Champions of Kamigawa and Five Color

Gifts Ungiven
Welcome to our power card of the set. Gifts Ungiven will be acted on quickly, of that I have no doubt. Who knows whether it will see restriction or banning. With Yawgmoth’s Will away, maybe its time for small mammals to play. Look for Gifts Ungiven to be highly sought after in Five Color circles if it is just restricted, as it looks to be an auto-include in virtually every deck.

Ah, yes, boys and girls it’s that time of year again. Leaves are turning colors in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are starting to end sooner, a new expansion set is released in Magic, and set reviews are as common as maggots on week-old roadkill.

Welcome to the Champions of Kamigawa review – Five Color style. First off, do you mind if I just call the set Champions for short? It’s much more succinct. In fact, why go with the name”Kamigawa” for each set? Isn’t”Champions” good enough? I think so, so we’ll call it Champions here, and in doing so, feel good about our seditious deed of the day.

This set review is a little different than many. First of all, it’s a Five Color-oriented set review. Just in case you couldn’t tell from the title. Second, I have no inclination of writing,”This card is good in Limited, but should be limited in Constructed,” about 100 times. Ick. As such, I’m only listing the good stuff and the debatable stuff. Finally, this set review is done before the set is released, but that’s okay.

In formats like Five Color, it is very easy to evaluate cards, because the established standards are there. The same is true of other formats that use most cards – like Type One, for example.

Let’s give the virtually obligatory quick Five Color primer, for those who need it. Five Color is a format that requires at least 250 cards with at least 18 cards in each color. The format allows cards from all Type One legal sets, and as such, has its own banned and restricted list. The format also supports friendly mulligan rules and ante. Now with our Five Color overview out of the way, let’s head into the mechanics of Champions:

The New Legend Rule – Ho hum. Does Five Color really care about the new legend rule? It’s not like Tolarian Academy abuse is really rampant or anything. Legends make virtually no impact in a 250 card deck. You could probably play four of the new 2/2 White legend for one mana and only rarely have another in hand sitting there.

The New Wall Rule – This is definitely a non factor for Five Color; same with the new keyword Vigilance. These are largely cosmetic changes with little actual differences.

Flip Creatures – Another big whoop-de-doo. There may be individual instances of Flip Creatures being good enough to make the cut, but as a mechanic, this is simply not that thrilling for Five Color. On the other hand, I really like them for casual play.

Arcane and Splice Onto Arcane – Now we are starting to get somewhere. The only problem is that, although this mechanic has potential, there are simply not enough arcane spells in print yet to warrant taking this path. After the third set in the block, we’ll see if that mechanic will make a dent in Five Color. For now, I suspect that most decks may play a few Arcane spells here and there, but for the most part, they’ll sit out.

Soulshift – The good thing about Soulshift is that it also works with older spirits, like, say, Tradewind Rider. Losing a creature only to return your Tradewind seems like a pretty good deal. The Soulshift creatures, however, seem a bit overcosted, especially when you consider that you will probably steer clear of playing a spirit deck.

Bushido – Blah blah….requires blocking…blah blah….sucks outside of Limited…blah blah.

Okay, now that we’ve spent a very short amount of time with the various mechanics and rules, you can see that none of the new mechanics seem to offer much as a mechanic to Five Color. It’s not like, say, threshold, where the likelihood of getting seven cards in your graveyard was so likely that threshold cards increased in power in Five Color decks. Since the power of this set lies in the individual cards themselves, let’s take a quick look at the cards.


Although typically White adds little to the Five Color table, Champions brings one of the best aggro creatures for Five Color in a long while. Aggro hates to spend card slots on removal, and getting a grizzly bear that can double as enchantment removal in a pinch is golden. After that, white has several more powerful aggro options, and the entire color seems more oriented towards aggro than normal.


It’s like a White Knight and a Mother of Runes combined into one card. It’s a bit expensive, and there are likely better candidates for the WW spot, but this card would not be half bad. Protection from a Color that is set on the card is poor in an environment where every deck had five colors, so protection like Mother of Runes or this is a bit better.

