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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.

 

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This Space For Rent

The Southwestern Paladin

Uncommonly Good
Check Out the Quality Uncommons Cards from Saviors
by Jeff Zandi
June 3rd, 2005

The fifty-five uncommon cards found in Saviors of Kamigawa are uncommonly good for limited play. In last week’s article, I rated each common card in Magic’s newest expansion with respect to each card’s value in limited formats like booster draft and sealed deck. This week, we turn our attention to the fifty-five uncommons of the set.

I believe the relative quality of the uncommons in Saviors of Kamigawa is easier to determine than the commons. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you have a lot fewer uncommon cards available to you in limited formats. You definitely have to make the most of the good uncommon cards that come your way in order to end up with an above average deck.

After another week of playing with Saviors of Kamigawa, I am prepared to stand behind the ratings that I gave the commons of Saviors last week. At the same time, I am certain that as each week passes, there will be cards from the set that seemed terrible at first glance that will emerge as very important cards. As subtle as some of the commons of the set are, I find that the uncommons are just the opposite. The uncommons of Saviors reveal their value, or lack thereof, for booster draft and sealed deck in a much more straightforward way.

In each color, I have rated the cards from worst to best, with regard to their usefulness in limited formats.

ARTIFACT UNCOMMONS

5. Ivory Crane Netsuke causes you to gain four life at the beginning of your upkeep anytime you have seven or more cards in your hand. Snore! Gain life cards are generally too defensive to fit into the better limited decklists.
Wizards is constantly attempting to lure players into the warm, cuddly embrace of Gain Life Cards. I hope this one doesn’t pull too many of you offsides.

4. Ebony Owl Netsuke is a lot like its cousin described above, except that this one deals damage to your opponent at the beginning of his turns when he has seven or more cards in his hand. The biggest problem with both of these cards, of course, is the simple fact that neither you nor your opponent are going to start your turn very often already holding seven cards. Hey, Zanman, how can we remember which of these Netsukes is which? Here is a simple trick to keep these two cards straight in your memory. Ebony Owl Netsuke features an owl in its artwork. An owl is also the mascot and trademark for Hooter’s. A lot of people find Hooter’s OFFENSIVE because it caters to men and employs primarily buxom ladies who serve you wearing low-cut t-shirts. The Ebony Owl’s power is OFFENSIVE because it deals damage to your opponent. Now that you have these two cards straight in your mind, forget about both of them and don’t put them in your limited decks.

3. Soratami Cloud Chariot costs WAY TOO MUCH at five colorless mana.
However, the Cloud Chariot then gives you two very interesting abilities, one offensive and one mostly defensive. For two mana, you can give a creature you control flying or prevent all damage dealt to and by target creature you control until end of turn. One downside of this card is that you can only target creatures that you control, but the biggest problem is that this artifact simply costs too much. The world of Kamigawa drafting slows down a good bit with the addition of Saviors, but I find it hard to believe that its going to slow down enough to make the Soratami Cloud Chariot a good card. Call it slightly playable at best.

2. O-Naginata is a very good card because it provides a colorless way to give any creature you control the very enviable Trample ability. Of course, the creature in question has to have a power of three or greater in order to be equipped with O-Naginata. Of course, once equipped, your creature not only gains Trample but +3/+0 as well. This is a quite a payoff, and one that I think makes O-Naginata a very high pick for two kinds of decks, decks with lots of creatures with a power of three or more, and decks that have power-up effects. In a green deck, if I didn’t have a three power creature in play already, I would think seriously of spending a giant growth type spell to give a creature the higher power needed to allow it to be equipped with O-Naginata.

1. Manriki-Gusari is slightly better than O-Naginata all the time, and A LOT better some of the time. Imagine, equipment that is cheap to cast, cheap to equip that gives any creature +1/+2 (making this card a reusable Holy
Strength) that ALSO has the ability to destroy other equipment. Equipment may not be as big a deal in the Kamigawa block as it was in the Mirrodin block, but the ability to get rid of an opponent’s equipment will definitely come in handy sometimes. This is clearly the best of the five uncommon artifacts in the set.

