Mega Construx Castle Grayskull…Retrospective

Snake Mountain is supposed to arrive tomorrow!!!

Because I didn’t document the build or even do a review of the terrific Castle Grayskull, I thought today would be a good day to have some things to say about it.

Without a doubt, I had never put together such a large set of blocks. I picked up the Lego Batmobile meant for adults from a thrift store once like fifteen years ago, but it had 900 something pieces if I remember correctly. And a big problem with that was that the pieces were mostly jet black. Castle Grayskull was a 3,508 piece build. YIKES! And in this case, Mattel boasts a new color…”Grayskull Green,” which is what most of this set was made of.

Here is the completed facade.

When you see it in a picture, say on the front of the magnificent box, you don’t realize how each little exposed stud or piece of flat brick or rounded block (barrel style) had to be carefully placed by a designer. You can see from the front of the castle here that the bottom is very heavy. The way the side towers curve around is a genius design, and one that reflects some of the quirkiness of Mega Construx builds. The instructions, (two thick almost catalogues) breaks each step down into a manageable project. For instance, each tower was handled by the bottom half, then the top half, and then connect to the main structure. See those olive colored pieces? I thought of those as a “reward” every time I got to place one…it broke up the monotony of Grayskull Green. I wonder how much psychology went into that choice?

Here is the back

The roof was really kind of a nightmare. Each one of those shingles had to be placed just right in order for the panels of roofing to fit together properly. Some have right handed slants, and others left handed. Some point up and some down. And they better be aligned properly! The “handle” at the top. NEVER USE IT AS A HANDLE. I certainly haven’t. The castle is definitely too heavy for that. This is there for the aesthetics of being true to the original.

Speaking of being true to the original…this castle is actually a model of the Masters of the Universe Classics castle. It maintains many features that that play-set has. (I am only told about this from Pixel Dan videos and the like. I don’t own one and have no room for it anyway. And $700!). See that “mouth” shaped wall underneath the triangular “eye” windows? That’s a break away wall!

For some reason I don’t have great pictures of the inside…You get three floors. Everything you would expect is there and more. There is a trap door operated by the throne.

There is a jail, this time with an operating cage door. The jaw-bridge opens, though the sword key is just a gimmick and unnecessary. There is a computer, an elevator, a weapon rack (actually two), and a trainer. In the top dome, there is a hidden attic where the orb is kept.

Here is the Sorceress and the Goddess in front of the the orb. (Can these two be in the same place at the same time???)

This set came with the Sorceress, the Green Goddess, Skeletor, He-Man, Man-At-Arms, and red Beast Man. Oh. And let’s not forget Zoar. (So did this set come with THREE OF THE SAME CHARACTER?)

IMPROVEMENTS TO THE CASTLE.

There was a Skeletor head set that came with mini-comics colored Trap Jaw featuring an improved turret gun. I highly recommend it! The gun that came with this doesn’t look like the original, and also doesn’t fit well on the parapet.

The Talon Fighter and Point Dread. This vehicle set came with instructions to retrofit Castle Grayskull with the Point Dread castle piece so that you can park the plane on top of the tower. (A feature of the vintage toy). This makes the castle six to eight inches taller, so the SpartanNerd hasn’t ever done this…my shelf space won’t allow for it unless I place it on the top shelf, which takes away the joy of seeing it. (Snake Mountain might have to go on the top shelf…)

One day during the Coronavirus lockdowns, I decided to take the castle out and get some photos.

NOT A HOAX! NOT A DREAM!: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: THE SUNBIRD LEGACY

Here is my take on an Earl Norem classic. I used the Masters of the Universe Classics figures (and 200x Beast Man), and placed the Mega Construx castle in the background as proportionately accurate as I could to the original art. (I did the best with what I had with me.). Notice that I removed the pawn from the top. I actually prefer it this way.

After getting this picture and a few others outside in the woods, the castle crumbled in the bucket that I used to bring the stuff. So I had the privilege to build it again! FUN!

Selesnya Guild Kit…Guilds of Ravnica…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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I am continuing my series of reviews on the Guilds of Ravnica Guild Kits.  So far  have reviewed the Dimir and Golgari Guild Kits.  This week I will review the Selesnya guild kit.

The front of the box is another window box, this time featuring a foil alternate art of Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice.  You can see the Selesnya pin at the bottom of the box.  (This pin looks especially snazzy…The tree looks professional and eye catching.)

The back of the box has three pics that show off some of the product, and some information…and in bold…KNOW THAT YOU FIGHT WITH THE MIGHT OF LIFE UNITED!

In the story of the city-plane of Ravnica, there are ten guilds.  The Selesnya Conclave  (Green and White) are about working together for the greater good.  These cards are known to produce tokens quickly…lots of small creatures that work together to summon larger creatures or do other effects.  They also use musical terminology.  Like the word “Chorus”

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The box opens and a transparent tray slides out…this is useless packaging, by the way, for all the effort that went into it.  Here’s what you see.

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And here are the contents loosed.

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You get, from left to right in a circle…the deck, a “pamphlet” with information and artwork about the guild, as well as the all important decklist, a Selesnya pin, a Selesnya symbol sticker, a deckbox, and the foil featured card.

Here is a closer look at the pamphlet.

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I am especially fond of Tolsimir Wolfblood.  That is a pretty painting.

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The inside of the pamphlet contains a poetic and flavorful description of the guild, and also the decklist.

