Card Evaluation: The Results!

Posted in Limited Information on January 24, 2005

By Scott Wills

As I write this week's article the full card-list for Betrayers of Kamigawa has yet to hit the streets, but as you read it you'll hopefully have not only had the opportunity to read about all the new cards, but also play with them at one of the prereleases too. I will hopefully be attending the prerelease in London as I just love getting my hands on a set for the first time and discovering how it plays out. It will be interesting to see which colours and archetypes benefit the most.

I'm sure I'll be discussing Betrayers a lot in the coming months so if there's something specific you'd like me to tackle with respect to the new set then please do use the e-mail link at the bottom of this article to let me know. I read every e-mail you guys send even if I don't always have time to reply to them all, and numerous articles over the last year have come about in part, and sometimes in whole, because of a reader's request.

I'm going to round up last week's card evaluation topic this week and let you know how you all rated the Betrayers cards covered in that article. If you weren't around last week I'd recommend going through that article and filling in the short survey at the end as the answers will be covered here.

The rating scale used is the standard Limited Pointing scale that's been covered in this column a few times now. For reference here it is:

5.0: I will always play this card. Period.
4.5: I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.
4.0: I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.
3.5: I feel a strong pull into this card's color.
3.0: This card makes me want to play this color. (Given that I'm playing that color, I will play this card 100% of the time.)
2.5: Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these. (Given that I'm playing that color, I will play this card 90% of the time.)
2.0: If I'm playing this color, I usually play these. (70%)
1.5: This card will make the cut into the main deck about half the times I play this color. (50%)
1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my main deck. (30%)
0.5: There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I'll never start it. (10%)
0.0: I will never put this card into my deck (main deck or after sideboarding). (0%)

Rating Betrayers


Higure the Still Wind
Higure the Still Wind

Average Reading Rating: 3.2
My Rating: 2.4 or 3.5

The first card rated last week was Higure, the Still Wind. His overall stats aren't great, but they're not terrible either. Five mana should really get you a 4/4 but blue's creatures are usually weaker and you'd often be looking at a 3/3 for five mana in blue. Higure is a 3/4, which is fine.

He's one of the cards that shows off the Ninjutsu ability to good effect, but how good his combat damage ability is depends greatly on the number of Ninjas you have in your deck. Realistically though you're only going to need to have 2-3 other Ninjas to get a significant advantage here. The final addition of being able to make Ninjas unblockable is very, very good. All of the Ninjas need to deal damage to your opponent to be effective. Whilst you may be able to sneak them through once via Ninjutsu your opponent will be doing everything they can to stop that from happening in future turns. Higure himself can attack unblocked but being able to do the same with all your Ninjas really is a great ability. Not only do you get repeated uses out of their effects, but you also get to deal a significant amount of damage to your opponent without them being able to do very much about it.

In a deck with two or more additional Ninjas I'd rate Higure as high as 3.5. With zero or one additional Ninjas though he's only really worth a 2.4.


Fumiko the Lowblood
Fumiko the Lowblood

Average Reader Rating: 3.0
My Rating: 3.3

Without any other interactions Fumiko is a 3/2 creature with at least Bushido 1 (If Fumiko herself is involved in combat either she is attacking or at least one of your opponent's creatures is). That's not great, but it certainly isn't terrible either. It makes her a 4/3 when blocked or blocking and that's fine for four mana. Fortunately she has two other abilities that can really help swing games around in limited.

Her main ability is forcing all of your opponent's creatures to attack when they're able to do so. This can have two effects, both of which are beneficial to you. Firstly it can force your opponent to attack with creatures that they don't want to attack with. They might have a number of small creatures that will die if they get into combat and they might also have creatures like River Kaijin or Kami of Old Stone that make for very poor attackers. It also forces them to use any utility creatures with “Tap: …” effects like Kabuto Moth and Frostwielder before combat so that they're not forced to attack with them.

So once you've got your opponent to attack with all their creatures, what do you do with them? The most obvious is, of course, to block them to your advantage. If your opponent is forced to attack with three creatures then you decide how you want to block. Block their Wicked Akuba with your Kitsune Riftwalker, block their Nezumi Ronin with your Kitsune Blademaster and block their Kami of the Hunt with Fumiko.

Fumiko's Bushido ability counts any attacking creatures so if your opponent is forced to attack with three guys as in this example Fumiko gets Bushido 3, and becomes a 6/5 when blocking. When the dust settles all your guys are alive, and you get to attack back freely.

That's an ideal situation but it'll be far from unusual. Fumiko should score slightly above 3.0 as you'll always play her and sometimes she'll have a huge effect on the game.


