[Editor’s Note: I’m running Oscar’s columns slightly out of order this week in order to put up more Champions of Kamigawa material as soon as possible. – Knut]
Another satisfied customer…
Believe it or not, I actually found a practical use for the Philippine Law Journal.
I went to the National Labor Relations Commission with my free legal aid client, and sweated it out for an hour waiting for my opponent’s flunky to show up with some argument any freshman Law student could tear apart. Meanwhile, the first case for the day drags along in the labor arbiter’s chambers, and the lawyers probably thought they were in some declamation contest.
After the hour is up, during a lull for signing papers, I walk up to the arbiter and say,”Ma’am, I’d like to present you with a complimentary copy of the University of the Philippines’ Law Journal… incidentally, my opponent isn’t here, so do you think we could get a Writ of Execution for the case my client won six months ago?”
The arbiter cuts me off when I explain why my opponent’s opposition isn’t worth the paper it’s printed, and proceeds to sign an order for my client on the spot. Well, what do you know, the Philippine legal system actually works sometimes.
My client was ecstatic since he won his case last March, but the decision was only mailed to my university in late May, and got lost in the shuffle until the case was assigned to me in June. Then, he had to leave town in July, and our August hearing got postponed due to typhoons and floods. It’s on appeal, but Philippine law requires his employer to pay his salaries until the appeal is decided.
I’ve never seen the guy smile ear to ear before, but he sure did when I told him he could let his former boss let the case drag on till eternity.
Championing Kamigawa, Part I
Again, our two rules for sizing up new cards:
Is the card more efficient than an established benchmark? (Or, do I get more bang from my buck?)
Does the card do something no past card ever did, and if it does, is this new card playable?
And, for the more general discussion, refer to”Shadow Prices” (see”Counting Shadow Prices“).
Sadly, I wasn’t able to make Manila’s well-publicized Eastwood City Prerelease, so I’m working purely from the spoiler here. As the tradition in these reviews goes, we begin with the creatures since they’re usually governed by the simpler Rule 1. The goal here is not just to identify new standouts, but to articulate the premises and frameworks relevant to each new card.
My Fifth Dawn review was (see”Firing Up Fifth Dawn, Part I“), was okay, though it mainly talked about Razormane Masticore as a support card in Mishra’s Workshop decks. Parenthetically, the creation of the Tinker Mage deck that sets up the Auriok Salvagers combo doesn’t lend any credibility to Ben Bleiweiss fantasy Vintage review, considering it’s not on the list of serious combo decks.
Much as I would like to, I’ll restrain myself from commenting on Ben’s loose discussion of Type I, coupled with snipes at the community (see”Mr. Bleiweiss v. Vintage“). I’m more evil than that – I e-mailed Philip Stanton to crunch the numbers.
After all, everyone knows you can’t make outlandish claims about Type I unless you’re some old school Beyond Dominia elitist who got his Black Lotus when Richard Garfield was in sixth grade. The exception is, of course,”Crazy” Carl Winter, but everyone knows JP Meyer really writes his reports.
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
A set that plays up Legends brings back fond memories of using gold ones in Invasion Sealed to opening non-rares in Homelands. Unfortunately, most of the Champions are more expensive, Timmy-type rares that aren’t so useful in more streamlined Type I.
The cheapest one is, of course, Isamaru, Hound of Konda. I won’t belabor the obvious; it’s the long-awaited Savannah Lions five through eight. The Legend rule shouldn’t be a problem unless you topdeck multiples, since you shouldn’t overplay your creatures. Rather, Isamaru’s biggest problem remains the weakness of White Weenie, and more offensive colors can’t make their similar weenie bases work today (namely Jackal Pup and Goblin Cadets, and Sarcomancy and Carnophage). At best, you no longer have to splash, say, Jackal Pup as aggressively into White Weenie to improve your creature base.
White Weenie’s flavor matches its current worth. Back in the day, you had a Babes deck with Serra Angel, Order of the White Shield, and Order of Leitbur. Then you had a shift to all those Knights and Clerics. Now, you’re stuck with cats and dogs. Maybe they can reissue a Savannah Lions alternate version inspired by Puss from Shrek 2?
This card is the best thing for mono-Blue since Ophidian.
Just kidding. Told you there’s a bunch of Timmy-type rares that are fun but awkward. I do like how Seshiro, the Anointed opens up a new Snake theme deck, plus other”lord” types like one for Wizards, but is Hisoka, Minamo Sensei an inside joke about Mental Magic?
If you see a workhorse Bear as my second card, you get the hint Champions’ creature set is a bit like Legions, but I’ll explain that later.
I left a good mental note for Viridian Zealot months back, and Hearth Kami is the Red equivalent. You get an average attacker with a Seal of Shatter ready, artificially increasing your maindeck artifact kill in today’s Welder-influenced environment. Of course, it’s a support attacker like the Zealot, and there aren’t many Red weenie decks these days, but Hearth Kami is at least more offensive than Gorilla Shaman, Viashino Heretic, and Goblin Tinkerer.
