Jeff Zandi is a five 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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Champions Versus Betrayers
Tongue-in-Cheek Fun With Magic’s Newest Set
by Jeff Zandi
1.28.05 


Betrayers of Kamigawa is brand-new, not even available for retail sale yet, and already Magic players are cussing and discussing the value of the new cards. Last weekend, thousands of players competed in sealed deck pre-release tournaments all across the country. The sealed deck format for the pre-release events is a bit skewed from normal sealed deck formats.
Normally, you would get one starter deck (they call them tournament packs
nowadays) and two booster packs. Last Saturday, in the Betrayers premiere events, players received one Champions tournament pack and THREE Betrayers booster packs. The addition of a third booster pack raises the average sealed deck to almost booster draft deck power levels. Booster drafts at the pre-release were mostly strange, consisting of three Betrayers of Kamigawa booster packs, a format that won’t be seen any other time. Official Champions of Kamigawa block drafts will now include two Champions boosters and one Betrayers boosters. I have played in three such CCB booster drafts, and I’m not quite ready to discuss the effect of Betrayers on the draft format.

The big question is whether or not Betrayers is any good or not, particularly in comparison to Champions of Kamigawa. In my confused brain, there is only one way to conduct this comparison…DC-10 packs of Champions against packs of Betrayers!

DC-10, PLANE OF THE PAST, MAGIC GAME OF THE MORE RECENT PAST

If you haven’t ever played the mini-game of Magic referred to as DC-10, here’s how it works. Each player opens a booster draft and shuffles the cards as much as possible without looking at any of them. After using some random method to determine who plays first, that person takes their first turn by drawing the top card of his fifteen card library. Each player begins with an infinite number of each of the five basic land types in play on their side. In DC-10, infinity trumps infinity, meaning that if one player uses an effect that gains him infinite life, an effect later in the game that deals infinite damage to that same player WILL lower his life points to zero. Look, without getting out my books on quantum mechanics, all I can offer is that DC-10 is an imperfect system, but a fun way to play a little limited format Magic without taking the time to build decks.

CAN DC-10 REALLY DETERMINE WHICH SET IS BEST?

The big question is simple. Can a game as tricked up as DC-10 honestly be expected to shed enough light on either set as to be considered an appropriate test? ABSOLUTELY. YES. Well, actually, I doubt it. Probably not.
Definitely no. STILL, I’ve been doing this since Saturday, and I think the results will be entertaining and surprising.

Some interesting quirks can be quickly identified when pitting these two sets of cards against each other in this format. It would be predicted by some that the average booster pack of Champions of Kamigawa should produce a better average number of types of basic cards you need to win in the DC-10 format. Namely, creatures and creature removal cards. This observation is debatable. However, if Champions did have the advantage of being a larger, more balanced set than Betrayers, Champions also has the problem of containing mana smoothing cards, including lands, that are basically dead cards in this game. On the other hand, DC-10 doesn’t really promote the best possible use of Ninjutsu. Tough but fair.

OTHER EARLY IMPRESSIONS OF BETRAYERS

Below you will find five actual DC-10 games pitting one unopened pack of Champions against one unopened pack of Betrayers. No, I don’t really think that DC-10 is a particularly good method of learning what cards are good in the new set for limited games, much less for constructed games. Mainly, I’m just having fun with the set this week.

On the more serious analytical side, I believe Betrayers has plenty of quality commons, uncommons and rares that will make limited play better and more exciting in the weeks and months ahead. Even though it’s very early to say something like this, I would like to jump way out there and say that the average power of a card from a Betrayers booster is AT LEAST as high as the average power of a card from a Champions booster. This is good news for sealed deck and draft players. Over the past several years, one of the biggest adjustments made by booster draft players when the first small expansion came out for a new block in January was the LOSS of the third pack from the large expansion set. A year ago, in other words, Darksteel seemed to weaken Mirrodin booster drafts. After a few sealed decks and three booster drafts using Betrayers of Kamigawa, I think the new set feels at least as good for limited play as Champions. Of course, not matter how good Betrayers is, there is no getting around the fact that two packs of Champions in a booster draft instead of three means less copies of Glacial Ray and other important common cards. Deal with it. This is an issue every year. People may have gotten too comfortable with their multiple Glacial Ray and Devouring Greed decks.

