The Betrayers of Kamigawa Set Review: Red

“That’s an impressive list of interesting cards in a color not known for producing a lot of midlevel playable cards. Red gets some creatures for block, a few for Standard, and with XXXXX, quite possibly one for the ages.” Which cards is Zvi talking about? You’ll have to read it to find out!

Akki Blizzard-Herder – 1R

Creature – Goblin Shaman

When Akki Blizzard-Herder is put into a graveyard from play, each player sacrifices a land.


Sure, you could kill me, but then you’d never find out about the…


Land destruction needs to be highly reliable to be any good to you at all. This card essentially gives your opponent two choices, neither of which tends to be all that bad: Trade lands and kill a 1/1, or take a damage a turn for a while. I hate giving opponents choices, let alone choices with such good options.

Akki Raider – 1R

Creature – Goblin Warrior

Whenever a land is put into a graveyard from play, Akki Raider gets +1/+0 until end of turn.


If you want to make someone angry, beat the hell out of them and take their land.


Two mana for two power gets the Akki Raider the right to play with the big boys, and his ability makes things very interesting. If you’re blowing up your opponents lands, especially if you’re doing it with cards like Raze or Dust Bowl then the ability can add up quickly, and you can use any number of methods of sacrificing your lands for fun and profit to use him as a game ending Fireball once you get your opponent in range. The combination of good pressure and late game threat looks very strong to me. Consider what a deck like RDW could do with Lava Darts and Wastelands

OMG, it's Dan Rather!

Ashen Monstrosity – 5RR

Creature – Spirit


Ashen Monstrosity attacks each turn if able.


It’s been described as some sort of monstrosity. Authorities are warning that it is legged and extremely dangerous.


There’s just one problem, which is that it costs seven mana and isn’t worth the price. The only compensation I can think of is that it has seven power and haste, which means if you reanimate it, you kill two turns later. That has to count for something.

Aura Barbs – 2R

Instant – Arcane

Each enchantment deals 2 damage to its controller, then each enchantment enchanting a creature deals 2 damage to the creature it’s enchanting.

Most enchantments are not double edged swords, but with some modifications they can at least end up with one.


The chance that this will do enough damage to justify being played does not seem that high, but if you hit two enchantments and kill a creature along the way then that has to be worthwhile. That’s not all that tough, and if you hit three or more then things get very interesting. Cards like this have to hurt and hurt bad, like Price of Progress did, and this card is unlikely to hurt on that level but it is at least a serious threat to potential Shrine decks or other such Emmy award winners.

Blademane Baku – 1R

Creature – Spirit

Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may put a ki counter on Blademane Baku.

1, remove X ki counters from Blademane Baku: For each counter removed, Blademane Baku gets +2/+0 until end of turn.


All new technologies end up being used for two things, one of which is pure power.


You could have had a 2/1 with a nice plus, so you need to do better than that despite the mana activation. I can’t see you doing that well, but there could be a spirit shortage in block I suppose. Power is still power.

Blazing Shoal – XRR

Instant – Arcane

You may remove a red card with converted mana cost X in your hand from the game rather than pay Blazing Shoal’s mana cost. Target creature gets +X/+0 until end of turn.

“I… play… a… land… He… kills… me.” *dies* – Dave Humphreys, describing one of our games in the Top 8 of 1999 US Nationals


Given the delay on this review, I’m sure you all know to what I refer, and you also all know that it’s never going to happen unless someone decides to make that the highlight of their day. Eventually I’m sure someone will do it, they just won’t win the tournament or probably even win the match. For those of us in the reality-based community, and I know that term is a stretch, the question becomes whether you can get a deck fast enough to want to do this along with casting costs high enough to make this powerful enough to be worth it in the same deck. That won’t be easy. Avatar of Fury? Sneak Attack? Reanimator? I can think of a bunch of possibilities, and my guess is one or more of them will at least be highly interesting.

