If I Get To Eight Mana, I Want My Legend Back: Impressions From a Kamigawan Prerelease

Despite the fact that I fully planned to hate Champions, the gameplay was surprisingly palatable. It had a unique feel – that happy feel of equipment ported from Mirrodin, the ridiculous bomb critters of Onslaught but without the generic morph-o-rama dope mana curve, and a reliance on weird burn and enchantments that was uniquely its own. There was no auto-save if you built a crappy mana base, as there had been in Mirrodin’s colorless approach and Onslaught’s 2/2 for three.
I had a bunch of very tense and close races – that feeling that good deckbuilding skills really mattered, which I haven’t had in any set since Invasion.

I looked at my friend Dmitri, who stood next to me in line. The judge said,”Next?” – and Dmitri looked at me, wanting confirmation that he was doing this right. Feeling oddly paternal, I nodded as Dmitri handed over his freshly-filled DCI form.

“Today you are a man,” I said as they handed him back his number. He beamed.

I had been looking forward to the Champions of Kamigawa prerelease, mostly because I’d get to see what my pal Dmitri thought of the whole Magic scene. D’s a walking stimulus factory; if you mention a movie he likes, he will leap out of his chair, fists clenched in victory, and shout,”Yeeesss! I love that movie!” His eyes burn like a street preacher. Mention a book he’s fond of, and he’ll knock over glasses and vases as he waves his arms about in a fury of gesticulation.

“Diamond Age?” he growls.”Oh my God, Diamond Age is the best – book – ever!

Half the fun of hanging around Dmitri is watching a twelve-year-old’s reaction stuffed into a Generation X body. And I was glad to have Dmitri there, because the set itself was going to suck.

The anticipated suckitage took many forms, but the main one was the Japanese twist. I’m not opposed to Oriental culture, mind you – but the blatant pandering to anime fans and otaku worshippers just smacked of corporate whoring. I can just see the marketing department now:”Well, we’ve got most of the roleplaying market locked up – but surely there must be another group of unwashed, smelly recluses we can tap!”

If I wanted pale imitations of Akira Kurosawa films in my Magic decks, I would have damn well asked for it.

In addition, you have the blatant rip-off factor going on. I mean, it’s not like Japanese culture is copyrighted or anything, but Legend of the Five Rings did the”Noble Samurai face evil demons” storyline better back when it was created years ago… And it does it better today. L5R has a coherent storyline – unlike Magic’s continually-tangled mess of planeswalkers and avatars – and the players can actually affect the storyline by winning tournaments.

Viewed in terms of Oriental flavor, L5R’s flavor text stomps Magic flavor text like it was a narc at a biker rally. So when the announcement went out that Magic was going to go Oriental, I groaned.

That might have been overcome had the preview cards wowed me – but aside from Time Stop, the rest of the cards struck me as being rather uninspired. And the new legend rule blew raw monkey chunks. If I spend $15.00 buying an Akroma, Angel of Wrath and I get to eight mana first, I want that wench to stay in play.

Yeah, maybe it’s unfair to my opponent. Screw him. I want my Legends to be a living hell. That’s why they’re Legends. They all cost five zillion mana to cast anyway, and it’s bad enough that a Terror can take most of ’em down… But now if I dress up in a bustier and pretend to be Akroma, for some reason the other Akroma drops dead of – what? Jealousy? What fun is that?

Thing is, if the little legends were badass I might forgive them. Okay, fine, now we can have two- and three-mana Legends. Well, if they’re all mini-Akromas, I’m fine with that….

What’s that? The first legend’s a generic 2/2 for a single white? Ooo, that’s impressive. ‘Cause we all know that ever since Wizards brought Savannah Lions back, the 2/1 generic critter has totally been dominating Affinity and Tooth and Nail. A 2/2 that you can only have one of at a time and dies instantly in the mirror match?

Stand back!

So the set sucked. But I had Dmitri. Dmitri’s like Mikey; he likes everything. He’d make the day for me.

But here’s the thing: I got there, and there was a distinct lack of inward air movement in the area. There was practically no sucking. The set actually worked.

