Saviors of Kamigawa for Constructed – The Red Cards

Today’s bonus game in Zvi’s set review is the color tally where Zvi adds up all the stars for each color and tells you which one comes out on top. In addition to that info, he also tells you which cards from Red (like say… Thoughts of Ruin) earned the Mowshowitz stamp of approval.


Today’s bonus feature is the color comparison analysis, or the proof that I already wrote the rest of this article. As usual, the basic comparison is to add up all the stars on all the cards:

1. Red: 63

2. White: 60

3. Blue: 58

4. Green: 51

5. Black: 51

That’s not quite balanced, but it’s not too bad. Green wins the tiebreaker by having the higher card in the top ten, but it is clear that this set has three solid colors and two weaker ones. And now, the color that comes out on top in terms of overall quality, Red:

Adamaro, First to Desire – 1RR

Legendary Creature – Spirit

Adamaro, First to Desire’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of cards in the hand of the opponent with the most cards in hand.


Add two, they’re probably small.


Adamaro is going to have the nasty habit of becoming 0/0, but that is a risk well worth taking. This isn’t part of the Maro cycle, but it could easily end up being the best of them. If he comes out on turn 2 with a Chrome Mox and you went first, there’s a good chance that he is about to hit for five, six or even seven damage. He’s the only one you can power out without making him small. Think of him as quick damage rather than as part of a solid creature base, but also keep in mind that Kamigawa block decks have a very hard time emptying their hands. When you’re going second against a fast deck you will probably have to sideboard this out, but if you don’t then this card is the best Red three-drop since Ball Lightning. Don’t forget to help him out a little with Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, also known as the most Red card ever set in the middle of an ocean. That together with Howling Mine and burn could form the core of a Red strategy that might be very hard for the current crop of standard decks to handle properly.

Akki Drillmaster – 2R

Goblin Shaman

T: Target creature gains haste until end of turn.


Most people move faster if you run after them with a drill.


If you’re never going to cast more than one creature in a turn, or it at least won’t come up all that often, this could end up being far better than a haste enchantment because it can also attack for two if no one else is coming out this turn. That’s a big advantage, and the fact that it advances your four- and five-drops for a turn can then more than make up for what you lose. This is the first time that a creature both let you give other creatures haste while staying on curve and gave you a body capable of attacking. This could be a deceptively strong card.

Akki Underling – 1R

Creature-Goblin Warrior

As long as you have seven or more cards in hand, Akki Underling gets +2/+1 and has First Strike.


If they knew anything they’d give him the respect he deserves. They’re Goblins.


There aren’t going to be many decks that can both have seven cards in their hand on a regular basis and go looking for quality Goblins. I can’t see this ever activating without Howling Mines and other such craziness involved barring Wheel of Fortune or a massive returning of Mountains to your hand. This is worth trying to make work as it has the potential to effectively be between a three- and a four-drop by Red’s standards if he goes active and you don’t pay much of a penalty if he doesn’t activate. If somehow there is a way to keep seven cards in your hand and you’re looking for a two-drop, this is most certainly your man.

I'm still waiting for a Donkey Conga image to be worked in.

Barrel-Down Sokenzan – 2R


Sweep-Return any number of Mountains you control to their owner’s hand. Barrel Down Sokenzan deals damage to target creature equal twice the number of Mountains returned this way.

So this is how you move Mount Fiji.


This spell does not make much sense if returning Mountains is a drawback. If it was effectively neutral once you got to the midgame, this would be reasonable removal for mono-Red but unimpressive since good Red removal needs to be able to target opponents. This card only makes sense if it a benefit to bounce your lands and the damage is your payment for giving up a card and spending three mana. Akki Underling is one reason to bounce your Mountains but you need to have several good ones and hitting seven won’t be easy even if you bounce all your lands.

Burning-Eye Zubera – 2RR

Creature-Zubera Spirit

When Burning-Eye Zubera is put into a graveyard from play, if 4 or more damage was dealt to it this turn, Burning-Eye Zubera deals 3 damage to target creature or player.


It isn’t easy getting one to focus.


Which effect do you prefer, Lightning Bolt or Ancestral Recall? Even when they both cost one mana no one thought they were equal. A card means a hell of a lot more than one damage does, and this exact card is available in a color weaker on creatures with a side effect worth about two more mana than this one and far more universal. Killing the Blue version is disastrous, while killing the Red one might be annoying but also might not even matter.

