Masques of Kamigawa

Posted in Feature on July 12, 2006

By Chris Millar

Since we've just passed the half-way mark of my first year here at, I thought I'd do something special. Something I've never done before. I'm going to make something up. Then I'm going to build some decks. I know. It's a little out there, a little wacky, but I know how much everyone likes curveballs and it seems like it might be fun to do.

Before I continue, I have a confession to make. It might be a Canadian thing, but I have a sentimental affection for the underpowered. Underpowered cards, underpowered Blocks. Apparently, I like my Magic cards the way the Toronto Blue Jays like their lead-off hitter: slow and without power. (Just kidding, guys!) Mercadian Masques and Champions of Kamigawa are two so-called underpowered Blocks following “overpowered” ones, Urza Block and Mirrodin Block, respectively. Always overshadowed by their broken predecessors, I wondered what would happen if they combined with, say, 9th Edition to form their own Standard?

The Haves and the Have Nots

Sure, Urza Block had Metalworker, Tinker, Time Spiral, Tolarian Academy, Yawgmoth's Will, and Yawgmoth's Bargain. Even the cards that haven't been banned are completely ridiculous – Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Priest of Titania, Gaea's Cradle, Goblin Welder, Academy Rector. It had commons that, while not format ruining, are nevertheless nuts. I remember having my mind blown when I first discovered Yavimaya Elder in a bin of Commons at my local card shop. Suddenly, I had a new favourite card.

If you want to get two Blue mana from a single land in Masques Block, you have to turn to Saprazzan Cove or Saprazzan Skerry. Those aren't awful cards by any means, but they're nonetheless about 20,000 leagues below Tolarian Academy. Mirrodin Block gave us the ban-worthy AEther Vial, which is a, uh, slight upgrade of Mercadian Masques' Mercadian Lift. Priest of Titania is a tribally-aligned Green-mana producer, and so is Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro. When you tap Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, you'll get one Green mana for each Forest you control, something that Patron of the Orochi can also do, a “little” later in the game. With Yawgmoth's Bargain, you can draw about half your deck. You can do the same with Armistice, you'll just need about a kazillion mana. And as awful as Carnival of Souls is, compared to Black Market it's a Black Lotus.

You can see what we're up against.

MOK Tribal

With Coldsnap set to shake up Standard Tribal Wars, I'm going to skip out on the decklist this week, and instead briefly discuss the Tribal Wars possibilities of MOK. Most sets have some tribal element, and Mercadian Masques and Champions of Kamigawa are no exceptions. How well do they play together?

Well, Kamigawa's Snakes get a few goodies, including Ribbon Snake, Boa Constrictor, and the Blue/Black hoser, Snake Pit. Not too bad. I can see Boa Constrictor going into the Sachi-based Freed from the Real decks. The Real will, er, constrict the Boa no longer!

Cateran Kidnappers
The Demon and Ogre Alliance (D.O.A.) get Flailing Ogre and Ogre Taskmaster (which is also available in 9th Edition), so not much. Extravagant Spirit, Troublesome Spirit, Nether Spirit, and Jeweled Spirit join the ranks of, shockingly, the Spirit tribe. Samurai, naturally, get nothing. Likewise, Sosuke and Sachi get no new Warriors or Shamans to work with. Rebels get no new members, but Mercenaries get the Ogre-iffic and eminently kidnappable Sokenzan Renegade. Of the other three non-Rebel, non-Mercenary “recruiters” (Seahunter, Moggcatcher, Skyshroud Poacher), only Moggcatcher gets a real boost from Kamigawa Block.


The world of Mercadian Masques is full of Pirates. Sadly, since Alexi's Parrot was deemed “unsafe at any speed” by the development team (I'd tell you what it did, but I'd be making it up), there is a noticeable lack of Pirate-y accoutrements in the set, your peg-legs, eye-patches, and said avian companions. If Ramos had his own card, I suspect he would have an eye-patch, since his eyeball is currently being used for mana production. No word on what happened to the Leg of Ramos.

The world of Kamigawa, meanwhile, is full of Ninjas. By “full,” I mean about 1% full. Like my wallet. I guess I'm an optimist. Pirates and Ninjas? How could these sets not belong together?

I'm going to kick things off with a variation on an old deck: Mono-Blue land destruction, or Ankh-Tide, which combined Ankh of Mishra and a laundry detergent (Parallax Tide) to do a lot of damage in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, one of the key pieces of the combo (the Ankh) is not available. No worries, though, because Zo-zu the Punisher does a mighty Ankh of Mishra impression. With Parallax Tide, you can remove your opponent's lands from the game, and when it runs out of Fade counters, all of the lands come back into play, which makes Zo-zu pretty angry. He takes out his anger on your opponent's life total.

