Sealed Revealed: Card Pool Two

Craig continues his quest to get better at Limited Magic and drag the world along with him. He even requests that all of his readers help him out by chiming in with their opinions on his decks and the format in the forums. Here’s what he has to say about today’s card pool: “Card pool one was uninspiring, to say the least. Even the stronger colors were missing key cards in important areas. As we’ll soon discover, card pool two has some powerful spells, but throws up some difficulties of its own.”

Before we tackle the nightmare that is card pool two, a quick note on humor.

I’m a funny guy, or so my mum tells me. I crack a joke, and people laugh. Sometimes they even point and shake their heads, which probably means I’m extra-special-super-funny.

To me, there is no such thing as bad humor. But, like a bad wig, jokes do wear thin.

For example, let’s examine the new cardset: Champions of Kamigawa. In their infinite wisdom, Wizards have presented us with the CoK block.

And I’m sick of it already.

I mean, it’s not as if there aren’t other Magic references without such humorous possibilities. So let’s get some of them out of our system, shall we?

There’s this:

“He said he had a Trench Wurm, but it was more like a Maggot Carrier.”

And this:

“She’s got a pair of Mesmeric Orbs I wouldn’t mind getting hold of.”

And of course, this:

“You hold him down and I’ll kick him in the Urza’s Baubles.”

There. I hope you all feel better now.

Card pool one was uninspiring, to say the least. Even the stronger colors were missing key cards in important areas. As we’ll soon discover, card pool two has some powerful spells, but throws up some difficulties of its own.

The cards:


2 Blessed Breath

2 Devoted Retainer

Ethereal Haze

Honden of Cleansing Fire

Kami of Ancient Law

Kami of the Painted Road

2 Konda’s Hatamoto

Mothrider Samurai

Pious Kitsune


Silent-Chant Zubera


Aura of Domination

2 Callous Deceiver

Consuming Vortex

Council of the Soratami

Dampen Thought

Eye of Nowhere

2 Field of Reality

Kami of Twisted Reflection

Keiga, the Tide Star

Mystic Restraints

Part the Veil

2 Soratami Cloudskater

Soratami Rainshaper

Soratami Seer


Ashen-Skin Zubera

Deathcurse Ogre

2 Distress

Hideous Laughter

Kami of the Waning Moon

Midnight Covenant

Nezumi Cutthroat

Rag Dealer

Scuttling Death

Struggle for Sanity

Waking Nightmare


Akki Rockspeaker

Battle-Mad Ronin

Devouring Rage



Glacial Ray

2 Hearth Kami

Kumano, Master Yamabushi

Kumano’s Pupils

Sokenzan Bruiser

Unnatural Speed

Yamabushi’s Flame

Yamabushi’s Storm


Commune with Nature

Feast of Worms

Hana Kami

Jukai Messenger

Kami of the Hunt

Kodama’s Might

Order of the Sacred Bell

Orochi Ranger

2 Orochi Sustainer

Venerable Kumo

Vine Kami

Wear Away


Imi Statue

2 Nine-Ring Bo

Sensei’s Divining Top


Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers

Ok, people, you know the drill. Get cracking.

Let’s begin with the White cards, shall we?


The lynchpin of pool one is sadly shafted here. No Cage of Hands, no Kitsune Blademasters, no Kabuto Moths… I’ll put it like this: if I were a starving man, stranded on a desert island with no food or water, I wouldn’t lower myself to eating this miserable pile of creamy flotsam.

Some of the creatures are passable, I suppose. The Kami of Ancient Law is a fine body with a double-play ability that can take down an unprotected Cage or Ghostly Prison. The Devoted Retainer have bushido, and can trade with unprepared weenies, but one-drop guys need a decent “utility ability” in order to be taken seriously, such as tapping down a spirit or producing mana. In sealed, one-drop beaters will generally lead to you facing one quick beating. The Mothrider Samurai is the only other definite playable, as the Konda’s Hatamoto are too defensive, and the Kami of the Painted Road is too clunky for words. The Silent-Chant Zubera is the worst of the Zebra cycle, as everyone knows that your life-total doesn’t matter unless it’s zero. When it comes down to it, a white zebra isn’t a zebra at all: it’s a mule. Of course, the Pious Kitsune is a bomb, if your definition of bomb is “a total waste of cardboard and ink.”

