From Right Field: Goodbye and Good Riddance

Since I won’t know until next week what the bannings are going to look like, I’m going to go a different way this week. I’m going to address some cards from Betrayers of Kamigawa that we fun-loving players might be interested in. Please, don’t think of this as a set review. Think of it more as, um, a review of some cards in the set for uh… Constructed or something.

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget or players who don’t want to play netdecks. The decks are designed to let the budget-conscious player be competitive in local, Saturday tournaments. They are not decks that will qualify a player for The Pro Tour. As such, the decks written about in this column are, almost by necessity, rogue decks. They contain, at most, eight to twelve rares. When they do contain rares, those cards will either be cheap rares or staples of which new players should be trying to collect a set of four, such as Wrath of God, City of Brass, or Birds of Paradise. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. His playtest partners, however, are excellent. He will never claim that a deck has an 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the decks are just plain lousy. Readers should never consider these decks “set in stone” or “done.” If you think you can change some cards to make them better, well, you probably can, and the author encourages you to do so.}

Well, I guess The DCI finally listened to me. In a few days, Ravager Affinity is going to get hit hard by some bannings. (Yes, I’m being facetious. Any individual who thinks that his or her piece, no matter how eloquent or well-reasoned, is the impetus for The DCI making any change is jerking his or her own chain.) It’s either going to be: Arcbound Ravager, Disciple of the Vault, or the artifact lands; a combination of two of those three; or all three. In my first column after my three-month vacation, I added my voice to the already voluminous chorus out there that said that something else – other than banning Skullclamp – had to be done to fix Affinity. Given the incredible synergy among Modular, the Ravager’s activated (sacrifice) ability, the triggered ability of the Disciple, and the artifact lands, I would not be surprised to see all three (or eight, depending on how you looked at it) get banned. If nothing else, though, I hope that the Disciple gets the hook. Disciple of the Vault is what turns Affinity from a tricked-out beatdown deck to a deck that can act like a combo deck. Without DotV, Affinity has to *gasp* attack for the win.

What does this mean for those of us in the “design budget decks that can hang with Affinity” business? To be honest, it truly depends on what the bannings are. (“And the 2005 Quicksand Award for the mushiest, least concrete answer is . . . .”) Honestly, think about it. If they ban just the Disciple, Ravager Affinity is still a pretty hostile beatdown deck. It’s just that it can’t get you down to twelve life, drop a third Disciple, and kill you by sacrificing four artifacts to the Ravager. It will have to swing with creatures that look innocent but get huge in the blink of an eye. On the other hand, if they ban Ravager, Disciple, and the artifact lands, the deck is going to cease to exist. In the middle, though, if they ban just the Ravager and the Disciple, Affinity could go to a new version of the Broodstar-Affinity decks that won several State Championships in 2003, Mirrodin’s debutante ball.

From a deckbuilder’s standpoint, the loss of just the Disciple means that you still have to worry about some very, very strong artifacts. Total emasculation means that you don’t have to worry about Affinity any more, although another artifact-heavy deck like the Krark-Clan Ironworks deck might become strong. In the middle, you have an Affinity build that is much more controlling and can swing with some very big beasties itself, like, say, a 10/10 flying Broodstar.

Will Broodstar rule the roost? Will G/B Control and/or some Tooth and Nail variant be numero uno? Krark-Clan Ironworks?

Since I won’t know until next week, I’m going to go a different way this week. I’m going to address some cards from Betrayers of Kamigawa that we fun-loving players might be interested in. Please, don’t think of this as a set review. Think of it more as, um, a review of some cards in the set.