I understand that it will take some time to learn the new cards. To this end, I have listed the names and descriptions of all the uncommon or rare cards from Betrayers of Kamigawa seen in these DC-10 games. These individual card descriptions are listed at the end of this story, in alphabetical order.

FIVE GAMES OF DC-10 PITTING CHAMPIONS AGAINST BETRAYERS

Champions won the coin flip and will play first in games one and three.
Betrayers will play first in games two and four. A separate coin flip was used to determine who would play first in game five, and Champions won that flip as well. Without disclosing what fallible once-talented Magic players I used to play these games, let’s go straight to the play-by-play.

GAME ONE
T1 Champions draws and plays Jukai Messenger.
T1 Betrayers draws and plays Mistblade Shinobi.
T2 Champions draws Unearthly Blizzard. Attacks. (20-19)
T2 Betrayers draws Uproot. Attacks and uses Shinobi’s ability to return Jukai Messenger to Champions’ hand. (19-19)
T3 Champions draws and plays Frostwielder. Plays Jukai Messenger.
T3 Betrayers draws Silverstorm Samurai.
T4 Champions draws and plays Soratami Seer. Activates Frostwielder targeting Mistblade Shinobi. Attacks with Messenger. (19-18) Activate Soratami Seer, returning two Islands to his hand, then discarding Island, Island, Unearthly Blizzard drawing Iname Life Aspect, Lantern Kami and Honor-Worn Shaku. Plays Iname, Lantern Kami. Activates Soratami Seer returning two Mountains to his hand, discarding Mountain, Mountain, Honor-Worn Shaku drawing Kami fo the Waning Moon, Field of Reality and Kodama’s Reach. Plays Kami of the Waning Moon. Activates Soratami Seer returning two Swamps to his hand, discarding Swamp, Swamp, Field of Reality and Kodama’s Reach drawing Teller of Tales, Ghostly Prison, Midnight Covenant and Callous Deceiver. Plays Teller of Tales. At end of Champion’s turn, Betrayer plays Silverstorm Samurai as an instant.
T4 Betrayers draws Minamo’s Meddling.
T5 Champions draws Commune with Nature (last card in his library). Champions plays Midnight Covenant targeting Teller of Tales, Betrayers responds by playing Minamo’s Meddling targeting Midnight Covenant. Champions concedes.
BETRAYERS WINS GAME ONE IN 5 TURNS

GAME TWO
T1 Betrayers draws and plays Takeno’s Cavalry.
T1 Champions draws and plays Gibbering Kami.
T2 Betrayers draws and plays Shuko. Equips Shuko on Takeno’s Cavalry.
Attacks. (18-20)
T2 Champions draws Eye of Nowhere. Attacks with Gibbering Kami (18-18)
T3 Betrayers draws First Volley.
T3 Champions draws Devoted Retainer. Attacks with Gibbering Kami, Betrayers plays First Volley targeting Gibbering Kami and Champions, then targets Gibbering Kami with Takeno’s Cavalry. (17-18) Plays Devoted Retainer.
T4 Betrayers draws Blessing of Leaches.
T4 Champions draws and plays Thousand-legged Kami.
T5 Betrayers draws Minamo’s Meddling.
T5 Champions draws Otherworldly’s Journey. Attack with Thousand-legged Kami, blocked by Takeno’s Cavalry. Betrayers plays Blessing of Leeches targeting Takeno’s Cavalry, then activating Blessing of Leeches to regenerate the Cavalry.
T6 Betrayers loses one life to Blessing of Leeches (17-17) draws and plays Skullsnatcher. Equips Skullsnatcher with Shuko.
T6 Champions draws and plays Order of the Sacred Bell. Plays Eye of Nowhere targeting Takeno’s Cavalry, Betrayers responds by playing Minamo’s Meddling targeting Eye of Nowhere. Champions plays Otherworldly Journey targeting Takeno’s Cavalry, removing Cavalry from play (and causing Blessing of Leeches to drop off into the graveyard). Champions attacks with Retainer and Thousand-legged Kami, Kami is blocked by Skullsnatcher. (17-16).
T7 Betrayers draws and plays Traproot Kami. Equips Cavalry with Shuko.
T7 Champions draws Ragged Veins. Attacks with Order, Retainer and Thousand-legged Kami. Kami is blocked by Traproot Kami, Order is blocked by Cavalry. (17-15)
T8 Betrayers draws and plays Ninja of the Deep Hours. Equips Ninja with Shuko.
T8 Champions draws Tranquil Garden. Attacks with Thousand-legged Kami blocked by Traproot Kami.
T9 Betrayers draws Torrent of Stone. Plays Torrent of Stone targeting Devoted Retainer. Attacks with Ninja (14-15) drawing Kami of Tattered Shoji.
Plays Tattered Shoji.
T9 Champions draws Consuming Vortex.
T10 Betrayers draws Lifegift.
T10 Champions draws Yamabushi’s Storm.
T11 Betrayers draws and plays Psychic Spear forcing Champions to discard Consuming Vortex.
T11 Champions draws and plays Venerable Kumo.
T12 Betrayers draws and plays Takenuma Bleeder.
T12 Champions draws and plays Kumano, Master Yamabushi. Champions activates Kumano repeatedly until Betrayers life total is zero.
CHAMPIONS WINS GAME TWO IN 12 TURNS

