We finish up a tour of the plane of Kamigawa this week with Saviors. The set's mechanics focused on “wisdom,” as measured by the amount of cards in your hand versus another player's hand. In theory, this sounds pretty cool; however, in practice, it meant that a player had to keep in mind both hand sizes at all times. The mechanic was unfortunate in that it rewarded players for holding onto their creatures and spells instead of playing them out. What could have been an interesting source of in-game tension wasn't developed well enough to make it worthwhile to play with the wisdom cards. Although it was a small, poorly-received third set, Saviors has a good selection of money cards for traders to profit from. Let's take a look at them!
Magic has some pretty good “Solomon” cards, which ask the opponent to choose the lesser of two evils. Fact or Fiction is the best, but there are also Browbeat, Curse of Misfortunes and more. Choice of Damnations is a splendidly-designed card and is a fun one to play in Commander. I like that when you cast it, you have the ultimate decision on what you'd like to do. If the opponent selects a low number, you punish them on permanents. If they select a high one, you can ding them for their life. Remember that it tasks an opponent to sacrifice all but the nominated number of permanents – even token-spamming decks cannot get around this card.
As soon as people saw this card, they got to trying to break it. A lot of players attempted it in Eternal formats with cards like Pandemonium and Saproling Burst. It fell short there, but Ideal picked up a lot of steam in Extended. It could set up a lock with Solitary Confinement and Honden of Seeing Winds, and it could kill an opponent with Form of the Dragon. Ideal could ramp up to the necessary mana with Irrigation Ditch and Pentad Prism, forcing its spell through with Boseiju, Who Shelters All. It is a fun deck that I am sure people are returning to for Modern.
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
Erayo is one of the most frustrating Commander generals around. He comes down cheaply and along with free spells like Gush, the little wizard flips early in the game. Even in other formats, people attempt the Erayo deck with cards like Ethersworn Canonist to strengthen the lock. Erayo is not exactly a powerhouse card in constructed formats, but casual people really like to lock out their friends. It is one of the most valuable cards from Saviors.
Kataki was printed as an Affinity hoser, but it was too little, too late. The card is a solid beating in Vintage, where it eats Moxes and smashes Stax apart. Kataki sees a bit of play in Commander because he unwinds accelerated board positions by taxing those Signets. Kataki has seen a little bit of a price bump because of Modern fears of an Affinity/Tempered Steel deck, but it remains to be seen whether he's actually good enough to hamper that deck.
I love Mikokoro. The card has an incredible amount of utility in Commander, which seems unintuitive because it draws “the opponent” 3-4 cards every time you draw one. It's like Howling Mine, obviously, but you only need to activate it when you want to, and you can use it at instant speed. You can draw in the opponent's end-step, so you get first access to the cards. If the opponent has a full grip, all you give them is a Looter effect in their end-step. It's a colorless land, so it can go in any deck that needs a little more draw power. I like to put Mikokoro into nonblue Commander decks, where we have to work a little harder to get extra cards.
Miren is another Commander powerhouse, and for some unlikely reasons. Of course, it lets you get a few extra life from something going to the graveyard, but the card has two other important uses. First, it lets you kill off any creature of yours that is about to be stolen. This means people will point their Control Magic at another person instead. Second, it lets you eat anything you have taken. If you play with cards like Rubinia Soulsinger, Seasinger or Vedalken Shackles, Miren turns each of those into a Royal Assassin. This frees up repeatable theft and generates card advantage in blue decks. This was put to great effect in the old Extended CounterTop decks that ran Gelid Shackles and needed ways to solve multiple Tarmogoyfs hitting the board.
Do you remember when this was a $20 card? It was, and it was that expensive because nobody opened Saviors unless they were drafting it. Needle was a highly effective sideboard card, since you could name relevant targets in just about every format where it was legal. Survival decks in Legacy had to contend with an opponent spending a mana to shut off their main engine, while Gifts decks needed an out if they were going to grind their Tops efficiently. Needle cause a lot of griping about cost; it was strictly a sideboard card, but many people needed four of them and were very annoyed at having to shell out so much for them. Needle was reprinted in both Tenth Edition and M10, which made its price plummet. Needle is still valuable, but it is a good example of what happens when a necessary card is printed in a lackluster third set. Low availability combined with high desirability to make Needle cost more than many players were happy with.
Sakashima, The Imposter
The coolest effect of Sakashima, the Best Clone Ever, is that she can copy a Legend and not die. That means two Oonas, two Yoseis, or two of just about any insane Legend that hits the field in Commander. People really love this card and the foil versions are very expensive. Sakashima is a perfect example of a card that would be worthless, save for its value in Commander.
Fang Dragon // Forktail Sweep was a big deal, and the correctly-colored Fang Dragon // Forktail Sweep was even better. Adrix and Nev, Twincasters saw a lot of experimental play in Vintage, but it never caught on because if you copied a Fact or Fiction, they still got to resolve theirs unless you had a backup counterspell. It formed part of a combo-breaker in Standard, copying Tooth and Nail to get Uyo, Silent Prophet and a host of other Toothed-up killer cards to blow away the T&N player when they attempted to win. The card is dramatic and fun, so it sees a lot of casual play and holds some value, despite being reprinted twice. Adrix and Nev, Twincasters was also significant because it was one of the first functionally-similar reprints of a card on the Reserved List, which caused no small amount of controversy at the time.
That's it for Saviors of Kamigawa! Join me next week as we go into Ravnica, a set influenced by the myths and legends of Eastern Europe. Ravnica brought in a pile of expensive cards and power uncommons, so I am especially excited to show you the kind of value awaits.
Until next week,