I’ve been in the middle of a career change, so I’ve been doing a lot of drafts lately. A recent article on a similar subject got me thinking: I felt that although some of the cards Uri Peleg mentioned were spot on, he left out a large contingent of cards that consistently go late and have a much swingier effect on the game. This isn’t a rebuttal; rather, it’s a complimentary doctrine. These are cards that are generally ignored but have proved to be powerful, and after reading this your pick orders will certainly be rearranged.
This is the way that the list is going to go: The cards up here at the top are cards that people know are good, but seem to be picking up later than they ought to. I’ll also try to point out a few specific synergies that make them better than what people think. As we get towards the bottom, we’ll start seeing spectacular cards that get ignored. Let’s start with the honorable mentions!
Honorable Mention #1: Bushi Tenderfoot
This card is interesting. If he flips, he’s a ridiculous powerhouse, so most of the time people refuse to block him. You can sneak in a lot of damage by holding a land in your hand and sending him across for one point at a time, as your opponent will fear Indomitable Will or a Blessed Breath. There are a lot of ways to save and/or pump your Tenderfoot within the color that make him more dangerous than most people are willing to admit.
(I realize this is a rather poor place to start an article, since frankly a lot of you will stop reading now, but the rest of it gets better. I myself have tried Bushi a couple of times, and he remained sucktacular no matter how I tried to save him. The fact that he can continually ping for a single point doesn’t seem worth a card slot to me – The Ferrett)
Honorable Mention #2: the Top!
The debate has been endless on this bad boy and whether he is worth playing at all. The answer is obviously yes; what you should be asking is, “How can I best exploit its power?”
I feel that Sensei’s Divining Top is picked around the correct spot, generally; what I want to mention is where you should pick it higher. If you are base green, the top goes up in value exponentially – if you have a couple of Sakura-Tribe Elders and a Kodama’s Reach, you’re going to be able to find a lot more of your good cards by shuffling. The Top is also good with Blue, as Blue has card drawing that can get you past any crap that may accumulate on top of your library. If you are White/Red or some other combination, the Top is less valuable and should be picked much lower.
And now for the good stuff! The most underrated cards in Kamigawa draft:
10. Kabuto Moth
You probably didn’t expect to see him here – but here he is nonetheless. This guy is a beast. The Pearl Shard of a new era, he allows you to dominate combat or hold off a small army of bears. The reason why he’s on this list is that he is going far too late for how good he is. I believe that CHK draft has established very firmly a three-color archetype as competing for the best, and his single W in the casting cost makes him fit nicely as a splash.
Another great card at the upper reach of the list. He goes fairly fast, as there are only so many good red cards in the set. The question is whether he is better than Ronin Houndmaster. The answer is generally no, I would say, partially because he’s smaller and slower and has RR in his casting cost. However, Frostwielder can single-handedly dominate certain matchups, so when you get him down at the right time it’s game over. A good example of this is U/B: they have so many one-toughness creatures that you’re bound to get either a card or tempo advantage that they cannot overcome.
8. Kami of the Waning Moon
CHK draft is fundamentally dominated by the bear (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go back and read this great article). Wicked Akuba is one of the best of the bears. However, you’re often left with an Akuba and an abundance of mana, but no way to force him through. Kami of the Waning Moon is the answer. He is not the most stellar man on your team, but his ability allows you to force through a lot of late-game damage and eke out a lot of wins that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. If my deck is dominated by two-drops (ten or more) I will always try to include one of these in case the game goes long.
7. Cursed Ronin
Here is yet another man with a good ability that goes late. “Shades” have always been excellent in drafts and this man is no exception. His higher casting cost is balanced by Bushido. Another thing that I like about a lot of the guys on this list is that if it is first pack and you are trying to cut off a color, you don’t feel bad about picking this guy since he will almost undoubtedly make your deck. Whether you want multiples is up to you, as I usually will not include more than one.