That Which Was Taken

I like to think of this card more as That Which Was Almost Given Enough to be Good but Which Ended up Being Azz Boogers. At first glance, this card looks very good. It’s like the anti-Oblivion Stone! It makes things indestructible! Except that it can’t make itself indestructible! But that’s okay! We’ll just get a second one out and have each of them put Divinity counters on each other! Except that they’re Legends! But that’s okay because we can run Mirror Gallery! The biggest problem is simply that Divinity counters in and of themselves mean nothing in the game. If every permanent you controlled had a Divinity counter on it, and your TWWT’s (oh, man, this is gonna get bad) were blowed up, the Divinity counters wouldn’t stop the permanent that had them from being vulnerable. Unless the TWWT tells the game what those counters mean, they don’t stop anything from being killed. (Please, remember that for any rules arguments that may come up. There is no “Divinity Counter Rule” that says that things with Divinity counters on them are indestructible. Things with Divinity counters on them are only indestructible because some card in play says so.)

So, you build a deck with four TWWT’s and four Mirror Galleries. What’s not to love? Oh, how about Shatter being a three-for-one trade? After I posted my piece on the Shrine deck, many folks mentioned how Mirror Gallery would help crank up that deck. (I didn’t mention Mirror Gallery in that column because, at the time the piece was written, the official Betrayers spoiler wasn’t out yet.) In both cases, I don’t like it. Let’s say that I get out two TWWT’s or two Hondens of Infinite Rage thanks to the Mirror Gallery. The Legend rule is not a “destroy” effect; it’s a state-based effect. Indestructibility doesn’t override the Legend rule. So, my opponent Shatters the Mirror Gallery. As a result, I lose both TWWT’s or both Hondens. S/he uses one card to kill three of mine.

Let’s say that your opponent isn’t playing with Shatter, Naturalize, Altar’s Light, or anything else that can kill artifacts. TWWT and Mirror Gallery cost five mana each while the TWWT’s activated ability costs four mana. What exactly are we doing for those first four turns to allow us (a) to do nothing on turn 5 but cast an artifact that is useless by itself, (b) to do nothing on turn 6 except for casting another five-mana artifact and maybe a one-mana spells, and (c) to do nothing on 7 seven except for casting another artifact? And we still haven’t put a Divinity counter on anything!

Stay away from That Which Was Taken. What’ll be taken is your lunch money.


I like the Genju. I like them all. I like some – like Genju of the Falls and Genju of the Spires – better than others. All of them make good use of one of the most plentiful resources in Magic: lands. Lands can’t be countered, and you get to play one for free every one of your turns. There are a lot of decks that don’t have much to do on turn 1. For example, Blue might be casting Serum Visions, but that’s about it. So, drop the Genju of the Falls onto an Island on turn 1. It’s not like you could cast Force Spike or anything. Plus, the Genju are still immune to most of the mass removal being used since that tends to be sorcery speed (e.g. Wrath of God, Pyroclasm). And the enchantments come back to your hand, a la Rancor. “Best. Creature. Enchantment. Ever.” What’s not to love?

Well, for one, a dead Genju means that you’ve lost a land. In a control-ish deck that runs twenty-five to twenty-eight lands, that’s not a big deal. However, when you’re running twenty-two lands, giving one up to a Dark Banishing is harsh. Just make sure that when you build a deck using a Genju that you take into account that creature kill can now destroy a land.

{A Rant About Distribution Again: So, I ordered my two boxes from StarCityGames.com like I always do. I’ve opened those plus a few more packs. After this, I have at least a set of four of each uncommon from Betrayers. Except for four of them. Guess which ones. Go on. Guess. Yup. Four of the Genjus. I only have one or two of each of them, except, of course, for the least useful one, the White one. I have four of those. I fully expect people to regale me with stories of getting twelve of each of Genju in a box but pulling no Tallowisps. I don’t care. I only know that when I want four of a card, I find it nigh impossible to pull. Is it merely a coincidence that this has happened involving only the four best Genjus? Yeah, right. I continue to challenge Wizards to show us copies of the uncut sheets of cards. Until then, I have only my ever mounting data to show that there are indeed ultra-rares and ultra-uncommons.} [And I have my two boxes that I opened and combined into 6-card sets for Ookubo to show that Chris is still completely insane here, but hey… we like loons on this website. – Knut]

