Betrayers of Kamigawa Limited Review – Red and Green

Well, I was gonna start off with a nice review of Betrayers White for Limited but “someone” beat me to the punch. Someone always seems to beat me to the punch, although sometimes someone is someone else. Or something. That notwithstanding, I feel that it’s my civic duty to write a Limited set review. It’s my “area of expertise.” I guess I’ll start with Green and work backwards, tragically overlapping with Eisel in one of the weeks. And since you’re paying for this advice now, as a signup bonus, I’ll toss in Red this week at absolutely no extra charge. You’re actually saving money by purchasing a StarCity premium account. If you have any questions about the math on that, allow me to refer you to my business associate Rodman. He’ll explain everything.

Well, I was gonna start off with a nice review of Betrayers White for Limited but “someone” beat me to the punch. Someone always seems to beat me to the punch, although sometimes someone is someone else. Or something. That notwithstanding, I feel that it’s my civic duty to write a Limited set review. It’s my “area of expertise.” I guess I’ll start with Green and work backwards, tragically overlapping with Eisel in one of the weeks. And since you’re paying for this advice now, as a signup bonus, I’ll toss in Red this week at absolutely no extra charge. You’re actually saving money by purchasing a StarCity premium account. If you have any questions about the math on that, allow me to refer you to my business associate Rodman. He’ll explain everything.

As per usual, I will be listing these in an approximate pick order. Things change depending on what you’ve already drafted, and I’ll try to take note of that in the pertinent entries. Also as per usual, I will be grouping the rares in with the commons and uncommons because sometimes, man, you get a pack with Glacial Ray, Rorix, and Shower of Coals, and you won’t know which to take without me. Some people, like Pro Tour Top 8 competitor and one of the best Limited players in the game Frank Karsten, agree with this and similar methods. Others with more dubious credentials like to keep it loose because they’re lazy cowards. I defy you to reread this article in two months or so (or maybe six months would be more to your liking, you cheap bastard) to see just how far off-base, or how masterful, I was.

Iwamori of the Open Fist

Hey, look. Green’s best card is a fat lard. Shocking. I suppose I’m contractually obligated to allude to the ideal “turn 2 mana accelerant, turn 3 big fat monster” situation, as well as compare his stats to those of your average four-drop (Iwamori is bigger!) and tell you how amazing trample is. This guy is powerful and relevant early or late, a hallmark of the best limited cards. I haven’t gotten to play with Iwamori at all yet, but it’s a safe assumption that the drawback will be negligible. Sure, there are plenty of legends in the format, but most decks only have one or two, and they’re not that likely to be in your opponent’s hand at any given time. Iwamori is not a Dragon magnet. If your opponent has three or more fearsome legends, you should exercise some caution when casting this, but probably not side it out.

Genju of the Cedars

I had Pelcak, Gadiel, and Rodman put these next four uncommons in order on the plane back from Nagoya, and I took the composite of the four lists. I don’t know what to tell you; after hour nine, you sorta run out of things to do.* The Genjus are all rather powerful. They can be played early and activated whenever you have spare mana or can provide a surprise haste attacker in the mid- or late-game. Additionally, it’s hard for an opponent to rid himself of one permanently without bouncing the land or destroying the enchantment itself. This is perhaps the best Genju, since it’s more resilient than the Red and Blue, hits harder than the White and Blue, and doesn’t require the extra mana commitment of the Black. A nice draw would feature this on turn 1, a few more creatures over the ensuing turns, then a massive attack on turn 4 or 5. Some decks have difficulty beating you if you simply activate this card and attack with it every turn starting on turn 3, but I wouldn’t normally recommend playing it as such. I initially dismissed this as being on par with Still Life, but I’ve quickly changed my mind.

Budoka Pupil

All the new uncommon flip cards are also sizable bearls.** Personally, I have a fondness for the White one, but it really couldn’t possibly be less relevant which is best. It’s just something we internet writers wax philosophical about to increase our word counts. I guess since everything in life is pretty much pointless, one more asinine discussion to pass the time until we finally die couldn’t hurt. Therefore, here is my official Uncommon ki counter flip card power ranking:

1. Faithful Squire

2. Cunning Bandit

3. Budoka Pupil

4. Callow Jushi

5. Hired Muscle

6. Reinhard Blech

But they’re all good. Except the one.

The new flip cards and cheap spirits/arcane complement each other, simultaneously pushing both categories up on the pick order list. Cards like Teardrop Kami and Psychic Puppetry need a little extra shove to propel them into the realm of playables, and the flippers (as well as Teller of Tales, Waxmane Baku, and even ninjas) provide just that. Flipping any of these ki counter folks with 2-3 counters on turn 4 or 5 can easily win you the game, making them well worth the tiny bit of extra effort required to do so. Budoka Pupil, for instance, becomes a monstrosity that closely approximates a Fangren Hunter/Kabuto Moth hybrid. As long as you have a high enough concentration of spirits and arcane in your deck, it shouldn’t be too hard to flip the Pupil even in the midgame.

