SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review… Shadows Over Innistrad Booster Battle Pack

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There is a new offering from Wizards of the Coast to help new players learn how to get into Magic the Gathering.  It is the “Shadows Over Innistrad” Booster Battle Pack.

I did what I shouldn’t, and picked up the Booster Battle Pack at Wal-Mart for $9.99.  This is important, because the Wizards say that they specifically made this product to sell in stores like Wal-Mart, Target, etc…not specialty comic book stores.

So what does the SpartanNerd think?  I’ll let you know, and also will let the SpartanKid fill you in as well!

So the Booster Battle Pack has a big picture of Jace looking at a clue…the same image that is all over the place on Shadows Over Innistrad products.

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The back of the box gives you a contents list, and some light instructions.  I like this box in general…and I liked it even more when I opened it!

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Inside was this cardboard sleeve…the sleeve held the two decks intended to battle against one another, and also two booster packs as well.  In fact…I considered just purchasing two booster packs instead of this…but it was barely more expensive at Wal-Mart…so that’s why I went ahead and got this…plus…I wanted to review something new.

The sleeve has instructions on what to do…Unwrap the decks.  Decide who plays what.  Open booster packs.  Add five cards of the decks color.  Shuffle and play.  Easy…right…

Keep reading.

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Here is the contents all on display.  The little piece of paper at the top right is the quick reference guide…not really too useful for this product as it is meant for 60 card decks.

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The two decks feature two special rares…these are legal cards in Standard as long as Shadows Over Innistrad is legal.  They are from a special smaller set, however, called Welcome 16.  Basically, specialty stores like The Tangled Web in Spartanburg get free decks to give to new players…these decks are those exact things.  But when you purchase the Booster Battle Pack, you don’t know what colors the decks will be.  Luckily for me, these are my two colors…Black being my favorite, and White being my secondary color.

Aegis Angel…why don’t you ever see play?  Because you are a six drop with an ability that is better handed out a different way.  Nightmare…I always say Black is best…this is because it can do everything every other color can do.  With an evil slant.  Nightmare is black’s version of a big green vanilla monster.  But at six drop…he isn’t very good.

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Here is the black deck…with its contents displayed.  Twelve swamps plus a Blighted Fen, and seventeen other cards.    The two Demons Grasp are strong removal against the white cards in the other deck.  Not too good in Standard, though.  This is the kind of thing you draft…a late pick usually.  Dead Weight is better.  Mind Rot is here…and I had thought that card rotated out.  But this is the Welcome 16 version.  So I will happily consider using it again!  Sengir Vampire represents Innistrad pretty good., as does Walking Corpse and the other vampires and zombies.  Zulaport Cutthroat is a star in Standard right now.

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The White Deck is just about perfectly balanced against the black deck.  It has twelve plains, a Blighted Steppe, and seventeen other cards.  Aegis Angel gets a few angel friends…Serra Angel is a classic.  You don’t get the same kind of removal here…Smite the Monstrous is the only card dedicated to removal.  You also get some pump spells, which are more in the spirit of white anyway.  There is some light life gain.  But overall, this deck is about as bland as the black one.

The SpartanKid has something to say..”I think the white deck is out of place in innnistrad right now.”  I believe he is correct.  Besides the angels, most of the flavor seems to be Oath of the Gatewatch/ Battle for Zendikar related.

 

Now I am going to show you the two booster packs.  And then we’ll have a laugh.  Here is the first one.

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Did you notice anything?  That’s right.  Only two white cards.  And three black cards.  Could we take five cards from this pack and add to our deck?  NOPE.

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I pulled a pretty good rare…only in red.  “Pretty irrelevant” said the SpartanKid.

 

Here is the second pack.

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Four white cards, and two black cards.  One awesome thing about Shadows Over Innistrad boosters is sometimes…a lot of times you get more than one rare.  In this case, I got two.  (You COULD have three if you happen to get a foil!)

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So I did the sensible thing.  I chose the five cards to add to each deck from the two booster packs.

Some kids whose parent buy this for them might have a problem sharing….This game is at its essence a trading card game.  But I could potentially see some kids having a problem.  And then there is the fact that one of the rares is white, and there isn’t an additional black rare to balance it.  And if you are sharing…who gets the other cards?  Since there is only a single blue basic land in one of them, a new player might not even know what red land or green land even looks like.

So how does the Shadows Over Innistrad Booster Battle Pack play out?

Me and the SpartanKid played a few matches…as much as we could bear.  The 35 card decks make it different than any other format.  The other thing…this is Magic the Gathering at its blandest.  You CAN get some sense of what each color (white and black) can do.  The decks are flavorful only in the most basic sense.  (Demons Grasp, Zombies, Vampires for black, Angels and small guys for white.)

