SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…”Swell the Host” Commander 2015

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So I am at my next to final unboxing and review of the 2015 Commander set, this time reviewing the green and blue deck “Swell the Host.”

Right off the bat I would like to say that the color scheme on this packaging is an eye catcher.  The general featured also looks very menacing.

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The back shows off some other feature cards from the deck.

I don’t believe I have ever made a Green-Blue commander deck before.  Keep reading if you want to see how it turned out for me!

 

I unboxed this product as I have learned to do it best…open from the bottom first.

Then you get a plastic blister, and you can see the deck box and the oversized commander card.

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And here is all of the product.  Left to right, Ezuri, Claw of Progress oversized general card, Swell the host box top.  Commander guide to playing the deck.  MTG rules reference card.  The bottom of the deck box, with he plastic tray standing, and the deck in cellophane with the new “experience counter” token on top.

The deck boxes are truly pretty crappy.  As I have accumulated all of these, I am finding that I am annoyed by trying to put 100 sleeved cards into one of these boxes.  They are fine for unsleeved cards.  But if you want to take care of the cards, these boxes barely cut the mustard.  I try side-loading them into the boxes and angling them, and then they fit, but I don’t believe that to be the best solution.  That little tray is even more useless than the old cardboard spacer they used to contain way back in 2013 and 2014.

I generally try to be optimistic about these boxes.  They look really cool.  But I now have something like twelve commander decks in these boxes stacked up in my “nerd closet.”  And there problems are showing.

This time I thought I would take a closer look at the rules reference card before tossing it.  I was curious if it gave us rules for Commander?  Nope.  Just regular magic rules.  Making this a big idiot thing to include for new players.

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Notice it says “Each player starts with 20 life.”  Wrong style of rules for a Commander deck.

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The other piece of paper is the guide to playing the deck.  More of that delightful color scheme found here, and images and story for this general.

Oh yes.  Also the decklist.

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Let’s spend some more time looking at this general.  “Whenever a creature with power 2 or less enters the battlefield under you control, you get an experience counter.”  This means this deck is going to be filled with useful chumps.  The second rules text is “At the beginning of combat on your turn, put X +1/+1 counters on another target creature you control, where X is the number of experience counters you have.  Oh yeah…Ezuri is only a four drop, so….

I am going to go ahead and tell you…this deck makes the best use of the experience counters than any of the other decks in this series I have reviewed.  Maybe it’s me, the player.  But I think not.  I believe you are getting lots of value from the cards in this deck.  Ezuri begs to be removed, because you can easily get those counters, and at your combat step, someone is growing huge!

Onto the reveal of the cards.

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First, tokens.  These are the double sided kind…I am showing both sides to you.When these enter the battlefield, you typically will get a counter.  The red dragon jumped out at me right away.  How can that fit in this deck?  Well it does!

I am revealing the cards in order of packaging.

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Each one of these cards gets you an experience counter if Ezuri is on the battlefield.  Very notable is Ninja of the Deep Hours.  I never had this card before, but he has “Bushido”, a neat trick that can get you surprise card draw.  The others all have some utility.  Eternal Witness gets you a creature back.  Elvish Visionary gets you  a card.  Lorescale Coatl, gets you a card.  Coiling Oracle.  More card advantage.  Wistful Selkie…draw a card.  In fact, I am impressed overall with the amount of card advantage this deck can get you.  Stingerflinger Spider will destroy a flyer.  Trigon Predator is a big flyer.  You get options with Noble Quarry.  Right away these are really good, low cost cards.  And any one can be a target for Ezuri.

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This batch off the top of the stack features some of the more ubiquitous cards in Commander.  Sol Ring, Krosan Grip, Swiftfoot Boots.  Etc.  Snake form is notable…this deck almost has a snake tribal feel to it, there are so many snakes.  Also Muldrifter is here, and the new mana rock, Thought Vessel…I like to call this card “reliquary rock.”  You get the effect of Reliquary Tower and an artifact that taps for mana.  Maybe my favorite new non-legendary from this set as a whole as a general addition to the game of Commander.