Unchecked Growth

Before Betrayers, the only wrath effect we needed to worry about was the white Myojin, and the only time we needed to worry about getting “sacked out” with cards like Strength of Cedars and Devouring Rage was when we let a creature through. Now when we’re at 1 life, we can block all of our opponent’s creatures and still die. It’s a little disheartening. This card allows you to take down considerably larger creatures in combat, wrecks the opponent if he double-blocks, and will often be the final four points to the dome. Unchecked Growth is better than the best Green common in Champions (Kodama’s Might) and in fact almost as good as Strength of Cedars.

Forked-Branch Garami

It’s sizable for a reasonable cost, it’s a spirit, and there’s a chance for you to net up to two cards if your opponent manages to kill it. All told, I suppose the Garami is better than Green’s existing five-drops, like Venerable Kumo and Kashi-Tribe Warriors. I prefer Soulshift creatures that sacrifice for some sort of benefit, making it easier to control when you retrieve your spirits, but heck, I’ll take double-shift.

Matsu-Tribe Sniper

I would make some sort of pitiful, completely tasteless Coheed and Cambria reference here, but you would all see that coming. If you think that sentence counts, drop dead. If you have no clue whatsoever as to what I’m talking about, mise. This is easily one of the top 3 commons in the set in any color, giving Green some much-needed early defense against fliers in what happens to be a ridiculously broken fashion. Some decks will simply scoop to this card. After you’ve finished offing the opponent’s one-mana fliers and stranded the rest in his hand, you can basically keep two larger fliers locked down indefinitely with just this 1/1. This would likely still be quite good at three mana.

Enshrined Memories

I would make some sort of pitiful, completely tasteless Sugarcult reference here, but you would all see that coming. [Er, right. – Knut, officially lost for the first time in a while and assuming there’s little hope for the rest of you] Enshrined Memories is a powerful late-game tool for Green decks. Land flood happens, and cards like Soratami Cloudskater and, even better, this allow you to turn that annoyance into a win. If my opponent and I are in topdeck mode, there are few cards I’d rather draw than this. To summarize for the less experienced players out there, this should probably be the last card in your hand when you cast it. There are very few situations where you’d rather draw more guys when there are already guys in your hand you can cast. If your deck is creature light, this naturally moves down the list.

Isao, Enlightened Bushi

A staple for every Green samurai deck, I rate Isao about the same as a weaker Kashi-Tribe Reaver. Cards like Frostwielder and Honden of DI Rage can be annoying, but in most cases, if you leave two mana up, he should be pretty hard to block or attack into effectively. If you actually do have quite a few samurai in your other color, Isao gets better. *head tap*

Gnarled Mass

With one fewer pack of mana-accelerating snakes, green decks will have fewer tools to ramp right up to four mana and will hence start to become more reliant on three-drops. This is a perfect fit for G/R and especially G/B spiritcraft decks, which typically only had Kami of the Hunt as an attractive Soulshift target for Burr Grafter, Rootrunner, and Gibbering Kami. Currently my #1 pick in the set for “Your mom’s a _________” burns. Say it for yourself. It has a nice ring to it.

Child of Thorns

The new one-drop spirits are pretty spicy. They add ki counters, make something unable to block in conjunction with Kami of Fires’ Roar, deal one damage to something with Soul of Magma; you get the idea. This would certainly be an acceptable maindeck card even if it weren’t a spirit, getting in for a few damage before affecting a few of your opponents’ combat decisions or giving your creatures a shield against burn. White is no longer the only color with non-embarrassing turn 1 plays.

Loam Dweller

Unless you’ve got quite a few moonfolk, Loam Dweller’s trigger is unlikely to affect the outcome of many games, even if you play it on turn 2. If you need a two-drop when Betrayers comes around, this is a good man for the job. Isn’t this amazing? It’s Grizzly Bears…but it’s a Spirit. Oooooooooh.


Here we have basically a 3/3 Spirit for four mana with no abilities, and again, that’s more than fair. It’s a totally tubular bonus if you have a ridiculous Spirit worth fetching (i.e. Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens or possibly a Dragon) and a bunch of cheap spirits, but even if you’re just throwing away Children of Thorns and Frostlings, you’d better be damn skippy that whatever you spin is going to win you the game, or at least not die. This is pretty bodacious with Zuberas, too, I suppose.

