Drafting with Betrayers of Kamigawa – Initial Impressions

Nick weighs in with his initial thoughts on drafting with Betrayers of Kamigawa, then shares some of the ideas that have already been popping up at CMU!

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m bored to death with triple Champions draft

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m bored to death with triple Champions draft.

While it’s a solid format and all, without one truly prevalent deck, I’ve drafted it so many times that I now basically go into the draft wondering what goofy combination of cards I’ll end up with, since it’s no longer fun for me to draft the format correctly. Maybe it’s just me though, and the rest of you still enjoy it as much as you always have.

Whatever the case, Betrayers has come to free me from my boredom and bring about a new set of cards to evaluate and test out. I managed to get in four drafts last night at CMU, and while the results may not have been the best, I can say with certainty that Betrayers is an excellent Limited set with lots of powerful new options. The format is definitely going to get interesting, that much is for sure.

Before we jump into my first impressions of the new set though, I wanted to bid triple Champions farewell with what is possibly one of the worst looking decks on paper that actually turned out to be pretty good.

Reach Through Mists

Glacial Ray

2 Sakura-Tribe Elder

Time of Need

Consuming Vortex

Jushi Apprentice

Soratami Cloudskater

Heartbeat of Spring

Kodama’s Reach

Eerie Procession

Callous Deceiver

3 River Kaijin

Graceful Adept

Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro

Joyous Respite

Blind with Anger

Teller of Tales

Hairstrung Koto

Orochi Hatchery

Myojin of Seeing Winds

2 Mountain

7 Forest

7 Island

Pinecrest Ridge

Anything in italics is part of the main combos within the deck.

Looking at this deck, it just looks like a pile of cards with Blind with Anger, Glacial Ray, Teller of Tales, and a few Elders thrown in right? Oh wait maybe I shouldn’t go calling this deck a pile because it does have the aforementioned “bombs” in it. Minus the Elders of course.

But the deck actually has tons of synergy to it and was a blast to play. Clearly the main kill is to power out a hefty Orochi Hatchery and then use the Hairstrung Koto to deck your opponent with snake tokens. Clunky two-card combo, right? That’s where the Blue Myojin comes in. And I’m probably the only one who’s ever managed to get a good effect from this card. You can tutor it up with the Time of Need, or ramp it out with the Heartbeat of Spring if you draw it. The deck is also good at stalling the game with the Turtles so that I could use the mana acceleration and possibly Sachi to power out the large Blue buffoon. Graceful Adept serves a big role in this deck, and I’d gladly have played more copies of him if I’d gotten them, since he allows you to easily flip the Jushi Apprentice and use it on your opponent after you’ve stocked up your own hand, as well as allowing an activation from Blue Myojin to fully occur, since you won’t have to discard any of the goodies.

So there you go, a real piece of work to close out the format as far as non-MODO drafts go.

What I want to do this week is an overview of the new set and some of the ideas that have already been popping up that you should be aware of as you start drafting and experimenting with the new cards.


Before the full spoiler was out, I was assuming that Ninjitsu was going to be hugely influential on the format since I thought there’d be a lot more ninjas than there actually turned out to be.

As it stands, Ninjitsu is a niche ability in the format and will at the very least make people think more before they let guys through depending on what mana you have untapped. It also provides an area to bluff and possibly outplay someone, which is never a bad thing. The ability also has a few side effects on other cards.

First off, as Mike Flores already mentioned in his article on mtg.com, creatures like Battle-Mad Ronin become much better when you have ninjas since they get through so often. It actually makes it worthwhile to pick up guys like this in the waning picks of your Champions packs in case you do pick up a number of ninjas in pack three. My personal favorite guy for this job has to be Lantern Kami followed by Soratami Cloudskater, Floodbringer, and you get the idea.

Another change caused by the introduction of Ninjitsu is that pump spells will get slightly better since people will start blocking more theoretically and play right into that Indomitable Will that I have had such disdain for in the past. I don’t think this effect is enough to make the Will better than Blessed Breath, but it’s at least a thought in a deck full of ninjas.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, Soratami Mirror-Guard is now quite insane. When you’re able to make Mistblade Shinobi, Ninja of Deep Hours, or Throatslitter unblockable every turn, the game ends pretty quickly. Mirror-Guard is now possibly better than Consuming Vortex, though I’ll need a few more weeks of playing to really know for sure.

Bakus and Genjus and Flip Guys, Oh My!

The Genjus are every bet as insane as they look. The Red and Green versions in particular will end the game in a hurry if left unchecked, and the Red is especially good because of all the ways Red has to remove blockers (Kami of Fire’s Roar, burn spells, etc). Reusable Ball Lightning seems unfair in Limited.

