Arashi, the Sky Asunder – 3GG
Legendary Creature – Spirit
XG, T: Arashi, the Sky Asunder deals X damage to target creature with flying.
Channel XGG, discard Arashi, the Sky Asunder: Arashi, the Sky Asunder deals X damage to each creature with flying.
What goes up must come down.
The statistics offered here are good for the price you are being charged and the ability is highly valuable, killing off Magpie, Meloku and friends. If you do it from your hand, he can’t even be countered. This could force Blue mages to reassess their core strategies, because only Time Stop is standing between them and a total inability to win against this card. This is the spell that is both most needed and most benefits from its immunity to being countered, and also most benefits from the option to bring in a fat creature instead. Even if you go with the creature, it still has a powerful ability in case you need it. There is no question that this was selected as the channel card most worthy of being “pushed” and that it was given what it takes to succeed. The bad news is that I’ve scouted this color, and it’s all downhill from here. Is one card sufficient for a color in a set? If it solves the biggest problem faced by that color, it just might be enough.
Ayumi, the Last Visitor – 3GG
Legendary Creature – Spirit
Those who know the past are doomed to walk all over it.
Ayumi might be enough to force players to think twice about putting legendary lands into their decks simply because they can. Okina and Shinka and friends are great cards but if it means letting a 7/3 become unblockable then their benefits don’t look all that hot. Even if it doesn’t get to become unblockable you’re still getting seven power for five mana, which is a very effective clock and difficult to profitably block, especially if you can give it some backup. The problem is that he’s not unblockable all that often, but the result will likely be a balance between how many copies of Ayumi exist and how many legendary lands are used. With most opponents using none or perhaps one in standard this won’t be a concern, and in block the control players will give up the lands they almost never use if they care about blocking. This also has to fight with Arashi for the five slot, and that’s not a fight this card can win. It is a shame that so many of Green’s interesting cards are fighting with its best one.
Bounteous Kirin – 5GG
Legendary Creature – Kirin Spirit
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may gain life equal to that spell’s converted mana cost.
The flimsiest boon from the most generous bounty.
At five mana this is wonderful, at six it is interesting, but alas Green has to pay the out of flavor flying tax and that brings this card all the way up to seven mana where it is competing against cards that move the Earth and rattle various plains of existence. There is no reason that Green’s card in a flying cycle has to have flying if that means making it unplayable. When they gave Green a dragon they didn’t make it as good as the others, but they did try and make a noble effort. This is not much of an effort.
Briarknit Kami – 3GG
Creature – Spirit
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may put a +1/+1 counter on target creature.
Every day added to past it looms larger.
Like everyone else testing block in earnest, I tried hard to make the Green spirit deck succeed, but Umezawa’s Jitte makes a mockery of everything you’re trying to accomplish and the Tallowisp engine takes you apart. Briarknit Kami is less efficient at turning these triggers into worthwhile benefits than several of the flip cards from Champions or several other cards from earlier in the block that can do a better version of the same job.
Dense Canopy – 1G
Creatures with flying can’t block creatures without flying.
“Negative, you are not okay to land. You don’t have the clearance.”
All this does in the best case scenario is stop your opponent from blocking, which would be a hard sell even at two mana, and this only works on flying creatures. Yes, there will eventually be a matchup in which all your creatures are on the ground and all of theirs are in the air but this will never be the sideboard card you’re looking for because either they’re a control deck that uses its flyers as finishers or a skies deck that never planned on blocking much in the first place.
Rachel, Descendant of Masumaro – 2G
Creature – Human Monk
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a +1/+1 counter on Descendant of Masumaro for each card in your hand, then remove a +1/+1 counter from Descendant of Masumaro for each card in target
From an early age she always made it clear she wanted all the cards, but no one realized how serious she was.
On the first turn you have to expose a 1/1, then on the second turn if your hand is smaller she dies. Going first this card is outright unplayable, going second it becomes interesting but it still suffers from the problem of so many other hands-full cards in this set. You need to offer the kind of effect that will appeal to decks capable of keeping their hands full and this card does not do that. If I’m playing the hands-full game then this is not what I’m looking for, even if it has the potential to turn into a giant monster after a few turns.
Dosan’s Oldest Chant – 4G
You gain 6 life. At least you get to draw a card.
