Champions of Kamigawa drew upon Japanese mythology, with its shrines, kami and crazy dragon spirits. Though it doesn't pack in the ridiculous combo cards like Mirrodin did, it is full of legends, which means that there are a bunch of cards that get their value from Commander. This week, we will look at the first half of the set and how you can get the most money from Champs. Let's look!
Azami draws all of her value from being a frustratingly good Commander general. The idea is basically this: lay down a few cheap Wizards, then counter everything you come across. Around turn five, play Azami and then draw four or five more cards to refuel. Continue countering and drawing. Apparently, some people think this is a productive use of their multiplayer time! Azami is one of the best generals and it's for good reason that she's worth a few bucks.
Azusa, apart from frequently being confused with Azami, is another very good commander. She usually crops up in a deck with about seventy lands and wins with things like recursive Mindslaver, Plow Under, or the like. Eldrazi are also common kills. Azusa is a solid general because you can plan to, on turn three, ramp from three to five lands. Next turn, if nobody can kill her, Azusa ramps you from six to nine lands. All you have to do at that point is figure out what to do with Deep Forest Hermits (which is harder than it seems).
If you're fighting against an Azami deck, this comes in handy. The only time it saw tournament play was in the Vintage Gifts Ungiven deck and Tooth and Nail; both contained spells that simply won the game if they got to resolve. It comes up now and then in Commander, but it's less useful there because people rarely play decks full of counters in that format.
Remember that minute when this card was worth $30? People wanted to recur it with Eternal Witness and strip decks apart. It did become relevant when Kamigawa block decks used it to take out opposing Gifts Ungiven. Cranial Extraction has gone down a lot in price because Thought Hemorrhage and Memoricide do the same thing, but are better in some ways. Cranial still gets a little bit of love if you're interested in having twelve of the effect, though.
Or 17/2 Tails, if you're uninterested in simplifying fractions. He's the ultimate white weenie, protecting your guys from removal and getting them past attackers. He sees a bit of Commander play, since he's a good, evasive general and can also do remarkable support for your whole team. The only real limiter on him is the heavy white mana commitment you need for it.
If you just saw this card in a vacuum, you would rightly think that it was baaaaaad. It is valuable because of the existence of one card: Oath of Druids. My Vintage team quickly figured out that you could string the two cards together and get out the biggest monster around. Back then, it was Akroma and Spirit of the Night, but now we have Hellkite Overlord and Emrakul Lagasse. Forbidden Orchard is only relevant because of Vintage, since Oath is banned in Legacy. This is interesting to note because Vintage rarely has an effect on prices, because it is infrequently played.
Ghostly Prison is a white-branded Propaganda. This kind of effect is powerful in Commander because it encourages people to attack other players instead. It doesn't completely lock people out like Magus of the Moat or Humility will, but it is a subtle power. This kind of effect also shows up occasionally in Legacy because it efficiently shuts off Canal Dredger decks.
Gifts is a storied card. When it first came out, a lot of naysayers thought it was just a poor Artificer's Intuition. You couldn't get Accumulated Knowledges with it, for instance. On the other hand, Gifts always draws two cards, and there are plenty of recursive spells and similarly-named spells to get the job done. Gifts saw play in Block, Standard and Vintage for its power. In Block and Standard, it could do things like set up permanent Aven Fogbringer combos or get a bunch of Dragons out. It could make Yosei or Glare of Subdual hit and lock down the board.
In Vintage, it was another monster. Gifts Ungiven could pull out Yawgmoth's Will, Black Lotus, Recoup and Mana Crypt. No matter which way it was split, you would be casting Will for two mana or less. It could pull out Aeronaut Tinkerer and Time Walk, and Gifts fueled itself. A Gifts at the end of the opponent's turn would load up the graveyard, and the following one on your turn would get and cast Will, often putting the game away. The power of Gifts Ungiven got it and Merchant Scroll restricted in Vintage.
Gifts still has a few fans, but it's banned in Commander for being ridiculous, so it has a limited audience.
It took several years to figure out how this card worked. People attempted it with Kobolds, but its real home was in Elves. Specifically, it needed Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid to form a cheap and compact mana engine. Glimpse turns every drawn Elf into another card and another mana. Skullclamp wishes it had that kind of efficiency! Glimpse still gets attention, even though it isn't played in many formats, because Elves is a playable deck in Legacy. These spiked after the Nettle Sentinel combo got big and it never dropped since then.
Isamaru was the first vanilla legend since Legends! It outclasses all the awful Craw Wurm wannabes from Legends, getting more damage in than any of them could have hoped to. Isamaru has a great history of tournament play and still pops up now and then in Legacy Zoo decks. People also like to build up white weenie decks for casual play and this guy is an auto-include. I'm surprised that its value has held up so well!
Green gets the worst cards in every cycle and this one was no exception. Jugan is terrible compared to its other Legendary Dragon friends, but it's still a flying green creature. That alone keeps its value up. If that weren't enough, it's also a dragon, so it's a must-have for people who collect that tribe.
Keiga is a total no-win card. If you don't kill it, she'll smash you to death. If you do kill it, well... you better not have any guys in play. Keiga was absolutely the best card to tap out for in Block and Standard. She shows up in casual decks, and it also gets that aforementioned dragon price bump. Keiga has also maintained a strangely-high value.
We love making copies of things and this guy does it over and over. Kiki can do fair things, like copy Goblin Matron or Form of the Mulldrifter. It can also do game-winning things, like making as many Pestermites as you can count. Kiki is casually very popular, even though it doesn't see any tournament play. Kiki has not been reprinted at any point, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it pop up in something in the future. It's a definite fan fave.
Kokusho was the best Dragon Spirit printed, and it's only under ten bucks because it's banned in Commander. Combine two of them and you get to drain for ten. Combine with Recurring Nightmare and you can get as much life and drain as you want. Kokusho was actually a bad bet over time, since it has dropped from fifteen dollars down to its current price, even after having rotated for several years. The moment that Kokusho gets unbanned, you'll see its price triple overnight. Be one of the people picking it up before it spikes in that situation!
Konda's Banner is a good card for a lot of Commander decks. If you're playing Wort or Lin Sivvi or anything in between, the banner is going to give your guys +2/+2 if you build the deck properly.
Konda gets a lot of love because he's indestructible. I get the sense that people would actually like him less if he was just an 8/8 without bushido, because the ability makes people face tough decisions. Players like forcing an opponent to make that consideration. The fact that he stays back for defense is great on top of that. Seven mana might as well be a million in Commander, but he has a big impact if he ever lands on the board.
That's it for now, but come back next week when we look at other Legendary Dragons, fortune-telling Tops and divinity counters!