6. Serpent Skin
This is one of the cards that Uri Peleg mentioned and he was correct in naming it; he also got it spot on for a reason! If you put one of these on a Nezumi Ronin, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to deal with. Furthermore, regeneration is such an annoying ability to play around that your opponent will lose aggression and make more mistakes. Green is lacking in removal and this trick can help you kill an opposing critter as well.
5. Soratami Cloudskater
Oh, how I love 8th-picking these guys. To begin with, he’s a flier. Granted, one point of power isn’t a fast clock, but it all adds up when you need to finish with Devouring Greed. He can help you get out of mana screw by drawing into mana, and he can help you get out of mana flood by drawing into cards. His ability is costed well, and he is incredible when you have a bunch of bombs that you want to find. The last reason why I love this guy is that he’s never dead: if you draw him on turn 16 with an otherwise empty hand and ten mana on the table, you get to immediately draw four cards at the cost of four lands and your available mana. He is also great to keep the pressure on a reeling opponent.
4. Soul of Magma
A 2/2 for five? I must be off my rocker. But I assure you that this guy is awesome. If you’re going for the Spirits/Arcane archetype, this guy is going to dominate the table, picking off any of the powerful X/1s like Nezumi Cutthroat and Soratami Rainshaper, or screwing up combat math for your opponent because you’re holding cards in your hand. He can change the outcome of a damage race – and although he’s not going to kill your opponent’s Jugan, the Rising Star, he can take care of smaller guys with annoying abilities and allow you to save your Rends for other stuff.
And now… drum roll please… the top three!
3. Tenza, Godo’s Maul
If you’ve been looking at [author name="Craig Stevenson"]Craig Stevenson’s[/author] Sealed deck pools, you would know that he says equipment is excellent. It’s true! Especially with the Maul. It doesn’t matter what colors you’re drafting, there are going to be legendary creatures, and the Maul is costed well for its effect: three to play and one more for a possible +3/+3 and trample. I’ve won several games that involved turn 3 Dosan, Falling Leaf and turn 4 swing for five. Tenza is definitely at its best in a G/R archetype, since it’s full of Seshiros and Sosukes and Brothers Yamazakis, not to mention search spells like Time of Need and Commune with Nature.
2. Petals of Insight
I routinely pick this card up 11th-14th and I run it pretty much regardless of what colors I’m in. It is easily splashable and can give you a lot of gas. Furthermore, it will probably be the last thing you play after developing your board, so its five-mana casting cost isn’t that much of a deterrent. As a bonus, it has arcane, so you can use it over and over to splice spells onto unless you see a particularly juicy set of three cards that you absolutely have to take. Nick Eisel said it first and I totally agree: this card is a bomb.
NUMERO UNO. Hana Kami
What?!?! You read this whole article… And this is number one? Don’t head straight to the forums to flame, please – allow me to explain.
While this is obviously not the best card that I’ve listed here, I do believe it to be the most underrated card. Hana Kami is good for a number of reasons, and will always table for you. First off, it attacks and blocks, but these are beside the point. Its best function is to return your most powerful Arcane card to your hand, and it gets really crazy when splicing is involved. For example, consider a series as such: attack, cast Kodama’s Might splicing Glacial Ray, sac Hana Kami to return Kodama’s Might, Kodama’s Might Splicing Glacial Ray. It helps to provide redundancy in your deck by giving you an extra removal spell or something to splice on, or just bringing back something nasty so you can win outright.
So there you go, those are what I have found to be the most underrated cards in Kamigawa drafts. A final note on these cards is that while you may or may not choose to include them in your main deck, many of them are spectacular sideboard cards as well. An example of this would be Frostwielder or Soul of Magma; if I’m running only a red splash, but come against one of the matchups where the ability will dominate, I’ll swap in an extra mountain and run them.
Hopefully, only half of the people out there will listen to me; otherwise, I’ll be doomed to draft mediocre decks for eternity. Until next time…
John Matthew Upton
I like back, feed me!
jmumoo AT yahoo DOT cizzom