From the Vault: Transform…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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Here’s what’s inside.

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

 

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

Now let’s look at and discuss the cards.

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

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

So here are the cards with some commentary.

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Garruk Relentless//Garruk, the Veil Cursed.

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

Chandra, Fire of Kaledesh//Chandra, Roaring Flame

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

Liliana, Heretical Healer//Liliana, Defiant Necromancer

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

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

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

Huntmaster of the fells//Ravager of the Fells

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

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

Arguel’s Blood Fast//Temple of Alcazotz

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

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

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

Arlinn Kord//Arlinn, Embraced By the Moon

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

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

Nissa, Vastwood Seer//Nissa, Sage Animist

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

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

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

Nothing to see here.  Move along.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delver of Secrets//Insectile Aberation

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

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

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

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

Archangel Avacyn//Avacyn the Purifier

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

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

Bloodline Keeper//Lord of Lineage

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

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

Elbrus the Binding Blade//Withengar Unbound

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

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

I left the weirdest for last…

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

Weird.

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

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

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

THE SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF FROM THE VAULT TRANSFORM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic the Gathering “Blessed vs. Cursed” Duel Decks

I have truly arrived at enjoying, even reveling in the casual format “Duel Decks.”  The wizards constantly put out Duel Decks products, and I can’t wait to get a new copy upon its release.  The Duel Deck Anthology is EASILY the most played MTG cards at the SpartanNerd House…if we want to play a ready made deck that is no problem to just pick up, look no further than Jace, Garruck, Liliana, or Chandra.  I also have amassed quite a few of the more recent decks, the most favored of which seem to be Jace vs. Vraska.  The “Cunning” from Speed vs. Cunning is also pretty challenging…(It’s the morphs.)

I top-8-ed at the Tangled Web on Friday, February 26, and conceded to my opponent outright because I was getting tired and had Saturday morning obligations.  (That I reached the Top 8 at a Modern event at the Tangled Web is quite an accomplishment for me!  I was playing Black/White Tokens/Soul Sisters/Control.  White Weenie, I guess.)

On my way out the door, I happened to look at the corner shelf and set eyes for the first time on Blessed vs. Cursed, and knew I had to have it!

Now, it’s been awhile since its release…but I keep getting distracted from the review.  (Life is happening again.)

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Really, the Wizards of the Coast do a good job of making their products look attractive.  And the information on the back is very thorough.  We can see the two premium cards on the front, and on the back we see all of the cards that either are knew or are getting new art for this set.  It is also good that they include a table of contents.

You’ll notice that this deck was only $19.99, which is the same as most of the duel decks products.  This time it is notable because one of the feature cards is Geist of St. Traft, a card that has been valuable in the past.  Currently on TCGplayer, the original Geist of  St. Traft in foil is worth $57!  This reprint is definitely bringing that value down, which brings up a whole other point.  Why doesn’t this deck feature Liliana of the Veil and Jace, Telepath Unbound?  Those two cards needed a reprint, and here was the chance.  AND traditionally, the Spring duel deck offering does feature planeswalkers….

(I believe Jace to be an important spot filler for Snapcaster Mage in Shadows Over Innistraad standard.  I believe they will reprint Liliana in that set.  Or at least in the following set, where she is prominently featured in the promotional art already.  I believe the Wizards KNOW that they would hurt the secondary market on a store level with those reprints, something they weren’t willing to do.  So here we are, Geist vs. Mindwrack Demon instead.)

Oh yes.  A SpartanNerd tangent!  On with the review!

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Prying the recycled paper off reveals these items.  Top to bottom…right to left.  MTG rules reference card.  Guide to playing the deck.  Cards and spin down counters in a plastic tray, and two deck boxes, one intended for Geist of St. Traft’s deck, and the other for Mindwrack Demon’s deck.  Neither deck box is good enough to hold sleeved cards.  But they are pretty!  The life counters feature the “planeswalker” symbol where the number 20 would be.

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The guide to playing the deck showcases the two lead characters…the knew art for Geist of St. Traft looks suspiciously like someone I play MTG against at the Tangled Web…(You know who you are, BC!)  The Mindwrack Demon is one of the ugliest creatures I’ve ever seen depicted…I believe the Wizards were trying to create a “predator” sort of character,  It’s like his whole head is a mouth!

You get some fiction.  I generally don’t read these.  I did this time.  It is very much the kind of writing that is meant to pull you into a story.

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The other side features instructions for playing each deck…and the ever important deck lists.