Sowing Salt, Scour, Eradicate, Quash, Splinter

It’s funny how a card or cycle of cards can come back around and be viewed very differently from the first time. When this cycle was first printed in Urza’s Block, Splinter was as sweet as Petra Nemcova on the beach. For four mana, you could rid yourself of Masticore or Grim Monolith or any of a number of other horrendous artifacts. With Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves at your disposal, this could easily happen on turn 3. Today, Splinter’s not so good. The targeted artifact can be sacrificed to any number of good causes like an Arcbound Ravager, Atog, Krark-Clan Ironworks.

Conversely, back then, Sowing Salt wasn’t all that good. Today, I have to suggest that you play Sowing Salt – at a minimum in your sideboard – if you’re playing a deck that can support double-Red in the casting cost. Some folks don’t seem to understand the power of being able to rip all of a certain non-basic land from an opponent. For example, Urza’s Power Grid (a.k.a. Urzatron) only works full blast when one of each of the three is in play. I can not remember the last time that I played an opponent who had multiples of each of those in play at the same time. Let’s say that an opponent has two each of Urza’s Tower and Urza’s Power Plant in play and one Urza’s Mine. That opponent is in serious jeopardy of having the Power Grid shut down. Always point Sowing Salt at the card of which there is only one in play. In this case, you’d hit the Mine. Your opponent’s other Urza’s lands would them be nothing but Wintermoon Mesas except without the nifty ability to kill itself to tap two other lands.

Eradicate should also be a huge sideboard – if not maindeck – card. Eradicate (along with Splinter) can rid you of Darksteel Colossus and even Kiki-Jiki.

Quash is another of the four that could be a great maindeck card. Imagine turning the tables on someone casting Cranial Extraction. Instead of them yanking all of the copies of your key card, you get to strip them of all the Cranial Extractions.

(Author’s Confession: Quash helped me win the first prizes I ever won playing Magic. I had developed a proto-Blue Skies deck that ran two Quash in the main deck and two in the sideboard. With Yawgmoth’s Bargain decks and Replenish decks running rampant at the time, that card was, as the kids say, mac and cheese with all the fixin’s. Against either deck, I could Quash the card that won the game for them. I came in second and won something like ten packs of cards. So, I may be biased.)

Scour, just as in 1999, remains a mystery. Back then, Scour could simply wreck a Replenish deck, presuming, of course, that the Replenish player wasn’t also playing with any enchantments that gave creatures haste. It could also wreak havoc on Yawgmoth’s Bargain decks. Other than not, not so much. Today, there don’t seem to be a lot of enchantments being used. If Shrine decks heat up as I suspect that they will, Scour would be a great sideboard card. I just never see it being a good maindeck card.

Ogres and Demons

Somewhere in Champions and Betrayers is an excellent Demon/Ogre deck. The interaction between these two tribes is interesting. Many of the creatures are very efficient because of a drawback that the other tribe can negate. For example, Takenuma Bleeder is a 3/3 Ogre for 2B. The drawback is that it costs you a life to block or attack with it if you don’t control a Demon. Luckily, Scourge of Numai is a 4/4 uncommon Demon for 3B. The drawback with the Scourge is that you lose two life during your upkeep if you don’t control an Ogre. Gee, so I can cast a Bleeder on turn 3, a Scourge on turn 4, swing with the Bleeder and not have any life loss problems while keeping a 4/4 blocker back? I’ll take it. Along with Gutwrencher Oni (a 5/4 uncommon trampling Demon for 3BB) and Seizan, Perverter of Truth, there are some nice cheap Demons.