Toshiro Umezawa
Toshiro Umezawa

Average Reader Rating: 3.1
My Rating: 2.5 in the right deck, 1.5 otherwise.

Toshiro's Stats are pretty good. A 2/2 for three mana is fairly standard but with Bushido 1 tacked on he'll survive combat with opposing 2/2s right from the start. You'd like to see some sort of evasion really but his ability more than makes up for that.

If you assume you only really play good cards in your deck you'll only really need to trigger his ability once or twice to make him worth playing. To do this you have to have a number of instants in your deck and you really have to have some ways to kill off opposing creatures too. Fortunately black is usually quite good at doing this, especially if you combine it with red. The main time Toshiro will really shine is when he gives you two uses out of your instant removal spells such as Glacial Ray or Rend Flesh. If you have the necessary mana you can cast Rend Flesh, and when the targeted creature dies, Toshiro's ability will trigger. By the time you put Toshiro's ability on the stack the Rend Flesh will have resolved and be in your graveyard meaning you can use Toshiro to re-cast it right away! Getting two uses from your removal spells this way is what will make Toshiro really good but in other circumstances he may well discourage blocking just so you don't get to re-use cards like Consuming Vortex a second time. In an instant heavy deck Toshiro will be a respectable threat, but if you don't have the cards to get excited about his general stats aren't anything to get excited about.



Average Reader Rating: 2.1
My Rating: 1.2 alone, 2.6 in a defensive deck with Enchant Creature cards.

Although Tallowisp has a combined power/toughness total of four, you're not that happy to see the majority of it on the toughness side. This creature really would be a lot better as a 2/2. Despite that, there are certain decks that will really like having a 1/3 to play on the second turn as it stops opposing annoyances like Wicked Akubas and it completely shuts down other two drops like Cruel Deceiver, Hearth Kami and Orochi Ranger. If you have a deck that wants ground defence the Tallowisp is fine. It's also a Spirit which means it can trigger Spiritcraft effects and be used in concert with things like Soulshift and Devouring Greed and so on.

Obviously you're going to want some Enchant Creature cards in your deck to be really happy about running this. That's not impossible though, especially with both Indomitable Will and Cage of Hands being on-colour and playable. If you can search up one or two of these then Tallowisp has easily paid for itself as it's generated some nice card advantage, which you don't usually see in a two mana creature. If you do happen to have 2-3 Enchant Creature cards in your deck and you want a defensive early drop then you can't really do much better than this.


Genju of the Cedars
Genju of the Cedars

Average Reader Rating: 3.2
My Rating: 3.3

This is a very nice card I think, both in playability terms and because it combines several effects that have never been put together on one card before.

As it stands you basically have a one mana enchantment that can allow you to deal a lot of additional damage over the course of a game. You do need three lands spare to activate it: two to pay the activation cost, and the third is the enchanted land itself which need to be untapped to either attack or block. Just going by that it wouldn't be terrible but you have this amazing addition whereby your opponent can't ever deal with this permanently unless they're able to deal with the enchantment itself. Cards like Treetop Village were very playable in the past and this is a lot better that that for limited. The ability to have what is basically an unkillable 4/4 against most decks is tremendous.

This is an obvious 'must play' in any green deck, but it's not that easy to splash. Although it has a single green mana in its casting cost it is an “Enchant Forest” card, so if your opponent is able to deal with it the first time you may find yourself waiting around for your second Forest to turn up so you can use it again.


Patron of the Orochi
Patron of the Orochi

Average Reader Rating: 2.9
My Rating: 2.0

This is a very large creature and while its stats look good initially at a 7/7 for eight mana, this is actually fairly low. Without evasion or the Trample ability there's no guarantee all that power will get through to an opponent.

The ability to untap all green creatures and Forests is okay but not particularly exciting for Limited play. You want to be attacking with a creature this size, not tapping it for an effect!

So the only time when you'd consider this playable is when you can cast him for less than his casting cost via his Snake Offering ability. There are a few common Snakes that see play already from Champions with Orochi Sustainer and Matsu-Tribe Decoy being the most common. Both of these give you the opportunity to cast the Patron on turn five and at instant speed no less. You can sit there with five lands and the Sustainer and when your opponent attacks with his Kitsune Blademaster or whatever you can tap them all and throw a 7/7 out there to block with! That's a nice trick, providing of course your opponent doesn't have an answer. If they can kill the Patron you've lost two cards for the price of one, and even if they just bounce it you might struggle to cast it again. If you have a lot of Snakes this is worth playing as it has a good surprise effect and you can also sacrifice Snakes which are about to die anyway so as not to lose card advantage. I'd consider it unplayable in any deck without a high number of Snakes though.