Patron of the Orochi

Obviously this is quite powerful if you ever manage to get it into play, but that can be a real hassle. By the time you manage to cast it, your opponent should have little difficulty in chump-blocking it. Sometimes there will be some board situations where its ability will actually be relevant, but those will probably be infrequent. In order to play this, you’ll want to be playing the snake deck, and to be playing the snake deck, you’ll have to have mised a Sosuke or Seshiro as one of your early picks. The set appraisal is sorta dragging ass here, but Green is a pretty straightforward color, so I really have no one to blame but Wizards. Nonetheless, I’ll venture to throw you another bone: my Patron power ranking…

1. Patron of the Kitsune

2. Patron of the Akki

3. Patron of the Nezumi

4. Patron of the Moon

5. Patron of the Orochi

6. Patron of the Blech

Roar of Jukai

Sometimes a simple River Kaijin or Harsh Deceiver can thwart a great deal of your offense and you just have to look sheepishly down at your random bears before passing the turn. Roar of Jukai can help. Ideally this will take down two or more blocking creatures, but a lot of the time, running over one select blocker will help you race the Soratami Rainshapers and Mothrider Samurais. Chambers says he tapped his last land to splice this onto Reach Through Mists once, which seems completely ridiculous, but the Roar is fine even if you have to pay the normal amount.

Scaled Hulk

Yep. It’s a Green creature. It costs a bunch of mana, it’s enormous, and it does some stuff. Take it at some point. Then maybe play it, or maybe don’t. Maybe play it game one and side it out for game two, but bring it back in game three. Keep ’em guessing. All in all, a spectacularly interesting card with a lot of subtle nuances.

Sosuke’s Summons

This is a marginal card and okay to leave in your sideboard unless you’ve drafted a handful of snakes. Most sane people would prefer spirits these days, but if you get a Sosuke and some Orochi Rangers, the opportunity to run the snake deck may present itself. Unfortunately, unlike with Champions where you have the nuts like the Kashi-Tribe Warriors that Cory Ferguson beat me with in the draft that pushed me ever closer to the brink of madness, there is a decided dearth of quality snakes in Betrayers; virtually all of them seem to have this lameass “burn-free mana” ability. In sum, you want to be able to reliably make four snakes with this without resorting to playing any seven-mana 2/6s to be happy about maindecking it. This means at least 4-5 good snakes.

Petalmane Baku

I don’t even want to think about how many times I’ve played this card already. It played an integral role in a game where I “went off” against Gomersall, but he contends that a basic land would have been almost as good. This can amass quite a few counters over several turns of casting spirits and arcane, and if you use it to play a spirit, one of the counters gets instantly replaced. This helps you splash or accelerate to inordinately expensive cards like the odd Kami of the Honored Dead or Vine Kami. It probably wouldn’t be playable if it were a muggle***, but I guess it’s just fine as a 23rd card in those proper circumstances.

Harbinger of Spring

Cute but often irrelevant ability. It can punch through your opponent’s defenses if he controls no Spirits, or it can block any non-flying non-Spirit attackers indefinitely. That’s a lot of restrictions. At least it’s got Soulshift. I’ve run this in a few otherwise solid team draft decks just because I needed the Spirit. I guess that doesn’t necessarily say a lot. If you stay tuned all the way until the end of the article, you’ll see what I mean.

Kodama of the Center Tree

The critical number for this card is probably four, a number that is reasonably difficult to attain reliably and one that would make it strictly inferior to Forked-Branch Garami. It’s too unpredictable and unwieldy unless you have somewhere in the vicinity of 16 spirits. I actually played against a deck that seemed to have the requisite amount, so I can’t completely dismiss this card yet. If you manage to get up to five spirits in play, this can Soulshift itself, which is a nice bonus.

Shizuko, Caller of Autumn

This is a huge mana boost very early in the game, and it’s probably going to merit consideration in Block Constructed. However, the fact that your opponent gets to use the extra mana first and the fact that it can’t conceivably affect him negatively (like Eladamri’s Vineyard) make this a risky proposition. It would be nice to play this on turn 3, then a Gnarled Mass and a Feral Deceiver on turn 4. I guess if your deck’s pretty mana hungry, it’s okay to run this. I would be pretty sure that it was going to help me more than my opponent before I put it in my deck, though.

Sakura-Tribe Springcaller

I remember pointing and laughing when an opponent had this along with some Plains and some Mountains in play against Gadiel in a money draft. I guess I assumed, since they flew to Japan to play in a Pro Tour and were willing to money draft against Pro Tour Luminary Dan Rodemann, that they were reasonably skillful and would display an appropriate level of good-humored shame for playing such cards, particularly in a three-color deck. My assumptions were, naturally, incorrect, and I would later find out from Nassif that our nice French opponents called us “virulent piles of turgid monkey excrement,” and perhaps rightfully so. I would like to apologize to these gentlemen for my demeanor. As concerns the playing of three-color Springcaller, I can only say, “Ba-ha.”