GAME THREE
T1 Champions draws Cloudcrest Lake.
T1 Betrayers draws and plays Kami of Tattered Shoji.
T2 Champions draws and plays Kitsune Blademaster.
T2 Betrayers draws and plays Yomiji Who Bars the Way. Attacks with Kami of Tattered Shoji. (18-20).
T3 Champions draws and plays Matsu-Tribe Decoy.
T3 Betrayers draws Mistblade Shinobi.
T4 Champions draws Lifted by Clouds.
T4 Betrayers draws and plays Harbinger of Spring. Attacks with Tattered Shoji. (16-20)
T5 Champions draws and plays Devoted Retainer.
T5 Betrayers draws and plays Psychic Spear requiring Champions to discard Lifted by Clouds.
T6 Champions draws Waking Nightmare.
T6 Betrayers draws and plays Frost Ogre.
T7 Champions draws and plays Floating-Dream Zubera.
T7 Betrayers draws and plays Genju of the Fields.
T8 Champions draws and plays Vine Kami.
T8 Betrayers draws Hired Muscle.
T9 Champions draws Desperate Ritual.
T9 Betrayers draws and plays Budoka Pupil.
T10 Champions draws and plays Ronin Houndmaster.
T10 Betrayers draws and plays Matsu-Tribe Sniper.
T11 Champions draws Strength of Cedars. Plays Waking Nightmare causing Betrayers to discard Mistblade Shinobi. Activates Matsu-Tribe Decoy targeting each creature on Betrayers board except for Harbinger of Spring.
Attacks with everyone, Matsu-Tribe Decoy is blocked by everyone except the Harbinger. Harbinger blocks Kitsune Blademaster. Champions plays Strength of Cedars targeting Ronin Houndmaster (16-well under zero) CHAMPIONS WINS GAME THREE IN 11 TURNS

GAME FOUR
T1 Betrayers draws and plays Skullmane Baku.
T1 Champions draws and plays Kitsune Diviner.
T2 Betrayers draws and plays Shinka Gatekeeper. Attacks with Skullmane Baku
(18-20)
T2 Champions draws Distress.
T3 Betrayers draws Ninja of the Deep Hours. Declares attack, Diviner taps Skullmane Baku. Attacks with Shinka Gatekeeper. After blocks are declared, Betrayers activates Ninja of the Deep Hours, replacing the Gatekeeper in play as an unblocked attacker (16-20) drawing Moonlight Strider. Plays Shinka Gatekeeper and Moonlit Strider.
T3 Champions draws and plays Akki Lavarunner.
T4 Betrayers draws and plays In the Web of War. Declares an attack, Diviner taps Skullmane Baku, attacks with Ninja and Shinka Gatekeeper. (11-20) Draws Aura Barbs.
T4 Champions draws Sakura-Tribe Elder. Play Distress, requiring Betrayers to discard Aura Barbs. Plays Sakura-Tribe Elder.
T5 Betrayers draws and plays Indebted Samurai. Attacks, Diviner taps Skullmane Baku, with everyone else. Ninja blocked by Akki Lavarunner and Sakura-Tribe Elder. (3-20)
T5 Champions draws and plays Sachi Daughter of Seshiro. Concedes.
BETRAYERS WINS GAME FOUR IN 5 TURNS