There’s one thing that the Kamigawa block has given the Limited strategist, a tool he’s been without for a fair few seasons: a Fog effect. Ethereal Haze is a fine tool that serves a purpose, but ultimately one which delays the inevitable, rather than speeding your victory. Of course, canny players use this ultimate combat trick to foil an alpha-strike and win the following turn. There’s nothing wrong with that, but remember: it’s a trick that works once, and once only. And to truly pull it off, you need more than a fog effect. You need a competitive deck that can return the pressure and supply you with a winning army, should the time arise.

Reciprocate is fine, as we’ve discussed before, Blessed Breath should strictly be retitled Hot Air. It’s a bluff and bluster spell, giving you that smug feeling when you “counter” a removal spell, only to come crashing down when they batter you anyway. I feel leery of protection spells, as they’re situational. If you’ve a bomb that needs protecting, then I suppose they’ll make muster. Just remember to play good cards too.

The Honden of Cleansing Fire is a conundrum. Let’s say that we have a decent White creature build. Do we play the Honden? Two life a turn is a decent swing, even if, and I quote, “your life-total doesn’t matter unless it’s zero.”

I’m undecided on the Shrines, to be honest. The Red one and the White one seem the strongest for Limited play. What do you think?

Happily, as the White pool is so shallow, I can postpone my decision on playing it until the votes are in. I’m not going to splash White, folks. There are nice cards to be found away from the pale plains of the Kami.





Ok, so I’ll be playing some form of Islands. Whether they’re forming the spine of my deck, or simply acting as the nostrils, remains to be seen.

All the dragons are stupid, wheel-slamming bombs. Keiga, our Blue friend, is my particular Limited favorite.

But enough about the obvious. What about the rest?

Starting, as always, with the Blue support spells, there are a few pleasantries to be had. We all like drawing cards, so Council of the Soratami is more than playable. If I only run these two Blue cards, my splash will have done its job. Consuming Vortex is also a decent splashable card, especially if we can abuse the splice mechanic. Of course, if the build becomes more Blue-centric, then Mystic Restraints and Eye of Nowhere are very strong contenders.

The other support cards (Aura of Domination, Dampen Thought, Part the Veil and Field of Reality) are the Magic equivalent of hand grenades: if you play with them, they’ll blow up in your face. And maybe take your arm off.

Aside from Keiga, who cuts the mustard?

There are three different Soratami flyers in the pool: Cloudshaper, Rainshaper and Seer. Each has a relevant ability, and I’d never be frightened to play any of them. The only thing I’m unhappy with is that these land-returning tricksters have little synergy with the “make-a-fat-dragon” plan, as they stunt mana development and are terrible at stalling the game until Keiga screams into action. Luckily, some defense can be mounted through the 1/3 Callous Deceivers, who can also take to the skies should the need arise. And Kami of the Twisted Reflection is also playable in a base-Blue build, as he acts as a mini Coalition Honor Guard during defensive duties.

It seems that Blue could have promise as a main color. Still, without the big 3/3 Teller of Tales to lend his considerable weight in a fight, a Blue army of 1/1’s and 2/1’s isn’t too promising, dragon or no dragon. Its exact role will be clarified as we examine the remaining colors.


If we follow the Blue-brick road, we’ll need a little quality removal to supplement our tempo spells, and some ground-pounders to trade and smash face until Keiga appears. Black has all the ingredients.

Sadly, this pool of Black cards is lacking in vital areas.

We have one decent creature, the Nezumi Cutthroat.

We have one decent spell, the Hideous Laughter.

Actually, the Scuttling Death isn’t too bad, especially in a soulshift chain… but these three cards are simply food for powder. They’re good, but lost.

Here’s a few words on the remnants:

Discard is mostly pointless in Limited. Cards such as Waking Nightmare may see some action in games two and three, but only if you know that you’re foe has an insurmountable threat in his deck. Stripping it from his hand counts as removal, right? The Distress and the Struggle for Sanity are Constructed hopefuls, and as such have no place in a Limited environment. Midnight Covenant screams two-for-one, and is definitely not a splash-card. And as for the creatures…

The six-mana Deathcurse Ogre surely lives up to his name. He’s accurse, and he’ll mean your death. I can imagine the conversation…

Player: “So, Mr. Ogre, what makes you think you’re the shambling mound for the job? Why should you get the coveted six-mana slot?”