Cunning Bandit
Cunning Bandit

Average Reader Rating: 3.1
My Rating: 3.2

As a three mana 2/2 Cunning Bandit is relatively poor. Fortunately his flip ability is very easy to trigger and when you do so you've got a powerful creature on your hands.

The first thing to note is that he doesn't untap the creatures you gain control of so you won't typically be able to steal an opposing attacker and then use it to block another one. He also doesn't grant Haste so you won't be stealing an opponent's creature and then attacking with it the majority of the time. Despite that, there are still a lot of things he can do. The most obvious is to simply remove two (or three, if you can get a third counter on him before he flips) opposing blockers to allow your team to swing in unchallenged. Cunning Bandit itself has five power when flipped so it's highly likely you'll be able to get in attacks that can deal 10 or more damage in total. The other thing he can do is outright remove certain creatures such as Scuttling Death or Burr Grafter. Your opponent will have no real choice other than to sacrifice them should you try to gain control of them. You might even be able to sacrifice any of your opponent's creatures if you have something like Blood Rites in play.

The other thing you can do is ‘steal' any “goes to the graveyard” effects your opponent might have. If he blocks with a Zubera or Soulshift creature then you can wait until lethal damage is on the stack and then take control of the creature. That way, when damage resolves, you'll get the effect and not your opponent.

Stealing an opposing creature, even if temporarily, is a very strong effect and can be used for lots of different tricks. If you have even a small hope of flipping him I think Cunning Bandit will make your deck every time.


Hundred Talon Strike
Hundred Talon Strike

Average Reader Rating: 2.5
My Rating: 2.0

This is a nice little trick that has a very cheap casting cost, but won't always have an effect on the game. It only basically works when there's some blocking and when your creature can kill the opposing creature with the +1/+0 and first-strike. Often games come down to races between evasive creatures and in that situation you might not even get to use this card. When you do use it you probably won't gain any card advantage unless you catch your opponent out when they're double-blocking something and you can use this to take out both his blockers.

The Splice effect is nice but it's difficult to use it. You have to have an instant speed Arcane card that you want to cast, and an untapped white creature that you can afford to tap. This is a nice little trick simply because its cost is just one mana. It's definitely weaker than both Blessed Breath and Indomitable Will though in my opinion.

Reviewing Champions

For the last part of today's column I thought it would be interesting to go back over some of the card rankings from a few older columns so that we can see how opinions have changed over the last few months now that everyone has had a chance to play with the set.


Kabuto Moth

Still #1

Blue-white was covered in my Soratami and Samurai article back in October last year. Initially the top ten pick order looked like this:

Blue-white top ten draft picks:

  1. Kabuto Moth
  2. Cage of Hands
  3. Kitsune Blademaster
  4. Teller of Tales
  5. Indomitable Will
  6. Mystic Restraints
  7. Soratami Mirror-Guard
  8. Kami of Ancient Law
  9. Mothrider Samurai
  10. Soratami Rainshaper

With the benefit of further experience it's not terrible a terrible list but there are definitely some big mistakes there.

Kabuto Moth remains by far the best white common; it's even further ahead of Cage of Hands now than I first thought it was. It's one of only three commons that I think you can straight up lose entire games to. The threat of its effect can prevent you from blocking, and then when you don't block it can stop you from attacking too. Glacial Ray and Devouring Greed are the only other two commons that can have as big an effect on the game as the Moth does. Several of the Pros I talk to would take Moth over Nagao and Glacial Ray, which is a real testament to its power.

Teller of Tales is easily the best blue common and I'd put that ahead of Cage now too. Indomitable Will is nice but Blessed Breath replaces it as my favourite combat trick these days as it has a ridiculously cheap Splice cost and can be used multiple times in a game. Although it doesn't have the same residual effect as the Will it basically does the same thing as it, as well as countering things like Rend Flesh or Mystic Restraints that the Will can't do. It does all this at half the price and can do it multiple times so it's definitely ahead of Will now.

I'd also add Consuming Vortex to the list, ahead of Mystic Restraints. Restraints is a fine card and I'm usually happy to play it but it's expensive and sometimes difficult to cast and it can get shut out by Blessed Breath or Kami of Ancient Law too. You don't usually mind too much when that happens as you've traded a card for a card, but I find the tempo aspect of Consuming Vortex along with its potential for multiple uses via the Splice ability to be the better card.