They say that if you go down to the cave and get past its keeper, you can still listen to him chanting.
Cantrip status is worth a little less than two extra mana, which when stripped away yields a bad card performing a function that is only good in casual play if not pushed to the limit as in Heroes’ Reunion or Gerrard’s Wisdom. Consider how efficient those spells are compared to this one.
Elder Pine of Jukai – 2G
Creature – Spirit
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may reveal the top three cards of your library. Put any land cards revealed in this way into your hand, and put the remaining cards on the bottom of your
library in any order.
Assuming you trigger this card reasonably often, you’ll never want for lands again as long as this card survives and the flexibility this creates when combined with Divining Top is scarily strong given how low the casting costs are for the cards involved. Meanwhile you get both two power and Soulshift, so it becomes difficult for an opponent to deal with this card without ending up at a disadvantage. It is restricted by its ties to the rest of the block and the need to be played in control decks that won’t get much out of a 2/1 or out of Soulshift if there isn’t a Hana Kami to return. It also has a problem with the fact that most such decks don’t have many cheap arcane spells or are such that exposing a creature like this is only going to get it killed, particularly by Umezawa’s Jitte. It is astounding how often I find Jitte ruining my fun by forcing decks to set aside otherwise interesting creatures that can’t survive against one.
Endless Swarm – 5GGG
Put a 1/1 green Snake creature token into play for each card in your hand.
Epic (For the rest of the game, you can’t play spells. At the beginning of each of your upkeeps, copy this spell except for its epic ability.)
Give me your masses, yearning to bite free.
Eight mana is in the higher range of the epic spells and this is not one of the more impressive effects. A stream of 1/1 creatures will overwhelm most decks but there are a number of cards that are both highly playable and that will stop this dead in its tracks even at full strength. It also takes a long time before this generates overwhelming power, especially compared to other eight mana spells and considering that you are far from certain to start off with a full hand. Green has plenty of ways to bring tons of power to the table once it generates a lot of mana and there is no reason to go with this one even if it works exactly the way you would want it to.
Fiddlehead Kami – 4G
Creature – Spirit
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, regenerate Fiddlehead Kami.
It has been shown that it takes the same amount of brainpower to fiddle around or to paint a masterpiece. So you might as well paint a masterpiece.
For five mana a 3/3 would have to be all but outright indestructible and being able to regenerate it some of the time is a long way from that. Green didn’t need another five-drop since this set has multiple quality offerings, so it’s not a big loss.
Ghost-lit Nourisher – 2G
Creature – Spirit
2G, T: Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
Channel — 3G, discard Ghost-lit Nourisher: Target creature gets +4/+4 until end of turn.
In play this is a clunky Nantuko Disciple, the kind of card that dominates Limited matches and is fine in slow creature battles, but is overrun by more efficient Constructed cards. As a spell this is about one and a half mana too expensive, even if it is the kind that is highly useful when you need it and less useful when you don’t, making the ability to turn it into a creature valuable. This isn’t laughable, but it is not efficient enough or game changing enough on either end especially after Arashi showed us the way.
Haru-Onna – 3G
When Haru-Onna comes into play, draw a card.
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may return Haru-Onna to its owner’s hand.
Mouthwatering platter, brightly colored and fresh from the sea.
Paying four mana for a card has passed from the gold standard of Jayemdae Tome, which offered better timing and more security, to a place where the Tome would be ridiculed as far too slow and requiring too much investment to be practical. This is a lot like a Tome with bear claws. If you’re drawing these cards, the occasional ability to attack is more or less irrelevant and if you’re trying to build up a spirit engine then you need to be able to work faster than this. It isn’t the worst card since it does offer a card drawing engine in Green but it seems highly unlikely to ever become playable in a serious deck.
Inner Calm, Outer Strength – 2G
Instant – Arcane
Target creature gets +X/+X until end of turn, where X is the number of cards in your hand.
This is cheaper than the option to go directly to the head, but it involves boosting a creature, which means that you have to put at least one additional card onto the table and in order to get through you will likely have to spend even more than that. To make this worthwhile requires at least five cards in hand and it is much harder to get use out of this card by playing the waiting game. Green decks that win by attacking with men are not the types to be able to hold lots of cards in their hands in any case.
