Body of Jukai – 7GG
Creature – Spirit
The mind-body problem.
Soulshift’s standard value is one less than the size of the creature, so anything with Soulshift 8 is unlikely to be worth playing. I see enough here for a six-drop, but certainly not a seven-drop let alone a nine. Does anyone remember Silvos, Rogue Elemental?
Budoka Pupil – 1GG
Creature – Human Monk
Whenever you play a spirit or Arcane spell, you may put a ki counter on Budoka Pupil. At the end of turn if there are two or more ki counters on Budoka Pupil, you may flip it.
Ichiga, Who Topples Oak
Legendary Creature – Spirit
Remove a ki counter from Ichiga, Who Topples Oak: Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
Study and grow strong.
The ability to make anything you need to bigger at instant speed is valuable, if not quite good enough for a one-mana spell. Trample is nice, especially considering Ichiga’s ability, but flying is better. This is clearly only the second best card in the cycle, but it’s also still one of the set’s shining stars if it has a good enough deck you can attach to it. Every spell you cast gives you an extra boost, which will end up being two damage, and those add up fast even if all they’re doing is going to the head. Ichiga doesn’t threaten true Game Over in the same way that Jaraku does, but Ichiga also retains its strength over a long game and can afford to wait to build up more counters before you flip it. Make no mistake, this will win a lot of games.
Child of Thorns – G
Creature – Spirit
Sacrifice Child of Thorns: Target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
Suffer the little children.
When you need one-drops, you can only be as picky as your options. Sometimes what you need is a one-drop with the right creature type to pump up your other cards, and in that case this can serve if it has to, despite being strictly worse than a Goblin that was balanced enough to be reprinted. The difference between the two abilities matters, and it matters a lot, but if I have to run Child of Thorns to get my Kawigawa themed deck working properly then so be it.
Enshrined Memories – XG
Reveal the top X cards of your library. Put all creature cards revealed this way into your hand and all others on the bottom of your library in any order.
Why do we remember the past instead of the future?
If there’s one card that Enshrined Memories misses that you very much want it to hit, it would be Enshrined Memories. The best part about Stroke of Genius is that often you draw another Stroke. Instead of helping you swing for the fences, Enshrined Memories all but forces you to play fair. All you can get are creatures, and if you’re trying to go infinite, then some of the things you need most won’t be available to you. You’ll also miss more than one card in three because it is land, even if those are cards you don’t need much, and those facts together mean that only the perfectly aligned deck can even consider running this card and even in the perfect scenario there’s a very good chance that it will get in the sideboard’s (or rest of the sideboard’s) way.
Forked-Branch Garami – 3GG
Creature – Spirit
Soulshift 4, Soulshift 4 (Whenever this card is put into a graveyard from play, you may return up to two target Spirit cards with converted mana cost of 4 or less from your graveyard to your hand.)
That which does not kill them makes them stronger. That which does kill them only makes things worse.
This card forces me to rethink my position on Soulshift. It’s a nice ability to have around, and two copies of it aren’t just worth more than one, although they’re less than twice as good as one since you’ll often lack a second good target. It forces a change in perspective, since even if you get nothing from this card you’ll get two in return. Most Soulshift cards cost two or even three mana more than the vanilla creature would on Magic’s standard issue power curve, but this is only one mana over par. The best green creatures are under par, the best example being Ravenous Baloth, but we can’t act spoiled forever just because we’ve been thrown good cards in the past. If you have the tools for a spirit deck with good three- and four-drops, then this seems like a strong five-drop to add to that curve. You don’t pay much extra, and you gain a lot against decks trying to stop you with removal or trade cards off.
Genju of the Cedars – G
2: Enchanted Forest becomes a 4/4 green Spirit creature until end of turn. It’s still a land. Whenever enchanted Forest is put into a graveyard, you may return Genju of the Cedars from your graveyard to your hand.
All Forests are alive. They just need the right motivation.
It’s interesting to compare this to Genju of the Spires. A 4/4 creature would be the most expensive of the five creatures you can get with a Genju, although a 2/5 with spirit link would have a hard time costing less. The key to the Genju of the Spires is that it is so good at reinforcing the best of what red does, while the Genju of the Cedars doesn’t add as much to a Green-based attack. Green also tends to have better options and will also force opponents to be able to deal with a stream of fatties. The Genju of the Cedars is both solid and packs a punch, making it a good blocker and a better attack into creatures if you mind losing lands as you should when you need mana every turn to activate your Genju.
