Saviors Set Review: Sinking Into Takenuma
By Tom Fowler
By Tom Fowler
Fresh from the worldwide Prerelease events are the 165 cards in Saviors of Kamigawa. I hope those of you who attended your area Prerelease events had a good time and got some saucy cards for your troubles. Today, I’m here to review the new cards in my favorite color, Black.
I’m going to rate the cards on an x/10 scale for both Limited and Constructed. My bias is toward Constructed, though, so take that into account. Obviously, a 10/10 is a card you’ll want to stab your neighbor in the face to get a playset of, and a 1/10 is a card you’ll keep in the bathroom in case the toilet paper roll goes empty. Cards which might turn up in older Constructed formats like Extended (post-rotation) will get mentioned, but the 60-card formats still just get one general heading. Just because a card has a solid Constructed rating does not mean it will be saucy in a Vintage deck. As always, reviews are guaranteed to be almost always spot-on, though I do reserve the right to be misinformed about any card here.
All the card texts were taken from MTGSalvation’s spoiler for the set.
Akuta, Born of Ash
Legendary Creature – Spirit, 3/2, Rare
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you have more cards in hand than each opponent, you may sacrifice a Swamp. If you do, return Akuta, Born of Ash from your graveyard to play.
Since this is tied to the “wisdom” mechanic of cards in hand, it’s obviously more suited for Mono-Black Control than Aggro. The problem is, a control deck doesn’t want to keep losing lands to get back a body that’s just 3/2. This isn’t Nether Spirit, nor is it Ashen Ghoul. A recurring guy in Limited isn’t the worst, but you only have a finite number of lands to get rid of in the process, and again, the body just isn’t very big.
Choice of Damnations
Damn you for stealing my pottery!
Damn you for stealing my pottery!
Sorcery - Arcane, Rare
Target opponent chooses a number. You may have that player lose that much life. If you don't, that player sacrifices all but that many permanents.
I’m torn on this one. Part of me realizes that you don’t want your opponents making too many choices for you. The other part sees a potentially powerful card. The problem is, this isn’t necessarily a finisher. If your opponent has board advantage and a decent life total, they can just choose a number that’s close to the number of permanents they control. They’ll either lose a few lands or lose some life that may not matter. If you have your opponent on the ropes, this is good, but it’s a win-more card at that point. It should be decent in Limited, but I don’t see this having an impact in the 60-card world.
Instant - Arcane, Common
Return X target creature cards from your graveyard to your hand.
Spells which return only a single creature card to your hand usually aren’t worth the trouble, but getting several back at once is good. This is a good card in Limited, where hand size will matter often, and getting back several creatures your opponent spent time and resources to kill swings things in your favor.
Death of a Thousand Stings
Instant – Arcane, Common
Target player loses 1 life and you gain 1 life. At the beginning of your upkeep, if you have more cards in hand than each opponent, you may return Death of a Thousand Stings from your graveyard to your hand.
It might be a thousand stings, but it’ll take twenty turns. Considering this won’t always return to your hand reliably, the fact that it’s hideously overcosted becomes even worse.
Creature – Spirit, 0/1, Common
: Deathknell Kami gets +1/+1 until end of turn. Sacrifice it at end of turn.
Zero power is zero power. This is a semi-useful one-shot damage source, but the mana investment it requires limits even that aspect. A soulshift value of 1 doesn’t get back much that’s worth returning, save Hana Kami and Frostling.
Creature - Rat Shaman, 2/2, Common
As long as you have seven or more cards in your hand, Deathmask Nezumi gets +2/+1 and has fear.
This guy could be a powerful beater in Limited. We’ve seen how good Nezumi Cutthroat can be; this fellow can have twice the power for one single mana more. It’s not always reliable, but if you manage the cards in your hand well, this guy will get in there for 4 every turn. Discard spells – especially Sink Into Takenuma, which we’ll see later – become more important when you have this creature in play.
Exile into Darkness
Target player sacrifices a creature with converted mana cost 3 or less. At the beginning of your upkeep, if you have more cards in hand than each opponent, you may return Exile into Darkness from your graveyard to your hand.