GAME FIVE
T1 Champions draws Terashi’s Cry.
T1 Betrayers draws Hundred-Talon Strike.
T2 Champions draws Ragged Veins.
T2 Betrayers draws and plays Ninja of the Deep Hours.
T3 Champions draws and plays Orochi Leafcaller.
T3 Betrayers draws and plays Empty-Shrine Kannushi. Attacks with Ninja
(18-20) drawing Toshiro Umezawa. Plays Toshiro Umezawa.
T4 Champions draws and plays Gibbering Kami.
T4 Betrayers draws and plays Akki Blizzard-Herder. Attacks with Ninja,
Kannushi and Toshiro. Gibbering Kami blocks Ninja. (15-20)
T5 Champions draws and plays Reito Lantern.
T5 Betrayers draws and plays Floodbringer. Attacks with Toshiro, Kannushi
and Blizzard-Herder, Kannushi blocked by Leafcaller. (12-20)
T6 Champions draws and plays Kitsune Riftwalker.
T6 Betrayers draws Mark of the Oni. Attacks with Toshiro, Akki and
Floodbringer. (8-20)
T7 Champions draws and plays Eye of Nowhere targeting Toshiro. Attack with
Riftwalker (8-18)
T7 Betrayers draws and plays Shinka Gatekeeper, plays Toshiro Umezawa.
Attacks with Akki and Floodbringer. (6-18).
T8 Champions draws and plays Venerable Kumo
T8 Betrayers draws and plays Moonlit Strider. Attacks with Toshiro, Akki,
Shinka and Floodbringer. Kumo blocks Floodbringer and Riftwalker blocks
Gatekeeper. Betrayers plays Hundred-Talon Strike targeting Shinka. (3-18).
T9 Champions draws Yamabushi’s Storm. Concedes.
BETRAYERS WINS GAME FIVE IN 9 TURNS

UNCOMMON AND RARE BETRAYERS CARDS USED IN THESE GAMES

Aura Barbs is an Arcane instant for 2R that causes each enchantment to deal
two points to its controller and then causes each creature enchantment to
deal two points of damage to the creature it is enchanting.

Budoka Pupil is a 2/2 Human Monk for 1GG. Whenever you play a Spirit or
Arcane card, you may put a ki counter on Budoka pupil. At end of turn, if
there are two or more ki counters on Budoka Pupil, you may flip the card.
Flipped, this card becomes Ichiga, Who Topples Oaks, a 4/3 Legendary Spirit
with Trample. You can remove a counter from Ichiga to give a target creature
+2/+2 until end of turn.

Genju of the Fields is an Enchant Plains for one white mana. For two
colorless mana, the enchanted Plains becomes a 2/5 white Spirit creature
that gains its controller life equal to the amount of damage this card deals
(until end of turn). When enchanted Plains is put into a graveyard from
play, you may return Genju of the Fields from the graveyard to your hand.

Empty-Shrine Kannushi is a 1/1 Human Cleric for one white mana that has
protection from the colors of permanents you control.

Hired Muscle is a 2/2 Human Warrior for 1BB. Whenever you play a Spirit or
Arcane card, you may put a ki counter on Hired Muscle. At the end of turn,
if there are two or more ki counters on Hired Muscle, you may flip it,
turning it into Scarmaker, a 4/4 Legendary Spirit. You may remove a counter
from Scarmaker to give a target creature Fear until end of turn.

Indebted Samurai is a 2/3 Human Samurai for 3W with Bushido 1. Whenever a
Samurai you control is put into a graveyard from play, you may put a +1/+1
counter on Indebted Samurai.

In the Web of War is an Enchantment for 3RR that gives creatures that come
into play under your control Haste and +2/+0 until end of turn.

Lifegift is an Enchantment for 2G that allows you to gain one point of life
every time a land comes into play.

Mark of the Oni is a creature enchantment for 2B that gives you control of
enchanted creature. At end of turn, if you control no Demons, you must
sacrifice Mark of the Oni.

Shuko is an artifact equipment card costing one colorless mana with an Equip
cost of zero. Shuko gives an equipped creature +1/+0.

Toshiro Umezawa is a 2/2 Legendary Human Samurai for 1BB with Bushido 1.
Whenever a creature an opponent controls is put into a graveyard from play,
you may play target instant card in your graveyard. If that card would be
put into a graveyard this turn, remove it from the game instead.

Yomiji, Who Bars the Way is a 4/4 Legendary Spirit for 5WW. Whenever a
legendary permanent other than this one is put into a graveyard from play,
return that card to its owner’s hand.

As always, I’m interested in what YOU think!

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


 

 

 

 

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