SpartanNerd Review…MTG Starter Theme Deck “Abzan Siege.”

Ahhh…The promise of new cards, cards that you will surely need!  You buy a Theme deck, and you can count on having a few good cards.  Then you get the two booster packs…Those have tremendous potential.  So how is “Abzan Siege,” the new “Junk” style deck (White Black Green) from the most recent MTG set, “Khans of Tarkir”?  Read ahead for my review!

1 box front

Here is the front of the box.  The premium foils for Khans of Tarkir in these starter decks has exclusive art, something new!

2 box back

And the back of the box.

3 what's inside

Here’s what you get in the box.  The deck.  A paper that has some details and hype, as well as deck list for all of the starter decks released with this set, and two booster packs.  There is also the new quick guide to playing Magic, which I have already pointed out elsewhere that I think is an improvement for training new players!

I am going to review the contents in this order.

1. Insert/Decklist  2.  Deck.  3.  Thoughts on the deck  4.  BOOSTERS!

4 insert

The art here is pretty good, showcasing Sarkhan the Dragonspeaker.  You get a summary of the wedge color clans.  “Junk” isn’t supposed to be called “Junk” anymore.  It is supposed to be “Abzan” now.  But they can’t make me call it that!  Long live “Junk!”

The back lists the contents of the deck.  Here I will present that extra large so you can read it!  (It also lists the contents of the other decks in this series.  You also get supposed good advice for playing this deck!)

5 decklist

6 encouraging message

Now for the cards…Creatures first.

7 Ivorytusk FOrtress

Ivorytusk Fortress is a great new rare.  As mentioned, this is the only place to get this art officially from the Wizards!  His ability is akin to “Prophet of Kruphix.”  But only for creatures with counters.

8 High Sentenels

There is one other rare, and it is also pretty good!  A great “mana sink” that really enhances your other creatures and gets bigger!

9 commons

Here are the commons.  Really nothing remarkable.  But there IS one good card to open your game with…

10 1 drops

 

Two copies of this guy.  I am personally a fan of Child of the Night in draft more than constructed.  But disowned Ancestor is a big blocker who gets bigger early!

11 notable cards

These guys are uncommon, and pretty good.  Giving your guys with counters trample, or especially flying isn’t anything to sniff at.

12 more notable cards

But these commons feel similar, but each have problems.  Their power/toughness vs. converted mana cost, and what they ask of you.  I could take or leave them.

13 armament corps

One more uncommon.  I haven’t decided what I think about him yet.  I am leaning away from liking him in constructed.  It isn’t always easy to cast all three colors…much less find two other mana.  And so there are better ways to get counters on your creatures.

Now for the lands…

14 nonbasic lands

Besides regular lands, you also get these guys.  I’m not sure what I think about the Tri-Lands for constructed yet.  You are getting access to each color you need, with the only expense of speed.  If they were only two colors, like the Guildgates from Return to Ravnica, they would be completely out of the question.

But the other lands are “Gain Lands.”  They enter the battlefield tapped, but you gain one life when they enter.  I prefer scrying over gaining life.  So these guys will be the first thing I swap.

Besides these lands, you also get 8 Plains, 7 Swamps, and 6 Forests.

Finally, the other spells.

15 instants and sorceries

 

16 Abzan Charm

Abzan Charm is what sticks out the most.  This is now one of the best Magic cards!  You get to choose one of each quality that each color in its mana cost does best!

17 kill shot

Kill shot is conditional removal.  I think I like other options better.  It isn’t a bad card, but you know, you have to be being attacked in order to destroy something.  This is a downside for the mana-hungry format being presented in Kahns of Tarkir.

20 incremental growth

And if I’m not mistaken, this card is bad because it REQUIRES three targets.  What if you don’t have three?  Are you really going to put a counter on one of THEIR creatures?  There is a similarity here to Cone of Flame.  But getting stung for one damage isn’t so bad if you need to target yourself in order to Shock a creature and Searing Spear another.

Before I go into the boosters, I think I would like to pause and talk about what I think about this deck.

The mana is just too slow.  Khans of Tarkir is releasing “fetch lands” that allow you to get the land you need.  Fetch lands are good because they are “deck thinner.”  You are getting two cards out of your deck when you crack a fetch land.  And the mana is usable right away.

