Planechase Anthology…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

From now on, I am going to title what product I am reviewing before the ever prevalent “SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review”.  I fear people can’t see what I am unboxing on the index page…One more thing…this is my 300th post!  (I have deleted 13 posts in the past.  Making #287 actually #300!)

I have heaped praises on the “Duel Decks Anthology.”  Rightly so.  Of all of the decks I own, I get more use out of having those decks just ready made, ready to play, and having them handy in that box.  It plays like its own board game.  It was a reprint of valuable cards, Demonic Tutor and Ancestral Vision, AND Akroma Angel of Wrath, among many others.  I also just enjoy Duel Decks, and have collected many of them apart from what is in the Anthology.

The Planechase Anthology aims to do the same things, but bring Planechase back into the front of the public again.  Planechase is a CASUAL FORMAT.  Like Commander and Duel Decks.  I have owned one Planechase deck already, “Primordial Hunger,” featuring Thromok the Insatiable.  That deck was the cheapest at an MTG store way out of town somewhere, that had alot of old sealed product.  (You can read my review here.  Sadly, I have removed the pictures.)  And so I have limited exposure to Planechase.  The Planechase Anthology is going to bring all kinds of MTG goodness to the SpartanNerd kitchen table.

Let me say right now, the old decks cost around $50 after market, give or take sealed.  The $149.99 price tag on the Planechase Anthology is automatically a good deal.  Besides that, each plane card individually costs about $5 on TCGplayer.  But the six promotional cards included cost more…BUT I do have a complaint.  This set only comes with Planechase 2012 theme decks.  The original decks should be included…they could have been included.  (The original decks are worth way more money.  One of them is an affinity deck, pushing it up to around $150 after market value.  THe zOmbie Empire deck is about $100 to piece together!)

OK,  more information about the format.  Planechase is a special Magic the Gathering variant where oversized “planes” cards are added to the game creating an additional layer of complexity.   You roll the cubic planar dice, and change which plane you are on.  (Planes are analogous to stadium cards in Pokemon TCG).   Originally, the Wizards envisioned each person brings their own planes to the game…making it possible to play against another players constructed planar deck.  (No one plays this way anymore.)  What really happened was people found it more fun to put all the planes in a single deck, and then just see the craziness that resulted.  Planechse is super fun when paired with Commander…

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What’s this?  The SpartanCat really enjoyed the new shipping box before I removed the product!  For my unboxing and review today, you will be seeing some of my kitchen table.  Apologies.  But Planechase IS a kitchen table format…(Really, the box is very large.)

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Here the box is, in all its cellophane sealed glory.  I love the shiny foil treatment the Wizards gave it.  This time it is purple and gold…a color that is difficult for me to describe…It isn’t brown at all.  it is … shiny purplish purple-and-gold.

The back of the box displays a poster, which might find its way on my office wall at work…

The bottom picture shows you that the box is exactly the same size as the Duel Decks Anthology.

This box is important because it helps give this set the feeling of a premium board game.  Want to quickly set up a game of Magic with some friends…just break out the Planechase Anthology.  It also will make for nifty storage.

Now for the opening…(cue the angelic choir!)

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Notable, five spots for the dice, ordered in the same way as the decks…and what was that?

The Planar die is twice the size of the conventional Planar die!  (pictured on the right is a comparison shot.)

These dice are life-counters.  I wiI will keep these in the box and not take them out to tournaments.  I am partial to the green one and the orange one because I can see them more easily.  (I was partial to one of the dice in the Duel Decks Anthology for the same reason.)

Lets open some cards!

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Not quite yet.  It looks like there is some propaganda hiding under the planar deck.

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The poster features some of the planes…why these?  They chose these because they are the planes that are best seated in the minds of players.  Really new players are probably aware of the “Origins” stories.  Zendikar and Innistrad are currently in Standard.  Bolas’s Meditation Chamber is important because he IS the villain in MTG.  But I think also the Wizards wanted to include something that is going to be important in upcoming sets.  Amonkhet is the next big set, and is going to be all about Bolas according to the Wizards’ press releases.

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The back of that insert tells you how to play.  And remember what I told you about the way the Wizards originally intended players would play?  This rules insert doesn’t mention that at all, which I suppose means that  style is just about officially dead.  There are some suggestions for playing in a variety of ways.  Drafting the planes as a cube…that is an idea I hadn’t considered!

CARDS! CARDS! CARDS! CARDS!

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“Slide Deck Box” eluded me…you have to experience it to get it.  Turns out that it is exactly what it says it is.  Notice the slanted top of the inner box.  This is reminiscent of the “Bundle Box” design that is replacing “fat packs.”  This makes it easier in THAT product to open the box.  In this case, it makes it easier to grip the cards in order to remove them.

Without question, this deck box can’t hold sleeved planar cards.  It’s a good thing I didn’t purchase sleeves for them in anticipation.  (I really did mull it over, but decided to wait.  Wise decision, SpartanNerd!)

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After breaking the cellophane seal, you can see that the “phenomenon” cards are on top.  These function as powerful effects that change the game.  Chaotic Aether can really shake up the game if people are willing to pay the tax to roll the Planar die  (to roll the die at any time, a player must pay a land at first, then two lands for a second roll, then three for a third, etc.)  Morphic Tide can be devastating!  And it can totally turn the tables in a game of Magic.

