Foundations of Kamigawa Block (Part 2 of 2)

Zvi wraps up his survey of Kamigawa Block Constructed with thoughts on what Red and Green bring to the table as well as providing an astounding ten potential decklists for Pro Tour: Philadelphia and the Block Queues on Magic Online.

As a side note, I thank everyone who e-mailed me, even if I did not reply. I will reply only to those who I decide to test with, so as not to leave everyone hanging like I did last time. But if I’m short, I’ll start going down the list.



Akki Avalanchers is a real offensive one-drop that attacks on turn 2, and Frostling and Goblin Cohort are less unplayable than you would think. Without even counting Genju of the Spires, of the four top one-drops in the first four colors Red has three, although Green can put up a candidate or two. Crack the Earth is unlikely to be justifiable, but if no one else can play one-drops it could make a certain amount of sense – and Lava Spike just hammers the point home even more that Red wants to be Red.


Akki Raider goes right alongside Akki Avalanchers, which I’ve done before for a Standard deck. Hearth Kami looks like a refuge from the previous block, but it has a job to do taking out the Jitte which is also a refuge from the previous block. Ishi-Ishi Crackshot could be a serious problem for the wrong deck, doing far more damage than a normal two-drop could hope for. Blademane Baku also has to be in the mix, because it offers you a spirit at two and if you trigger it enough it does more damage than any other two-drop in the format.

Glacial Ray is great and the best reason to splice and Sideswipe is one of the few ways to mess with splicing but won’t accomplish much often enough. If you combine it with Ire of Kaminari, arcane cards have two very good reasons to go Red. On the wild card front, Desperate Ritual and Mana Seism are mana acceleration and all of us are going to be looking at them and wondering at least ten times in the next month. If we don’t, we didn’t do our jobs. I doubt anything will come of it, but do your homework!


Zo-Zu the Punisher gives opponents little choice, as you need lands to compete in this format. You can’t end your curve short. Cunning Bandit could also become a monster for a deck that can flip him quickly, but Red’s good quick cards don’t play well with the strategy and that is where I would most want the Bandit. You can’t have it both ways. The math on the Brothers Yamizaki is not good unless you’re using Time of Need and then the mana numbers are just as bad. That leaves the solid Ronin Houndmaster as your other option if you don’t want to lean far enough in any direction.

Hanabi Blast will never be quality, and without the arcane label it only makes sense in a pure burn plan and there is one place you need to be splicing the most aside from a pure splicing deck. That’s also a good reason not to want to discard at random. I’d almost rather just play a naked Honden of Infinite Rage and wait. Flames of the Blood Hand interests me far more if you can make this route work. I just wish that it had a more relevant special ability. Yamabushi’s Flame offers genuinely solid burn and is better than any of those. The final Red three-drop is Stone Rain, which combines well with your early drops and the overall quick Red attacking strategy but as a plan of its own the rest of the tools aren’t available.


That backup would be Sowing Salt, but if you’ve seen the lands available in this format then you’d know better. There is nothing worth hitting. A more attractive wild card tool is Clash of Realities, because it has the potential to severely punish players who have made the mistake of either having far fewer creatures or splitting them between spirits and non-spirits. By choosing one side of the dividing line, you give yourself the ammunition to take out anything they play on the opposite side while the creatures they have on your side stay out of the equation.

At this point I have to point out that I was wrong about Ogre Recluse. Yes, having any instant stop him is a real pain, but it’s hard to get good deals these days and you likely have to take this one keeping in mind that there is at least one major matchup where the card is all but dead. What else are you going to use? There’s nothing. What a sorry group.


There is the obvious Kiki-Jiki, but he’s not alone. Kumano, Master Yamabushi has the obvious potential to take over a game if you have time, and it’s rather embarrassing to look at how big the step up in power was from four mana to five. Heartless Hidetsugu gives you a third highly dangerous legend. All three cards like the idea of mana acceleration, and the holes in your curve point to Green or some color with at least one strong four-drop joining the game plan. Stop to notice Through the Breach, don’t forget about it, and move on.


