually good.  But this is the severalth printing.  I wish they could have given us something else..

Sever the Bloodline.  Removal for all those human tokens.  Too bad it’s a sorcery.

Unbreathing Horde.  A 0/0 unless there are Zombies on the battlefield or in the graveyard.

Butcher Ghoul.  Undying.  It is always good!

 

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Three copies of Screeching Skaab.  Self mill.  Yes!

Tooth Collector.  A brand new card.  His delirium triggers the one of the opponents creatures to get -1/-1.

Scrapskin Drake.  It flies.

Ghoul raiser.  This card always seems so slow.

Stitched Drake.  I’m happy to give up a card in my yard to have a big flyer.

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Diregraf Captain.  A zombie lord.  He’s good.  And he hurts your opponents for killing zombies.

Abattoir Ghoul.  He’s big and has first strike.

Driver of the Dead.  Another guy who always seems to be too slow.  Who are you going to get back?  Some 2/2 chump.

Falkenrath Noble.  A drain effect that triggers when someone dies.  Good for this deck.

Makeshift Mauler.  He has semi-delve.  He’s big, I suppose.

Relentless Skaabs.  A big blue undying zombie.  Always good!

Appetite for Brains.  Kind of the opposite of Inquisition of Kozilek.

Human Frailty.  Great removal against humans.

Next, the other cards and lands.

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Cobbled Wings.  This deck lacks so many flyers, so this will be useful.  Compelling Deterence.  A new card, I believe.  Victim of Night.  The opposite spiritually of Slayer of the Wicked, I suppose.  Tribute to Hunger.  Against the humans, they are just going to sac Doomed Traveler.  Forbidden Alchemy.  Good filter and graveyard filler.  Barter in Blood.  So glad we get this art for the card, rather than the old art.  Dread Return.  This is new art for an old classic.  And moans of the unhallowed.  A great token producer.

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Lands.  Couldn’t they have given us something to balance out against Seraph Sanctuary?  Four gain lands and then the plain kind.  So we get another token.  A spirit.  And three zombies.  I wish they gave us different art on these tokens.

 

PLAYING THE DECKS

Zendikar vs. Eldrazi seemed to be perfectly balanced, and so it seems Blessed Vs. Cursed is as well.  Me and the SpartanKid have played four two out of threes, and the record is 2-2.  You can almost always count of Geist of St. Traft winning for you, if you happen to get him.  Mindwrack Demon is good, but not reliable as you might not have the required four card types in the graveyard.

A lot of the enters-the-battlefield effects are dependent on lucky draws and a good opening hand.  You might wish to have Increasing Devotion at the same time Champion of the Parish is on the battlefield, but more often than not, this won’t be the case.  And then there is the chance that you get Emancipation Angel, with almost nothing to return to your hand.

The guide suggests that the Cursed deck doesn’t have flyers…there seems to be enough.  It’s true that the other deck has more flyers, with the spirits and all, but there is enough here.  Grave crawler can be a real problem…a recurring threat that their flying spirits can’t ignore.  (Those things are meant to be blockers.  Lingering Souls, anyone?)

What is the most cool about these decks is the flavor.  It is humans verses zombies.  With a splash of Angels vs. Demons.  It is like playing “The Walking Dead” as a card game.  And that has to be applauded.  The tribal-ness of the two decks is on par with Elves vs. Goblins.  That is saying something!

This product is great.  I can’t imagine giving it anything less that a 5/5.  It’s good!  The only bad thing is the flimsiness of the deck boxes.

This review has been well over a week in the making.  I am just so exhausted from my jobs.  I am also fairly unhealthy…my weight problem plus age is catching up with me.  Sorry, Hub City Geeks, but my output might be a little slower in the future.  Maybe I can turn things around.

So, the SpartanNerd gives Duel Decks, Blessed vs. Cursed a 5/5.  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!