Ethereal Haze

Noteworthy because it is the first Fog reprint that can prevent more than just combat damage. No creatures deal damage, including a variety of removal spells on creatures. A nice foil to cards like Crater Hellion and Grim Lavamancer. Despite its greater utility, I remain unconvinced that a damage prevention effect will ever be good enough to play in Five Color outside of Crumbling Sanctuary.

Ghostly Prison

With access to Propaganda, Windborn Muse, and Collective Restraint, you have to really want another Propaganda effect in your deck in order to play this card. On the other hand, a White-centric deck may want to play this in lieu of the Blue options.

Hikari, Twilight Guardian

This is a clever card. Just like a Serra Angel, except you can pop it out for a turn. Now, if they made an Arcane Wrath of God, you’d be all set…

Isamaru, Hound of Konda

In some ways, Isamaru may be the best aggressive one-drop for Five Color. Other creatures have versatility, like Grim Lavamancer. Other creatures may be 2/3 with help, like Skyshroud Elite or Kird Ape, and other creatures may have two power as well, like Sarcomancy or Jackal Pup. However, no 2/2 for one mana creature has no drawback other than being a Legend. Also, as a rare, Isamaru stops the ante. There are a lot of good things to recommend Isamaru, including the fact that even if both players have a fell set of Isamaru in their deck, the likelihood that either will draw theirs when one is already in play is low.

Kami of Ancient Law

Here is a Grizzly Bear you can really sink your teeth into. You can sacrifice it, for no mana mind you, to pop an enchantment which is amazing, really. Plus, unlike so many other White two-drops, this one is very splashable with just a single White mana in its mana cost. This is a very strong card.

Lantern Kami

If Flying Men and Suntail Hawk are simply not enough 1/1 flyers for you, then play this in addition. Personally, I don’t think any of those cards are good enough to see play, but then again, that’s just me.

Masako the Humorless

Another clever card, this does something that, to my knowledge, no card has ever done before. Sure, there are cards that untap creatures, but this one allows tapped creatures to block. It’s a great foil to the white Dragon, Stasis, and more. Add to that the fact that Masako can be played as an instant, allowing for great surprise. Good stuff.

Otherworldly Journey

Do you like Flicker? Sure, we all do. What about a card that can be used to add a counter to your creature? What if we combined the two into a nice package that combines well with Wrath effects, protection from removal, and can also be used to remove a critical blocker or attacker for a turn? Would you like that? Would that be enough for you to consider playing your very first Flicker effect, ever?

Yosei, the Morning Star

Do you pronounce this”Yo-SAY” or”Yo-SEE?” Yo-SAY is o-KAY with me. Very comborific, I see the potential for tons of abuse in regular, sixty-card decks. However, I’m not sure what status he will hold in Five Color. He seems a bit on the expensive side. We’ll see, I guess.


Green offers up the best land searching since Onslaught with its pain-fetch-lands and Krosan Tusker (or Scourge with its Landcyclers, but that was just the one gimmick). There are a few potentially dangerous cards for combo-oriented decks to consider as well.

Azusa, Lost but Seeking

We have Fastbond and Exploration in our format. Should you feel the need to up your count, look at Azusa, The Fragile. Don’t rely on Azusa being the lynchpin of your strategy, because just about every 250 deck will have a bajillion ways of slaughtering the poor monk. He might be a nice adjunct for a TurboLand style deck, however.

Dosan the Falling Leaf

If you want a less splashable City of Solitude that can be searched out with creature tutors, then Dosan is your man. Grab yourself a nice City of Solitude effect for your combo deck, but note that Dosan does not effect abilities, just spells. That may actually be better, because it should still stop countermagic, while allowing you to use some effects to control the board.

Glimpse of Nature

This may be the flavor of the month for Five Color. Everybody is considering how powerful this would be when played just before or just after a Contract from Below in an aggressive deck. Additionally, it combos nicely with an Aluren. Personally, I think that outside the odd Aluren deck, Glimpse of Nature will quickly fade away, much like Plagiarize did. Plagiarize was a similar flavor of the month that people had cluttering up their hands too much.

Iname, Life Aspect

Another creature that may be good if the level of quality among spirits improves or if you decide to combo it with the aptly named Iname, Death Aspect.