After the Phenomenon cards come the planes.

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Onnake Catacomb…this is the place where Liliana got the Chain Veil!

Llanowar is funny…it makes all of your creatures into “better-than” Llanowar Elves.  (Lannowar Elves taps to add one green mana to your mana pool.)

There are over 70 different planes!  I haven’t heard of most of them.

The thing about this set…it is all about FLAVOR.  A person might not know anything about MTG.  Having them sit down and play the game this way will immerse them in the basic lore and the basic “What is this game Magic the Gathering all about?”  The game becomes more than just fun decks to play with cool art.  It becomes a story.  And that is very good because the flavor or MTG is really awesome.

A little rant.  It has been said that Mortal Kombat (and its associated video games) isn’t that great as far as fighting games go.  But it is so cool in flavor that it remains appealing, even though it is trumped by the mechanics of other games in its genre.  MTG has the opposite problem sometimes.  The game is so cool and fun, but people don’t have to be aware of the story surrounding it for the game to work.  How many times have I seen new players ask about the flavor text of a card, and what purpose does it serve?  It serves no mechanical purpose…it is only there for extra fun.  Extra flavor.  Extra points in the coolness department.  At one time I didn’t care about the story.  Over the years, I have picked up on some of it, and even read through some of it, like the Battle for Zendikar story and the way Nissa and Chandra drew up a “Channel-Fireball” combo to kill the titans.  I still have a lot to learn about the story.  The Planechase Anthology is without a doubt going to inspire me to look up information about the different planes and locations in MTG.

Onto the rest of the decks.  Each one comes with its own “slide deck box.”  The colored “Planeswalker Symbol” is the only indication of which deck is inside besides the label on the flat side of the inside box.  Notice the one of the far left…the “orange” symbol.  That box has extra items inside.

One of those items is the basic guide to playing Magic (quick reference card).  Which is not a guide to playing Planechase.  So I’m not sure if including it was a good idea.  (I just threw it away, as usual.)

The other item is the tokens.  Double Sided.

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I am showing you one side, then flipping them.  Notice a ton of Goblin tokens, and Saproling tokens.  If you have ever played decks that produce these kinds of token creatures, then you know you might just need this many.  Saproling token decks can get out of control!

NOW FOR THE INDIVIDUAL DECKS.

Each deck is called a “theme deck.”  What this means is, each deck showcases a mechanic, and has cards that support that mechanic.

I will be showing you the eight rares (YES!) from each deck first.  And then I will show you notable things about the decks as well.

PRIMORDIAL HUNGER

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This is the only deck I already have spent time with playing, and you saw what I had to say if you clicked the link in the top paragraphs.  Since I wrote that review, I have played this deck on numerous occasions.  The Dragonlair Spider is ALWAYS a winner.  Lots of times, people underestimate him.  Hellion Eruption is also an amazing win-con.  The Devour mechanic, showcased in this deck, requires a little work.  You have to sacrifice things…you are giving up board presence in order to make a big creature.  This is risky, and sometimes doesn’t pay off.  I think it better to “go wide,” load up the board, and then either over run the opponent, or do the Hellion Eruption.

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Of the Devour creatures, this one is the most playable.  On turn three or four, you can have a fatty that can’t be ignored.

Most of the pre-con decks the Wizards put out contain mana-fixers.  This deck has “bounce lands,” and a few other things.  Skaarg the Rage Pit can be a really good mana-sink.

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These other spells can’t be ignored!  Overrun, Fires of Yavimya, and Fling are excellent finishers.  Fires of Yavimaya is like a trap…people tend to forget that you can sacrifice it to give all of your creatures +2/+2!

One more incidental thing…Will the deck fit in the “slide deck box” when properly sleeved?  (Drum roll)

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YES!!!

NIGHT OF THE NINJA

This is the deck the SpartanKid is most excited about.  I looked at purchasing this about a year ago for him…he is very interested in Ninjas.  After-market, the deck gets about $7o.  It came down to either Night of the Ninja or some Mega-Man thing.  He went with the Mega-Man…

But now, I own a copy, and he can play it all he wants!

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The theme of this deck is Evasion.  Virtually every creature in this deck has some form.  Flying, Intimidate, Fear, Shroud, Deathtouch, Hexproof, and the feature mechanic, Ninjutsu.  With Ninjutsu, you can swap out an attacking creature that doesn’t have a blocker with the creature with Ninjutsu from your hand.  Surprise!  Throw on a “when this deals combat damage” effect, and you get some cool advantages.

Notable here, is Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni.  This guy is the general for a rat-tribal commander deck!

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Baleful Strix.  One of the best Two-Drop creatures in all of MTG.  Flying, Deathtouch, AND card draw.  Sick.

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Here are the lands.  Nothing noteworthy here.  (Why didn’t we get Rogue’s Passage?  I think it’s because every creature here already can’t be blocked at least without consequences.)

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The other spells.  Farsight Mask…that’s hilarious!  Why would it be tapped unless an opponent tapped it?

CHAOS REIGNS

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A little story…The original picture of the eight rares was very blurry, so at 3:00 AM I retook the picture.  And this is when I noticed that the “slide deck boxes” all have outline artwork for their featured rare card.  So this is why these cards are sleeved, and why I included the inner box.

