Since I have so much experience with Champions draft, hopefully my analysis of over and underrated cards in this format can be more helpful to you than say a simple Betrayers pick order. I haven’t had the opportunity to do as many drafts with Betrayers of Kamigawa as I would like, but I have perused the spoiler a number of times, so this analysis should remain true even after Betrayers joins the format.
Everything in this article is based on both my experience playing with all the cards and discussing them with other pros. For the most part my discussions were with Sam Gomersall, but I also learned a lot from the TOGIT guys and the Dutch in Nagoya. If you disagree with something, then feel free to respond in the forums to discuss it and we’ll discuss it. If you feel my advice has been helpful, please send a future invitational vote my way. With that out of the way, I present to you my opinions on a number of Champions of Kamigawa cards.
Blood Rites is a great card to begin this article with because it resembles so many other cards in this set. It is amazing when you are already winning, but when you are behind it does almost nothing. At the prerelease I really liked this card, but as I played with it more and more, I became less interested in spending a turn on something that so often has no impact on the game.
Counsel of the Soratami
This is another card that has the problem of too much tempo lost when it is played. If you play it on turn 3, it is a disaster because you will likely fall too far behind to ever recover. Therefore its best use is as a late-game card, and I like my late-game cards to do a little more than give me a single extra card.
I’m not really rating the single card here, but more the entire archetype. It was fun and interesting the first few times while it was still unexpected, but now people are prepared. Cards like Distress and Sideswipe are going higher, and your Hazes and Peers aren’t going to table as often as they used to. Not to mention the coming of Betrayers of Kamigawa… while Betrayers has some nice stuff for the Dampen deck like the double Twiddle (Toils of Night and Day), it will still on average, be weaker than another Champions pack.
I believed this card to be amazing at the prerelease, but was less and less impressed each time I played it. It definitely has its charms, and there are certain matchups where this will be the best card in your deck, but there are other matchups where this is almost always worse than another land. I take this quite highly in Blue/White but in almost all other decks and especially in Red/White, it is pretty much unplayable.
Hana Kami is interesting, and quite good in the right deck. The problem is that far too often I see it in decks it has no business being in. Green decks generally don’t have that many arcane spells since there are only two playable common ones, and regrowing a Kodama’s Reach isn’t very exciting. I like one-drops more than most, but this guy seems to need both Soulshift and Arcane spells to be good.
Kodama of the North Tree
This guy is definitely overrated, but is still quite good. He only becomes very good when you can manage his triple Green cost with some consistency and have a decent amount of instant speed removal, a rare combination. In general he will trade with your opponent’s worst two creatures and trample for two. But if you have some instant speed removal, say Consuming Vortex, then after one devastating attack the game becomes very difficult to lose.
While this is very useful in decks with more than two colors, in most two-color decks it’s barely playable. As a turn 3 play this is quite poor – there are very few five-drops in the format to accelerate into – and it’s atrocious in the late-game. People may argue for the deck-thinning aspect of this card, but thinning your deck of two lands will improve your draws negligibly.
This is another card that while overrated is still very powerful. He’s not a great play on turn 2, since you are going to want to avoid getting him into combat, and he’s not great in the late game because he will be difficult to flip unless you are in a complete stalemate due to the expense of removing someone’s whole graveyard. On the upside, when you do manage to flip him and aren’t dead yet, he will almost always win you the game.
This card’s playability is probably the one where my opinion is most divergent from the rest of the magic playing population. Even other pros seem to think this is good, for reasons I cannot comprehend. So many times I have seen people waste turn after turn casting and equipping this clunker only to have their creature killed and lose massive amounts of tempo. If the casting and equip costs for this card were reversed, I think it would be quite good, but as is I believe this is impossible to use effectively.
Ryusei, the Falling Star
Yes, this is a 5/5 flyer for 6, so it is quite good, but as opposed to the other dragons, Ryusei’s ability is generally a drawback rather than a bonus. In Green/Red Ryusei’s triggered ability is at it’s worst, making him significantly worse than Moss Kami, the land dragon. In decks like Red/Blue and Red/White it is better because you will have a lot more flyers, but it will nearly always be worse than a Glacial Ray.
Sensei’s Divining Top
Paul Reitzl described this card as “actively decreasing your chances of winning”. I wouldn’t go as far as that, but it is very rare that I play this when I do get one. It is however very rare that I actually have one to play, because everyone else takes these a lot higher than I do. Interestingly, but not surprisingly every Top and Reverse the Sands that I saw opened in Nagoya found their way into a Japanese player’s pile. [To be fair, Anton played one in a 3-0 Nagoya deck as well. – Knut, who things Sands is actually good in the right deck] At GP: Boston while drafting against the Japanese pros I asked them what they thought of the Top, and they said its good in Green decks but bad almost everywhere else, an assessment that seems very accurate.
