Jeff Zandi is a four time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events.

Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.


 

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Play With Some Champions Today
Learning the Ropes in the Exciting World of Kamigawa


by Jeff Zandi


Tomorrow, everyone will have a chance to enter the world of Champions of
Kamigawa, the newest expansion set for Magic: the Gathering. Players will
mob pre-release events all over the free world. I will be head judge at the
Dallas-area pre-release in Fort Worth, Texas. Having had a chance to take a
small look at this exciting new set, I can tell you that Champions of
Kamigawa is definitely something different from what you have seen from
Wizards of the Coast in a few years.

To begin with, Champs is full of more completely new cards, and new game
play mechanisms, than any set in several years. Last year was the tenth
anniversary of Magic: the Gathering. Wizards of the Coast commemorated
Magic's tenth anniversary by including cards from every set to date in
Magic's Eighth Edition. September 2003 brought us Mirrodin, a large
expansion with more reprinted cards than any other "new" expansion ever.
Mirrodin included so many reprinted cards mostly because, as a set featuring
artifacts, it was a great opportunity to reprint artifact cards from the
past. These artifacts were cards that might never have been reprinted in a
new set that was not so based on artifacts and artifact characteristics.

Magic in a Brave New World

Champions of Kamigawa is very much the kind of set that Wizards of the Coast
calls a stand-alone expansion. While the cards in this new set are perfectly
playable with cards from other sets, Champions of Kamigawa is an expansion
that definitely creates its own world, and the cards from this set play best
when played together. While it has been very interesting to see a few of the
new cards in the sneak peek provided on www.magicthegathering.com, this set
and its mechanics just don't really make sense until you get a chance to see
a lot of the cards and see how they work together. Champions of Kamigawa has
a kind of interdependence between the cards in it that may make this set
great to play with on its own and less useful as an expansion for the larger
world of Magic. Whether or not this is a good thing will be determined over
the next year.

What Becomes a Legend Most?

For this new set, Wizards has shined a spotlight once again on Legendary
cards. Legendary cards are special in that only one of them can be in play
at one time. This restriction usually does not mean much in the limited
games of sealed deck or booster draft, but plays a very important role in
constructed play. The first Legendary cards came from the 1994 expansion
called Legends, naturally. From the first appearance of Legendary cards,
there has been the complaint that when both players in a match have the same
Legendary card in their decks, there is an unfair advantage to the player
who is lucky enough to draw his copy of the Legendary card first. Any time
someone played a copy of a Legendary card that matched one already in play,
the NEWLY played copy of the card immediately left play. In returning
Legendary cards to the Magic scene, Wizards decided to change the
long-standing rule regarding multiple copies of Legendary cards. With the
release of Champions of Kamigawa, Wizards of the Coast turns the tables on
the Legendary rule 180 degrees. The new rule is simple enough, whenever
there are two Legendary permanents with the same name in play at the same
time, all of them are put into their owner's graveyards. Another new change
to Legendary cards is receiving less attention, but is also important. From
now on, "Legend" is not part of a creature's type. This means every creature
that was originally printed with the Legend creature type is now called a
"Legendary creature" type instead.

Of course, what's the fun in making a new rule if you can't turn around and
immediately break it? Brothers Yamazaki is an uncommon Legendary Creature -
Human Samurai for 2R that says "If there are exactly two permanents named
Brothers Yamazaki in play, the 'Legend rule' does not apply to them".
Amazing!

The Way of the Warrior

There is a new mechanic in Champions, called Bushido, that applies only to
one creature type, Samurai, and applies to EVERY Samurai in the new set.
Bushido is a creature ability that you will always find on the card followed
by a number. A creature with Bushido 1 gains +1/+1 whenever it is blocking
or whenever it is being blocked. A creature with Bushido 2 gains +2/+2
whenever it is blocked or blocking, and so on. At first glance, I saw
Bushido as a worthless attempt to give a name to a relatively unimpressive
ability that we have seen on creatures in the past. The difference is
nuance. Because Bushido is an ability only given to Samurai creatures in the
set, the ability adds to the feudal Japanese flavor that is a big part of
this expansion. Bushido makes Samurai MORE than just another kind of Knight
or Soldier, it makes Samurai a new, more interesting kind of warrior. Having
played with the cards a bit, I now like the Bushido ability very much, and I
liken it to the Flanking ability from Mirage. As a matter of fact, I think
the entire new set reminds me of Mirage in the way that it separates itself
from other worlds that have been explored in Magic.

Holding Out for a Hero

The Invasion block brought us split cards, cards that literally were two
cards in one. Champions of Kamigawa similarly brings us cards that are two
cards in one. In Champions, these are creature cards known as Heroes. Hero
cards have a casting cost, power and toughness numbers, and creature
abilities just like any other creature. Hero cards, however, can transform
into an entirely different kind of creature by accomplishing some task that
triggers their "flip" ability. When this ability is activated, you literally
turn the card upside down in front of you to indicate that the change has
been made. These cards have been designed for the basic version of the card
is first put into play. When turned around, these cards have a second set of
statistics that describe the new creature's name, power and toughness
numbers, as well as any abilities the new creature may have. A Hero card,
once transformed, or "flipped", remains in its new form until it leaves
play.
In general, these cards are relatively weak in their initial state and more
powerful (relative to their casting cost) in their "flipped" orientation.
When you look at these cards, you will see that they only have one casting
cost, and this casting cost appears at the top of the card (as usual). In my
opinion, this mechanic is a very interesting concept, but most of the cards
that have this ability are either too difficult to transform into their
better version, or are simply not interesting enough to play altogether.

