Welcome to the latest entry in that popular “Sets and 5-Color” series. Reviews a-plenty will be blasting their own graces for the supposed good of us all. The set reviews are like bad spam e-mail that sits in your box:
“COME AND FIND OUT ABOUT THE GOOD CARDS NOW”
“Draft Ideas and More – Check us out!”
“Secret Draft Tips the Pros Don’t Want You to Know”
“Enlarge your deck stock”
“Early Bird Specials – Learn About the Cards Before Everybody Else Does”
With each day bringing more and more set reviews, it’s time to focus our efforts a bit. While everybody else is saying, “Good in Limited, poor in Constructed,” for dozens of cards, we’ll actually review them for a purpose. My goal is to include as few cards as possible. Yep; you read that correctly. While everybody else is jockeying for the title of “Longest Set Review Ever,” I’m actually bucking the trend and trying to cut down on my article size.
Here’s my secret: Instead of listing every card, and then saying how much it sucks in 5-Color compared to previous cards, I’ll just skip it altogether. Sure, 5-Color is a casually inclined set, so every card will be played sooner or later. However, when it comes to acquiring new cards for your decks and finding out where the new power cards are, we do not need to consider the fiftieth version of Shock.
5-Color is way easier to evaluate for than say, Block Constructed or Type Two. We have a ton of cards already, so the latest two-mana Giant Growth will hardly make the cut. When you have access to the best burn, creatures, and countermagic of all time, recent fare usually falls flat.
This paragraph is the obligatory “5-Color” paragraph, where I briefly explain the format’s rules. Feel free to pass this paragraph by if you’re already familiar with the format. 5-Color is a largely casual format that requires decks of 250 or more cards. At least eighteen cards of each color must be played. We allow all Type One legal sets, but due to the quirky nature of the format, we have to maintain our own banned and restricted list (which you can find over at www.5-color-com). We have generous mulligan rules, we embrace ante, and we allow Chaos Orb. 5-Color is the format that you wish other formats were like. It’s fun, and it lets you play your old cards without being too Type One-ish.
Historically, I begin these articles by discussing major mechanics and their potential 5-Color impact before heading into the card reviews. In my reviews of Champions and Betrayers, I stated that the mechanics were not designed with 5-Color in mind. Although there may be instances of individual cards with a mechanic being good enough to see play, very few mechanics translate well into 5-Color. Most of the mechanics from modern day sets are 5-Color neutral, meaning they are not any better or worse being in 250 card 5-Color decks than in paltry sixty-card decks. A few are much worse, like Sweep. Very few mechanics these days have the potential of Domain, Threshold, and so forth. In fact, I may pull out this section altogether if Ravnica is similarly devoid.
That leaves us with the cards themselves. We will analyze them by color:
White: White gets a pair of subtle cards, a suitably powerful creature for aggro, an overhyped card, and a few interesting elements. As a whole, White is fairly weak this set.
I once said that spirits and arcane spells will not have an impact on 5-Color until enough cards with juice see print. Celestial Kirin has a lot of juice. The Kirin combines a decent body with an evasion ability. With the special ability to Powder Keg permanents for free, you have to wonder if this is good enough to help the other cards make the cut. The only things keeping Mr. Celestial Kirin down are the double-white in the casting cost and the fact that you have to use the triggered ability, instead of choosing to do so.
Yeah, it’s cute and all. Welcome to this set’s edition of “Cards That Are Overhyped and Suck.” Get your Pandemonium. Get your Saproling Burst. Give me plenty of time to find removal.
Hail of Arrows
When I first saw this card, I exclaimed “Move aside, Rock Slide!” Good ol’ rock; nothin’ beats rock. Except for arrows, apparently. The Hail may end up being eye candy – a card that looks better than it is. However, I imagine that it is pretty good. I like it.
Hand of Honor
Yadda yadda, another WW 2/2 creature, yadda yadda….still won’t get played…
Kataki, War’s Wage
Ha! Now this is a good card. Combine half an Energy Flux with an aggressive creature, and we have potential. Welcome to the world that is post-Mirrodin Block, may I take your coat? Over here we have Skullclamp. Over there, we have a bunch of random decks packing an increased number of artifacts, beyond just the simple Skullclamp. Kataki helps out against them all. Powered decks essentially lose Moxen, since they now require an upkeep of the same amount of mana that they produce.
All of this on a small little beater makes for an attractive package: A package that can be Clamped, incidentally.
Here’s an interesting spin on 187 creatures. Nikko-Onna has the same casting cost, power and toughness as Uktabi Orangutan, with the same ability – except that it targets enchantments, not artifacts. However, the ability to bounce it if you want is quite interesting. Again, I’m not sure if spirits and arcane spells and effects will make the cut, but this is a powerful little card if they do.
This is a much better card against discard than Spiritual Focus. The knock on the Focus is that it would often be discarded before you had the mana to play it. The good thing about Pure Intentions is that it can be used with just one mana. It even has a use when discarded as your opponent takes their broken “Dark Ritual, Hymn to Tourach, Duress” turn. It is best when played against a Wheel of Fortune.