You have a lot more options here than you would think. Mindblaze is a powerful weapon if you know what to name, but it would help a lot if you were looking at their hand and only Black can do that with cards worth playing. Discard and burn to the head don’t tend to mix. Ryusei might not be the best dragon in pure terms, but if you know that it won’t kill anything of yours that’s not a bad eject button to have around. If you need it to happen more reliably you can think about Earthshaker as a finisher for an Arcane deck that locks the opponent out of the game. Godo, Bandit Warlord would have to go into a Samarai deck but there are at least two equipment cards worth getting. Patron of the Akki is an easy turn 4 play off of some respectable Goblins if you want to go that route, and you aren’t going to be punished for his presence in your deck. This strategy seems like it will fall a card or two short, but perhaps it won’t.

Oh, and if Seth Burn or anyone else ever tells you to play Soulblast, don’t believe them.

X Spells and Ten-Drops

Myojin of Infinite Rage has two uses. You can use it with Blazing Shoal, or you can use it the way it was intended in combination with Mana Seism and Desperate Ritual. In a world where lands have to worry about little beyond Stone Rain, that could turn around long-term matchups that otherwise would not be easy to win.

So what are the Red game plans?

1. Be a Sligh guy. Send in the Akki, perhaps backed up by a Patron, and never look back.

2. Be a R/G guy. Do it the same way you’ve always done it, a combination of mana, good guys and solid burn.

3. A W/R Samurai deck with Godo? Godoing once, Godoing twice…

4. Play Red as part of a Blue or other Arcane deck to get Ire of Kaminari and Glacial Ray.

5. Use Cunning Bandit and Blademane Baku with a lot of Arcane cards (or possibly a second color’s spirits or a combination) to launch a quick attack for the win where the damage adds up fast. Perhaps do 20 in one turn.

6. Play control leading into your five and six mana creatures.

Something Wacky

7. Do something wacky with Desperate Ritual and the even more desperate Mana Seism.

8. Play Red burn to complement another color.

Red’s cards are not subtle in their message. Red gives you…

1. The core creatures and a few core spells for a Sligh deck.

2. Good big men.

3. Respectable burn.

4. The useless but perhaps not mana acceleration that black had until last year.

There are two other potential cards, Clash of Realities and Through the Breach, but neither looks to have an impact. Red always had a strange curve with a good high and low end but no middle, but now it’s more extreme. It’s also not just Red, it’s the whole format. You can get relative quality at the high end. The problem is that you need a lot of redundancy to avoid filling in the middle of a curve, and blocks are not known for giving you redundant cards of the same quality as the originals.



Child of Thorns is a bad Goblin of times past but times are tough. You’ll play it and you’ll like it. Hana Kami is far more interesting and can be rather sick in recursion. Soulshift is the obvious way, but don’t neglect your Black options. If you splice Soulless Revival onto the card you get back, you can keep going forever. Soulshift works too. This could get ugly, folks. Traproot Kami is cost efficient in the right matchup but I doubt it will ever come.

Green also has cheap ways to answer nature’s call, by Communing with it or Glimpsing it. The Glimpse is going to be tough to get more than one card out of, and can’t be burned on turn 1 like Insist, so it comes down to Commune with Nature. If you’re running enough creatures, this is an excellent way to fill out your curve and find what you need. The risk is minimal. Kodama’s Might is priced to move, especially if you have things worth splicing it onto or even better splicing onto the Might. And of course Genju of the Cedars is solid.


My guess is that by far the most popular two-drops will be Sakura-Tribe Elder and then Orochi Sustainer. Don’t mess around, get the mana you need. There are also other ways to get to the same place. Budoka Gardener gets your lands into play, playing well with several cards in other colors. It also offers two power for two mana paired with the promise of a game winning effect in the endgame. Loam Dweller could end up doing much the same thing without having to tap, but I prefer my effects to be reliable. Petalmane Baku could even end up being good by letting you go off with a flurry of arcane spells backed up by recursion on Hana Kami, but that’s getting way too greedy. You won’t get the full engine going all that often, and you don’t need it to win.