The problem is that all of the Ogres – except for Red’s Drooling Ogre – start at three mana. You really kinda oughta do something maybe before that. Luckily, Black has all sorts of neat turn one and two goodies. You can cast Ravenous Rats, Distress, Terror, Shattered Dreams, Ashen-Skin Zubera, and a host of others. This is my first draft of an Ogre / Demon deck.

Ogres and Demons, A Match Made in...

Medieval, V.1.0

23 Lands

2 Stalking Stones

21 Swamp

22 Creatures

4 Takenuma Bleeder

4 Ogre Marauder

4 Scourge of Numai

3 Blood Speaker

4 Gutwrencher Oni

3 Seizan, Perverter of Truth

15 Other Spells

4 Distress

4 Vicious Hunger

4 Horobi’s Whisper

3 Rend Flesh

The point of the deck is straightforward. Get out some efficient creatures, and pound your opponent about the head and shoulders.

I gotta say that I don’t have enough “really’s” in my quota to tell you how much I like the Ogre Marauder. Sure, he has a small back end, but (heh) the only way that he can be blocked and killed will probably be a two-for-one trade. Let’s say your opponent has a 2/2 and a 3/3 in play. S/he would have to declare one as a blocker and sac the other in order for your Marauder to take combat damage. That’s not bad. Of course, if your opponent has a 1/1 and a 6/6, you probably won’t be swinging into that.

(From Our Friendly StarCityGames.com Judge: I asked Star City’s own Chris Richter to make sure I was correct about the Ogre Marauder. As usual, I was. Here’s what he said regarding my question about an opponent who has only one creature being unable to prevent the Marauder from dealing combat damage:

“A: To clarify how Ogre Marauder works, it was issued errata just last week. Here is the new text:

Ogre Marauder


Creature – Ogre Warrior


Whenever Ogre Marauder attacks, it gains “Ogre Marauder can’t be blocked until end of turn” unless defending player sacrifices a creature.

When the Marauder attacks, this triggered ability goes on the stack. It is when this triggered ability resolves that the defending player can choose whether or not to sacrifice a creature. So, with a single creature in play, there is no way for the defending player to block the Marauder (unless that single creature is a Trap Runner).”

See why I like him so much? The Marauder, I mean, not Chris. Although Chris seems like a great guy. I just don’t know him well. He was very nice about answering my question, though. Chris, not the Ogre Marauder. Okay, I’ll be moving on now.)

I am all about Horobi’s Whisper right now. The fact that it is functionally the same as Dark Banishing in a mono-Black deck means that it’s going to be replacing D.B. a lot. Add in the fact that it can be Spliced onto Rend Flesh and you have a veritable killing machine. Black does best when it can get two-or-more-for-one kills. Ogre Marauder can do that. Rend Flesh with Horobi’s Whisper can do that, too.

Oh, and look, the deck is almost completely Champions So Far Block Constructed legal. If we could find decent replacements for Stalking Stones and Vicious Hunger, we’d be golden.

Final Judgment

I think it’s hard to overestimate how good this card is. For the same cost, Onslaught gave us Akroma’s Vengeance. I’m not going to try to downplay how good that card was, especially during a period in which there were a lot of artifacts to kill. Remember this, though: creatures could regenerate off of Akroma’s Vengeance. Even when they didn’t, they could be brought back from the graveyard. Final Judgment won’t allow that. The creatures are simply gone. A by-product of that is the fact that Soulshift never triggers and goes-to-the-‘yard abilities never trigger. Kokusho will not cause you to lose life. Zubera won’t draw cards, deal damage, or leave behind other Spirits. Forked-Branch Garami will not bring back one Spirit, let alone two. Typically, X/W Control decks want to run seven or eight mass removal spells: four Wrath of God and another slot of something. Final Judgment will be the other “slot of something.”

This is my beat stick!

Ronin Warclub

Free Unholy Strength without the drawback of being a creature enchantment? Sign me up like Marissa Miller was giving away body shots of crème brulee frappacino at Barnes & Noble. Sure, it costs three to cast and five mana if you want to choose to whom to equip it. Who cares? It’s a free +2/+1 on a creature that comes into play on your side. This is a true beatstick. (That’d be a visual pun, son. You’ll need to know what the card looks like to appreciate it.)