Sure, it’s reusable, but you’re still spending 5 mana to get rid of something that costs, at most, 3 mana. That’s a loss of tempo. Making this even worse, your opponent can choose his worst weenie and get rid of it, while still beating you down with something much harder to handle. I’d play it in Limited, but I wouldn’t add it to my deck with a great deal of enthusiasm. Removal, though, is removal.
Footsteps of the Goryo
Sorcery - Arcane, Uncommon
Return target creature card from your graveyard to play. Sacrifice that creature at end of turn.
This + Kokusho means Drain Life for 5 only costs 3 mana. Do note that this does not give haste to the creature you’re putting back into play. If it did, it might be useful. As it stands now, you’ll only use this to bring back something with a useful comes-into-play ability, or something with an important Soulshift number. The latter could be important in Limited.
Creature – Spirit, 1/1, Uncommon
, T: Target player discards two cards. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.
Channel - , Discard Ghost-Lit Stalker: Target player discards four cards. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.
It’s reusable discard, but the body is small. I like the Channel ability, even if it’s expensive. Discarding four cards is crippling. In Limited, that’s very potent in the late game, and I can even see this getting played in Block, which (so far) is dominated by slow control decks.
Creature - Rat Shaman, 1/1, Common
Each opponent's maximum hand size is reduced by one.
A 1/1 for 1 has to have a useful ability to be more than just offal. This ability isn’t useful very often. If you’re going first in Limited and you play this fellow on the first turn, your opponent can’t just do the land-go routine. Outside of that scenario, however, this guy doesn’t make the cut.
Hand of Cruelty
Black Knight, Generation Next
Black Knight, Generation Next
Creature - Human Samurai, 2/2, Uncommon
Protection from white, Bushido 1
Ah, Black Knight. Hello, old friend, it’s very good to see you again. This is the updated Black Knight, with the out-of-flavor-for-Black first strike giving way to Bushido, but either unscrupulous gentleman will julienne a 2/2 weakling and survive. The 2-drop spot in Black Aggro was waiting for something like this, and now it’s here. The double-Black in the mana cost will make this tougher to get out on turn 2 in Limited, but this is better than the Wicked Akubas we’ve been playing in that spot.
Speaking of Black Knight for a moment: those of you who, like me, were playing way back in the day might remember the age-old question: “Which is better, White Knight or Black Knight?” I played an awful lot of White Weenie back in 1994 and 1995, but that shouldn’t belie the answer. Black Knight was always superior, simply because he couldn’t be touched by Swords to Plowshares, which was the most common removal spell played back then (along with Lightning Bolt, but that blasted either Knight from the mortal coil).
Legendary Creature - Kirin Spirit, 3/3, Rare
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, target player reveals his or her hand and discards all cards with that spell's converted mana cost.
This is potent in the right deck. Ideally, you’d like to drop this on turn 3 and start the discard barrage on turn 4. In Standard, you can do that with Chrome Mox or Wayfarer’s Bauble, but you don’t have those options in Block. In a G/B deck, though, you could drop the Kirin on the third turn with help from everyone’s favorite Snake Shaman. Once the Block metagame with SOK becomes defined, you’ll know which cards you need to rid your opponent of (right now, Kodama of the North Tree and Final Judgment are good choices), so you’ll know what mana costs you need to play to accomplish that. In Limited, the effect is a lot more random, but still potentially strong, and this is still a flying Hill Giant.
Enchant Creature, Common
Enchanted creature gets -X/-X, where X is the number of cards in your hand.
It’s getting a little expensive, but this is guaranteed removal as long as you can keep a reasonably full hand. You’ll want this to go for at least -4/-4, just so you’re not paying 3B to kill a bear. Obviously a Limited-only card; there are a plethora of better options for Constructed.
Kagemaro, First to Suffer
The Maro of Mutilate
The Maro of Mutilate
Legendary Creature - Demon Spirit, */*, Rare
Kagemaro, First to Suffer's power and toughness are each equal to the number of cards in your hand.
, Sacrifice Kagemaro: All creatures get -X/-X until end of turn, where X is the number of cards in your hand.