Nourishing Shoal

One-shot life gain is still not that impressive in Limited. I guess this ranks above Joyous Respite since you can cast it as an instant, and at times for “free,” but it doesn’t affect the board, doesn’t help you when you’re behind, and has no possible way of netting you card advantage. The only time this is useful is when you’re in a tight race, but it’s hard to predict in which games this situation will arise. That’s something that frustrates me about Magic right now. Some games are about tempo and some are about long-term card advantage, and which one it is can be completely reliant on yours and your opponent’s draws (as opposed to the decks themselves); the same card could be excellent one game but abysmal the next against the same person. That’s why I hate Blood Rites. All you can really do to minimize the effects of this phenomenon is play cards that are good regardless of the game’s pace and level of controllishness. You could sideboard the Shoal in if you’re playing a Green deck with a lot of clunkers against an aggressive Blue/White build, or other rare situations where a few extra life points are likely to be relevant.

Vital Surge

This may be better than Nourishing Shoal; it could be an important component of a rogue G/U splice deck, possibly the latest incarnation of Dampen or Dampenless Dampen. The value of simply being a spirit or arcane has certainly gone up with Betrayers, but this doesn’t belong anywhere near most decks.


If you play this on turn 3, you could probably gain seven life or so over the course of the game. If you play this on turn 3, your opponent will breathe a sigh of relief. If you play this on turn 10, you will probably gain one or two life off this. If you play this on turn ten, your opponent will point and laugh at you and then get a warning for “unsportsmanlike conduct” for disrupting other matches. Hopefully you’ll have that second Lifegift to take it up to a game loss.

Traproot Kami

I may be underrating this slightly, as it is a cheap spirit and it can hold off an early Rainshaper or Gibbering Kami. However, since it has no power, it doesn’t really deter attacks like a Venerable Kumo could. Unless I had a lot of Spirit/Arcane triggers, I would leave this in the board. I would only bring it in if I was playing 9-10 or more Forests, if my opponent had quite a few fliers, and I had no alternatives like Gale Force, Good-Eye Sniper****, or the aforementioned Kumo. That’s a lot of “if”s.

The last five cards on the list are remarkably bad, but I don’t really have the creative energy to say much about them, nor do I just want to say “bleh” or “nothing to see here” or “moving right along” as has become cliche. Hence, I enlisted the assistance of Jeff Cunningham to carry me over this rough spot. I swear to you on the immortal souls of John Pelcak, Josh Ravitz, Cedric Phillips, and Reinhard Blech that these entries were really truly written by Jeff Cunningham and not me trying to imitate his style. I know that the mere act of pretending to be someone you aren’t hasn’t lost its novelty for certain African Americans, but I no longer consider it an untapped well of humor.

Body of Jukai

If you know me, you know how much I love my fatties. I love to draft them, and after a few Bud Lights, I love to make forts in the fleshy rolls of their abdomens. But as with all fetishes, we must draw a line.

Body of Jukai is that line.

His 9/9 frame for nine mana is the cardboard equivalent of the half-ton woman with acne and greasy battleship gray hair that had to be airlifted out of her garage. Goggles be damned, that is just nasty.


This would have sucked even in the all artifact block. I guess you board it in if they have that Umezawa’s Jitte card? Maybe. But if they have doubles… okay, let’s play ball.

Flip it, flip it good


Green has so many four-drops already that I doubt this should be played much. Still, it’s not all that bad if you must. Not much else to say, so I’ll outline the correct procedure for playing this on a manascrewed opponent.

1. Target a land.

2. Ask opponent if it resolves.

3. Double-check if it resolves.

4. Reach across the table and use the Uproot as a spatula to violently and haphazardly flip your opponent’s single land somewhere in the vicinity of the top of his library.

5. Pass the turn using both hands, and say “Your go, buddy-boy.”

(Method perfected through application to Reinhard Blech during a Team PTQ).

Sakiko, Mother of Summer

Aside from Paul Rietzl, who forced the Snake-tribe deck in Nagoya to a dead-last place finish, few people ought to be excited about this card. I know Green is bad, but turn 6 situational mana acceleration shows that it has finally hit rock bottom.

Mark of Sakiko

1G: Enchanted Creature has “…”

Well, Jeff, thank you. Thank you for upstaging me yet again IN MY OWN DAMN ARTICLE. I’ll always be number 2, apparently. And not only did I just get served, I’ve left myself open to a witty bathroom innuendo. Feel free to make it to yourselves or your friends.

