Saviors of Kamigawa First Impressions: Gems and Duds

Nick’s been drafting the new set a lot since the prerelease and has compiled a solid list of cards that are either falling well short of the hype, or that are absolutely dominating some drafts. Which ones are which? Now that would be cheating… Regardless, this article should give a nice boost to your Saviors Limited learning curve.

I’ve never been a huge fan of family get-togethers.

My usual game plan is to spend most of the day in my room doing something on the computer and occasionally going out and visiting with everyone so that they don’t think I’m completely ignoring them. It may just be that I’m weird or that my family is boring, but that’s how it is.

This weekend took things to an entirely new level in my dislike for family gatherings.

Somehow I let my girlfriend convince me to attend a graduation party for her mom who just finished law school and is taking the BAR exam in six months. Meeting her family wasn’t the worst experience in my life, but some of them certainly rubbed me the wrong way. I guess that isn’t too hard to do though when they ask you what you do for a living and you tell them that right now you’re just a poker player.

“So you don’t have an actual job?”

“You can’t make consistent money at that, can you? I think it’s too risky to rely on gambling for income.”

You get the idea.

Unfortunately the general population just doesn’t understand the science of the game and I made no attempt to argue with anyone since I already knew it wouldn’t get me anywhere. I spent most of the day smiling, nodding, and wishing I wasn’t there. At least my girlfriend was happy right?

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I haven’t had as much free time as usual lately to write, which has been getting on my nerves since I have been drafting Saviors a lot and have a lot of things to talk about. I’m gonna start from the top today with some initial thoughts about the set and some key cards you should be aware of.

I find hitting people works too.  Maybe stabbing their hands with a fork...

Cards in Hand?

Magic players do a lot of annoying things while they play.

If someone who didn’t know how to play was watching a typical match in a tournament they would immediately notice that almost all players have the annoying habit of audibly flicking their cards and also asking “Cards in Hand?” at virtually every opportunity.

I personally abuse these two things about as badly as you could imagine. I am sadly aware of the fact that I will ask my opponent how many cards he has and not even pay attention to or remember his answer! This prompts me to ask it more than once a turn and I actually have to stop myself and concentrate on his answer just so that I won’t have to ask again in the same turn.

Thanks to Wizards, we now have a number of actual reasons for concern as to our opponent’s hand size. If you thought things were bad before, I can assure you that you will soon be haunted with dreams of someone asking how many cards you are holding just based on the frequency of the question.

Spiraling Embers

This is without a doubt the best common for Limited play in Saviors.

Elder Pine Jukai is probably second, but the Embers has pretty much everything you could hope for in a burn spell. It’s splashable, Arcane, acts as a finisher, and is sick in multiples or with Hana Kami.

When Saviors first came out a couple weeks ago, there was a slight debate among the guys at CMU that I play with that Barrel-Down Sokenzan might actually be better. Barrel is certainly good, but it can’t go to the head, slows down your development early on, and is also far less splashable than Embers since you need multiple Mountains to take down anything of substance. In short, the Embers is a much better card in my opinion.

Isn't this a card in Vs?  Like 'In Evil Star's Evil Clutches?'

Inner Calm, Outer Strength

Okay, first off, this name is way too long for a card. Nobody actually wants to reiterate that every time they are talking about the card.

Martel was trying to call it “ICOS” but I think that’s too cheesy and sounds like a computer company or a tech stock rather than a pump spell.

I’m kinda in the middle on this one right now for a couple of reasons. First off, I don’t think it’s all that great unless you’re in U/G where you can be sure it will have a big effect like Strength of Cedars. The primary reason for this is the huge amount of Soratamis available or even just old school card drawing to keep your hand size up. Second, it seems to always run with Elder Pine of Jukai, which I like far better than it so I haven’t had a lot of chances to play with it since I’m usually taking the Elder Pine over it.

Overall I think it’s probably the third best card in the cycle of hand size cards behind Kagemaro’s Clutch. It’s a good pump spell overall and a near bomb in UG.

Descendant of Soramaro

From what I’ve read so far in other Limited articles about the set, most people are calling this guy trash.

Hate to burst your bubble guys, but this guy is actually very solid. At 2/3 for four mana he isn’t a terrible ground man for Blue, though clearly pales in comparison to River Kaijin. The true strength of this guy is his synergy with the new format through his ability. Sensei’s Diving Top may very well be the best card in Block Constructed, but it is rarely ever playable in Limited. Our friend the Descendant here has an even more powerful Scroll Rack ability that is playable due to the fact that it’s attached to a 2/3 body.

I’ve had very good experience with this guy so far since many of the new cards reward having lots of cards in hand and this guy lets you get to your better cards by doing so. Combine this guy with Elder Pine Jukai for a sick two-card combo that will have you “drawing cards” and cycling through your deck like crazy. I suggest that everyone who said this guy sucks give him another chance because I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much help he is.

Akki Underling

This guy is worth mentioning since he’s primarily a U/R card where you can turn on his ability in the mid-game with a lone Soratami. If you manage to pick up multiples of this I would even suggest drawing first with your U/R deck so that you can immediately have him online on the third turn.

In anything but U/R, he is still a fine two-drop but not something I’d go picking very highly.


Wow is this guy good.

I would take this over pretty much all of the commons, though Spiraling Embers would be a close pick and most likely deck dependent. I have yet to lose a game when I got this guy going and was essentially casting it every turn since it tends to fuel itself.

Moonbow Illusionist

As I’ve been saying, Soratamis are simply amazing now and in some cases even worth splashing for.

This is one Soratami that helps you splash things, but he also does another neat little trick that few people are aware of. If your opponent has Genju of the Spires in play for example, you can change his Mountain into something else and the Genju will immediately fall off since it is attached to an illegal target! Just something I thought was cool and worth mentioning, as you no longer have to Floodbringer the stupid Genjus every turn, you can kill them for good in one shot.

Loxodon Warhammer Reprinted?!

And no, I’m not talking about O-Naginata.

If you remember back to when Onslaught was released, I was ranting and raving about how Warhammer should have been a Rare and was just stupid in the Limited environment. While I may have been slightly wrong in my assessment (it ended up not being as good as initially thought), it was still definitely overpowered.

This time, I’m pretty sure that a mistake was made and I doubt many people will disagree.

Oboro Envoy

What the hell were they thinking? This card is clearly a Rare, not an Uncommon.

When this guy comes down, your opponent is essentially unable to attack or block effectively anymore unless you’re already under extreme pressure or are manascrewed. This card is almost as good as Meloku in Limited for god’s sakes! Granted, the ability costs one more and you can’t create a flying army to quickly win, but if the Envoy stays in play I can assure you that your opponent has almost no chance of winning.

The only card in the entire Saviors set that I would pick over this is Kagemaro, First to Suffer.

That says something.

I’m also always willing to splash this and you should be too.

Some Other Thoughts

There are some other cards that have perked my interest in the past couple weeks of drafting that I wanted to share my opinion on as well.

Overwhelming Intellect

This card is very good if you manage to get it off.

That said, it has almost no value against a good player who knows you have it. It’s like Second Thoughts, but worse since it’s far easier to play around. With Second Thoughts you at least couldn’t attack with your good creatures, but if your opponent is sitting there with six mana up every turn and you have any kind of board advantage at all it’s pretty easy to force him to stop sitting there. You can also just cast non-creature spells and effectively Stone Rain those six lands of his if he refuses to not keep Intellect up every turn.

The effect is definitely powerful, but I worry about this card being too predictable and only really helping you when you were already ahead.

Glitterfang and Oni of the Wild Places

I really like both of these cards.

Glitterfang is easily abusable with any Arcane triggers, though my favorite are definitely Elder Pine of Jukai and Waxmane Baku. Glitterfang fills a hole that was left by earlier sets since you don’t always have a full tank of gas to power the Betrayers flip guys or whatever other triggers you have.

Oni of the Wild Places is also an excellent Red man since it only costs a single Red and is much better than Ashen Monstrosity at six mana. Not that I don’t like the Monstrosity, because I certainly do, but six mana is just so much easier to come by than seven and the tradeoff of a power for a toughness between the two creatures is probably in favor of the Oni. The upkeep ability shouldn’t be too hard to satisfy either with plenty of small Red men running around. This card reminds me of Skittering Valesk, only much better.


This is one underrated piece of Equipment right now.

It doesn’t look like much on the surface, but a Holy Strength that can move around for one mana actually has a huge influence on combat. It’s nice that it can kill other Equipment too, but the real appeal is that it’s very cheap to cast and even cheaper to Equip while still giving a nice bonus. I like this card better than Ronin Warclub mainly because it’s in the two-mana slot.

Sink into Takenuma

I’m not so sure what the buzz is all about on this one.

The card is definitely playable, but some people are heralding it as the best discard spell ever. Maybe it’s just because I usually have some Soratamis in hand and therefore am not worried about playing out too many lands early on, but I really don’t like the tempo disadvantage you induce by casting this card for three or more. I’d much rather just play Three Tragedies and not give up my land base for doing so. I also think I like Waking Nightmare better than this most of the time unless I’m near mono-Black or something. I just think it’s being slightly overrated right now, that’s all.

Seek the Horizon

This is excellent in the new format.

Not only does it thin your deck and let you basically build the domain if you’re looking to do so, but it also fills up your hand later in the game for Embers or “ICOS.” I’ve seen this go very late in some recent drafts, which is just a huge mistake in my opinion as it’s a very strong effect in this new, slower format.

Shinen of Life’s Roar

Apparently in a recent Brainburst article, Kai said this card was virtually unplayable.

Like every other Magic player in the world, I have a huge amount of respect for Kai’s skills, but what the heck is he thinking on this one? If you remember back to the days of Taunting Elf, you’ll understand where I’m coming from here. Taunting Elf was far worse than this guy in every way and was still pretty playable. Maybe Kai just doesn’t like Green.

Most people at CMU love this card, since it does so many things and does them well. If you cast it early you can use it like a better Matsu-Tribe Decoy by just attacking and pumping it to kill whatever good utility creature they play. This is often not possible with the Decoy since you have to pay three mana to force something to block. It’s also a two-mana Spirit which can be Soulshifted, activate triggers, and yadda yadda yadda. Finally, it’s an uncounterable Lure effect which is likely to win a huge amount of games.

This card is tops in my book and exactly the kind of versatility Green needed in a Lure card.

Sokenzan Spellblade

This one is definitely a solid creature, the only question is how good he really is.

He’s pretty clunky at five mana, but can do a ton of damage very quickly. My initial feelings on him are that he’s incredible in a U/R deck without much late game and with cards like Soratami Mirror-Guard or Minamo Sightbender which can make him unblockable with ease and let him get in for a ton of damage.

These were just some of the things I’ve learned from drafting Saviors for the past few weeks and I have plenty more to talk about.

See you next week,

Nick Eisel

Soooooo on MODO

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