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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Commons of Kamigawa
Reviewing the Common Cards from Champions of Kamigawa
by Jeff Zandi

10.21.04  When a new set arrives, like Champions of Kamigawa, the first test for the new cards is limited play. In fact, a Pro Tour qualifying season has just begun using this very new set. Champions of Kamigawa, so different from the sets of the past two years (or maybe longer), has presented some challenges to card reviewers. I have been working with Pro Tour limited big-shot Neil Reeves for the past two weeks on looking at all 110 common cards from Champions of Kamigawa. When a new set comes out, it is extremely important to study the common cards of the set because these are the cards that will make up the biggest part of your limited decks.

While Neil certainly had some specific things to say about many of the cards, his primary interest was in breaking down the 22 commons from each color into four categories. Tier one cards are first picks in drafts, important commons that you will gladly play any number that you can get your hands on in your limited deck. Tier two cards should USUALLY, almost always appear in your deck if it is one of your deck's two main colors. Tier three cards MAY be played, but only cautiously, because they are weaker cards in general. Finally, there are a few cards in each color that basically should not be included in your limited decks. Even with these cards, YOU may
certainly find a fun way to make them useful in your deck, but you can be sure these cards are unlikely to be appearing in the best decks in the format. Neil's reviews are not the last word on the subject, these cards are too new and the limited format with the new cards has not been tested nearly enough. However, Neil Reeves knows a thing or two about winning in limited
formats. I trust his opinion more than anyone else I know in Magic.

This review is in two pieces, simply because of length. The overall statistics and two colors will be detailed in this article, with the remaining three colors detailed next week.

OVERALL CARD RATINGS

Black contains 4 tier one cards, 7 tier two, 9 tier three and only 2 tier four cards. Black may be the most playable color in the set, and is our early pick to be the color most seen in the winning sealed decks in the PTQ season. This may also mean that there may be a lot of fights over black
cards in booster drafts.

Red has 2 tier one cards, 7 tier two cards, 7 tier three cards and 6 tier four cards. Removal is hard to come by, so red will be a very popular color for Champions of Kamigawa sealed decks, especially early in the season. Red is a less important color, however, than black is. Most of the important red commons will work as a small third color splash.

Green has only 1 tier one card, 11 tier 2 cards, 6 tier three cards and 4 tier four cards. The twelve best common cards in green may not be spectacular, but they do make green a very deep color with many playables.Blue has 2 tier one cards, 6 tier two cards, 9 tier three cards and 5 tier four cards.

White has only 1 tier one card, 7 tier two cards, 6 tier three cards and 8 tier four cards. After our very first look at Champions of Kamigawa at the pre-release events, it looked like white had a lot to offer. A closer look, however, reveals that almost half of the white commons simply should not be in anyone's sealed or draft decks.

These numbers provide the following totals, 10 tier one cards, 38 tier two cards, 37 tier three cards and 25 tier four cards. This overall breakdown shows that Champions of Kamigawa has just about the same number of playable commons as any other set. The cards from this set continue to not impress us when compared to other sets in the past few years. However, sealed deck will
be a realm containing nothing but Champions of Kamigawa.

BLACK COMMONS

TIER ONE - MUST PLAY

Befoul is a sorcery for 2BB that destroys target land or nonblack creature, that creature cannot be regenerated. The best black common is one of the few reprints in Champions of Kamigawa, Befoul was originally printed in Urza's Saga. The reason this card is so important is simple because the basic strategy of winning in this particular limited format is simple, you need
ways to kill creatures.

Rend Spirit is an instant for 2B that destroys a target Spirit. This card is the second best black common in the set because it offers cheap instant removal for Spirit creatures. Basically half of the creatures in Kamigawa are Spirits. The reason this card is rated higher than Rend Flesh is because the most dangerous creatures in the set are Spirits, making Rend Spirit the most important creature elimination card in the set.

Rend Flesh is an instant for 2B that destroys a target non-Spirit creature. The downside for this card and Rend Spirit is that, inevitably, you're going to have Rend Flesh in your hand when you NEED to get rid of a Spirit creature, or vice versa.

