CHK It Out! The Prerelease Predition

Now, my butlers tell me the prerelease is this weekend, so I’ll be gearing my card analyses with that goal in mind. Not only will I provide you feedback on all the preview cards from the last week, I will also be discussing the strengths of the various colors that the spoiler has shown this far, and I have devised a prerelease Choose Your Own Adventure story to help round out your weekend. If you are looking to get a leg up on your Champions prerelease experience, you’ve come to the right place.

Welcome to this, the penultimate edition of CHK It Out! Penultimate means second to last. Yeah, there’ll still technically be one more preview card to do. I’m sure I’ll get around to it eventually.

Now, my butlers tell me the prerelease is this weekend, so I’ll be gearing my card analyses with that goal in mind. (Note: many of the following card reviews assume you’ve read the Champions of Kamigawa spoiler. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to read the spoiler, good luck at the prerelease.)

This first card this week is actually the last card of last week. Wha? Yeah, I said the same thing.

Ah, the iconic White Weenie card. I’m referring to Armageddon, of course. We already had a two-power creature for one, and it didn’t help. Hell, Affinity’s got a two-power creature for zero.

Basically, Isamaru has two strikes against it. The deck it belongs in sucks, and it’s got the (new and improved) Legendary drawback. Yes, WW now has eight two-power, one-mana creatures at its disposal, which alongside an assortment of other possible one-mana creatures could theoretically give it some explosive starts. Yet you never want to draw more than one Isamaru. Putting four of him in your deck is asking for extra mulligans and extra virtual mulligans (when you draw it and already have one in play). Part of what makes (made?) White Weenie strong is its consistency, and this card only hurts that. Factor in the fact that we’re losing a bunch of good Onslaught weenies and I really don’t see a future for the deck, and thus this card, in the near future.

So what if you open Isamaru at the prerelease? Are you happy? I can’t really see a good reason not to play him if you’re in White (the Legendary drawback will almost never hurt you, as he’s rare), but unfortunately a generic 2/2 isn’t all that scary in this format, even when it only costs W. There are myriad common creatures for two mana that either trade with or stop Isamaru in its tracks. This is looking to be a stalematy format for sure, and while aggression and tempo will still be important, don’t be surprised when your lone 2/2 is quickly obsoleted.

That said, if you manage to build an aggressive deck overall, you could do far worse than this Hound. Stir in some combat tricks for added yuks! (Yuck.)

Coming up shortly, the next card!

That was quick. What an impressive card! What a nifty mechanic. Pugg is quite pleased.

The Good: It’s a mechanic that promotes card advantage. It combines the best aspects of Kicker and Buyback without being derivative of either (like Entwine). On Glacial Ray, it’s costed aggressively. It promotes the Arcane block mechanic without necessarily building a deck for you. All the Splice cards are fortunately also Arcane spells.

The Bad: With some exceptions, most Splice cards aren’t costed aggressively. To maximize the potential of Splice, you need to load your deck full of these Instants and Sorceries. Many of them aren’t very versatile (Lava Spike), while some are outright bad (Lava Spike).

Can Splice make a Constructed splash? I hesitantly say yes, but I highly doubt we’ll see any dedicated Splice or Arcane decks (at least not until the rest of the block is released). Glacial Ray is strong enough and cheap enough that it could probably make it in a few decks and need very little support (three of these in your hand and enough mana gives you twelve damage for twelve mana over two turns; not quite Pulseworthy, but not too shabby, either). Unfortunately, most of the other Splice cards aren’t nearly as good. Many Arcane spells are weaker versions and occasionally virtual reprints of cards that have never seen much play.

Yet the mechanic has so much potential. Once we attain a critical mass of potent Splice cards, a tier 1 deck is sure to follow.

Should you happen to open one (or two, or three! It’s common!) of these in your Sealed at the prerelease, consider yourself strongly pulled in the direction of Red. You will have targets for this spell, and you will play other Arcane spells, as the majority of sorceries and instants are Arcane.

The question is, how many Arcane spells is enough? With a card like Glacial Ray, frankly, one is plenty. But what if you’re given the Splice deck?

The problem is plain enough: Champions Limited is a creature-heavy format. Creatures are so strong (though not nearly as plentiful as in Onslaught) and efficient that you need to play at least fifteen, if not sixteen or seventeen. Figuring seventeen lands, this leaves you with only six to eight noncreature spells. You simply don’t have the luxury to flood your deck with Arcane and expect to come out on top; Glacial Ray won’t kill every creature you face. It will barely kill half. Your other spells will face similar odds against creatures.