Red also has the advantage that it doesn’t have to worry as much about spending its mana to deploy power efficiently, knowing that it can use reach later in the game and therefore trade development for card preservation, resource translation and most importantly some quick damage that can put the opponent into burn range. You’ll see more of the Genju of the Spires in Extended, and probably in other formats as well, especially considering its goal of attacking when your opponent can’t deal with it either way, but I expect at least some long term play from this one as well as a solid creature that is even harder to stop if a bit slower and less synergetic.
Gnarled Mass – 1GG
Creature – Spirit
I’m not just big as an elephant. I’m also a spirit!
Being a spirit counts for a lot if you want to work with the rest of this block. There is card after card that seems to say “I’m good, but only with enough other spirits that are also good.” Gnarled Mass won’t make your deck for you, but it also won’t break you while you let other cards make your deck. There are several other colors that would kill for an extra spirit this good. It’s unfortunate that this has the same casting cost as a cycle of the best reasons to want lots of spirits, but that can’t be helped now. Don’t play it because you can, but do play it because you will be rewarded.
Harbinger of Spring – 4G
Creature – Spirit
Protection from non-Spirit creatures.
There’s a neat little dynamic here, where the Harbinger tries to force its opponent to do one of two things. Either they kill it with a spell, at which point Soulshift yields card advantage, or else they try to fight it with creatures in which case they are punished for the failure to pack spirits. It’s a neat trick, but at this casting cost the point is moot. You can’t take advantage without paying far more than this card is worth.
Isao, Enlightened Bushi – 2G
Legendary Creature – Human Samurai
Isao, Enlightened Bushi can’t be countered.
2: Regenerate target Samurai
“Take your best shot. I know all and am prepared.” – Isao
He’s small, but he’s potentially very hard to deal with. You can’t counter him, which doesn’t count for much these days but has historically and likely will again. He not only regenerates but regenerates others, which makes him difficult to kill with direct damage, and when he gets into combat, he becomes 4/3. That’s a nice package for just three mana. It probably isn’t exactly what the doctor ordered at the moment, but even if counters aren’t at issue this is still a strong, solidly priced fighter
Iwamori of the Open Fist – 2GG
Legendary Creature – Human Monk
When Iwamori of the Open Fist comes into play, each opponent may put a legendary creature card from his or her hand into play.
“One cannot create a legend alone.” – Iwamori
This card’s value comes down to one question. Are they going to put a legend into play? If they are, and suddenly you’re facing down another large Kawigawa block legend, Rorix or who knows what else then you chose poorly. If they have no such card, then you chose wisely. Against creature decks in block you’ll want to avoid exposing yourself like this, but if you are up against Extended decks, then he will be mostly harmless. Even there, you need to watch out, because Reanimator could play Akroma and The Rock just might have Visara. You need to use caution almost no matter what with all the new legends available in case someone is using an odd kill method, and no important deck can rely on this card too much without facing large risks from prepared opponents, but if you get away with it this packs quite a wallop without anywhere near the risk of backfire you get with a Hunted Wumpus.
Kodama of the Center Tree – 4G
Legendary Creature – Spirit
Kodama of the Center Tree’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of Spirits you control.
Kodama of the Center Tree has Soulshift X, where X is the number of Spirits you control.
They all know the stakes, and he leads the stumps.
Too many legends are starting to bleed together with names that mean something but not to me. The home stretch is where the cards all seem to look the same, but that could have something to do with Green being the last color in R&D order. The goal is to keep it reasonably fun and entertaining while dismissing useless green card after green card because no five drop that requires five creatures in play to be good has ever done anything once we learned how to play Magic for real. The last thing I’m looking for is a Keldon Warlord that can get back a guy when he dies.
Lifegift – 2G
Whenever a land comes into play, you may gain 1 life.
Kawigawa grows and I am nourished.
You aren’t going to make this pay for itself by playing fair. If both decks have 24 lands, then at two cards drawn per turn in a long game you’ll each play two every five turns so you’ll get a little under one life a turn. That’s not good enough for a three-drop, even if you get a head start from both players playing a land a turn for a few turns. A three-drop providing a two-point life swing a turn isn’t even that interesting to me here since it prolongs the game into one where it stops doing that and it was on the edge at best to begin with. Your only option is to cheat, playing not just one land a turn but multiple lands a turn. I know something about that, and this card is not going to have a place in such a strategy. There are more important things to do.
Lifespinner – 3G
Creature – Spirit
Tap, sacrifice 3 Spirits: Search your library for a legendary Spirit card and put that card into play. Shuffle your library afterwards.
The greater good is often very great indeed.
