Tag Archives: Archenemy Nicol Bolas

Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Bolas?


Chris and I have been talking for a few months as if our time in Magic the Gathering is over. Regular readers of the page know that this is not unusual. Our interest in the game ebbs and flows as it does with most of you, I’m sure. However, this time felt different.

First, the Marvel Secret Empire event pulled me back into comics. I got to the point where I was spending almost $200 a month on them. That is not exactly conducive to having extra money for cards, too. Why do nerd hobbies have to be so damn expensive?

Back in my day, you could get a comic book, a loaf of bread, and a show at the nickelodeon (the TV network) for less than 4 dollars. Also, get the hell off my lawn.

Second, none of the recent sets have excited me. Usually when I’m going through a lull, I can point to a set that might have potential to get me interested. I still bought cards to collect, but going back to Innistrad and the return of the Eldrazi (even in their Annihilator-less form) left me flat. Amonkhet had some cool lore and Chris and I even did a Winchester draft with the set, but I never bought any product from the second set. That’s the first time that has happened since I got back into the game. It just looked like comics were going to be my hobby.

Then, some things happened and the tide turned. I’ve been writing for a couple of months now that I didn’t think 200 bucks per month was sustainable. Well, I finally discussed it with my wife and her opinion matched me and Chris. 3 out of 3 meant that I needed to reevaluate. Then, the kids asked me to play Magic a few weeks ago and we did. It’s the first time that they’ve all been old enough to understand and play by the rules. I’ve been looking for a reason to buy the Nicol Bolas Archenemy set and they finally gave me that reason.

I mean, other than the obvious reason of being able to play as a big ole dragon, of course.

Also, I have been listening to podcasts (as I do every day during my commute) and Planet Money has featured a couple of episodes on arbitrage. Coincidentally, Chris has decided to try his hand at exploiting inefficiencies in the MtG market after a conversation about how the release of a new set often sees old cards that were worth almost nothing gain value due to their inclusion in new decks. He keeps me updated on a semi-daily basis and he has inspired me to attempt the same.

Finally, I’ve take a look at Ixalan. My verdict? Pirates and dinosaurs are cool. Frankly, though, I came to that verdict after some discussion with the boys. I took my comic money, bought a box and a fat pack (bundle now, but it feels awkward to call it a bundle bundle) bundle and we’re going to open it as a family. There will be plenty of time to dissect Ixalan. This article is about our experience with the Nicol Bolas Archenemy set.

The Good

It is multiplayer Magic. When we played a few weeks ago, we played 2-headed giant with me and Quinn against the his two older brothers. It allowed everyone to play at the same time, whereas our “tournaments” often see one match end early, people get bored, and they eventually give up on ever finishing the tournament. Since we were all in the same match at the same time, nobody got the chance to get bored and walk away.

Nicol Bolas can be played as a four player game, but there were only three of us the night we played because Liam had play practice that night. Still, the three of us had fun even as Aiden complained about how OP the Nicol Bolas deck is. I was playing as the deck and I have to agree with him. Granted, you are playing against multiple players as the deck, but I feel like they might have overdone it a bit with some of the cards in the supplementary deck.

This is one of the milder cards. You cast them for free and some of them affect the remainder of the game.

But, this is the good section of the article. There is plenty of good to the set. The decks are each built around a planeswalker. In addition to that planeswalker, the decks contain some fun and interesting cards from the history of the game. Some of the cards are actually very good and with the right pilot and circumstances, the decks might even hold their own against the dragon. More testing is necessary to see if the decks should be tweaked a bit or if they will work right out of the box.

The Bad

As mentioned, we’ve only gotten a chance to play once. Aiden said that he’s played it with his friends at school during recess time, but that was the absolute first time that I’ve ever played it. As a result, my opinion might not be fully formed and there might be some bad that I’m overlooking.

Because, there isn’t much bad that I can say about the set. The decks seem to be fun. It is a different way to play Magic the Gathering with a larger group of players. Sure, Nicol Bolas is a powerful deck and made more powerful by his schemes, but that fits right into the lore of the character. He’s supposed to be one of the big bads and it wouldn’t feel right if any group of players could just get together and steamroll.

Hey, Buddy, show some respect. We’re not just “any group of players”!

This is so weird. I previewed the “bad” and “ugly” in my good section. I’m technically telling how good the game is in the bad section. This is pandemonium. What’s going to happen in the ugly section?

The Ugly

The only bad that I can say about the game is that the scheme deck for the dragon is overpowered, just as I said in “the good” previous section. It might be that the game really isn’t designed for less than 4 players, even though they have rules for less. The boys put up a decent fight, but my deck just steamrolled them with the free removal, card draw, mana, and everything else good about the game of Magic the Gathering. The one game that we played was just ugly for poor Aiden and Quinn. Bolas destroyed nearly all hope they had of ever gaining an edge, forget about even winning the game.

Aiden did say that he hadn’t seen the scheme deck before. I wonder if at school the kids don’t use the deck because it offers such a distinct advantage to a deck that maybe doesn’t need the help. In addition to trying to think of ways to improve the Gatewatch planeswalker decks, I might try to play a game without the scheme deck to see if it makes a difference and makes the game more even.

The Verdict

Even with the ugliness of the overpowered schemes, it seemed like the boys had fun with it. Just like 2 headed giant, all four of us can play at the same time. That makes it more likely that we will finish a game instead of losing players to complacency and boredom. Playing this has inspired me to get back into the game more. I have also inquired about Pokemon and Yu Gi Oh again and will be ready when Aiden goes through his phase again and wants to play those games. Right now, he and his brothers are all about some online Pokemon RPG that they are playing with friends. But, I’ll be looking forward to our games again, hopefully in the near future.