I wonder how effective of a tool to teach Magic the Gathering this Booster Battle Pack actually is?  I tried to imagine myself…a brand new player.  And then put together and play these two decks…Let’s just say I did.  And somehow decided I liked it.  So I went to a tournament with my 35 card deck.  NOT ALLOWED.  You have to have at least 60 cards.  Let’s just say the store owner gives me a freebie deck to match.  Then I get smashed by someone with a real constructed deck.  Say…Blue White spirits, Black Red Vampires, LSV’s  Cryptolith Rite thing, or gasp…what if it were a Modern tournament!

The SpartanKid had something to say…and it sums up my feelings as well.

“It’s pretty boring to play.  So it might be discouraging for people trying to learn Magic.”

The mind of a ten year old!  (A seasoned player…he’s been playing for almost five years.)

I’m glad to add the rares to my binder.  Maybe I’ll use them in Commander.  Maybe.

I did enjoy the packaging!  I like the little cardboard sleeve that holds it all together with tension.  In fact, we used that the whole time we tested the two decks.  It works fine for that small amount of unsleeved cards.  And the larger box is pretty useful in general for whatever.  So the wizards do get an A for the packaging.

That doesn’t excuse the poor execution and reasoning behind this product.  If they wanted to teach new players…they should come up with a different way.    That the boosters didn’t contain enough cards of the colors required was annoying.  And that is supposed to be random…so how can they make that suggestion with confidence?  The Booster Battle Pack wasn’t worth $9.99.  It could have been worth more if the rares in the booster packs were better.  But they weren’t.  So the free deck from the comic book store, plus the two boosters are supposed to equal that price, but in this case they weren’t.  So…

One more thing…The Wizards assert that this little set is supposed to evoke some of the feeling of playing sealed deck.  BAH HUMBUG.  I really enjoy sealed.  Because it’s fun…(especially Shadows Over Innistrad sealed, where i’ve played three times since its release.)

So I give the Magic the Gathering Shadows Over Innistrad Booster Battle Pack a 1/5.

It might be a good starting point for a person…but if I were them I’d bank on starting with an intro pack…which will probably still fare janky in a tournament, but at least be legal.

Not only doesn’t it do a good job of teaching the game, as well as fails to give you a playable tournament deck, it also leaves some components to chance, including the after-market value.  In my case it wasn’t worth $9.99.  (Luckily I just spent my scraped up change I found in my office at work!)  Not only those things, it was also bland and boring.  I advise anyone who loves playing MTG to avoid this like the plague unless you just want some Welcome 16 cards.  I also advise you to tell other people…new players especially to try starting out a different way.  Finally, avoid buying Magic Cards at Wal-Mart, Target, Toys-r-Us, etc.  Get them from your local gaming or comic book store if you can.  This will be better for you SOUL in the long run.  This product just adds more of the bland stuff the big box stores sell to their inventory.  Send a message…don’t buy it.

So how would the SpartanNerd encourage new players to learn to play?  What suggestions could he offer to the Wizards?  I think I shall write my NEXT post about that.

 

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic the Gathering Modern Event Deck

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Nobody panic!  The SpartanNerd purchased something he originally said he had no interest in!

But there is a story…

First of all, I didn’t pay $79.99.

I am going to take a moment to talk about how wonderful the folks at the Tangled Web Comics and Games are in Spartanburg, SC.  I came to their store yesterday with two cards to trade, Inkmoth Nexus from the French Event Deck I recently purchased and reviewed.  I won’t divulge the details of our trade.  But these decent folks made sure I had a good deal.  This was the last copy of the event deck they had, and I needed five of the cards in the deck.  As well as I didn’t have the sword or the Elspeth.

The Tangled Web is just good, small business.  They are forever nice.  And reward their loyal customers.  Daniel, Anna, Danny, and Josh, this is a shout out to you.  Thanks for being so nice!  I have visited a ton of different similar shops and gaming places, but The Tangled Web stands a head taller than everyone else.

I have done tons of reviews of event decks since I began the SpartanNerd blog.  And I purchased all of them from the Tangled Web except for the French Event Deck.  Links to some of my reviews are below.

M14 Event Deck

Theros Event Deck

Born of the Gods Event Deck

Journey Into Nyx Event Deck

Dark Ascension Event Deck (French)

So, back to the review!

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This event deck starts off like any other.  With some inspiring information of the back.  This time what is different is the cover sleeve feels like an essential part of the packaging.

