Originally, I wanted to write something about reviewing Betrayers of Kamigawa and all the cards that are going to have an impact on the new format. I knew that my teammates Gadiel and Tim Aten were going to write something about the new set, along with Zvi and many others. Thus I needed to work on something else that was also important that involved Betrayers. What about the different archetypes in Champions block and how they are going to be affected with Betrayers now in? Are there going to be new archetypes? Which archetypes get better? Which ones get worse? All of these questions haven’t really been answered yet, and I’m here today to start doing exactly that.
Reviewing archetypes is probably even more important than just doing a normal set review. Every single set review of Champions had something like “Well if you’re the spirit deck…then this moves up 18 spots blah blah”. So why not just write an article about the different archetypes and how each card impacts each different type of deck. Seems genius right? Yes, it is. I can’t think of a single Limited block that didn’t have different decks where there were many types of cards that were meant to be in them. Onslaught block was a great example of this. Elves, Beasts, Clerics, Soldiers, U/R Wizards, and even Zombies were all played. Even Affinity had its cards that normally you wouldn’t take very high, such as … anything with affinity. I remember taking spellbombs like an asshole first pick, just because of how good the deck was and because Trinket Mage would be waiting for me in the last pack.
Start of random quote from my roommate at school, Taka, when I left room and he started typing on my computer:
“So I had an interesting situation where Josh R Day ordered a triple delicious and in response Rylan was too man pretty but in response to that Fire Department responded. Then Luke Kabat went to the CBA.”
If you’re not from Minnesota, then you should probably just move on, but if you are then wow.
Enough with the introduction, lets get to the deck archetypes. Whenever a new set rotates in, all of the deck archetypes are affected in some kind of way; sometimes good and sometimes bad. Betrayers of Kamigawa adds many cards to the format that are worth looking at. I am just going to talk about the commons today, because uncommons and rares do not affect a draft as much as commons do, unless you are playing against me, in which case you probably have multiple Patrons of the Kitsune and other insane bombs. There are many different deck types in Champions that are worth looking at. The ones that I will be looking at are; U/G, U/W, R/G, R/B, U/R, Dampen, and the R/W samurai deck.
This wasn’t a very popular deck in Champions, but it could be very powerful sometimes. Cards like Frostwielder, Nezumi Cutthroat, Kitsune Riftwalker, and even Kitsune Diviner made people shy away from the deck. Those that drafted it know that you deck can end up pretty ridiculous because both Blue and Green are consistently underdrafted. The deck was usually based on the splice mechanic, with Kodama’s Might the staple card. Kami of the Hunt and Teller of Tales were key cards in the deck being pumped whenever you play another spirit or arcane. The rest of your deck was basically spirit or arcane spells making Teller and the Kami a must need. At GP: Chicago, we had our decks featured for rounds 3-4 and Gadiel ended up playing a spicy little number that had 3 Reach Through Mists and 3 Kodama’s Mights. He didn’t win a match, probably because of the matchups he got with the deck. Round 1 he lost to a singular Kabuto Moth and Teller of Tales. Cards like that just hurt you too much when you have no removal.
What does it gain? It actually gains quite a bit, but at the loss of an entire pack of Kodama’s Mights, Tellers, and Kami of the Hunts, I’m not sure if it’s better now.
Mistblade Shinobi / Ninja of the Deep Hours
Both of these cards are actually very good in this type of deck. They have to play around your Kodama’s Might and Serpent Skin, so blocking is going to be pretty rare for them. Combined with Soratami Mirror-Guard, these guys can get quite absurd. Also, Green decks have an easy time recovering the tempo loss of returning a guy to your hand because of the acceleration from Champions. Deep Hours is probably better, but the Mistblade can end games quite quickly combined with cards like Mirror Guard or Ghostly Wings.
This is just the thing that green needed to make it a competitive color. It basically acts as a Kami of the Hunt most of the times, being generally better but possibly worse. Kami of the Hunt can easily get bigger than a 3/3, but the Mass can’t get G-Rayed and it can block the two-drops without dying. The best Green common in the new set.
Child of Thorns / Teardrop Kami
The one-drop spirits in the new set are all good, but the two that serve as the best “tricks” are these two. The Teardrop Kami is very good when combined with Green, as it can untap your monster and block or tap down a blocker to get damage through. They also combine well with Burr Grafter.
Ribbons of the Reikei
Blue/Green had trouble refueling in Champions after depleting your hand and this card can fill that hole. The ninja is probably better, but this still gets the job done. Obviously becomes a lot better the more spirits you have in the deck. Overall, I would say that Blue/Green gets a little better, but not by much. The ninjas are going to be very good in this deck, but I predict that this archetype will still remain in the shadows.
Out of all the decks, this one probably gains the most. Not being able to stop Nezumi Cutthroat in Champions hurt the deck dramatically, but now that hole has been filled. Cage of Hands and Mystic Restraints were in Champions, but Restraints is slow and Cage of Hands is a first pick quality card other people would take for their decks. There’s a new way to stop Cutthroat…
This card is so good in Blue/White. It reminds me of Kabuto Moth in many ways except for this card stops Cutthroat. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely not as good as the Moth, but you will notice a similarity when playing it. Needing a White to activate it sometimes can be a pain, but they will rarely attack you when you have a White open and a blocker.