Kodama of the North Tree

Kodama is very Green, and only a Green-heavy Five Color deck can really support it. However, if you can support it, then your prize is a 6/4 trampling, untargetable beater for only five mana.

Kodama of the South Tree

A 4/4 for four mana, the other Kodama is a bit easier on the mana for the trade-in of being solid, but unspectacular.

Kodama’s Reach

This is one of two Arcane spells that can easily make the transition to Five Color. Kodama’s Reach not only accelerates your mana, but also gives you an additional land drop. It can fill out two colors, and it is arguably better than Harrow (in some circumstances, at least).

Order of the Sacred Bell

A four-power creature for a very splashable 4/3 cost is not bad. Because this is common and recently printed, I expect to a see a few in cheaper decks. We do have Nettletooth Djinn and Erhnam Djinn for the same casting cost, but the four power is really the key to these creatures, not the defense.

Sosuke, Son of Seshiro

The snakes are fun, but not much, except possibly for Sosuke. It has the Venom ability and gives it to all of your other warriors (too bad it didn’t give it to soldiers….). It’s a solid 3/4 body that also pumps the front end of other snakes, in case you get some into play. Now, if they errata Snake Basket into making Snake tokens instead of Cobra tokens….

Wear Away

Another Naturalize effect for GG instead of the more easy 1G. For that extra Green, you get an Arcane spell that can be spliced onto other Arcane spells for a barely palatable four mana. The only reason I’d play this is for blue’s Eerie Procession in order to have an additional target.


Red is shafted yet again, and I have to really push it to include some cards from the color. Five Color players are used to Red bringing the less to the table, and this set is no different.

Blind with Anger

If you really want to play with a Ray of Command effect, then you may want to take this out for a spin. It gives you a tutor-able arcane spell and something to splice onto. On the other hand, Ray of Command effects have never really been that good, and this one certainly isn’t good enough to put the concept over the top.

Godo, Bandit Warlord

He brings an equipment with him and gives you a Relentless Assault effect on a casting cost that is easy to handle by requiring just one Red mana. Still, for six mana you can get a dragon from this very same set. Godo seems a bit overshadowed by a fellow creature from the very same set and rarity.

Hearth Kami

Red has been plagued throughout its existence by two-power creatures in the two mana spot that are wimpy like Ironclaw Orcs, Firebrand Ranger, and so forth. Now we have a decent two-drop that can also blow up an artifact. Not too shabby, but will aggressive decks make room for it?

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

Just checking to see if you guys were paying attention…

Kumano, Master Yamibushi

You get a 4/4 body for five mana and the ability to shoot things like a Shivan Hellkite. Same casting cost as Arc-Slogger, and it will probably not see as much play. Even Arc-Slogger is played little due to the significant Red investment, and Kumano likely requires more.

Lava Spike

If you want to build your cute little Lightning Bolt deck complete with Chain Lightning, Spark Elementals, and more, here is your next addition. And let me say,”Ick,” to you.

Ryusei the Falling Star

Splashable and very good as a flying creature. There are probably better things to spend your Red slots on than a flying six-mana dragon, but the mana requirement on this one is just one Red, unlike most Red dragons which require two or more Red. Ryusei is just a poor-man’s board sweeper when killed, but that may still be good against aggressive decks. Note, however, that your answers to aggressive decks need to be faster than a six-mana creature that has to be killed in order for it to have the desired effect.


Black has more going for it that may first appear. Arguably best cards in the set for Five Color are running around in Black (Cranial Extraction and Night Dealings). Toss in some powerful aggro options and probably the second best arcane spell, and Black comes out smelling like the best color for 250 in the set.

Cranial Extraction

It’s hard to tell which card is getting more publicity on the Five Color lists and forums – this card or Gifts Ungiven. Frankly, this is a better version of Look at Me, I’m the DCI, except that Look at Me will also ban cards in play (thereby removing them from play). I suspect that in Five Color, no searching of libraries will occur, and instead people will just remove the card named if they draw it. There are a lot of decks that rely on one card in particular, and in doubt, you can always just Cranial Extract Contract from Below. I suspect that is the reason that some people are moaning a bit over this card. It may finally be the answer to Contract from Below, and some don’t like it.