I don’t know exactly why I promised you ingrates that I would review Red this week, too. I must be some sort of masochist. I’m going to honor my word, but I have to warn you that I may be getting a little surly.

The No-Nonsense All-Business Barely Mentioning Reinhard Blech At All Betrayers Red Limited Review

Fumiko the Lowblood

That’s a wonderful name. I guess not having a whole lot of blood makes you some sort of badass. It took me a couple read-throughs to fully grasp what this card does, and it’s preposterous. It’s another “Kill this or lose” creature like Kiku, Night’s Flower. Your opponent must send all his creatures into the red zone, resulting in some disastrous combat steps. Fumiko herself will probably have little difficulty taking down the largest attacker, since as few as two attacking creatures will make her a 5/4 blocker. Fumiko sorta hampers the effectiveness of cards like Kitsune Diviner and Kabuto Moth as well, constricting their use to your opponent’s precombat main phase. Then, when you want to counterattack, your opponent’s only blockers will be walls and freshly cast creatures, so you’ll be able to get in tons of damage. This may take the coveted Second-Best Card in the Set title.

Patron of the Akki

The six-mana Patrons are a little undercosted compared to most giant monsters. In Green, you can get a 5/5 trampler; in White you get a 5/6 creature that gains you 501 life over the course of the game, and in Red you get a 7/5 attacker that makes all your other guys smash for an extra two. There aren’t too many quality Goblins to offer up to this fella, but it wouldn’t really be fair to play this for less than six mana at instant speed, would it?

Cunning Bandit

Please note that Cunning Bandit’s flipside doesn’t untap the stolen creatures and doesn’t give them haste. It’s still great in stealing enough blockers to punch through with your 5/2 and other animals, forcing your opponent to use sacrificed creatures suboptimally, or temporarily preventing him from double-blocking effectively by stealing one of the blockers before damage. If you cast a Callow Jushi or a Faithful Squire on turn 3, you’ll usually want to flip it at the first opportunity, since the Jushi’s flipped form is most effective early on, and the Kaiso, Memory of Loyalty is rather adept at protecting herself. With Cunning Bandit, you may want to wait to amass an extra counter or two. Consider whether the two activations will be enough to swing the game, whether your opponent will be able to kill Bandit before you can use its ability, and so on. Unless your opponent is threatening lethal damage with fliers, you can probably wait until you’ve emptied your hand (or even longer) to flip this against Blue/White.

Torrent of Stone

It’s possible that everyone is overrating this card; even though some of us are adept spellcasters well-versed in the intricacies of arcane, it’s still somewhat difficult to predict how seamless it will be to splice this. I’d say this is probably about the same quality as a Yamabushi’s Flame, considering the extra damage and mana, possibility of being spliced, and inability to go to the nugget. KK once had four of these suckas, but that could be excessive. If you cast the same Torrent twice, you’ll probably win. Make sure you can afford to lose the two lands though, obfffffffffffff.

Genju of the Spires

When your opponent blocks this Genju, it will get chlamydia, and it will die. I know I used that line last week or whatever, but since this one initially read “When your bla bla bla Genju, it will die,” I figured I was obligated to toss in the extra few words. Anyway, since it’s going to die (it’s going to happen) when you attack with it, you have to either have some lands in reserve in order to replay it and keep eating your opponent’s blockers, or you have to make sure your opponent doesn’t block. You will rarely want to activate this before you’ve played the rest of your spells, and you probably don’t want to play it on turn one. The turn you play this, it should be a Ball Lightning.

Ishi-Ishi, Akki Crackshot

If you play Ishi-Ishi on turn 2, your opponent will take massive amounts of damage. About half of his spells will damage him if his deck is anywhere near the norm. Its damage potential decreases as the game continues, but so will your opponent’s life total. If you’ve bashed your opponent down to four before you get a chance to play this, he’ll only be able to cast one more Spirit or Arcane to protect himself from your onslaught. Blue/White flier decks can ignore this to a large extent, as they tend to specialize in human wizards and whatnot. Also, having a toughness of one, the Crackshot is obviously rather easy to kill. Fortunately, cards like Mystic Restraints and Cage of Hands aren’t gonna get the job done. Hankyu’s stock continues to rise. You should message Hankyu on Modo sometime and thank him. Tell him what gassy tings he is.

Ogre Recluse

I haven’t gotten to summon the mighty ogre yet myself, but all my friends tell me he’s Levi’s. He’s enormous for a low price, and he has a creature type that could conceivably be relevant in a Black/Red deck. An enemy instant will prevent him from attacking and blocking for a turn, but most decks really don’t pack that many instant-speed spells. If an opponent plays a creature before attacking, the Recluse won’t be able to block but 1) 5/4s for four mana weren’t meant to block and 2) an opponent casting spells pre-combat gives you information and constricts his options during combat.

