This review is coming rather late for me for reasons I cannot go into except to say that the delay was regrettable but unavoidable, but I made sure that it was written prior to my reading any other set reviews on any site so as to avoid copying anyone else. In the past, I’ve written my set reviews for another site that we shall not mention here. Since many of those here will not have had the chance to familiarize themselves with my format or my alternate Magic storyline that began in Darksteel, and the review of the last set was never published for reasons I cannot go into here, I shall begin by introducing the system and updating the story so far.
Cards are rated for Constructed play only. It is my belief that the only way to properly evaluate a card for Limited play is to try it out and see if it’s any good. You can still tell the basic stuff – Serra Angel good, Eager Cadet bad – but I don’t need to point that stuff out. At least, I shouldn’t have to and I won’t. Instead I consider all sanctioned constructed formats, from block up to Vintage. In addition to the analysis, a star rating is included for those who want to see at a glance whether a card has potential. The ratings translate as follows:
**** – A card I consider “list worthy” for inclusion in my top ten cards in the set.
*** – A good Constructed card that offers something you want at a reasonable price
** – This card isn’t that great a deal, but it’s worth playing in the right situation or when there are few alternatives.
* – This card is unworthy of Constructed play. It might be a first pick Limited card, but that is beside the point.
I don’t do halves, and the system is intentionally approximate. If it’s close, I’ll chose one side or the other. If you want the real answer, read what I have to say. However, I’m going to introduce a new rule this time to save some trouble, which is that if a card is totally generic and the star rating is one or two and there isn’t anything there, I won’t take pains to explain the details if I don’t feel it is necessary. I’m not here to soothe a card’s ego.
The last thing I do is create new flavor text for most of the cards, so as to spice up the set. Starting with Darksteel I decided to create an ongoing alternate storyline to keep things going. Like the real storyline, I echo it every now and then but most of it never gets explained and a lot of it probably doesn’t make any sense. If you’re curious, here’s the story so far:
The Story So Far
The evil artifact artifact wizard Memnarch, aided by his army of artifact cronies, attempted to brainwash and take control of the plane of Mirrodin. They were fought valiantly by a ragtag group led by Glissa Sunseeker that sought to save the plane from being overrun and bring back the fifth sun restoring the balance to the world. They succeeded in returning the Fifth Dawn and even succeeded in exposing Memnarch’s secret torture device, the Skullclamp, which he used against enemies of his new order – but it was not enough. With the awesome power of new battle suits of Cranial Plating and trained to think of colors as symbols of an imagined and unknown horror bursting from an unnatural sun (as well as the accusation that his opponents couldn’t choose between the colors of the rainbow and frankly seemed kind of fruity), the people let fear get the better of them and Memnarch triumphed.
With his new mandate, Memnarch and his shadowy advisors led his armies into a new plane, Kawigawa, claiming that those of that plane did not agree with Mirrodin’s way of life and would attempt to destroy it with their exotic names and strange spirits, along with weapons of mass artifact destruction that their wizards were developing that had to be stopped including the dreaded Imi Statue. Aided by unmatched power and speed that was simply unfair, his armies easily routed all initial resistance and conquered Kawigawa. However, no Imi Statues could be found and they did not prepare him for the occupation that needed to come afterwards. The people of Kawigawa did not want to abandon their ways and adopt to the age of metal; led by brave champions, they instead defended their way of life through an insurgency, calling upon the spirits of their ancestors, developing new weapons and fighting a guerilla war.
Memnarch, having found no trace of the new spells that would overturn his rule and his affinity for artifacts and unable to continue to justify the mounting expense of an occupation of an entire plane in the wake of a growing guerilla resistance did the only thing he could, attempting to turn things over to local inhabitants that could help rebuild Kawigawa. Alas, things were already in motion, and the spirits once called up were not so easily put down and turned against the forces of peace. Aided by those who would turn Kawigawa from a peaceful, orderly society through acts of terror into the base of a march of planar destruction into the very heart of Mirrodin, they strike at any who would resist the call. They are the Betrayers of Kawigawa…
Or something like that. It’s possible that, to quote a TV character I’m fond of, I’m still mad about the election.