Seshiro the Anointed
Seshiro obviously has the potential to be very powerful but also has a couple problems. First off, I want more than a 3/4 when I pay six for my creature, but his abilities have the potential to make up for that. The real problem is when Seshiro gets removed at instant speed and your once powerful snakes all find themselves ambushed by previously puny enemies now that daddy is gone. Thirdly Seshiro encourages you to play a lot of snakes, which makes it difficult to also play a lot of spirits, the defining creatures of the format.
This is where if I were a better writer I would make a clever, seemless transition from overrated to underrated cards, but being the high-school drop out that I am, I’ll just tell you that these are cards that are much better than they are given credit for. I decided these cards were underrated based on how late I get them on Magic Online and after discussions with other pros in Nagoya.
This guy has a couple things going for him, and most of it is because people consider him terrible and are unwilling to make even trades because they expect to eventually be able to kill him for free. You can play him on turn 2 and he will average about five points and then probably be involved in a two-for-one for your opponent, a fine result. Or he can act as a quasi-fog, because attacking into him usually means an uneven trade.
I didn’t think much of this card before Nagoya outside of Dampen Thought decks, where it is obviously very good. But in Nagoya a couple people used this as quite an effective trick against me. The first was in a deck with a pair of Glacial Rays, but Ray is a reasonable excuse to play pretty much any arcane spell short of Unnatural Speed. The second use was when I had a number of evasion creatures and Craig Krempels boarded it in because he knew the game would just be a race and buying a turn in that situation is huge. Hence the situational uses of Ethereal Haze are much better than people give it credit for
Eye of Nowhere
Eye of Nowhere is one of the best turn 2 plays in such a tempo-oriented format. When you are on the play and lead with an Eye, followed up by a decent curve, it is almost impossible for opponents to recover. If that was all it did, it clearly wouldn’t be on this list. It is also a solid answer to many of the instant enchantments, and is great at allowing your flyers to race unstoppable Moss Kamis.
The most obvious comparison for Hankyu is Viridian Longbow but that is obviously not a fair comparison. Champions really got the short end of the stick when it comes to equipment, but I guess that’s to be expected when compared to the artifact block. Hankyu does have its charms however. It allows decks with dorky creatures and without removal: combinations of Blue, White, and Green, to kill important creatures. It is slow, and shouldn’t be played very often, but shouldn’t be completely overlooked.
Kami of Lunacy
His stats are quite unimpressive, but Soulshift can make up for that. One of the most powerful strategies in this format is going down the Soulshift chain. When this guy is able to soulshift a Scuttling Death, that much card advantage is difficult to overcome. He is pretty poor against Red decks because of all their ways to do one damage, but that’s why you have a sideboard.
Nobody I’ve spoken to about this guy had ever managed to flip him, but it’s something I’ve done a number of times – usually in Red White decks with Indomitable Will, Cage of Hands, and the bomb, Uncontrollable Anger. Mystic can set up a soft lock making your opponent’s best creature attack by putting Anger on it, and then moving Anger back to your guy and crushing their guy with your additional +2/+2. He is obviously not easy to flip, but is only a single point of power below par until he flips.
Myojin of Night’s Reach
Not a single pro I spoke to liked this card, and I consistently get this God the second time around on Magic Online, yet I consider him perfectly playable. This is most likely because I like to play eighteen lands in almost all my decks as opposed to most pros. He is very similar to Darksteel Gargoyle, a high-powered, high-cost indestructible creature that just keeps coming. I rarely remove the Divinity counter until the game is all but over, and when I do, it is usually during my opponent’s draw step
Night of Souls Betrayal
This is another Black Rare that fits my controlling style. It is very playable in nearly all Black/White and Black/Green decks and at its best against Blue decks because of all their one-toughness flyers. Since most of my decks are control decks, making all the creatures smaller and reducing the damage done to players is very beneficial. This is obviously very deck-dependent and makes normally playable creatures like Cruel Deceiver and Kami of the Waning Moon quite weak, but it is far from useless
In Nagoya a lot of people were discussing the fact that Serpent Skin rarely makes their decks. I was shocked by this to say the least. Serpent Skin isn’t all that tricky because people generally play around it at every opportunity, but the fact that it makes creatures unstoppable is hard to ignore. People also regularly forget that the Skin is very capable of stopping the Rends. I always play one to two of these in my Green decks, but don’t take it that high because it will usually come back.
I try to make sure that I have at least one of these in the sideboard of all of my Red decks. It generally isn’t very useful against non-Blue decks, but can often massacre a team of Moonfolk Wizards, therefore it only makes the main when I’m short a few cards but comes straight into my deck when I need to wipe out some irritating fliers or Nezumi Cutthroats.
Thanks for your time and I hope this has been helpful.
Rich Hoaen [email protected]
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