Clash of Realities – 3R


All Spirits have “When this creature comes into play, you may have it deal 3 damage to target non-Spirit creature.” All non-Spirit creatures have “When this creature comes into play, you may have it deal 3 damage to target Spirit.”

It must be strange for those who don’t even have one to be face to face with two.


The threshold for effects of this type is gigantic. It’s impossible for your creatures to do the damage without letting his do it back, and running a series of untargetable creatures these days is not a practical solution. Even if it was, those decks would never have had enough creatures to justify this kind of investment. Spending four mana to do nothing is a bitter pill to swallow. Aether Charge is a good example of a card that in the perfect deck was good enough to be interesting in Block, and it did so much more than this card while being one sided and offering a strong creature set as a companion.

Crack the Earth – R

Sorcery – Arcane

Each player sacrifices a permanent.

For a price you can have anything, but you can’t have everything.


I was looking at this the wrong way at first, thinking it was a bad Raze. Instead, it’s a land destruction spell you can use on turn 2, sacrificing an Ornithopter or Raging Goblin or other cheap creature you played on turn 1 or 2, giving you an extra land a potentially critical extra turn of development in exchange for your card. Looked at another way, you can seize the first turn back from your opponent or give yourself an extra one. It’s a marginal additional land destruction spell for decks built around that if they can spare a permanent, but the real interest is using a 1/1 to eat an Island. Looked at that way, it’s quite strong, but beware that later in the game they get to toss away their worst land rather than you choosing their best, which will render this useless. The trick is not to care, since you acknowledge that by that point you’re probably a dead man walking. You can also use it with Azamuki, which could get very interesting.

Cunning Bandit – 1RR

Creature – Human Warrior

Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may put a ki counter on Cunning Bandit. At end of turn, if there are two or more ki counters on Cunning Bandit, you may flip it.



Azamuki, Treachery Incarnate

Legendary Creature – Spirit

Remove a ki counter from Azamuki, Treachery Incarnate: Gain control of target creature until end of turn.


“Memnarch is but an artifact, a creation of those around him. He thinks only as he is told to think, does only what he is told to do. An example to us all.” – Azamuki


This is a highly dangerous ability. If you let Cunning Bandit live, he will get up to five power and if you combine him with a sacrifice effect like Crack the Earth or a way to give haste or just a desire to block you can do some serious damage. This is a very hard effect to play around. Consider that the other benefits in this cycle are all one to one and a half mana effects, while this one would have to cost between two and three.

First Volley – 1R

Instant – Arcane

Deal 1 damage to target creature and 1 damage to that creature’s controller.

“Make sure to start each day with a shower.” – Jaya Ballard, Task Mage


The reason this card is good is that it is Arcane. Splice onto Arcane requires cheap cards to splice onto, and this fits the bill. If I’m killing men, the last thing I’m worried too much about is the second spark going to my opponent, but if I can splice something good onto this card then that’s the real goal. Doing one damage will often kill a guy, and that justifies everything after it, especially if you have Glacial Ray. They also combine well. Remember, most of the time it pays to keep things simple.

Flames of the Blood Hand – 2R


Flames of the Blood Hand deals 4 damage to target player. The damage can’t be prevented. If that player would gain life this turn, that player gains no life instead.

“If he’s calling the other one his Ice Hand, we’re all in trouble.” – Toshi Umezawa


This is made for burn decks, especially those fighting against life gain, and perhaps some other aggressive decks if they too face life gaining. If you have to cast this on its own without any life gaining to prevent, it isn’t a wonderful deal, but it’s also acceptable as long as direct damage is your route to victory. If you also stop a second big life point swing, then this becomes big. False Cure was the hoser card, but it didn’t do anything to opponents that didn’t gain life. This won’t kill anyone from twenty, but it will give you something worthwhile against all opponents and thus it can be put into your maindeck. That counts for a lot in my book.

Frost Ogre – 3RR

Creature – Ogre Warrior


For lunch they often have frozen vanilla trees.