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Removing the sleeve reveals this SICK box.  It has foil detailing.  I thought it might be a bait and switch kind of situation, like you might encounter in some Magic products, where there is some kind of cardboard spacer or something.  Nope.  This box is a solid two piece construction.  I think I will get a lot of use out of this box!

The top slides right off, and this is what your see.

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Notable…this deck comes with sleeves!   The life counter features the Modern Event Deck Set Symbol on the #20.

This time you only have one piece of paper.  Finally, reason prevails!  No general guide to playing Magic.  A person doesn’t just walk into a Modern tournament without a deck, never having played Magic before, and drop $50+ on a product they don’t even know how to play!

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Here is the ever-important decklist.

I am going to go through the cards, with comments.  I have been hesitant to purchase this product because I had so many of the cards anyway.

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I had these cards already.  The Tidehollow Sculler is similar to the Brain Maggot.  He has stronger power and toughness, but at white and black in the cost, he is harder to cast.  I recently encountered Soul Warden when playing against a deck called “Soul Sisters.”  Basically, mostly female characters that amount to little advantages, as well as some “hate bears.”

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Path To Exile…One of my main reasons to purchase this.  I recently won a copy.  I need them for my Esper Control Deck.  (I will cover that deck later.)

Inquisition of Kozilek.  Another big reason for me to purchase this deck.  Basically a Thoughtsieze effect, with a restriction that the discarded card has CMC of three or less.  Think how much better than Gitaxian Probe this is.  Of course, that is a cantrip, but still, if you put this in your Rack deck, or Waste Not deck, then you didn’t have to pay the two life for Thoughtsieze as often for the same effect.  And then you might know if it is worth Thoutsiezing.

Shrine to the Loyal Legions…the first true White Weenie card in this deck.  The Soul Warden and the Tidehollow Sculler are the only real creatures in this deck.  Everything else is spells that generate tokens.

Lingering Souls…a wildly fun card.  I already had four copies, and made that the base for my Esper deck.

Honor of the Pure…an anthem effect.  You could put the Spear of Heliod here for an even better effect, and with he added bonus of removal.

Intangible Virtue…this card was insane during the Innistrad block!  One of the best cards I remember from when I started playing Magic.

Raise the Alarm…another chump token generator.  Again, a card I didn’t really need.

Zealous Persecution…a great way to suddenly boost your white weenie army’s power, while at the same time weakening your opponents creatures.

Spectral Procession…I only had one copy of this card before.  It is just right for this deck, which is really a white-based deck.

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I didn’t have either of these cards.  I like how this Elspeth has a lower mana cost than the more recent one.  But she isn’t as good either.  She’s still pretty good.  She can suddenly pump one of your guys and give him flying.

The sword is broken.  It always has been!  I didn’t own this card either.  The Sword and the Elspeth are a good portion of the value in this deck.  Both cards are around $15 dollars apiece.

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The lands…I already had four copies of Caves of Koilos.  This is being reprinted yet again in Origins, so I don’t see that much value.  I only had two copies of City of Brass, neither of which had as good of art as featured here.  So that’s good!  (I like City of Brass better than Mana Confluence.  Mostly for flavor reasons.)  I only had one Isolated Chapel, a buddy land.  I had Vault of the Archangel,  but I didn’t have Windbrisk Heights.  That land is a great source of on-the-battlefield card advantage in this deck.  Then there are five plains, all of the same art, and three swamps.  Same art.

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This deck, like all of the event decks I have reviewed, comes with a sideboard.  The question is, what metagame is it addressing?  Here are some ideas.

Dismember can take out indestructible things.

Kataki, War’s Wage is meant to slow down Tron and Affinity decks.  Burrenton Forge Tender is meant to cost a burn player two cards.  (if you play both copies.)

Relic of Progenitus will shut down Lingering Souls and Unburial Rites.  It is also good against a mirror match, (concievable!)

And then Durress, a general thoughtsieze effect, but it can’t get creatures.  Good against Planeswalkers, burn spells, etc.

For the first time ever, I get to review how a deck plays before ever playing it!  I guess I’m a little late to the unboxing party!  I have faced this deck a few times in tournaments, with occasional slight modifications.

The way this deck works is, “overrun your opponent.”  Get lots of chump tokens on the field.  Use the Lingering Souls to block flyers.  Reach critical mass, get the sword on a flyer, and GG.  The Soul Warden works against burn.  The Intangible Virtue doubles the effectiveness of your creatures.  And then the anthem effects are very strong.

The Elspeth is dangerous.  Many times I have seen players substitute the newer Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.  And it’s possible to slide in a large creature, usually an angel.