Maelstrom Wanderer.  A Three-Color creature, with “Cascade, cascade.”  Yes.  This isn’t a typo!  Chaos Reigns is aptly named because of the Cascade mechanic.  When you cast (important!) a spell with Cascade, you get to reveal cards off the top of your library until you reveal a card with a lower mana cost, and then you cast that card for free.  So Maelstrom Wanderer lets you Cascade twice.

(The other use of the Cascade mechanic is to wash your dishes.  HA HA HA!)

Cascade is one of the flashiest mechanics in MTG, and also the most unpredictable.  It is at the heart of “Restore Balance” decks, as well as “Living Death” decks.

The other thing about the Maelstrom Wanderer.  Three color creatures, especially in the combination of BLUE RED GREEN, are rather rare historically.  We got a few recently in Khans block.  But this guy seemed to stand alone for a long while.

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The Shardless Agent…This is a ten-dollar card!  In the right deck, it can almost be a Collected Company.

It seems I forgot another important picture…Bloodbraid Elf.  (Banned in Modern!)

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It was recently brought to my attention that this guy is banned in Pauper.  I wonder why? (It’s obvious.)

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Here is a notable card.  Do you want to know what a vanilla creature is if it takes a mana of every color to cast?  Fusion Elemental provides that standard baseline.  8/8.

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This is a five color deck.  Such a deck has a hard time finding the resources it needs.  Shimmering Grotto and Rupture Spire help with this.  Vivid Creek and Terramorphic Expanse are also always useful.

But even this wouldn’t be enough.

img_9516The five spells on the left also help you fix your mana.

Every other spell is pretty good.  Our main plan, though is to smash the opponent with our creatures.

SAVAGE AURAS

This deck is based on enchantment auras, specifically Totem Armor.

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The Kor Spiritdancer is important…It is a strong piece of the Hexproof deck in Modern.  Maybe I can make my Bogles deck work better now that I own a copy.  (I will need three more, of course.  Do-able…it is a ten-dollar card.)

Krond, of the Dawn-Clad.  If you can get this guy going, you have no business losing.  You can exile their permanents all over the place.  He is a flying, vigilant threat.

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I thought these two notable…Silhana Ledgewalker has the aforementioned Hexproof.  If you get a few auras on it, there is little that the opponent can do.  It also is hard to block…

Dreampod Druid…remember all of those Saproling tokens?

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Nothing spectacular about the lands.  The City Tree is a notable inclusion.

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You might have noticed that this deck is a little light on creatures.  This is because it is heavy on other spells, especially auras…especially totem armor.  The deck also generates tokens, helping ensure you aren’t holding unusable “dead” cards.  (Totem Armor.  If enchanted creature would be destroyed, destroy the aura with Totem Armor instead.)

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS AFTER UNBOXING.

This is a terrific product.  Thanks to the SpartanWife for getting it for me on our anniversary.  Thanks to the Tangled Web as well, who gave me a discount.  A great thing too, because today I have been fighting a Kidney Stone.  And the store owner, Daniel Macabee, is a super nice guy.  If you ever find yourself in Spartanburg, SC, go by the Tangled Web Comic Book store.  You won’t regret it.

As I have been typing into the wee hours of the night/morning, dealing with my problem, I have spent some time thinking about it.  There is only one physical problem with the Planechase Anthology.  There is nowhere to put the 35 double-sided tokens.  I sleeved them in transparent Dragon Shields.  But even if I didn’t, the slide deck boxes wouldn’t accomodate them.  And besides that, which tokens go with which deck?  This is a nit-picking thing, but notable.If the Wizards hadn’t put that giant Magic The Gathering logo on the plastic tray under the dice, but instead gave us another deck box for the tokens, that would have been better.  True, I could remove the tray and store the tokens underneath, but that takes away from the convenience of the the thing as a dedicated board game.

The only other negative thing I could say is…we don’t have Planes cards for Tarkir, Kaladesh, or Theros.  All of these planes have been introduced to us since these decks were originally printed.  The Wizards could have given us some exclusive planes cards featuring those locations just for this set.  And that would drive some collectors crazy…crazy enough to purchase this product even if they already owned the rest of it.

But besides those two items, I haven’t got any complaints.  I really had to dig for that second one…but maybe its the pain medicine.

I give the Planechase Anthology a 5/5!

It is a terrific box set that promises hours of fun at the kitchen table in the future.  It is a great collection of re-prints, including some scarce rares.  It is four ready-to-play decks for anytime.  It is good Magic.  Plain and simple.

THE SPARTANNERD GIVES THE PLANECHASE ANTHOLOGY A 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

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SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Battle for Zendikar Holiday Box

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Once again, it’s time to get a new box for all of my MTG goodies.  I purchased the Battle For Zendikar Holiday Gift Box from the Tangled Web with some Web Bucks that my mom gave me for Christmas.  Thanks Mom!  (Web Bucks are basically a gift certificate.)

So is this a great gift for a MTG player?  How did it go for me?  Keep reading!

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Flipping the box over, you get to see the contents.  (So why am I doing this?)

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You remove the cellophane, and then this cardboard sleeve.  I am throwing this sleeve away.  It is just something obstructing me from getting to my cards.  Some people might not want to.  But I have no attachment.