I’d say ideally you want six total Arcanes in your deck, at least three of which are Splice cards (it’d be great if all six were, but they’re just not all that plentiful). You may feel as though your deck wants more, but you most certainly don’t want to be in the position where you have six spells in your hand and can only cast one a turn, whereas your opponent’s got four creatures beating you down. Card advantage is worthless when you’re losing.

I’d say that with about six Arcanes in your deck, three of them Splices, you’ll have the opportunity to splice twice a game on average, which is plenty as long as you’re actually getting card advantage by doing so and you’re still keeping up in creatures. Don’t get greedy with spells, folks. Creatures are the backbone of Limited.

I’m bored. Let’s shake things up. I present:

The Official Champions of Kamigawa Choose Your Own Adventure Card Preview

You are superspy Steven (or Stevina, but that’s not too likely, is it?) Jenkins; regional globetrotter and amateur of disguise. Today your mission is to infiltrate the most foul of all places – A Champions of Kamigawa Prerelease tournament.

You approach the card shop with apprehension. Already a line of overweight goons snakes beyond the doorway.

If you run away screaming, scroll down to CHICKEN.

If you get in line and await your fate, go on to the next section.

Holding your breath, you step behind a slimy-looking man carrying a large box of cards. Despite your hunched shoulders and resigned expression, he turns to you and asks,”got some trade, brah?”

If you feel like trading, scroll down to TRADE.

If you’d rather watch ten straight hours of reality television, continue to the next section.

“No thanks,” you tell the oozing pustule in front of you. He shrugs his shoulders and turns away, scanning for other potential victims. Three hours later, the announcement is made that deck registration will begin shortly. You make your way to your assigned seat – one in the middle of the aisle, wedged in between two rather portly individuals. Excusing yourself down the rows of players, you squeeze into your chair only to be greeted by the biggest and most lovely pair of female eyes you’ve ever seen sitting across from you. Fortunately, the eyes are attached to a major hottie. She extends her hand and says,”Hi, nice to meet you.”

If you flirt with the fair maiden, scroll down to FLIRT.

If you suddenly and inexplicably become fixated upon clocks, watches, and other various timepieces, continue to the next section.

Exactly six minutes and thirty nine sweaty seconds later, deck registration begins. You register your bomb-laden deck, pass it off to some other player, and open up your real deck. It’s rather unimpressive as usual (but then, you wouldn’t really know what usual is, never having been to one of these because you’re a superspy, right?). One of your rares is this card:

You hesitate, recalling that all coin-flip cards are utter crap. However, you are playing Red and there is a slot available in your deck.

If you toss the card into the nearest trash can with ninja speed, scroll down to TRASH.

If you decide to go ahead and play it, continue to the next section.

You lose your first three matches, though they’re tight. Although you know you’re well out of the running, you decide to keep on playing. Your next opponent is an eight-year-old kid with a Duelist life counter, a smirk on his face, and a hat that says”I 0wnz j00.” You make it your goal in life to wipe the floor with this kid.

You split the first two matches due to mana screw on both your parts. However, game 3 is tight and you’ve reached a creature stalemate. You both have enough creatures so that an all-out alpha strike with no blocks would kill the other player. You draw Tide of War, play it, and attack. He blocks with everything he has.

“Ok,” you say.”Flip.” The kid takes out an 1895 buffalo head nickel and tosses it in the air.”Call it,” he sneers.

If you choose heads, scroll down to HEADS.

If you choose tails, scroll down to TAILS.

If you punch the kid in the face while he’s tracking the nickel, continue to the next section.

Your punch knocks the kid out and gives him a nosebleed. The store owner calls the police, and you spend the next four years of your life in prison. The other prisoners are disgusted at what you’ve done and beat you daily. Finally, the day of your release has arrived. You walk out of the prison, eager to begin your life anew. However, you are cornered by the now-paralyzed kid’s father and beaten to a bloody pulp. Writhing on the ground, you wonder what could possibly have made you hit a defenseless child. You vow to live a life of peace and to promote goodwill throughout the world. You are then flattened by a steam roller. GAME OVER.


Flailing your arms, you pump your legs as fast as you can away from the tournament site.”Freedom! Glorious freedom!” you shout at the top of your lungs. You are then run over by a bus. GAME OVER.