I have beaten this deck a few times…probably more than I have lost to it.  It is weak against a turn one Thoughtsieze.  It has no response to Blue…it hopes to move faster than blue.  But you can easily remand these spells, and then prepare for them.  The creatures don’t have haste…so you get a second to remove them.  It becomes a race against green.  Sometimes it can beat green with a larger number of creatures.  And green doesn’t have too many flyers…

SpartanNerd Rating of the Magic the Gathering Modern Event Deck…

My colors are white and black.  This deck is mostly a “White Weenie” strategy, but it is a pretty strong take on it.  I don’t have many gripes about it in that respect.

The box is excellent.  It came with sleeves and an exclusive spin down counter.

If I have any complaint, it is that there are no foil cards in this deck.  I love me some foil.  But this really isn’t enough to take a point off.

So I am going to give it a 5/5.  It is the best event deck I have seen, except maybe the French thing.

Do you agree or disagree, oh Hub City Geeks?  Let me know in the comments!  And go by and visit the Tangled Web sometime!

SpartanNerd…Why I play this game?

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Why do I play “Magic: The Gathering?”

I began playing this game around four years ago.  I had been playing Pokemon cards with my children, as well as Shadow Era.  I got into Shadow Era because I wanted a card game that was more in-depth and on an adult level.  (I was playing Poker online as well, but not gambling.)  Around this time, I began frequenting comics stores, and noticing how popular Magic was.  I thought it a little crazy that some cards costed over thirty dollars, and said as much.  (Not to mention Jace, Mind Sculptor…who at the time was $100.)

I made the jump one day when I found some cards on sale at Target…a “Deck Builders Toolkit.”  And It was during “Innistraad” block at the time.  But I didn’t know that.

Since then, I have moved my children into the game, and one has left.  The other teeters on losing interest, as children do and should do have shifting  interests as they grow and develop.  But I don’t see myself quitting any time soon.

Today I went to “The Mighty Moo” festival in Cowpens, South Carolina.  Then ate lunch with my family at Taco Dog, in Spartanburg.  Then proceeded with the SpartanKid to a Modern MTG tournament at the Tangled Web in Spartanburg.  This tournament turned out to be really small…we left at 4:00…but I needed to play some more.  So I drove up to Grover, NC, and played at Stormcrow’s Clubhouse Modern event.

Today was the first time I ever played two Magic tournaments, at two different locations.  I am not counting a midnight pre-release and then a “next day” event.  No.  This was a double-header.  And an incredibly full Saturday.  Am I a man obsessed?

I have recently built a re-animator deck, using cards from “Graveborn,” which was my Father’s Day present.  I grew bored with losing using Amulet-Primeval Titan…a fun deck but SUPER HARD to play.  Only recently did I realize, sure some of it is me, the pilot of the deck.  But that deck has losing built in if conditions aren’t just right.

To be fair, I know it is going to be awhile before I enter another tournament.  And I am probably going to miss the Origin’s Pre-Release.  😦

I didn’t come out on top at either tournament.  But still, I had great fun.  And the reasons I had fun are the reasons I play magic:

  • Sitting across from someone for thirty minutes to an hour creates a social relationship that I don’t take lightly.  I learn some things about my opponent.  And they inevitably learn that I am a Christian, a father, a teacher, and a minister as well.  I have time to talk to them and show them that they really are important to me.
  • Magic is a creative outlet.  Side boarding in cards is an act of reacting creatively to situations that aren’t always that clear.  There are a lot of “what-if?” questions to ask.
  • The act of playing in a tournament, at least for me, is an expression of deck-building, which is the biggest creative outlet in MTG.  I don’t “net-deck” much.  In this case, I knew I had encountered a lot of Splinter-Twin at the Tangled Web, so I sided in a card NO-ONE saw coming.  There was a moment in the tournament at Stormcrow’s Clubhouse that summarizes one of the reasons I play Magic.  My opponent, “Turbo”, was playing Tarmo-Twin .  I lost to two Tarmogoyf’s early game in match one.  I sided in “Batwing Brume,” knowing this must be his strategy.  He proceeded to flash in his Deceiver Exarch, put the twin on him, and then begin manuafactoring tokens.  I was surprised that he didn’t just say… “This is a million times.  They all have haste.  They attack.”  I’ve heard that line many times.  Instead, he made twenty-one copies, and declared attack.  I played Batwing Brume, using white and black mana…he attempted to Dispel that.  But I was ready with a Pact of Negation.  BAM.  It was an intense moment, when we both had tons of land on the field, and were vying for the greatest card advantage.  This moment alone was just about worth the whole day of Magic for me.  After this match, Turbo would go on to beat me in another intense standoff.  In that match I bested three Tarmogoyfs!  It could have gone the other way and I could have won if I had had another Pact…(but the way card games work is, there is randomness that beats you sometimes.  I am OK with that!)
  • It is fairly cheap entertainment…I don’t pay for cable or satellite.  In their place I play cards.  I acquire cards.  I collect and organize cards.  I read their flavor text and background stories.  I read about card development from “the mothership” site.  I make casual decks.  I play online occasionally.  And as cheap entertainment goes…it is me using my brain in an analytical and creative way.  I was thinking, as much as I enjoy playing guitar, it is much easier to lug around a red bag with magic decks in it than it is to lug around a guitar, chords, effects, and an amplifier.  At least it is easier to carry.  And while both activities help me get my groove on in a creative way, Magic is a quiet and reflective activity.  A great way to cool down after a long day of work.