Nezumi Cutthroat is a 2/1 Rat Warrior with Fear for 1B that cannot block. There are a lot of two power "bears" for two mana in this set, but none with a built in evasive ability such as this one.

TIER TWO - USUALLY PLAY

Wicked Akuba is a 2/2 Spirit for BB that has the ability for one black mana to cause a target player dealt damage by Wicked Akuba this turn to lose one life. This ability can be activated more than once. This is not nearly as good as a pump-up ability. Still, this is a better than average creature, and would have been a must-play except that this card needs a home in a deck
featuring more black than anything else in order to predictably get Wicked Akuba in play on turn two.

Cruel Deceiver is a 2/1 Spirit for 1B. For one colorless mana, you may look at the top card of your library. For two colorless mana, you may reveal the top card of your library, if it is a land, Cruel Deceiver gains "Whenever Cruel Deceiver deals damage to a creature, destroy that creature" until end of turn. This ability can be played only once per turn. There is a "deceiver" creature in each color, but only black's has the ability to actually destroy its blocker apart from regular combat damage.

Scuttling Death is a 4/2 Spirit with Soulshift 4 for 4B. You can sacrifice Scuttling Death to give a creature -1/-1 until end of turn. The ability to return a Spirit from you your graveyard with Soulshift 4 combined with the ability to sacrifice itself for a meaningful creature elimination ability
add up to a good creature not as overpriced as you might first think.

Pull Under is an Arcane Instant for 5B that gives a target creature -5/-5 until end of turn. This is an important removal card. The six casting cost means that you probably shouldn't have more than two of these in your deck in booster draft decks. Three is probably fine (although unlikely to be an
issue) for sealed decks.

Gibbering Kami is a 2/2 flying Spirit for 3B with Soulshift 3. Simply a solid creature with evasion and Soulshift.

Nezumi Ronin is a 3/1 Rat Samurai with Bushido 1 for 2B. This creature is very good at three mana, though the one toughness makes him easy to kill.

Villainous Ogre is a 3/2 Ogre Warrior for 2B. Villainous Ogre cannot block. If you control a Demon, the Ogre also has "B:regenerate Villainous Ogre". Although you will not usually have a Demon in play, the Ogre is more than worth playing anyway, simply for his big body size for just three mana.

TIER THREE - SOMETIMES PLAY

Waking Nightmare is an Arcane Sorcery for 2B that makes a target player discard two cards. There is nothing really wrong with this card, it is at least equal in power to Mind Rot, and is probably better since it is an Arcane spell and can be linked with "Splices onto Arcane" spells for extra benefits. That having been said, you really don't want to play discard spells in your deck. The basic rules are that there are two good kinds of cards for limited play: creatures and cards that get rid of creatures. This is still a perfectly acceptable fill-in card that might help you extend your supply of playable cards and keep you out of a third color.

Cursed Ronin is a 1/1 Human Samurai for 3B with Bushido 1 that pumps +1/+1 for one black mana. Basically, this guy is costed at four instead of three because of his Bushido ability. I think this extra mana cost is critical. In Champions limited, you are going to want to streamline your mana curve as much as possible. Cursed Ronin doesn't provide enough power at the four mana
casting cost slot to deserve a slot in most decks. Again, like most of the cards in this third tier, you might end up playing this card, but definately try to avoid playing more than one.

Soulless Revival is an Arcane Instant for 1B that returns a target creature from your graveyard to your hand and has "Splice onto Arcane" for 1B. This card is a slight improvement over Raise Dead, thanks to Splice onto Arcane, but you would optimally not like to include this card in your deck.

Devouring Greed is an Arcane Sorcery for 2BB. As an additional cost to play Devouring Greed, you may sacrifice any number of Spirits. Target player loses two life plus two life for each Spirit sacrificed in this way. You gain that much life. This tricked-up Drain Life is far too narrow to play,
you cannot be certain to be able to play this card for a life gain of more than the base two. Since you have to sacrifice your Spirits as an additional casting cost for Devouring Greed, opponents can wait for you to sacrifice your Spirit creatures before they use a counterspell to say no to your
Devouring Greed. Everything about this card says card disadvantage for you. This card is not useful as a combat trick, of course, because it is a sorcery.