It’s a staple creature for draft. No reason to get ambitious now.

Frostling – R

Creature – Spirit

Sacrifice Frostling: Deal one damage to target creature.


Causing a defrostling can be hazardous to your health.


Mogg Fanatic’s ability to hit players is great, but that card was outside the power curve. This is safely inside it, and it is a solid if unspectacular one-drop.

Fumiko the Lowblood – 2RR

Legendary Creature – Human Samurai

Fumiko the Lowblood has bushido X, where X is the number of attacking creatures (When this blocks or becomes blocked, it gets +X/+X until end of turn). Creatures your opponents control attack each turn if able.


Vengeance breeds only vengeance.


Forcing your opponents’ creatures to attack you is normally no big deal, because that’s what most of them want to do anyway and a lot of those that don’t want to will be unable to or find a way around the requirement by tapping. Fumiko turns this into an important ability by being a very good blocker once you are forced to swarm him, turning into a 5/4 if you attack with as little as two men. He’s still not going to end up that much bigger than the standard creature curve very often without giving your opponent other things to block, but this is still a solid value.

Genju of the Spires – R

Enchant Mountain

2 : Enchanted Mountain becomes a 6/1 Spirit creature until end of turn. It’s still a land. Whenever enchanted Mountain is put into a graveyard from play, return Genju of the Spires to your hand.

Men cannot move Mountains, but with spirit they move like lightning.


This is one scary card, and I think it’s going to make it as far as Extended. It is clearly the best in the cycle, as the amount of damage it can do adds up scarily fast. It only takes a total of ten mana to do eighteen. This card is not slow, and the threat of it will force opponents to defend their side of the board even when there is no obvious threat the same way Ball Lightning and Viashino Sandstalker have done for so long. Leave yourself exposed and you could find yourself down six life against a burn deck without costing your opponent anything but four mana, and that is hard to recover from. This isn’t even a bad blocker, since late in the game it will trade with all but the biggest creatures unless first strike is involved and you should have plenty of spare Mountains.

Goblin Cohort – R

Creature – Goblin

Goblin Cohort can’t attack unless you played a creature spell this turn.


Uh, yeah, boss, but which way is attack?


To make this playable you need to have a deck full of men that want to attack and attack quickly. If you can naturally miss your two, three or four drop then the Cohort won’t be worth it. I played an identical card at my first PT, and I played the fourth copy over the fourth Jackal Pup (and I’ll defend that decision, too) but you need to be on a true pure creature centered Sligh or Goblin deck to even consider packing this card.

Heartless Hidetsugu – 3RR

Legendary Creature – Ogre Shaman

Tap: Heartless Hidetsugu deals to each player damage equal to half that player’s life total, rounded down.


To forge a new one, he will combine two halves.


It’s not often that I overestimate the cost of a card by two, but I did that here. If he lives for one turn, Hidetsugu will reduce your opponent to at most ten life and that puts them in burn range. Give him a second turn and he’ll put almost anyone into burn range. That makes him good enough that I want to use a card to give him haste. The inherent vulnerabilities of a three-toughness five-drop keep him in check, but somehow I was pleasantly surprised that he came up playable. The bottom line is that if you give your opponent license to get away with this sort of thing, you deserve the consequences.

In the Web of War – 3RR

Enchantment Whenever a creature comes into play under your control, it gets +2/+0 and gains haste until end of turn.

“Remember, when I yell woot, you yell bonsai.” – Fumiko the Lowblood


I see where all that extra mana went, although not as much of it as I thought at first. After taking a step back, I realize that at three mana this card would be insane and that it would be at least somewhat interesting at four. Alas, there’s no way to even consider this type of thing at five.

Ire of Kaminari – 3R

Instant – Arcane

Ire of Kaminari deals 1 damage to target creature or player for each Arcane card in your graveyard.

Asking him what he’s so mad about only makes him madder.