These days my blue-white top ten would look like this:

  1. Kabuto Moth
  2. Teller of Tales
  3. Cage of Hands
  4. Kitsune Blademaster
  5. Blessed Breath
  6. Soratami Mirror-Guard
  7. Kami of Ancient Law
  8. Consuming Vortex
  9. Soratami Rainshaper
  10. Mothrider Samurai


This archetype was covered in my Getting Aggressive article from last November. Back then I had the black-red top 10 looking like this:

  1. Glacial Ray
  2. Befoul
  3. Yamabushi's Flame
  4. Nezumi Cutthroat
  5. Rend Flesh
  6. Scuttling Death
  7. Rend Spirit
  8. Devouring Greed
  9. Ronin Houndmaster
  10. Wicked Akuba

This one is a little close to the mark than the blue-white one. Glacial Ray is definitely top of the pile although Yamabushi's Flame edges out Befoul for second place. Both of these cards are very efficient and they're easy first picks.

Befoul makes it in as the top black card for me. The only card that comes close to challenging it is Devouring Greed. If it's very early in a draft then Greed is probably the better pick as you can force Spirits from then on. If you don't think you'll be Black-red or it is pack two or three and you don't have a lot of Spirits then Befoul is the better pick. Greed's value is very dependant upon the rest of your deck and should be drafted accordingly. Sometimes it'll be much better than any of the other black cards and sometimes it'll be almost worthless.

I personally like Rend Flesh over Rend Spirit simply because it's Arcane and it can be used as a vehicle for Spiritcraft and Splice effects. There's almost nothing to chose between them beyond that though, and they're both definitely below all the other removal spells because they are far more situational.

I like Scuttling Death more now than I did then as every time I cast it, it seems to do something ridiculous. I've dropped it into play with a Gibbering Kami and Cruel Deceiver in my graveyard more times than I can remember and I just know that I'm going to be 1-2 creatures ahead of my opponent when I do. The -1/-1 effect is often useful, and in many cases it can kill an annoying flyer outright. It's still behind Nezumi Cutthroat but it moves ahead of both Rends on the list.

My black-red top 10 now looks like this:

  1. Glacial Ray
  2. Yamabushi's Flame
  3. Befoul
  4. Devouring Greed
  5. Nezumi Cutthroat
  6. Scuttling Death
  7. Rend Flesh
  8. Rend Spirit
  9. Ronin Houndmaster
  10. Wicked Akuba


The different types of green decks were covered in The Faces of Green in early November. It's nice to go back and see the quote “The best green common is almost universally agreed to be Kodama's Reach” as I now no longer agree with that statement!

Sakura-Tribe Elder is definitely a better choice than Kodama's Reach for me. Green has a lot of good plays on turn four and yet very little to do on turn two. Orochi Ranger and Humble Budoka just aren't that good. On top of that there's very little green wants to cast at five mana so when you cast Kodama's Reach the extra land it gives you on turn four is often wasted. It's much, much better to accelerate into a third turn Order of the Sacred Bell than a fourth turn Venerable Kumo.

Because the speed of the format is so high, if you miss a second turn play and then spend your third turn playing Kodama's Reach you'll often be very far behind anyone who started off their game with second and third turn creatures. Sakura-Tribe Elder can prevent many of the common two-drops from attacking at all and the acceleration he provides comes into effect a full turn earlier. Even in the late game when Reach can be dead the Elder can provide an additional warm body to chump block something bigger if needed.

Kodama's Might has proved very good as it's a both a cheap Arcane card itself and has a great Splice cost. Although green sometimes struggles to find other Arcane spells to Splice this onto it's usually fine in your typical green-black or green-blue deck. Right now, I'd take this over Kodama's Reach unless I had a desperate need for some colour-fixing.

Choosing between the various green creatures is often tricky as the correct choice can depend on your mana curve, what sort of acceleration you have and what type of deck you're drafting. In general though Moss Kami, Orochi Sustainer and Kami of the Hunt are preferred over Order of the Sacred Bell, Burr Grafter and Feral Deceiver. Order of the Sacred Bell becomes a lot better if you have two or more of Orochi Sustainer and Sakura-Tribe Elder to accelerate into it.

These days my green top 10 looks something like this:

  1. Sakura-Tribe Elder
  2. Kodama's Might
  3. Kodama's Reach
  4. Moss Kami
  5. Orochi Sustainer
  6. Kami of the Hunt
  7. Order of the Sacred Bell
  8. Feral Deceiver
  9. Burr Grafter
  10. Matsu-Tribe Decoy

Burr Grafter moves up a lot of you have a Spirit heavy deck and Serpent Skin would make the top ten if you were short of combat tricks.

That's it for this week. I hope you all had fun with the new set at the pre-releases! Betrayers discussions will be starting soon so please do drop me a note via e-mail or on the message boards if there's something specific you'd like to see.

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