 

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So this is the image I will see every time I use the box!  Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger squaring off with Gideon, Avenger of Zendikar.  Ugly…

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Opening the box, I saw…this…(It is an extra piece of cardboard meant to shield the contents from getting bumped around.)

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Here’s what was really there.

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This is a nice box.  I considered buying the box alone, which would have been about $8.  But I wanted to write on my blog and talk about the cards some.  So it was worth getting the sealed product.  I have the Kahns of Tarkir Holiday box from last year, and there are two Theros Holiday boxes floating around my house somewhere.  They are terrific boxes.  Good and sturdy, with two dividers to help in organizing the cards.  I’m not sure the exact number of cards a box like this can hold.  But each row can hold more than a “fat pack” box.  So a good many.  A great place to put “bulk cards,” pieces of decks, organizing lands, or whatever.  I hear that some people use these boxes to hold their “cube.”  Since I don’t have a large enough pool of playing friends to care about making a cube…

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Here are the other contents.  I like how this year we get the stickers on card sized paper!  The big thing from years past is just in the way.  In fact, I don’t use these stickers because that thing is just annoying.  But already, I have used some of these, (I am writing two days after my unboxing.)

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We get these beautiful dividers.  I really like the art from Zendikar.  That one on the very bottom right is “blighted” something.  It is really pretty.  Zendikar has floating islands, towering mountains with waterfalls, and of course corrupted areas of “dust” produced by Ulamog and the other Eldrazi.  These dividers are handy in almost any deck box.  I tend to use them exclusively with the Holiday boxes to create a concrete reference for how I organized my cards.  For instance, I had a bunch of special lands in a spot, and then put down a divider, and had my pieces of “tiny leaders” decks next.

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This box came with this exclusive printing of Scythe Leopard.  This card is equivalent to “Steppe Lynx” from the older Zendikar set.  He’s not quite as good, but he sees some play in constructed.  Standard nowadays has five fetch lands from Kahns of Tarkir block, as well as Evolving Wilds, which can really pull a lot of value out of a 1/1 kitty cat for only a forest.

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This box came with these also…

Normally this wouldn’t be all that significant.  But it is this time because every other product released for Battle for Zendikar has featured “full art” lands.  This is the only time I have seen regular basic lands for this set.  I was aware of them because they were in the card image gallery, and wondered why I had never opened one.  Now I know.  And I wonder if the intro packs also have these lands.  (confirmed)

Basically, full art basic lands sell for $1.00 apiece, helping make each and every booster pack of BFZ all that much more valuable than boosters from other sets.  I suppose the Wizards thought it might be a bad idea to print one of each full art land and put them in the holiday box.  (The sealed product would gain a ton of value on the third party market.)

So what was in my five booster packs?  I will show you a photo of each pack fully opened, and then make some commentary.  (Spoiler:  No Zendikar Expedition this time 😦  )

PACK 1

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I am really partial to the full art island.  The token is for Kiora.  Retreat to Coralheim is notable…a great way to get reliable card draw.  And the rare…

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Fathom Feeder has seen some play in Blue-Black Aristocrats.  I am glad to add another to my collection.

PACK 2

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This pack has a great gold ally, Resolute Blademaster.  Dispel is a great card for Modern…(last time I played against a Splinter Twin player, he sided in Dispel, and it gave him an edge.)  Also notable is Angelic Gift, to those casual angel players.  This can make an Icarian Priest fly, and net you a card!  The token is an Eldrazi Scion.  It can be an attacker, OR be sacced for a colorless mana.)  The full art land here is a swamp.  My readers know that my color is black.  But the Swamps are the least exciting and interesting of the BFZ full art lands.  Orion Rief Hydra…I could take him or leave him.

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PACK 3

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Notable in this pack is Brilliant Spectrum…a card that I believe will become more commonly used when the next set comes out.  Its “confluence” effect counts how many colors were spent to cast it, and then you get to draw that many cards.  It is a sorcery, so it isn’t great.  But in a five-color deck, it can net you some good advantage.  We get a Kor Ally for Gideon, a good full-art island featuring an EPIC waterfall, and…

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Major score.  Prairie Stream!  This is about a $3.00 to $4.00 card.  And as a Plains Island, can be fetched with either Windswept Heath, Flooded Strand, Marsh Flats, and on and on the list goes.  No…it isn’t a “shock land,” but it is what the Wizards have given us for Standard.  I think of these as “budget” lands for Modern.  (It is the fetches that are valuable.)

PACK 4

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This pack contains Hedron Archive, one of the cards that gets featured in propaganda art for this set.  This card sees some play in mid-range or control decks.  Vestige of Emrakul gives us some things to speculate about…Emrakul is not on Zendikar…and the next big set is called “Shadows over Innistraad…”

No token this time…a tip card instead.  BOO.  The full-art Plains reminds me of a shot from the new Star Wars movie, (the one where Rey is on a vehicle flying in front of a downed Star Destroyer.)

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I love this card!  With X in the mana cost, you get exactly what you pay for!