GREEN UNCOMMONS

10. Dense Canopy seems pretty useless to me. No one understands better than me how dangerous it can be when I’m playing green and my opponent is playing a bunch of flying creatures. However, the problem is generally that they are attacking with their flyers while I have no creatures capable of blocking them. This card doesn’t solve the important problem that green has with flyers.

9. Haru-Onna does a nice thing, allowing you to draw cards, an unusual ability for green. However, the price is high. This card costs way too much mana (3G) for far too little.

8. Molting Skin sounded okay to me at first, and I’ve tried it in a few decks, but I think this card is too slow to be ultimately valuable in limited play.

7. Seek the Horizon is exactly the kind of card you DON’T want to be playing on turn four. On turn four, you need to be playing cards that put threats on your side of the board or get rid of threats on the other side of the board.
The most obvious problem with this card is that it solves a problem, the need for mana, only after you are able to pay FOUR MANA to cast it. On the plus side, you can’t minimize the effect of getting three cards from your library for the cost of just one card from your hand. Obviously, this card loads up your hand with cards, which can certainly be an important factor in Saviors of Kamigawa. In the end, I find this card to be too situational to be very useful.

6. Descendant of Masumaro is suboptimal because it depends on situations outside of your control. Namely, the number of cards in your opponent’s hand. The turn you play this Human Monk, he’s just a 2/1. At the beginning of your next turn, he will get bigger or smaller depending on the difference in the number of cards in your hand and the number of cards in your opponent’s hand. This COULD be a good card for you on turn three, but how good will he be when you top deck him on turn eleven? Not very good. This card is situational, it can be good or bad. Let’s try to draft cards that are good ALL THE TIME.

5. Kashi-Tribe Elite gives Legendary Snakes you control the ability to not be targeted by spells or abilities, but the real value of this card is his
2/3 body for three mana and his ability to keep creatures that it deals damage to tapped. For an uncommon, this card is not particularly exciting or valuable to your deck most of the time.

4. Stampeding Serow is amazing, a 5/4 Beast with Trample that, by way of downside, requires you to return a green creature to your hand at the beginning of your turn. Count me in! This card gives you WAY TOO MUCH power on the table for WAY TOO LITTLE risk. Yup, you better include some little green creatures in your deck, no problem, it’s a small price to pay to have a creature of this magnitude available to you on turn four.

3. Kami of the Tended Garden is slightly better, in my opinion, than the mighty Stampeding Serow simply because it gives you less to worry about. A
4/4 for four mana is downright SICK, and the downside of having to pay one green mana during your upkeep seems MORE THAN FAIR. Early in the game, count on attacking a lot with this guy. They even gave this guy Soulshift 3.
Unbelievable.

2. Ghost-Lit Nourisher gives you a dependable way to pump a creature +2/+2.
The activation cost of this card is high, but in aggressive decks, this will not matter as much as you think. You attack with a creature, if your creature is blocked and the +2/+2 from the Nourisher would destroy the opponent’s creature and keep yours alive, go ahead and pay the big activation cost with your head held high, you just achieved what we in the business like to call CARD ADVANTAGE. Many times, your attacker will NOT be blocked simply because of the threat posed by your Nourisher. If they don’t attack, and you would like to cast another creature that turn, feel free to NOT activate the Nourisher. Definitely DO NOT save mana to protect the Nourisher itself from effects that deal a single point of damage. If your opponent can get rid of the Nourisher, that will have to just have to happen. The Nourisher is in your deck to use on your attackers.

1. Briarknit Kami is the best uncommon green card in the set because it provides an effect very close to card advantage every time you play a Spirit or Arcane card with it in play. Free, permanent +1/+1 counters are unbelievably good in limited play. This creature’s ability can help your team become too big to deal with in a big hurry. If you are playing green/white or green/blue, your +1/+1 counters will seem even bigger when they land on your flying creatures. The ability to add these counters in response to your opponent’s effects is another important strategic advantage that this card give you.