Captive Flame – 2R


R: Target creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.

Breathe in, breathe out.


This turns every creature in your deck into a deadly weapon if you have enough Red mana. It will never be mana efficient, but it is easy to see how an opponent could be left with nothing but trades or worse for the rest of the game and this combines exceptionally well with Shinka. It is a noble attempt, but it is still not good enough. The investment required to get your mana’s worth is simply too high and no deck that wants to pump its creatures enough is going to have this kind of mana lying around.

Feral Lightning – 3RRR


Put three 3/1 red Elemental creature tokens with haste into play. Remove them from the game at end of turn.

This time when the sparks fly there really will be three of them.


For six mana this does nine damage if it is not stopped in some way. A large portion of the time this won’t do the full nine, but it will normally end up doing at least six if it is not guarded against explicitly, at which point it has already done an important job if that was done with blockers. There are still a lot of ways for this to be a waste of six mana given what else you can do in this range. I would generally much prefer to run a card like Rorix if I had the choice but there hasn’t been anything in his league lately. A nine-point hit is a nine-point hit, and if you’re otherwise attacking then only a pure answer card will stop this from working most of the time. The danger is that if this replaces a different card that would grant reach that you will find yourself unable to do that last few points of damage against an opponent who knows what to look out for.

Gaze of Adamaro – 2RR

Instant – Arcane

Gaze of Adamaro deals damage equal to the number of cards in target player’s hand to that player.

“Make sure they look at you, otherwise you’ll go away.” – Akki Driller


Blood Oath will do a lot more damage than Gaze of Adamaro in the same situation, because it is trivial to on average hit more than a third of the cards in their hand. If they’re returning cards to their hand to boost their hand size that makes it even easier. That doesn’t make this useless because you have to use what is available and not the best cards from the past. If you can reliably do six or seven damage this way in a matchup this card would be quite good, with the minimum being a consistent five. The problem is you can’t do that in game one unless you’re helping him along and as a sideboard card this seems weak, but if you’re giving them some extra help then this might start to get highly dangerous.

Ghost-lit Raider – 2R

Creature – Spirit

2R, T: Ghost-lit Raider deals 2 damage to target creature.

Channel — 3R, Discard Ghost-lit Raider Ghost-lit Raider deals 4 damage to target creature.


I strike and my target dies. Seems fair to me.


Lightning Blasting a creature is never all that wonderful but there is nothing wrong with it either, especially if it only one of two options. Ghost-lit Raider offers you a potentially very powerful creature that can pick some decks apart if given time and gives you two power on top of that. It isn’t cheap to use, but the ability to choose between direct results and long term investment answers the main problem with pingers – they are often too slow or don’t do enough damage. Here you get to choose, keeping in mind that the long-term route won’t be cheap. If this could hit opponents, it would be a star.

Glitterfang – R



At end of turn, return Glitterfang to its owner’s hand.


There are those who have yet to progress beyond the shiny object phase. You know who you are.


Raging Goblin works in the right deck but is unexciting, and Glitterfang is a Raging Goblin you have to keep recasting. What is it good for? It is good for casting a spirit over and over. There are plenty of cards, particularly the three-mana flip cards from Champions, that greatly benefit from the casting of a lot of spirits and this can be cast whenever the need arises. It seems strange that this is all but worthless as an attacker, but that’s the way I see the card. I would outright prefer to have it bounce itself right away, because that lets you use it far more often and I always think big.

Godo’s Irregulars – R

Creature – Human Warrior

R: Godo’s Irregulars deals 1 damage to target creature blocking it.


“Those guys can never keep up.” – Godo, Bandit Warlord


A Red one-drop these days is not going to measure up to Jackal Pup, but this at least is very difficult to block. That has to count for something given your alternatives. If it had a way to come across for two damage that would finish the package. Without that this is likely to do one a turn for quite a while, so the question is whether that is worthwhile. I think this beats out the alternatives handily given what they are right now.

Hidetsugu’s Second Rite – 3R


If target player has exactly 10 life, Hidetsugu’s Second Rite deals 10 damage to that player.