“Sure,” you say, taking out your binder full of beta Moxen and various misprints. Somehow, ten minutes later, your binder is empty and you’re clutching two packs of Fallen Empires. You sink into a deep depression that despite sixteen years of therapy and various medications seems incurable and terminal. However, one day you see the sun rising from your bedroom window, the birds chirping in the trees, and a beautiful rainbow peeking through the clouds. You decide it’s time to live again. You step out into the brave new world with hope. For the first time in a long time, you are happy. You are then squashed by a train. GAME OVER.


“Nice to meet you,” you say, returning the handshake. Uh oh, you just exhausted your entire repertoire of flirtation. What to do?

If you say”Come here often?” scroll down to COME HERE OFTEN.

If you wink and gesture down towards your crotch, please shoot yourself now.

If you are actually Brian Kibler, which you probably are, scroll down to KIBLER.

If you ask her if she wants to grab something to eat, continue to the next section.

“Wanna go grab something to eat?” you ask. At the mention of food, the two fat guys next to you begin to drool and lean in towards you. Crushed and nearly suffocated, you manage to escape their grip and run outside to have a cigarette, relieved at the close call but excited at your second chance at life. You fail to realize the game store had been built on an ancient Indian burial ground and gas station. Your cigarette ignites the gasoline and angers the dead. You burst into flames and are simultaneously sent to the Spirit Realm, where the ancient Indian ghosts charge you with a vision quest in order to rectify the injustices to their once proud people. You head out into the wilderness, tired and hungry, seeking the answers to questions you don’t even know. You are then trampled by a metaphysical herd of buffalo. GAME OVER.


“Come here often?” you say. Almost immediately, you wish you hadn’t and become extremely embarrassed. You blush a furious shade of crimson. A passing bull notices you and charges into the store. It kills fifty tournament goers and crushes your feet and hands. You manage to crawl out into the open air, bleeding profusely, wishing you were Brian Kibler or at least that you could come up with a better pickup line. You are then killed by your own ambulance. GAME OVER.


You turn on the patented Brian Kibler charm.”I’m Brian Kibler, you know,” you say.”Care for a quickie in the bathroom?” The girl naturally submits to your will. You go on to win the tournament and several other flights you didn’t even register for.

Some months later, you begin to develop skin lesions and a particularly nasty rash. You go to the doctor who announces you have syphilis. Walking home, you begin to reflect on your life and wonder if maybe having so many female conquests was a big mistake and the beginning of your undoing. You are then smashed by a truck delivering medical supplies to orphans. The truck driver, horrified at what he’s done, jumps off a bridge. All the orphans die. GAME OVER.


“Heads,” you call, wringing your hands. The coin lands on tails.”Ha ha, I win!” shouts the kid gleefully.”All your creatures die, biznatch. All your base, etc.” You stare at the coin, willing it to spontaneously flip over, but nothing happens. You sit in that position for years, becoming a virtual museum piece. The store gladly feeds you intravenously as long as you keep sitting and staring and raking in profits. Children and adults alike come from all over the country to marvel at the freak of nature and to try and make you flinch, but you remain unmoving. You sit and sit, and stare, for nearly thirty years.

One day an earthquake hits your town (though quite rare in those parts), and the coin does in fact flip over. You stand up in triumph and immediately hit the floor due to your atrophied limbs. Blood flows to your brain in quantities it hasn’t seen in years. You see new colors, experience new sensations, think new thoughts. All the mysteries of life are suddenly revealed to you. You are then pummeled by a passing spaceship, its pilot confused by the earthquake. It is thirty years later, after all. Spaceships are everywhere. GAME OVER.


“Tails,” you call, crossing your fingers. The coin lands on tails.”I win!” you bellow.”In your face, kid!” The child begins to cry. His mother finds him and glares at you.”How dare you treat my son this way! This game is evil!” She then forms an organization of concerned mothers called Magic Is Loathsome and Foul, which eventually causes Wizards of the Coast to go bankrupt. Former players everywhere spit at you and flood you with death threats. You go into hiding, living in the sewers, subsisting on rat and goldfish. One day you wonder if it’s safe to go back to the outside world. You climb up the ladder and peek your head out of the sewer opening. You now see how badly you missed civilization and your friends. You are then decapitated by a tractor. GAME OVER.