I play magic for these reasons.  But as a parent, I have reaped other benefits from teaching and playing the game.  Playing cards is a good way to talk about odds.  Building decks is a way of talking about strategy.  Keeping a curated collection is a way to model taking care of cards.

And playing is quality time spent with the children.

Why do you play Magic, the Gathering readers?  Please let me know.  I know you are out there.  My reviews of sealed products are what gets me the greatest internet traffic to this site.  Please comment in!

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic the Gathering Premium Deck Series “Graveborn”

It’s almost Father’s Day…and I was told to order some cards…

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Not these kind!  Magic Cards…Did I have you fooled?  (I’m sure such cards will be coming my way, though.)

Because it is pretty hard for non Magic players to know what to get Magic players, I was told I could just order what I wanted.  So I ordered “Graveborn,” a Legacy MTG deck from 2010 or 2011.  It looked pretty sweet on the internet, and the allure of all foil swamps hypnotized me into making the purchase.  Have I found it to be worth the $83.00 paid through TCGplayer?  Keep reading to find out more!

The “Graveborn” deck is from what was called (is called?) the “Premium Deck Series.”  There are two other decks out there, one a red burn deck and the other a Slivers deck.  But the Zombies and the color black are my thing.  So I’m just offering that as background information.  The Premium Deck Series gives you a deck in all foil, with some alternate art.  The foil is special, though.  I would call it “Super Foil.”

The package looked like this.

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A transluscent tube of plastic that let you see the of the most important cards in the deck.  Featured as spokeswoman is Avatar or Woe…a card that could be Legendary, but isn’t.

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On the back, you can see the deck box, which is also notably foil, with the Reanimate art prominently featured on the packaging.  You also get some inspiring messages and a contents list.  The deck was wisely cellophane…This  tube of a package would be no trouble for a dishonest person to hack.

But I’m just throwing away the packaging, right!

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Opening the box, you see this.  The spin down life counter is visible.

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Removing the product from package lets you see all of this.  Have a look at the foil detail!

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The box has nice foil…as mentioned.

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This card really shows off the foil.  This foil is a little better than what we usually see.  It might be equivalent to what they put on Planeswalkers in the Dual Decks.

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I wanted to mention that the spin down counter feels a little chalky.  It is also a little bit lighter than the kind we had before Dragons of Tarkir.  But it doesn’t feel like the dice that came in those pre-release boxes.  It doesn’t feel like the dice that came in the Dual Deck Anthology either.

I am going to go over each card featured in the packaging.

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This is a handy card.  This deck needs ways to discard things from your hand.  In this case you are rewarded with 2/2 Zombie Tokens.  You will probably just use them to block on the ground or as things to sac.

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The Avatar of Woe is good as a beater…but better as reliable removal.

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Animate Dead is an odd card with a contentious history.  Evidently an aura can’t attach to things in the graveyard…

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Cabal Therapy.  I had this card before, but not with this art.  I have only played it in Commander…it is a fun card with a lot of utility.  You can use it as a Thoughtsieze effect, or you can target yourself and get one of the bombs out of your hand into the graveyard.  It’s just fun!  Someone recently asked if the wizards would be reprinting this for Standard.  I wonder why they wouldn’t?

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Of all the cards in this deck, this is the most “money card” of them all.  Priced at $30 or roundabout.  You can get whatever creature you NEED and put in your graveyard for re-animation.  And at instant speed too…so you wait until they are tapped out, then drop this bomb.

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Reanimate is banned in Modern for a reason…One mana to get back whatever bomb you have.  OK…Turn one, Entomb.  Turn Two Reanimate.  GG.

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At sorcery speed, and for three mana, you get entomb times three.  SICK!