Now That That’s Over With:
Day of Destiny 3W
Legendary creatures you control gain +2/+2.
“We can call ourselves and even our hounds all the names we like, but there comes a time you just have to stop being such a wimp.” – Masako the Humorless
The only way you’re going to get me to pay four mana for this kind of boost is if I can use it with a token generator, and restricting it to legends makes that impossible. It’s a very clever way of guarding against Bad Things(TM). In a true creature battle in a format full of worthy Legends this could be less than awful, but it will never be the next Crusade.
Empty-Shrine Kannushi W
Creature – Human Cleric
Empty-Shrine Kannushi has protection from the colors of permanents you control. 1/1
“All we hold dear has been taken from us, but we now know our enemies. All that is left is to know ourselves.”
Protection from White is not exciting to me, but it is relatively easy to give this protection from something more interesting. That creates the odd problem of needing to wait for it to have protection but wanting to play it on turn 1, which will force you to expose it most of the time. It also means using a 1/1 White creature in a deck with multiple colors unless there are Kawigawa block White Weenie mirrors, and it seems like you should have better choices. But protection at a reasonable price comes in handy every so often.
Faithful Squire – 1WW
Creature – Human Soldier
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may put a ki counter on Faithful Squire. At end of turn, if there are two or more ki counters on Faithful Squire, you may flip it.
Kaiso, Memory of Loyalty
Legendary Creature – Spirit
Remove a ki counter from Kaiso, Memory of Loyalty: Prevent all damage that would be dealt to target creature this turn.
“Where before anything less than years of faithful service were unthinkable, in our new world what I have done is enough to be considered the pinnacle of loyalty. We must not forget!” – Kaiso
This is a White creature I can get behind, with the problem being that it will only work together with spirit or arcane cards. Lantern Kami and Kami of Ancient Law are the obvious first thoughts and from this set Hokori is interesting, as are Tallowisp and Kami of False Hope. It’s not going to win any 1.x level prizes, but it might come together rather well. You’d have to look seriously at block to know for sure and the third set will be key to any potential long-term viability for all the cards in this cycle. Having looked at the rest of the cycle, it is safe to say that this is not its strong point, but the idea is solid enough that even Kaiso is far above average.
Anything that gets rid of all the creatures in play has a shot at being a worthy Block Constructed card but costing six without enough compensation keeps this from any serious consideration beyond that realm.
Genju of the Fields – W
2: Enchanted Plains becomes a 2/5 white Spirit creature with “whenever this creature deals damage, you gain that much life” until end of turn. It’s still a land. When enchanted Plains is put into a graveyard, return Genju of the Fields from your graveyard to your hand.
“They burned through field after field, only to have them rise again.”
As a control card this seems very strong. There is very little instant land removal, so you are at very low risk of losing a card. Now you get a creature that is hard to kill and will gain you life, helping you set up for Wrath of God or other similar effects while making it very hard to attack you profitably. An army of 2/2 men has to be very big to swing into this, and even 3/3s require three to be profitable at all. Opponents will be all but forced to over-commit, and this can double as a safe kill card for the end game.
In an aggressive deck this seems too slow, but that could be misleading. Sure, it can’t be your early pressure, but it gets around several traditional solutions and is especially good at helping out the paced development plan. You would rather have one of the others, but you’re White and you can’t have them. I’d assume you’d be used to that idea by now. Control decks have to be more careful than aggressive decks with their lands and mana, and cards requiring mana activations like this are better on the attack, so this doesn’t quite get to the level of the best aggressive cards in the cycle.
Heart of Light – 2W
Prevent all damage that would be dealt to and by enchanted creature.
“Whitewashing your actions does not make them noble.” – Takeno, Samurai Master
This has never been something worth a card – or even three mana. As a cantrip this is still unplayable.
Hokori, Dust Drinker – 2WW
Legendary Creature – Spirit
Lands don’t untap during their controller’s untap steps. At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, that player untaps a land he or she controls.