The best “fair” case for this card is if all your nonland cards are Arcane spells, at which point this is a powerful late game card that I can respect. It could be a reasonably easy way to finish an opponent off if your plan involves rattling off Arcane cards at a rapid pace. The better option of course is to speed up the process by getting rid of that pesky little library to build a graveyard and use this as a death blow. It’s no longer that easy to dump your entire library in the formats that matter, but stay on the lookout. This kind of plan would result in a hybrid combo-control or combo-burn deck in order to fit all those Arcane cards. There are a number of very interesting Arcane cards for a burn strategy, especially with how good Glacial Ray is in such a design.

Ishi-Ishi, Akki Crackshot – 1R

Legendary Creature – Goblin Shaman

Whenever an opponent plays a Spirit or Arcane spell, Ishi-Ishi, Akki Crackshot deals 2 damage to target player.


When you’re faced with a world that no longer makes sense to you, throwing rocks always seems to be an option.


Obviously you can’t run a card like this unless you can play it against a lot of spirit and Arcane decks and expect it to survive. It is highly unlikely that there will be enough such decks outside of block, where it is too early to speculate. There are multiple Red Arcane cards that will happen to pick this off, so those decks are out, but this covers a large chunk of the spells in the format. I can see it reaching critical mass.

Kumano’s Blessing – 2R

Enchant Creature

You may play Kumano’s Blessing any time you could play an instant. If a creature dealt damage by enchanted creature this turn would be put into a graveyard, remove it from the game instead.

It may not look like one, but trust me. You’ll be doing them a favor.


There is nothing here worth paying a card for, let alone three mana.

It's backwards, okay?

Mannichi, the Fevered Dream – 2R

Legendary Creature – Spirit

1R: Switch each creature’s power and toughness until end of turn.


His parents named him Ihcinnam. He’s been making us all pay ever since.


It is a cute idea, but this is one mana more than I’m willing to consider paying with one possible exception. There are no longer enough important zero power creatures, which is one of the two potential killer applications. The other is infinite (or very large) toughness, which means Life. As you likely have figured out by now, I think Life sucks and then you die, but if you’re casting Living Wish anyway, this could be a fine excuse to have a way to do something drastic and kill your opponent. I know, I’m feeling a little crazy these days.

Ogre Recluse – 3R

Creature – Ogre Warrior

Whenever a player plays a spell, tap Ogre Recluse.


I’m a freak, an apparition. Seems I’ve made the right decision. I wanna stay home today.


Shouldn’t this card be Green, or would that have been a copyright violation? Clearly they can’t defend themselves with fair use, because this card has no use whatsoever. It may have five power for four mana, but letting your opponent stop him with any instant is a giant liability. Yes, there are decks that cannot cast spells on your turn, but you don’t get that much in exchange and the decks where you would want to sideboard in a fat guy are exactly the decks that have the most instants. That’s not going to change, and if he’s stopped this way even once, he becomes awful, especially considering you can’t even think about trying to block with this card.

Overblaze – 3R

Instant – Arcane

Each time a target permanent would deal damage this turn, it deals double that damage instead.

Splice onto Arcane: 2RR

“Anything worth blazing is worth overblazing.” – Fumiko the Lowblood


Eventually, you’ll be able to splice this onto the same card multiple times in a turn, and multiplicity will ensue. That can lead to a lot of damage, but the amount of mana we’re talking about is unrealistic. Using this only once creates the need to do damage with a permanent and have enough Arcane spells to be splicing and have it all be worth it, and I can’t see the deck involved not being at least a bit clunky. You could try to fit it onto a card like the Blizzard-Herder for a death blow, or combine it with the Shoal for an affordable kill combination, but the decks in question seem very difficult to bring together in any reasonable way.

Patron of the Akki – 4RR

Legendary Creature – Spirit

Goblin offering (You may play this card at any time you could play an instant by sacrificing a Goblin and paying the difference in mana costs between this and the sacrificed Goblin. Mana costs include color.)

Whenever Patron of the Akki attacks, creatures you control get +2/+0 until end of turn.