Against players who really enjoy playing cards like Wheel of Fortune or Windfall, Pure Intentions may be a valuable metagame tool. In other decks, this card will suck completely and totally. Look for it to be played as a brilliant Wish sideboard target.
Despite a couple of good cards, green is pretty sparse in this set. Everything either costs too much Green, costs too much mana, or is too low-powered when compared to previous cards. Additionally, a lot of Green abilities have never translated well to 5-Color, like life gain or Giant Growth effects.
Arashi, the Sky Asunder
An instant, uncounterable Tropical Storm that can be played as a 5/5 beater has the versatility needed to succeed in many 5-Color formats. How much use will a Hurricane be in 5-Color? I’m not sure that there are enough flyers to warrant consideration purely as a flying hoser. However, I still like it as a 5/5 hitter who can occasionally hit the annoying flyer or group.
Note that Arashi does not deal damage to players. If it did, it’d be amazing.
Elder Pine of Jukai
This is a similar creature to White’s Nikko-Onna. It’ll only be good in spirit and arcane decks, but who knows if that will be viable? Still, mana-fixing for free on a creature that trades with bears and has soulshift – that’s an interesting combination of abilities. It’s also Clampable.
Kami of the Tended Garden
Now this is a powerfully interesting card. Although I fear that this Kami will see as much play as Nettletooth Djinn, at least they are trying. The addition of soulshift makes a powerful card very interesting indeed. Keep Kami of the Tended Garden in the back of your mind as you look for good spirit and arcane cards.
Red has several strong cards, but no real standouts. The best card may be Homura, Human Ascendant, who has an intriguing set of abilities. Otherwise, there are several filler cards.
Not too shabby for a Red-centered deck. The Irregulars are a nice one-drop that will virtually always hit for damage.
Hidetsugu’s Second Rite
Homura, Human Ascendant
It took a while to find an interesting Red card, but we found it with Homura. Homura swings and keeps swinging until your opponent is forced to kill it. That’s when all of your creatures essentially become Shivan Embraced. Homura is a bit expensive to play, but he is a 4/4 body and he also has an easy flip ability into a strong enchantment. Homura is a very good creature/enchantment thingie.
Jiwari, the Earth Aflame
As opposed to Arashi, who had a good Channel ability, Jiwari will likely see play as a creature instead. First of al, few decks can afford the triple-Red in the channel cost. Secondly, an instant Earthquake already exists – it’s called Fault Line. Instead, Jiwari instead brings an amazingly strong control ability to an acceptable body size. If you can afford the double Red, and you’d like a creature that can Blaze out creature after creature, then Jiwari is your guy.
Oni of Wild Places
Does Oni of Wild Places have one of the weakest disadvantages of all time, or is it just me? For six mana, and a splashable casting cost, you get a 6/5 creature. Well, that’s not a big deal, because you can get Craw Wurm for six mana as well. However, this 6/5 has haste, and that makes a world of difference. The drawback of bouncing a creature is often negated by Red’s natural propensity for hasty dudes. You can also bounce creatures like Avalanche Riders, Ghitu Slinger, and more.
Thoughts of Ruin
Thoughts of Ruin certainly isn’t bad, although we actually have this card called “Armageddon” in our environment. If Portal becomes legal, then we will also have Ravages of War. A lot of aggro decks are also running Winter Orb. Certainly, there is a place for Thoughts of Ruin in 5-Color, but it may not be as prevalent as some people think. It might be more powerful, not as an Armageddon, but as more of a Keldon Firebombers-type effect, where you simply try to reel back combo and control without hosing your mana base too much.
Despite having a higher power than Uktabi Orangutan (or its peer Nikko-Onna), Yuki-Onna is a much worse card. Nikko-Onna fits nicely into a spot, with a bigger body than a Monk Realist and a cheaper cost than Cloudchaser Eagle. Yuki-Onna, however, is more expensive for a 3/1. At four mana, you can just play Thornscape Battlemage with kicker. Uktabi is a much better option with its cheaper cost. If you want an efficient attacker, look no further than the 4/1 Keldon Vandals for three mana in Red. The ability to bring back Yuki-Onna seems less important when it costs more.
Once again, Black’s best card may be another effective beater in Razorjaw Oni. I really like Maga, Traitor to Mortals, but I doubt he will be played much due to his casting cost. Black’s Kirin is pretty powerful, check him out.
Hand of Cruelty
As mentioned in Mike Flores‘ article, this is a potent card for aggro Black. This is the first good Black aggro creature since Withered Wretch. Look for it in decks regularly, especially if they do not have access to all of the older cards. In fact, this creature will beat Black Knight in combat.
This is a subtle creature with a not-so-subtle effect. Sure, a 3/3 flyer for four mana is par for the course. However, the ability to get free discards from your opponent as long as you keep playing is quite attractive. Note that after the first use, you’ll know what cards your opponent will have in hand. Thus, your next play will likely get the most important card discarded.
Kagemaro, First to Suffer
Great in a control deck, Kagemaro is also really strong after a Contract from Below fills your hand. He can sweep the board or get in a powerful attack. Either way, he’s a solid creature.