This is another sweet li’l piece of equipment. Obviously, it rewards you for playing Ninjas. Luckily, we’ve been given a veritable plethora of good Ninjas. For two mana and no cards lost, you get to deal two colorless damage to a creature. That’s some good eats!

Stream of Consciousness

Back in the middle of December, I played a Standard Millstone deck called Recombinant DNA that feasted on Dampen Thought. It seemed that the only problem with the deck was milling myself out. A few years ago, a rogue G/W Millstone deck did surprisingly well and featured Dwell on the Past to replenish itself. Stream of Consciousness is the card this deck has been looking for to replace DotP. It’s an instant, it’s Arcane, and it’s Blue. Dampen Thought is gonna love this card.

Ornate Kanzashi

Added to Dampen Thought, Final Judgment, Ethereal Haze, Candle’s Glow, and some others, this could be the alternate kill card in a Dampen Thought Kamigawa block deck. The Kanzashi serves two purposes. First, it does a little milling of its own. Second, it can get you some extra cards to play. “But, Romeo, what if you’re not playing the other guy’s colors?!? You can’t ever play his cards. Yer a 1d10t.” Yes, you can. Read the card again. You can play any card you remove during the turn you remove it as long as the play is legal (i.e. you can’t activate during your opponent’s turn, reveal a sorcery, and play it). So, if you reveal one of his/her lands, you can play it, giving you access to that person’s colors. That means you do have the potential to play that person’s cards that aren’t in your colors. Sweet.

Blazing Shoal

Other than the Green Shoal, which merely gains you life and, thus, blows monkey chunks, the Shoals all look very abuse-able. I’m pointing this one out because, as many folks know by now, you can get a turn 1 kill in Standard with this particular Shoal. All you need in your hand is a Red mana source, a Raging Goblin, two Blazing Shoals, and two Red cards with converted mana cost of ten or more. Just six cards.

Yeah. Right. Six cards in your opening hand. That’s “all you need.” Good luck with that, huh?

In the current Standard environment, there is only one Red card with a converted mana cost of ten or more: Myojin of Infinite Rage. Bringer of the Red Dawn is nine. So is Furnace Dragon. I mention this because some internet writers have been touting Searing Wind in the Blazing Goblin deck for a turn 1 kill. While it does ten damage when cast, Searing Wind’s converted mana cost is also “only” nine. It can not give you a T1 kill. Only the Myojin of Infinite Rage can do that.

On the flip side, Searing Wind would drop your opponent to one before s/he ever even got a turn. On your turn, a simple Shock would finish the game off. Still, the fact remains that Searing Wind will not get you a first-turn kill in Standard when paired with Blazing Shoal. Remember that when trying to break this card.

The worst part about trying to get the first-turn kill with this card is the huge gap in casting costs. Decks that run ten-mana spells usually have a way to get the cards into play some other way (e.g. Tooth and Nail, Sneak Attack) or they have mana acceleration (i.e. they use Green). A deck that wants to play a first-turn Raging Goblin is almost surely going to be mono-Red. The chances, then, of casting the Myojin are negligible. However, to make it even remotely possible to get the first-turn kill, you must run four of them. I’m not a fan of running cards that you almost absolutely can’t cast.

So, I’ll be ignoring this, right? Wrong! The fact that there is still the possibility – however remote it is – of a first-turn kill means that I have to at least consider this deck. The two best avenues seem to be mono-Red (just slam the damage home) and Green/Red (mana acceleration with the possibility of actually casting the Myojin of Infinite Rage). The benefits of mono-Red are obvious. Consistency coupled with a barrage of damage spells. Green-Red would allow mana acceleration as well as certain tricks. For example, you could add in the Hana Kami. With the Hana Kami, you could turn 1 Blazing Shoal into two. For example, you could cast the Hana Kami, swing on turn 2, pumping it for ten with the Shoal and Myojin, and then sac it to get back the Shoal. Green would also mean you could add Time of Need to go get a Myojin for use with the Shoal. I am, as they say, intrigued.