Ogre: “Because if you turn me down, I’ll kick your brain out.”

Player: “Quite.” <uses desk intercom> “Security!”

<Keiga enters, wearing a jaunty peaked cap>

Keiga: “Yes, boss?”

Player: “Kindly show Mr. Ogre the door.”

<A fight ensues. It is thankfully short>

I’m not a fan of the Kami of the Waning Moon. His ability is too situational. Even with the requisite arcane or spirit spell in hand, you’ll still need a decent attacker to justify playing a three-mana 1/1 guy. The black Zebra is a donkey, and the Rag Dealer will only be a cheap chump, unless you can hinder the development of a soulshift chain.

Ah well, them’s the breaks. Let’s hope the red is kinder to us.


Glacial Ray? Check.

Yamabushi’s Flame? Check.

All systems are go!

Wait a moment…

Kumano, Master Yamabushi?!

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are floating in space!

There’s nothing quite like opening not one, but two bomb rares. The Red Masticore is a fine card, and with a couple of decent red removal spells to boot, we are definitely playing with fire.

But how much of it? We don’t really want to splash Kumano: the double-Red is a bitch, and the fewer Mountains we play the less effective he becomes. What other Red goodies do we have…

On the guy front, we have a pair of functional Hearth Kamis, the overcosted yet useful Frostwielder, and the excellent yet expensive Earthshaker. Sadly, there are no mid-range creatures to support the Blue here.

The rest of the guys are either big and stupid, such as the Kumano’s Pupils (the sooner they learn their trade, the better), or piss-weak (if you play Akki, you must be on crakki). As for the Battle-Mad Ronin… in a Samurai deck, maybe. In this deck, hardly.

So the guys, with one or two exceptions, are a steaming pile of Spongebob. In supplying us with decent direct damage, the support spells have done their job. And while Devouring Rage and Unnatural Speed are sub-par, the Yamabushi’s Storm is a nice trick that may have a place maindeck. Almost certainly, this is a sideboard card to remember.

If we were, at this stage, to go U/R, the creature standard would be top-heavy. We’d have some early-game threats, no middle game, and fabulous endgame. Green, the color of creatures, may be our saviours here. Let’s see if we can relegate the evil Blue cards to a mere splash.



Well, they’re okay, I suppose…

One obvious boon is the fact we have double Copper Myr in our two Orochi Sustainers. These should help us power out our gamebreakers that little bit earlier. The Order of the Sacred Bell is nice, as is the Kami of the Hunt. This spirit/arcane pump-machine combos well with the double Hearth Kami of Red, and/or the double Callous Deceiver of Blue. The Venerable Kumo, while not exactly stellar, serves a purpose and is a good mid-range soulshifter. One step up, we have the Vine Kami.

Is the Vine Kami any good? I’ve played with him a few times, and he seems pretty solid. But seven mana for a 4/4… it makes me shudder. His double-blocking ability is nice, especially as we have some decent removal. And his soulshift power is excellent in this pool, as he can return the wonderful Keiga should he hit the showers at an opportune time. I think he’s a keeper, if a little expensive. After all, he’ll always be at least two-for-one.

Hana Kami is also a favourite one-drop of mine. Early game, he’s an emergency chump, but late game, returning Glacial Rays or Hideous Laughters… he’s golden. Plus, he can make multiple appearances via Soulshift. In a recent tournament, I saw the same Hana Kami fetch the same Rend Flesh four times in a single duel.

We also have an Orochi Ranger, a reasonable beatdown guy, and the forestwalking sack that is the Jukai Messenger.

Supporting our heroes, we have the tasty pump-spell that is Kodama’s Might. It splices, it dices, it raises house prices, it’s a combat trick that can be returned with Hana Kami. Wear Away is a decent sideboard option, but sadly for us, that’s all she wrote. The Feast of Worms is pretty poor, and the Commune With Nature…

I don’t like Commune With Nature. Yet someone, on the forums regarding yesterday’s card pool, sang its praises.

Come to the forums. Tell me what you think.


We have three distinct artifacts. One will see play, and the other is an option. The third is a Constructed card, a archetype hoser. But heavens to murgatroyd, which is which?

Cast your votes now, people.

Tick, tick, tick-tick BOOM!

Of course, Sensei’s Divining Top is a great card. Strange, considering I never saw one in Karate Kid. I hope the next set will have cards such as Myagi’s Healing Hands, or Revenge of the Cobra Kai. Or simply a split card, Wax On/Wax Off.