PACK 5

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Maybe the best pack for the SpartanNerd….Zulaport Cutthroat is the main reason.  This card goes great in Blue Black Aristocrats…It is in fact the enabler of that deck.  Brilliant Spectrum, explained in an earlier pack.  Smite the Monstrous has been called the most underrated card in the BFZ Standard environment.  So many targets!  Altar’s Reap is one of my favorite cards.  Imagine chump blocking some giant thing with a 2/2 zombie token, then before combat damage resolves, casting altars reap, sacrificing the zombie, and drawing two cards.  SCORE!  I have had new players accuse me of cheating with that one.  But it is totally legal, however wrong it might seem.

So what was the rare?

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I have heard people say that this guy is the spokesman for slowing the format down.  We did have Elvish Mystic, and Sylvan Carytid.  And this is who stands in their place.  Sure, he can swing or be tapped on the turn you play him, but he is a TWO DROP, and his mana can ONLY be used for creatures, most of which don’t have haste.

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Here are the cards plus some other cards so you can see how well the box works!

What’s soon to come for the SpartanNerd and MTG reviews?  I have all five new Commander decks coming my way!  And I think I will approach reviewing them differently…Keep reading!

SpartanNerd…For the Love of Liliana! (help!)

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I have put together a home-brew black discard deck built around Liliana Vess…and I have been playing it…competitively I might add, at the Tangled Web* for the past three weeks.

It has done reasonably well…averaging a win half of the time and splitting that other half with losses and draws.  The problem is, I want to make it a star.  I’m just not sure how?  Here is my decklist.

Lands

  • 22 Swamps

Creatures

  • 4 Black Cat
  • 3 Master of the Feast
  • 1 Erebos, God of the Dead
  • 2 Gray Merchant
  • 1 Abhorrent Overlord

Spells

  • 4 Thoughtsieze
  • 4 Despise
  • 3 Hero’s Downfall
  • 2 Sign in Blood
  • 4 Dark Deal
  • 2 Murderous Cut

Enchantments

  • 1 Whip of Erebos
  • 4 Waste Not

Planeswalkers

3 Liliana Vess

Sideboard**

  • 2 Dark Betrayal
  • 1 Hero’s Downfall
  • 4 Bile Blight
  • 1 Pharika’s Cure
  • 1 Nighthowler
  • 4 Staff of the Death Magus
  • 1 Master of the Feast
  • 1 Liliana Vess

How I’ve been playing the deck…

In my opening hand, I am looking for two lands (of coarse), 1 removal spell…probably Hero’s Downfall, Black Cat, Waste Not, and either Despise or Thoughtsieze.  I generally mulligan if I don’t have some kind of disruption…for instance, Master of the Feast might be good in an opening hand against some Jeskai chump decks.  But our meta-game has shifted away from that it seems.  And the Master is generally removed before he can get two attack phases.

I ideally want to get Waste Not online, and really stick it to my opponent.  Lately there has been ZERO enchantment removal in the meta-game.  And Waste Not seems innocuous, until three Zombie Tokens are staring at you.  The deck plays great against most aggro decks, and Master of the Feast makes sure that they have a card in their hand for you to discard and get value from your Waste Not in the mid-game…(The ideal mid-game has an opponent top-decking.)

A couple of cool things that happened over the past few weeks…Liliana ultimate-ed in three matches last week!  This week I was able to produce 20 Zombie tokens on turn five!  (two copies of Waste Not, into a Dark Deal).  Someone Aetherspout-ed Master of the Feast, and said “will he go to the top or the bottom of your deck.”  I chose option C, which was Dark Betrayal, sending him to the graveyard! And the first week I played this deck, someone tried to cancel my Murderous Cut, only to have me cast another copy on top of the stack!

The problem is a new deck has emerged…a near mirror that uses Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver instead of Liliana.  This deck has two big advantages…Dig Through Time, and the planeswalker herself.  I have played against “Esper” variations that also used Elspeth, Sun’s Champion but this past week it was “Sultai” that was taking the stage, featuring Kiora, the Crashing Wave and  Pearl Lake Ancient.  These decks basically are designed to hold off any strategy with Cancel type spells, get a lot of card advantage out of Dig Through Time and scry lands, and hope to eventually drop that bomb…casting the cards exiled with Ashiok, just good old Aertherling style beatdown with the uncountable and hard to kill Pearl Lake Ancient, or ultimate-ing either Elspeth or Kiora, which is generally Good Game.

The past two weekends I have bumped into these decks, and either lost or came to a draw with them.  Lilliana isn’t good against burn decks, and generally I have to side in removal for the small creatures like Goblin Rabblemaster for game two.  I don’t mind losing to those decks…they do what they do, well. What bothers me is what I am playing is pitting black based long form Magic the Gathering against other players who want to go long, but the losing and tie-ing should be able to be overcome.  My “Early Game” and “Mid Game” are good…the “Long Game” is what is in question.

I have made minor adjustments to get the deck where it is now…I added a second Gray Merchant to play this week.  And that was a good choice.  Someone might wonder why not a full four copies, but it stops being a discard deck and wants to become a full on devotion deck.  I specifically switched Brain Maggot out with Black Cat because the Brain Maggot is just a bad Oblivion Ring.  It is really better in devotion decks.  The Black Cat is deterrent.  Unless the person has a hand that they don’t mind getting randomly wrecked and activating Waste Not triggers.