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Here is a look at Trostani.

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The important word here is POPULATE.  Populate means you can copy a crature token by paying that price, one colorless, one green, and one white.  Trostani would make a great commander.  But she is going to get jammed into Atraxa commander decks.

So what other cards are there?

Here are some pics, with commentary about the most important cards.

First, the rares.

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I am not real familiar with some of these cards.  I have a few of them, but have never played them competitively or causally.  But there is one standout here that I have seen across the table…Privileged Position.  Other permanents you control have HEXPROOF.

So…Black doesn’t easily get rid of enchantments…I generally play black…so guess what this means?  The person I was playing against that had this card whipped me bad!  My kill spells were useless.

I suppose I should mention Glare of Subdual and Growing Ranks.  Growing Ranks produces a copy of a token at every upkeep.  8/8 Grove of the Guardian token with Vigialance…No problem…Have two!  But it is Glare of Subdual that is backbreaking.  Your opponent works hard to build a big crature base, and other stuff.  But you can just tap your saprolings or other creatures, and tap down their big stuff in response to moving to combat…You can really frustrate some opponents this way.

Next, the tokens.  Double sided!  One side Saprolings.  The other…different other creatures.  Centaurs are sort of iconic for Green and White.

 

Next the common and uncommon creatures.

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Not bad.  I have sided Dryad Militant in a few times when playing White Weenie.

The lands.  Four Selesnya Guildgates…duals that enter tapped, Selesnya Sanctuary, Duals that enter tapped AND require you to return another land to your hand, with the upside of producing one of each color when you finally get to tap it.  And last…GREEN AND White GUILD LANDS.  (Awesome.)

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As I said in my last two reviews.  The wizards should have reprinted four copies of the shock lands here.  Or at least included one copy.  They wouldn’t even have broken the market.  Those lands are worth about $8.00 apiece.  And they are needed in Modern, and currently legal in Standard.

The last pics of the cards are of the other spells.

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Everything here is functional.  But not outstanding.  I am a fan of the charms.  Selesnya Signet and the other signets are the best “mana rocks” generally available…(I mean Sol RIng and Black Lotus are better…arguably…Lions Eye Diamond…But those are a different game than Kitchen Table “Guild Kit”)

 

 

PLAYING THE DECK

This deck’s record at the SpartanNerd house.

Dimir Guild Kit.  (two wins)

Golgari Guild Kit (One Win)

Jace (V. Chandra) duel deck (Two Wins)

Face the Hydra challenge deck.  (One win, One loss)

Defeat a God challenge deck. (one win)

Ajani (Vs. Nicol Bolas) Duel deck.  (One win, One Loss.)

The Selesnya Deck is selling at some online stores for 50+ dollars.  And the secret is Priveledged Position.  Some people are buying this deck just for that card.  It was a much needed re-print, and was around $25…(That value has tanked because of the reprint about 50%) . And why?  You resolve that card…all those tokens you have get hexproof.  No fun for your opponents except for when they force you to sacrifice, or when they can match you in battle.  The Hydra challenge deck thing…that is what it is…it starts off with creatures before the game even begins.  But the combo of quality, efficient cratures, plus token generators, plus populate, plus convoke, plus Priveledged Position…the odds are against other casual decks winning.

But it is th las match that is of the most interest…Ajani’s deck is mostly the same colors with a splash of red.  We found this to be a terrific match-up!

SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF THE SELESNYA GUILD KIT.

This deck is amazing as a preconstructed product.  BUT…it doesn’t seem to be balanced well against the other decks in the Guild Kit series…at least the other two I own.  Which takes the fun out of that Battle Box idea, doesn’t it.

The deckbox is the same as the Dimir and Golgari boxes.  Basic card-board with a top loader design.  Nothing great, but it can hold sleeved cards plus the tokens.

I rate this one a 4/5 only because of its seeming unbalance.  It is great to get a great pre-constructed deck, though.

Do you agree or disagree with me, Hub City Geeks?  Let me know in the comments!

 

(Remember, the SpartanNerd is gauging whether or not to let SpartanNerd.Com go dark, or not.  You feedback is valuable!  So far, I think I am hanging on.)

 

 

Golgari Guild Kit…Guilds of Ravnica…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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I am continuing my series of reviews on the Guilds of Ravnica Guild Kits.  Last week I reviewed the Dimir set.  This week I will review the Golgari.

The front of the box is another window box, this time featuring a foil alternate art of Izoni, Thousand Eyes.  You can see the Golgari pin at the bottom of the box.

The back of the box has three pics that show off some of the product, and some information…and in bold…Let your foes fear the wrath of the underworld.

In the story of the city-plane of Ravnica, there are ten guilds.  The Golgari guild is all about the synergy of life and death.  (Green and Black.) . There are cards about rot and fertilizer and decay.  And cards that show how life is born from this process.  It is the home of insects and gorgons and zombies…and similar.

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The box opens and a transparent tray slides out…this is useless packaging, by the way, for all the effort that went into it.  Here’s what you see.

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And here ate the contents loosed.

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You get, from left to right in a circle…the deck, with the incredible Deathrite Shaman on top, a “pamphlet” with information and artwork about the guild, as well as the all important decklist, a Golgari pin (NICE!), a Golgari symbol sticker, a deckbox, and the foil featured card.

Here is a closer look at the pamphlet.

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The decklist.  SO HANDY.  I know I will be borrowing Abrupt Decay, Golgari Charm, Deathrite Shaman, and so many other of these cards in the future.