BLACK UNCOMMONS

10. Footsteps of the Goryo is quite a bad spell. It ALMOST says “put a creature from your graveyard into play, then return it to the graveyard”.
What I DO like about this card is its ability to put a Soulshift card back into play in order to ultimately return a Spirit card to your hand from the graveyard. Frankly, there are plenty of better cards in the world of Kamigawa to use to return a creature to your hand from the graveyard. If this card was an instant, it would be very playable, giving you the ability to surprise an opponent’s attacking creature with an instant blocker from your graveyard. If this card gave the returned creature Haste, it might be playable. As it is, this card isn’t very good at all.

9. Measure of Wickedness gives you a complicated way to POSSIBLY cause your opponent to lose eight life points. This card is like a time bomb that you hope you can hand off to your opponent before it explodes in your face.
Obviously, you wouldn’t play this card unless you had a way to move it to your opponent’s control before the end of the turn. Even when you do pull this part of the trick off, you have no way of controlling whether your opponent is able to ship this card right back over to your side of the net.
No matter who ends up losing the eight life points, your deck is worse because YOU are the one who decided to include this card in your deck.

8. Exile into Darkness gives you a renewable way, at a heavy cost of five mana, to make your opponent sacrifice a creature of three or less mana cost.
In most games, this card will cause your opponent to lose an average of one creature, and the opponent gets to choose which creature he sacrifices. This card is too hard to depend on. Look elsewhere for creature removal.

7. Locust Miser gives you a 2/2 creature for 2BB and reduces your opponent’s maximum hand size by two cards. Not quite valuable enough. I know, I know, if you manage to get a couple of these in play at the same time, your opponent’s hand size will be greatly reduced. In the meantime, your chances of winning are becoming greatly reduced as you continue to pay four mana for
2/2 creatures with no board-changing capabilities.

6. Ghost-Lit Stalker is a little guy, but his ability to make your opponent discard TWO cards is quite mighty. Moreover, he’s a one-drop and a Spirit creature as well. This card’s ultimate power level is quite high for a one mana cost 1/1 creature.

5. Kemuri-Onna is a 3/3 Spirit that makes your opponent discard a card when it comes into play. Normally, I doubt you would want to use this card’s secondary ability very often, which is to return Kemuri-Onna to your hand whenever you play another Spirit or Arcane spell.

4. Skull Collector is a big, really big, 3/3 for just three mana.
Regeneration for 1B keeps this guy coming back again and again. On the downside, you have to return a black creature to your hand at the beginning of your turn. This might be a bigger downside with this creature than with others with the similar stipulation because Skull Collector is only 3/3 as opposed to the 5/4 trampler you get with the similar green uncommon. Still, I like this Skull Collector a lot.

3. Hand of Cruelty is the second coming of Black Knight, he is a 2/2 Samurai with Bushido 1 and protection from white for just two black mana. Black and white are the two most popular colors in Kamigawa limited play, making Hand of Cruelty (and his white twin brother Hand of Honor) very valuable cards in the current limited formats.

2. Razorjaw Oni is a monstrous 4/5 Demon Spirit for just 3B. In order to allow us to have such a BIG creature for such a LOW mana cost, Wizards of the Coast R&D have given Razorjaw Oni the “downside” of making all black creatures unable to block. I don’t know about you, but when I have a 4/5 monster in play, I’m thinking about attacking, not blocking.

1. Kiku’s Shadow is the best black uncommon in the set for limited play. As good as several of the uncommon black creatures are, you simply cannot beat a removal card that can destroy almost any of the creatures in the Kamigawa block for just two black mana. Black removal in Kamigawa almost always limits itself to destroying non-black creatures. See Befoul and see also Horobi’s Whisper. This card is probably the best single target removal spell in the entire Kamigawa block.

WHITE UNCOMMONS

10. Presence of the Wise will probably be a part of some very successful combo deck in constructed play. In limited play, I can’t imagine a worse card. Simply put, this card can’t help you win, it can only help delay losing.