Kami of the Unkept Garden – 3G
Creature – Spirit
During your upkeep, sacrifice Kami of the Unkept Garden unless you pay G.
Keep the garden, keep the Kami.
In the end Soulshift is a nice throwaway ability but it doesn’t justify cards that fall below the power curve. Kami of the Unkept Garden isn’t an insult to Green creatures everywhere but there are many ways to get a 4/4 with benefits rather than drawbacks if you are willing to cough up four mana. Paying one mana a turn is a huge problem when there are so many good five-drops waiting in the wings.
Kashi-Tribe Elite – 1GG
Creature – Snake Warrior
Legendary Snakes you control can’t be the targets of spells or abilities.
Whenever Kashi-Tribe Elite deals combat damage to a creature, tap that creature and it doesn’t untap during its controller’s next untap step.
“We’re elite. You’re not.”
It’s odd having one snake cut off the ability to target other snakes. I suppose it is valuable to force them to go after the Elite rather than Sachi or Seshiro, especially given how much you risk if they remove either as an instant at the wrong time and how much your mana can depend on Sachi but I would much rather play Sachi or Seshiro, or work on those worthy goals, then play a creature whose primary purpose is to draw out the first removal spell so they can’t get to the legends. This could be a rather handy foil for Hero’s Demise I suppose, but if your only kill targets only legends then you deserve whatever you get in my opinion.
Masumaro, First to Live – 3GGG
Legendary Creature – Spirit
Masumaro, First to Live’s power and toughness are each equal to twice the number of cards in your hand.
Where there was once one there were first two then many.
This is going to be rather huge on many occasions, but it is going to have trouble getting through and doesn’t have any inherent protection against removal spells other than a potentially high toughness. The original Maro was a far easier card to work with, even if it was less explosive. This is too much of a good thing, forcing you to pay for a lot for power and not granting you the secondary abilities that would make all that power worthwhile. I would rather have something with guaranteed solid numbers and a way to exploit them than try to get a 14/14 running around however tempting that prospect is.
Matsu-Tribe Birdstalker – 2GG
Creature-Snake Warrior Archer
Whenever Matsu-Tribe Birdstalker deals combat damage to a creature, that creature doesn’t untap during its controller’s next untap step.
G: Matsu-Tribe Birdstalker may block as though it had flying until end of turn.
Only fools and cowards would sit back and watch.
Give this the ability to block flyers automatically and this still doesn’t measure up to the Spiders of the past, none of which were good enough when compared to that era’s much weaker alternatives for creatures in this range. If you are this worried about flyers may I suggest that you try out Arashi.
Molting Skin – 2G
Return Molting Skin to its owner’s hand: Regenerate target creature.
Not all infections are bad for you, but you wouldn’t know that if you listened to the screams.
This is a reprint of a card that wasn’t good enough the first time around and I see no reason to think it will be different the second time around. There are far better ways to spend your time.
Nightsoil Kami – 4GG
Craw your way back from the grave.
This is yet another standard issue vanilla Soulshift creature with nothing to recommend it when compared to the legends available at this casting cost. I’m not even convinced that it is a better card to have in play than Forked-Branch Garami for a deck that can make proper use of Soulshift and that card is both a full mana cheaper and unplayable.
Okina Nightwatch – 4G
As long as you have more cards in your hand then an opponent, Okina Nightwatch gets +3/+3.
“The more you know.” – Nightwatch Slogan
There are any number of ways to get a large man out of a bunch of Green mana. As usual with the border line cards that use this mechanic, this one is lousy but not a disaster if it is small and nice but not all that overpowering when it is large. I would rather go with something more reliable with a useful ability like Kodama of the North Tree or of course Arashi, the Sky Asunder. The competition is steep and it is too bad that another of the green creatures that at least begins to tempt is a five-drop.
Promised Kannushi – G
Creature – Human Druid
He is a part of something bigger than himself. Not that that’s hard.