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Notice that I’ve said nothing about the other piece of paper…I just put it straight in the trash.  But this is the kind of product that a person might purchase to see if they are interested in playing Magic cards.  So it is definelty a good thing for them to add.  They need to refrain from putting that paper in Commander decks, though.

Onto the decks.

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So who is Geist of St. Traft anyway?  I have no idea, but I know what the card does well, as I was beaten down plenty by it during my early days   (He’s a small hex proof creature.  Whenever he attacks, he gets an Angel token buddy.

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I am going to be going over the cards a little at a time…in groups of nine…

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Besides Geist, we get Champion of the Parish.  It is important that this card is a human.  In fact, this deck could easily be considered human tribal.  So whenever one of the many humans enters the battlefield, the Champion gets bigger.

I don’t think I’ve seen Dearly Departed before.  This is a card that likes the graveyard.  And it seems that just like during the last Innistraad set, this time we get more love for the graveyard.

Eerie Interlude…another card I’m not sure I’ve seen.  This is a “blink” effect, for multiple creatures…in this case humans…who could trigger enter the battlefield abilities and be totally busted in combination with Champion of the Parish.

Increasing Devotion…yet another printing.  This card is better than say, Raise the Alarm, because it cites that the tokens entering the battlefield are humans.  (But this is an expensive sorcery.)  Oh yeah…it also has Flashback!  More graveyard strategy.  You would never mind discarding or milling this card from your deck.  While the flashback cost is even higher, you get the benefit of DOUBLE the humans!  (Imagine casting this twice…)

Captain of the Mist…at least he’s a human.  For real, he is great for shenanigans.

Cathedral Sanctifier…another printing.  How many are there?  A good life gain human.

Doomed Traveler.  For real, I like casting this card and shaking my head.  I always say “he’s doomed!”  (I am LILLIANA, after all….)

Napahlia Smuggler.  I’m not sure what Naphalia is.  Some kind of drug?  Anyways, at least he’s a human.  But its a sad day if you have to pay four to blink one of your own creatures..

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Moorland Inquisitor.  He can get first strike.  He’s usually good if he is alone on the battlefield.

Topplegeist.  Definitely a new card.  Delirium is a new mechanic from Shadows over Innistraad.  He’s good.  Oh yes.  And uncommon!  This is reliable removal.  Who isn’t going to draft this!

Thraben Heretic…you can hate on the opponents graveyard with this card, similar to Relic of Progenitus.

Elder Cathar is classic.  A human, and you expect him to die to benefit the rest of the army.

Village Bell Ringer…this has flash.  As a 1/4,he can reliably block, but he can also turn your tapped-from-attacking army around to be blockers.  Sick!  Tandem Lookout.  You get card draw when you attack.  And then Chapel Geist…(Yawn)

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Emancipation Angel…My problem with this card is that you HAVE to return a permanent you control to your hand.  I know I’m thinking about it wrong, but what usually happens is that I keep an opening hand with this in it, and then I don’t have hardly anything but land to return after I play it.

Fiend Hunter is a classic O-Ring effect.

Slayer of the Wicked…he specifically wants to  go after bad guys.

Tower Geist.  Has anyone played “Wizards Tower” with this guy?

Mist Raven.  When he enters the battlefield, return target creature to its owners hand.

Spectral Gateguards.  A big blocker.

Grief Vanguard.  Why?  It is a blue human.  But like Naphalia Smuggler, seems to be weak sauce for what it does.

Goodnight Redeemer could be good if you maximize the amount of creatures you have.

Voice of the Provinces.  Another pretty card.  But at six mana, too costly.

Next, the other cards and lands.

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All good spells except Pore over the Pages…..Well, maybe that’s ok.  Rebuke is good removal.  Both pieces of equipment like Humans.  Gather the Townsfolk produces tokens.  I don’t think I’ve seen Momentary Blink.  I prefer Otherworldy Journey to it, though.  And Bonds of Faith.  One of my Favorite.  Cards.  Ever..!  (For real.  I love the art.  And what it does.)

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Lands.  Yawn.  Seraph sanctuary is good if you cast one of your three angels.  Or if you happen to land a Geist of Saint Traft.  Gain lands.  Really?  Why not scry lands.  Or buddy lands.  We get lots of human tokens.

 

What about the other deck?  Here are its cards, presented the same way.

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First of all, Mindwrack Demon.  Who is this guy?  He wants you to fill the graveyard.  And if you can’t, he hurts you.  And does it ever hurt.  If you don’t have four different card types in your yard, you lose four life at your upkeep, (A Delirium trigger).  Typical for an MTG demon.  He’s a 4/5 for four mana. And he can make you lose.