This is quite the finesse card. No one is going to be running four copies of it unless they’re completely insane or only playing one game and have their opponent pegged. You know a card like this is working when opponents burn themselves down to nine to avoid being at ten or otherwise start getting nervous when they start to get close to the right number. How much control can they have over their exact life total? A painland would be a strong defense, but they’re not around these days and this has to be rather popular to suddenly inspire people to start running City of Brass against burn decks. That’s pretty backwards. If they don’t have an instant speed way to change their life total, you shouldn’t have trouble setting them up for the kill and with the last spell doing ten all you have to do is the first ten. A spell like Fireball would be a good way to make sure that the numbers work out, but even just choosing a wide variety of burn spells should give you a way to get to ten most of the time.

With two copies you can draw this often enough to worry opponents but not so often that they can profit by taking preventative measures. It also might be stupidly easy to set up fourth turn kills with this card, especially for R/G or R/W decks. Come out swinging with a bunch of two-power White creatures and then on turn 4 suddenly Mountain, Hidetsugu’s Second Rite out of nowhere for the win. I think this is very cool, but the people who die to it are not going to be happy. It has the potential to feel very arbitrary and you are not given any warning. Anyone who taps out against a red player might not untap if the Red mage has access to a decent amount of mana. That is scary.

Homura, Human Ascendant – 4RR

Legendary Creature – Human Monk

Homura, Human Ascendant can’t block.

When Homura is put into a graveyard from play, return it to play flipped.



Homura’s Essence

Legendary Enchantment

Creatures you control get +2/+2 and have flying and “R: This creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.”

Be consumed by rage and pass on your legacy.


The key with this card is to get it into play flipped as quickly as possible at which point you win any fight in which you were not otherwise completely and utterly slaughtered. If that means playing a six-drop and attacking with it until it dies then this isn’t worth it, but there are other ways of going to the graveyard from play. Anything that puts a creature into play for a turn and then kills it will do, but those effects tend to win games when used with other creatures from the past so anything like that seems unspectacular. In general casting him seems mediocre and tricking him in and out of play also seems mediocre, but I have to respect what this card can do.

Iizuka the Ruthless – 3RR

Legendary Creature-Human Samurai

Bushido 2.

2R, sacrifice a Samurai: Samurai you control gain double strike until end of turn.


“Strike twice and you just might live to strike again.” – Iizuka the Ruthless


Double strike is a wonderful thing and with Godo helping out it can even turn into quadruple strike, but Godo puts Iizuka to shame. You pay mana and sacrifice a creature that would have been at least doubled when you could have instead for one mana more doubled everyone up for free, made them harder to block and picked up the equipment card of your choice. There’s no reason to mess around with lesser imitations. Don’t be fooled.

Inner Fire – 3R


Add R to your mana pool for each card in your hand.

Some songs are better left unsung.


To net you more mana than Seething Song you had to begin with a minimum of eight cards in your hand, and to make it enough better to be worthwhile we’re talking nine. If you can get your hand size that large and assemble mana plus acceleration, you’ve already made it most of the way to your goal. If the engine can’t win without this, it can be a way to let you generate enough mana to finish the opponent off after you draw lots of cards but the key mana problem is always getting the engine started and not getting it to finish after drawing cards and generating mana.

Into the Fray – R

Instant – Arcane

Target creature attacks this turn if able.

Splice onto Arcane – R

That’s an order.


Forcing creatures to attack if able is not an effect worth spending a card on, even if you can do it at will for the entire game. This is not a bad package for this effect, but the effect is so awful that there is no package that doesn’t involve flat out cantrip status and a very cheap price that would interest me at all.

Jiwari, the Earth Aflame – 3RR

Legendary Creature – Spirit

XR, T: Jiwari, the Earth Aflame deals X damage to target non-flying creature.

Channel XRR, discard Jiwari, the Earth Aflame : Jiwari, the Earth Aflame deals X damage to each creature without flying.


“I too would take sensible precautions.” – Godo, Bandit Warlord


This is a little less efficient than Ghost-lit Raider at first but it offers a far more powerful set of options. Earthquake might be a little cheaper, but most of the time you won’t care and most decks are happy to avoid damaging players along the way. As a creature this will dominate the board if left to his own devices, killing off anything that doesn’t have flying or another ability protecting it. Early on you will use the spell to stabilize, later you’ll use the creature to finish the job. That makes this an excellent package for a deck that is looking for this type of answer.

Oni of Wild Places – 5R

Creature – Demon Spirit


At the beginning of your upkeep, return a red creature you control to its owner’s hand.


They’re nice places to visit, but once he does you wouldn’t want to live there.