Here is a picture of Izoni, Thousand-Eyed, which is big enough for you to read.  AND I feel this art is better than the regular art.  You can see some of Izoni’s figure.

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The Undergrowth ability is OK in decks that load their graveyard easily.  In Standard right now this isn’t that hard with Stitcher’s Supplier, a one-drop zombie that makes you mill cards when he enters the battlefield or when he dies.  (But this isn’t a Standard Deck, and Stitcher’s Supplier is in a different set.)

Izoni might make a good commander, or at least fit well in Maren, Nel Toth’s deck.  (A deck that cares about your creatures dying.)

So what other cards are there?

Here are some pics, with commentary about the most important cards.

First, the rares.

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And I knew all of these cards!  Deathrite Shaman…so abusable he is banned in Modern.  Lotleth Troll…discard cards to pump him.  And he can be regenerated.  Savvra…she wants you to sacrifice your stuff for advantages…and Jaraad, Lich Lord…you can get him back easily from the graveyard.  Abrupt Decay.  At one time the best removal in Modern that wasn’t white.  AND when Tiny Leaders was a thing, this card skyrocketed in price.   And Deadbridge Chant…a card that looks like a creature but is actually an enchantment.

The amount of rares here is impressive, with three of them being additional Green and Black commanders if you want to try and build it…or just awesome things to add to Maren.

Next, the tokens.  Double sided!  One side insects.  The other saprolings.

Next the common and uncommon creatures.

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Also an impressive lineup, with little repetition.  I particularly like Plaguecrafter…who beats Fleshbag Marauder because he also causes players to discard a card.  And good old Stinkweed Imp.  Dredge 5 is broken.

The lands.  Four Golgari Guildgates…duals that enter tapped, Golgari Rot Farm, Duals that enter tapped AND require you to return another land to your hand, with the upside of producing one of each color when you finally get to tap it.  And last…GREEN AND BLACK GUILD LANDS.  (Awesome.)

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As I said in my last review.  The wizards should have reprinted four copies of the shock lands here.  Or at least included one copy.  They wouldn’t even have broken the market.  Those lands are worth about $8.00 apiece.  And they are needed in Modern, and currently legal in Standard.

The last pics of the cards are of the other spells.

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Golgari Charm and Treasured find are the awesome cards here.  Treasured find.  Get whatever card you want back out of the graveyard and put it in your hand.  Golgari Charm does three things at instant speed, and all of them are good.

PLAYING THE DECK

This deck’s record at the SpartanNerd house.

The Minotaur Horde challenge deck.  (One win)

Face the Hydra challenge deck.  (One win, One loss)

Defeat a God challenge deck. (one win)

Dimir Guild Kit deck.  (three losses.  But two of them were close.)

What does this say?  It is a pretty good deck.  In all of these, I don’t believe I have ever resolved Izoni.  Savvra was pretty good, and Jaraad is always good.

The deck has slowness issues because of the bad interaction between bounce lands and guldgates.

Abrupt Decay is a star!!!  And so is Deathrite Shaman.

SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF THE GOLGARI GUILD KIT.

I think it is terrific.  I am a fan of the color combination.  I like the reprints of the legendaries.  You know I felt that Dimir was kind of trying to do to many different things at once.  But this deck wants to attack, attack, attack.  And if something dies, it is probably good news because it will be back, or serve some use.

The deckbox is the same as the Dimir one.  Basic card-board with a top loader design.  Nothing great, but it can hold sleeved cards plus the tokens.

I rate this one a 4/5.  Mostly because of the slowness problem.  And it isn’t even that big a deal here, but there is a Boros one out there…that is where it is going to matter.  Red White just wants speed.  (But I am not reviewing that one…at least yet.)

Do you agree or disagree with me, Hub City Geeks?  Let me know in the comments!

 

(Remember, the SpartanNerd is gauging whether or not to let SpartanNerd.Com go dark, or not.  You feedback is valuable!)

 

 

From the Vault: Transform…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

I’ve been playing Magic, the Gathering for some years now, but this is the first time I’ve purchased a From the Fault product.  I DID purchase the dated “Graveborn” Premium Deck, which was an all-foil set.  I was highly tempted to get From the Vault: Angels last year, but never saw it anywhere for retail price.  (I had most of the angels anyway.)

 

This being my first one, I thought I would really take a look at the packaging.  This roduct feels like something a collector might like to keep MIB.  I don’t see the fun in that, but it is what some people do.  After spending time with this package, I’ve decided I am going to keep it to store the cards that I am not currently using.  It looks very nice.  The front is glossy and colorful with blue and orange graphics.  The back show off an image of one of the sides of each of the cards in the set.  There is a contents list on the bottom, and a message about the nature of the transforming cards.

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It opens up nicely, revealing the frontside of Huntmaster of the Fells, the backside of Liliana, Heretical Healer, and the frontside of Delver of Secrets.  You totally could stop here and just prop this product up on display somewhere.

The box feels like a display box, and upon further exploration, I discovered the correct way to open it.

 

There is a magnetic flap!  So you don’t even have to destroy the package.  NICE!

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Here’s what’s inside.

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The cards come in three cigarette wrappers.  There is a spindown life counter with a special From the Vault Transform symbol, and a nice informational poster.  Let’s look at that.