Midnight Covenant is an Enchant Creature card for 1B that gives enchanted creature the ability to pump up +1/+1 for one black mana. Not exciting. This card would only REMOTELY be playable in a mono black deck looking for fill in cards in order to avoid a second color. Not exciting at all.

Kami of the Waning Moon is a flying 1/1 Spirit for 2B. Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, target creature gains Fear until end of turn. Fear is actually a decent ability in Champions. However, this card is really a 1/1 flyer for three mana and simply not a good creature for the mana.

Ashen-Skin Zubera is a 1/2 Zubera Spirit for 1B. When Ashen Zubera is put into a graveyard from play, target opponent discards a card from his hand for each Zubera put into a graveyard from play this turn. The black edition to the Kamigawa "Zubaz" family, the Ashen-Skin Zubera is not the worst creature ever, in some ways, he is a slight improvement on Ravenous Rats. Ashen-Skin Zubera does provide a kind of card advantage, giving you a blocker and costing your opponent at least one card when it goes to the graveyard. However, this creature is simply not powerful enough, even with its completely reasonable casting cost, to make the cut in most Champions
limited decks.

Distress is a sorcery for BB that makes target player reveal his hand, you choose a non-land card from his hand and he is forced to discard it. In limited, you really can't devote slots in your deck to extremely narrow cards like this. It is possible that you could sideboard it against a deck
that shows you a card that you have absolutely no other answer for. In any event, Distress is far too defensive of a card to be a part of the better Champions limited strategies.

Deathcurse Ogre is a 3/3 Ogre Warrior for 5B. When Deathcurse Ogre is put into a graveyard from play each player loses three life. This is a classic example of Overcosted Man. Nothing about this creature or his goes-to-the-graveyard ability makes it worth paying six mana for a 3/3
creature.

TIER FOUR - NEVER PLAY

Ragged Veins is a creature enchantment for 1B that can be played as an instant. Whenever enchanted creature is dealt damage, its controller loses that much life. The idea behind this card is to block one of your opponent's creatures with a bunch of your own creatures, then to play Ragged Veins on their creature so that when combat damage resolves, your opponent will take
damage equal to all the damage dealt to the opponent's enchanted creature. Casual players at the Champions of Kamigawa pre-release event in Fort Worth were thrilled with this card. The problem with this card is that you are going to draw it exactly when it will be the worst, or you're going to draw this card when what you WISH you could draw was a way to get rid of a
troublesome creature on your opponent's side. The problem with Ragged Veins is that this card gives you no guarantees.

Rag Dealer is a 1/1 Human Rogue for one black mana that has the ability to
tap and spend 2B to remove up to three target cards in a single graveyard
from the game. I have no problem thinking of ways this creature could be
perfectly plausible in constructed play, in the right deck, or most likely,
the right sideboard. In Champions limited, this card is just no good. Yes,
every once in a while it would be nice to get rid of certain cards in your
opponent's graveyard, but certainly not enough so that you want to fit this
little guy in your deck.

RED COMMONS

TIER ONE - MUST PLAY

Glacial Ray is an Arcane Instant for 1R that deals two damage to target
creature or player. This card also has Splice onto Arcane 1R. This Splice
onto Arcane cost is so reasonable that Glacial Ray has immediately become
one of the hottest commons in the set, easily a first pick in booster
drafts.

Yamabushi's Flame is an instant for 2R that deals three damage to target
creature or player. If a creature dealt damage this way would be put into a
graveyard this turn, remove it form the game instead. This card would be a
fine card for this set if all it did was deal three damage to a creature or
player. The added ability to remove creatures from the game comes in handy
once in while as well.

TIER TWO - USUALLY PLAY

Frostwielder is a 1/2 Human Shaman for 2RR that taps to deal one damage to
target creature or player. Like Yamibushi's Flame, Frostwielder removes from
the game any creature that it damages that would go to the graveyard that
turn. Flying creatures come pretty cheaply in Kamigawa, particularly in blue
and white, but at a cost, they often have a toughness of one. Frostwielder
is a scary, scary card for white and blue players. Only a double red casting
cost keeps this card from being truly tier one. The double red casting cost
makes Frostwielder a must play in all decks featuring enough red mana to
support it. Unfortunately, you really cannot splash this card.