This allows you to cycle around back to the top of the Soulshift chain, doing things like using this and Rootrunner to lock down an opponent or making sure any other spirit that has Soulshift can never die. You get a one drop for the early game and then later on he does wonders for the engine even if and perhaps especially if he begins that phase of the game in your graveyard. I don’t think decks based around Soulshift are gong to be any good, but if they are he is a vital ingredient and he could be a worthy edition to a spirit deck on the theory that if you can’t abuse Hana Kami he is the one drop least likely to make you wince later on in the game, especially if you have ways of sacrificing him.
Reki, the History of Kamigawa – 2G
Legendary Creature – Human Shaman
Whenever you play a legendary spell, draw a card.
“Kamigawa is still in the how phase of civilization. Some day we will move beyond ‘How do cast spells?’ to ask the question ‘Why do we cast spells?’ and then hopefully someday we will be able to ask where we shall have lunch.” – Reki, A Brief History of Kamigawa, Epilogue
Compare this to Fecundity to see how much you are entitled to get from a card that gives you a card for the creatures you play. Non-creature decks are not going to want to put their card drawing engine into a 1/2 creature and creature decks are both hopefully far too busy and don’t want to depend on one either even if they didn’t have the problem of this only triggering on legends. You can run all legends in a control deck, but a real creature deck does not have it so easy. One deck has pulled it off, but even that deck (Red/White Kamigawa block legends) wouldn’t have wanted this card.
Sakura-Tribe Scout – G
Creature – Snake Shaman Scout
T: You may put a land card from your hand into play.
All he ever sees are snakes. Lots and lots of snakes.
Note that this doesn’t let you play a land, instead it lets you put a land into play. All of us TL fans and those holding out hope of a new version can forget all those bright ideas right off the bat. Instead you have a card that looks interesting for decks that are trying to abuse Sachi and completely uninteresting to everyone else as you can’t play mana accelerators that don’t provide mana by themselves. In a Snake deck this seems better than Leafcaller given that such decks should already have enough colored mana to support two colors at a minimum and this could also give the deck even more reason to try to win games with Meloku. Outside of his target demographic this won’t work, but in the block snake deck I can see this helping to tilt the advantage back to Sachi.
Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant – 1GG
Legendary Creature – Snake Monk
Reveal your hand: If you have seven or more land cards in your hand, flip Sasaya, Orochi Attendant.
Whenever a land you control is tapped for mana, add one mana of that type to your mana pool for each other land you control with the same name.
Play infinite land and never cast spells.
If this card flips, I’m sorry. If it doesn’t ever flip, I’m sorry. Either way, to make this worth bothering you’ll need access to seven lands for your hand and at least three for the table. If you have ten lands, seven of which are in your hand, then the last thing you need is even more mana. There’s nothing to do with it, and the effect is cleverly designed to punish those who try to bounce their lands back to their hand to make this trigger. The card is actually quite a funny joke when looked at from the right angle.
Seed the Land – 2GG
Whenever a land comes into play, its controller puts a 1/1 green Snake
creature token into play.
Spoil the snakes.
There obviously needs to be some crazy land recursion strategy going on here to make this worth bothering, and Honden of Life’s Web makes it clear how many lands you’ll have to play before this becomes interesting while Horn of Greed reminds you that you used to get a far stronger effect cheaper and only a handful of madmen could find a way to use it. The plan has to be to play more than two lands on many turns, then to need all those tokens enough that you wouldn’t be better off with something else and have the time to invest in a token generator rather than a creature. Those are stiff requirements even if there was a deck that used the new cards that let you play extra lands and that deck does not look like it is going to come together.
Seek the Horizon – 3G
Search your library for up to three basic land cards, reveal them, and put
them into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
Wherever you go, there you are.
For four mana you can draw three cards outright and getting three basic lands is almost certainly going to be worse. Kodama’s Reach gets you two lands and puts one into play, which makes it almost as effective and the difference between three and four mana is crucial. When you Seek the Horizon, all you do is make sure you won’t miss land drops for a while and expand your hand size. It requires you to hit four mana first and then doesn’t accelerate you. You need both effects to justify that requirement as well as the loss of mana involved. This takes a long time to pay off and at least five turns before it is better than Kodama’s Reach even in the best case scenario.
Sekki, Seasons’ Guide – 5GGG
Legendary Creature – Spirit
Sekki, Seasons’ Guide comes into play with eight +1/+1 counters on it.