“I like to call them ‘my prospectors.'”


Goblins tend to be small, which makes this a very good creature to have around but makes him harder to cast. If you can play a three-drop, you can get him out on turn 4 without mana acceleration and he attacks as a 7/5 with benefits. Assuming that you have that kind of time, that’s a very good deal, and late in the game this is just a solid six-drop. I can’t see you having this kind of time in Extended, but in Standard or perhaps Block the potential is there. Losing Onslaught hurts this card quite a bit. It has a lot of potential, and if it had haste it would be even better. This could end up being solid, but it also might never have a good home.

Ronin Cliffrider – 3RR

Creature – Human Samurai

Bushido 1

Whenever Ronin Cliffrider attacks, you may have it deal 1 damage to each creature defending player controls.


Professional driver, closed course except for that cliff over there. Do not attempt.


At the meeting to decide which cards would get that push that makes them viable in Constructed, I would have supported Ronin Cliffrider and pushed for at most 2RR, but my side did not win the day. You can’t pay five mana for this, and I don’t expect anyone to try. The effects just don’t add up to enough.

Shinka Gatekeeper – 2R

Creature – Ogre Warrior

Whenever damage is dealt to Shinka Gatekeeper, it deals that much damage to you.


The new arrivals did not realize until later what the locals meant by “hazard pay.”


Taking a lot of damage in exchange for the right to be aggressive is a trade off that is often worth making, but you need to be rewarded for taking the risk. The Gatekeeper does not reward you with even a third point of toughness, giving you a creature that would not be out of place or even interesting if it were pure vanilla.

Sowing Salt – 2RR


Remove target nonbasic land from the game. Search its controller’s graveyard, hand and library for all copies of that card and remove them from the game. That player then shuffles his or her library.

“And also the Seat of the Synod must be destroyed.” – Zo-Zu the Punisher


Is there anything worth blowing up this good these days? I can’t think of anything – Tooth and Nail will just make more, while Affinity sacrifices the target in response. Land destruction decks have to be too concerned with the short term to worry this much about thinning the land out of their opponents’ deck, but if you want to pack all the LD spells you can then this is not so unreasonably priced as to be out of reach.

Torrent of Stone – 3R

Instant – Arcane

Torrent of Stone deals 4 damage to target creature.

Splice onto Arcane – Sacrifice two mountains.


This reminds me quite a bit of Magma Burst. In Limited this will often let you trade useless lands and turn them into creature removal, which can be downright unfair sometimes. In Constructed it tends to be a bad deal, although it doesn’t automatically have to be. The problem is that the spell is overcosted when hardcast. If it were just unexciting on its own, then the option to trade in your Mountains would make things interesting. Instead, you have to overpay a full mana, and that’s tough to get compensation for. There were a ton of matches in Invasion block that were all about 2/2 creatures facing off, but Magma Burst was still never seriously considered for Constructed despite being able to go to the head.

Twist Allegiance – 6R


You and target opponent each gain control of all creatures the other controls until end of turn. Untap those creatures. They gain haste until end of turn.

See how the other half kills.


Seven mana is a lot, but in the right situation this can end a stalemated game so it might end up being a sideboard card in a strange matchup one day, as cards like Insurrection have in the past, but Insurrection is a far better card. Pay the extra mana and get what you really want.

Akki Raider, Blazing Shoal, Cunning Bandit, First Volley, Flames of the Blood Hand, Frostling, Fumiko the Lowblood, Genju of the Spires, Heartless Hidetsugu, Ire of Kaminari, Patron of the Akki. That’s an impressive list of interesting cards in a color not known for producing a lot of midlevel playable cards. Red gets some creatures for block, a few for Standard, and with Genju of the Spires, quite possibly one for the ages. I don’t think that Blazing Shoal is a threat in terms of a turn 1 kill, but anyone who doesn’t worry at least a little about that card doesn’t know their history. In the meantime, Red will keep doing the things it does best.