If you want to play more conventionally, there are several other two-drops that can serve your beatdown needs, but playing it straight seems wrong. Budoka Gardener is going to backfire as often as help you given your desire to use Umezawa’s Jitte and Kodama’s Might and Orochi Ranger’s ability doesn’t seem like it helps all that much. Soilshaper could end up doing more damage than any other two-drop in the right deck, but it requires you to back off your mana curve while other cards let you accelerate. Approach with caution.

Note that I’m ignoring all artifact and enchantment removal spells, but let it be noted that White and Green have options. The details don’t matter much.


Budoka Pupil, Kami of the Hunt and Gnarled Mass are good beats depending on your spirit/arcane count while Shizuko, Caller of Autumn is highly dangerous. So is Heartbeat of Spring. Kodama’s Reach is an excellent mana fixer as it yields card advantage and land advantage for only three mana to Explosive Vegetation’s four. Unchecked Growth goes into the Spirit/Arcane Green beatdown decks, as the combination of splicing and the fact that you trample likely makes this very good especially with Blademane Baku. Sosuke’s Summons is an interesting card, but the remaining snakes aren’t exactly top quality stuff.

A final note is that yes, I’m aware of all the TurboLandish cards running around: Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Lifegift and several two-drops. Meluko is one good application, but what else are you going to do? I can’t automatically dismiss it, but I don’t see much point.


Iwamori of the Open Fist is going to get you killed in this block, but there will be times when it won’t and at those times it might be a great sideboard card. Kodama of the South Tree is a far better idea for us normals if we’re going the Spirit/Arcane route, with Lifespinner as the abnormal version. Rootrunner has made it into Standard but it’s better there due to the metagame. Sachi taps for two mana in addition to any other tricks you get from him while Sakura-Tribe Springcaller gets you one while doing other jobs. Splinter makes all their Jittes go away and not come back, which makes me wish that it didn’t wreak havoc before you get the chance, leaving it looking as overpriced as Uproot.


Forked-Branch Garami is solid and hard to deal with well over time but pales compared to other color’s five-drops. He’s solid, they’re stupid. The only way to get a good five-drop out of Green is to be colored enough for Kodama of the North Tree. The combination of the need for more synergistic creatures and just a better one in this case should be enough to encourage Green mages to strongly consider a second color, likely Red.


You’d think someone didn’t like Green. (Puts on his best Ben Stein voice: Randy?) If you don’t care for snakes, the only card even worth mentioning is Jugan, the Rising Star. Jugan appeals to me less than several other dragons in colors whose creatures should not be as good. It figures they’d make Green’s only six-drop buy two seats on a Southwest Airlines flight. No bargains here.

No, things do not get better later unless you’re a huge snake fan. I’m not one, but if you go that route then your options are all but forced.

So where does that leave Green? It leaves it with a lot of issues. Here are the advantages:

1. Good men at a reasonable price. But only at a reasonable price.

2. Two good combat tricks.

3. Great mana acceleration, and a monopoly on it.

4. Stupid Hana Kami tricks. Perhaps some smart ones.

And the problems:

1. No good large men at any price.

2. No other good tricks.

3. Nothing to do with that mana.

4. Nothing broken to do with Hana Kami, and no use for a 1/1 in the decks that break him.

Green is a house half built. You can get to the dance and wear a nice suit, but you’re going to want to dance with something from another color when you get there. Red has some nice choices, as does Blue. Even Black has two different six-drops that I like better than Jugan, the Rising Star. If Green wants to stand alone, it’s going to have to finish its opponents off before it reaches that point in the game. That, or do a lot of hissing. Thus, the deck options:

1. Hisssss! There be snakes.

2. Spirit/Arcane beatdown, with Red as the most likely companion color. Going at it alone seems pointless unless you keep the curve down – where are the dividends? Where is the last third of your deck?

3. Stompy – that way you keep your curve down.

4. Traditional Green beatdown, again using another color and again Red seems most likely.

5. Use Green as your mana acceleration into other colors. This is always risky, because your mana base has to satisfy your short term needs and different long term needs. Too often you end up flooded, screwed, color screwed or without acceleration. So many things can go wrong, and even when they all go right you can still lose. However, this can be divided into several distinct good possibilities:

5a. Degeneracy involving Hana Kami and infinite fog.

5b. Same idea, but without going nuts, more of a basic Rock-type strategy combining removal, discard and slowly building to a card edge in the endgame.