Kami of Ancient Law gets a lesser mental note as a half-Seal of Cleansing on a 2/2.
Kumano, Master Yamabushi
Another mental note.
Kumano, Master Yamabushi replaces Shivan Hellkite and Reckless Embermage as an infinite mana kill card. It’s easier to hard cast and mise a win with. Besides, unless you especially like Dragons, he’s more stylish.
For some reason, I liked this guy from my first pass through the spoiler, but proclaiming him as good is like heralding the arrival of the new Flesh Reaver in a metagame where Suicide Black has long since stunk.
Mainly, you get a more offensive Withered Wretch, which isn’t bad in a Type I that got more graveyard-intensive over the last couple of blocks. However, Black weenie is obsolete and you won’t likely rely on Graverobber as a main offensive card if you play it, so you might consider the more mana intensive Wretch ability and the fact that you can’t choose to keep the ability if your opponent’s graveyard is empty.
I suppose I’ll write him down as a 4/2 for 1B Echo, with a useful early and mid-game ability. I don’t know what deck might want a Wretch that can attack, though this one is splashable.
I liked this guy, too, and you have to compare him against Cabal Interrogator.
He’s nice in that he’s a cheaper, splashable Disrupting Scepter that will turn offensive once the opponent is disrupted and deal at least eight damage after its first attack. There’s some chance you might need something like him in a particular environment in a particular aggro-control deck, but do note Cabal Interrogator is a very specialized sideboard as is.
Maybe Nezumi Ronin just reminds me of Master Splinter.
Samurai of the Pale Curtain
Okay, I lied, I can’t resist.
I’m not sure why Ben likes Samurai of the Pale Curtain. The”watered down version of Planar Void” is a bit like ordering a soggy Big Mac without the patty. I mean, Psychatog, Oath of Druids, Bazaar of Baghdad and Squee, Goblin Nabob aside, what recurring permanents do you need to hose so badly with a specialized card that has double White in its mana cost? No, this isn’t about to make Goblin Welder players sweat.
Moreover, Bushido is nothing spectacular, and this is largely why I can’t review the bulk of the Champions for Type I.
Distilling Rule 1, barring an earthshaking special ability, all you want from a Type I creature is the power rating. Toughness only as relevant as the prevalence of Fire / Ice. First strike, regeneration, and other combat abilities are less relevant, which is why White Weenie has a lot of strengths but can’t translate them to Type I.
Examine Champions’ creature ability themes, from Bushido and Vigilance to Shisato, Whispering Hunter’s paralysis to Kitsune Mystic’s creature enchantment shell games. They’re largely combat abilities that are more fun in Sealed Deck.
Going back to Samurai of the Pale Curtain, Bushido and good blocking just isn’t very relevant; the last time we praised an excellent blocker, Morphling was still standard.
A beginner’s note. You might think this is dominating, but it’s just a more expensive, more mana-intensive Mother of Runes, and that slow, defensive gem hasn’t survived a lot of number crunches. If you want to protect other permanent types, there are less clunky methods.
Ben’s exact words:”Sligh doesn’t exist anymore, but if it did, it would surely like Akki Avalanchers, a 3/1 goblin for only one mana.
Unfortunately, Sligh doesn’t exist in the Vintage metagame right now. If it does make a comeback, this guy is solid for the deck.”
Hmmmm… he’s a goblin, all right, but I have my doubts he’s a 3/1 for one mana.
More accurately, he’s a vanilla Mons Goblin Raiders with a built-in Fireblast, plus the small chance to trade itself and a Mountain for something bigger. That’s very different.
If you talk about both classic Sligh skeleton and the Goblin Piledriver-based Goblin builds, I can’t see what this would replace, since Red has a lot of high-power weenies.
Akki Avalanchers isn’t going into Food Chain Goblins, but you might think to try Akki Rockspeaker, for obvious synergy with Goblin Warchief when going off. I doubt it’ll make the cut, though, since the small boost doesn’t contribute more than any in the already tight selection of existing Goblins. It has nothing on Skirk Prospector, for example.
Dosan, the Falling Leaf
A walking City of Solitude might be nice, but Xantid Swarm has made this largely irrelevant.
Hilariously, this guy caught the fancy of a bunch of Paragons, though obviously not for competitive Type I. I mean, can’t you just imagine this guy in a White Weenie deck with Crusade, Empyreal Armor, and Mother of Runes? Just picture the Revenge of the Nerds flavor his big brother Kenzo brings into a playgroup.
Josh Reynolds suggests pairing it with Test of Faith, while Steven Holeyfield a.k.a. Nameless points to Wax/Wane and Rancor. Have fun.
Azusa, Lost but Seeking
Everyone is going to point to Turboland with this one, but that dead archetype’s problem remains cheap card draw as synergistic as Gush to help it set up. Assuming you can make it work, the Legend rule is a more relevant drawback here.