Havengul Runebinder…doesn’t this guy work against you if you have Mindwrack Demon?  I’m just saying…

Gravecrawler. I’m glad to finally own one of these.  This card needed a new printing.  And I might just order more.

Harvester of Souls.  One of my first demons.  This guy is usually good.  But this is the severalth printing.  I wish they could have given us something else..

Sever the Bloodline.  Removal for all those human tokens.  Too bad it’s a sorcery.

Unbreathing Horde.  A 0/0 unless there are Zombies on the battlefield or in the graveyard.

Butcher Ghoul.  Undying.  It is always good!

 

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Three copies of Screeching Skaab.  Self mill.  Yes!

Tooth Collector.  A brand new card.  His delirium triggers the one of the opponents creatures to get -1/-1.

Scrapskin Drake.  It flies.

Ghoul raiser.  This card always seems so slow.

Stitched Drake.  I’m happy to give up a card in my yard to have a big flyer.

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Diregraf Captain.  A zombie lord.  He’s good.  And he hurts your opponents for killing zombies.

Abattoir Ghoul.  He’s big and has first strike.

Driver of the Dead.  Another guy who always seems to be too slow.  Who are you going to get back?  Some 2/2 chump.

Falkenrath Noble.  A drain effect that triggers when someone dies.  Good for this deck.

Makeshift Mauler.  He has semi-delve.  He’s big, I suppose.

Relentless Skaabs.  A big blue undying zombie.  Always good!

Appetite for Brains.  Kind of the opposite of Inquisition of Kozilek.

Human Frailty.  Great removal against humans.

Next, the other cards and lands.

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Cobbled Wings.  This deck lacks so many flyers, so this will be useful.  Compelling Deterence.  A new card, I believe.  Victim of Night.  The opposite spiritually of Slayer of the Wicked, I suppose.  Tribute to Hunger.  Against the humans, they are just going to sac Doomed Traveler.  Forbidden Alchemy.  Good filter and graveyard filler.  Barter in Blood.  So glad we get this art for the card, rather than the old art.  Dread Return.  This is new art for an old classic.  And moans of the unhallowed.  A great token producer.

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Lands.  Couldn’t they have given us something to balance out against Seraph Sanctuary?  Four gain lands and then the plain kind.  So we get another token.  A spirit.  And three zombies.  I wish they gave us different art on these tokens.

 

PLAYING THE DECKS

Zendikar vs. Eldrazi seemed to be perfectly balanced, and so it seems Blessed Vs. Cursed is as well.  Me and the SpartanKid have played four two out of threes, and the record is 2-2.  You can almost always count of Geist of St. Traft winning for you, if you happen to get him.  Mindwrack Demon is good, but not reliable as you might not have the required four card types in the graveyard.

A lot of the enters-the-battlefield effects are dependent on lucky draws and a good opening hand.  You might wish to have Increasing Devotion at the same time Champion of the Parish is on the battlefield, but more often than not, this won’t be the case.  And then there is the chance that you get Emancipation Angel, with almost nothing to return to your hand.

The guide suggests that the Cursed deck doesn’t have flyers…there seems to be enough.  It’s true that the other deck has more flyers, with the spirits and all, but there is enough here.  Grave crawler can be a real problem…a recurring threat that their flying spirits can’t ignore.  (Those things are meant to be blockers.  Lingering Souls, anyone?)

What is the most cool about these decks is the flavor.  It is humans verses zombies.  With a splash of Angels vs. Demons.  It is like playing “The Walking Dead” as a card game.  And that has to be applauded.  The tribal-ness of the two decks is on par with Elves vs. Goblins.  That is saying something!

This product is great.  I can’t imagine giving it anything less that a 5/5.  It’s good!  The only bad thing is the flimsiness of the deck boxes.

This review has been well over a week in the making.  I am just so exhausted from my jobs.  I am also fairly unhealthy…my weight problem plus age is catching up with me.  Sorry, Hub City Geeks, but my output might be a little slower in the future.  Maybe I can turn things around.

So, the SpartanNerd gives Duel Decks, Blessed vs. Cursed a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Zendikar vs. Eldrazi Duel Deck

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I for one am quite psyched about “Battle for Zendikar,” the next large set of MTG cards coming out in October.  I missed Zendikar the first time around, since I wasn’t playing at the time.  But the effects of that set have rippled through the gaming scene enough to where I know it was a big deal.  Everything from Fetch Lands like Verdant Catacombs, to full-art Zendikar basics are very sought after.  And this isn’t even adding in the eldrazi bosses!