I haven’t got to play Standard with Kahns of Tarkir yet, but the fetch lands have a TREMENDOUS impact on Modern.  Everyone that is good at Modern plays them.  But they have been expensive, which is why I haven’t had any.  The Modern decks I attempt tend to be easy on the mana because of this.  But now that we are getting these lands, Standard is going to speed up significantly.  I already spoke about playing sealed with this set, how slow it was.  I drafted last night also…It is just slow.  But constructed is going to be a speedy thing of beauty.  Almost like two different games entirely.  I say forget all of the fixing, and pay out or trade for some fetches.

I went ahead and modified this deck, putting in the two copies of “Windswept Heath” that I have acquired.  I also swapped out the gain lands for the scry lands, and also added a couple of pain lands.

The next big change…This deck doesn’t have enough chumps!  Go back up and look at the commons…Go ahead.  I can wait.

Two copies of Disowned Ancestor are the only one drop creature.  Then you have six two drops, two of them Child of the Night, one Sungrace Pegasus, and the other three Ainok Bond Kin.  The Ainok and the Ancestor have Outlast, so that is asking EVEN MORE mana.

Outlast is weak sauce for combat.  It is good in the early game if you don’t have anything to play.  I’ll give it that.  But so far I don’t see it being an effective way of getting counters.  I feel better about incremental boosts from static abilities than using this activated ability, which requires a tap, so you can’t do it on the turn they come out, and requires a tap, which also keeps them out of combat.

I swapped in some good stuff.  Fleecemane Lion.  That is the kind of two-drop people need to play in Standard.  How about something like Favored Hoplite?  Then you hit him with a boost spell, and he gets counters.  Because he has counters, then he reaps benefits from say, Abzan Falconer.

So it is a synergistic deck as it is vanilla, with no modification.  But it isn’t strong enough.  At least not for the Metagame in Spartanburg.

So I rate this deck a 2/5.  I really appreciate the two rares…those were great!  I was glad to really learn a few new cards, and I wanted “Abzan Falconer” and another copy of “Abzan Charm.”  The art in the insert is average for what it is.  Sarkahn looks cool, but that is all it really has going for it.  But the deck just isn’t strong enough for a competitive metagame.  It is great for what it is…a deck for new players learning to play the game.  I see kids get ahold of a product like this, and they think they have something really really special with that foil rare.  It is shock and awe for them.  But it falls flat for expert purposes.

Now for the boosters!

I said before that I would open the boosters and photograph them live from sets like this!  So here goes!  What did I get in the first pack?

21 booster 1

Don’t know who this is on the package.  Don’t care either!

First my commons.

22 commons

First the commons…There is my sixth copy of “Jungle Hollow.”

Next the uncommons…

23 uncommons

Temur Charger just isn’t my thing.  I don’t play red either.  The vampire guy’s art really creeps me out.  What is that tongue hanging down below his chin?  (shudder)  This is the kind of card I like to use.  I just don’t know how I will use it yet.

AND THE RARE!

24 rare and extrasMaster of Pearls

Let’s have a closer look,

25 master of pearls

This card is all over the place.  You can hard cast it as a 2/2 for CMC2.  If you do, he might as well be vanilla, I suppose.

But he has Morph…When he flips over from being morphed, all creatures you control get +2/+2, which is something!

The problem here will be what it asks of you.  It wants five mana, two of which have to be white.

In draft yesterday and sealed deck, I got a copy of this card.  Usually it gets removed before its ability can trigger.

Now for Booster pack number 2!

26 Booster two

The guy pictured here was BEAST in sealed deck…

27 commons

You gotta love that art for “Savage Punch!”

28 savage punch

Now for the uncommons…

29 uncommons

 

Chief of the Edge is my favorite here.  He goes with the other chief, and they boost each other.

And my rare was…

30 rare and extras

 

Mantis Rider.  Not bad.  He is the “America” creature that coincides with “Lightning Angel.”

31 mantis raider

 

 

So no planeswalkers.  No mythic rares.  No premium foils.  Just plain old boosters.

I rate the Abzan Siege deck at 2/5.  What would you rate it,   Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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SpartanNerd Scoop…Journey Into Nyx Starter Deck Unboxing and Review

I got a freebie at the Tangled Web Journey Into Nyx Pre-release tournament…”The Wilds and the Deep” starter deck from the new Journey Into Nyx expansion of the Theros Block in Magic the Gathering.

Here is my unboxing and review!

I like this color scheme.  My color blinded self originally thought this was blue...then after studying it...I saw it as purple!  The box showcases a foil promo version of "Heroe's Bane," a Hydra card that I knew SpartanSmurf #2 would love!

