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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.
Best of Betrayers
20 Solid Gold Hits for Limited Play
by Jeff Zandi - 2.4.05
Commons are the most
important cards in limited because they are the cards that
you will see the most of. Identifying the best commons in
Betrayers of Kamigawa, and understanding how they can
enhance the cards from Champions of Kamigawa will make the
difference between a successful sealed deck or booster draft
and an unsuccessful one. In this article, we will take a
look at the twenty commons that I believe are the best for
booster drafts and sealed decks.
As my experience with this new set continues to grow, I am
increasingly of the opinion that Betrayers is just as good
AND MAYBE BETTER in booster drafts than a third pack of
Champions. There are lots of guys who are still drafting
three packs of Champions in their booster drafts (Magic
Online players). These guys will be pouting BIG TIME when
they have to give up their third Champions booster in favor
of a Betrayers pack because of the smaller number of Glacial
Rays and Devouring Greed cards that will be available to
And now on with the countdown…
TWENTY – Split-Tail Miko is a 1/1 Fox Cleric for 1W.
an activation cost of tapping one white and Split-Tail Miko,
you can prevent the next two points of damage that would be
dealt to a target player or creature this turn. Basically,
for the casting cost of a Samite Healer, which only prevents
one point of damage, you get a creature that can prevent TWO
points of damage. Of course, Samite Healer’s only activation
cost is tapping itself. The only reason this card is not
ranked higher on this list is the fact that speed plays such
a big part of Champions block limited. Split-Tail Miko is a
little too slow and a little too easily destroyed in the
current limited formats.
NINETEEN – Psychic Spear is a sorcery for one black
mana. When you cast Psychic Spear, target player reveals his
hand, choose a Spirit or Arcane card from it and that player
discards the chosen card. This card comes close enough to
Duress to be valuable for limited play. A lot of the most
important cards you want out of your opponent’s hand are
Arcane spells and Spirit creatures. Like Distress (from
Champions), Psychic Spear may be a sideboard card at best
most of the time. Still valuable.
EIGHTEEN – Roar of Jukai is an Arcane instant for 2G
that gives each blocked creature +2/+2 until end of turn if
you control a Forest. In the aggressive world of Champions
booster draft, the right strategy is often to attack with
everyone even though you might lose one or two of your
attackers. Your opponent knows this too, and will be willing
to create situations with his blocking decisions that make
it very probable that you can gain a two for one card
advantage with Roar of Jukai. Of course, you are gaining the
best possible kind of card advantage with this play because
you are gaining actual board advantage as well, keeping your
own creatures alive while destroying his.
SEVENTEEN – Child of Thorns is a 1/1 Spirit for one
green mana that you can sacrifice to give a target creature
+1/+1 until end of turn. This creature is a small but useful
addition to green decks, providing both a chump blocker as
well as a way to swing combat in your favor ever so
Useful one drops like this one are the key to good mana
curves, making the most of every opportunity beginning with
your very first turn.
SIXTEEN – Frostling is a 1/1 Spirit for one red mana
that you can sacrifice to deal one point of damage to a
target creature. Everything that’s good about Child of
Thorns also applies to Frostling. Frostling is slightly
better because he can provide immediate creature elimination
for the large number of popular creatures in this format
with one toughness.
FIFTEEN – Torrent of Stone is an Arcane instant for
3R that deals four points of damage to a target creature.
Torrent of Stone also has Splice onto Arcane for a cost of
the sacrifice of two mountains. The late game combination of
this card with Glacial Ray will provide the ending of a lot
of games in your favor. This card would be playable even if
it did not have the ability to be played repeatedly with
Splice onto Arcane.
FOURTEEN – Gnarled Mass is a 3/3 Spirit for 1GG. With
no special abilities, this card is exactly equal to the old
Trained Armodon from Tempest. This creature helps the green
deck’s mana curve a great deal and is a Spirit as well, a
win-win for green.