The wizards have a little rotation…I should know by now.  I am obviously a collector of duel decks, and certainly wasn’t going to pass this one up.  The rotation goes like this…Duel deck in the fall just before rotation, that features cards with new mechanics,  Duel deck in the spring featuring two planeswalkers,  This duel deck is of the first type.  It features a few new cards from the upcoming set, and spoils some of the mechanics.  This time those mechanics are Devoid, Awaken, Ingest, Landfall, and Level-up, and Annihilator.

I purchased my copy of the deck at The Tangled Web in Spartanburg SC for $19.99.  I think you should go there now and get a copy…I don’t think this one is going to warm the shelves!

So how did my unboxing and initial play go?  Read on for a review!

Packaging

The Duel Decks, Zendikar vs. Eldrazi, came in the same kind of package as the last few.  It doesn’t use heavy plastic, but lighter more recyclable stuff.  It is made of thin poster-style cardboard.  Getting the seran wrap and the cardboard off reveals a thin blister covering a thicker black tray.  Here are the pieces that I removed from the package.

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You get two premium foil cards, “Avenger of Zendikar” and “Oblivion Sower.”  The Avenger has Landfall- Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, put a +1/+1 counter on each plant creature you control.  This card is a re-print, and the wizards stress that it will not be Standard legal.  Oblivion Sower is a new Eldrazi.  When it is cast, the target player exiles the top four cards, and you get to put any number of lands from the exile onto the battlefield for yourself.  (WHAT?  there is going to be some mill-exiling in the next set!)

The other things you get with this set are the two decks, (obviously,) two pieces of paper, one a reference card and the other propaganda with a deck list, two deck boxes, and TWO COUNTER DICE!  This is new, and quite a surprise!  These decks usually come don’t come with counters!  (The wizards recently began putting out fewer event decks, which usually included one.  I suppose this is a refiguring of their resources maybe?)

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The two deck lists…important!  While I generally throw away the reference guide, I keep these.  (I know…the information is on the internet.  This is how I am “prepping!”)

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The art is good.  Aren’t the Eldrazi ugly things!  They look like mutant-jellyfish-human-aliens.

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I am going to go over the Zendikar deck first, photographing the cards, and mentioning what is good about those cards specifically.

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The first cards are the rares.  This is something I have noticed recently about the intro decks as well.  Rares are on top.  No matter what kind of card they are.  Probably the most notable here is Primal Command, a real game-changer.  But none of these are junk rares.  Every one of them is good.  And Veteran Warleader has the potential to be HUGE.

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Lots of cards with landfall.  These cards would make Garruk very happy!  Large creatures that fight and love ramp.  Also notable, the card with level up.

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Khalni Heart Expedition and Harrow are two ways to trigger landfall on your opponents turn.  There are other ways, however.

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Repel the darkness….feels like a blue card.  And then their is Sheer Drop, a new card with Awaken.  (Awaken turns your lands into “man-lands.”

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You get these lands.  Pretty good…the non-basics are sort of average for Duel Decks, though.  (Refuges.  Gain life.  Evolving wilds, and then Forestlasher Grove, which is there for flavor.)

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And FIVE plant tokens.  Another new addition!  (If you’ll recall, regular readers.  I was quite critical of Elspeth vs. Kiora because it didn’t come with adequate tokens.)

Clearly Landfall has to work in order for this deck to win!

Now the Eldrazi deck.

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Vampires, Imps, Hellions, and Eldrazi.  Many bad guys.  Why the bad guys would want to side with Eldrazi is beyond me.  They consume everything, regardless of alignment.  Notable is Dominator Drone, who has Devoid and Ingest.  Devoid means it is colorless, regardless of its required mana cost.  Ingest exiles the top card of their library.  (Remember what Oblivion Sower does?)

We also have It that Betrays.  A reprint.  But notable.

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And now some of my personal favorites.  (Remember, my color is Black!)  Vampire Nighthawk.  AWESOME!  Read the Bones.  Terrific!  Smother.  Can you say “Tiny Leaders?”

There are also some more Eldrazi.  Ulamogs Crusher and Artisan of Kozilek.

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I’m highlighting Corpsehatch because it mentions the 0/1 Eldrazi Spawn.  They are essential to making this deck work.  This deck ramps with them, but also requires sacrifices.