Heartless Hidetsugu

Hidetsugu has reasonable stats for his casting cost, but its ability is obviously what makes him worthy of closer inspection. Sure, it halves both players’ life totals, but it seems like you should be able to work it to your advantage. If you’re at 6 and your opponent is at 14, you can make the scorepad read “3” and “7” instead; that seems a lot more manageable. If you’re both at moderately high life totals, you can dictate the pace of the game. In general, I see this being used end of turn against non-Red decks, then possibly again on your turn, before you send the team in for an alpha strike. Under normal circumstances, the most life your opponent will have after Hidetsugu turns sideways twice is 5. You can deal 5 damage, can’t you?

Blazing Shoal

I’m sorta going out on a limb with this one, but there’s also “sorta” a significant power dropoff after Hidetsugu-san. I don’t see any real reason that this can’t be a winstealer on par with Devouring Rage or Strength of Cedars. It won’t hit as hard as those two in most cases, but it’s a Fireball to the dome if you get an attacker through. Sometimes your opponent will neglect to block when you’re tapped out, and you’ll be able to pitch a card for the win… unless your opponent has the White Shoal oooooh, but then you can counter it with your Blue Shoal zinnnnnnnng. Anyway. Since this is rare and potentially costs no mana, most people won’t see it coming. By the time pack three rolls around, you’ll know whether a card like that is what your deck needs. If I’m right, Howl from Beyond has become a great finisher. Most people seem to think Champions is relatively close to 888 draft, and Enrage is pretty good in that, but I sure miss the days of, “You’ll what? Oh, okay, I’ll kill it in response, derf.”


Ling. As with Child of Thorns, this is a quality one-drop in a color that didn’t really have one. If you think Akki Avalanchers was a “quality” one-drop in most decks, you should put down the Tussin. This does pretty much everything the Child does, but it can take down a 2/2 by itself or rid you of one of those pesky Mirror-Guards rather than being able to “prevent” a point of damage.

First Volley

Red really benefits from this card, as it’s a cheap arcane that actually does something. Gone are the days where you needed to consider running Unnatural Speed to get another use out of your Glacial Ray or Kodama’s Might. One damage isn’t much, but as you’re well aware, a lot of problematic creatures have a toughness of 1 – Kiku, Nezumi Cutthroat, Nezumi Graverobber, many Blue fliers, Ishi-Ishi, and so on. I probably wouldn’t play more than two of these maindeck unless I had the mad splicezies.

Blademane Baku

The Baku can get enormous in a hurry, but will be relatively easy to block since it’s a one-toughness creature without evasion. In R/G it helps fill out your curve with a two-drop Spirit and in R/B it can get fear or have a path cleared for it with removal, but it truly shines in R/U. Post-Betrayers Blue decks play like some sort of bizarre combo deck, with pieces that are seemingly mediocre on their own but somehow come together to become something powerful, much like my team for the PT. I’m just kidding. Gadiel and Pelcak aren’t mediocre. They’re the Teller of Tales and Ninja of the Deep Hours, I’m the Psychic Puppetry. Anyway, Puppetry, Teardrop Kami, Toils of Night and Day, Veil of Secrecy, and so on put ki counters on this and whatever else you have that may or may not gather ki counters, and they also help this and your ninjas get through unfettered. Or you could just make this unblockable with Mirror-Guard and swing for 9. Whichever you prefer. I’m telling you right now, though, man – Don’t underestimate the Puppetry.


In the Web of War

This card is reminiscent of Blood Rites. In that it’s a Red enchantment. That costs five. It also falls under the same category of golden one game, garbage the next. If you have the luxury of tapping out on turn 5 without adding another body to the board, this is a great card. It’s unclear how often you’ll have that luxury. As long as you have plenty of creatures in your deck, there are fewer cards your opponent will want to see on the other side of the table when you’ve achieved some form of board parity. Turn 5 this, turn 6 Moss Kami should be scrumtrulescent. It combos well with ANY creatures, but it’s probably best with Blue fliers. Blue/red seems like a powerful archetype nowadays. Not that it wasn’t before, if you ask the Mauler. People have said this about me so I feel a little strange saying it about someone else, but with some of the steaming turd draft decks Murray showed me at Nagoya, he must be one of the best players in the world.

Frost Ogre


Ashen Monstrosity

This is a fine curve topper/finisher. It’s like a Rorix that doesn’t fly. It’s like a Tsabo Tavoc that doesn’t kill legends. It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife. Oh, that reminds me. You should ask KK or Zajdner, if you ever happen to talk to them, about their “Ironic” and “EDT” parodies. They’re not bad. Anyhoo, if you think you’ll be able to successfully cast this and hit once with it, it should definitely make the cut. It moves down the list if you need the early drops.