Kuro? Oyobi? The Unspeakable? Patron of the Orochi? Who are you after here? Some of those sound at least somewhat promising, and Oyobi might let you keep going by sacrificing the tokens if you can get three spirits other than the Lifespinner to start the process. None of them seem quite worth the trouble you’re going to have to go through here. Dark Supplicant is a good example of a card that almost got this job done, and it is far stronger. You don’t get as good a creature, but you pay far less mana and that is more important to me. Don’t get greedy. If things are far too fair in the Magic world this could be reasonable in a deck already packing tons of spirits, but it’s not my idea of quality.
Loam Dweller – 1G
Creature – Spirit
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may put a land card from your hand into play tapped.
They’re old enough to remember when the Bears were good.
This is a lot like Gnarled Moss, with less value but a side benefit and a casting cost you’re more likely to be looking for. If this comes out on turn 2, you won’t get an extra land until at least the fourth turn and it’s hard to draw enough lands to get too far ahead on that basis while making your two- and three-drops, then build to five and have something worthwhile to do. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, and every now and then you’ll get a turn ahead and reap the benefits. The key is not to think of this as an engine card or a combo card, just a bear that might come in handy.
Mark of Sakiko – 1G
Enchanted creature has “Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, add that much G to your mana pool. This mana doesn’t cause mana burn. Until end of turn, this mana doesn’t empty from your mana pool as phases end.”
It looks a lot like a tree encased in a circle.
If you can reliably get your guys in for two or three damage in the early turns, this will pay big dividends quickly, especially if you can get a two-power guy down on the first turn. This could also be highly dangerous on a creature like Wild Mongrel or some other way to sell out and get a whole bunch of damage in quickly. The question is, are there going to be enough situations where you know you can get in, and you don’t worry about overcommitment or losing the guy, and you weren’t going to win anyway? A lot has to go right for this to pay off. I respect the card but I doubt it will pay off.
Matsu-Tribe Sniper – 1G
Creature – Snake Warrior Archer
Tap: Matsu-Tribe Sniper deals 1 damage to target creature with flying. Whenever Matsu-Tribe Sniper deals damage to a creature, tap that creature and it doesn’t untap during its controller’s next untap step.
A sniper can shoot two separate targets at two different heights before they can shoot back. He can’t do three.
If there are enough flyers to deal with, this is strong. For two mana, you can stop most flyers in their tracks, stop two at once, and outright kill any with one toughness. That’s not bad, and multiple copies make things even tougher. The problem is that creatures whose goal in life is to kill other creatures or keep them in check tend not to work out unless you don’t mind having them without a target to take down, especially if they only work on a subsection of creatures like flyers. I see this as a solid sideboard card for vulnerable matchups but not much more.
Nourishing Shoal – XGG
Instant – Arcane
You may remove a green card with converted mana cost X in your hand from the game rather than pay Nourishing Shoal’s mana cost. You gain X life.
That’s… just… pathetic… *barf*
I suppose +X/+X was out of the question, as that is far too strong, and I can’t think of a clean, elegant ability to suggest to make this card worthy of this cycle. This is a hard nut to crack, I admit it, but it’s sad that this is the best we can do. It’s not easy being Green. This card isn’t completely hopeless, since it provides a zero mana life swing, so in a deck that can trade life for cards, you can return the favor and keep going. Frankly, those decks don’t need my help and they don’t need this card either.
Patron of the Orochi – 6GG
Legendary Creature – Spirit
Snake offering (You may play this card any time you could play an instant by sacrificing a Snake and paying the difference in mana costs between this and the sacrificed Snake. Mana cost includes color.)
T: Untap all forests and all green creatures. Play this ability only once each turn.
If only one corpse is there to greet him, the forest considers itself lucky.
The more I look at this card the more I don’t think the casting cost is meant to be paid. You’re supposed to put him out for free. When you think about it, not many things that cost eight ever get paid for. This could cost a lot less, but the snake situation is not exactly impressing me at the moment and even if it did, this still costs quite a bit. I also don’t see it doing all that much. I have nothing against the effect but all he really does is double your mana and give your creatures some options, and if I’m going to dodge mana costs, I want a lot more than that. He’s also big, but he doesn’t trample.
Petalmane Baku – 1G
Creature – Spirit Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may put a ki counter on Petalmane Baku.
1, remove X ki counters from Petalmane Baku: Add X mana of any one color to your mana pool.
You have to buy one if you want to get one free.