I have found that four copies of Dark Deal are just unnecessary.  This is the first thing I am changing…bumping that down to two copies.  I am also considering dumping Master of the Feast.  He is great for getting cards in the opponents hand.  But he is usually removed after (or during) the attack phase in late mid-game.  I heard a seasoned player, correctly say…”You don’t want control players to have extra cards in their hands.”  He’s right.  That is why the enemy deck is running Dig Through Time and Jace’s Ingenuity.

I am considering switching the Master of the Feast out for Sign in Blood, and using that only to target my opponents when they don’t have cards.  (I am guilty of hitting myself with Sign in Blood.)  This would mean main-decking that other copy of Liliana Vess…or would it?  Another whip or another Erebos?  Erebos is good for that corner card advantage, generally a non-threat to the opponent but I love it when he activates.  I have never ran more than two whips.  Actually, I don’t ever want two of either in my hand, ever.  And that’s why.  Also, this past week for the first time, I really wished I had a Bile Blight to tutor up with Liliana main-deck.  So that will be added.

Hub City Geeks, HELP!  Send me your advice on how I might improve this deck. I’m not sure if I’m playing this Friday night or not…I have a class on Saturday.  Next time I get to play standard, I want Liliana to be at the top!

*Be on the lookout for brand new SpartanNerd Business cards!  If you played me, then you got one!

**(That sideboard is really to protect against Burn and some of the beatdown trick decks that have emerged.  Sometimes I have to side in over ten cards, depending on my opponent.  I am siding in Staff of the Death Magus, which makes it harder for them to be effective.  Usually I am taking out one copy of Waste Not, and this past week a couple of Dark Deals.  Also I prefer not to Thoughtsieze against that fast burn or Red Deck Wins.  Also, I usually switch out Murderous Cut for Dark Betrayal if I am playing another black deck.)

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Fate Reforged Clash Pack “Power vs. Profit”

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First of all, let me say I haven’t been ABLE to play MTG lately, it seems much less review products or blog.  Life has been busy, and I have been tired.  I managed to play on the past couple of Friday nights, one tournament was cool because it was draft.  But I had almost no practice with my standard deck, and lost badly last week with my “Windswept Heath” Junk (abzan) deck.  I intend to play Liliana again this Friday night, but still haven’t got to practice much.  Incidently, also, I have been “drawing” a lot playing the three color style.  Maybe that is really what is motivating me to go back to mono black.

I purchased this product, Fate Reforged Clash Pack…”Power vs. Profit” on release day for Fate Reforged.  It was about $30 at the Tangled Web in Spartanburg.  I skipped the previous Clash Pack, “M15,” because it seemed like a weak offering.  So this is the first such product I have bought.

Some thoughts about it, verses say, getting an Event Deck.  An event deck is similar to an intro deck, but maybe only a little better.  You get 75 cards, a nice box, and a life counter.  Event Decks are kind of what you buy as a casual player, coming in to try Magic for the first time, or whatever.  They might win a match or two, but rarely more than two.  I’m saying this knowing that a lot of SpartanNerd.com traffic comes from me reviewing Event Decks, but in general, they just aren’t that good because the Wizards don’t construct them to be tournament winners.  For instance, they will only have one or two copies of a card that there should be four of.  Or the mana-fixing is slow.  Some of the reason they do it like this is so that new players get more different cards.  I didn’t realize it, until spending some time with some new players, especially kids…there is a “collectors” aspect to what they want.  I’m OK with that, I’m just saying that it makes the Event Decks weaker in general than they should be to be truly competitive.

The Clash Pack idea takes some of the philosophy of the Event Deck, and addresses some of the weaker points.  The Fate Reforged Clash Pack comes with two “better-than-intro-pack” decks.  (a total of 120 cards).  You don’t get a spin-down life counter, but you DO get a box that can hold both decks unsleeved, or one deck sleeved with a sideboard.  (The box is similar to those boxes that came with the “Dual Deck Anthology,” but a little different.)

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The idea is that a player will play with both decks, presumably against each other.  And then craft a competitive deck from the stronger pieces of each one.  I like this better than the “I came in.  Let me buy some cards to play.”  The clash pack makes it so that you are thinking about what you are playing ahead of time.  Then do what you are supposed to do for a Standard tournament, and “construct” a deck.

You can see the cards in the video below.   Both the “Power” and the “Profit” deck are featured.  If you are a veteran player, you will notice right away that some of the first cards are “alternate art.”  For me, this was a major reason to purchase the product.  I love the Whip of Erebos alternate art, as well as Hero’s Downfall and Reaper of the Wilds.

The “Power” Deck

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This deck is Sultai; Black, Green, and Blue.  It is very clear that the deck is great at getting cards into the graveyard.  The idea is that you will load your graveyard, cast a few flyers with delve, and maybe control the game with the graveyard using Necropolis FIend’s ability.  A big positive…there are four copies of Satyr Wayfinder, a big clue that the design here is better than an Event Deck.  The mana-fixing is of the slow “gain-land” variety, and I’m not sure a person should ever play a banner outside of draft, sealed, and commander styles.  The instants and sorceries are perfect for their respective color, and both Sulai Charm and Sultai Ascendancy are really great for this deck.  Oh yes…did I mention Treasure Cruise, a card that is so good it is already banned everywhere except Standard?  I believe that fixing the mana better, using Polluted Delta, Mana Confluence, or similar, then this deck might be really good as it is.  You might trade up to four copies of Hero’s downfall, but Murderous Cut is really good.  And you have a backup win condition, Scuttling Doom Engine!  You could modify it by adding Taisigur or Sidisi…I’m not sure Herald of Torment is the best choice here, as it usually won’t do anything but hurt you.

