Archenemy – Nicol Bolas: First Impressions


Wizards has spoiled their latest MTG supplemental product, Archenemy: Nicol Bolas, and I wanted to touch quickly on it today. Though I don’t believe the first Archenemy sold very well seven years ago, I was a huge fan of it, and I did pick up all the schemes to use in multiplayer every so often.

Now, with the latest Archenemy set being Nicol Bolas themed, it’s time to take a look and see what the evil Elder Dragon has in store for poor hapless heroes!

2016 was an excellent year for EDH and multiplayer Magic, as we were given a lot of fun, shiny toys to play with. We started the year with Oath of the Gatewatch, which was the second Battle for Zendikar set and introduced Eldrazi that broke multiple formats. Zendikar II block did have lots of fun multiplayer cards in it, such as Zendikar Resurgent, and was fairly good to all of my EDH decks. Next, we had the latest “sequel to this plane” nostalgia set, Shadows Over Innistrad and its expansion Eldrich Moon, which had even more big bad Eldrazi, tons of flavorful cards, and great utility cards. Over the summer, we were treated to Conspiracy: Take the Crown, which was absolutely one of my favorite Limited sets to draft of all time, and added a lot of awesome generals to EDH like Queen Marchesa. From there, we had Kaladesh, a bright and hopeful new set, just chock-full of fantastic new multiplayer cards like the amazing Panharmonicon. The Commander 2016 set of pre-constructed decks came out, which had 50+ excellent new cards and finally(!) four-color generals in them.

Then this year, we’ve been getting some great Magic sets as well. Aether Revolt had lots of great multiplayer cards in it, like Metallic Mimic, one of the best tribal enablers ever. This was followed by reprint set Modern Masters 2017, which had lots of great reprints in it. Finally, Wizards released the Egypt-themed set Amonkhet, which again, had a ton of great multiplayer cards, like new general Hapatra, Vizier of Poison and Dusk // Dawn.

Basically, 2016 was an awesome year for EDH, and multiplayer Magic in general, and it looks like 2017 is going to be the same. Let’s take a look at the new Archenemy set!

Though I’ve never been a fan of one-versus-many gameplay, in either boardgames or MTG multiplayer games, Archenemy is somehow different. I love the feeling of playing the bad guy, and flipping each Scheme card is a delight as you try to crush the goodguys with your evil plots.

As a matter of fact, I enjoy Archenemy so much that when Theros block introduced the Hydra, Minotaur, and Xenagos decks that you could play against, I set up a huge Archenemy game of EDH with those and the Garruk oversized card from M15, Garruk the Slayer. (A quick recap of that game is here).

Needless to say, I’ve been waiting impatiently to get more Archenemy schemes!

The schemes in this set can be characterized in four different ways:
-Card drawing
-Make threats
-“Cheating” schemes

The new schemes do not disappoint, with tons of very villainous names and flavor texts. Perhaps my favorite is this one:

Choose Your Demise is a scheme-ified version of one of my favorite new MTG cards from the last few years, Fortune’s Favor, and should be excellent for whoever is the Archenemy. I love drawing cards, and I love stocking my graveyard with cards I can use later, and this one scheme does both of those things at once!

It even lets you play mind games with people, as they try to figure out which pile you actually want, face down or the face up pile you are showing them! What a great scheme!

But that’s not to say that this is the only hit here.

When the original Archenemy set came out, one thing I wished they’d expanded on were schemes that could actually kill things. There were three sweeper schemes, Every Last Vestige Shall Rot, Which of You Burns Brightest?, and Behold the Power of Destruction, but other than those, very few schemes would actually kill things for the Archenemy.

Well fear not, fellow evildoers, Wizards has printed more!

Finally, more schemes that let you kill opposing creatures! These schemes should be excellent in the gigantic scheme deck I’ll be building, and I really like the “if you have 6+ lands, do something extra” clause seen on Pay Tribute to Me and several other schemes in this set; they give you more and more evil power as the game goes on, which is awesome.

There are a number of schemes this time around that make 3/3 Horror tokens, giving the Archenemy some creatures to beat people down with (in the last Archenemy set, the token creatures were a bit more varied, with 4/6 Golems, 0/1 Plants, 5/5 flying Dragons, 2/2 Zombies, and so on all running around in the same scheme deck).

These token-making schemes are actually among the most potent in this set, giving you creatures that are sizeable enough to beat your foes quickly (even in EDH, 3/3 creatures can chew through an opponent’s life in a short timeframe). Though I lament the fact that there is only one type of token this time (3/3 Horrors), this batch of schemes will nonetheless be excellent in our Archenemy games.

And then, there are the ‘cheaty’ schemes:

There are a fair number of schemes in this release that let you just straight up bend the rules in your favor, which is pretty sweet.

I especially like Power Without Equal, which gives you a one-shot version of Tamiyo, Field Researcher‘s emblem (and that’s a really powerful ability to have!) I can see this leading to some pretty epic blowouts in the Archenemy’s favor, and I’m fine with that, heh.

So that’s a quick look at Archenemy: Nicol Bolas. I don’t really think the preconstructed decks that come with this set are done particularly well, but the schemes themselves (ie. “what I’m buying this for”) are delightfully evil and dripping with flavor, so I can’t wait to add them to my existing scheme deck.


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