Mana is a good cause, but this is going to take forever to pay worthwhile dividends even in a deck that is perfect for it. Ideally this will give you one mana for every spell you cast, so potentially in an engine this could end up being a kind of familiar and with enough of them you could even net mana but the whole thing is rather unwieldy and vulnerable while giving you a creature with atrocious power and toughness. If they want to kill it there’s a good chance they can, a deck properly exploiting this shouldn’t have many other targets and if they don’t want to kill it then there’s a reason. Never dismiss a potential source of this much mana outright, but this is certainly the bottom of the barrel. A final note, and I’m sure everyone will back me up on this, is that this card is the ugliest thing I’ve seen in a while and I’m writing this while watching among other things the Australian Open.
Roar of Jukai – 2G
Instant – Arcane
If you control a Forest, each blocked creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
Splice onto Arcane – An opponent gains 5 life.
Having seen his body and his roar, that was the last time anyone tried to get in Jukai’s way.
It is an interesting interaction, letting you cast a different instant and get a bonus pump in exchange for life points you can rattle off later once your guys all get through every turn. The problem is the word blocked, which as usual sends this card straight for the Boys & Girls Club contribution box. If you need your opponent to block to make a card good, the card better say something along the lines of “crush your enemies and listen to the lamentations of their women,” and considering the chance your opponent has one even that is questionable.
Sakiko, Mother of Summer – 4GG
Legendary Creature – Snake Shaman
Whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player, add that much G to your mana pool. This mana doesn’t cause mana burn. Until end of turn, this mana doesn’t empty from your pool as phases end.
The poison won’t kill you, just cause a little mana leak.
When you pay six mana, you want to get a way to win the game. Instead this offers a way to cast the way to win the game. Sometimes that’s the same thing (Yawgmoth’s Bargain anyone?) but Sakiko requires both help to get the damage in and time to attack your opponent, unless you’re doing so much damage that you get back a lot more than six mana on the spot. In that case, what did you need Sakiko for anyway, unless a Life player got lazy and only got a million life and you have an effect that lets you do exponential amounts of damage over time? If Sakiko is working, a big creature would work just fine.
Sakura-Tribe Springcaller – 3G
Creature – Snake Shaman
At the beginning of your upkeep, add G to your mana pool. This mana doesn’t empty at the end of phases and doesn’t cause mana burn.
He called to the spring, and got no answer. This is all that fits in his bucket.
One mana is nice, but it’s not enough to play with a lousy creature that costs four mana to bring out. Potentially this could be a respectable blocker while serving as mana acceleration into something even bigger, or be your snake offering, but I just don’t see those plans working out. The benefits aren’t big enough for a four-drop.
Scaled Hulk – 5G
Creature – Spirit
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, Scaled Hulk Gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
Very few find themselves drawn to a scaled hulk.
Scaled Hulk can get big, but it’s hard for it to get really big and it will almost never be bigger than that. It won’t be that big. It takes a lot for it to try and be that big, and if it was going to be then you’re casting so many spells that unless you’re burning them off to pump up the Hulk, in which case you’re very sad, you should be winning anyway. You could also look at it another way, which is that there’s a three drop that gives you essentially the same ability. It’s more flexible in some ways, less flexible in others.
Shizuko, Caller of Autumn – 1GG
Legendary Creature – Snake Shaman
At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, that player adds GGG to his or her mana pool. This mana doesn’t cause mana burn. Until end of turn, this mana doesn’t empty from that player’s mana pool as phases end.
At harvest time all feast.
This is one of the more dangerous cards out there. You have to give your opponent three free mana and a turn to use it before you can benefit, and he can use that turn to remove Shizuko or even better, just remove you instead. He has at least six mana, don’t think he can’t do it. Opponents are mean like that. Will this be worth it sometimes? Being a creature is a problem, since it gives your opponent a much better chance to remove Shizuko when he can’t take advantage, and the negation of mana burn avoids one of the nice side benefits of a good old Vineyard. I’m a big fan of the new template, but part of the point was to use the mana as a weapon. The risks will be worth the rewards if your opponent’s deck is efficient enough with its mana that giving it more after the second or third turn doesn’t change much of anything (here’s looking at you, Affinity) or your effects are just so much bigger than theirs that you don’t care. Most modern decks are forced not to try to do more than they need to in order to win the game, and that gives them trouble when they suddenly need to come up with a lot more as they sacrifice potential and raw power in order to match up a little better.
Sosuke’s Summons – 2G
Put two 1/1 green Snake creature tokens into play. Whenever a non-token Snake comes into play under your control, you may return Sosuke’s Summons from your graveyard to your hand.
“They know their own kind when they see them.” – Sosuke to Memnarch
Two 1/1 tokens for 2G is not a good deal, but it is acceptable if it is part of a war of attrition and you get to keep doing it. Even if your opponent is running counters, they’ll have a hard time stopping every snake in a snake deck. What those snakes are I have no idea, because they don’t seem to be any good, but those are just details. Actually they’re rather important, because without a lot of good snakes the point is moot even under the best case scenario. This is not the best case scenario, and the point would be moot even if it was.