It is important that I mention that a lot of things in this deck can happen on top of the stack.  (Instant Speed).  The other Commander decks that I have unboxed and reviewed in this set were really light on instant speed.  I don’t even think “Call the Spirits” had any instants in the whole deck!  This deck has flash, instants, “cast only during the declare blockers step” etc.

Now for a look at the three legendary creatures.

Ezuri, Claw of Progress gets a regular sized card, of course.  Then we have Kasuto, Orichi Archmage, and Prime Speaker Zegana .

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I haven’t tried Prime Speaker Zegana yet.  She was the Simic boss from Return to Ravnica.  I have already spoken alot about Ezuri….Remember how I mentioned the Snake tribal theme…now the reason becomes apparent when you try Kasuto as your general.  You can reliably make your snakes huge and unblock able.  Kasuto has brought me a couple of wins!

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Next, a bunch of rares.  As always, the Commander deck gives us a ton.  And they do so much.  Someone who keeps coming up for me, Cold Eyed Selkie.  This card nets you a ton of cards in this deck!  Solemn Simulacrum is fun if you can destroy him right after he enters the battlefield, netting you a land and card draw (an an experience counter!).  Arbor Colossus is great for endgame.  Command Beacon is new…you can sac it to return your general to your hand from the command zone.  (Skirting the rules of Commander.)  Arachnogenesis can save your butt unexpectedly, as well as trigger a ton of experience counters if you have Ezuri on the field.  Mystic Snake has flash, and can counter a target spell.  (That’s just sick!)  Scythe claw can really scare an opponent.

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Bident of Thassa is an awesome card in this deck, and Orochi Hatchery lets you get snake chumps to trigger experience counters.  High Market is a land that is a sac outlet (use with Solemn Simulacrum)  Remember that red dragon token?  In a pinch, you can play Day of Dragons, and turn your critical mass of chumps into 5/5 flying dragons!  (Play carefully…I got a game loss with this card.)

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Basic lands.  Boring.  Following them were the non-basics.

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The only one of these that I really hate is Simic Guildgate.  Why not give us a scry land instead?  I never had Zoetic Cavern before, but it is a land with morph.  Since there is no other morph in this deck….(not sure it belongs here?)

 

PLAYING THE DECK

This is the funnest Commander deck I have played since Oloro, Ageless Ascetic or Derevi, Empyrial Tactician.  Those two decks were fun because their Commanders were so effective.  This deck is fun because not only is Ezuri, really good, but also Kasuto.  (He COULD be a tiny leader as well, if anyone cares.)

I believe it to be so fun because of the reactivity of the deck, and the consistently scary thing of always having a fatty on the board.  Because there really isn’t a way to remove experience counters, if you can get Ezuri on the board and protect him, you are never a player that can be ignored.  And because there is so much card draw here, you rarely gave mana screw.  Some of the other decks have Thought Vessel or Reliquary Tower, but I have scripted my head about why, they seem to rarely have enough relevant card draw.  Not a problem with this deck.

I have played this deck only against actual opponents, no solitaire this time.  It has a record of 4 to 2.  It lost to Prossk, Skyraider of Kerr, which is just a tricky deck to play with surprise win conditions.  And it lost to Forged in Stone, after a long and grindy match.  But it also beat that deck once.  The deck also beat Call the Spirits soundly, Plunder the Graves, and Wade into Battle from the same set soundly.  I believe it is because the plan of keeping chumps on the board and having them beefed up at instant speed or whatever is just a better strategy!

SPARTANNERD RATING

Besides my complaints about the deck box, this deck is really good.  It is quite fun!  I played Ob Nixilis for a long time, but eventually got bored with the mono black demons theme, which lost about seventy percent of the time.  This deck is almost the exact opposite of that deck.  And I never ventured to make a blue green commander deck before of my own, playing this one vanilla has been all new for me.