9. Inner-Chamber Guard is functionally a wall (oops, I forgot that Wizards doesn’t make walls anymore…I meant a creature with the Defender ability).
However, this card’s cheap casting cost and Bushido 2 make it possibly useful in more defensive white decks in limited play.

8. Aether Shockwave is an instant, and this is the most important reason this card could be good enough to play sometimes. Played at the end of an opponent’s turn, you could find yourself attacking while the greater number of your opponent’s creatures are tapped. However, this card is situational and not particularly cheap at four mana. You certainly don’t want more than one of this in your deck at any time.

7. Ghost-Lit Redeemer a 1/1 for one mana that you can tap to gain two life.
While this is still a very defensive card, the ability to gain two life a turn for just one mana is interesting. In a pinch, you can discard Ghost-Lit Redeemer to gain four life by using its 1W mana cost Channel ability.

6. Nikko-Onna is a little unusual in the world of Kamigawa. Most creature abilities in Kamigawa require your creature to be in play already to activate, or else require your creature to be sacrificed. Nikko-Onna delivers the goods when this 2/2 Spirit comes into play. The goods, in this case, is the ability to destroy target enchantment. Be careful, though, because this is NOT an ability you can ignore, meaning you don’t want to cast her when you are the only player with enchantments in play. The ability to return Nikko-Onna to your hand makes this card the ultimate answer to opponent’s enchantments.

5. Charge Across the Araba is a great finishing card, allowing you to give all of your creatures a big pump up for a final attack, or even simply to swing combat unexpectedly in your favor when several of your creatures become blocked.

4. Eiganjo Free-Riders is, at worst, a 3/ 4 flying wall (oops, I did it again, I meant DEFENDER) that you have to recast each turn. At best, this card is a potent three powered flyer that simply requires you to recast some OTHER white creature every turn. Very playable in any white deck, but probably better in more defensive, control minded deck designs.

3. Hail of Arrows is a rarity in Magic, a white instant that can remove multiple creatures from your opponent’s side of the board while leaving your own army intact. It is true that opponent’s will know something is up when you pass the turn with large amounts of untapped mana, but I doubt it will stop them from attacking with plenty of creatures to turn your Hail of Arrows in to literal card advantage.

2. Descendant of Kiyomaro is a problem for your opponents right away.
Anytime you have more cards than they do, your little three casting cost Human Soldier turns into a 3/5 monster that gains you three points of life whenever it deals combat damage. While keeping a full hand of seven cards, as some Saviors cards want you to do, may be too difficult, white players will very often have more cards than the other guy, making this little bald man a very bad dude.

1. Hand of Honor is a one card answer to most of the threats in the most popular color in the limited format, black. This makes Hand of Honor the best uncommon white card in Saviors of Kamigawa.

BLUE UNCOMMONS

10. Shifting Borders is a retread of an old Magic card Political Trickery.
The ability to exchange lands with an opponent simply is not relevant in the current limited format.

9. Evermind is a funny card. Every once in a while, Wizards of the Coast likes to mess with us by printing some strange oddity. Evermind is just such an oddity. Evermind has no casting cost and, as a result, cannot be cast.
This is a sign that things are not going well for a card. The ability to be played is an important and generally overlooked feature of all the really good cards ever printed in the game of Magic. Research and Development hopes that you will put Evermind in your deck so that you can splice it to your Arcane spells in order to draw a card. I can’t see how this card is good enough to help any but the slowest control decks in the current limited format.

8. Trusted Advisor seems to be whispering to another figure, “You know, I’m the weakest uncommon creature in this set that requires the return of a creature to your hand.” On the plus side, Trused Advisor offers a toughness of two for a casting cost of just one blue. Despite what you may have heard on late night television, (hand) size is not everything.

7. Kiri-Onna bounces a creature back to its owner’s hand. Unfortunately, Kiri-Onna costs five mana and only leaves behind a 2/2 Spirit. The ability to return Kiri-Onna back to your hand when you play a Spirit or Arcane spell doesn’t make this card much more interesting to me.