THIRTEEN – Toils of Night and Day is an Arcane
for 2U that can tap or untap two different permanents. This
card can allow you to change the board situation very
quickly by either tapping two of the opponent’s would-be
blockers at the end of HIS turn, or by untapping two of your
heavy hitters just in time to block and kill two of your
TWELVE – Kami of the False Hope is a 1/1 Spirit for
one white mana that can be sacrificed to prevent all combat
damage that would be dealt this turn.
This creature is great for your mana curve, puts another
Spirit in your deck and gives you the ability to negate one
entire combat round, all for just one white mana. This
card’s fog ability lacks the surprise of a card in your
hand, but will actually work to your advantage at times.
When your opponent knows that you can sacrifice the Kami of
False Hope to prevent all combat damage for the turn, he is
less likely to send an alpha strike of all of his creatures
in an attempt to win the game more quickly. Your opponent
has to attack more carefully, giving you more turns to live
and more chances to draw some cards that can make your board
ELEVEN – Hundred-Talon Strike is an Arcane instant
for 1W that gives a target creature +1/+0 and first strike
until end of turn. This card also has Splice onto Arcane for
a cost of tapping an untapped white creature you control.
This is a powerful combat trick that has the possibility of
easily being used more than once in the same combat round.
Imagine, your opponent attacks with three creatures, you
block with three of yours. Imagine the creatures are all the
same size, 2/2 for example. With no combat tricks, you and
your opponent have just traded three creatures each, sending
a total of six creatures to the boneyard. Imagine now that
after declaring blocks, you play Blessed Breath giving one
of your blockers protection from the color of the creature
he is blocking, and you Splice onto Arcane Hundred-Talon
Strike by tapping one of your (white) blockers, giving your
second blocker +1/+0 and first strike. Now, with
Hundred-Talon Strike still in your hand and only one white
mana spent so far (for the Blessed Breath) you now play
Hundred-Talon Strike on your third blocker giving him first
+1/+0. Suddenly all your creatures are alive and all of your
creatures are dead. Nice. Even though the actual amount of
card advantage you have gained is one, since you played two
cards from your hand and your opponent sent three of his
cards to the graveyard, you have increased your control of
the board dramatically.
TEN – Goblin Cohort is a 2/2 Goblin Warrior for one
red mana that cannot attack unless you have played a
creature card this turn. In today’s aggressive red/black and
red/white (maybe even red/green) draft decks, the Cohort’s
drawback is hardly noticeable. When you do fail to play a
creature card, you still retain the ability to block with a
2/2 body for which you only paid a single red mana. Even
though my emphasis this week is on Betrayers commons that
are good for limited games, the Goblin Cohort obviously
deserves some attention in constructed format Goblin decks.
NINE – Moonlit Strider is a 1/ 4 Spirit for 3W that
can be sacrificed to give a creature you control protection
from the color of your choice until end of turn. The Strider
also has Soulshift 3, making him an important part of your
creature recycling efforts. This card, while ideally at home
in less aggressive blue/white limited decks, is good enough
to include in more aggressive decks as well.
EIGHT – Shimmering Glasskite is a 2/3 flying Spirit
for 3U. Whenever Shimmering Glasskite is the target of a
spell or ability for the first time in a turn, counter that
spell or ability. First of all, 2/3 flying commons for just
four mana are pretty hard to come by. Add to that the fact
that this card is a Spirit and that it has a built in
resistance to targeted spells and effects, and you have a
solid card that deserves to be in your deck. It doesn’t
matter that your opponent may be able to target your
Glasskite with two different effects in order to
successfully get rid of it, the point is that this creature
makes your opponent work harder than usual, which is
obviously an advantage for you.
SEVEN – Okiba-Gang Shinobi is a 3/2 Rat Ninja for 3BB
that causes any player taking combat damage from it to
discard two cards from their hand. This card has Ninjutsu
for a cost of 3B, allowing you to switch this card into
combat for one of your unblocked attackers. This is one of
the best Ninja cards in the set. Like Ninja of the Deep
Hours, the Okiba-Gang Shinobi can make great use of Phantom
Wings, giving the Ninja evasion at unexpected times,
allowing you to plunder your opponent’s hand further. Card
advantage is so important in the current limited formats
that if you successfully use the Shinobi to cause your
opponent to discard two cards even once without spending any
cards of your own, you have gained a great advantage.