So I rate this deck 5/5!  It does the “Fun” thing better than any of the other Commander 2015 decks I have opened so far!

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Wade into Battle

Today I present to the world the SpartanNerd’s third review of a Commander deck from the 2015 set.  This deck is titled “Wade Into Battle,” and features a red-white color scheme and a nifty new general named Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas.”  Read on for a complete review!

“Wade Into Battle” comes in the same kind of box as all of the other Commander decks from the past few years, featuring a large window showcasing the main card in the deck, oversized and in foil.  The package has a nice red-yellow look too it, like fire, or glowing metal, or lava.

Flipping the box over reveals some of the cards from the deck, and an inspiring message.  (All of the propaganda doesn’t really mean anything to me.  My big question is “how fun is the deck?”)

I am going to go ahead and apologize.  I had some technical difficulties with the pictures.  I’m not sure how, but I took some pictures, and only some of the image ever made it through.  Nothing too important, as this didn’t happen to the main part of the deck.  But the unboxing pictures fell victim of this.  Sorry!  But I assure you, that the deck was packaged exactly like the other two decks I have reviewed.

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You get a nice deck box, with a plastic tray (trash) and a guide to playing Magic (also trash.)  You get a poster with a decklist and instructions, which I always keep.  And the cards wrapped in cellophane.

Who is this general?

A double striking, vigilant giant 3/3 soldier!

This chick is ooooozing with flavor.  Apparently in the early sets of Magic, there was a card called “Hill Giant.”  And he was a 3/3 red creature.  Kalemne captures that.  She also captures the flavor of the Theros block, Iroas being the god of war in Theros, who also had a red-white color scheme.  Double-Strike was prominently featured on cards during the Theros block as well.

It is the bottom ability that is all-new.  With this set of Commander, we get a new thing called Experience Counters, counters for the player that are permanent.  Poison Counters were the only kind of counters before this set.  But Experience Counters are a positive thing, and Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas gets +1/+1 for each experience counter you have.  And how do you get these?  By casting creatures with a converted mana cost of five or greater.  (It goes without saying, Kalemne must be on the battlefield for you to get the Experience counters.)

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Sorry for the blurry pics.  But we get two other possible commanders.  Anya, Merciless Angel, and Gisela, Knight of Goldblade.

These other two generals want you to build around their abilities and the fact that they are ANGELS!  Gisela is a reputable Commander.  Anya is looking for other players to have a pretty low life-total.

 

Here are the cards.  I am going to drop some commentary below each picture.

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First of all, the RARES.  These pre-constructed Commander decks always contain an incredible amount of rares!  And notice the converted mana costs…most of them are five-or-greater!

Almost all of the creatures in this deck are GIANTS.  I would say this was a tribal deck.

We get two Titans.  You can’t sniff at any of the cards in that cycle!  Blade of Selves is a money card in this deck, giving the person it is equipped to “Myriad.”  This new mechanic causes all of your opponents to be attacked by a copy of the same creature it is equipped to.  Unfortunately, Myriad is a dead ability if you are playing two player Commander.

Hostility is an incredibly fun card that can get you tokens…but you have to be able to cast spells that cause damage.  Still, he is a 6/6 with a six CMC.

We get a giant legendary Leonin (to further add to the Theros flavor and offer a new white commander)  and Hamletback Goliath.  (This guy…they sell a promo version of him on three-pack sets at Wal-Mart…the packs are from Return to Ravnica block.)

Angel of Serenity…an Angel with an O-RIng ability for three creatures.

And tons more giants including Fumiko, the Lowblood…a legendary red creature with Bushido, and is a possible red general for another deck.

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Here are the lands.  (This is one of those pictures with the bug, luckily it was still usable.)

Teramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds are begging to be replaced by better fetches.  Command Tower is dedicated commander fixing.  There are a few dual lands, most entering the battlefield tapped…Boros Garrison is notable because it is a bounce land.  We get two vivid lands, that also enter the battlefield tapped, but have charge counters so you can produce the other color if you need to.  And cycle lands.