The Nine-Ring Bo are tricky. They’re repeatable removal, if a little fickle… but are they worth a slot in the maindeck? I suggest that a deck light on quality guy-killers should run the Bo if possible.

Imi Statue goes straight into my trade folder. Thanks.


If you pull a rare land that taps for colored mana without a drawback, and you’re playing that color, you might as well use it in place of the corresponding basic land. After all, Okina is simply a Forest with an ability.

Happily, the ability to pump legendary creatures could be randomly useful, protecting Keiga from a Pull Under, perhaps. Or targeting an opponent’s Horobi.

I’ll be playing Green in some capacity, so Okina will make the cut.

Now we come to the build. Let’s refresh ourselves of the strengths and weaknesses thus far:


We have two big gamebreakers, in Keiga and Kumano.

Our Red removal is pretty strong.

Our Blue support cards are good

Our Blue creatures have kinky abilities.

We have some pleasant arcane interactions.

We have some economical flyers.

We have nice sideboard options (like Yamabushi’s Storm, Nine-Ring Bo and Wear Away)


Black and White spells and creatures.

Our mid-range creatures are almost non-existent, outside of the Blue spells.

Unless Blue is relegated to a splash color, we’ll see double-symbol casting costs in each of our three colors.

As we’ve chose the three colors with which to toy with, let’s examine all possibilities:


This would be my weapon of choice, if I could make a decent mana curve. If we take three Blue spells in Keiga, Council of the Soratami, and Consuming Vortex, then we have almost nothing for the important three-drop slot. While our mana would be stable, the early-game creatures would die before the big lads laced up their boots.


This is the bomb-support color. It gets the best use out of Kumano and Keiga, as they can be protected with the tricks of the flying Soratami. And the double-Red of Kumano shouldn’t be a problem here.

Unfortunately, relegating Green to a splash color severely undermines the creature base. We could hardly splash Green for two turn 2 mana producers. Kami of the Hunt, Order of the Sacred Bell… these are important mid-range creatures that have no peer in our Red and Blue pools. I am loath to splash for creatures exclusively, as if you don’t hit the land required you’re soon served up as geek-on-toast.


While not without its pitfalls, this is the configuration I’d settle with. Splashing Red for three cards, maximizing mana acceleration, laying decent beaters and utility creatures with little worry about color… The Kami of the Hunt is greatly improved by the arcane and spirit contingent of blue, while still retaining the removal and game-winners of Red.

Here’s my build:

Green (8):

Hana Kami

2 Orochi Sustainer

Kami of the Hunt

Order of the Sacred Bell

Venerable Kumo

Vine Kami

Kodama’s Might

Blue (11):

2 Soratami Cloudskater

Soratami Rainshaper

2 Callous Deceiver

Soratami Seer

Keiga, the Tide Star

Consuming Vortex

Eye of Nowhere

Council of the Soratami

Mystic Restraints

Red (3):

Glacial Ray

Yamabushi’s Flame

Kumano, Master Yamabushi

Artifact (1):

Sensei’s Divining Top


Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers

7 Island

5 Forest

4 Mountain

Creatures: 15

1cc = 1

2cc = 4

3cc = 4

4cc = 1

5cc = 3

6cc = 1

7cc = 1

8cc = 0

There are problems, naturally. I hate the fact that I have to play four Mountains in order to obtain double-Red for Kumano. His ability is also severely neutered with the lack of Red sources, but at least you can reliably Shock something each turn after you make him. Ah, my kingdom for a Kodama’s Reach. Or a Sakura-Tribe Elder.

The curve is also far from adequate, but I believe it reflects the best possible from the mismatch of creatures available. I’d love to see a decent Blue or Green four-drop in place of the five-mana Venerable Kumo, but with Keiga and Kumano in my pool, I suppose I shouldn’t grumble.

Finally, I think if I opened these cards in a PTQ, I’d be hoping to make top 8. Albeit on the back of a big Blue dragon. Take to the skies!

So, what do you think? Chime up in the forums with your builds and your views. This series is all about the friendly exchange of ideas: I’m sure I’ve made mistakes in my build above. Come tell me where I’m going wrong.

Until the next pile…

Thanks for listening

Craig Stevenson

Scouseboy on MTGO

[email protected]