The first time I saw this card, I thought it could only tap one guy per use. I thought it was very good back then, but the fact that it can tap multiple guys with one activation is absurd. This guy can hold the fort by himself while you bash your opponent with your flyers. Most of Blue/White’s creatures aren’t spirits, but nearly all of the spells you cast are going to be arcane, so the counters add up quickly. Having multiples of this will end the game fast.
This card doesn’t look like much, but with all of the Blue arcane spells from Champions, this card can almost win games by itself. This card is a lot like indomitable will because if your opponent knows you have it, they always have to play around it.
If you have ever drafted Blue/White in Champions before, you will know that River Kaijin is very important to get in the deck. This card is just an upgrade of that. If you have a spirit in the yard to get back, it makes any of their removal spells a two-for-one for you. I like this guy more every time I play with him. Two key commons in White are Waxmane Baku and Kabuto Moth and the Strider gets them both back with soulshift. The more I play with it the more I want to put it above the Miko for second best White common.
A problem that Blue/White has had in the past is the ability to finish. Your flyers are basically your only way to win and if they die, what do you do? The glasskite ability seems ridiculous in this deck; even though you can’t target them with Will and Strike. The glasskite should make it so you can race your opponent in the air without fear of it dying.
Blue/White as a whole gets much stronger with Betrayers now legal. The ninjas are also very good in this deck. Going first turn Devoted Retainer or Lantern Kami and second turn Ninja of Deep Hours in this deck will most likely win it for you. Another card I should mention is Heart of Light. It stops Cutthroat and the new Sniper, which are both huge problems. This is the one deck where I think this card will be good, but normally just in the sideboard. You Heart of Light their Moss Kami or any other big creatures then kill them with flyers. Blue/White is going to be a strong archetype in the new format.
I did a “casual” side draft at Pro Tour Nagoya with Gadiel and Gerard Fabiano on my team against Gabriel Nassif, Pierre Canali, and some dude. The deck that I ended up drafting was a Red/Green spirit-based deck. This is one of the better decks that I drafted on the weekend. Red/Green was too slow in Champions, but it definitely gains some speed and powerful removal with Betrayers.
Torrent of Stone
The first time I had this card was at the BoK prerelease and it literally won me 3 of my matches. Having multiples is even better and splicing Kodama’s Might onto this or vice versa normally ends the game. It clears the path for your large animals to get through. Green/Red also had trouble dealing with creatures with large toughness, which is no longer a problem.
Combined with Frostwielder, Blue/White stands no chance against this deck. The Sniper does things for you that you couldn’t possibly imagine. This guy is the new Nezumi Cutthroat that Blue/White has to deal with and the one card that I can think of that they have is Mystic Restraints. Having multiples of this in play will make sure that you don’t lose to anything with flying. It also makes it so you can target the Glasskites with your removal.
Once again Gnarled Mass makes an appearance and for the exact same reason that it’s good in U/G. A first pick for any deck with Green in it.
One of the best commons in the set and it shines in Red/Green. The deck didn’t really have any early removal or solid early drops and Frostling fills both gaps. It’s one of the few one-drops that can actually trade with a two-drop and it even kills Soratami Mirror-Guard and Soratami Rainshaper. You’ll know how good it is when you get it back with Burr Grafter. Child of Thorns also is very good in Red/Green and speeds up the deck dramatically along with the Frost LING. Overall I would say that Red/Green gets a lot better and should be a big contender for the top archetype.
Red Black spirits was one of my favorite archetypes in Champions of Kamigawa draft, but there are literally two spirits in Betrayers. However, it does gain some nice removal and Ogres.
Obviously the best common in the set and probably the block so far. It even makes Blue/Black almost good. Red can easily get 4 cards into the graveyard with all the removal it packs. Then a timely Waking Nightmare or First Volley can easily swing the game into your hands.
Basically the equivalent of Gnarled Mass in Black form. Black doesn’t really have any guys that can get through without dying in combat and the Bleeder is an exception. Losing one life can sometimes be painful, but you’re probably going to be faster than them because you are Red/Black.
This guy is insane in a really fast Red/Black build and even better if you have multiple Cutthroats. You should be killing all of their guys with your removal and just attacking so if this guy hits multiple times they are going to be in a lot of trouble.
This guy doesn’t look like much, but let me tell you he is a sizeable game. Playing him turn 2 and letting the spirit counters build up can lead up to a one-turn kill. I once had four counters on him with Kami of Fire’s Roar in play. My opponent was afraid to attack me because of the Baku and the Fires Roar could potentially make his team not able to block. I cast Unearthly Blizzard on three of his guys; put a counter on the Baku, attacked with my three creatures, and ended the game that turn. Only take him if you have a high spirit or arcane count though.