As to Frost Ogre, I really don’t know what to say. It’s the same size and casting cost as the Champions demons, but it fits nicely with Yukora the Prisoner and Scourge of the Numai. There’s nothing too exciting about five-mana 5/3s. It’s a worse Order of the Sacred Bell, and it’s not a Spirit, but I can think of quite a few cards that this would make the cut over. Five power for five mana is nothing to sneeze at. It’s a fine kettle of fish, really. Incidentally, it’s too bad that so many Limited articles have been written, since it means that all possible words used to describe cards have already been explored, and some of them are pretty stupid. “This is gas, this is DI, this is great, this is excellent, this is awesome.” I mention this here, though, since one of my least favorites is “isn’t exciting.” What exactly would be “exciting?” If opening a cardboard Dragon “excites” you, then you are likely missing chromosomes, missing select portions of your brain, or are Adam Chambers.

Goblin Cohort

I don’t care for this card, but I realize that a lot of people will since they value their “efficiency” and “aggression.” It’s very good in the aggressive Red/White jank decks that cheat on land and easily moves up on the list in those. It can only possibly attack on the turns in which you play creatures, and in some of those turns, it’s not even beneficial to attack. For instance, if your opponent has a Kitsune Blademaster or a River Kaijin untapped on a turn in which you play a guy, you’ve given up one of your limited opportunities to deal 2. It’s not even a spirit. Jeez. In sum, this is solid in aggro decks, marginal in mid-range decks, and pretty sour in slower, more controllish decks.

Ronin Cliffrider

I saw Little Darwin equip a Neko-Te to this in a money draft. Think about that one. Cliffrider is solidly in the realm of 23rd card, probably marginally better than the similar Soul of Magma. It can make blocking your other creatures difficult for your opponent, but it often won’t do very much on its own; five mana for 2 damage a turn isn’t too earthshattering. I value this roughly the same as Yamabushi’s Storm, a card that I actually don’t mind maindecking.

Akki Raider

I initially had this several positions higher on the list, but then I thought of it like this: It’s like a worse Orochi Ranger. Everything blocks and kills it, and like I’ll say for every card with creature type Goblin, it’s not even a spirit. It’s very simple, folks. If you need the early drop, take this somewhat early. If you have plenty, don’t take it at all unless you have a Patron of the Akki or somesuch.

Twist Allegiance

This is a tough lil nut to crack. This seems like a card that I’ll really want to play but never get the chance to because I’m afraid of what my teammates will do to me. This naturally begs comparison to Insurrection, a card shunned by many because of its casting cost despite saying “You win the game” on it. This is a bit easier to cast, but a lot harder to set up. If your opponent has three Teller of Tales, four Moss Kami, two Order of the Sacred Bell, and two Myojin of Seeing Winds in play to your empty board when you topdeck this, it’s obviously good. Sometimes you’ll just find yourself in a position where if you had your opponent’s creatures and he had yours, you’d be able to win, i.e. he controls six power worth of fliers and is at six life. Most times you’ll probably have to get a little creative. Make some attacks that massacre your side of the board and squeeze through a few points of damage, managing your life total so that you can survive to actually cast this. Cast a huge Devouring Greed then go for the kill with Twist Allegiance the following turn. Don’t dismiss this as unplayable; I’m sure the crazed foons who swear by Reverse the Sands will find ways to kill you with this card as well.

Shinka Gatekeeper

It was either Josh Ravitz or Ayn Rand who said, “The bigger the Jackal Pup, the worse it is.” What’s going to happen with this card is, they’ll block it with a Humble Budoka, and you’ll take 2 damage while trading a three-drop for a two-drop. It seems like a nice aggressive creature, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a “skill tester.” It’s not worth going out of your way to ensure this doesn’t get blocked, and there are plenty of other three-drops to choose from. If you play this, I hope your opponent Swallowing Plagues it for a million. Games you win with this card probably could have been won by any other creature.

Mannichi, the Fevered Dream

Most creatures have equal power and toughness, so this will usually be just a random overcosted 2/2 (switch P/T before damage, switch again with damage on). If you or your opponent have a number of 1/xs, this card becomes a sizable game and will provide you many opportunities to outplay someone. With four mana, your Kami of Old Stone becomes a 7/7 in combat and your Kami of Tattered Shoji becomes a 5/5 for all intents and purposes. Make River Kaijin a 4/1 with damage on the stack after the opponent blocks your 2/2 with it, or make your Red Genju a 1/6 to help it survive combat. This also kills a few creatures, namely the pesky Kitsune Diviner, outright. Leave this in the board unless you have a number of creatures with staggered power and toughness. This advice is priceless, people.