By the way, don’t forget that that is another one-mana Red creature with haste: Spark Elemental. Given what this deck is trying to achieve, he could be even better than the Raging Goblin because a T1 blocker on the other side won’t stop him cold. Stay tuned . . .

http://sales.starcitygames.com/cardsearch.php?singlesearch=Sosuke’s SummonsSosuke’s Summons

As with Odyssey block, Elves are getting the hose in Kamigawa block. Instead, Green’s tribe of choice isssss snakessssss. (Pardon me. Had to do it once. Won’t happen again.) Other than the fact that Snake decks tend to be mono-Green, which means there’s no creature control, there seems to be an excellent Snake deck emerging. Sosuke’s Summons simply must be considered in a Snake deck or even a deck that is simply running several Snakes such as Sakura-Tribe Elder for mana smoothing. Even with only eight actual Snakes, say four Sakura-Tribe Elders and four Orochi Rangers, you have an excellent chance of being able to play the same Summons more than once. In addition, remember the way that triggered abilities work. For example, say you have two Summonses in the graveyard. When you cast your next Shizuko, Caller of Autumn, the ability of each Summons triggers and you get both back. In other words, one real Snake can get back every Summons in the ‘yard.

A Note on Mono-Green Snakes: To me, there is no need to run a mono-Green Snake deck. Doing so deprives you of creature removal. With the Sakura-Tribe Elder, you should easily be able to run Black or Red. Black and Red like to blow up creatures. Use that knowledge well.

Matsu-Tribe Sniper

The Sniper’s an interesting critter. I don’t think it’s going to be maindeck material unless you can find a way to give one or all of your opponents’ creatures flying. And – let’s be honest – why in the name of Yamila Diaz would you want to do that? However, there look to be a lot more fliers that will be hitting the table soon. If Affinity turns back into Broodstar Affinity, that alone would be enough reason to run this in the sideboard. (Yes, I know that the Broodstar deck will most likely run Lightning Greaves, too. I hear that Green’s pretty good at killing artifacts right now.) In addition, Kamigawa block constructed looks to be all about fliers what with Horobi, Keiga, and Kokusho. Heh. Imagine the Sniper versus Horobi. The Sniper actually kills Horobi. That’s cute.

Slumbering Tora

I may be more intrigued by this card than any other card in Betrayers. Given that this block will be all about Spirits and Arcane spells, this guy end up looking a bit like Wild Mongrel to me. No, I don’t mean that he’s going to be the defining creature of the entire block. What I mean is that he makes useless cards useful. Other than being a Madness enabler, Wild Mongrel was huge because you never had a dead card with him on the board. Don’t need that extra land you drew? Turn the Mongrel into a 3/3 Black creature. Slumbering Tora looks a bit like that. Have a Myojin of Night’s Reach that you can’t cast any time soon? Pitch him to the Tora to make it an 8/8 critter. Meanwhile, it escapes all of the sorcery-speed creature removal like Wrath of God (unless you activate it on your opponent’s turn). Somehow, that’s gotta be good.

As to how or if any of these ideas change come March 1st, well, we’ll see. My gut feeling – and when you’ve got a gut like this, you listen to it – is that the DCI won’t take any chances with Ravager Affinity. So as not to repeat the “banning Skullclamp will solve the problem” fiasco, they’re going to ban at least the Ravager and the Disciple if not also the artifact lands. We’ll find out next week. In the meantime, I have some deck ideas to get to.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Until next time, enjoy the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue ’cause ogling half-naked women is the official sport of The U.S. of A.

Chris Romeo