The Watchword is VIGILANCE

Champions of Kamigawa introduces the keyword Vigilance, which simply
describes a creature that has the ability to attack without tapping. There
is nothing particularly flavorful about this added keyword. Research and
Development at WOTC believes that as a card ability, like not having to tap
to attack, becomes popular over a long period of time, creating a keyword
for that ability standardizes the game. Now that the ability to attack
without tapping is now a creature ability with the keyword of Vigilance, it
will be easier to describe cards that have this ability.

We've Got Spirit, How About YOU?

The creature type of Spirit is extremely popular in Champions of Kamigawa.
Around half of all the creatures in Champions are Spirits. There are a large
number of cards in the set that affect Spirits or which have abilities that
trigger when a Spirit card is played, or when a Spirit card comes into play.
When a creature with the new Soulshift ability goes to the graveyard, you
get to return a Spirit card back to your hand from the graveyard. Like the
Bushido ability, Soulshift appears on some creature cards followed by a
number. When a creature with Soulshift 3 is put into the graveyard, you may
return any one Spirit card from the graveyard to your hand with a converted
casting cost of three or less. Because Soulshift triggers when the creature
with Soulshift goes to the graveyard, there would be nothing, in theory, to
keep the Soulshift ability from returning the same creature to your hand
that was just put into the graveyard. In practice, the Spirits in this set
that have Soulshift have Soulshift values at least one less than their own
converted mana cost. This means that a Spirit with Soulshift 3 would likely
have a converted mana cost of four or higher, and so on.

Unearthed Arcana

Arcane is a new subtype of spells that represent around half of the Sorcery
and Instant cards in Champions of Kamigawa. This subtype, in of itself, adds
no special meaning to a Sorcery or Instant. However, some cards in the new
set interact in a special way with Arcane cards. Perhaps the most important
of these interations is a card ability called Splice onto Arcane. When you
play an Arcane card (which are identified on the card as either "Sorcery -
Arcane" or "Instant - Arcane") you can add effects to it from Instants in
your hand that have the Splice onto Arcane ability. The card with Splice
onto Arcane adds its effect to the Arcane spell that you splice onto WITHOUT
actually playing the card with Splice onto Arcane. When you do this, you pay
a mana cost to activate the Splice onto Arcane ability, usually different
from the regular casting cost of the Instant with Splice onto Arcane. Here's
an example that just might make your head hurt a little less:

Feast of Worms is a Sorcery-Arcane that costs 3GG and destroys a target
land. When the targeted land is legendary, its controller sacrifices another
land. Consuming Vortex is an Instant-Arcane that costs 1U that returns a
target creature to its owner's hand. Either of these cards can be played
normally by itself. Consuming Vortex also has the ability Splice onto Arcane
3U. This means that its effect can be added to the effect of another Arcane
spell by doing the following: In this example, you could announce that you
are playing Feast of Worms and that you are using the Splice onto Arcane
ability of your Consuming Vortex. When you do this, you reveal the Consuming
Vortex card to your opponent, but the Consuming Vortex then STAYS IN YOUR
HAND. You pay the total mana cost of Feast of Worms, 3GG, as well as the
Splice onto Arcane cost of 3U for the Consuming Vortex. Just like that, you
get two spells in one. This ability is generally mana-intensive to use, but
the card advantage (virtual card advantage?) that such an ability adds to
your deck may make the tactic worthwhile for you. You may have several cards
in your deck with the ability Splice onto Arcane and yet never use the
ability. Even so, Splice onto Arcane is an interesting ability that rewards
players for planning for the future and for developing healthy amounts of
mana.

Spirit and Arcane Card Interaction

There are cards in Champions that do something only when Spirit or Arcane
cards are played. The intersection of the two sets, Arcane spells and Spirit
creatures, is now virtually treated as something new unto itself.

Hisoka's Defiance is a common instant for 1U that counters a target Spirit
or Arcane spell. There are SO MANY Arcane and Spirit cards in Champions that
Hisoka's Defiance can counter a very large number of the best cards in your
opponent's deck for just two mana.

Rend Spirit is a common instant for 2B that destroys a target Spirit.

Rend Flesh is a common instant for 2B that destroys a target NON-Spirit.

Sire of the Storm is an uncommon 2/2 flyer for 4UU that allows you to draw a
card whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell.

Horizon Seed is an uncommon 2/1 Spirit for 4W that allows you to regenerate
a target creature whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane card.

Kami of Fire's Roar is a common 2/3 Spirit for 3R that causes a target
creature to be unable to block this turn whenever you play a Spirit or
Arcane card.

The Sun Rises on a Whole New Magical World

After an initial review, flavor is what separates Champions of Kamigawa from
recent Magic expansion sets. The cards in this set will be a lot of fun to
play with TOGETHER, whether in limited formats like sealed deck or drafts,
or in Champions of Kamigawa block constructed. As part of one of Magic's
truly stand alone sets, these cards truly shine. As part of the larger
collection of Magic cards, ninety-five percent of this set's cards will not
see much play. However, this set is well designed and the many new abilities
and mechanics work well together in a way that can rejuvenate Magic: the
Gathering. At the pre-release tournaments this weekend, sealed deck will be
the order of the day. If you are fortunate enough to get to play in one of
these events, I do not believe you will be disappointed while playing with
these new Champions.

Next week, I will begin reviewing the common cards from Champions of
Kamigawa, color by color, hopefully, with a little help from my friends that
play Magic better than I do!

As usual, I'm always interested to know what YOU think.

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
jeffzandi@thoughtcastle.com
Zanman on Magic Online


 

 

 

 

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