5c. Broaden an early mana explosion into a good stuff deck using a lot of powerful, expensive cards. Perhaps use Time of Need with a lot of powerful legends and choose the tools you need.

Zvi is a madman.
5d. Four words: Sway of the Stars.

5e. Build it into a mid-range beatdown plan with the likes of Kiki-Jiki.

5f. Do just about anything else in the format that your heart desires, if it proves worthwhile. Genju of the Realm? It can be done, and quickly, bad idea as it is. You can try to hardcast Myojin if you want to.

6. TurboLand! As soon as I figure out what it does, you’ll be the fifth or so to know. I do have friends I like to talk to.

7. Splash the color into an Arcane strategy for a key spell, two or three. You do have Hana Kami, Vital Surge and Kodama’s Reach.

Last but not least (have you seen the colors these days?) are the artifacts and lands.

Sensei’s Divining Top is the card for everyone whose curve isn’t as smooth as they would like and can at least sometimes shuffle their deck. If both these things are true, the Top offers great benefits at minimal cost.

Honor-Worn Shaku may have the dubious title of best non-Green mana accelerant if you can’t use Long-Forgotten Gohei and even then the Arcane decks tend to cast one Arcane spell a turn and splice the rest of them. Journeyer’s Kite could be a sideboard card, but it is too slow to be maindecked. Compare it to Thawing Glaciers and wince. That’s pretty sad. Hair-Strung Koto can turn a ton of creatures being held at bay into a victory, in case stalling strategies gain popularity. Orochi Hatchery seems expensive, but it’s a reliable way to make sure you get to use tons of mana and turn it into a win against anyone not doing something sick back to you.

Reito Lantern is for those who want to get rid of their libraries, but the only way you can do that profitably is with Dampen Thought and there’s no way to protect the Lantern.

Equipment is where the artifacts shine. Konda’s Banner is great for legendary decks. Even Oathkeeper in a deck with enough Samurai could be a strong sideboard card. Shuriken would be great in a Ninja deck – I haven’t given the ninjas any credit, but nothing is impossible. But all of that is prelude to the elephant in the room: Umezawa’s Jitte. The Jitte is a Fifth Dawn card that somehow got stuck in Kawigawa block with a legendary tag. It doesn’t belong, but there isn’t much we can do about that now. I have a hard time not including it in every creature deck, at least until you can prove me wrong about that. The card is sick, and it is perhaps the best way to deal with an opponents’ Jitte.

I will now present what everyone is waiting for, the decklists. Keep in mind that these are the lists I created in isolation. In fact, after I say what I’m presenting, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a crack at the list yourself and then compare notes.

Here are the ten lists I came up with. The “missing deck” that I didn’t get a chance to build before talking to the first tester was Snakes. Gosh darn it, I knew I forgot something.


The Mists (Mark One)

3 Thief of Hope

1 Scuttling Death

1 Vital Surge

1 Stir the Grave

4 Gifts Ungiven

4 Sensei’s Divining Top

4 Kodama’s Reach

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Hana Kami

4 Kami of False Hope

4 Ethereal Haze

4 Soulless Revival

3 Island

3 Swamp

1 Waterveil Cavern

3 Plains

10 Forest

1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers

1 Tranquil Garden

This can be thought of as a “proof-of-concept” decklist more than anything else. If you breathe on this list, it collapses in a pile of dust – but if you must attack to win, you are in deep, deep trouble. The deck’s engine can get started with Gifts Ungiven if you don’t draw the engine normally. What you do is go for Ethereal Haze, Hana Kami, Stir the Grave and Soulless Revival. If you have anything at all in your hand, they never get to attack again. With the ability to toss out a one-time fog to buy time, it should be rare that your opponent will get to attack beyond his fourth turn. If later in the game you need something, you can tutor for it with Gifts Ungiven as long as it is Arcane; the land has the nonbasics in case you want to fetch Green mana, but you need a real Black source when one is missing so you would go for Reach, Elder, Swamp and a fourth card of your choice to solve that problem. Vital Surge can be found the same way if you face a burn deck or are up against Glacial Ray, in which case you should hopefully be able to generate more mana than a traditional arcane deck and beat them that way.