Horobi, Death’s Wail

Horobi is a 4/4 flying creature that can allow everybody to start killing creatures a-go-go with targeting effects. If you add the occasional targeting ability like Yavimaya Hollow to your deck, then I suspect that Horobi, Death’s Wail might just be good enough to see a bit of play. After all, 4/4 flyers for four mana are not that common.

Iname, Death Aspect

Another creature that relies on spirits to be good, watch out for a few old school Spirits (or Mistform Ultimus, heh heh). Again, this power will depend on the spirits that see print over the next two sets, but I really like the synergy with, say, Iname, Life Aspect (and in case you were wondering, they even named the cards the same so that you’d catch the combo).

Nezumi Graverobber

Not only do I think that the Graverobber is the best flip creature in the set, I also believe that it is one of the best creatures as well. At two mana, a 2/1 with a decent ability is not bad. Flipping it is not as hard as it seems in the early game, which results in a major beater who can Zombify creatures from any graveyard into play ad nauseum. Later in the game, when you will be unlikely to flip him, he’s still a Weathered Wretch for a slightly easier on the mana base cost. Use him to pop incarnations and flashback spells or Contracts in order to keep them used just the one time. Early or late, the Graverobber seems like a good deal.

Night Dealings

A reusable tutor effect will almost always be restricted. Many are ultimately banned, although a few, like Planar Portal, are not. Where will Night Dealings fall? Note that one simple damage allows you to tutor for a Contract from Below. Two damage allows you to get a Contract, play it, and then get another. That is a lot of potential power.

Night of Soul’s Betrayal

I have to admit that I really like this card. From one more Black mana than an Engineered Plague, you get the effect for every creature. Sure, it affects yours too, but you can build around that.

Rend Flesh

Personally, I think this is the other good Arcane option along with Kodama’s Option. In a normal environment, this basically reads”Destroy Target Creature.” Sure, we have Terminate running around, but Terminate requires two colors of mana, this only requires one. The creature can be regenerated, but again, just one color of mana in the Rend Flesh. It pops Black and artifact creatures too, so long as they are not spirits. Rend Flesh may be a pretty powerful removal spell on par with some of the best, due to that limited restriction outside of Champions.

Seizan, Perverter of Truth

Sure, he gives your opponent cards as well, just like a Howling Mine. On the other hand, he’s a 6/5 body for five mana that gives you two cards per turn for two life. In addition to the two life your opponent is losing, that’s a potential eight damage a turn for a five mana investment. That’s a pretty good haul, but I would have taken 5/4 and fear over the 6/5 evasion-less creature.

Wicked Akuba

If your beatdown deck is heavy Black, then you may covet this 2/2 for two mana. With a few Black mana available, he can hit for a significant amount of damage early. Use the ability several times in order to establish a beating.


Blue only has a few cards worth mentioning, and combined with that is the greatest hype machine since Upwelling (Time Stop). Will the Ninth Level Magic-User Spell hold up its end of the bargain, or be another bust? Blue does have the arguably most powerful spell in the set and a few potentially useful utilities.

Eerie Procession

Although it is a tutor, I don’t suspect that the council will take any action on it, until such time as some game altering Arcane spells are printed. Right now, our pool of Arcane spells includes pinpoint removal, poor card drawing, and miscellaneous effects nowhere near the power of other cards. If that changes, Eerie Procession may follow. In the meantime, if you want to play with more tutoring options than you already do, Kodama’s Reach, Rend Flesh, and Wear Away seem like decent enough targets for the Procession of Eerieness.

Gifts Ungiven

Welcome to our power card of the set. Gifts Ungiven will be acted on quickly, of that I have no doubt. Who knows whether it will see restriction or banning. With Yawgmoth’s Will away, maybe its time for small mammals to play. Look for Gifts Ungiven to be highly sought after in Five Color circles if it is just restricted, as it looks to be an auto-include in virtually every deck.