MBC has been missing Mutilate for some time. This isn’t quite as good, since it costs 6 instead of 4, but you get the benefit of a beater in the interim. Swing with Kagemaro a couple times, then pop him for his Mutilate ability when you need to. Or, should the situation be more dire, play him and use him right away. If you’re playing Black Control, the Mutilate effect should always be for at least 4, and that will solve virtually all your problems in Standard and Block. Take him high in Limited, but realize he’s a lot harder to build around in draft, especially since you’re getting him in the third pack.
Kami of Empty Graves
Creature – Spirit, 4/1, Common
With that 1 toughness, it’ll be shifting souls before long, no doubt. This is an easy card to dismiss, but don’t fall into that trap. Its power equals its mana cost, which is never a bad deal in the 40-card world. This can trade with better creatures, and get you back something saucy like Thief of Hope. Don’t burn a high pick on this one, but don’t be sad about adding it to your deck, either.
Creature – Spirit, 3/3, Uncommon
When Kemuri-Onna comes into play, target player discards a card. Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may return Kemuri-Onna to its owner's hand.
You might hit a bomb or two with this, but if I’m going to play discard on turn 5, I’d rather it be Three Tragedies. For a discard effect costing 5 mana, I expect something more than my opponent choosing his worst card. Give a brotha a Coercion effect.
Target creature deals damage to itself equal to its power.
If only it weren’t a sorcery. This is still good, cheap removal, and is completely independent from the number of cards in your hand. It would obviously be better as an instant, but being able to kill most creatures for 2 mana is still a good deal. Constructed still has better options, though.
Kuon, Ogre Ascendant
Legendary Creature - Ogre Monk, 2/4, Rare
At end of turn, if three or more creatures were put into graveyards from play this turn, flip Kuon, Ogre Ascendant.
At the beginning of each player's upkeep, that player sacrifices a creature.
You don’t want symmetry here. If this Edicted your opponent every turn, it would be great. It wouldn’t be broken, just very good. As it is, this is a card without a home. Black Control won’t play enough creatures to overcome sacrificing one every turn, and Black Aggro doesn’t have enough removal to reliably send three guys to the graveyard. Try it out if you feel you must, but I won’t be surprised when you end up disappointed.
Creature - Rat Samurai, 1/1, Common
: Regenerate Kuro's Taken.
A creature that costs 2 should deal 2 damage when it attacks, unless it has some other ability that’s really good. This has neither going for it. You can do worse in Limited, but you can also do a lot better.
Creature - Rat Shaman, 2/2, Uncommon
Each opponent's maximum hand size is reduced by two.
By itself, this does not impress me. Combined with Gnat Miser, though, or another Locust Miser, this could really get annoying for your opponent. The fact remains, however, that you’re getting a small body for the cost. Your opponent will have ample chance to kill this guy before he really affects them.
Maga, Traitor to Mortals
Legendary Creature - Human Wizard, 0/0, Rare
Maga, Traitor to Mortals comes into play with X +1/+1 counters on it. When Maga comes into play, target player loses life equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on it.
Yawn. This is OK if you can get X to be at least 4. Otherwise, it’s wholly unimpressive.
Measure of Wickedness
At the end of your turn, sacrifice Measure of Wickedness and you lose 8 life. Whenever another card is put into your graveyard from anywhere, target opponent gains control of Measure of Wickedness.
I like this card, but not because it’s good. It strikes me as a quintessential Black card: walk the razor’s edge with respect to damaging yourself, then hurt your opponent. The cool factor aside, dealing 8 damage (yes, I know it’s loss of life) for 4 mana is an excellent bargain, but you need two things to make it work: a way to put a card into your graveyard as cheaply as possible, and your opponent to not be able to do the same. If those are true, this is great, but that’s very situational.
I guess that looks painful...
I guess that looks painful...
Search for X cards in target player's library, where X is the number of cards in your hand, and remove them from the game. That player shuffle his or her library.
Epic (For the rest of the game you can't play spells. At the beginning of each of your upkeeps, copy this spell except for it's epic ability.)
If you have the board under control when you play this, it will win you the game. Not being able to play spells means you’ll ideally have creatures in play with abilities you can use to keep control of the board. If this hits for 5 cards the first time, it will hit for 6, and then 7 the next two times, and removing 18 threats and answers from an opponent’s deck will leave them drawing dead pretty quickly. After four or five turns of this, when you’ve removed 25 or more cards, you should get a concession. This needs a deck built specifically around it, though. In Limited, it will win you the game in fewer turns, but it’s harder to use, since board control is more difficult to get.
One with Nothing
Discard your hand.
I’m trying to think of a situation where this would be useful.
I got nothing. Maybe there will be something, but for now, this is crap rare material.
You bid any amount of life. In turn order, each player may top the high bid. The bidding ends if the high bid stands. The high bidder loses life equal to the high bid and draws four cards.
It’s the new, splashable Infernal Contract. I see the best use for this in a R/B deck, where you can make sure your opponent has the life disadvantage when you play this. Aggro Black could put this to good use, also, but it doesn’t have the easy burn that a partially-Red deck would have. Still, this card is intriguing, and if you can win the bid at 4-8 life, it’s worth that cost.
Creature - Ogre Warrior, 3/3, Common
When Raving Oni-Slave comes into play, you lose 3 life if you don't control a Demon. When Raving Oni-Slave leaves play, you lose 3 life if you don't control a Demon.
So it’s a Serpent Warrior for 1 less if you play it on the second turn. That’s not a bad deal at all, as this fellow jumps the curve by a full turn. You can start playing demons on turn 4 (Scourge of Numai, Yukora the Prisoner), so the leaves-play drawback shouldn’t bite you in the hindquarters too often. That’s less certain in Limited, but if you already have a couple demons, this guy is worth a pick.
Creature - Demon Spirit, 4/5, Uncommon
Black creatures can't block.
He’s splashable enough that his drawback won’t matter much. A 4/5 for 4 mana is always worth considering. Constructed won’t be too friendly to this guy, but he should be fine in Limited, where two and three colors are the norm.
Shinen of Fear's Chill
Creature – Spirit, 3/2, Common
Shinen of Fear's Chill can't block.
Channel - , Discard Shinen of Fear's Chill: Target creature can't block this turn.
The body isn’t very big, and doesn’t have fear. If it did, this would be an acceptable creature for Limited play. As it is, this fellow is subpar. The channel ability is only good if you’re going to get in there with a creature that will win you the game, be that a fatty or Wicked Akuba. This will be the 22nd or 23rd sard in come decks, but that’s it.
Sink into Takenuma
Sorcery - Arcane, Common
Sweep - Return any number of Swamps you control to their owner's hand. Target player discards a card for each Swamp returned this way.
If you can’t get more cards in hand than your opponent after playing this, then perhaps Magic is not the game for you. Even hitting for 2 or 3 cards could swing the game significantly. Here’s a thought: B/R with this and Thoughts of Ruin. Play Sink into Takenuma, picking up 2 or 3 Swamps and making your opponent lose the same number of cards. Next turn, hit them with Thoughts of Ruin, which should be Armageddon based on the cards in your hand. You still have 2-3 Swamps tucked away in hand, waiting to be replayed. Just a thought. Of ruin.
This guy loves the Rats.
This guy loves the Rats.
Creature - Ogre Warrior, 3/3, Uncommon
At the beginning of your upkeep, return a black creature you control to its owner's hand.
: Regenerate Skull Collector.
What Black creatures do you want to return all the time? There’s Nekrataal, but he costs more than Skull Collector. Ravenous Rats each turn would certainly be annoying. As would Chittering Rats, which, in combination with this fellow, would almost be like casting Time Walk every turn. This definitely has potential in Constructed, but I don’t see a lot of abusable returning creatures in Limited. This is a 3/3 for 3, which is good in the 40-card formats.
Since lists are all the rage, I’ll go ahead and rate the top 5 Black cards for Constructed play.
1. Kagemaro, First to Suffer
2. Hand of Cruelty
3. Infernal Kirin
4. Pain's Reward
5. Neverending Torment
Honorable Mention: Skull Collector
And there you have it. There are some definite duds there, but Black has quality going for it, as well. I think a half-dozen or more cards will make an impact on the various constructed formats, most likely Block and Standard. Overall, I think Black is a little underwhelming in Limited, but it has some obvious good cards, and some others which are good but not as obvious at first. I still expect to force Black in draft as often as I can, though we’ll have to see how losing a Champions pack impacts the format.
Feedback is welcome, even if you think I’m a buffoon and trashed a card to which you’ve pledged your undying love.