SIX – Phantom Wings is a creature enchantment for 1U
that gives the creature it enchants flying. Additionally,
you can sacrifice Phantom Wings to return the enchanted
creature to its owner’s hand. Often, this will be an
insurance policy for your own powerful creature, allowing
you to bring that creature back to your hand in case it is
targeted with some nasty spell or effect.
Just as often, however, you will play Phantom Wings on your
oppponent’s creature in order to bounce that creature back
to their hand so that you can attack unblocked and win the
game. I believe you can and should play one or two of these
in most blue draft decks. Three is probably too many in
anything except blue/green.
FIVE – Shinka Gatekeeper is a 3/2 Ogre Warrior for 2R
that deals damage to its controller equal to the amount of
damage that is dealt to it. This beefed up Jackal Pup fills
an important slot in the mana curve of today’s red booster
draft and sealed decks, while providing another Ogre to
black/red decks playing the uncommon Demon Spirits from
Champions. This card is just so efficient. In red/black
decks, it just feels like the best possible turn three play.
FOUR – Ninja of the Deep Hours is a 2/2 Human Ninja
for 3U that allows you to draw a card anytime he deals
combat damage to a player. This card has Ninjutsu for just
1U, making him threat to appear as early as turn two to
start drawing free cards for you. Since you are already
playing blue if you play this Ninja, you are in the perfect
position to add one or two Phantom Wings to your deck to
provide the needed evasion to this Ninja to keep him
attacking unblocked. This card single-handedly increases the
value of almost every one mana creature in the format.
THREE – Takenuma Bleeder is a 3/3 Ogre Shaman for 2B
that causes you to lose one point of life any time he
attacks or blocks if you do not control a Demon. Both of the
uncommon Demon Spirit cards from Champions are very
playable, but much better when you have an Ogre in play. In
Champions, the Ogres are uncommon and each is somewhat
unwieldy for combat. Along comes Takenuma Bleeder (almost
looks like his name is goading your opponent to
“take-a-number” for the beating he is about to receive) in
the common slot in Betrayers. Now you can draft one of the
uncommon Demon Spirits from Champions much more confident
that you can easily have two or three Ogres in your deck as
well. The Bleeder is winning a lot of games, however, just
by being a big 3/3 monster for just three mana.
TWO – Horobi’s Whisper is an Arcane instant for 1BB
that destroys a target nonblack creature if you control a
Swamp. This card has Splice onto Arcane for a cost of
removing four cards in your graveyard from the game.
Creature removal cards that are also reusable are a rare
thing indeed. This card’s Splice onto Arcane cost is a
little trickier than you might think. No color makes better
use of Soulshift than black, and it may not always be an
easy choice to remove four cards from your graveyard. In
fact, you will be unlikely to have four cards in your
graveyard in the early game. Still, the ability to resuse
this card over and over,
without having to spend mana to use its Splice onto Arcane
ability, makes Horobi’s Whisper practically the best common
in the set for limited play.
ONE – Waxmane Baku is a 2/2 Spirit for 2W.
Whenever you play a
Spirit or Arcane card, you may put a ki counter on Waxmane
Baku. For one colorless mana, you may remove X ki counters
from Waxmane Baku to tap X target creatures. All of the
other four Baku creatures are either more expensive to cast
or smaller in size. The other Baku’s abilities cost more and
are slower to use. This little 2/2 gives you a lot. You get
a reasonable 2/2 for three mana, but more importantly, you
get a way to break through to deliver the last points of
damage in order to win the game, and you get this ability
without having to tap Waxmane Baku and without having to
spend much mana.
For his casting cost, this is the best common in the set for
limited play, and one of the most powerful cards in the set
for limited. If you could draft four of these, you would
find a way to play every one of them in your deck.
As always, I’d love to know what you think.
DCI Level II Judge
Zanman on Magic Online
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