Honden of the Seeing Winds

At first glance, I thought that this card was lousy. Then I compared it to existing cards – Urza’s Blueprint and Heightened Awareness. Compared to some of these cards, the Honden of Seeing Winds looks pretty good. How much should a permanent cost if it allows me to draw an extra card for free every turn with no disadvantages? It has to be more than four, because at the four spot you get cards that force you to use mana to draw that extra card (like Jayemdae Tome). Therefore, it seems like five mana should be the cost, and this card is easy on the mana requirement with just one Blue in the cost. That’s a pretty good deal, all things told.

Meloku the Clouded Mirror

Meloku brings a very attractive package to the table. Here we get a 2/4 flyer for a splashable casting cost that makes 1/1 creatures for colorless mana and can save your lands from land destruction. All in all, that seems to be on the verge of playability.

Myojin of Seeing Winds

Normally, I discount creatures with such a large casting cost and no alternative method of getting them into play with their abilities intact. However, when a card has such abusively powerful drawing potential, it becomes hard to dismiss. Maybe some Dream Halls-toting madness can make this card the broken card drawing engine of doom. Combo decks may have a new toy.

Time Stop

Want to know what irks me about Time Stop? People are shouting on forums that they finally have an answer to Obliterate. Obliterate? The card that costs eight freakin’ mana? Is Obliterate ruling your roost? Well, I hate to ruin your party, but you already had answers to Obliterate like Ertai’s Meddling, Meddling Mage, Null Chamber, Look and Me, I’m the DCI, and of course, killing your opponent before they can cast an eight-mana sorcery. Time Stop is interesting because it does something simple with a lot of potential. So did Upwelling, by the way. I suspect that in four months, Time Stop will be relegated to the occasional Cunning Wish sideboard and casual decks.


These artifacts are usually to expensive or limited in scope to really warrant a closer look. Only three artifact bear mention, including a subtle but potentially powerful card with the name of a child’s toy (and it’s not the Top)…

Journeyer’s Kite

The Kite is an amazing artifact that is subtle and yet quite powerful. The Kite is mana smoothing no matter what colors you have out. You can tutor for basic lands forever, getting cards in your hand for Scroll Rack, Compulsion, or Wild Mongrel. The Kite thins you deck, guarantees land drops in perpetuity, and can be played on the second turn. I love the Kite, it’s one of my favorite cards from the set.

Sensei’s Divining Top

This yields cheap card replacement with the clever stacking of abilities able to push it down a card or two on the library. Easy to combine with library shuffling effects because it costs no mana to draw the card and replace with the Top.

Tatsumasa the Dragon Fang

I don’t normally go about proclaiming the good ness of expensive legendary equipment just for my health. However, Tatsumasa is amazingly powerful due to the unending nature of Dragons that can be summoned by the Fang. No amount of creature removal will help. With several popular decks packing little artifact removal these days, Tatsumasa may be a powerful finisher.


The lands are interesting for sixty-card Constructed or casual play, but not that great for Five Color. Do you really want to spend three life to give a creature haste? Prevent two damage to a legend? Not really. In fact, just one land jumps out at me.

Minamo, School at Water’s Edge

Suppose R&D said that they singlehandedly wanted to create another legendary land that would combo well with the biggest mistake R&D ever made with legends before (Tolarian Academy, for those who are wondering). (And Academy is arguably the worst mistake ever printed, period, end of discussion). Would making the new Legendary Land untap Tolarian Academy be a powerful enough ability to make us shake our heads in wonder? I suspect that we all saw this card and shuddered a little bit inside. Casual players were probably thinking,”Yay, I can untap Kor Haven and Gaea’s Cradle and Volrath’s Stronghold…” Luckily for Five Color players that Academy is not much of a force, but how much more pushing is needed before that changes? A full set of artifact lands, power, Mox Diamonds, Chrome Moxes, Mana Crypts, and more and you have the potential for powerful Tolarian Academy power.

Forty-six cards later sees the end of this set’s Five Color review. There’s a lot of good stuff in here, but I suspect that Champions will have less of an affect on Five Color overall due to the internal nature of the cards. Too many of the cards reference themselves, need each other to perform, and so forth. That’s a very flavorful environment, and as a casual player, I love it. As a Five Color player, however, I don’t suspect that there would be too much impact from the realm of arcane spells and spirits and samurai.

Until Later,

Abe Sargent