Maga, Traitor to Mortals
When I first read Maga’s ability, I had to check to make sure I had read it correctly. Yes, he is that nasty. He is definitely a card for the late game. However, unlike many similar Black cards, you can use any sort of mana on him that you desire. Note that the triple Black in the casting cost makes him a bit less useful.
One with Nothing
And this set’s Despotic Scepter award goes to….One With Nothing!
Apparently 3/3s for 1B are all the rage these days, with Rotting Giant, Wretched Anurid, and so forth. Is this good enough to see play in that spot? Probably not, but you never know.
I remember when Derelor saw play in 5-Color. Why not? After all, you may not have many black cards in your deck, and it’s a 4/4 for four mana with a very splashable cost. Well, Derelor, roll over and play dead – ’cause here’s your master. Razorjaw Oni has the same casting cost. For the same cheap, splashable cost, the Oni has a higher toughness and does not hose your spells. Instead, its disadvantage is a simple phrase: “Your Black creatures cannot block.”
Is that all? You’ll have plenty of other creatures to block with if you really care to. Here you have a quite efficient beater.
The absolute, best, most broken card in the set is common? It’s the best card since Skullclamp? Check out Ideas Unbound, below.
For all intents and purpose, Cloudhoof Kirin is an Air Elemental. It’s not like 250 decks are chock full of arcane spells and spirits. Even if they were, you’d never be able to mill enough of your opponent’s deck to make a dent. You could, instead, play something like Possessed Aven, which costs one less mana, is almost always a 4/4 flyer, has a useful ability, and is Black, so it can’t be Terrored.
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
Although Erayo’s flip cost is a bit pricey, his enchantment is probably the best of the group. (Yes, better than The Abyss ability of Black’s ascendant.) The massive card advantage that would result is quite powerful. Although the flip ability is hard, Erayo is very cheap, so you can pay him early. However, one turn when you play Contract from Below, a Mox Diamond, and two other cards, you can flip him. Remember that if you have instant removal in your hand like a Lightning Bolt, you can Bolt him in while his trigger ability is on the stack.
Mark my words and heed them well:
In a year to eighteen months, people will look back and say how crazy this card is. How broken it is. How abusable it is.
This card is the nuts. Meditate took away one of your turns, and it saw significant play. So will Ideas Unbound. If you play all of the cards you have, you do not have to discard, so it’s a free three cards for two mana. Imagine the aggro decks that could use this after emptying an hand. For combo, it doesn’t matter if you discard three cards at the end of your turn if you’ve already won the game. This is the sort of card that makes the Zvis of the world salivate. This card is stupidly good, and I wish the Magic world well. Good luck with this card; you’ll need it.
Kaho, Minamo Historian
Sure, she’s a sort of a Tutor effect. She’s also fragile. She may end up making the cut in a few decks that want the ability to grab stuff like countermagic or removal.
Kami of the Crescent Moon
Do you like Howling Mine? Do you wish that Howling Mine were a 1/3 creature so you could block? Now you can have your wish.
I can already feel the combos.
Dismiss, meet your daddy.
Sakashima the Imposter
Here is a good card for your Clone/Vesuvan Doppelganger/Shapeshifter deck. Otherwise, leave Sakashima at home.
Guaranteed to trade with any X/X and X+Y/X creature, guaranteed to block and survive combat with any X-Y/X creature where Y is greater than 0. You get all of this algebra for just two blue mana.
Not a bad card for a defensive deck, since it can also swing for one. In the old days, this card would likely cost 2UU and be a 0/1.
Soramaro, First to Dream
Its ability is expensive. It also costs six mana. However, the ability to play havoc with combat math by using its ability is quite impressive. Note that the land is returned as part of the card, and that cannot be responded to. If your opponent has three cards in hand and uses the ability, you cannot respond by Incinerating the creature and killing it.
Hey look, we printed a new Fork. It’ll probably get played slightly more than the old Fork did, because it’s Blue. That’s about the extent of it, though.
Manriki-Gusari is a cheap piece of equipment. Just two to play and one to equip, it can really help pump your creatures. In addition, it can kill any number of Skullclamps, and I have to wonder if it was created with exactly that intent in mind. Think about it. It’s cheap, useful, and kills many Clamps. If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, perhaps it is a duck after all.
This is a great card that answers a lot of problems. You can make Psychatog an overcosted 1/2, turn Skullclamp into a useless artifact, prevent Decree of Justice from making soldiers, and more. Many of the problems your opponent has put on the board, you can take care of with one mana. Even if your opponent does not have an uber-broken card, you can still shut down Mishra’s Factories or Scroll Racks or something.
Plus, this card will shut it all down. Kill a guy’s Skullclamp, and he can cast a Trinket Mage for another. With Pithing Needle out, it doesn’t matter how many Skullclamps your opponent has out.
There; thirty-seven cards reviewed for your pleasure, which is two more than I average. Saviors appears to be a adequate set with some very interesting cards. I especially enjoy Pithing Needle, Shape Stealer, Ideas Unbound, Kataki, War’s Wage, Nikko-Onna and Homura, Human Ascendant. Hopefully we’ll find more and more powerful ideas in Saviors of Kamigawa as we go along.