The “Profit” deck

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There is no blue in this deck, so we could call it “Galgari.”  What “Profit” tries to do is use the “constellation” mechanic.  For me, historically, this has been weak sauce.  Eidolon of Blossoms is really … so-so.  And it is a good case study for most of Constellation.  For four mana, you get a 2/2 with a card draw ability triggering when it enters the battlefield and whenever another enchantment enters the battlefield.  Maybe I’m just dumb, but the trigger doesn’t go off if your spell gets canceled, and that is exactly usually what happens.  (sadness).  If not, the Eidolon just gets murdered before you can trigger constellation and draw a second time.  (more sadness).  But I really like the other thing this deck does…It keeps cards in the graveyard for more power.  Nighthowler is a key card here, and there should be more of them in this deck.  (I suppose they didn’t want to add TOO MANY RARES.) But you get Nemesis of Mortals, who is a big guy for cheap with more stuff in the graveyard.  The deck has a few spiders to catch those flyers in the other deck, including one of my personal favorites, Nyx Weaver.    Dark Betrayal is no good against opponents who are not playing black creatures…Not a problem when clashing against “Power,” but no good except for side boarding in tournaments.  This deck tries to have more life gain.  The Courser of Kruphix is ALWAYS a good card.  The Whip of Erebos as well, and this is a card where a one-of is welcomed.  Finally, the Wizards must have their eye on the meta-game…Doomwake Giant is a currently good card against Jeskai “prowess” decks and Blue-White “heroic” decks.

The Matchup

The decks are fun to play against each other.  That’s why the clash pack is a great product.  It combines the fun of the Dual Deck, with the collection builder of an Intro deck, and the ambition of an event deck.  The Wizards pitted two graveyard philosophies against one another, with tremendous success.  The flying killers of Power verses the giant graveyard lovers of Profit.

The Mixup

The promotional insert provides a suggested deck.  I don’t think it is as good as it could be.  For one thing, it splashes the blue for the Sultai cards, but the designers decided to mana-fix with Jungle Hollow instead of Dismal Backwater.  That seems a little wrong to me.  Thankfully they opted for only two Opulent Palace, which has been the correct choice for the current Standard environment.  I think Herald of Torment just doesn’t fit this deck.  It would be better with another Hero’s Downfall, or maybe Nighthowler.  I even think a fourth copy of Nyx Weaver would be better if the purpose of the Herald of Torment was to provide evasion on turn three.  I will even go as far to say that Sultai Scavenger is a better, probably cheaper flyer.  The Herald needs to bestow on something with Heroic to be worthwhile.

Just the same, I think it is great that the Wizards are encouraging people to mix the decks.  If all you had were these 120 cards in your collection, then you have some good tools to really get going in making your preferred “Delve” or “Dredge” deck.  And the experience can even be educational, as your tournament opponent drops “Polluted Delta” on the battlefield, turn one, and you have played “Dismal Backwater.”  The opponent gets to Thoughtsieze that Necropolis Fiend right out of your hand on turn one, while you cry because your land … couldn’t ..even …do ………anything.

(Maybe that was a little too mean…)

SpartanNerd’s Rating of Magic the Gathering Fate Reforged Clash Pack “Power vs. Profit”

I am going to examine the merits of the product first.

You get 120 cards, with lots of rares, and six special art promo cards.  The promotional material is pretty good, and it includes the guide for new players.  You also get a reasonably good box with a divider, if the latch is one of those weak ones that I detest.

But that doesn’t do enough to knock off a point.  SO the actual product gets 5/5.

Next I will examine each deck on its strong and weak points.

“Power” leans on the graveyard for Delve costs, and hopes to drop Necropolis Fiend on the battlefield early, and control the opponent with even more delve.  It has a backup strategy of Scuttling Doom Engine.  This deck is more of a control deck, featuring two Murderous Cuts and cancel-type spells.  Of the two, I like it the best, but I am taking off a point because the Mana-fixing is slow, and Herald of Torment sucks.  It gets 4/5.

“Profit” leans on the graveyard as a way of boosting creature power and toughness, and also leans on Constellation.  Constellation works great against the Power deck, but not in the current metagame for tournaments.  This is more of an aggro” deck, with the aim of getting Nighthowler bestowed onto something and beat you down with that suddenly huge creature, or getting Nemesis of Mortals out and activating Monstrosity sooner than you normally should.  Most of the creatures help load the graveyard and trigger constellation if you are lucky.  One of the best inclusions is Doomwake Giant, who is hot in the meta-game against Prowess decks.  This deck gets 3/5.

And the experience as a whole this time gets a score.  

This clash pack stands a head taller than any of the last three Event Decks I purchased.  It was five more dollars, but worth every bit of it.  I am going to give this part a 4/5, because it could have been a weak offering just as easily.