Instead of playing Tide of War, you opt for another land. Your first few matches go smoothly, with only a couple of games lost to mana flood. You find yourself in the finals against the very girl you sat across from during deck registration. She smiles and proceeds to kick your ass. However, you still win a substantial prize and the girl feels sorry for you and asks you for a date. Ten years later you are happily married and on your way to the supermarket. You are then hit by a Volkswagen. You survive. WINNER.

The moral of the story? Tide of War sucks.

What’s next? Mana Flare, maybe?

For a more complete if slightly outdated analysis of the card, read my 1995 article”why i luv manas flare.” If you can’t find it anywhere (and you can’t because I completely made it up), you may as well read on.

Okay, Johnnies and Timmies, look away. Spikes, listen up. Never play this card. But you know that already, don’t you? Symmetrical effects are terrible, especially when your opponent gets to use them first. I suppose if White Weenie does in fact make a comeback, you might consider playing Heartbeat of Spring. Unfortunately, we’ll have larger problems to deal with, namely the hordes of winged pigs wreaking havoc among the populace. I doubt any of us will really be focusing much energy on Magic in this case.

Spikes, look away now. Johnnies, keep looking away. I guess you really wouldn’t be reading this if you followed my instructions, but in case you did, you filthy cheater, look away anyway. Timmies, this one’s for you. Never play this card. You will be severely tempted to accelerate out your Craw Wurms and, I dunno, Krakens? B.F.M.s? What do Timmies play with nowadays? At any rate, your Timmy opponents will do a Timmy cheer whenever you play this. Just trust me on this one. I’ve got Timmy experience.

Johnnies, it’s your turn. You can look now. Johnnies! No, not you, Johnny-come-lately. You missed your chance. Okay, Johnnies of the world: go ahead and play this card. You’ll have boatloads of fun. I realize losing is fun to you. You’ll get plenty of it. Oh, sure, once in a great while this’ll hit the Door to Nothingness jackpot, and then you’ll be extra happy. It’s win-win. Or lose-win, which is pretty much the same thing.

Oh, and if you open this up at the prerelease, do not play this card. Never play this card. I’m speaking to everybody now. Yeah, you can look. In fact, read these words again after looking at the next card. Never play this card.

Oh, God, I just threw up all over my screen. I can barely see the porridge for the peas. I’m going to have to guess what this card says based on what little I can read of it right now.

Whenever a source you control deals damage to another player…

Phew, good thing I typed that out just now, because I just puked again. I don’t recall eating that gummy worm. Wait, that’s not a gummy worm! The problem with this line is that if the situation is happening, you are probably winning. Talon of Pain was an exception (in Limited) because it was useful in two situations: when you had evasion creatures, even teeny tiny ones, poking your opponent, or when you could force through some damage (even at cost to yourself) so you can start picking off his x/1s and x/2s, making it easier to force through damage the next turn. Talon shines (in Limited) because its effect makes it exponentially easier to invoke itself the next turn.

Ah, my screen’s clearing up again. 2BB, remove X so-and-sos from whatsitsface colon search for a something with whatsitcalled X and put it into your thingy.

Tutors are strong; don’t get me wrong. I realize I underestimate them, thus my panning of the buzzworthy Gifts Ungiven. If tutors are strong, then reusable tutors are even better, right? Right?

Well, sort of. I mean, usually. I mean, God, this card sucks! Give me something good to analyze! Please! I can’t take this anymore! This is the biggest piece of crap since that last piece of crap! I mean, yeah, you can do what MaGo says and load your deck with cheap burn, but that’s the best you can hope for! 2BBR for unlimited Shocks! Don’t you know I’m serious? I’m dry heaving over here, people! Yargh!

If you open this card up in the prerelease, first check how much evasion you have. Make sure you already have a heavy commitment to Black before you consider playing this. Lastly, look at your cheap burn spells that can keep the chain of spells going. Finally, do that Choose your Adventure thing over again but pretend it’s with this card. Then, even if you find the winning path, pretend you lose anyway. Throw yourself in front of a milk truck or something. That’ll teach you.

Time to switch gears. Vomit-soaked gears. It’s most certainly time for the Redundant Champions of Kamigawa Prerelease Guide to the Champions of Kamigawa Prerelease. Redundant means fun!

First things first. Read the spoiler. Read the Judge FAQ. Then read them both again.

Use standard Sealed common sense. That is, play no less than 16 and no more than 18 land. In fact, don’t play anything except 17 land unless you absolutely know what you’re doing, in which case you probably stopped reading this article around”Out!”

Play 15-17 creatures. The majority of your noncreature spells should guarantee card parity (one-for-one trades) or, better yet, card advantage. Generally, these fall into four categories: removal (primarily the realm of Red and Black, though all colors get a touch of removal of various flavors–these should contribute to the bulk of your spells); combat tricks (primarily Green and White – try to only play those that don’t have restrictions like”target blocking creature”); discard (almost exclusively Black – try to avoid playing them unless they’re extremely strong, as they have no effect on the board. Also, the prevalence of strong discard in the set is offset by its strong reanimation and graveyard retrieval); and countermagic (exclusively Blue – also rather weak in Limited because since you’re not playing a dedicated control deck, you rarely have enough mana up at the right times).

If you still need to flesh out your deck, look for versatile spells like bounce or, if all else fails, generic cantrips (umm, yeah, except there’s like two). Spells and effects that can break stalemates (a.k.a.”Falter” effects) often merit inclusion as well. In fact, in this set, I’d recommend having at least one such spell.

There is definitely a lack of evasion in this set, so almost anything with fear, flying or sometimes trample in your colors should make your deck (three-mana 1/1s notwithstanding). Protection also falls into this category, but the only non-rare card with natural protection appears to be Kitsune Riftwalker (1WW 2/1 protection from Spirits and Arcane – a solid common).

Soulshift is strong. There will be a lot of creatures hitting the graveyard, and being able to recoup them without wasting noncreature slots in your deck is quite the boon. Spirits are a very common creature type – nevertheless watch your Spirit count if you plan on playing a number of these. Also, it goes without saying that you’ll need cheap Spirits to take advantage of the ability.

It’s a Bear market again! The two-power, two mana creature is found at all rarities in sufficient quantities in all colors except Blue. However, not all Bears are created equal. Many of White’s have Bushido, meaning they’ll win the Bear Battle more often than not. Remind me to tell you the story of how I lost the Big Beer Battle at the Busch Brewery. It’s not much of a story, actually. I was mauled by a bear.

Though Bears are all well and good, don’t underestimate the Gray Ogres. Many of them are strong utility creatures that can beat down when necessary.

1/1s for one are unplayable again. (Yes, again. Almost all of them are quite good in MD5 draft.) Some of them look pretty good on the surface, meaning they have useful combat abilities, but almost all of them will be outclassed by turn 2. And there’s none of that fancy Equipment to bail them out.

Fine, there’s some Equipment. Six cards, in fact, none of them common. None of them are as good as the best Mirrodin Block equipment, but almost all are playable. Instead of tons of equipment, we get…

Enchant creatures and their natural drawbacks. The set does have a (small) cycle of returnable enchantments and a (small) cycle of instant enchantments. With a few exceptions, these are mostly bad and should never replace the major noncreature spells I mentioned above.

White is strong. This has been a common theme in the past two sets. White gets the lion’s share of Bushido and some of the most efficient creatures ever, frankly (in the Limited sense, of course). White also remains the second best flying color, and it’s the third best removal color. Some of its removal is even good! (see Reciprocate). White power!

I’ve got mixed feelings about Red. Its burn isn’t as great as it’s been in recent blocks (too much of that”if a creature damaged by X goes to the graveyard, remove it from the game” and”deal X damage to target creature already dealt damage” garbage), but its creatures are stronger than ever (Ronin Houndmaster!). However, since the trend has been pretty solid as of late with regards to the first set of the block, I’ll go out on a limb and say Red’s the best color.

Except at creature removal. Go Black!

Green’s creatures, on the other hand, seem to be getting worse and worse. Sure, its got its share of Bears, but the other colors’ Bears and Ogres are just better. Green does have some of the best combat tricks (Kodama’s Might is nice), but combat tricks might not be enough to counterbalance its relative lack of creature efficiency. It does have some limited mana fixing, meaning it might become a necessary evil, but in this block I’d strongly recommend playing two colors. There is a lot of colored mana commitment in the set, and it may well be worth it to build a consistent if slightly weaker deck.

Depletion lands? Pee-yew. All the other lands are Rare, so eh, screw ’em.

Have fun at the prerelease, people! I’ll let you all know how badly I did. Next time, that is! When I finally wrap it all up! What will become of me? Will I ever escape the clutches of the evil Associate Professor Doom? I dunno!

Pugg Fuggly

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