Don’t be completely hopeless, however, as there are a number of ways to deal with these annoyances. Off the top of my head, Uproot, Floodbringer, Eye of Nowhere, Consuming Vortex, and any form of enchantment removal (of which there is plenty now). So pick up some kind of answer for the sideboard or just take that Kami of Ancient Law higher so you have a maindeck answer.

As good as these new “manlands” are, the Bakus are probably my favorite new cycle in Betrayers. Specifically, Waxmane and Razormane Baku are quite saucy.

The Waxmane Baku is essentially a Leonin Bola, though slightly less powerful since it’s a creature and has a conditional activation cost (though one that’s not hard to meet). I think it’s fair to say that this guy is the best White common even this early in the going, unless of course you have an unnatural lack of Spirits, in which case I’d take Split-Tail Miko.

Razormane Baku might be one of the sleeper cards in the set, at least in the early going, and it is deceptively powerful. On the surface it looks like a dinky guy with a decent but unspectacular ability. Slightly better than Akki Avalanchers, right? Well actually due to what I said earlier about all of the ways Red has to remove blockers, as well as the high Spirit count among the common Red guys, this guy is actually quite insane.

The real strength of these guys is the ability to remove any number of counters for just a single mana. Oh, and Petalmane Baku is also a fine card, while the Black Baku is slightly slow but playable in a deck without much late game.

Finally, we come to the new cycle of flip guys.

I must say, I’m much more excited about these guys than I was about most of the Champions flippers. This is of course because their flip conditions are much easier to meet and they can get pretty big quite quickly.

Among these guys I’m going to venture a guess and say that Budoka Pupil is the best because it’s big and the combination of Narcissism and Trample is quite strong. Cunning Bandit is good, but not as good as I initially thought it was because it doesn’t give the creature haste. This essentially lets you remove blockers or “fog” your opponent by taking one of his men. It’s still a 5/2 though, so it can get in for some beats after removing the blockers. The Faithful Squire and Hired Muscle are also quite good since they both have evasion and can put your opponent on a quick clock.


I was quite surprised to find such good Equipment when I went over the spoiler. Equipment is such a strong cardtype in general, and I’m surprised Wizards is pushing it as hard as they are, given that it started out as a block-specific ability.

Ronin Warclub is sort of like a new Grafted Wargear, except without the harsh drawback. I really like this card as you’ll almost never have to pay the high Equip cost if you play out your hand correctly since it will just always be attached to the guy you want it on. It also only costs three to cast which is quite cheap considering your guy will get equipped the turn it is cast and be safe from burn if your opponent is tapped out.

Shuko is an interesting little toy that is reminiscent of Bonesplitter, though I think the Splitter was slightly better. I guess the new theme is equipping for free at any cost? Shuko will usually be playable in most of your decks, especially the hyper aggro ones that contain Red.

If you thought those two were strong, take a look at Shuriken, which is a bomb in any deck with at least 2-3 ninjas. Remember Lavamancer’s Skill? This is better. You can activate it once for each ninja in play, each turn, which is just ridiculous. I’d pick this card up early and then start looking for ninjas if you’re in Blue or Black, and possibly just take it with the idea of splashing some ninjas if they come.

Other Thoughts

Betrayers has also brought more goodies in terms of removal. Yesterday we were debating at CMU whether Torrent of Stone or Horobi’s Whisper was the better removal spell, and the debate seemed to be almost split. The Whisper has a much more abusable splice cost, since sacrificing Mountains is only going to be painless in the late game while cards in graveyard rarely matter. However, the Torrent can kill any creature and is splashable unlike the Whisper.

I’d love to see a debate on this in the forums as I’m really not sure yet only having done a few drafts.

Red has also gotten a lot better in this set, with Frostling, First Volley, Razormane Baku, Torrent of Stone, and others all helping out the color that was considered mainly a splash in Champions. I think R/W Spirits aggro is probably going to become a core archetype now with both of the Bakus, Kami of Fire’s Roar, and removal clearing the way for a quick assault.

Finally, I’ve decided to change up the format of my reviews for this set and go over the cards by color instead of doing my usual underrated cards analysis and other topics. The reason I never did reviews by color before was because it seemed like everyone and their brother evaluated a new set that way and I’d be better off doing my own thing if I wanted to hit on some of the important information that was often missed in these color reviews.

What you can expect will be a review of the color beyond simple pick orders and card valuations. I’ll be going over mainly the changes Betrayers has brought to the environment including archetypes, in addition to my usual underrated card selections

See ya next week.

Nick Eisel

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