 

Nice art, with a description of each card and the story that goes along with it.  That is a nice picture of the new Delver of Secrets art, and yet another picture of Gideon on the other side.  (Gideon is very often depicted in promotional media like this.)

Now let’s look at and discuss the cards.

First of all, upon opening each pack, I discovered that they were stuck together.  I mean.  STUCK. TO. GETHER.

These cards have a special foil treatment, on both sides.  I have owned a couple of FTV printings, one of VESUVA and another of AKROMA, ANGEL OF WRATH, and those cards have the same foil treatment, but only on one side.  These cards being double sided…I guess what I’m saying is the foil treatment being on both sides is what made them glue each other together.  And it was pretty stout.  I mean, Bruna, the Fading Light was stuck to Elbrus the Binding Blade and Chandra was stuck to the Ixalan card while I began photographing.  I hadn’t even noticed!  Now separating them wasn’t scary, and there didn’t seem to be any accidents…no scratches or anything.  I just want to point out that this happened to the SpartanNerd the first time he opened a sealed From the Vault.

So here are the cards with some commentary.

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Garruk Relentless//Garruk, the Veil Cursed.

The first double sided planeswalker, and notable at that…he flips when he has a loyalty for two or less.  He is a token generator, and essentially a planeswalker with five abilities not counting the transform mechanic.  Having said all this, this is the least played of all of the cards in this set.  It is nice that they paid some attention to Garruk, however.  He hasn’t been seen since M14, when he was killing other planeswalkers all over the place.  The Wizards have decided to feature Nissa mainly as the green planeswalker mascot.

Chandra, Fire of Kaledesh//Chandra, Roaring Flame

This set features all five of the Magic Origins planeswalkers.  These each have a creature card on one side, that transforms into a planeswalker.  Chandra is the mascot for red burn strategies.  This card is a slow shock effect, and frankly a little hard to get transformed into the planeswalker form.  IF you do ever get her to level up to Chandra, Roaring Flame, you still don’t have that great of a planeswalker for all of your effort.  I supposed if you made Chandra a Commander, you might be able to do something with her.  I am placing her in my Archangel Avacyn commander deck.  (I played a match that heavily featured Chandra.  In Commander, she isn’t so bad when you have a board presence and every little bit of damage you can deal counts.)

Liliana, Heretical Healer//Liliana, Defiant Necromancer

I have been slowly building an entire foil mono-black Liliana tribal deck.  I have the stamped foil of this card, and thought that would be the prettiest version.  I was wrong.  The From the Vault printing with the extra awesome foil on both sides wins.  So I guess I am going to upgrade!

As far as all of these cards go, Liliana is the most popular commander.  She saw some fringe Standard play in her day, and still sees some Modern play sometimes in rack and zombie decks.  It is pretty easy in black to get her to flip, and then Liliana Defiant Necromancer is pretty close to Liliana of the Veil, clearly the best and most useful of Modern-legal planeswalkers.

Speaking of my Liliana tribal commander deck, the rules change that came with the release of Ixalan now lets me have multiple Lilianas out at a time.  And since I have each printing….

Huntmaster of the fells//Ravager of the Fells

A card that beat me a ton when I first began playing MTG.  I began playing in tournaments during Dark Ascension.  The Huntmaster is the definitive werewolf.

I haven’t seen this card played in Modern in awhile.  Modern wants to be a three-turn win format (It remains a four turn, teetering on three turn.), and because this card is a four drop that doesn’t have haste, it’s a little slow.  But if you can get it going, then it can win games all on its own.  Remember Kalitas?  Kalitas himself is just good enough.  And the Huntmaster of the Fells is also.

Arguel’s Blood Fast//Temple of Alcazotz

When I saw this, I said, “What??? Whoever heard of that card?”  Turns out that it is a new card from Ixalan.  This one transforms from enchantment to land.  I think this will be a nice addition to my Liliana tribal commander deck, as Necropotence is one of the things.  (Pay life for cards is a sub theme.)  The backside of the card is a powerful sac outlet.

Is this card a thing in Standard right now?  I’m not sure.  I have been out of the Standard scene for awhile.  I do have a Tezzeret deck, but have only played in two Ixalan standard tournaments.  This card has definitely not been on my radar.

Is there a precedent for this?  A Standard card in a From the Vault set?  I think they used to actually put preview cards in From the Vault sets.  So that would be pre-standard…

Arlinn Kord//Arlinn, Embraced By the Moon

Here’s one that I saw played in Standard back before the last rotation every now and then.  The “Shadows Over Inistraad” block didn’t feature as strong of a werewolf mechanic as did the original Inistraad.  Here we have a werewolf planeswalker.  She is also a planeswalker with five abilites, like Garruk, and she also makes wolves.  (Like Garruk.)  For werewolf tribal purposes, Arlinn is a must have.

Unfortunately, there is only one viable werewolf commander, Ulrich Krallenhorde, and he isn’t too great.  Still, if you are into that, jam Arlinn Kord into your deck.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer//Nissa, Sage Animist

Here is an Origins planeswalker that did see play in standard.  Really, anything that ramps for cheap works for green.  People would cram four copies of this in their deck, and play it to get out the lands they needed, and eventually they would do this and flip one of them, and proceed to have huge advantage on the board. This is one I was glad to see rotate out!

I haven’t seen her play in Modern, however.

Kytheon, Hero of Aroas//Gideon, Battle-Forged

Nothing to see here.  Move along.