While having a 2/2 in addition to this very powerful effect can sometimes be a nice plus, this is the type of effect you want to build your entire game around. Winter Orb and Rising Waters tended to stay on the table, which allowed you to rely on them. A creature this size is anything but reliable. That will force you to add it to decks that happen to like the effect rather than being able to build around it, but given that such things are considered all but unthinkable these days there could come a time when many opponents very much dislike having their mana restricted in this way. Magical freedom day is still about nine months away.
Hundred-Talon Strike – W
Instant – Arcane Target creature gets +1/+0 and gains first strike until end of turn.
Splice onto Arcane – Tap an untapped white creature you control.
“Allow me to explain. When you strike this quickly, ninety-nine of them miss.” – Takeno, Samurai Master
This is not a big enough effect to be interesting to a Constructed player and to get the tiny little scenario where it might be requires far too many things to happen.
In a damage race this could be a very interesting one-drop, particularly in a deck that rewards the playing of spirits. You can swing, then Fog when they swing back. As a general White creature I find this far less interesting, because you have to show it in advance and it can be killed and planned for. If you’re getting a lot out of attacking with it, you want something more aggressive. Being a spirit might put it over the top for some block decks. Otherwise, stay away.
Kami of the Honored Dead – 5WW
Creature – Spirit
Whenever Kami of the Honored Dead is dealt damage, you gain that much life.
“Honor properly honored is not cheap.” – Kawigawa proverb
Seven mana, six point swing per turn. Need I say more?
Kami of the Tattered Shoji – 4W
Creature – Spirit
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, Kami of the Tattered Shoji gains flying until end of turn.
“Having long suffered on the ground, they seek the means to leave it behind.”
Again, look at the best case. Five mana for a 2/5 flyer. Thanks, but no thanks.
Kentaro, the Smiling Cat – 1W
Legendary Creature – Human Samurai
You may pay X rather than pay the mana cost for Samurai spells you play, where X is that spell’s converted mana cost. 2/1
“After his encounter with Isamaru, neither would ever be quite the same again.”
The problem with abilities like Kentaro’s is that you can’t rely on them and it is hard to take much advantage of them if you don’t. Him being a legend only makes that more difficult, since you would be hard pressed to justify running four copies. All this does is add perhaps half a colored mana source for other samurai if they’re not White or require more than one colored mana. If it comes up in strange situations, it’s a nice little bonus. This is more or less a 2/1 that becomes 3/2 when you block it – there have been worse deals, but you can do better.
Kitsune Palliator – 2W
Creature – Fox Cleric
Tap: Prevent the next 1 damage that would be dealt to each creature and each player this turn.
“A fascinating animal. Crafty but not selective.” – Kentaro, the Smiling Cat
Nothing to see here either.
Mending Hands – W
Prevent the next 4 damage that would be dealt to target creature or player this turn.
“These days they are in short supply. “
If you’re going to do a Healing Salve variation, at least make it as good as the original. This card shows a distinct lack of hustle.
Moonlit Strider – 3W
Creature – Spirit
Sacrifice Moonlit Strider: Target creature gets protection from the color of your choice until end of turn.
“Beware of things that go bump in the night, even if you’re one of them.”
Nothing here even begins to justify a casting cost of four.
Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo – 1WW
Legendary Creature – Fox Samurai
Bushido 1, Defender (This creature can’t attack) T: The next time a source of your choice would deal damage this turn, that damage is dealt to Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo, instead. 1W: Prevent the next 1 damage that would be dealt to Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo this turn.
“That’s what happens when you accept a title without knowing what it means.”
I give them credit for trying, as they’ve managed to make a card of this type that I can’t automatically dismiss. You get four toughness for three mana, a choice of when to redirect, a very nice long-term ability and even bushido as a bonus. Bodyguards have a very bad track record because you can’t rely on them, and you can rely on a legend even less, but if this is a good fighting wall in its own right before any redirection, which in a format with a lower power level it could be for a defensive deck, then the added options could make it worth playing.
Oyobi Who Split the Heavens – 6W
Legendary Creature – Spirit
Whenever you play a spirit or Arcane spell you may put a 3/3 white Spirit creature with flying into play.