Could Red be so desperate for a six-drop that comes out swinging that it turns to this shadow of its former Rorix? It’s not impossible, but at this time such a sorry fate is not in store for this once proud color. No one will be turning to this card. Even if you wanted the bounce effect, which you most certainly don’t, it is unlikely to benefit you that much since it means they were able to let a 6/5 live and aren’t going to lose for that reason.

What about general grumpiness?  What does that lead to?

Path of Anger’s Flame – 2R

Instant – Arcane

Creatures you control get +2/+0 until end of turn.

As we all know it leads to hate, which leads to the dark side.


This is below the threshold of what a card like this can be and is obviously far weaker than permanent boosters like Glorious Anthem. It is a highly unreliable direct damage spell, since using this to kill blockers is pretty darn terrible. Yes, it will often do four damage, but you can’t count on it and it rarely does six. Play real burn if this is what you want.

Rally the Horde – 5R


Remove the top three cards of your library from the game. If the last card removed isn’t a land, repeat this process until the last card removed is a land. Put a 1/1 red Warrior creature token into play for

each nonland card removed from the game this way.

“They never live up to expectations. All they do is terrify the populace, but they can never get anything done.” – Godo, Bandit Warlord


How many tokens would be acceptable for a six-drop that just stripped a huge number of mostly non-land cards off the top of my library? I think the minimum would be five or six to consider this card and you need to get a lot more than that to compensate for the times when this would have all but fizzled. This can be set up with a card like Mana Severance, but then this has to compete with Goblin Charbelcher. That’s not a favorable comparison no matter what the situation, as this is a one-shot deal and even the first activation of the Charbelcher only costs one more mana than this and doesn’t decimate your library along the way.

Ronin Cavekeeper – 5R

Bushido 2


He will succeed in his quest and get to keep the cave.


I have no problem with the printing of large quantities of somewhat large men at larger prices than the largeness of those men, but writing large amounts about this for a large number of similar entries over a large period of time is a large headache and by large I mean not small. I’ve found a large number of different ways to say that these cards are Limited only and I’m sure that I’ll keep doing it for a long time.

Shinen of Fury’s Fire – 2R



Channel-R, discard Shinen of Fury’s Fire: Target creature gains haste until end of turn.


Now is his time to shinen.


I’m a haste fan and have nothing against haste but haste is not the kind of ability that is so universally useful and powerful that you want to pay for it with a card, especially on the same turn that you bring out whatever you want to give haste, and it also isn’t good enough to make a 2/1 creature worth three mana. This is another awful-awful matching without effects good enough that in the right situation you won’t care. It’s hard to get excited about spending a card on haste with benefits like not being counterable. How exciting.

Skyfire Kirin – 2RR

Legendary Creature – Kirin Spirit


Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may gain control of target creature with that spell’s converted mana cost until end of turn.


The faintest seed leads to betrayal.


This does not untap creatures and it does not give them haste, so to make this worth bothering with you’ll need a reliable way to sacrifice the creatures you take. Once you do that, this is a bad version of the White Kirin. You jump through more hoops and get less in return. It is true that this cannot backfire like the White one can, but to use Kirin you want to spread your costs around so those costs should have ended up being minimal at best. The deck full of instant arcane spells that uses this to grab blockers is theoretically possible but seems like it would have far better things to do.

Sokenzan Renegade – 2R

Creature – Ogre Samurai Mercenary

Bushido 1

At the beginning of your upkeep, if a player has more cards in hand than any other, the player with the most cards in hand gains control of Sokenzan Renegade.


An ogre who values knowledge is already a renegade.


This is a good value if you know you’ll be able to keep it, but it isn’t good enough that it feels unfair and it would have to be in order to compensate for the risk that it will desert you. Going first there is no good way to get this card to reliably stay in your corner and still come out on time even in best case scenario matchups. When you’re effectively getting a slightly overpowered creature drawbacks like this need to be trivial for the right deck and this will never be trivial for a deck. If you mulligan then heaven help you. Cards that are only sideboarded in when you go second have a very high standard on them, and this does not pass that test.

Sokenzan Spellblade – 4R

Creature – Ogre Samurai Shaman

Bushido 1

1R: Sokenzan Spellblade gets +X/+0 until end of turn, where X is the number of cards in your hand.


When sticks and stones aren’t enough to break bones they use words.