Yeah, L5R’s flavor text still has the edge on Magic… But I forgot about Hasbro’s strength. They have artists. Other CCGs struggle by with pictures that look like some eighteen-year-old anime freak drew them; you see men with heads distorted like the Elephant Man, festooned with huge muscles that leapt straight out of Jim Lee’s wet dreams.

But the new cards are spectacular. The pictures are pretty – no, they’re astounding. I’m not an art fan, and I found myself staring at some of the cards for moments on end, just admiring the detail that got put into them.

And the gameplay was surprisingly palatable. It had a unique feel – that happy feel of equipment ported from Mirrodin, the ridiculous bomb critters of Onslaught but without the generic morph-o-rama dope mana curve, and a reliance on weird burn and enchantments that was uniquely its own. There was no auto-save if you built a crappy mana base, as there had been in Mirrodin’s colorless approach and Onslaught’s 2/2 for three.

I had a bunch of very tense and close races – that feeling that strategy mattered, which I haven’t had in any set since Invasion.

But that’s all irrelevant anyway. The question is, what did I think of the cards? Have I any strategy to give you?

You’re damn straight I do. Here are my first impressions.

(NOTE: Because we’re making some major changes to StarCityGames’ shopping cart this week, the cards are hyperlinked but the links will produce new results. Come Monday, we should have a fully-fledged CoK singles list, complete with images… And a heck of a lot more. Oh, you’ll be surprised.

(In the meantime, feel free to look up the cards here.)


I thought this would be a Limited mechanic, but in retrospect it’s clearly not going to be dominant. I didn’t actually see a Spliced spell cast all day, because you have to have two instants in hand – something that doesn’t usually happen unless you’re comfortably in the lead, in which case you don’t need it.

It could be that blue has a lot of potential to Splice with, but I didn’t see a lot of blue because it pretty much sucked at first glance. (I could be wrong.) And maybe I just played guys with a low number of Spliced spells. But it’s not the omega, people.


This is the color that seems to be ludicrously overpowered in this set in Sealed, because all of the successful decks that I saw were packing lots of reusable burn. There are a lot of good burn spells in there, and many of them remove cards from the game, not only short-circuiting the usual game plan of”putting creatures on the table” but also negating the secondary plan of”Soulshift something to victory.”

The Honden

I mocked the legendary shrines because I thought they were weak, and you could only have one of each. But I was forgetting about the nature of Limited.

See, in Constructed, a four-mana enchantment that has a small effect every upkeep would be unplayable… As the shrines clearly are. But in Limited, a small effect every turn is not bad.

The red shrine is pretty decent, or so I hear; Dmitri got wrecked by one, and saw someone else being wrecked a few tables down. The black one, while a little expensive, isn’t unreasonable against certain archetypes; some colors have a lot less card advantage than others.

The Flip Creatures

“If I get one in my color,” I said,”I’m playin’ one. ‘Cause they’re cool.”

And they are cool, don’t get me wrong. They’re just not reliable. I saw them come out all day, and every time they got cacked just before they shifted into their uber-powerful Bizarro retroverse version. Some of them are really powerful if you have some help, but you have to have the help – which makes them dicey – and the others just seemed to take too long to go active.

I think some of them might make the cut, and they’ll definitely be more powerful in draft where you can control the conditions they come out in… But in Sealed, I’m not seeing them being a huge force.


Not as effective as I would have thought, either. I never got the chance to really ramp up into huge amounts of recursion, because one of three things happened:

  • I was losing creatures in the early game, before I had enough spirits in my graveyard.

  • I was losing creatures when I had enough spirits in my graveyard, but I had better and bigger creatures to cast.

  • I was losing creatures when I had enough spirits in my graveyard, and I had nothing else, which meant that my opponent was killing me because he had better creatures than I did.

Mothrider Samurai

“What the hell is this?” I asked on the way down, the spoiler in my lap.”A Samurai riding a moth?”

“I know!” Dmitri replied.”I want my Samurai to be badasses, not riding around on something white and frilly.”