When I decided to get serious, I made this model which I shall be testing for real:

1 Myojin of Cleansing Fire

2 Kokusho, the Evening Star

1 Keiga, the Tide Star

1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror

1 Horobi’s Whisper

1 Vital Surge

1 Stir the Grave

4 Gifts Ungiven

4 Sensei’s Divining Top

4 Kodama’s Reach

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Hana Kami

2 Kami of False Hope

4 Ethereal Haze

4 Soulless Revival

2 Island

3 Swamp

3 Plains

10 Forest

2 Tendo’s Ice Bridge

2 Waterveil Cavern


4 Reach through Mists

4 Peer Through Depths

3 Sift Through Sands

4 Eerie Procession

4 Ire of Kaminari

4 Glacial Ray

1 Hideous Laughter

1 Consuming Vortex

1 Psychic Puppetry

4 Dampen Thought

4 Horobi’s Whisper

8 Swamp

6 Mountain

12 Island

For a second I had one copy of The Unspeakable but then I played a game. There’s no pleasant way to do the mana, you just have to accept it or give up one of the colors. That would be unacceptable. Without Green you can’t fix the mana when you need basic Swamps for the concept to work. I had a Standard version of this previously, and the only cards you lose are Pyroclasm and Wayfarer’s Bauble. Your game plan has not changed since then, keeping in mind both your strengths and your vulnerabilities.


4 Kokusho, the Evening Star

4 Yukora the Prisoner

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Hana Kami

4 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Soulless Revival

4 Kodama’s Reach

4 Horobi’s Whisper

4 Sickening Shoal

13 Forest

9 Swamp

1 Okina, Temple of the Grandfathers

1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

If you started whistling, collect three bonus points. If not, stop using the same tired old names, but I bow to convention. I’m too old to fight this particular good fight. The idea here is easy enough, to abuse Hana Kami with Soulless Revival, with Sickening Shoal becoming castable easily once you start splicing onto it. You spend two mana and a card for a removal spell, which is a darn good deal.

After making contact with the outside world I was reminded that this type of deck can use Time of Need to vastly increase its flexibility at minimal mana cost. I can’t argue with that plan.


3 Lava Spike

4 Glacial Ray

4 Yamabushi’s Flame

4 Akki Avalanchers

4 Akki Raider

4 Hearth Kami

2 Zo-Zu the Punisher

4 Ronin Houndmaster

4 Genju of the Spires

4 Umezawa’s Jitte

22 Mountain

1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Knee

This one should be self-explanatory. It is what it is and it doesn’t aspire to be anything else.


4 Child of Thorns

4 Hana Kami

4 Soilshaper

3 Loam Dweller

2 Budoka Pupil

4 Gnarled Mass

4 Kodama of the South Tree

4 Kodama’s Might

3 Unchecked Growth

4 Umezawa’s Jittle

23 Forest

1 Okina, Temple of the Grandfathers

Again, it is what it is. Service with a smile!


3 Isamaru, Hound of Konda

4 Lantern Kami

2 Bushi Tenderfoot

2 Sensei Golden-Tail

2 Kami of Ancient Law

4 Samauri of the Pale Curtain

3 Eight-and-a-Half Tales

4 Horoki, Dust Drinker

2 Hikari, Twilight Guardian

4 Shining Shoal

4 Umezawa’s Jitte

1 Konda’s Banner

3 Terashi’s Grasp

21 Plains

1 Eiganjo Castle

Does that look as ugly to you as it does to me? I figured it would, but you have little choice. Trying to construct this deck proved far more frustrating than it has ever been in the past because of the fight between the spirits and the other cards. As it turns out, this was all wrong because I was missing the point.

Spirited White

2 Isamaru, Hound of Konda

4 Lantern Kami

4 Kami of Ancient Law

4 Tallowisp

1 Eight-and-a-Half Tales

4 Faithful Squire

4 Waxmane Baku

2 Hikari, Twilight Guardian

4 Cage of Hands

4 Umezawa’s Jitte

2 Indomitable Will

1 Shining Shoal

23 Plains

1 Eiganjo Castle

Does that look even uglier or what? Oh man. You have to try, but this can’t be the answer. Or that is what I thought before I was informed that it was. It’s a little off, because I’m missing Blessed Breath and it seems that I may have gone too far in support of the theme and underestimated Shining Shoal as well, but such things can be fixed. The mana curve got a little high, but otherwise this turned out scarily close.