Heh. This entry is just an excuse for me to wish out loud that they should have named this card”Sadako” for major style props.
Uyo, Silent Prophet
Since we’re talking about Turboland, I wonder if a resurrection might use these new Moonfolk. Otherwise, they’re Ovinomancer rehashes, though you have to appreciate how Sheep tokens raised eyebrows way back in Visions.
This one’s for the beginners: Graceful Adept is Champions’ Zuran Orb problem (see”Six Beginners Delusions You Meet in Heaven“). You get a cute ability that’s absolutely irrelevant – in Type I, when you need a larger hand size, you’re about to combo out the opponent before the turn ends, anyway.
On the other hand, the Spirits are Champions’ Sneak Attack problem. In past expansions’ cycles, you could take just one or two cards from an entire cycle for Constructed play, like Muscle Sliver for mono-Green weenie and Whispers of the Muse and Capsize for mono-Blue.
The Spirits, though, are useful only in large numbers, meaning you have to build a deck around them instead of just slipping the most useful one into an existing structure. As a tribe, the Spirits aren’t as mana-efficient as Goblins and Slivers. Moreover, Goblin now works as a combo deck, while the Slivers were long since too weak, especially after Quirion Dryad was broken.
The Zuberas epitomize the Spirits’ Sneak Attack problem, but I figure you can get style points for using them in a Living Death deck.
Iname, Death Aspect
Either there is some way to set up some combo with this, or it’s just a way to have fun with Living Death for one play session.
The Gravedigger ability helps keep the Spirits coming in casual play, but I think you can just enjoy the Spirit theme with Blinking Spirit and Foul Familiar, and maybe a midgame Elvish Spirit Guide in a non-broken context. Your search for Spirits will actually turn up a lot of cute names, from Thunder Spirit to the Legions Muses.
Cough, Nimble Mongoose, cough.
Ah, the days when Jolrael’s Centaur was a good card.
Bushido vaguely reminds me of Mirage block’s Flanking, and Ronin Houndmaster is Suq’Ata Lancer’s newest cousin. Of course, the most mana-efficient flanker from that pool was Fallen Askari and the Houndmaster won’t be seeing Type I play anytime soon, but I was hoping for a more defined Samurai cycle across colors for flavor purposes.
If you actually want to nitpick over Houndmaster and Lancer, well, I suppose Lancer’s flanking has more bite against regenerators, protection from Red blockers, and four-toughness blockers you want to Lightning Bolt.
Carrion Beetles gets a better look.
Zo-Zu the Punisher
Soon after Polluted Delta came along, Sligh tried Ankh of Mishra. The walking version is more useful, but the cheaper Ankh is probably more useful and will probably deal more damage early. The point is moot, though.
The new Humility / Opalescence? Seriously, I wonder if players around the world aren’t enjoying being rules pests by sending e-mails,”Rune, I’m in a three-way multiplayer game and we all just played a Brothers Yamazaki…”
I doubt The Unspeakable is going to make it in serious play. To get it into play, you need a three-card combo that adds up to six mana, a lot of it colored. Moreover, you just get a six-power attacker and the best it can do is recycle Peer Through Depths every turn to find a counter to Time Walk with.
The three cards for the combo aren’t impressive in themselves. Sift Through Sands is the least useful of the trio, and Reach Through Mists is lousy without Splices, which demands even more slots. As for Peer Through Depths, let me quote Ben:”Impulse isn’t seeing a ton of play these days, but is Impulse better when you sacrifice the ability to get lands, enchantments and creatures in exchange for a look at one additional card? In Vintage, that one extra card means a lot. Peer Through Depths seems to be a solid Impulse replacement for some Blue decks, quite possibly including Smmenen Blue.”
That said, if you’ve actually played mono-Blue in Type I, you’ll remember that you can Impulse early for a land, including a Wasteland, or a permanent like Ophidian, Chalice of the Void, Powder Keg or Back to Basics. Later on, you’ll be searching for Morphling to clean up. Solid Impulse replacement, eh?
Anyway, we’ll talk about Arcane some more in the appropriate column.
Championing Kamigawa: Creature Enchantments
Like I said, a lot of the abilities in this set are geared towards creatures and creature abilities.
More of the Desert
Let me end by revisiting my last vacation again, so I can go to sleep with something other than thoughts of legal aid clients, law journals, and upcoming final exams next month.
If you saw Arabic architecture last week, I miss seeing Chinese architecture nowadays. The first two photos are from the Jia Yu Guan section of the Great Wall, while the third is the entrance to the famous Mugao Caves in the far west, with its wall Buddha murals and relics.
Until next week! I hope!
Oscar Tan (e-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com)
rakso on #BDChat on EFNet
Paragon of Vintage
University of the Philippines, College of Law
Forum Administrator, Star City Games
Featured Writer, Star City Games
Author of the Control Player’s Bible
Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (R.I.P.)
Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance