Dear Chris Romeo….

That which is rogue may come to define the format. The idea of a virgin Regionals is intoxicating. It is almost as good as the old meatgrinders used to be. The only reason the meatgrinders were better is because the formats would change every few hours. However, Regionals has the advantage of scale. And with Regionals in mind, I’d like to take a first look at Saviors of Kamigawa with an eye for how it will fit into the new Standard environment.

Hello Y’all,

The Godfather, Part III should never have been made. First off, the book The Godfather was better than the movie. If you don’t believe me, just read the first hundred pages. Because this is a family web site I can’t tell you about some of the scenes that made it into the book that couldn’t be shown in the movie but trust me – after a hundred pages, you’ll understand completely that the medium of film can only go so far in a story this deep.

Anyway, as far as I know the Godfather III was purely a screenplay, not a book adaptation. It was deservedly terrible, but it did give us one good line: “Just when I thought I was out…”

Yeah. Well, then they had to go and give us the best Regionals of all time. Also, I’m qualified for Worlds, so it isn’t the worst idea of all time to be somewhat familiar with the cards since I have never been to Japan and would like an excuse to go. Anyway, a quick aside:

Dear Chris Romeo,

What were you hoping for?

Would you prefer your Regionals tournament to be as stale as possible? Would you prefer that the Regional Champions to have downloaded their decks the night before?

Projected top 8:

That’s me being kind. If you want to be rogue, well…. you won’t be the only one. That which is rogue may come to define the format. The idea of a virgin Regionals is intoxicating. It is almost as good as the old meatgrinders used to be. The only reason the meatgrinders were better is because the formats would change every few hours. However, Regionals has the advantage of scale.

I’m not asking every player to put in a hundred hours and try to break the format; the advantage of a brand-new format is that a player can find a deck that they like and not have to worry about facing a downloaded gauntlet. The fact is, players get to play with cards that are still new to them without fearing that they are strictly outclassed. Time to have fun.

It is most assuredly not a hosing. This is the smell of freedom. So what if most people won’t break the format? Our choices are stale or fresh. I’ll take fresh thank you very much.

Now, let’s talk about Saviors of Kamigawa. I’m impressed by a lot of cards in the set. The only problems the set might have is that so many of the cards are conditionally good or that the cards that are strictly good don’t really fit into the decks you would want to put them into. I’ll expound more on this later; I’m not going to do a full set review today, but I will talk about the cards that interest me.


Celestial Kirin

A nice card; unfortunately, the ability cuts at both players and will obliterate your weenie army if you play with a lot of cheap arcane cards or spirits.

Charge Across the Araba

I don’t know how many of these you can fit in any deck, but man this can hit hard. It costs five and is in many ways an “all-in” card where you’ll win or lose the game on that play. I’ll probably experiment with it in WW, but the deck might need cards that are more consistently useful. We’ll see. The ability to play a card potentially more devastating than Overrun at instant speed is pretty juicy.

Descendant of Kiyomaro

Against a weenie rush, a 3/5 that gives you three life when blocking is nuts. It also isn’t that bad as an attacker against control. A well-done card.

Eiganjo Free-Riders

A solid card for WW but probably won’t make the cut, especially since it can’t do much for you on its own.

Honor’s Hand

A solid cousin of White Knight. The two-slot for White is exceedingly crowded.

Kataki, War’s Wage

Where was this when it could have done some good? Quite efficient – but don’t you want to run Moxen and equipment?

Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker

A wonderful trick with Aether Vial. What, you were expecting Hokori? Her flavor text should have been “No blocks.”


I don’t know that there are many enchantments floating around but this is still a solid card.

Promise of Bunrei

I’m not sold on this card. I love four 1/1 guys for three mana, but I’m not sure I like waiting for them. It will require some testing – and maybe it is an automatic four-of in White Weenie because almost every deck will have to kill your men at some point. But a three-drop that doesn’t beat down anytime soon might be fatally slow. As always, we’ll see.

Pure Intentions

Take that, Rats!


Would this stop an Orgg? It should in theory. I’m not sure this will see much play even as a sideboard card against weenie decks. I just hope the art has a confused Orgg in it. (Sadly, it does not – The Ferrett)


Cloudhoof Kirin

An almost strictly better Air Elemental. Of course, that isn’t the Blue flyer this will be fighting for space with… and this is no Meloku. But than again, apart from maybe Arc-Slogger what is?


This card is cool even though it will never be cast on its own. A nice idea.

Ideas Unbound

I was certain this was going to be one of the chase rares of the set, and then I saw it was a common. Wow. More on this card later.

Kaho, Minamo Historian

A 2/2 for four is probably not the best way to Tutor for instants (especially when it has to live to untap)… but I still kind of like this guy just because Tutoring is such a powerful ability.

Murmurs from Beyond

It’s not the card advantage that is so nice; Blue has a ton of that right now. The key is that it is arcane. That’s sweet.

Overwhelming Intellect

There were rumors that some creatures were taking steroids – so Dismiss decided to bulk up and even the odds. Because it costs six it is very conditional, but due to Time Stop you won’t be entirely telegraphing your intentions. If this counters anything more expensive than a Sakura-Tribe Elder, you should win the game. I don’t know if it will be too easy to play around, but when this works it will be brutal.

Rushing-Tide Zubera

Its ability won’t come up all that often – but when it does, it will be brutal.

Sakashima The Imposter

A Clone with an instinct for self-preservation. How sweet.


The color wheel spins yet again, although I can’t argue that this isn’t a Blue effect. I suspect that this will prove surprisingly effective against Cranial Extraction and Tooth and Nail, assuming I understand exactly how it works. As far as I can tell, I can copy the spell and then counter it. This still might be too situational to run effectively, but I’ll be testing it out.


Akuta, Born From Ash

I liked it in the old days when we used to get card advantage from these guys. Oh well; sometimes a Swamp will be a small price to pay, but I don’t expect to run Akuta all that often.

Death Denied

This is both arcane and an instant. How nutty! I like this card a lot.

Ghost-Lit Stalker

The downside is that it is a 1/1 for one. The upside is that it can be punishing if you have five mana, and can be brutal if you have seven. Also, it is a spirit. A nice card, although most of the time it will be just a 1/1 for one with no relevant text.

Gnat Miser

One isn’t really all that impressive, but a gang could be really annoying against some decks.

Hand of Cruelty

As crowded as the two-drop section is for White, look at what Black has in this block alone:

….And that isn’t even mentioning Distress. Black cannot complain about its options for two mana. Still, Hand of Cruelty might have a place as a Black beater against WW.

Infernal Kirin

Wow! The downside is that instead of getting a 5/5 groundpounder, you get a 3/3 flyer. The upside is that you have just made all your spirits and arcane spells quite nasty. It seems like it will be very hard to keep a hand against Black decks these days.

Pain’s Reward

I suppose you can easily win the bidding war against control. This might be a nasty sideboard card – although all it does is draw you cards, and sideboard cards might need to do more than that. Hmm.

Raving Oni-Slave

I didn’t want to cheat and look ahead when listing Black’s two-drops but this is the truly aggressive option. It’s odd that Black has so many great two drops but is kind of barren at three. Black weenie probably isn’t in the right metagame right now but the cards are there.

Razorjaw Oni

In another world, this might matter… but given Black’s other four-drops, this seems pale in comparison.

Skull Collector

An obvious combo with Ravenous Rats, but otherwise the downside seems brutal.


Adamaro, First to Desire

Will often be 6/6 if you go first and drop him on turn 2 with help of a Mox. A nasty beater. The only problem with him in Ponza is that your three-mana slot was already being served by landkill; that’s the reason that the two-drops worked so well in the deck. Still, this guy seems unreasonably large early in the game when a lot of Red decks are going for the quick kill. Even if your opponent only has three or four cards in his hand, this guy is nutty.

Akki Underling

The only time this guy’s ability will ever come into play is when you are going second and draw no one-drops. Still, he is a 2/1 goblin for two mana — so perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to complain.

Burning-Eye Zubera

I’d rather draw three than deal three… but I guess it would be too easy for Red to manipulate the damage dealt. Shrug. I don’t think I’ll run him in Constructed, even though Red isn’t flush with all that many great four-drops right now.

Feral Lightning

I wish this had cost five. Still, this deals a lot of damage for six mana if you can get it to work. I don’t think this makes the cut, but I like its existence.


So this is how you can get some of Red’s cards to work; add a counter a turn to your Cunning Bandit and his friends. Nice.

Hidetsugu’s Second Rite

Exceedingly narrow, especially given Red’s lack of tutoring. On the plus side, if you run this your opponent has some very tough decisions and if you can manipulate the game effectively this will be devastating. I am not a fan, but it is potentially broken.

Homura, Human Ascendant

How much fun will it be to use Through the Breach and this guy? Seriously! “Take four and now all my guys are amazing.” It might be a bit romantic but hey, the set is new; this is the time to dream.

Jiwari, the Earth Aflame

Given the competition at five mana in Red, this guy looks to come up short… but he is still very solid. Then again, maybe he is more of a spell that is sometimes a five-drop. In that case he might be very good, indeed.

Skyfire Kirin

I am not sure Red has the tools to take advantage of this guy, but he still seems quite good. Not as strong as the Black counterpart, but hey – that’s life sometimes.

Thoughts of Ruin

Hmm. That card’s good. It is somewhat limited in that you need to have multiple cards in hand to make it effective, but there are multiple ways to make it decidedly unfair.

However, if anyone wants to put this in the same league as Armageddon, all I ask is that you put Armageddon in 9th Edition and let us compare. It’s kind of like calling someone up from three thousand miles away and saying you can kick his ass. Say it in the same room.

Thoughts of Ruin can claim to be in the same league as the original, but the original let you empty your hand and then ‘Geddon for the win. This is conditional. ‘Geddon was splashable. This is… less so. As for ‘Geddoning with no hand – well, what were you hoping for, a fistful of countermagic? Of course, Lotus Petal got banned, so even the shadows of the greats can be effective.

Oh, one other thing: Give White Armageddon and you won’t have to wonder why WW isn’t actually winning in T2. Just sayin’.


Another solid Red anti-artifact card. It might be a bit slow to solve the problems it has to solve, but will definitely see a lot of play and will be a nice card.


Arashi, the Sky Asunder

The downside is the lack of trample and the fact that he can be targeted. The upside is the ability to nail Meloku and the ability to wear equipment. Green still doesn’t have one of the top two five-drops in Standard (or six-drops, for that matter) but this guy is still really good. You now have your Hurricane on legs.

Ayumi, the Last Visitor

7/3 guys with evasion are rare. (They’re rare, period; he’s the only one – The Ferrett) I am not sure he wins the five-slot battle in Green all that often, but another fine card.

Bounteous Kirin

Four mana, five mana, four mana, four mana…. seven? Whatever; Green will do better things with its mana.

Elder Pine of Jukai

So I use Sensei’s Divining Top to draw the spells and this to draw the lands? Dang, that will get nasty. This guy is the textbook definition of efficient.

The only problem is that Green has more good three-drops than any color has ever had. This guy is different, though; he isn’t a beater, he’s more of a Mulch that keeps on Mulching. This guy can get really ugly if he isn’t killed. I’ll keep an eye on him.


You know, this guy isn’t bad – but for some reason, I liked his predecessors a lot more. Shrug.

Kami of the Unkept Garden

One Green mana isn’t all that much, but these days a 4/4 for four isn’t all that amazing. A solid, if unspectacular, card.

Kashi-Tribe Elite

How much does this guy want to be a legend?

Masumaro, First to Live

A double-Maro! I don’t expect this guy to see much play, but he’s still quite cool and should be a monster in Limited.

Reki, the History of Kamigawa

Well, this isn’t a beater, so I’d better be playing a lot of legends. I don’t think this quite cuts it – but maybe it will, since card draw is such a powerful ability.

Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant

So let me get this straight: If I have infinite mana in hand I can get infinite mana from my lands in play? Why didn’t I just play the lands from my hand? Well, at least it can attack for two.

Seed the Land

Was this broken when it only worked for you?

“>Rending Vines

Very useful early when an Umezawa’s Jitte can try and take control of the game. Also good against Moxen.

Stampeding Serow

I loved you in a previous life but I just don’t think I have the tools to run you again. Where is Wall of Blossoms when you need it? Heck, where are the Spikes?


Iname as One

Man, they neutered the combo of this guy and Goryo’s Vengeance. Even so he is a tempting reanimation target, oddly working quite well with his two half-Inames.



I guess this can be trump in some weenie matchups. Of course, if it’s too good, it won’t have any targets since the equipment will have all died – so it needs a pretty perfect equilibrium to matter.

Pithing Needle

Before I can talk about the Needle, I need to talk about why Sensei’s Top is so stupidly good. The fact that Green has so many good ways to shuffle with it is helpful; the fact that you can sacrifice it to Shrapnel Blast and still draw a card is nice. However, what really makes it so special is the fact that it is invincible. It never needed to tap, except to return itself to the top of its owner’s library. Even unwanted extra Tops could simply cantrip themselves and the be shuffled away. The card was flawless.

It wouldn’t be of much use to the average aggro deck but it really did make a difference in Tooth and Nail. At its heart, Tooth is a combo deck and Top functioned as a bit of a Tutor, helping you find the last piece of the Urzatron or by helping you find the big spell you needed. Only Damping Matrix was capable of shutting the Top down.

In the battle of Black control vs. Tooth, Top was often the deciding factor. Black could wreck Tooth’s hand and Top would allow Tooth to gradually come back and win the game… And finally, Black has a way of locking down Top.

The fact that Needle shuts down almost any single problem makes it the most useful – if not the most powerful – card in the set. Sometimes it will be Meloku, other times it will be Arc-Slogger. Even Troll Ascetic and Jitte can be stopped by the Needle. Some cards are obvious powerhouses; others keep getting played out of sheer usefulness. This is the latter.


Mikokoro, Center of the Sea

How incredibly fair… but is that what we want? I guess there is no way on Earth that it could work just for you.

Oboro, Palace in the Clouds

Wow, strictly better than Island, and won’t even let a 7/3 kill you. Sweet!

Tomb of Urami

Cool. I suspect Black weenie will like this as something that helps as a potential finisher. I’ve been testing it out – and while the downside is large, the upside does win games so it should see some play.

Okay – now we have the new set. What happens now?

Well, it is possible nothing changes. Tooth and Nail was a pretty tight deck before, and it really doesn’t need to add anything from the new set.

Ponza has two new toys at a minimum. A fast Adamaro is a scary thing. Thoughts of Ruin is a potentially devastating sideboard card, but its very existence might force Tooth and Nail to sideboard White for Sacred Ground and perhaps Circle of Protection: Red.

White Weenie has some new choices, but the most interesting is Charge Across the Araba. A deck not prepared for the Charge will almost certainly die to it.

Ideas Unbound makes Reanimator a viable option. It isn’t yet clear what the best cards to reanimate are, but the deck itself can play a lot like Blue control until the turn it gets funky on you. The ability to play almost any creature in Type II for 3B is powerful.

Black and Green right now have too many options to count. Aggro Black can choose to go after an opponent’s hand, graveyard, or just concentrate on their life total. A control Black deck has even more choices to make. However, nothing is tougher to see right now than what will happen to Green. Sakura-Tribe Elder, Kodama’s Reach, and the rainbow lands give Green the ability to work with any color. Green can choose to beat down, cast large spells, draw a ton of lands, or anything else it wants. Choices only matter if some of them win you the game, but it is likely some will.

One last thing: Check out Osyp’s deck from the Invitational. Mike Flores built it and it is very good. It did well and the LCQ as well. It might be strictly better than Ponza due to the fact that direct damage is always good and land destruction can be situational.

Okay, this is long enough for my first article back. My next article will be almost entirely focused on Type II decks.

Seth Burn

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