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We get a new rare dual land this time…Ancient Amphitheater.

(I am not showing you the basic lands.  They are…basic…)

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With these huge CMC cards, there better be some ramp.  And there is!  This deck has a ton of MANA ROCKS.  All of these are mana rocks except Lightning Greaves, which is equipment.

Notable here is Thought Vessel, a new mana rock that lets you have an unlimited hand size.  Also Dreamstone Hedron, which reflects the current storyline in Magic.  (The Current storyline is Battle for Zendikar/ Oath of the Gatewatch).

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Other spells in this deck, and there aren’t that many, include Fiery Confluence, which is part of a new cycle where you can make up to three choices, and can choose something more than once.  This is a powerful card in this format!

Earthquake is a sweeper, as is Breath of Dirigaz.

There aren’t that many instants…(I noticed in one of the other decks there were ZERO instants.)  This time we get Crib Swap, which is just creepy.  Also, Orim’s Thunder, which can really hurt voltron style players.

Finally, this time I am going to show you the tokens.  They are double sided as in the other decks.  Here is the front side and back side.

$$$THE VALUE OF THE CARDS$$$

Not much here.  Blade of Selves is the money card for this deck.  I looked up the value of everything I thought might be worth something.  Nothing else really.  The titans here are under three dollars.  Rumiko the Lowblood is also.  Turns out that our “new” leonine giant is a reprint.  Gisela isn’t worth much.  And Kalemne is worth less than a dollar.

So if you are in the game for money, this deck isn’t for you!

EXPERIENCES PLAYING THIS DECK.

The first match was against “Call the Spirits.”  This deck came out the winner!  Call the Spirits created many tokens, but  Earthquake took them out, and then the giants coming in after that were just too much.

Matches two and three were solitaire against “Defeat a God” and “Face the Hydra.”  The first deck was just too much, too fast…several times in a row.  The Hydra deck was a blast..giant hydras against giant giants!  But Kalemne came out the winner.

“Forged In Stone” from Commander 2014 lost in a similar way to “Call the Spirits.”  Tis time is was Breath of Diregaz, followed by Kalemne herself and a few angel friends crunching in behind.  The thing about Breath of Diregaz, when it is kicked, it only deals four damage to each creature.  SO….the giants and angels survive through that!

And finally, a matchup against “Plunder the Graves,” this time piloted by the SpartanKid.  He discovered a combo, and made a REAL challenge for “Wade into Battle.”  The combo went like this.   Champion of Stray Souls plus Kraul Death Priest plus Terastodon= Churning through the graveyard to create card advantage.    Terastodon continually destroys things and replaces them with 3/3 green elephants.  I managed to break this combo by playing Angel of Serenity and exiling all three pieces of the combo.  It had taken awhile for the SpartanKid to get that combo going, and so he was at a low life-total.  Unfortunately so was I.  But I top-decked Fiery Confluence for the win!

SPARTANNERD’s RATING OF “WADE INTO BATTLE.”

It took me awhile to get this review out.  I haven’t had that much of a chance to play.  I also had issues with the pictures.  But it has been fun every time.  Kalemne is a great commander who makes great use of those experience counters.

The deck could have a better mana base.  And I wish the wizards would have printed the cycle of temples for us this time.  The new dual land is perfect for this deck.  And the inclusion of all those mana-rocks…that’s just dumb.  There should be a better way, or at least better mana rocks.  Why not Boros Keyrune, which can become a creature?  Why no man-lands?  If you are going to have fixers enter the battlefield tapped, they should do something.  Guildgates are useless outside of limited.

But the creatures in this deck are fun.  It is good to have no less than five legendary creatures.

And that ton of rares was also nice.

Like I mentioned, Myriad is useless against a single player.  You have to have multi-player games for that to matter.

But like I said, the deck has been fun overtime.  So I am going to rate it a cautious 4/5, because of the strange mana base.  But it is a winner, and is fun.

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