The Demon

4 Wicked Akuba

2 Nezumi Graverobber

4 Ogre Marauder

4 Villainous Ogre

4 Yukora the Prisoner

4 Kokusho, the Evening Star

4 Distress

4 Sickening Shoal

4 Horobi’s Whisper

23 Swamp

1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep

Black without Yukora the Prisoner or Scourge of Numai can’t fill out a curve to my satisfaction, so I suppose we’re going to have to go this way. Then we’re going to cut something for Jitte, likely Distress.

Red/Green (I was going to be cute and call it something else but I’ve already waited too long and all my hope is gone)

4 Hana Kami

4 Blademane Baku

4 Hearth Kami

3 Budoka Pupil

4 Kodama of the South Tree

4 Kami of the Hunt

4 Lava Spike

4 Kodama’s Might

4 Glacial Ray

2 Unchecked Growth

12 Forest

9 Mountain

1 Okina, Temple of the Grandfathers

1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Knee

What, no Jitte? That’s right, no Jitte. While I have no doubt it would be a fine card in this deck, you gain too much from reinforcing your main theme to waste time with that stuff. Did I just write that? No, but I did write it last week. The original design had more flip cards in the three slot, but too often you want your forth turn to be Kodama of the South Tree for a fifth turn kill and even when it isn’t you can’t spend the time to cast two Pupils (and/or Bandits) because you’ll need another turn after that to flip them. You don’t have that kind of time. The damage here adds up fast and blocking is far from a trivial exercise.

Of course, the moment I played actual games it became obvious that I was having illusions of diversity. Not running Jitte in a creature deck is roughly the equivalent of playing Vintage without artifact mana. You could do it, but poverty is the only good excuse. I’m using Apprentice. I can proxy. Consider the deck returned to normality, and Gnarled Mass swapped in to avoid exposing yourself quite this completely to losing to Jitte. As grandpa Simpson said, at least I still have my dignity.

Release the Hondens!

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Kodama’s Reach

2 Honor-Worn Shaku

3 Myojin of Cleansing Fire

4 Final Judgment

4 Honden of Cleansing Fire

2 Honden of Infinite Rage

2 Honden of Life’s Web

3 Honden of Seeing Winds

3 Shining Shoal

4 Eternal Haze

3 Sensei’s Divining Top

4 Tendo’s Ice Bridge

4 Tranquil Garden

1 Mountain

1 Island

7 Forest

4 Plains

1 Cloudcrest Lake

I have to say, noticing that Honor-Worn Shaku could untap with a Honden made me smile and that is how you’re going to get up to the Myojin. This format’s full of surprises. Not that I think this is more than a curiosity, but it sure should be a fun one. I’m sure that even if this idea has no promise that I will in time find a far better version.

For completeness, here is someone else’s snake deck, since I was given one before I built one myself. I wouldn’t want to exclude a major theme:

4 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Time of Need

1 Sosuke, Son of Seshiro

4 Sosuke’s Summons

3 Seshiro the Anointed

3 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro

4 Orochi Sustainer

4 Orochi Leafcaller

1 Jugan, the Rising Star

4 Commune with Nature

1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror

4 Tendo Ice Bridge

1 Island

2 Mountain

1 Okina, Temple to the Grandf

15 Forest


4 Wear Away

2 Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fan

2 Sosuke, Son of Seshiro

1 Seshiro the Anointed

1 Myojin of Life’s Web

1 Myojin of Infinite Rage

1 Kumano, Master Yamabushi

3 Genju of the Cedars

Remember, that one’s not my build and I didn’t modify it. Be aware that it exists and has won tournaments, such as they are.

That should be a good variety of stuff to get started with.

By now I have “made contact” with the outside world, and next time I will report back on what happens when reality sets in. First you see the tools; then you figure out the rules. I found a metagame online that was, shall we say… less than diverse.

And it makes perfect sense.