(Just kidding.)  Really, this card didn’t see much play in Standard, and hasn’t in Modern or Commander either.  I think he is under-appreciated, and he probably would have fit better back in M13 standard.

He is basically a one-drop planeswalker.  That isn’t Tibalt.  So that’s something!

I think he is waiting for the right White Weenie moment to come along.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy//Jace, Telepath Unbound

And here is the money card in the set.  Jace can be had for about $25, regular printing, and $35 in foil outside of this set.  Back when he was Standard legal, he fetched $4o or more for the regular, not foil version.

Why is he so good?  He is a two drop looting creature.  You can play him early game or late game, and he is still good.  When you do his loot ability, if you have five or more cards in the graveyard, he becomes an incredible control planeswalker, with a negative three ability that lets you reliably snapcaster an instant or sorcery from your graveyard.

Is he better than Snapcaster Mage?  I don’t think so.  Almost nothing can beat the flash-in flashbacker, who becomes a great surprise chump blocker and lets you get something out of your graveyard.  Jace has to sit there for a turn before you can even activate his ability.  But he is still useful, and if you can get him to flip and keep him on board, you get great card advantage.

I’ve heard of Jace played in almost every format, even Commander.  This might be the best card in this set.  Except it’s not…

Delver of Secrets//Insectile Aberation

This probably is (the best card.)  Not many Magic the Gathering cards are as good as Delver.  And he’s a common!  So this card doesn’t cost a ton to own four copies.  But this special art special foil printing is bound to be popular with people who relaly like hitting their opponents hard and fast.

Delver is great.  He gets you card advantage.  You don’t have to trigger his transform ability if you don’t want to.  If you do want to, on turn  you can begin wrecking your opponent in the air.

Check this scenerio.  Turn one, shock in Breeding Pool.  Play Delver of Secrets.  Turn two, reveal Giant growth from the top of your library, flip your Delver  Play your Forest as land for the turn.  Declare attack for 3 in the air.  Hit Insectile Aberation with Giant Growth twice, (Because you started with one in your opening hand.)  You brought nine damage in the air on turn two.  Congratulations.  You are a jerk!

Delver is played in every eternal format.  Because he is eternally good.  That’s why!

Archangel Avacyn//Avacyn the Purifier

This is one of the funnest cards in the set.  She has Flash.  Flying.  Vigilance.  Makes things Indestructible, Sweltering Suns.  All in one Legally Blonde package.  Lots of flavor here, too.  If you followed the story of Shadows Over Inistraad, you saw Avacyn twist into a self-righteous evil.  When you Flash her in (Angel to the rescue!) everyone else on your team has indestructible until the end of turn.  And incredible shock to your opponent if you played her from your hand.  An incredible threat if she is your Commander.  And when she flips, (because one of your non-token cratures died,) she hits everything on the board for 3, and lightning bolts your opponent (s) as well.  And yes.  That’s Commander Damage!

Fun!  If you like a card that does stuff, look no further than this card.

Bloodline Keeper//Lord of Lineage

Here is the card that I think I will have the least use for.  Maybe not.  I like Vampires, and played Black Red vampires occasionally in the last Standard environment.  And here is where I think I am not that interested in building a Vampire Tibal Commander deck.  Vampires are OK.  But how often have I had a ton of them?  Not that often.

This guy is good, if you are interested in buiding such a deck.  Most Vampire decks have Olivia VOldaren as their Commander.  (She’s just sick!)  But maybe Kalitas would be good.  (No.  I know he would be good.  See above!)

Elbrus the Binding Blade//Withengar Unbound

I remember the first time I saw this card.  I knew I had to have it!  The flavor of the thing is pretty cool.  This was in the very early days of playing MTG for me, and the idea of getting that giant flyer out and smashing people was just awesome.  I had alot to learn…it is pretty hard to get seven mana to play an equipment.  Then pay to equip that to a viable attacker.  It really is pretty hard.  (I was playing this in Standard, belive it or not!)

Now Elbrus remains one of my favorite cards.  And to have this incredibly cool foi printing is just great.  And it is something else to put into Liliana’s Commander deck!

I left the weirdest for last…

Bruna,the Fading Light//…//Gisela, the Broken Blade/////Brisela, Voice of Nightmares

Weird.

Basically, the Wizards pushed the transform mechanic as far as it could go, inventing the meld mechanic, and making six cards with the ability.  Melding pieces two halves of a card on the backside of two creatures, combining them together into an eldrazi.  Brisela here represents that, as she was the best example of a played meld pair in Standard.

Gisela actually made her way into decks that didn’t feature her other half.  She is a good angel, with Flying, First Strike, and Lifelink.

It is Bruna that makes this a devastating thing.  Say you played Gisela early on, and the opponent doom bladed her.  No problem.  Play your Bruna in your second main phase (turn six or seven) and at the end step, you have Brisela!  An incredob;e 9/10 flying vigilance lifelink first strike hate machine!

THE SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF FROM THE VAULT TRANSFORM

Well.  A couple of things.  The cards sticking together is a little unnerving.  I don’t know when these were printed and packaged, but I imagine the problem might be worse if they sit unopened on a store shelf for a long period of time.  I immediately put “snugs” on mine.  (form fitting side loading card sleeves for double sleeving.)

What’s here is good.  But I think there is a glaring ommision or two.  How about Westvale Abbey//Ormandahl, Profane Prince?  I could have taken this over the Vampire, or over the Arguel’s Blood Fast.  Thing in the Ice…Hello!