“When they split the heavens, make sure you’re on the right side.”
At seven mana, creatures have to either be worth reanimating or worth casting. I can’t see doing either to Oyobi outside of Block, especially given the turn they will likely have to remove it before you start putting tokens into play. The good news is it has a lot of toughness, so it could be a powerful late game card out of a deck that can trigger it rapidly, but at seven you have access to some very powerful alternatives.
Patron of the Kitsune – 4WW
Legendary Creature – Spirit
Fox Offering (You may play this card any time you could play an instant by sacrificing a Fox and paying the difference in mana between this and the sacrificed Fox. Mana cost includes color.)
Whenever a creature attacks, you may gain 1 life.
“He who supports the Foxes does not do so to guard the hen house.”
If there were foxes that you would be playing anyway, this lets you get a 5/6 into play as early as the fourth turn without mana acceleration and do it as an instant. It will cost you a card, but given the chance to block or respond to removal that seems like an acceptable deal. Having a sane casting cost if you have to cast it the hard way is also a huge advantage for a card like this. The problem is that you have to have the foxes to offer, which is going to cost the rest of your deck. The Orim’s Prayer effect is a nice touch, and by no means am I complaining about it, but not the kind of thing I look for in my six-drops. If I pay that much I’m looking to be aggressive, which five-power allows me to do.
Scour – 2WW
Remove target enchantment 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.
“No one ever thought it would be found again.”
Scour is worthwhile only if all of the following are true: Your opponent depends on an enchantment to win, this will resolve, you’ll be able to cast this when exactly one of them is in play, and he has no way of getting it back. That means a long game where not having it in his deck over ten or twenty turns makes a difference. Otherwise you’re paying more for less than you can get with many other spells. While this set has enchantments I would very much want dead, games these days do not last for the length of time required to make this interesting and the few decks that need an enchantment like Aluren are not vulnerable.
Shining Shoal – XWW
Instant – Arcane
You may remove a white card with converted mana cost X in your hand from the game rather than pay Shining Shoal’s mana cost. The next X damage that a source of your choice would deal to you or a creature you control this turn is dealt to target creature or player instead.
“Can’t… see… must… control… fist… of… death…” *crash*
For two cards in your hand, you get to redirect any amount of damage anywhere you want, including both using it as creature removal and going to your opponent’s head. In addition, later in the game you can cast it. The spell is even arcane, which allows you to cast it for nothing and then splice onto it! Free spells tend to be highly dangerous and this is going to be no exception. One potential problem is having enough high cost White cards in your deck without turning it into a pile of useless junk, but even a two- or three-point redirection can take out an early enemy two drop and stabilize the board. With a blocker you might kill two of them and not even lose a card. Later on, it can be a huge life swing and you get to build upon all the Arcane effects in the rest of your deck. I wouldn’t consider this an automatic card for every White deck, but if you’ve got the casting costs then think about what Kor Chant would have been like as a free spell.
Silverstorm Samurai – 4WW
Creature – Fox Samurai
You may play Silverstorm Samurai anytime you could play an instant.
“As the invaders learned when they hired these warriors to restore order, there are two ways to approach warfare. You can do what it takes to get the job done cheaply and effectively, or make sure you have the most shiny uniforms money can buy.”
Six mana for a 3/3 creature? You’ll have to do a whole lot better than this.
Split-Tail Miko – 1W
Creature – Fox Cleric
W, tap: Prevent the next 2 damage that would be dealt to target creature or player this turn.
“The time when being patched up by a fox would have seemed odd has long passed, for there are far stranger things afoot.”
White has a long history of healers, and they often are quite strong in Draft and Sealed but never seem to make it into Constructed decks. If anything, this is substantially weaker than previous model due to the activation cost that will have to be paid many times to justify his place in the deck.
Takeno’s Cavalry – 3W
Creature – Human Samurai
Tap: Deals one damage to target attacking or blocking creature.
“Take no risk, get little in return.”