This is one of those creatures that has the capacity to kill an opponent outright in one hit and will often be able to kill them in two, but it still doesn’t impress me. It is too easy to block and too easy to kill even though it holds a lot of potential. Arc-Slogger is a good example of what I look for in a card in this range. It can dominate the table and clear its own path, winning games even when it is removed the moment it hits and effective when played early with mana acceleration. Sokenzan Spellblade needs to be played methodically, has only three toughness and needs its way cleared by other means.

Spiraling Embers – 3R


Spiraling Embers deals damage to target creature or player equal to the number of cards in your hand.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. A lot of knowledge kills.


As usual the first question is how many cards are necessary before this card is worthwhile, and in this case the answer is easy: Three to do anything useful, four to be reasonable and five to be actively good. On turn four it is unlikely that this will be good because the decks that want to aim it at their opponents’ head won’t have enough cards in hand and those that don’t will be overly restricted by the spell being at sorcery speed. Later on those that want to aim at the face will still generally not have enough cards, but the good news is that they can save up and have more cards later or use this as part of a finishing move that bounces lands back to their hand. That’s probably the best way to use this card. It isn’t cast on a curve, instead it is cast later on when you’re ready. It seems like you should be able to do better than that by then.

Sunder from Within – 2RR


Destroy target artifact or land.

The best sunders don’t come from within. Also they tend to be blue.


Destroying a land costs three mana, not four. When it costs four it needs a large beneficial side effect and all this card offers you are arcane status and several extra words. There are benefits to being arcane but even in the most arcane decks I can’t see being able to justify paying four mana for Stone Rain.

Revised evaluation: ***

It turns out that the spoiler I was working from was incorrect, and the card actually says “Destroy target artifact or land” (Editor’s note: The spoiler Zvi was working from only said “Destroy target land.”), but while this obviously improves the card drastically it’s still nothing special. You can play it now, but artifact destruction shouldn’t cost four any more than land destruction should. If you need the flexibility you might be stuck with this card, but the arcane decks most certainly won’t be that interested.

Thoughts of Ruin – 2RR


Each player sacrifices a land for each card in your hand.

At other times it ends with a bang.


It’s Armageddon, baby was already taken by Aaron Forsythe so we had to go with something cheaper. His analysis of this card is solid. In Block this is exactly what Red needed to compete with the control decks, crippling their ability to assemble enough lands to stop you in time. You have a lot of control over how many lands this destroys, and this effect is big enough to make it worth manipulating your hand size. The obvious combination is to use this with the new cards that bounce lands back to your hand, boosting your hand and protecting your lands, but this is going to be worthwhile straight up. There is a big difference between worlds in which land is essentially safe and those in which it is constantly in danger and this changes one world into the other. This should be excellent in a land destruction deck or one with an LD theme, as you can kill all their lands without losing all of yours, but most often I predict it will be used to blow up the world around turn 4 or 5. Going first and then knocking both players down three lands on turn 4 has to be wonderful.

Undying Flames – 4RR


Remove cards from the top of your library from the game until you remove a nonland card. Undying Flames deals damage to target creature or player equal to that card’s converted mana cost.

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. You may choose a new target for the copy.)

Even silenced, the anger never ends.


Undying Flames doesn’t do the key things that epic cards need to do, like be ridiculously powerful and reward you for not being able to play other spells. Instead this seems like it guarantees you will get a three-mana spell every turn in place of your normal draw, which seems like a bad deal. If your cards are expensive, this is not the way you want to play out the endgame, and if they are cheap then this doesn’t do that much. There are a number of other methods for doing continuous direct damage in the endgame, if that is what you want.

Yuki-Onna – 3R

Creature – Spirit

When Yuki-Onna comes into play, destroy target artifact.

Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may return Yuki-Onna to its owner’s hand.


Locked door, smashed exhibits.


Paying four mana instead of three is a major drag, but bouncing this card is a highly valuable option and three power is a lot better than two. It is a little late for this to have a lot of juicy targets, but this is likely best against decks with a handful of artifacts rather than against lightning fast decks where you need to come out fighting and never let up. This is a slow way to accumulate advantage, but it is a relatively inexpensive way to work that advantage into your deck and win an exhaustion war.

Red gets to have direct damage as its primary theme and most of its cards reinforce that theme. It has to suffer through things like haste, but it still gets a lot of mileage out of the fact that it is doing damage while others are busy mucking around with things like blocking. It has several cards that could potentially blow games apart on a regular basis and gets the first usable Armageddon substitute in years. If one color comes out of this set ahead, this would be it unless Blue comes around and blows everyone away because of one mistake. It wouldn’t be the first time.