The Wizards also ignored Morph and Champions of Kamigawa Flip cards.  Maybe it was economically better for the Wizards to print the double sided cards instead, but if they wanted us to get maximum power out of similar mechanics, when we could have done with Nazumi Graverobber or Willbender.

But I am happy enough.  The new printings of Liliana, Jace, Withengar, the three angels, and Garruk make me pretty happy.  I don’t play much red-green, but I am glad the Wizards printed Huntmaster of the Fells, which is about a $12 card.

The value I got for $39.99 (retail) at the Tangled Web in Spartanburg was very nice.  You already can’t find this product cheaper than $65 on TCGplayer.com.  And if the story of From the Vault Angels happens to From the Vault Transform, then it will eventually make its way above $80.

So I am happy to rate this product at 4/5, marking off because the cards sticking together worries me a little bit.  It is a great selection of cards, that came in a nice, displayable package.

Do you agree or disagree, oh Hub City Geeks?  Let me know in the comments!

Goblins Vs. Merfolk Duel Decks…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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At this point, my favorite sealed MTG product seems to be Duel Decks.  I own a ton of them.  And the only ones that I haven’t purchased since I began getting serious about the game are Mind vs. Might, the one released earlier this year.  That one was widely panned, and I couldn’t get excited about a Storm deck vs. a Beatdown deck.***

But Merfold vs. Goblins.  That’s different.  First of all, Elves vs. Goblins is incredible fun.  What made that so successful was not only the intense tribal flavor, but also the gameply, where you really felt like you were piloting an army of elves vs an army of goblins.  Merfolk Vs. Goblins seemed positioned to do the same thing.  Does it?  Keep reading for my full review!

PACKAGING.

The box comes in the same kind of box that Duel Decks have been released in for awhile. It makes a nice display.  (pictured above)  Not sure why you would keep it MIB, but it looks like a sell-able product.  This box shows off the flashy foil rares.  The back of the box has good information.  I think this is to really sell the product to new players.

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The box isn’t easy to open and get the product out.  (unlike Commander boxes.)

I opened mine before a draft tournament.  So I took hasty pictures on the Tangled Web table sized playmats

Here’s what’s in that package.

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The main product is sealed in two trays that make up the bulk of the box.  THis is covered by a plastic blister that shows off the foil rares.  Behind the tray is the Quick Reference, a guide to playing the decks, and the two new boxes intended for each deck.

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Here are those deck boxes assembled.  Notably, these boxes are big enough to hold SLEEVED CARDS.  (Can you hear the SpartanNerd crying tears of joy?)  Virtually all of the other duel decks we have ever gotten have come with pretty “poker card” type of boxes.  The exception was the Duel Decks anthology.

These boxes still leave a little to be desired, but that they can hold sleeved cards is BIG.  The wizards apparently took cues from the design of the Nicol Bolas Archenemy set.  These are also side loaders, but they have the janky folding flap that tucks into the main box.  However, there is a slot for easy opening.  The boxes have art on them reflecting what they are intended to hold, and they also feature the set symbol on the other side, which the SpartanKid pointed out is a trident and an axe head combined.  After saying all of this, these boxes are still made of thin cardboard…thinner and cheaper than what the actual cards are made of.  And they couldn’t possibly stand up to heavy use if a person decided to say, carry around this box to alot of tournaments.  (Sleeving out the cards fills them to the max.  There is enough room for 60 cards plus the tokens in Dragon Shields, but you wouldn’t be able to carry a full sideboard.)

But if you are like me, and your duel decks stay together resting in an organized fashion, waiting to see some light play, then these boxes are just fine.

The other things…the quick reference guide is a must include, as this product will definitely find its way into the hands of beginning players.  This isn’t an intro deck, but new players are bound to be drawn into purchasing these at the low price point.  (Mine was $19.99 at the Tangled Web.)

The poster features nice artwork, and importantly, a DECKLIST.  (The last sealed product I opened for the SpartanNerd blog didn’t include a decklist. BOO.)  I keep my decklists all in one place for when I inventory my cards about three times a year.  (Occasionally I might borrow a card from a pre-con deck for Standard, Modern, or Commander.)

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You get two life counter dice, and that’s about it for the packaging.

THE DECKS.

Longtime Hub City Geeks will know that that SpartanNerd is running out of photo space on WordPress.  So I have minimized my pictures a little.  Here are the decks with the flashy rare cards.

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Warren Instigator.  This one wasn’t on my radar.  This is how you get alot of Goblins on the field, and trigger Enters the Battlefield effects.  Oh yeah.  DOUBLE STRIKE.  You Get TWO triggers.  Sick.  This is one of the sets money cards.  This foil printing is already worth around $5.

Goblin Diplomats.  This showcases the funnyness of the Goblin deck.  And they are hilarious.

Master of Waves.  Here is one from my favorite THEROS BLOCK.  Master of Waves is a BEAST.  in the Merfolk deck, you will definitely have a ton of devotion to blue, and so will get a bunch of elementals when he enters the battlefield.  And this new art makes it look like he’s been working out!

Harbinger of the Tides.  And iconic merfolk that is removal on a stick.  Amazing.

So I am going to show you a mat full of the strategy of each deck, starting with Merfolk.

MERFOLK

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Merfolk in Modern is a strategy that depends on lords, which are creatures that give others of the same type +1/+1,  and Islandwalk, which is a type of evasion.