I had two of these in my Red/Black prerelease deck with 19 creatures and it was better than I could have imagined. Turn 1 this guy will do at least 6 damage and it can still block if you don’t play a creature, so it’s never really a dead card. Would people play with a 2/2 wall for one in this format? Probably. This one can usually attack too.
Red/Black definitely gains some powerful cards from Betrayers, but I don’t think that the deck gets any better. The deck is based on cards like Devouring Greed, Kami of Fire’s Roar, Scuttling Death, and Kami of the Waning Moon. When you add Betrayers the deck loses its focus and turns more into just a beat down deck instead of spirit based.
Blue/Red has always been a fan favorite in the 8-4’s. I can’t ever draft the deck though, because I don’t open the one card that makes the deck good, which is obviously Glacial Ray. Blue/Red doesn’t gain much from Betrayers and loses an entire pack of its best card, but it does gain some cards.
Ire of Kaminari
I haven’t had the opportunity to draft this deck with Betrayers yet, but this card has to be good in it. You can splice spells onto it and it will generally be a 4 mana Lava Axe that’s an instant. In multiples this card can end games quickly.
Torrent of Stone
Once again, completely ridiculous. It kills all of the creatures that your Glacial Ray doesn’t. Late game you can splice it onto almost any spell you cast, but early it’s hard to splice onto stuff because the splice cost is rough.
Veil of Secrecy
This is probably the most underrated card in the set now. People don’t realize that you can make their guys untargetable from cards like Kodama’s Might, Serpent Skin, Indomitable Will etc etc… This card is especially good in Blue/Red because almost all of your spells have arcane and when damage is on the stack you can reach splicing this and save your guy for free. They almost never see it coming, which is also a big advantage for you.
Obviously this card is once again high in the pick order. It’s a spirit; it kills one-toughness flyers, two-toughness attackers etc.
Blue/Red doesn’t gain much and it loses an entire pack of Glacial Ray and all of the good splice/arcane cards. It definitely gets worse, but will still be around.
What about Dampen?
Thank God the deck is finally dead… exceeeept you can still draft the deck if you get a really early Dampen Thought or Glacial Ray. There’s one card from the new set that helps, but its uncommon.
This guy can easily win games for you that are stalled out and he fits nicely into a Dampen deck. The problem is getting enough mana to splice Dampen onto spells while milling them with this card. The synergy isn’t very good, but at least it gives you another win condition. Another card that comes to mind is the Ire of Kaminari, which can be quite good with tons of arcane spells in the deck.
A personal favorite of mine, I was going to write an article about the deck before Japan, but decided not to because of the amount of schoolwork I had to do. Unfortunately the deck is no longer draftable because you can’t get enough Samurai like Battle-Mad Ronins or cards like Kitsune Blademaster and Ronin Houndmaster from the last set. Call to Glory is basically untap your guys and 1 or 2 get + 1 + 1 instead of the entire team. It will be missed. I was fortunate enough to witness my roommate Tim Bulger get completely demolished by the ScrubbyZ himself (Mark Zajdner) with this deck. He played at least 3 Battle-Mads game 3 to my knowledge and 2 Wills along with Call to Glory and Uncontrollable Anger. That is the exact deck that won me so many drafts before people caught on to it.
Thoughts on other cards in the set
I love all of the one-drop spirits in Betrayers. They make the ninjas so much better and being spirits, they can be brought back by soulshift, they can pump Kami of the Hunt, and they greatly enhance the speed of your deck. Floodbringer can be a very good sideboard option against the Genjus and it’s not a bad card by itself. It works well as a Ninja-enabler and it can lock down their lands late game. Red had trouble with fat creatures in Champions and Frost Ogre is a solid addition to any Red deck. Roar of Jukai is a very good combat trick and when it’s spliced your opponent is probably not winning. Shuriken is absolutely insane in any deck with ninjas and the best card in the set is probably Umezawa’s Jitte. Kamiel stalled on two lands with a Child of Thorns and I straight up lost to this card.
What’s the best deck now?
In my opinion, the colors in Betrayers are pretty evenly spread out in power with Black and White having the best commons. I think Blue/White should be one of the best decks with Betrayers with Red/Black and Red/Green closely following. Moonlit Strider and Veil of Secrecy are the two most underrated cards right now and that should change this weekend when Betrayers Prereleases start on Magic Online.
Anyway, good luck with your Extended PTQs and GP: Seattle if you end up going. I’m not going because the Japanese will be there – they are too good for us Americans. Block should be an interesting format and I’ll make sure to have all the decks on lockdown for that. By the way I am taking the title as “Magic’s Bad Boy” away from Gadiel because he doesn’t want it and I once tackled Mark Zajdner at a Grand Prix so uh… I deserve it.
Ashkar on modo (geeg)
Make sure to vote for Gadiel Szleifer for the “Rising Star” portion of the Invitational unless Tim Aten is there then you can pick between those two. I’ll give you a ticket on MODO if you do or something. I also think the DCI is rigging this Invitational. Kai? Please. I voted for Remie at least 17 times.