Life After Kamigawa

While we’re currently still enthralled with 5/5 Legendary Dragon Spirits and The Kind of Legendary Artifacts That Make You Open Packs Like Wonka Bars, there is life beyond Kamigawa and its underpowered and overpowered scattering of cards. This article will focus on the gems that will only truly shine once that block has left us, and the cards that may still be flying under the radar.

Today I’m going to talk about life after Kamigawa block, and the cards that you’re currently undervaluing. Whether these cards are simply being looked over or need October to roll around to be valuable, I’ll give you the scoop.

Read on and see what will soon rise in value.

I’m a big fan of change. Change is not easily attained. Matter of fact, it’s usually a very painful process. Don’t get me started on “systematic changes” (I work in IT), and how tough that is. But for Magic players, change is actually fun and exciting – we’re shedding the old, and embracing the new! For those that don’t play Extended, new sets let them begin the process of locating and matching the most synergistic and powerful interactions into winning decks.

While we’re currently still enthralled with 5/5 Legendary Dragon Spirits and The Kind of Legendary Artifacts That Make You Open Packs Like Wonka Bars, there is life beyond Kamigawa and its underpowered and overpowered scattering of cards. Better yet, there are cards that will only show their true nature when Kamigawa leaves us. How many times have you had a great idea for using a card, only to say…

“But it has no game against Jitte.”

“It can’t stop Yosei.”

“It just rolls over to Enduring Ideal.” (Okay, maybe not this one)

This article will focus on the gems that will only truly shine once that block has left us, and the cards that may still be flying under the radar. Those “junk” rares that will begin to rise in value once we leave the Japanese themes and funny names. What cards am I talking about? Lets get started:

Skeletal Vampire

This guy is amazing. He creates five power for six mana (Remind you of someone?) and better yet, he makes his own regenerators and his regenerators multiply themselves. Kill a bat? Put a regeneration shield on him. Pay five mana: Double your current regenerators for the price of one. Sure, it looks like a lot of mana, but a lot of things do… on the surface. When you dig deeper, this guy is fantastic. With any sort of enchantment (Moldervine Cloak, perhaps), he creates an unfair situation where the enchantment will remain and all you’re losing is a token.

Did I mention there is only one other Bat in standard, and that Skeletal Vampire has ridiculous synergy with him?

Yeah, his name is Blind Hunter. Feel free to thank me for the ridiculous Orzhova Haunt deck swirling in your head right about now.

I traded for my playset of this guy for next to nothing. Everyone balks at his casting cost or his “stupid, overcosted” ability. Rest assured, when Kokusho is no longer around, you’re going to need a powerful flying Black finisher. And he’s just the guy you are looking for.

Abyssal Nocturnus

Call him jank, call him narrow, call him small, but he will lead a discard-heavy deck that adds another cheap creature to its arsenal. For the same cost as that removal-magnet Hypnotic Specter, every spell that includes the word “discard” will instantly make him a monster. With Cry of Contrition or Blackmail, he’s four mana for a 4/4 with Fear, along with the added benefit of the other player discarding a card. That is enough to pay attention to.

Let’s take a look at the best post-Kamigawa cards to use with Abyssal, not counting the upcoming Dissension or Coldsnap cards:

Shrieking Grotesque
Cry of Contrition
Strands of Undeath
Lore Broker (tech!)

While not all of these are optimal, the ability to build synergy and power in a discard-heavy deck is no mean feat. However, once that is achieved (probably with a B/U build with countermagic/bounce), Abyssal becomes a powerhouse that is cheap and versatile.

Shock Abyssal.”
“Tap Lore Broker, let’s draw and discard.”

Just sayin’.

Petrified Wood-Kin

“Oh, come on,” you say.

Yes, really. I’m coming on now. This guy is much better than you may give him credit for. Let’s bypass the fact that he murders mono-Blue decks, and move onto something more interesting:

He cannot be burned to death (even Volcanic Hammer if he’s Bloodthirsted at all).
He can’t be Dark Banished.
He can’t be Mortified.
Or Putrefied.
Or Chastised.

Or Last Gasped.
Or Seize the Soul’d.

Here’s something I find more fascinating: here are the only spells in the post-Kamigawa environment that kill Petrified Wood-Kin:

Wrath of God
Hex (if they have 5 other targets)
Hour of Reckoning
Plague Wind
Volcanic Hammer (if he’s not Bloodthirsted)

That’s it. While Coldsnap and Dissension may give us good Sorcery-based options, I have my doubts. Why? Let’s take this question for example:

How is a “destroy target” spell judged in standard?

Mana Cost
Targeting Restrictions

If you don’t have at least two of the three, you’re going to get a spell largely ignored by the playerbase. More than likely it is Speed by which a card looks underpowered. “Man, look at Terashi’s Grasp. Why isn’t that an instant? They already took away our Disenchant…”

Remember Solar Tide? What if that was an instant? It could be, right? A six mana instant Wrath of God effect? Wow! But as a sorcery? Meh…

Here’s a more recent example: Kiku’s Shadow. How much more play would this see if it were instant? It’s efficient, it’s powerful…but it’s slow.

Spiraling Embers was great in Limited…because it’s not the end of the world spending most of your turn trying to burn something out. But in Standard, it’s too slow.

“At the end of your turn, kill…” is one of the phrases that warms the heart of Magic player’s everywhere.

This guy? He crushes those warming feelings like a rock.

I want you to think of all the cards that can deal with Watchwolf (a creature you may more easily associate the average assortment of removal at your disposal). Think of an answer that is a sorcery yet? Good, because those one or two cards will be about the only answers you’ll have left for Wood-Kin.