I like this color scheme. My color blinded self originally thought this was blue…then after studying it…I saw it as purple! The box showcases a foil promo version of “Heroe’s Bane,” a Hydra card that I knew SpartanSmurf #2 would love!

 

The back of the box...

The back of the box…

Let’s dig in!

When you open the box and remove the contents, this is what you see.  Two pieces of paper, the main deck with cellophane wrap, and two booster packs.  I decided to save the booster packs for last...You all can share in my excitement about getting the new cards!

When you open the box and remove the contents, this is what you see. Two pieces of paper, the main deck with cellophane wrap, and two booster packs. I decided to save the booster packs for last…You all can share in my excitement about getting the new cards!

If you have been reading the SpartanNerd Blog regularly, then you know that I threw that blue paper in the trash right away.  But this paper is the important one.  I really dig the art from this set so far.  The art on the pre-release pack was cool, and the art in the whole set is generally good.  This poster thing shows off some of the best art from the set.

If you have been reading the SpartanNerd Blog regularly, then you know that I threw that blue paper in the trash right away. But this paper is the important one. I really dig the art from this set so far. The art on the pre-release pack was cool, and the art in the whole set is generally good. This poster thing shows off some of the best art from the set.

 

Flipping that poster over reveals the deck lists from all five starter decks.  Here is a closeup of "The Wilds and the Deep" deck list.  Basically a green and blue strategy that is neither aggro nor Simic.  These starter decks in general just show off the cards, but don't make a deck archetype well.  (I find this to be the case anyway.)

Flipping that poster over reveals the deck lists from all five starter decks. Here is a closeup of “The Wilds and the Deep” deck list. Basically a green and blue strategy that is neither aggro nor Simic. These starter decks in general just show off the cards, but don’t make a deck archetype well. (I find this to be the case anyway.)

Now for a look at the cards.

6 creatures

Here are the creatures and the lands.

7 notable creatures

Here are the notable creatures. Golden Hind is a mana chump, Bassara Tower Archer has hex proof, Ravenous Luerocota has Monstrosity, Swarmborn Giant is basically a green Desecration Demon, Fleetfeathered Cocatrice is the oddball of the group. And then Heroe’s Bane, with its exploding counters song and dance.

Here are the other spells in the deck.  (meh...)

Here are the other spells in the deck. (meh…)

This is a pretty good deck all around.  I mean, it certainly can be improved…but that is the point, isn’t it?  It is a deck archetype that the wizards suggest and serves as a starting point, especially for a beginner.  So I gave the deck to SpartanSmurf #2, knowing that he was going to LOVE casting that Hero’s Bane Hydra and making him huge!

Now for something I have never done before.  I am going to open my booster packs and slowly reveal the contents to you, Oh Hub City Geeks!

9 booster 1a 10 booster 1b 11 booster 1c

Of these, I would like to point out Satyr Gravedancer, one of my new favorites simply because once I wrote a song called “Gravedancer”!  My opponents played Sigiled Skink against me during the Pre-Release.  I personally don’t think the Font cards are that good, at least for the most part.  You are generally paying more in the long run for something other cards can do faster and better.  I guess since Constellation is a big deal, it is good to have access to those abilities as enchantments.

This pack had a Rare and a Foil…

12 notable cards from this booster

The Eidolon of Blossoms is touted as a new Enchantress type of card.  I’m glad to own her!  And I guess Triton Cavalry is alright too.  (I don’t generally play the Merfolk.)

Time for pack two….

13 booster 2a 14 booster 2b 15 booster 2c

The cards in this pack “speak to me” a little more.  The white cards really got a boost this time.  This pack has a few things with Strive, and also Heroic, two mechanics born for each other.  I like the Golden Hind, though it’s no Elvish Mystic, and also the Cloaked Siren, who can flash in.

The rare in this deck is “Bearer of the Heavens.”  A totally unplayable card in Standard.  This pack came with a Spider token.  What I need is a Snake token!

16 notable cards from this pack

All around I was happy to be one of the first to unbox one of these starter decks for the whole internet to see.  I grade this deck as a 2/5 as far as playable in standard right out of the box.  But as a product as a whole, it gets 5/5, because it does what it says it does well.  And I was glad to give the cards to my son.  (I gave the Booster Pack cards to my other son.)

 

What would you rate “The Wilds and the Deep?”  Let me know in the comments!