“Activate target lightbulb: Destroy Mothrider Samurai,” I sighed.”I mean, okay, maybe moths are really tough in Japanese literature, but to us they’re really wussy. What’s next, My Little Pony Samurai?”

“Maybe the art is really tough-looking,” Dmitri said.

It wasn’t.

Gutwrencher Oni

A really good card. My opponents kept looking at it all day and saying,”But you don’t control an Ogre.” And I said,”That’s fine.”

And then they realized that I didn’t have to sacrifice it if I couldn’t discard a card. As an end-game card, my little 5/4 fearage worked damn fine with or without his P. Demon entourage.

Nezumi Cutthroat

My deck sucked. This didn’t. This little 2/1 shadow-wannabe, backed with equipment, carried me to the victories I had. Nobody wanted to waste removal on him, which meant he consistently got in four to six damage before dying to something. For two mana, I’ll take it.

Rend Flesh/Rend Spirit

Yes! Now you can sit there, knowing that you have both cards in your deck, but having the wrong one in your hands! Lose with happiness as you know you have removal that is utterly useless!

Waking Nightmare

I’m gonna have to work at this. Early black discard hasn’t worked for me since Bog Down in Invasion, but I put this card in as a desperation tactic; all I had was big green fatties and mid-sized black cards, so I had to find some way to put the heels to my opponent.

But it kept being way more effective than I thought it was. I was surprised because losing two cards that early really seemed to force people to make bad choices. This may rise a lot after further testing.

Hanabi Blast

Let me say this now: I hate this fricking card. If you play it against me, I’m going to punch you in the nads. If you have no nads, I am going to find a pair from a previous opponent, graft them on to you, and then punch you in them.

When I read the spoiler, I didn’t think much of it… I mean, it’s a nice burn card, and it’s wonderful that it returns to your hand, but the”discard a card at random afterwards” seemed too much. It was a one-time card, or maybe twice.

Except that whenever I went to yank a card, Hanabi Blast was hiding in my opponent’s hand like it was goddamn Osama bin Laden.

People got three Hanabi Blasts off, four Hanabi Blasts – even six at one point when my opponent had a full grip. Do you know what having six creatures blown up in a row feels like?

It feels like you fricking lose, that’s what.

Maybe this card’s not a high pick. I could be wrong. All I know is that if you plan to play me, you want to play this, because I will never get it out of your hand.

At first glance, it seemed to be slightly slower than Mirrodin… But then again I hadn’t been playing Mirrodin much anyway.

Joyous Respite

If the game as a whole shapes out the way that my personal games played, then this could be a good card. I left it out of my deck because I usually disdain lifegain… But in almost all of the games I played, it would up being a race in tempo. Whoever had the most tempo won, and I usually wound up decimated because I was behind by an attack step or two.

If that’s the case, then by the time this matters you can cast it for six life or so. That can give you the time to win. I would have won more often had I had it in there.

So is it good? Ask me in a month.

Kodama’s Reach

OMG WTF best card ever.

No, really. If you have green, this is an incredibly powerful spell for land-thinning and splashing and acceleration. It comes out on the third turn, gets you up a land count, and gives you an auto-land for the next turn?

Play it, folks. Really nice.

In the end, I died horribly. What with all of this strategy, it sounds like I must have done well – but really, I went 1-2 drop and played a lot of games on the side. My deck sucked.

In the end, Dmitri and I left. He was bouncing. I had warned him about the smell, about the long waits, about the amazing jackasses that some overconfident schmucks can be… But he still loved it.

“We have to go back, Ferrett,” he said.”So what’s this ‘PTQ’ thing? When can we play next?”

I thought about the way that I’d been staying out of tournament play because I hated the drive down to Columbus. Two and a half hours for Magic? Not so much.

But I missed it. I missed the challenge. I missed the knowledge of how to build a Sealed deck in the current format, since I completely missed out on Mirrodin Block. I missed going down swinging and ending up 4-2 in the sixth round, but knowing I could have done better. That I could win.

“Dmitri,” I said,”I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Signing off,

The Ferrett

The Here Webmasters This Here Site Here Guy

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