Ronin Houndmaster is a 2/2 Human Samurai for 2R with Haste and Bushido 1.
This is a great creature, paying dividends from the moment it comes into
play. You would easily play three of these in your deck if you were able to
get them.

Uncontrollable Anger is a creature enchantment for 2RR that can be played as
an instant and which gives enchanted creature +2/+2. This card seems a
little pricey, but Uncontrollable Anger is an excellent combat trick that
DOESN'T go away at end of turn. I'd play two of these in a deck with at
least fourteen creatures in it.

Hearth Kami is a 2/1 Spirit for 1R. You can spend X colorless mana and
sacrifice Hearth Kami to destroy an artifact with converted casting cost of
X. Most of the time, this card is simply a 2/1 creature for two mana. Hearth
Kami's ability to destroy an artifact is priceless the few times that you
will need it.

Kami of Fire's Roar is a 2/3 Spirit for 3R. Whenever you play a Spirit or
Arcane spell, target creature cannot block this turn. This card may seem
expensive, but is actually quite reasonable as a creature in this
environment thanks to his toughness of 3. This creature will make you want
to cast spells before you attack on your turn, giving your creatures the
ability not to be blocked by your opponent's best creatures. This ability
makes it difficult for your opponent to know how many blockers to leave
behind each turn, especially late in the game.

Brutal Deceiver is a 2/2 Spirit for 2R. For one colorless mana, you may look
at the top card of your library. For two colorless mana, you may reveal the
top card of your library, if it is a land, Brutal Deceiver gains +1/+0 and
first strike until end of turn. You can only play this ability once per
turn. Brutal Deceiver's ability makes him easily the most aggressive of the
five common Deceiver creatures, giving you the ability to bluff your
opponent into back blocking decisions.

Ember-Fist Zubera is a 1/2 Zubera Spirit for 1R. When Ember-Fist Zubera is
put into a graveyard from play, it deals damage equal to the number of
Zuberas put into all graveyards from play this turn. This damage can target
a creature or player. This is the best of the five common Zubera creatures.
At worst, this creature will deal one point of damage to a creature or
player when it goes to the graveyard. This card and kills one and two
toughness creatures. Moreover, when your opponent has a creature with a one
toughness, they won't want to attack with ANY of their creatures, knowing
that you could block with Ember-Fist Zubera and destroy their precious one
toughness creature.

TIER THREE - SOMETIMES PLAY

Akki Avalanchers is a 1/1 Goblin Warrior for one red mana. Once a turn, you
can sacrifice a land to give Akki Avalanchers +2/+0 until end of turn. This
card is what they call a "skill tester" at Wizards of the Coast, a test of
whether or not we players know a bad card when we see it. When exactly would
you like to use the Avalanchers' ability? He can come out on turn one, you
trade in combat with an opponent's 3/3 creature by simply getting rid of one
of your lands...right at the beginning of the game when you really can't
afford to sacrifice land. Late in the game, turning a 1/1 creature into a
3/1 creature is just not that exciting. Don't play this card if you can
avoid it.

Sokenzan Bruiser is a 3/3 Ogre Warrior with Mountainwalk for 4R. This is a
great sideboard card, particularly valuable since a lot of your opponents
will be playing at least a little red. The Bruiser is almost good enough to
play in your main deck, but he's not the best guy for a full time position
in your deck.

Unearthly Blizzard is an Arcane Sorcery for 2R that makes up to three target
creatures unable to block this turn. I have a weak spot for this card,
including one of them in almost all of my Kamigawa booster draft decks.
Mister Reeves has no such weak spot, and he says that this card may be a
decent finishing card for your deck. Because this card is so situational,
not necessarily good every time you draw it, you really don't want to play
it much.

