Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
– Saviors of Kamigawa
Date Reviewed: December 16, 2021
Commander [EDH]: 3.58
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
I used to see this card quite a lot around Standard FNMs in 2005. I remember it being used in almost every blue deck, which might have had a lot to do with a Mike Flores article where he rated it surprisingly highly in a ranking of every land card in Standard, and “basically better than an Island”. To be fair, it interacts very well with certain themes of the Kamigawa block, notably the Saviors of Kamigawa cards which want you to have a lot of cards in your hand. Adding one to that number at instant speed can make a difference at times.
I don’t recall seeing many of the blue “wisdom” cards in Standard. I think in constructed formats, the idea was more that it was nearly immune to land destruction if you were careful with your extra mana. There was not only a Wildfire deck, but later, a deck that people called the “8 Stone Rain deck”. That was a weird time to be playing Standard FNM. You can certainly use it in the same way now, though I don’t know how much saving just one land will help in the face of cards like Armageddon, Boom/Bust, or other things you’re likely to see in formats with Oboro. If your deck can operate on one blue source, you probably don’t care about Armageddon anyway.
Casual: 3/5 (as James points out, landfall is very popular these days)
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds is a particularly odd little land. It’s part of the tranche of legendary lands from the Kamigawa block, this one referring specifically to the home of the moonfolk, the block-exclusive spellcasters who all bounced lands to cast their spells. Oboro does possess the ability to bounce itself, and it’s also a blue land that doesn’t come in tapped. Not being an Island explicitly is a pro and a con; while it’s far harder to search out and is a nonbasic land (albeit one that can slip out of danger in a pinch), it’s also not susceptible to things like Boil and Choke, which can sometimes be the key to a deck squeezing past the finish line in the face of targeted hate.
For this reason, Oboro has long been a one-of tech in decks like Merfolk, as that narrow upside of being an untapped blue source not blanked by Boil or Choke is a major upside. But with the uptick in Mill decks relying on Hedron Crab and Ruin Crab and their landfall triggers, Oboro has another home as a means to keep supplying landfall triggers in a later-game scenario. Its ability to pull itself back to the hand isn’t always hugely applicable, but there are times where it pays off, and it’s more than pulled its weight in Modern over the years even as a Boil-proof and Choke-proof blue source. I certainly don’t think it merits that $80+ price tag as of my writing this, but that’s what being in an unpopular small set from 16 years ago, paired with no reprintings of any kind since then, will do to a card’s value, and it right now holds the unusual distinction of being its block’s most valuable single card.
Constructed: 4.5 (it’s not a staple or a must-run in most decks that aren’t Mill, but it has its own little niche that may well pay off if you have one to spare)
Casual: 3.5 (more flavorful than essential, but it works)
Limited: 3 (it really doesn’t do anything of note in Kamigawa‘s Limited format, thanks to its overall weirdness, though I suppose it’s not actively detrimental, and Saviors was light on good cards to begin with)
Commander: 4.25 (even if you don’t have a deck to take advantage of it explicitly, dodging anti-Island hate has its moments of glory)
Speaking of reprints, with the long-awaited return to Kamigawa around the corner in 2022, might we see this land again? The Soratami do seem rather resistant to change, even if the entire plane around them might be completely different…
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Is this card worth the price tag that it currently has? No I don’t think so but it’s a great one of land in decks like mono blue tron for the versatility that it offers. It gets around any land destruction card, you can bring it back to your hand in order to discard it and protect the remaining cards in your hand, and it’s not an island so it gets around things that involve islandwalk. I’d go as far to say that it’s good in some control decks as well as a one of, there are a lot of neat things that it can do by going back to your hand and it gets around anything that targets an island. Your opponent can waste a boil or a sinkhole on it just to bring it back to your hand. It’s also nice because it doesn’t come into play tapped! It is not a broken card by any means and it’s use has limits but it is definitely do for a reprint.
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