Splinter – 2GG
Remove target artifact from the game. Search its controller’s graveyard, hand, and library for all cards with the same name as that artifact and remove them from the game. That player then shuffles his or her library.
I have always liked cowabunga.
Splinter only gets to take the card out permanently if it resolves, and there are some very popular annoying cards that can keep that from happening no matter what you decide to go after. Taking out one good card from one of those decks will generally not help matters, since there are plenty of others waiting to take their place and your short term problems are far bigger than your long term ones. Your other options have greatly improved since the first time this card was printed with such weapons as Oxidize and Naturalize. You don’t need to use Splinter anymore.
Traproot Kami – G
Creature – Spirit
Defender (This creature can’t attack.)
Traproot Kami’s toughness is equal to the number of forests in play. Traproot Kami may block as though it had flying.
Man masters nature one tree at a time. Nature stops man with all of them at once.
Being a one drop counts for a lot, especially when you’re not a dead card later in the game, but you lose those bonus points for having zero power and being a wall. Hopefully you’ll be able to block creatures costing two or more mana by turn 3 or 4, and keep going up the scale well enough to block anything that isn’t at the top of the mana curve, but that requires that you have nothing but Forests. If you play other lands, this card becomes worthless automatically. Do mono-Green decks want to spend their time doing such trivial things as blocking? That’s such a massive loss of style points, and I think you simply have to be aggressive with such things because you don’t have the tools to be anything else. You can accelerate into good stuff, or block with fat men, but dedicated Walls will cramp your style too much in those matchups where your job is to kill before they take control.
Unchecked Growth – 2G
Instant – Arcane
Target creature gets +4/+4 until end of turn. If that creature is a Spirit, it gains trample until end of turn.
It is easier to go through things when you don’t exist.
Just for a second, assume that this gives all creatures trample. Is this a worthy pump spell? Clearly it is not, and is unlikely to be worth even two mana let alone three. I have no intentions of letting myself get anywhere near this desperate, as you can always just play out more men.
Uproot – 3G
Sorcery – Arcane
Put target land on top of its owner’s library.
It would be cheaper to just make it fallow, but if you’re going to do something do it right.
Putting a land on top of their library does two things. It knocks them down a land, and it makes sure they draw a land next turn. It does not mess up their mana, or mess up their color. Instead it costs them a card and a land play. If you’re playing a land destruction deck, this is worse than just land destruction. This card would have to be used to try and gain tempo, and at four mana I can’t see that plan being effective at all.
Vital Surge – 1G
Instant You gain 3 life.
Splice onto Arcane – 1G
Ah, that’s the stuff. He likes it! Johnny likes it!
Gaining three life for two mana and a card is awful, but getting it for just two mana is downright reasonable and the ability to keep doing it whenever you have the mana free and are casting a spell is even better. You can’t win with this alone, but it can buy you a lot of time, especially together with other splice spells. Green doesn’t seem like the best way to go with such a strategy, but this gives you one good reason to go in that direction.
Budoka Pupil, Forked-Branch Gamari, Iwamori of the Open Fist, Loam Dweller, Matsu-Tribe Sniper, Shizuko, Caller of Autumn and Vital Surge round out Green. The great thing about Green in Betrayers is that it managed to avoid the truly useless junk that most Green sets have to endure. You don’t get a ton of quality, but you get an impressive lack of uselessness. There’s something about card after card that makes them impossible to outright dismiss. That is a pleasant change. Now it’s time to finish things up with the artifacts and lands.
God’s Eye, Gate to the Reikai
Tap: Add 1 to your mana pool.
When Gods’ Eye, Gate to the Reikai is put into a graveyard from play, put a 1/1 colorless Spirit creature token into play.
It looks at itself and waits for a blink.
I suppose that if you’re planning to sacrifice lands every game, then this gives you a nice little bonus, say theoretically in some non-existent a colorless deck that abuses Dust Bowl and Zuran Orb. This is one of the few lands whose legendary status might be an advantage, since you can play a second one to blow both of them up and get your tokens, but I want more than a 1/1 out of my cards if I have to wait beyond turn 1. The potential trade off is cute, but I’ll pass.
Tendo Ice Bridge
Tendo Ice Bridge comes into play with a charge counter on it. Tap, remove a charge counter from Tendo Ice Bridge: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.
Tap: Add 1 to your mana pool.
It’s a great bridge but you can only burn it once.