If damage would be dealt to Sekki, prevent that damage, remove that many +1/+1 counters from Sekki, and put that many 1/1 colorless Spirit creature tokens into play.
Sacrifice eight Spirits: Return Sekki from your graveyard to play.
Where is he going to go, Detroit?
I love the idea for this card but I wish it had been given to a card that costs less than eight mana. Sekki is at best rather frustrating to kill with damage, since you have to finish off all the tokens and get some of them before you finish off Sekki himself, but I’m not convinced that this is less annoying to deal with than regeneration and an 8/8 regenerator should be available at seven mana. Silvos showed what this type of card has to do to be worthwhile and gives you almost all the advantages of Sekki and even some additional ones but costs two mana less.
Shattering Vines – 1GG
Instant – Arcane
Destroy target artifact or enchantment with converted mana cost equal or lower than the number of cards in your hand.
Draw a card.
Who wants to shatter vines?
The question is how often the cards you’ll want to kill will be valid targets for Shattering Vines. In the early turns everything will be fine, and later on most of the time you’ll still be going after relatively cheap cards. The most likely targets in block are all easy marks and that shouldn’t change. The most likely targets in Standard are more difficult but the cards that are the most problematic for you to kill like Sundering Titan and Darksteel Colossus are not good targets for normal removal either. As long as you intend to keep at least three cards in your hand during the match this gives you cantrip status for only one extra mana and a drawback that is unlikely to be too big a problem.
Shinen of Life’s Roar – 1G
Creature – Spirit
All creatures must block Shinen of Life’s Roar if able.
Channel — 2GG, Discard Shinen of Life’s Roar: All creatures must block target creature this turn if able.
Beware of the lure of objects that shinen.
This is a horrible creature on the table and arguably even worse as a spell. Neither is at all interesting, the vestiges of a flavorful but ineffective strategy dating back to Alpha. At least back then the other half of the puzzle was readily available. Provoke was the result of pushing lure to the tournament level, and that was a big success that is worthy of a second incarnation but the standard issue cards are still dramatically overcosted.
Stampeding Serow – 2GG
Creature – Beast
At the beginning of your upkeep, return a green creature you control to its owner’s hand.
“They don’t sound as fearsome as they used to.” – Hikari, Twilight Guardian
It used to be the Green creatures you most wanted to recast over and over again and this offered a strong way to do that and get a great creature in exchange. Now it is the Black ones you want to recast, with only one Green creature that is both good enough to run and rewards you for recasting it. There is not going to be a deck that is sufficiently recast friendly to play this card, especially since it is not a spirit and that means that the decks that want to profit from recursive casting won’t benefit from casting this and that will wreck a lot of the benefits. As has been proved in the past, this card works fine if the rest of the deck is there, but I don’t think the rest of the deck is around at the moment.
Iname as One – 8BBGG
When Iname as One comes into play, if you played it from your hand, you may search your library for a Spirit card, put it into play, then shuffle your library.
When Iname as One is put into a graveyard from play, you may remove it from the game. If you do, return target Spirit card from your graveyard to play.
Which is odd, because there are always at least two.
Casting this is not quite as crazy as it might seem if Heartbeat of Spring is involved but this is almost always going to be put into play by other means. If you sneak this in, you get a giant companion that will often be more valuable than the Iname in the short term along with a second boost after Iname dies if you don’t intend to bring it back from the graveyard. Through the Breach is one good way to get this into play, but the problem is that there are two types of formats for this card. In the first half there are good things to Sneak into play and in the other half there are not. If there are not then the deck this is built around is too narrow, and if there are, then you need to play not just this but the spirits to go get with it. It is not a bad reanimation target, but I don’t think it gives those decks that much of a boost.
That wraps it up for Green, which as usual where I tend to hit the wall. Where in Green the wall comes depends on how exciting the set is, but looking at Green creature after Green creature can get exhausting quickly. I played a little game with myself, looking at the cards without the casting costs and trying to price them correctly. When the card is good, occasionally I get it right, but mostly I overestimate the cost. When the card is bad, I sometimes guess correctly, but often I underestimate it. I tend to do much better in other colors, where the casting cost is more formulaic and far less about how good the card is supposed to be. In this case, the bulk of the benefits for Green in this set are all on the back of the first card, Arashi the Sky Asunder. Without that card this set would have been a disaster for Green, but it is exactly what Green needed in Standard.