The Merfolk deck here highlights this by including three merfolk lords.  If you get all three out, you win.  (But the odds are against you.)  The evasion piece here is Aquatech’s Will, which is a busted spell that makes an opponent’s land into an island (in addition to its other types) and also lets you draw a card.  There are FOUR COPIES in this deck!  That’s how important it is.  One of our lords, Master of the Pearl Trident, gives all merfolk you control islandwalk.

What else is here?  Some iconic merfolk.  In addition to Master of Waves, we also get Cold Eyed Selkie, who is big in Commander.  We get Scroll Thief, who would be an automatic inclusion into any merfolk deck, and is an important core set type of MTG card.  Harbinger of the Tides.  And Tidebinder Mage, who was important a few years ago in standard.  (M13-Innistraad-Return to Ravnica-M14 Standard).

Then this is a blue deck, so it also has plenty of control.  Notably here is Essence Scatter, because you KNOW your opponent is going to cast creature spells in this duel deck environment.  Concentrate and Misdirection, which are classics.  Tidal Wave, which gives you a quick, big blocker, and Engulf the Shore which is a sweeper.

GOBLINS

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It’s hard to put your finger on the strategy of goblins.  There is a randomness to it, that finds success anyway.  And they are also always pretty much hilarious.  In this deck, you want to build up a critical mass of goblins before the merfolk are able to get out their evasive lords.  So board presence is the key, rather than evasion.

There aren’t that many goblin lords, but they are still about spiritually the same.  Goblin Wardriver has Battle Cry, which means whenever he attacks, other attacking cratures get +1/+0.  Goblin Chieftain is a goblin lord.  Goblin Rabblemaster makes goblin tokens with haste everytime you get a combat stage.  (Rabblemaster was important in Khans block).

Other ways to get out tokens?  Krenko, Mob boss makes a ton of goblins if left unchecked. Goblin Ringleader lets you get goblin cards in your hand.  (Tribal instants and sorceries count as goblins!)  Also, when paired with Warren Instigator, this is just incredible.

Blue has control, but red has burn of course!  Very notable here is Goblin Grenade.  (This card wasn’t in the first Goblin Duel Deck.  It wasn’t a thing yet.)  Goblin Diplomats makes the merfolks swing into a bunch of goblins that can black and eat them up.  Tarfire, the aforementioned tribal instant which was in the previous duel deck, as was Gempalm Incinerator.  I haven’t got to see the Goblin Razerunners do his thing yet.  (I have played seven matches.  He seems busted though, as a goblin burn spell on a stick.)  Tokens are so important here that we have four token producing spells.  (Three copies of Krenko’s COmmand and one copy of Hordeling Outburst.)

Goblin Charbelcher.  Ahh.  The Eternal Masters art.  With Black Lotus among other things flying out of the cannon.  The way this works is, you pay to activate it, then reveal your cards until you hit a land.  The number of card revealedis the amount of damage assigned to target creature of player.  Now out there in the world, there is a Modern and a Legacy version of this strategy as a whole deck.  Basically, you will build a deck with only a single land, probably Stomping Ground.  You build up your mana base using Simian Spirit Guides and borderposts, or other fast mana tricks, and then you activate the cannon and reveal all of your cards.  Hopefully at least twenty damage is sent to your opponents face!  But here, you will probably only get a few damage ponts in as the deck has a bunch of lands.  But it is a flavorful and important inclusion.  This is reliable removal that the merfolk deck can’t stop.

Ghostfire.  A colorless burn spell that costs two generic and a mountain.  Why?  I think the wizards just wanted to reprint it.  But it is handy against something like Master of Waves, which has protection from red.  This card is important also historically, as it gave the wizards inspiration for the cards with DEVOID in the recent Battle for Innistraad block.

HOW THE DECKS PLAY OUT.

So far, the Goblins beat the Merfolk most of the time.  These decks are INCREDIBLY balanced against one another if both players hit a land drop every turn and play a spell every turn.  The experience here is not unlike Elves Vs. Goblins.  You just about have the same experience.  While the Elves work differently, trying to power out big green monsters, the Merfolk work organically together to create evasion and hit the opponent hard.  The Goblins work about the same as the previous decks, with the new tricks of Goblin Charbelcher, Goblin Grenade, and Goblin Rabblemaster.  DIfferent bosses, with the same strategy of go wide and do whatever it takes to damage the opponent.

It is pretty much hilarious when someone gets Master of Waves out and gets a huge board presence, only to suddenly lose it to Ghostfire or Goblin Charbelcher.  On the other hand, it is humorous to make the Goblins have a Mountain Island and then hit them hard with islandwalkers.  Also, the Merfolk get that sweeper spell, which does away with the tokens.  It also wipes their board, but they don’t rely on creature tokens as a base strategy the way Goblins do.  (I really think Master of Waves is here for the new players.  He is splashy and flashy and fun.  But another merfolk lord would have been better.  Or a devastating artifact along the lines of the charbelcher.)

THE SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF DUEL DECKS: MEFOLK VS. GOBLINS.

Maybe you think I’m a fanboy.  But I’m giving this a 5/5.  The WIzards must be listening.  They improved the deckboxes and included a decklist.  Mind Vs. Might was poorly received because it was considered unbalanced, and therefore unfun.  This set is the opposite.  So the Wizards ARE LISTENING.

The SpartanNerd rates Merfolk Vs. Goblins a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments, oh Hub City Geeks!.