The Pirates are Rishadan Cutpurse and Dr. Scholls' Rishadan Footpad. It'll be tough for you opponent to pay their little fines when you've been bouncing their land with Boomerang and Hoodwink all game. Ninja of the Deep Hours and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker let you get extra use out of the pair of Pirates. Since you are already doing a number on your opponent's mana-base, Thoughts of Ruin will be pretty one-sided. Even if you lose two or three lands, you'll be in good shape if your opponent has no lands at all. The other thing you can do with Thoughts of Ruin is to use Parallax Tide to remove your own lands from play, floating four mana to play the Thoughts. Now your opponent gets to have all the land-sacrificing fun! So, so sad.

Rarely Good: MOK Edition

One of my favourite things to do is to exploit so-called “reject rares.” Unsurprisingly, MOK is chock-a-block with them. I'm going to kick things off by taking a look at Foster. This card is obviously a “fixed” Oath of Druids. “Fixed” like my dog is “fixed.” For one thing, Foster costs twice as much mana to play initially, and you will also have to pay mana to use it, unlike Oath. For two, Foster puts the creature into your hand, while Oath puts it directly into play. For three, you need to have a creature go to your graveyard from play in order for Foster to trigger. This is a little trickier to pull off than, say, tapping your Forbidden Orchard with Oath on the table. One of the problems is that this encourages you to play with more creatures, and who wants to do that? Not me, and certainly not Billy. For no reason at all, I will only play with two creatures.

One of the great things Oath of Druids can do is fill up your graveyard lickety-split. Foster can do the same thing, albeit less efficiently. Which cards in my fake Standard environment benefit from a full graveyard? I quickly narrowed the choice down to two: Magnivore and Ire of Kaminari. I opted for the latter. At that point, the creature I was going to use became obvious: Hana Kami! Since you want to lessen the likelihood of hitting a creature with the Foster activation, but you still need creatures to die to activate it in the first place, I turned to Genju of the Cedars and Baku Altar. Now you can still play with “creatures” but also be guaranteed to get your Hana Kami when you use Foster. Hopefully you will dump a lot of cards into the graveyard with the first activation, so you can play and sacrifice your Hana Kami to return a milled Ire of Kaminari. This will trigger Foster again, and let you mill even more cards. Now all you have to do is direct the Kaminari's Ire at your opponent!

Charismatic for the People

With the release of Betrayers of Kamigawa came one of my favourite combos ever: Ronin Cliffrider and Neko-Te. Since the ninja weapon doesn't require the damage to be combat damage, the Cliffrider's ability will effectively lock-down all of your opponent's creatures for the rest of the game. Why stop there, though? Keeping your opponent's guys tapped is less impressive when you could just steal them instead. How? Charisma! Since that card doesn't require the damage to be combat damage either, now the smooth-talking Samurai will cause all of your enemies to turn coats and join your side, where you can do with them as you please (I recommend sacrificing them to Miren). In case you can't find the Cliffrider, Kris Mage, Arc Mage, Stinging Barrier, and Kumano, Master Yamabushi do a fine job of Charismatically pinging. Thieving Magpie seems a little out of place in the deck, but it's there to keep the cards flowing for the two Mages.

Kickin' Assets and Liabilities

One of the major sub-themes of Masques Block is “accounting.” Credit Voucher, Liability, and Monkey Cage all hint at the central conflict of the Mercadian Masques story-line, the battle between Cho-Manno's righteous ledger-keepers and Volrath's band of sinister book-cookers. What a tale of adventure and intrigue! I don't want to spoil the ending, but I will say that there is a twist-debiting that you will never see coming.

Of these cards, the one that gets me the most excited is Liability. Maybe it's because I'm such a fan of debt, or losing life, but I've gotta say, “Owing money is a real hoot!” One card that gets better with Liability is Saviors of Kamigawa's Choice of Damnations. Now your opponent gets to choose between even worse damnations, like being forced to watch the Surreal Life or being a Montreal Expos fan. With Liability (or Patron of the Nezumi) kicking around, your opponent will generally be better off choosing a higher number, since they will end up losing life to Liability anyway if they choose a lower one. Obviously, this combo gets better when your opponent has a ton of permanents on the table. But what if your opponent doesn't have many permanents? We'll just give ‘em some, with Infernal Genesis and Forbidden Orchard. What if the tokens you give them get out of control? Use Night of Souls' Betrayal. With Patron of the Nezumi, Infernal Genesis, and Night of Souls' Betrayal on the table, your opponent will lose life equal to the converted mana-cost of the card on top of his or her library each upkeep. (Infernal Genesis makes tokens, Night of Souls' Betrayal kills them, the Patron causes life-loss).

If you wanted to make a non-MOK version of this deck, I would recommend Netherborn Phalanx, which goes well with Infernal Genesis and fetches it while also being able to fetch Choice of Damnations.

Until next time, have fun running a MOK (tournament)!

Chris Millar

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