Sometimes I feel up to putting flavor onto the artifacts and sometimes I skip it. In this case, I think I’m going to skip it, as I don’t find the flavor of these cards interesting enough to continue. I’m also not going to lie: It’s been a long week.
Ashes of the Fallen – 2
As Ashes of the Fallen comes into play, choose a creature type.
Each creature card in your graveyard has the chosen creature type in addition to its other types.
There are several things that this can accomplish, from Iname to Patriarch’s Bidding, but none of them can make it worth putting a card this narrow into your deck.
Blood Clock – 4
At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, that player returns a permanent he
or she controls to its owner’s hand unless he or she pays 2 life.
Four mana would be a reasonable but unspectacular price for doing a consistent two damage a turn but this is anything but consistent. An opponent who does not need to play land can shrug off the damage, some will even find a way to turn it to their advantage. With so many ways to turn this liability around for your opponent and such a small upside if it works I can’t see any reason to play this card even without worrying about what this will do to you… unless you actively love bouncing your cards. Even then, this is a rather expensive and convoluted way to accomplish that.
Ebony Owl Netsuke – 2
At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, if that player has seven or more
cards in hand, Ebony Owl Netsuke deals 4 damage to him or her.
If you go first, there are a number of decks where you’re the favorite to do four damage on turn two and often another four on turn three. If you get this out on turn one with a Chrome Mox you get the first four in automatically and the next often will do eight or even twelve. This is a lot like the extreme version of Black Vise. Either it does a ton of damage or it does none at all, so you’ll want to try and give it as much of a boost as possible. This could become the first sideboard card designed exclusively to come in when you are going first. The swing is that huge between this card going first and this card going second, and you want to make sure your opponent is not packing too many one and two drops.
Ivory Crane Netsuke – 2
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you have seven or more cards in hand, you gain 4 life.
If that was Black Vise, then this is Ivory Tower. This is much harder to use than a new Vise because playing the card itself will knock you below seven cards in hand even if the initial land play did not. That makes this exceedingly difficult to play effectively, but it is a wonderful card once you get there. I don’t see the hands full strategy being reliable enough to benefit from this, and even if it were you would be better off with the new Gerrard’s Wisdom than this because it stays in your hand and does not depend so heavily on keeping your hand full. This card is far too risky.
Manriki-Gusari – 2
Artifact – Equipment
Equipped creature gets +1/+2 and has “Tap: Destroy target Equipment.”
With the rise of equipment to a central part of multiple Standard decks and the importance of Umezawa’s Jitte in block, this could become a solid way to knock out the Swords and Jittes and gain major advantage as a result without even going dead against other decks. A tiny boost like this may not seem like much but it can still be highly frustrating, and especially with Steelshaper’s Gift this can be a powerful tool to have in your back pocket. You obviously need a deck full of small creatures in order to play this the same way you would to play a Jitte or a Sword, but given that people were willing to play removal just to kill Jitte this is far superior, and it is cheap enough to equip multiple targets if they try to pick them off with their Jitte before you can kill it. You can still get locked if things go badly enough, but by then you were likely hopefully behind already.
O-Naginata – 1
Artifact – Equipment
O-Naginata can be attached only to a creature with 3 or more power.
Equipped creature gets +3/+0 and has trample.
It is easy to forget what equipment can do if you’re willing to pay for it, offering cards like Umezawa’s Jitte and rendering Empyrial Plate not good enough to see any play. If you’re going to be playing creatures with three power, you have enough mana to afford a Sword or Jitte and those are far better choices than this. There is only so much equipment one deck needs, particularly if it does not work on weenie hordes.
Pithing Needle – 1
As Pithing Needle comes into play, name a card.
Activated abilities of the named card can’t be played unless they’re mana abilities.