6. Shape Stealer is a little 1/1 that takes on the power and toughness of any creature blocking it or that it blocks. In short, two blue mana gives you a creature that can block and trade with a wide range of threats. This card might be better from the sideboard against decks with massive green creatures.

5. Overwhelming Intellect is one expensive counterspell, but its hard to argue the power of countering a late game spell AND drawing a number of cards equal to the number of cards in your hand. I would probably only want to play one of these, but I have seen two played by the same player IN THE SAME GAME and I know that this card can be quite powerful.

4. Ghost-Lit Warden is more dangerous than he looks. The first time I saw this guy in play on my opponent’s side of the board, I rolled my eyes. I doubted that my opponent could actually leave four mana untapped just in order to counter my spell (spell would be countered by the Warden’s ability unless I can pay two mana). In control decks, however, this card can be very powerful. Just as importantly, you can discard this card from your hand to counter a spell unless its caster can spend four more mana by using Ghost-Lit Warden’s Channel ability.

3. Oboro Envoy is a small 1/3 flyer that can allow you to lower the power of a creature by the number of cards in your hand by returning a land to your hand. Of course, the land you return to your hand is included in the count of cards in your hand.

2. Rushing-Tide Zubera will often just be a 3/3 Hill Giant for you, but in those times that this card lays down his life blocking a creature larger than he is, you get to draw three cards. Specifically, Rushing-Tide Zubera must have had four or more damage dealt to it the turn that it is put into a graveyard from play. Imagine, in a red/blue deck, that you attack with this creature and are blocked by a smaller creature. After combat, you could decide that you would rather draw three cards than hold onto the Crushing Pain in your hand any longer. It is also important to remember that this card is a Zubera.

1. Secretkeeper is a 2/2 Spirit for four mana that gains +2/+2 and flying whenever you have more cards in your hand than your opponent. Let’s say that at the beginning of your turn, you have Secretkeeper in play and the same number of cards in your hand as your opponent. You could draw your card for the turn and attack with your 4/4 flying Secretkeeper. After your attack, if Secretkeeper was not blocked, you have now successfully dealt four damage to your opponent and can feel free to go ahead and play at least one card from your hand. Chances are, you will get the chance to do the same thing next turn. Blue has always been the hardest color to play in Magic: the Gathering, and in a challenging set like Saviors of Kamigawa, it’s no surprise that the blue cards are BY FAR the most challenging to play with.
Having said all that, most of the blue uncommons in Saviors are playable in limited formats, but I think Secretkeeper is the best.

RED UNCOMMONS

10. Gaze of Adamaro only damages your opponent, making it less than useful when what you really need is creature removal. The best case scenario is ALWAYS a card that can deal damage to a creature or player, but when a card can only target one or the other, the better card is the one that can target a creature.

9. Sunder from Within is yet another land destruction card for constructed play. In limited formats, the ability to destroy a land or artifact is strictly a sideboard consideration, if it is a consideration at all.

8. Yuki-Onna destroys an artifact when it comes into play, and can even be returned to your hand when you play a Spirit or Arcane card. This card is slightly better than Sunder from Within simply because Yuki-Onna is a creature. For four mana, you can usually find a better card for your deck.
This card is perfectly reasonable for use from the sideboard.

7. Feral Lightning could be a great finishing card late in the game, a top deck that most opponent’s won’t have an answer for. On the other hand, the usefulness of this card is too narrow to include in most limited decks.

6. Captive Flame is an enchantment that essentially gives all of your creatures Firebreathing, the ability to pump up any creature +1/+0 for one red mana. The problem with this card is finding a slot for it in your deck.
Red decks generally need to limit themselves to creatures and cards that help them destroy other creatures. I am interested in this card, but I believe the best limited players will leave it on the sidelines.

5. Godo’s Irregulars is just a little guy, but his ability is strangely good. If this little 1/1 is blocked, and I can’t imagine why anyone would block him, he can deal a point of damage to the blocker for just one red mana. If he gets blocked by a 3/3 creature and you use the Irregular’s ability three times to deal three damage to the blocker, it can be destroyed before damage time, leaving Godo’s Irregulars completely intact. If this card’s ability worked when it blocked as well as when it is attacking, Godo’s Irregulars would be extremely good. As it is, this creature is just playable enough to fill out the lower end of a limited deck’s creature base.