As if the SpartanNerd’s ratings really meant anything out there in the Blogosohere.  It seems I am giving the Fate Regorged Clash Pack a 4/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

SpartanNerd Review…”R2-D2 Draft” at the “Tangled Web Comics and Games”

Regular readers of The SpartanNerd Blog will know that just about the ONLY place to play Magic the Gathering in Spartanburg is at “The Tangled Web Comics and Games”…Be sure to visit them sometimes.  I mention this because the most recent tournament I played in is of the kind that ONLY can be played there.  “R2-D2 Draft.”

Here is what it really is.  It is one of those Coca-Cola coolers on wheels that you see in gas stations filled with ice and glass bottles of coke in the middle of the summer.  It got its name because evidently at some point in its history it had decorations like R2-D2 on it, which have since been removed, but the name lives on.  The store owner puts piles and piles of cards in the cooler, and mixes them up.  If you just want some cards at any time, you just have to pay $5 for ten seconds to pull out a giant pile of cards.  Some will be good.  Some will not.  This is the beauty of the game.  You get a ton of cards more than you would for a booster pack, plus a ton more of rares.  And the nature of this thing is that the cards are from all manner of sets and collections.  You never know what you’ll get!

So for the “draft” tournament, everyone makes a deck from cards they get from the R2-D2 bucket.  The technical term for this tournament would be “bucket cube” or something like that.  And it isn’t really a draft as much as it is a sealed deck.  (You aren’t passing the cards around and picking your favorites.)

I don’t know if I was lucky or if I am starting to just get good at limited formats.  But I made it all the way to the top and lost in the final round!  Here is what my deck was…

1 Crackleburr

This was the real key to my success.  FOUR COPIES OF CRACKLEBURR!  If my opponents didn’t remove them, then they would get hammered over and over.  If they removed them because they are indeed annoying, then I would drop some bomb and they wouldn’t have removal then.  I never saw this card before today, but I am certainly glad to add it to my collection!

2 red bombs

Here are those bombs I mentioned…

3 useless bombs

Sorry about the blurry picture.  These guys were largely useless.  And Panoptic Mirror was a mistake to add to this deck.  I should have added some other chump or something.  The thaumaturge just amounted to a chump blocker, as did the other guy.  I could have played cheaper chumps, in other words.  But sometimes these guys would coerce my opponent into removing them.  They seem scary.

4 great cards

Here are my best combat tricks in this deck.  I had another Awe Strike in my card pool, but I didn’t play it.  (Should have.)  The creature card here made a land tap for any color.  (mana fixing)  Awe Strike could buy you some extra time and undo a burn spell.  I would hold cloud shift until the right moment, and then blink a creature that something bad was being done to.

I also used some burn spells.

5 burn spells

I used these spells sparingly, treating them as removal.  I only burned an opponent out once.

6 Goblin Churigeon

I got three copies of “Goblin Churugeon.”  (I found out that that is another word for surgeon.)  The goblin didn’t attack, as a 0/2.  But sacrificing him or another goblin allowed me to regenerate one of the bombs if they happen to be targeted with removal.

7 chumps

Here is the rest of my chumps.  a couple of goblins and flyers.  The Scalding Devil was a good mana sink.

And finally the lands.

8 lands

Only one fixing land here, Izzet Guildgate.  In hind-site, I shouldn’t have played four plains.  Two would have done the job.

The tournament went down like this…NO ONE COULD BEAT ME!  Only one guy, someone I never saw before named “Chris.”  He beat me in round three, and guess who I had to face in the final round of the tourney?  Yep.  Chris again.  In the middle of the match, he informed me that he played in the pro-tour France, so…  The very last match, (the third of 2-out-of-3) was the first time I had mana screw.  All I could draw were the stupid white lands!  And his green and red based deck just flattened me!

I never play blue and red.  Why did I this time?  The Crackleburrs and the goblins were good enough.  I thought about trying something with “Sporemound” but didn’t really have the support.  I had Goblin War Drums…a card Chris played and I didn’t like a dummy.  My thinking was and enchantment like that is kind of useless in sealed.  But in that case it really wasn’t.  So I learned from that.  Most of my artifacts were garbage.  I had several crab things, but they were over-costed and really bad cards.  One opponent looked through my sideboard as I played, and when my match was over mentioned that I should have sided “Circle of Protection: Green.” in the end.  But I didn’t.  I’ll know better next time!

This small tournament was a great warm-up for tomorrow night’s pre-release for “Khans of Tarkir.”  Maybe I will do just as good then!

I will keep you posted, oh Hub-City Geeks!

 

 

SpartanNerd Endorsement….Custom MTG Cards!

I get to promote something big and new!  YES!

I attended the Theros Block Booster Draft at the Tangled Web Friday night, and was treated to something truly special.

Follow this link to see the brilliant art that this artist does to Magic cards!  I saw her Panoramic Islands in person, and the Astral Cornucopia was for sale.  (I didn’t pick it up…too much already invested that night.)  Of the work shown on the link, my favorite is “Debt to the Deathless,” which is a pretty good card as it is.

If you like this work, you should look into buying some of it.  It’s reasonably priced, especially for the quality of work and the fact that it is hand painted.  If nothing else go on over to her blog and leave a comment.  Mention that the SpartanNerd sent you when you do.

Peace out, Hub City Homies!