It’s a bad sign when it wouldn’t have made your eyes pop out to lower the casting cost from four to one. Upon another few seconds of thought this has to cost 1W, but in no universe am I paying four mana for it.
Tallowisp – 1W
Creature – Spirit
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may search your library for an enchant creature card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. If you do, shuffle your library.
” Isolated on its little candlewick, the Kami never heard of the crime that drove its comrades to war.”
Think about what this card does. Every time you cast a spirit card, you get not just a free card but a free card you get to choose to complement the creature you just cast in the situation you’re in. You could also just get a giant enchantment and pitch it to Shining Shoal, or get a Pacifism to shut down an opposing creature. A 1/3 creature for two mana means that you’re only paying one mana for the privilege of searching for cards that at least half the time will end up saving you far more than that by smoothing your curve and making you efficient even before you count all the extra cards. Whether there are enough quality cards to make this worthwhile is a separate question, but don’t forget about the option of using this in an Arcane deck that enchants its opponents’ creatures. Don’t play fair when you don’t have to.
Terashi’s Grasp – 2W
Sorcery – Arcane
Destroy target artifact or enchantment. You gain life equal to its converted mana cost.
“As promising as it sounds to study arcane spells, once they see the mana requirements most students become rapidly disenchanted.”
You have no idea how much I’m cringing giving this card three stars, but the reallocation of the color pie has left me little choice. If you want the effect and you want it in the right color, you need to be ready to pay the price. On the plus side, you do get a little life and the status of an Arcane spell. If you’re playing an Arcane deck, this is going to be better than the vanilla options. If you’re not, it might just be your only choice.
White being able to remove creatures on the cheap is nice, but there are far too many restrictions on this card. Historically for three mana you can get this kind of effect without major restrictions and often with substantial benefits, for example with Exile. Instead this has a lot of different ways to go dead and can even be countered by a pump spell. When it works, you’ll rarely net more than one or at most two mana.
Ward of Piety – 1W
1W: The next 1 damage that would be dealt to enchanted creature this turn is dealt to target creature or player instead.
“So don’t be vain and don’t be whiney or else my brother might have to get medieval on your hiney.”
Think of the old creature Zharldan Crusader, which had this effect on a three-mana 2/2. That was a solid card but nothing special, so what is this probably worth? Probably less than +1/+2, which would have made it an important staple, and you can get that kind of pump for one mana without generating any interest.
Waxmane Baku – 2W
Creature – Spirit
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may put a ki counter on Waxmane Baku. 1, Remove X ki counters from Waxmane Baku: Tap X target creatures 2/2
“I’ll be there in a minute, I just want to see if they’re real.”
All this can do in the end is tap creatures, and considering the amount of work it makes you do and what some other triggered cards can do that’s not enough to be worth thinking about.
Yomiji, Who Bars the Way – 5WW
Legendary Creature – Spirit
Whenever a legendary permanent other than Yomiji, Who Bars the Way is put into a graveyard from play, return that card to its owner’s hand.
“If this is the only way I can find peace, I know what I must do.” – Konda, Lord of Eiganjo
If you would protect others, you must first protect yourself. Yomiji is a seven-mana investment for a card that can be removed normally, and that negates almost all the advantage of protecting other legendary cards. Even if he did protect himself, I’d be hard pressed to justify the price tag if you didn’t throw in flying, which he most definitely should have. How do you bar the way if you can’t even fly?
As usual, White got a lot of cards that have zero chance of ever doing anything, but in this case it got several interesting candidates to compensate. As White sets go, things have been a lot worse. White gets Faithful Squire, Genju of the Plains, Hokori, Dust Drinker, Patron of the Kitsune, Shining Shoal, Tallowisp and Terashi’s Grasp. Tallowisp offers the promise of a very strong control game or a set of powerful creature enhancements called up when you need them, and it could be the most overlooked card in the set right now. The other power cards are hard to miss. For example, there’s Shining Shoal, which I think will live up to all the hype. If the other solid cards prove solid enough, White could end up very happy with this set, particularly after Mirrodin rotates.
Tomorrow: Blue and Black.