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A card from my early days of playing.  I always thought it was bad.  But it is great in this deck, where you need to discard things!

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As mentioned, this deck is a MONO BLACK deck.  So you can’t cast this card from your hand…Crosis will have to be reanimated.  But he is great!  He is also the only legendary in this deck, surprisingly.

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I had this card from Commander.  I always thought it good in esper colors.  Pro Red and Green makes it great to entomb out at instant speed when needed.

Onto what is in the deck box.

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The cards in cellophane and inserts in cellophane.

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I just threw away the insert which is a general guide to playing Magic.  I am keeping this insert.  The historical information here is pretty nice to know…I wasn’t aware of who was successful with reanimator decks before.

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The decklist is on the other side.  Good for future reference when I piece out the deck for different purposes.

I am going to go over the cards a little at a time.  

Starting with the bombs.

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These four cards are just sick.  Think how absurd it is to have any one of them out on turn two…

Blazing Archon is probably the most annoying!

Casting Terastadon late enough in the game means you probably have Terastadon plus three elephant friends!

Inkwell Leviathon.  Great against blue players.

Verdant Force is here not only as a bomb, but also for historical significance, if you pay attention to what they told you in the insert.

There are also black creatures you CAN hard cast.

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I don’t care much for Putrid Imp.  I would rather Stinkweed Imp be here…

Faceless Butcher is a black Banisher Priest.

And Twisted Abomination rides the line between bomb and chump for this deck.  He is better for swampcycling.  You might find him to be the only “bomb” you can reanimate on a bad occasion.

The other spells…

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All spells are singularly focused on discarding or getting bombs out of the library and into the graveyard.  There is no cancel or burn.  No ramp.  No pump.  Just all re-animator business.  I am highly impressed with the foil on Duress.  I mentioned before that Duress is one of my favorite spells!  It is funny when you play Exhume on turn two against someone who hasn’t played any creatures.  Diabolic Servitude and Animate Dead are about the same thing.

Then there are the lands…

21 foil swamps.  Just about enough said!  The other three lands are utility lands that let you do colorless mana or sac for ramp.  There is also a cycling land.  Dakmor Salvage would be good here.

IMG_6148

Playing the deck…

This deck works as advertised.  I heard someone say “It is from the Golden Age of pre-constructed decks.”  Very true.  There is no comparison to some of the tripe I have reviewed that they have put out…(Virtually all of the event decks I have reviewed lack important consistency.  Those intro decks are lackluster.  And recent dual decks, like Elspeth Vs. Kiora, feel really weak by comparison.)

Get your bomb in the graveyard early…and bring them back to life.  Swing in for damage. Rinse and repeat.

Deck Matchups.

I played this against the SpartanKid, piloting various decks from the Dual Deck Anthology.

The first deck I wanted to try it against was Divine, from the Dual Decks Anthology.  Because that deck is generally a winner.  A good matchup.  But almost without fail, GG for Graveborn by turn 5.

Chandra’s deck From the DDA was an interesting matchup.  Burn is meaningless against Sphinx of the Steel Wind on Turn three.  All of the progress Chandra could bring was just displaced by the giant, lifelink, vigilance, first striker.

But Jace from the DDA was a different story.  If the reanimator spells get canceled, this deck does nothing.  And worse, if the bombs get bounced back to your hand, you have to work to get them back to the graveyard to reanimate.  Graveborn lost two matches to Jace Beleren’s deck.  And it was mostly because trick creatures with morph redirected spells, or bounced things.

I am going to continue testing, and will update this post to reflect the results.  (hopefully!)

Changing the Deck

Because this deck is Legacy, I will have to modify it for play.  I am thinking about how to use it in Standard.  But that is really probably out of the question.  The Whip of Erebos is good, except the cards brought back from the graveyard to swing are exiled after they leave the battlefield.  Rescue from the Underworld is a mana-intensive spell.  I am going to experiment some before the Standard tournament at the Tangled Web on Friday night this week.  But I suspect I will just sleeve up my foil Duress cards and foil lands and continue to play Liliana/Waste Not.

Modern has some possibilities though.  I have already ordered “Gifts Ungiven,” which means introducing blue to this deck.  However, I think it will improve the deck where it is weak.  Adding blue means I get to use my own cancel spells.  Unburial rights is also a possibility.  In fact, someone recently flashed back Unburied rights and got Emrakul out on me when I was playing my Amulet/Bloom deck.  This would mean introducing white.  So now we are talking esper…

The other way this deck can be modified is by changing the bombs.  Since 2010/2011 a lot more cards have been released.  You can re-animate Iona, Shield of Emeria, and break your opponents colors.  You can re-animate Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or other Eldrazi.  Avacyn Angel of Hope and Akroma Angel of Wrath are good choices.  Re-animate Aurelia and take extra combat steps.  Reanimate Ashen Rider and remove a threat…Reanimate Medomai the Ageless and take an extra turn.  Reanimate Griselbrand…Reanimate …….. any Titan….  So many broken things to do!