Flames of the Blood Hand

It’s like Lava Spike, but worse. Play it as a questionable 23rd card if your deck’s really aggressive, or sideboard it against white decks that try to ruin your life with damage prevention or life gain. These should be few and far between.

Ire of Kaminari

In most decks, this will deal 0-1 damage when you’d like to be dealing about 3. This is playable in Red/Blue decks with at least 10 arcanes, but it’s usually gonna be rolls.


This is just too expensive and situational. I decimated Rodman with this one game in a 1-on-1 draft by splicing it onto another one, then casting it a third time, but I did not come close to winning the draft, since I had Overblaze in my deck. Four mana is a lot to give a creature +2/+0 to +4/+0. Four mana to finish off a River Kaijin with your Loam Dweller? Four mana to Fists of the Anvil your unblocked Order of the Sacred Bell? Please.

Crack the Earth

I’d say you’d need 2.5 Glacial Rays to play this lil filly. Because that possibility exists, it’s not completely worthless. Good luck, though.

Clash of Realities

This is good for your opponent when it’s good for you, and bad for you when it’s bad for your opponent. The only real way to abuse it is with a lot of four-toughness creatures, and even then you have to know that your opponent is playing a significant number of non-Spirits or Spirits, as applicable.

Aura Barbs

You’ll want one of these in your sideboard once out of every 350 matches.

Akki Blizzard-Herder

More like Akki Blizzard-TURDer, right guys? Ha ha ha ha. Simply mind-boggling.

Sowing Salt

There still aren’t any lands potent enough to make me ever want to board this in. Even if they do draw their Minamo, what are the odds that they’ll have it in play at the same time as a Keiga and you’ll forget about it and attack your 4/5 flier right into the currently-tapped Dragon Spirit? Even if they do draw their Okina, what are the odds that they’ll have it in play at the same time as a Nagao and block your Earthshaker when you forget that Nagao can become a 5/5? Even if they do draw their Eiganjo Castle, what are the odds they’ll have that in play at the same time as a 5/4 Brothers Yamazaki and you’ll forget about it and Frostwielder, Red Honden, and Hanabi Blast it to try to kill it? Granted, people have made all those mistakes against me, and one of them was Kai (ba-ha), but I was just saying that to make fun of people for missing board tricks and show you all what a master I evidently am. There’s actually no reason to ever board this in.

Kumano’s Blessing

The very definition of Rolls.

I had fun. You?

Next week I’ll actually write about the 3-on-3 deck that I alluded to in my entry of Harbinger of Spring before discussing Betrayers Black for limited and maybe giving a brief PT Nagoya report. I would like to think I’m better than my finish (I really would), so I’ll get into some of my mistakes so that you don’t make them yourselves once you qualify. I may dabble in the current developments on the lingo front, particularly if I get a chance to talk to Herbersleezy. If any of the four of you reading this has any suggestions for what I should write about, please tell me. Now that we’re premium, I am officially your bitch.

Now I will prop the people who I like and/or wish I could see more often and slop Reinhard Blech.


Jeff Cunningham

John Pelcak

Cedric Phillips

Josh Ravitz

Takanobu Sato

Joe, Cup of (obv)

and I suppose that one Argentinian kid who’s always hangin’ around

Honorable Mentions:

Nate Siftar

Sam Gomersall

Rich Hoaen

Ken Russell


Reinhard Blech


Tim Aten


A Real Fixer-Upper

One of my friend’s names on AIM

One of my friend’s names on Modo

some song lyrics

[email protected]

some more song lyrics

blah blah blah

A Final Thought on Reinhard Blech (from a Modo chat)

2:01 Esturk: yeah

2:01 Esturk: i already mentioned reinhard blech three times this article

2:01 Esturk: 🙂

2:02 Esturk: they werent the most skillful drops but

2:02 Esturk: i’m running on fumes here

2:03 JeffCunningham: lol

2:03 JeffCunningham: ya sorry… blechs like lewinski to our jay leno

2:03 JeffCunningham: endless source

*I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the flight was only 12 hours since, being the ignoramus that I am, I actually thought it was going to be around 20.

**Should I include a glossary with my articles? If you don’t think that’s necessary, wait till I break out “rolls” and “Levi’s.” You’ll actually want to stab yourself.

***New term for non-spirit? No? Far too dorky? Whatever, man. I’VE never sat through an entire Star Wars movie, you unspeakable nerd. I’m barely even literate!

****Yeah, it was only a matter of time. And I’m all out of footnotes with an entire color to go.