Commons of Kamigawa
Reviewing the Common Cards from Champions of Kamigawa
by Jeff Zandi
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
goes-to-the-graveyard ability makes it worth paying six
mana for a 3/3
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
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
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.
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
one of the hottest commons in the set, easily a first
pick in booster
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
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
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
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
that you could block with Ember-Fist Zubera and destroy
their precious one
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
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
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
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
toughness creatures or to finish off creatures dealt
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
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 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
As usual, I'm always interested to know what YOU think.
Level II DCI Judge
Zanman on Magic Online