SpartanNerd’s Rating of Magic the Gathering Premium Deck Series Graveborn is 4/5.  Here’s why.

The foil cards look incredible.  The deck is fun and consistent.  The Spindown Counter is unique and cool, if a little different.  The special insert with historical information was cool.  There is a lot of monetary value here as well, especially with “entomb”.

The deck box cannot hold the deck when sleeved with Dragon Shields.  And these premium foils demand to be sleeved.  I felt really paranoid I was going to scratch them by their rubbing together in the most natural way that cards do.  This is a Legacy deck, and in my area, I have never seen a Legacy tournament.  I have encountered players who brought decks to practice with.  But I can’t just take this item to a local tournament and playtest it against a metagame.  And then, the single-mindedness of this deck is also its downfall.  If someone can prevent you from…Discarding cards, tutoring cards to the graveyard, or reanimating cards, all three of which are required to make this deck work like the organic machine it is, then that person will win.  There is no sideboard included.

But saying all of that negative stuff doesn’t detract from the sheer coolness of the deck.  It is something most people won’t see coming.  I ordered it for its beauty and for what it stands for, and for a way to help me do more things with the graveyard, and this deck has delivered this.

SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF “GRAVEBORN” IS 4/5.  DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE.  LEAVE NOTES IN THE COMMENTS, OH HUB CITY GEEKS!

SpartanNerd…Dragons of Tarkir insights

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

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

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

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

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

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

SpartanNerd Unboxing, Playtest, and Review….Journey to Nyx Event Deck

All week I have been preparing for a modern MTG tournament at The Tangled Web, the only local comic book and cards store here in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

The only problem…when I got there..I found out it was a STANDARD TOURNAMENT!

So no “Amulet of Vigor/Primeval Titan” action for me…and furthermore, I hadn’t brought a suitable Standard deck!

Luckily there is a product for one such desperate weekender as me…an EVENT DECK!

(Many thanks to the store owner for knocking a little off of the price for me in my situation.  It was much appreciated, and I implore ANY reader to find this store and shop from there.  They are very nice people.  And the community of Magic players there are very competitive, generally kind, welcoming to new people, good sports, and challenging opponents as well.  You people who don’t live near here only WISH you were so lucky to have such a thing near you to regularly express your nerdery!)

 

All that said.  Here are pictures, and my review of the product!

Here it is.  Fresh in the package just before opening.  (It is sitting on my angel playmat.)

Here it is. Fresh in the package just before opening. (It is sitting on my angel playmat.)

 

2 box unsleeved

This is what the box looks like unsleeved.

 

3 box back

 

4 uninspiring message

You get this rather un-inspiring message…the deck is titled “Wrath of Mortals.” REALLY! (MTG has a famous card, “Wrath of God,” which supposedly destroys all creatures with one big move.) So this is kind of a lame title. Wrath or Mortals.

 

5 spindown counter

I’m glad the life counter actually matches the deck this time. (If you have been reading my blog, you know it kind of bothers me when the dice doesn’t match!)

7 divider

You get this divider

8 inserts

And these two pieces of paper. You know what is going to happen to the one on the right?

 

9 decklist 10 thaumaturge art 11 Harness By Force art

These three images show the important stuff on the papers.  Note the DECKLIST!  I really enjoy the art from “Journey Into Nyx”  That’s why I’m showing you this!

 

12 creatures

Here is the suite of creatures you get.  These are really good creatures, in general.  There are a few that I generally sided out, or just plain took out before the match.  More on that later.

13 chimera 14 Guttersnipe 15 YP

 

These three were the best creatures.  Especially “Spellheart Chimera.”  I have actually made a deck for SpartanSmurf #1 featuring this card before.  He wouldn’t ever play it…(he said he didn’t like the way the chimera looked…ingrate!)  But when I saw this in the deck at a full four copies, and that “Young Pyromancer” and “Guttersnipe” were in here, I knew that this wasn’t going to be an entirely new thing for me after all!  For once, it seems an event deck has a solid strategy!