4. Sokenzan Renegade is a little too unstable and situational to be automatically included in every red limited deck, but there may be many times where he will be a tremendous creature for you. If you are able to keep more cards in your hand than your opponent, this card will be very good. I believe there are too many ways for many decks to surprise you, however, and turn this card against you by taking control of it away from you. I might be more interested in bringing this card in from the sideboard against certain kinds of decks or including it only in decks that are designed to minimize the risk of this creature turning against you.

3. Burning-Eye Zubera delivers plenty of beatings as a 3/3 Zubera Spirit on offense, and deals three damage to a creature or player if it goes to the graveyard from play in the same turn that it received four or more damage.
This card’s double red casting cost means that you won’t be able to splash it as a third color, but honestly, only a few of the red uncommons would be useful at all as a splash card.

2. Oni of Wild Places is the best of the creatures in this set that require you to return a creature to your hand at the beginning of your upkeep. This card has the impact of a dragon or other “power rare”. For six mana, you get a real monster for your money. This 6/5 hits the ground running with Haste and is not easily killed by a single blocking creature.

1. Ghost-Lit Raider is the most powerful uncommon in the set, in my opinion, and is easily the best red uncommon in Saviors. The ability to deal two damage to a creature each turn WITHOUT the combo of Shuriken and Ninja make this a top pick for booster drafts. Unlike Frostwielder, which some consider the most powerful common creature in Kamigawa limited play, Ghost-Lit Raider can be easily included as a small third color splash. If needed, you may decide to discard Ghost-Lit Raider from your hand instead of playing it, in order to deal four damage to a creature by spending 3R and using this card’s Channel ability. Very, very powerful.


TOP TEN UNCOMMONS FROM SAVIORS

Drumroll, please, for the top ten Saviors uncommons, overall.

For the ability to make EVERY creature in your deck better while eliminating competing equipment, Manriki-Gusari is the TENTH BEST UNCOMMON in Saviors of Kamigawa.

For worrying the opponent every turn he is in play, Descendant of Kiyomaro is the NINTH BEST UNCOMMON in Saviors of Kamigawa.

For providing the two best colors in Kamigawa limited play with a pair of perfectly symmetrical creatures, Hand of Cruelty and Hand of Honor are the EIGHTH and SEVENTH BEST UNCOMMONS in Saviors of Kamigawa.

For providing the biggest trampling creature for the lowest casting cost in the entire Kamigawa block, Stampeding Serow is the SIXTH BEST UNCOMMON in Saviors of Kamigawa.

For best performance by a black uncommon fattie EVER, Razorjaw Oni is the FIFTH BEST UNCOMMON in Saviors of Kamigawa.

For providing the means to leave a lasting impression on all the creatures on his team, Briarknit Kami is the FOURTH BEST UNCOMMON in Saviors of Kamigawa.

For playing like a rare in the body of a mere uncommon, the game-changing power of Oni of Wild Places is the THIRD BEST UNCOMMON in Saviors of Kamigawa.

For providing the best single-creature removal option in the entire Kamigawa block, Kiku’s Shadow is the SECOND BEST UNCOMMON in Saviors of Kamigawa.

Finally, for providing reusable creature removal in a splashable and cheap casting cost, Ghost-Lit Raider is my choice for the NUMBER ONE BEST UNCOMMON in Saviors of Kamigawa.

Any of these ten could easily be a very good choice for first pick in booster drafts.

AFTER REVIEWING ALL THE UNCOMMONS

I find that all but one of the white uncommons is good enough for booster draft and sealed deck play, making white the deepest color in Saviors for uncommons. White was already very popular in Kamigawa limited play before Saviors. This new set will only make white more popular.

I found blue to be the weakest color of the five, where uncommon cards are concerned.

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


 

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