Yes he’s seven mana. But if you aren’t throwing meat shields at him and he has any Bloodthirst at all, he’s practically unstoppable. Wrath of God aside, I don’t think any of those Sorcery spells I listed above will see serious Constructed play. Which means this guy is even more powerful in the meta.

Overcosted? Think again. He’s seven mana for a reason. I can only imagine how insane this guy would be at six mana — or, God forbid, five mana – particularly in a Green deck.

Cerebral Vortex

Some secret tech in that Ebony and Irony deck I won’t shut up about. The ability to turn card draw on its head. The ability to turn the Red-Blue counterburn matchup on its head. How else can Tidings turn into an activated Bloodfire Colossus? (Wow, that’s in Ninth Edition? Who knew?).

At the very least, it is an instant Night’s Whisper for another mana. And last I heard, Night’s Whisper saw plenty of Constructed play, and for a reason – card draw can win games. Card draw in a deck like Red/Blue is nothing short of gold.

This is another card that will be hawked off as stupid or too situational. While I think it requires finesse, having finesse is the sign of a good Magic player. If you have a deck that can use and abuse it correctly, then you simply make the right plays and win the game with it.

It may take awhile for this one to catch on, but catch on it will. A fantastic and very underrated spell.

Culling Sun

Called Smotherall in development, this Smother on crack will demolish token and weenie decks that will surely see play as big nasty dragons leave the environment. Sure, huge fliers and ground-pounders will see play, but the ability to wipe out Birds, Elves, and Burning-Tree Shamans (not to mention cohorts like Kird Ape and Scab-Clan Mauler) is not something to be ignored. Depending on what Flores recommends, this thing could be main-deck material.

“Gruul is the way to go.” — From a Future Flores Piece

Culling Sun immediately jumps $3-4 in price overnight. Newbies all over the world buy Stomping Grounds by the playset.

Rioting in the streets.

Terror in the air.

Film at eleven.

Scary, perhaps sad, but true.

While Wizards is always doing their best to make White Weenie a factor in the meta, this guy just gets better and better for Black/White control. You lose your Dragons, but there’s still Angel of Despair. You lose Hideous Laughter, but there’s always Last Gasp. There is no Hokori, Dust Drinker but you have the raw power of Ghost Council of Orzhova.

In an environment full of efficient weenies, Culling Sun becomes the best answer you could ever hope to have in your opening seven. You play four-plus mana cost creatures, while your opponent dumps their hand. You wipe their board and leave the path open for your own Loxodon Hierarch, Blind Hunter, Ghost Council, Skeletal Vampire, and so on.

Moratorium Stone

Ah, now here’s a card full of potential. It punishes your foes for playing multiple copies of a nonland card.

Ahem. It punishes your foes for playing multiple copies of a nonland card. And who doesn’t do that? What’s one Meloku doing in that list? If it’s good enough for one copy, it’s good enough for another, right? Last I checked, a lot of people played a lot of copies of cards that win games.

Currently we’re talking about creatures like Meloku, and Arashi the Sky Asunder, and Kokusho, and Kagemaro. Otherwise, an easy end-of-your-turn two mana gets rid of any potential problem your opponent may try to hurt you with. Such as removing Yosei, the Morning Star when it is targeted by Goryo’s Vengeance. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out a one mana artifact that can potentially be very dangerous for a lot of decks when coupled with the new shiny Mortify.

With Moratorium Stone on the board, your opponent cannot play another copy of a nonland card in their graveyard unless they’re willing for you to remove it from the game. That’s a two-for-one right there. In the meantime, it automatically shuts off dredge, and remains a threat until it is popped, and it can be Greater Good or Gifts worst nightmare.

Granted, it’s almost exclusively a sideboard card. It’s not right for every matchup. But just because a card lives almost exclusively in the sideboard (how you doing Pithing Needle?) doesn’t mean it can’t answer a lot of powerful threats or solve a lot of problems. In White/Black control, they can save themselves another Wrath to rid themselves of Kodama of the North Tree, because five turns ago they used a Wrath of God to kill the first one. At instant speed (take note), they rid themselves of an “untargetable” problem.

Dollar rare? I think not. Pick these up before everyone else catches on.

Seize the Soul

Here is what one of the great analysts, Mike Mason, said about this Haunt card in his “Guildpact Mechanics, Part III” article:

“…[Seize the Soul] is pure removal that nets you an additional creature; it’s card advantage in the most immediate sense even before the Haunt effect is taken into account.”

Yes, this spell will only be truly effective against the Simic, Gruul, or Izzet. You know what? I’m fine with that. Remember, it doesn’t have to be amazing right now to be fantastic in the future. The ability to gain immediate card advantage (or at least permanent-in-play advantage), while afterwards you have another copy of the spell just prancing around on the board, is the best possible position you could be versus a nasty Gruul aggro deck.

Much like Moratorium Stone, this may sit on the sideboard for awhile. That’s okay – there’s a lot to be said for patience. If you’re playing the “wait and see” game with your opponent, Seize the Soul is going to win it.

I remember another four mana black Sorcery that will be leaving the environment with Kamigawa – it’s called Eradicate. When that excellent and efficient spell is gone, Seize the Soul is there to pick up the reins.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I hope this article has opened up your eyes on cards that are undervalued right now and will continue to be in the near future. I can’t tell you how many Tooth and Nails I bought for a quarter a piece, or how many Life from the Loams I happily scooped up to even out “better” trades.

Just like the game we all love to play, the ability to see into the future is a skill most winners have. Look a turn ahead. The ability to look a block ahead is the ability to profit in both trading and card availability when the ‘terrible’ card suddenly got really good when its better counterpart could no longer substitute for it.

Thanks for reading, good luck!

Evan Erwin
Dubya dubya dubya dot misterorange dot com
eerwin +at+ gmail +dot+ com