 

16 Ogre 17 Aetherling 18 Daring Thief 19 Oracle 20 BThaumaturge

For this deck, I could take or leave these guys.  “Aetherling” is a great card always, and he got me one win.  I never saw “Ogre Battledriver” all night.  I actually added more “Battlefield Thaumaturge.”  But he isn’t all he’s cracked up to be.  Usually he would get burned off before you could use him.  And this deck has a curious lack of “strive”cards to allow his first ability to work.  You also probably won’t ever get his heroic to trigger in this deck.  There isn’t even a single aura spell in the deck.  “Daring Thief” was always killed off before he could untap.  I only saw “Oracle of Bones” once all day.  I did get a free burn spell out of him!

 

21 Chandra Phoenix

“Chandra’s Phoenix” is almost more burn spell than creature!  Too bad you only get one.

 

Now for the instants and sorceries.

40 edited sorceries

The most notable of these is “Lightning Strike.”  You get four full copies.  But it is rather generic.  The most fun is probably “Searing Blood.”  I mean, a card like this is really format warping.  Creature burn with player burn all for just two red…amazing!  Great for hitting those mana elves.  I was pleased to get a copy of the red board sweepers, “Mizzium Mortars” and “Anger of the Gods.”  I never saw “Steam Augury” all day.  But “Divination” was a star!

(“Searing Blood” is comparable to “Bile Blight”, in my opinion.  A card that really discourages chumps.)

Now for the lands.  This is where the trumpet says “WAA, Waa, waa.”

34 Land

You get 12 mountains, 8 islands, and 4….GUILDGATES.  REALLY?  NOT EVEN A SINGLE SCRY LAND?  NO SHOCK LAND? NO MANA CONFLUENCE?

Nope.  You get slow-butt guildgates for mana-fixing.  They might as well have just given us 4 more islands.

This is one of the areas where Event Decks in the past generally drop the ball as well.  The main deck cards are pretty good, so I guess they decided to skimp in this area.  Don’t want you to be too successful.

This deck came with a sideboard as well.

35 Sideboard

I sided in every card here at least once, except for “Izzet Staticaster.”  Not really sure why he is here.  I guess to flash in and block someone but not actually hurt them.  I think I will change this card to “Goblin Electromancer” when I get the chance.  The Elixir is always a star.  Basically, I swapped out the Battlefield Thamaturges whenever I sided, as well as “Ogre Battledriver”, “Aetherling”, or anything else that I only had one copy of and switched to a more “control” game.  It is hard to straddle the fence, though, playing burn and control.  The upside is, the “Spellheart Chimera” got to be a surprise big flyer a few times.  Too bad his toughness is only 3.  This makes him susceptible to being killed by bigger flyers, namely “Stormbreath Dragon.”

PLAYING THE DECK.

36 what I changed out

Before I began, I asked my opponent to oblige me in letting me get my head around the deck.  I had a few minutes to “improve it.”  First thing I did was swap two guildgates for “Mana Confluence,” which was in the modern deck I intended to play.  Next I added two more “Battlefield Thaumaturges” from my trade binder, and added “Keranos, God of Storms” and “Niv Mizzet, Dracogenius” from SpartanSmurf #1’s trade binder.  I can’t remember what I swapped out….  Regardless, I was wrong about Battlefield Thaumaturge.  He sucks in this deck.  Maybe not some other deck.  But this one isn’t a place where he shines.  Keranos was good.  He got me at least one win, but I never had my devotion high enough to make him a creature.  Niv Mizzet got me two wins.

Adding these cards got me some attention.  People said “Really?  That comes in the Event Deck?”  But I had to set them straight that I modified it so that I could have a fighting chance.

This deck performed well against green decks that depend on “Elvish Mystic.”  It did well against a Dimir deck that tries to mill you to death and hit you with “Consuming Aberation”.  It did well against red-green at least once.

The deck didn’t do well against “Courser of Kruphix”, who pretty much takes away your burn advantage.  It also didn’t do well against “Prophet of Kruphix,” who makes it so that your opponent can always respond to what you are doing and gives every creature flash.  So Kruphix is the enemy of this deck, it seems!  Also “Stormbreath Dragon” did pretty well against it, but I was able to “Fated Conflagration” him more than once, as well as a “Palukranos, World Eater” once.  Surprisingly, I didn’t see a Black Devotion deck for the entire tournament!

At the end of the day, I had five single wins.  Which means I went 2 wins 3 losses.  Not bad for a deck I never played before, and just bought so I could have something to do instead of pout about bringing the wrong deck.

 

The JOURNEY TO NYX Event Deck gets 3/5.  I took a point off for a poor mana base.  The other point comes off because Battlefield Thaumaturge would probably be better replaced with “Omenspeaker,” who at least lets you Scry 2.

Do you agree?  What would you rate the Journey to Nyx Event Deck?  Let me know in the comments!