 

***I eventually DID pick up the “Mind Vs. Might” Duel Decjs.  As told by everyone else, one there is no balance at all.  One deck gets early advantage and then pancakes the other.  However, notable that each deck contained ten rares, and also the storage boxes are of the same design we have with Merfolk Vs. Goblins.  Incidentally, I got mine for $8 off of TCGplayer!  I am going to piece these out, and am excited about making a commander deck with the blue/red legendary.

 

Nicol Bolas, the Deceiver Planeswalker Pack…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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Here it is.  A week early!  (I bought it at the pre-release, and the SpartanKid also won a copy!)  So we now have two…

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For this unboxing and review…in the interest of saving what little WordPress space I have left, I will just get down to it.

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You get the new foil card “Nicol Bolas, the Deceiver.”  As Bolas cards go, this one is the worst.  To be clear, we now have three Bolas planeswalker cards.  The classic version remains the most iconic and powerful.  There is a new Nicol Bolas, the God Pharoah, and then there’s this.  His mana cost is more or less the same.  He has three relevant abilities.  He might be the worst of the three, but he is still quite significant.  With Intro Packs Planeswalker Packs, the Wizards said they want to give people splashy cards to learn to play with.  If this isn’t splashy, I don’t know what is.

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I assure you…if you’ve read my other reviews of Planeswalker Packs, then you know what unboxing this is like.  It is exactly the same!  There is a plastic bubble and a little black tray.  All of the other contents are in a deck box.  Here is the deck box, posing alongside my FUNKO POP! version of Bolas.

Inside you get two booster packs, two pieces of paper, and the deck sealed in cellophane.

I will go ahead and tell you that I didn’t get any important cards in my two packs.

The two pieces of paper are a guide to playing Magic, and a poster that has strategy for playing this deck.  There is also a handy decklist.

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Here are the rares that came with the intro deck.  This makes my fourth copy of the Throne.  Visage of Bolas is new, and I’m certain can only be gotten by purchasing this deck.

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This deck is surprisingly creature-heavy.  Normally, Bolas wants a control deck.  But here are the creatures.  The Wasp of the Bitter End is a card that you can only get in this deck as well, but it notably says “a Nicol Bolas” planeswalker, meaning that it is a card that can work with the other two versions of Bolas.

These creatures represent something else…apparently the story is that Bolas used the plane of Amonkhet to harvest the strongest warriors and make them into “eternals.”

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We get a bunch of basics, and importantly eight fixers.  Cinder Barrens is one of those intro-deck-only cards.  Crypt of the Eternals is a clever new Grixis tri-land.

Which means we have instant and sorcery cards remaining.

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Not a whole lot.  Magma Spray is the most competitive here.  Open Fire is a really bad lightning  Bolt.  Final Reward.  A five drop removal spell.  BOOO.  (AT LEAST it stops players who might be trying to Eternalize or Embalm.)

Playing the deck.

Normally, you would cancel and destroy everything until you could draw and cast Bolas, pretty much for the win.  In a normal constructed deck.

This time, your strategy is a little different.  You are going to play creatures, (I will mention that Aerial Guide is probably the best card for this deck, since it flies and draws you cards.)  You hope to get the Visage of Bolas, which will then get him in your hand pretty much guaranteed, and then you will pretty much guaranteed be able to cast him if you do all of this at the appropriate time.

Now this plan depends on who you are playing against.  Against other intro decks, great!

But in a serious environment, when you fetch up your Bolas, they will know you have him, and either cancel him, hold their kill spell, or do some kind of Thoughtsieze (Liliana) effect and make you discard him.  Visage of Bolas is a four drop, meaning you are probably never going to be able to play him on the same turn that you cast it.  (If that were the case with this deck, we would be talking about turn 12 at least!  Competitive Magic decks want a turn four or five kill.

I think this is a great product to get people interested in playing MTG.  But it is wrong to call it a Standard deck.  It IS.  But it isn’t competitive.  You could just as easily discourage people from playing if they bought this, and then played it in a tournament and find themselves wrecked every game.

I’m not saying it is impossible for you to win a match or two.  But aren’t competitive players going to have a sideboard?  There are now at LEAST three different cheap removal spells for Bolas (the Defeat cycle.)

The packaging is nice.  The box can hold sleeved cards, but has no solution for dice or tokens.  It’s still better than the old intro pack boxes.  I’m still asserting that if they want people to feel like they should play these decks in a tournament, then they should include sleeves.  I played against a newcomer during the sealed tournament this weekend…and how did I know he was a newcomer?  First impression…no sleeves.  Then they way he played reflected that.

I have played four matches using this deck, even a few “mirror matches,” and I just can’t get excited about it.  I do like the new Bolas card, but Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh is better for Standard.  Maybe there is a good way to exploit the specific cards in this deck that only come with this product…like Visage of Bolas.  But you better be able to produce a ton of mana early.  The wasp thing is cool, but I think it better for a Bolas Tribal commander deck.  It’s just going to net you some extra value for playing Bolas.

So I am going to rate this deck at 2/5.  It’s kind of flat.

Now the SpartanKid thinks otherwise.  He believes I am being too harsh, and he likes the idea of an “Eternals” tribal deck.  I will keep you posted about what happens…He might even make a standard deck that riffs on the intro deck.

So the SpartanNerd rates Nicol Bolas, The Deceiver Planeswalker Pack 2/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!