I have been forced to reevaluate Pithing Needle, which in isolation I considered a three star card. It seems that everyone was hyping this card up while I was deep in a marathon writing session during prerelease weekend. I’ll jump at any chance to get a ninth card into the four star range, since the idea is to grade on a curve, and I am also discovering upon reflection that this card is stronger than I thought it was. I had forgotten just how good it is to be this mana efficient, which can make up for a lot. Even if the card you cripple remains a reasonable creature, often this will be worth it because what you shut down is so important. Umezawa’s Jitte, Vedalken Shackles and Aether Vial are the three artifacts that most come to mind as targets, but I’m sure there are a lot of other good ones as well. The strange part of these cards that shut down named cards is that the more creative you are trying to be the more vulnerable you become. If your cards duplicate each other, something like this might be annoying but it will be mostly harmless. If they’re unique, and you rely on something like Vedalken Shackles or Oblivion Stone, it could become far more problematic and a combination deck would be the most vulnerable of all. It is great to get people to question playing four copies of a card, but what ends up happening is that they decide to play twenty instead.
Scroll of Origins – 2
2, T: Draw a card if you have seven or more cards in hand.
Early on, players drew an eighth card. Often they did it when no one was looking.
This is the ultimate bank loan card. If you can use it, you don’t need it. I am not about to play a card drawing engine that works only when I have a full hand. I’ll make an exception for Library of Alexandria, but there all you give up is the color from one land. Here you invest in a card, which is one less you have in hand, and even pay substantial investment costs.
Soratami Cloud Chariot – 5
2: Target creature gains flying until end of turn.
2: Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt to and dealt by target creature you control this turn.
If it prevented all damage rather than combat damage or worked on your opponents’ creatures then you might have something here. Instead, this card has been nerfed of all the abilities that would have made it interesting. All that is left is a card that costs five mana for abilities that aren’t even worth their activation costs all that often let alone something with the ability to turn the game around that should come with a five mana investment.
Wine of Blood and Iron – 4
4: Target creature gets +X/+0 until end of turn, where X is its power.
Sacrifice Wine of Blood and Iron at end of turn.
Wine is no artifact, but it is quite the enchantment.
To get anything will cost you four mana and to get anything worth thinking about will cost you eight mana all at once, far more than this sort of thing can ever reasonably cost. No matter what you do with this, it will cost you way too much mana for what you get.
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
T: Add 1 to your mana pool
2, T: Each player draws a card
The water runs colorless with knowledge. Or something like that.
The least Blue card set in a sea is an excellent land because it gives you an option that can radically impact the game. Like many other lands with both mana and non-mana abilities this will usually be used to provide colorless mana, but every now and then it will be clear that you have extra mana and that extra cards will benefit you far more than him. Perhaps he would have to discard, or he has a threat that you have no answer to and have to dig at any cost. Maybe you have hands-full cards and he does not, or you have cards that punish him for his hand being full. His hand could be empty while you have a way to force him to discard. Mikokoro at end of turn when his hand is empty, untap, Mikokoro, otherwise useless Waking Nightmare for two new cards in your hand. You can even use this to force an opponent to deck himself while he is engaging in silly recursion tricks. There are a ton of good reasons to want both players to draw a card and many are important. More than half the time that you have nothing else left to do with the mana this is probably better than nothing. If you have colorless land slots that aren’t doing anything important, this is a land to seriously consider even if you can’t abuse it.
Miren, the Moaning Well
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
3, T, Sacrifice a creature: You gain life equal to the sacrificed creature’s toughness.
As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil but instead watch out for diamonds.
This is another worthy thing to do with a colorless land slot, although I would generally prefer to try and find some sort of man land or otherwise locate something more likely to impact the game. A little life is nice when it comes at minimal cost, but cards are more likely to make the difference.
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
T: Add U to your mana pool.
1: Return Oboro, Palace in the Clouds to its owner’s hand.
This doesn’t do enough to be worth a top ten slot but it seems like a painless way to pick up a little extra functionality at no cost. There is little good reason not to play this in a Blue deck and buy yourself a little extra insurance against Choke and other forms of mana disruption especially if you’re running more than one color and want to access UU on your own turn sometimes. You might almost never use the extra ability, but there’s virtually no downside if you don’t mind opponents who play their own.
Tomb of Urami
T: Add B to your mana pool. Tomb of Urami deals 1 damage to you if you don’t control an Ogre.
2BB, T, Sacrifice all lands you control: Put a legendary 5/5 black Demon Spirit creature token with flying named Urami into play.