Battle-Mad Ronin is a 1/1 Human Samurai for 1R with Bushido 2. Battle-Mad
Ronin must attack each turn if able. If this Samurai didn't have to attack
every turn, it would be quite a bit better card. As it is, you essentially
get this creature through unblocked turn after turn, dealing one point of
damage at a time until it becomes annoying enough for your opponent to need
to deal with it. Enchanting the Ronin with Uncontrollable Anger is a good
way to get your opponent's attention.

Crushing Pain is an Arcane Instant for 1R that deals six damage to target
creatures that was dealt damage this turn. This is a bad card because it
doesn't do much of anything by itself. This card has two for one card
disadvantage written all over it. You block opponent's huge creature with
your small creature. Your creature is destroyed. You play Crushing Pain to
finish off opponent's huge creature. I hope this doesn't sound like a very
interesting idea to you, because it sounds really bad to me. Neil says this
is a card you could sideboard in an EMERGENCY, when you simply don't have
the cards in your deck full time to handle certain big threats in your
opponent's deck.

Yamabushi's Storm is a sorcery for 1R that deals one damage to each
creature. If a creature dealt damage this way would be put into a graveyard
this turn, remove it form the game instead. Removing creatures from the game
is a good thing, but this card is primarily designed to destroy one
toughness creatures or to finish off creatures dealt near-lethal damage.
This card is not terribly good in this environment because many of your own
creatures may be destroyed and also removed from the game by this card.
Mostly, this card is simply not powerful enough to be considered very often.

Devouring Rage is an Arcane Instant for 4R. As an additional cost to play
Devouring Rage, you may sarifice any number of Spirits. Target creature gets
+3/+0 until end of turn. For each Spirit sacrificed in this way, that
creature gets an additional +3/+0 until end of turn. This is a dangerous
combat trick that can be countered after you have sacrificed one or more
Spirits as part of the casting cost of this spell. This card is also too
narrow, since you can only sacrifice Spirit creatures. Finally, this card is
too situational, offering almost no value in the early to mid part of the
game. Don't play it.

TIER FOUR - NEVER PLAY

Deperate Ritual is an Arcane Instant for 1R that allows you to add RRR to
your mana pool and which has a Splice onto Arcane cost of 1R. Dark Ritual, a
much better card than this one, was never a particularly good limited card
since it would really only be good in the first several turns of a game.
There is no conceivable reason to play this card in the Champions of
Kamigawa limited environment.

Soul of Magma is a 2/2 Spirit for 3RR. Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane
card, Soul of Magma deals one point of damage to target creature. This
creature could squeeze himself into a sealed deck, but he certainly has no
business in a booster draft deck. Soul of Magma is simply too slow, too
small and too expensive to be good. The special ability is rarely triggered
more than once on your turn, making its usefulness rather limited as well.

Lava Spike is an Arcane sorcery for one red mana that deals three damage to
a target player. Neil thinks an extremely fast red deck with four or more
Lava Spikes could be formidable, but this card has no business in most
Kamigawa limited decks. The ability to deal three damage to an opponent,
even for the bargain price of one mana, is not valuable enough to deserve a
spot in your deck.

Stone Rain is a sorcery for 2R that destroys a target land. Just in case
your opponent has a non-basic land that really causes you some trouble, you
could bring in a Stone Rain from your sideboard, but it won't be that good
for you even in that circumstance. Land destruction is not really a part of
serious limited strategies. Having said that, it's always nice to see an old
friend like Stone Rain being reprinted again.

Unnatural Speed is an Arcane instant for one red mana that gives a target
creature haste until end of turn. Haste is a great ability, but not one
worth playing a card like this. This card is far too weak to be included in
any Kamigawa limited deck, sealed or draft.

Akki Rockspeaker is a 1/1 Goblin Shaman for 1R. When Akki Rockspeaker comes
into play, add one red mana to your mana pool. Nothing to get excited about
here. Hmmm, on turn two, you could play this terrible 1/1 creature, then use
the free red mana to...play an even worse one casting cost spell... This is
a bad card, plain and simple.

Next Friday, I will be back to conclude me and Neil's review of the Kamigawa
commons.

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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