I’m not sure why an ice bridge is a rainbow land, but that’s beside the point. You get colored mana once for free, then colorless. In general you’re going to want to pay up and get color in the long term. The exception would be a deck that needs color acutely but not frequently. These decks do exist, especially decks that need a third color for one key spell but otherwise have plenty of mana so shouldn’t need to use up the counter for anything else but want to have it around in case of emergency.
Genju of the Realm – WUBRG
Legendary Enchant Land
2: Enchanted Land becomes a legendary 8/12 Spirit creature with trample until end of turn. It’s still a land. When enchanted land is put into a graveyard from play, you may return Genju of the Realm to owner’s hand.
Watch out for, well, just about everything these days.
This is a flashy card. It’s fun, and I’m glad they printed it. It will be fun, and it will create value when pawned off on those who want this sort of thing. There’s nothing wrong with that. Trying to play this card seriously is a lot harder, but it is possible. The main cost of the other Genju is in activation, whereas here the key is casting it in the first place. If you have a good way to get rainbow mana that comes naturally from the rest of your deck’s design, this could be a good application for it. The two mana becomes trivial other than on the turn you cast it, and you get a creature that is all but impossible to stop with anything but enchantment removal. It looks impractical especially when compared with the other Genju, but I wouldn’t dismiss this as quite quickly as you would be tempted to if you are good at Magic. I don’t think it’ll work, but when in doubt verify that it won’t work first.
And now we come to the artifact portion of our presentation. Artifacts present some unique problems for my approach, so a few words are in order. The biggest problem is that they tend to be much harder to come up with something worthwhile and flavorful to say, and the next biggest problem is that most of them generally end up so overcosted that they make paying retail price for a box of boosters and breaking them for singles seem economical. The link to the store is on the left, people. In the meantime, we have this group of cards that are not happy that they’re being compared to Mirrodin and Darksteel. A year from now it might have only been rather embarrassing. Instead, it’s whatever is about three levels above that. Luckily more of them are interesting than I thought at first glance, so I’ll just skip the flavor as I have done in the past and get right to tearing them apart on strategic grounds. It ends up getting thin near the end anyway – it helps to start fresh later on.
Baku Altar – 2
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may put a ki counter on Baku Altar.
2, tap, remove a ki counter from Baku Altar: Put a 1/1 colorless Spirit token into play.
Somewhat worthy version: Casting Cost (CC) 0, 1T to use.
If you gave this unlimited counters, it would be similar to other token generators that have seen play in the past. It costs a tiny bit less, but it’s not a mana source and it requires investment. However, the requirement to constantly cast spells to keep going destroys the whole purpose of grinding out the game silently.
Blinding Powder – 1
Artifact – Equipment
Equipped Creature has “Unattach Blinding Powder: Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt to this creature this turn.”
If it said all damage, we might be able to talk, but this takes three mana to work the first time and then two mana every time after that. Regeneration would be cheaper and it would be more universal.
Mirror Gallery – 5
The “legend rule” doesn’t apply.
This is a ton of mana to pay to allow you to avoid a drawback that generally only adds a lot less than one mana to casting costs. If you’re not just messing around and having fun, what good is this card? You’d have to be doing something obscene, and by obscene we mean play two copies of a card that is a legend because if it wasn’t then two copies threatened to flat out end the game on turn 3. I can’t think of any cards like that right now, and I don’t think there are any worthy of this kind of investment. It would pretty much have to be an instant win, but perhaps at some point they’ll create a card that does just that and then this can be the head of a low tier two strategy. It’s not much, but it’s the best I can do.
Neko-Te – 3
Artifact – Equipment
Whenever equipped creature deals damage to a creature, tap that creature. As long as Neko-Te remains in play, that creature doesn’t untap during its controller’s untap step. Whenever equipped creature deals damage to a player, that player loses 1 life.
That’s a curious package of effects, but they don’t add up to all that much. You can block and trade at the cost of two extra mana and an investment of three. You can attack making it hard to block with advantage and do one extra damage. Does any of that appeal to you? It doesn’t appeal to me at all.
Orb of Dreams – 3
Permanents come into play tapped.
The best time to make your opponents’ cards come into play tapped is on turn 1 and turn 2, as Root Maze showed. Doing it then costs your opponent at least one full turn of development, although you have to deal with it yourself. One of the hardest things I had to do in competitive Magic was go off quickly with ID19 through a first turn Root Maze at Worlds; it’s not easy. Waiting another turn or two and paying more mana makes this a lot worse, because you let them start developing their mana and give them a chance to interfere. It doesn’t just come down more or less for free. This can still be combined with various prison type effects if those are worthy on their own merits, since decks like that often have to pay whatever it takes to complete their locks, but breaking the symmetry on this card is not going to be enough to overcome the casting cost otherwise.