You’ll take some damage if you need this land, but you get to go out with a bang or at least an extra 5/5 flying creature. It doesn’t take you out of the game like an epic spell, so eventually you can rebuild especially if you’ve known this was coming and didn’t play extra lands that you didn’t need. As I mentioned with Mikokoro, the important thing is to have an option that can turn the game around and this is most certainly an option that can turn a game around. At the same time, it damages you to take mana from it so that option comes at a price.
Evaluation: How did I do with Betrayers?
The Top Nine of Betrayers of Kawigawa – As Reviewed:
1. Shining Shoal
2. Sickening Shoal
3. Genju of the Spires
4. Disrupting Shoal
5. Callow Jushi
6. Genju of the Cedars
7. Horobi’s Whisper
8. Budoka Pupil
It is still very early, as we have not had a major Standard tournament since then. Measuring the cards as they impacted Block would be unfair, so I won’t offer a new top 10 just yet. Let’s see how I seem to be doing. Horobi’s Whisper, Tallowisp and Sickening Shoal are clearly full credit. The rest of the cards are less clear, but upon looking at the set again, the question that arises is: What takes their place? Obviously one slot belongs to Umezawa’s Jitte, which is nothing special in the context of the Swords but in Kamigawa block that card is off the charts. Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni is one possibility, which I gave three stars to. A case can be made for Hokori more than for some of my selections. Final Judgment deserved a third star given the block it is in, but is it ever going to do anything in Standard? That’s highly unlikely. And that’s about it.
Let’s say that those three cards have to be added to the list somewhere, in addition to the three that clearly deserve to stay. It would also be reasonable to keep Shining Shoal and Genju of the Cedars, as they’ve been at least as good as anything else in the block. That would leave us with a Top Eight, and I’d get about an 8 out of 10, since I only missed two cards. A blank slot is actually full credit. The awards emphasize that I loved that Blue Shoal and otherwise don’t tell you much. I’m not willing to give this one up yet. The card is harder to use than I realized at first, but I still believe it will come in handy some day. I think I’ve earned an 80%, which translates to a solid B+ considering the difficulty of the exercise.
Note also that I’ve graded Saviors of Kamigawa on somewhat of a curve. If this were Mirrodin block, how many cards would be listworthy out of Saviors? I can see only six that I would even consider and several of those six would fail to make the cut even without adjusting for the things they’d be working with and against. The list I submitted on Sunday has been scrambled a bit after talking about it and pondering other things that are taking place, as well as including the Needle.
All right, let’s get to it. Here are the Top 9 cards of Saviors:
1. Ideas Unbound
2. Adamaro, First to Desire
3. Thoughts of Ruin
4. Arashi, the Sky Asunder
5. Hand of Cruelty
6. Pithing Needle
7. Kataki, War’s Wage (would have been #1 with a bullet if nothing was banned in Standard and in truth it’s not like it does anything too important right now, but I feel it’s only fair)
8. Kagemaro, First to Suffer
This set contains at least three cards that are highly dangerous: Ideas Unbound is a scarily strong card drawer, Adamaro can do a lot of damage very quickly on the cheap and Thoughts of Ruin is (as Aaron put it) Armageddon, baby. The last two cards are a bit of a reach as it is, and I have no desire to pick one more from among the three star cards, probably ending up with either Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, Twincast or Hidetsugu’s Second Rite.
The awards, the awards, including two new additions:
Skullclamp Award for Card I Probably Should Have Said Something About, But Didn’t: Hidetsugu’s Second Rite
Pat Chapin Memorial Award for Best Design: Evermind
Randy Buehler Award for Most Needed Ability: Thoughts of Ruin
Gerrard Fabiano (George Lucas?) Award for Card We Needed Four Months Ago But It’s a Little Late Now (All New!): Kataki, War’s Wage
Mike Flores Award (All New!) for Most Overhyped Card: Pithing Needle
Mark Rosewater Award for the Biggest Potentially Disastrous Idea: Adamaro, First to Desire
Coolest Card That Will Never See Play: Pain’s Reward
Most Embarrassing Card For Someone To Find In Your Deck: One With Nothing
Brandon Bozzi Award for Best Flavor Text: Vote in the article discussion! Will be awarded next week.
Eric Froehlich Award for Card Most Needing To Be Named For a Pro: Tomb of Urami