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The lands.  Refuges, Fetches, and Eldrazi Temple for flavor.

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You get these five tokens.  Three different printings of Eldrazi Spawn, and a 4/4 Hellion.

Duel Decks are maybe the most flavorful regular releases from the wizards.  These tokens really add to the story of what is happening during The Battle for Zendikar.

HOW THE DECKS PLAY OUT.

Me and the SpartanKid have played four matches, and it is 2 and 2.  (2 wins for each deck.)  This makes it great for me to write a review!  But it also says something about the decks being balanced against each other.

Both decks are ramp decks.  Both decks use tokens.  Both decks have very large creatures, however the Eldrazi have an edge here.  On the other hand Zendikar can do something with its tokens besides sacrifice them.

The first two matches were won by the Zendikar deck.  Primal Command was an ESSENTIAL card to play correctly.  When Avenger of Zendikar entered the battlefield, lots of plant tokens were produced.  Then the Avenger was targeted and killed.  But the Primal Command lets you shuffle him back into your library and then tutor him back out.  Awesome!  So that meant even more plant goodness on the next turn.  The turn after that, Evolving Wilds became the important card.  (THAT’S RIGHT! Evolving Wilds is GREAT in this deck.  Probably the only way, though.)  When the evolving wilds entered the battlefield, it triggered Landfall on the avenger, and all ten of those plants got a 1/1 counter.  Then you crack the Evolving wilds and get another land, triggering Landfall again.  And GG!  You just swung for 20+!

And all of the ways the deck gets land and triggers landfall really make it work.  While it is a fattie beatdown deck, it is more of an overrun deck.  Even if the Eldrazi sweep away the plant tokens with Marsh Casualties or similar, the creatures in the deck are still pretty formidable.  And every game we’ve played there has been like fourteen or more land on Zendikar’s side of the battlefield.  Then there are tricks like Retreat to Kazandu…an enchantment that has landfall abilities that either put counters on a creature or gain life. Remember, Evolving Wilds is GOOD in this deck.

The second two matches were won by the Eldrazi deck.  The Eldrazi win by finding advantage by producing Eldrazi Spawn tokens, which can be sacrificed for colorless mana, or sacrificed for other purposes.  They also can just be blockers if you are in a pinch.  Which seems to happen quite a bit with this deck.  There are chump creatures, the tokens, and then the massive Eldrazi which are normally un-castable, so you have to buy as much time as you can.  

A couple of favorite tricks…Butcher of Malakir…whenever a creature you control dies, the opponent has to sacrifice a creature.  Meaning that the Eldrazi Spawn tokens become Cruel Edict, but at instant speed.  YAY!  There is synergy here with Bloodthrone Vampire…he gets bigger when you sacrifice things.  These kinds of tricks work really well in Commander.  But with the level of ramp found in this deck, you get to use them here!

So that tells you the other half of the story.  The Eldrazi themselves are winners.  Period.  They can be removed, Ousted, Etc. But they are winners if not answered.  Ulamog’s Crusher and It that Betrays have Annihilate 2.  The opponent has to sacrifice two permanents when they are declared as an attacker. Artisan of Kozilek has it also, but when you cast it you also get to reanimate something from the graveyard.  The new guy, Oblivion Sower, hasn’t shown up yet.  He is meant to have synergy with the new cards with Ingest.  The deck has a few Dominator Drones, and when they attack the player exiles their top card.  Playing Oblivion Sower puts even more cards in the exile zone, and then you can put the exiled lands into play for whatever nefarious purpose you have planned!

Of the two decks, I prefer the Eldrazi.  All those vampires and black cards are just really good.  But there is no denying the goodness of Primal Command and all of the Landfall abilities the other deck can swing.

I’d say this is one of the funnest duel decks I own.  It is every bit as flavorful as Elves vs. Goblins and Liliana vs. Garruk.

SpartanNerd Rating of Zendikar vs. Eldrazi Duel Deck…

I have to give this deck a solid 5/5!  The only real complaint I have is similar to the other complaints I have had about Duel Decks.  This time the deck comes with lots of tokens, but those tokens don’t fit in the boxes.  In fact, you can only fit two plants or two Eldrazi Spawn in either deck with the rest of the cards.

This product has flavor, is fun, has allternate art cards (I hadn’t mentioned that!) ,and comes with plenty of tokens and TWO life counters.  The Wizards went over the top this time.

SpartanNerd rates Duel Decks:  Zendikar vs. Eldrazi a 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!