Ornate Kanzashi – 5
2, Tap: Target opponent removes the top card of his or her library from the game. You may play that card this turn.
This would be a bad price for drawing a card of your own, so why would you prefer to take pot luck from your opponent? You don’t even know that the colors will match up, and this will take forever to go through their library. Using this to stop manipulation is not an acceptable answer, because this costs far too much for such jobs. If your opponents’ cards are so good compared to your own, I have news for you. You’re playing the wrong deck.
Ronin Warclub – 3
Artifact – Equipment Equipped Creature gets +2/+1. Whenever a creature comes into play under your control, attach Ronin Warclub to it.
I love the idea of this card, moving around to each creature as you play it. Once it is in play, it says “your last creature played gets +2/+1.” You can’t stop the move, so if you need the toughness then you can’t play another man, especially after combat, and you can also just compare this to a card like Crusade. You’re paying a lot for very little.
Shuko – 1
Artifact – Equipment
Equipped creature gets +1/+0
If I’m going to get almost nothing, that had better be what I’m paying, so Shuko at least does one thing right, but you need to get more than this to pay a card. Tooth of Chiss-Goria was on the edge of being worth it, because you could use it to accelerate your mana and play it as a surprise or keep it out there as a threat. Shuko can’t do any of that, and that extra mana should be able to get an extra point of power anyway.
Shuriken – 1
Artifact – Equipment
Equipped creature gains “Tap, unattach Shuriken: Deals 2 damage to target creature, then that creature’s controller gains control of Shuriken unless the equipped creature was a Ninja.”
As usual, assume the best and that all your creatures are Ninjas even if I don’t see any good ones. If I did see them, they wouldn’t be very good Ninjas would they? Now ask if this is worth the price, and I conclude that it is not in general but might be in the right matchups. I just can’t see the Ninjas being good enough.
Slumbering Tora – 3
Artifact 2, discard a Spirit or Arcane card: Slumbering Tora becomes an X/X artifact creature until end of turn, where X is the discarded card’s converted mana cost.
What are the biggest spells out there for you to discard? There’s Eternal Dragon at seven, which is actually good and you can bring back, or you can go for a nine or ten. Presumably you would use a reanimation deck to make them worth using, with the problem that the biggest cards have clauses on them to prevent that funny business from working properly. Yes, this can kill your opponent in three shots, but are you willing to flat out destroy the rest of your deck to do that? Even if you do sell out, they can chump block it forever at little cost. That’s what it would take to make this card worth considering, and unfortunately, it only works with spirits or arcane, a price you cannot afford to pay and still expect to have a good deck.
That Which Was Taken – 5
Legendary Artifact 4, T: Put a divinity counter on target permanent other than That Which Was Taken. Each permanent with a divinity counter on it is indestructible.
I have nothing against indestructible, but it takes nine mana to get even one indestructible card! The cost to get the ability has to be a tiny fraction of that, so this will pay for itself right around never. That’s assuming that you’re not dead by the time you tap it half the time.
Umezawa’s Jitte – 2
Artifact – Equipment
Whenever equipped creature deals combat damage, put two charge counters on Umezawa’s Jitte. Remove a charge counter from Umezawa’s Jitte: Choose one – Equipped creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn; or target creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn; or you gain 2 life.
I misread this card upon first writing this review, not understanding it did not have to damage players. Since blocking and killing the creature does not stop the effect, this has to be given a lot more respect than I gave it when it was worded the other way. I’ll continue to think about exactly how good it is. The plus side is that this effect is very hard to stop, but four mana is still a lot and the card is Legendary.
All right, that’s all the cards, so it’s time for the Award Ceremonies. No Awards were given for Champions, since I knew I wasn’t going to publish, so I don’t have anything to review that is all that fresh; I might not be the best judge right now anyway. Still, let’s give it a shot:
1. Krark-Clan Ironworks
3. Relentless Rats
4. Shattered Dreams
5. Cranial Plating
6. Pentad Prism
7. Guardian Idol
8. Serum Visions
9. Night’s Whisper
10. Wayfarer’s Bauble
Honorable Mention: Magma Jet, Ion Storm, Eternal Witness, Tel-Jilad Justice, Vedalken Shackles, Devour in Shadow, Engineered Explosives
Skullclamp Award for Card I Probably Should Have Said Something About, But Didn’t: Blind Creeper
Pat Chapin Memorial Award for Best Design: Wayfarer’s Bauble
Randy Buehler Award for Most Needed Ability: Shattered Dreams
Mark Rosewater Award for the Biggest Potentially Disastrous Idea: Krark-Clan Ironworks – you’ve outdone yourself again, sir.
Coolest Card That Will Never See Play: Endless Whispers
Most Embarrassing Card: Disruption Aura
Brandon Bozzi Award for Best Flavor Text: Channel the Suns
Eric Froehlich Award for Card Most Needing To Be Named A Famous Person: Eternal Witness
I predicted that one of these cards was The Mole. The Mole, I said was broken. The Mole turned out to be Cranial Plating.
Let’s see, how did I do overall? All in all, not as well as I would like, but not terribly. There’s no question that Eternal Witness and Magma Jet should have made it into the top ten but are there ten “listworthy” cards in Fifth Dawn? If I was making a list now it would look something like:
1. Cranial Plating
2. Eternal Witness
3. Magma Jet
4. Krark-Clan Ironworks – even in failure it’s still this high
6. Tel-Jilad Justice
7. Vedalken Shackles
8. Rude Awakening
9. Engineered Explosives
10. Night’s Whisper
In other words, there were not ten “listworthy” cards in Fifth Dawn. I like the first four, I can live with the next three, but those last three are getting a backdoor into the top ten and they know it. I want them replaced, I just can’t find anything. I give myself full credit for Cranial Plating, KCI, Night’s Whisper and Condescend. I get half credit for Eternal Witness, Tel-Jilad Justice, Magma Jet, Vedalken Shackles and Engineered Explosives. No credit for Rude Awakening. That would come to 65%, or barely passing. How did I do so badly? I overestimated a number of cards. Let’s look at them:
Relentless Rats never did anything at all, because they simply were not as good as the alternatives and Echoing Truth was a major factor hanging over their heads. I had to give a lot of respect for anything this potentially abusive, but that was too much. Shattered Dreams I think was a much better choice, because there’s a strong argument to be made that it failed because its color failed. There were no Black decks that had the goods to compete without also having Red, and that made the card moot, but I did think it was better than it was. Pentad Prism got its slot in large part because of KCI, and with KCI’s new position as dangerous fringe deck rather than threat to Magic as we know it, that takes it out of contention. Guardian Idol just doesn’t play like it looks like it would, and was a pure mistake. Serum Visions wasn’t quite as good as I figured, although the set is so bad that a case can be made it gets the 10 slot. Wayfarer’s Bauble was also not as good as it looked, and again it still comes close. The only card I actually missed was Rude Awakening, and even that I treated with respect. So overall I’d give myself a C+ on a hard set to get top cards from, with a note that says “you can do better.”
First, before we get to the top cards, here are the top colors:
1: Red: 64
2: Green: 64
3: Black: 62
4: Blue: 54
5: White: 53
I take these measurements in an objective way: I count the stars on all the cards in the color in question. The tiebreaker between Red and Green was top card in the top cards of the set, which Red won. One top card is important. Interestingly, White and Blue both did fine in terms of the cards at the very top. They just weren’t solid. White and Blue spent far too much time mucking around in their traditionally weak abilities like damage prevention and evasion while the other colors were getting down to business.
I’d also like to point out the following statistic:
Average Star Level of cards in the Shoal, Genju and Ki Flip Card cycles: 3.2
Average Star Level of the rest of the set: 1.8
And now, without further ado, the top cards of the set:
The Top Nine of Betrayers of Kawigawa:
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
Honorable Mention: Kami of the Honored Dead
Cards that I consider “listworthy’: 9
I’m doing a top nine, not a top ten. You know why? Because there were only nine cards that were worthy! I’m not the type of person who grades on a curve. If you fail, you fail. If you’re solid, you’re solid. No compromises. Frankly, I’m being a little bit generous to some of these cards because I know that things have been toned down. Does that mean that I hate the set? No, I don’t hate the set. I just think that it is, shall we say, best in Limited.
Now for the awards…
Skullclamp Award for Card I Probably Should Have Said Something About, But Didn’t: Shizuko, Caller of Autumn
Pat Chapin Memorial Award for Best Design: Threads of Disloyalty
Randy Buehler Award for Most Needed Ability: Disrupting Shoal
Mark Rosewater Award for the Biggest Potentially Disastrous Idea: Disrupting Shoal
Coolest Card That Will Never See Play: That Which Was Taken
Most Embarrassing Card For Someone To Find In Your Deck: Kami of the Honored Dead
Brandon Bozzi Award for Best Flavor Text: Reduce to Dreams
Eric Froehlich Award for Card Most Needing To Be Named For a Pro: Callow Jushi