Alchemy: Kamigawa Set Review: White, Blue, and Black

Is there a better plane for a digital-only set? I think not! Welcome, everybody, to the Alchemy: Kamigawa set review! In this article, we’ll be covering the fastidious traditions of the Imperials, the technological advancements of the Futurists, and the seedy backdoor dealing of the Reckoners.

Dragonfly Pilot

This card reminds me a lot of Thraben Inspector, except it always draws a threat (albeit one that needs to be crewed) and it doesn’t cost mana to replace itself. While it does not have a second point of toughness, this creature has the ability to crew Vehicles more efficiently, though this will be irrelevant most of the time. While Dragonfly Suit is not particularly powerful, three power in the air is still a decent finisher for when you have played out your better cards. I expect this will see play in any white BattleBots strategy and also in Mono-White Aggro.

Fragment Reality

Another cheap removal spell for white? How does this stack up with the other contenders, Swords to Plowshares, Fateful Absence, and Declaration in Stone? It is an instant and very mana efficient, which are great marks in its favor. It also exiles, denying death triggers and recursion. However, instead of giving a Clue or life, this card gives your opponent a random threat out of their deck, which is usually a large downside. However the card enters tapped, meaning it cannot attack or block that turn, so I think this is still powerful. Additionally, it does especially well against creature lands and one mana creatures, since the replacement threat is either nonexistent or usually a Stonecoil Serpent that dies on entering the battlefield. I also like the fact that you can use this on your own creature in response to removal to get another threat that likely has a higher mana value than you paid for Fragment Reality.

Inchblade Companion

While by itself this card is not powerful, as soon as you begin Reconfiguring you can generate an army of artifact creatures. In decks like BattleBots and Mono White Aggro, the 1/1s carry Equipment well and interact favorably with lords. Additionally, the +1/+1 granted is not nothing, especially when added to an evasive creature like Healer’s Hawk. I think that this will see play in both aforementioned strategies thanks to the low Reconfigure cost.

Kami of Transmutation

While at first glance this card does not seem powerful, many shenanigans will ensue. By granting cards Perpetual additional card types, things like Michiko’s Reign of Truth and Emry, Lurker of the Loch get much more powerful. Additionally, since this is both an enters and leaves the battlefield trigger, you will likely get to add more cards to your hand before the second Perpetual modification. I think this card will see play in both Artifact and Enchantress style strategies, whether they are traditional “fair” Magic or combo based. And creative Gladiators may even come up with new infinite combos with it! For example, Tameshi, two white producing lands, and a free discard outlet can grant you infinite ETBs of artifacts, enchantments, and lands if the lands are Perpetually artifacts and enchantments.

Mothrider Cavalry

This card is just so much better than Thraben Watcher. First off, it buffs your tokens, and secondly, it can often cost only two mana! Even in creature heavy decks, the usual strategy is to cast your lord last, as it has the most effect when you have more threats on board. Mothrider Cavalry rewards you for this already powerful line of play by reducing its mana cost by half. And it has two relevant creature types, Human and Samurai, meaning it will see play in regular Aggro and Tribal decks alike.

Better Offer

At first glance, Better Offer looks more like a fun card than anything because it’s random, assumedly never mana-efficient, and can’t really be “built around.” Gladiator already brings many options for your creatures and you might prefer running an actual creature with definite stats, mana value, role in your deck and strong/bad matchups, over this spell which will do unpredictable things. 

That’s why if I was to build with this card, my point of focus would be what I have control over and can build around, which is the “X/X for X.” Therefore I would look to run this in a Simic/+ deck that plans on ramping and may want more X/X creatures, which are relatively valuable since you can ramp into them on turns three or four to buy some time against Aggro, or cast them later for six or seven as a must-kill threat.

The bigger your X, the less control you’ll have over what creature you get, but I think the game balance of abilities will even things out enough for your X/X to be a level over a textless token : cheaper creatures have weaker abilities but may have keywords that’ll work well with your X/X (i.e. Alseid of Life’s Bounty), and expensive creatures will either have powerful abilities balanced by weaker stats (i.e. Timeless Witness) or have good stats and a keyword, with less impactful non-keyword abilities (i.e. God-Eternal Kefnet).

Worth noting though: Better Offer doesn’t change ownership of the card, meaning it can get blown out by bounce effects; not only is it a two for one (you lose the creature, they get it back into their hand), but this may net the opponent a 4/4 for two or something equally disastrous. I’ll use the same argument to temper the “anti-Thassa’s Oracle (or any creature Combo piece)” use of the card; you can try to snipe a key creature from a deck running few creatures, but those decks may have ways to bounce it or return it from graveyard to hand, or just have other available winning routes (such as out-valuing you) where you would’ve been better off casting your Better Offer for five or six to pressure them out. 

Experimental Pilot

Sadly for this Pilot, not only does the Vehicle-focused archetype it would supposedly fit in is not really a thing yet, but the Vehicles it brings to the race are very mediocre for the cost you’re paying. 

While it is good at crewing just like other Pilots, the way Vehicles have usually worked is by adding them on top of an already solid early aggression, and crewing them with your cheap creatures when their stats aren’t relevant anymore. But as a mere 1/1 for one with no evasion, this card is only good at doing your « Plan B », and you’d rather run an extra 2/1 or evasive 1/1 instead.

Thinking outside the box though, being able to repeatedly discard two cards for a single mana can be one hell of an enabler for Madness cards, and in these shells Experimental Pilot could act as a pseudo-Putrid Imp. But we’re far from having enough Madness cards in our format to live that kind of dream.

Futurist Spellthief

The first type of deck I would see this card in would be some kind of Tainted Pact or Time Warp deck, where its ceiling is copying a key spell when you have plenty of mana, and its floor is a mix of ambushing some x/3s to survive, duplicating a cantrip or interaction spell for fine value in the mid-game, or stealing a decent spell your opponent casts. 

When it comes to playing this in a fair deck that doesn’t have anything busted to copy, doubling your own cheap powerful spells or stealing a four/+-mana card from your opponent with a free body sounds pretty appealing, especially if their expensive card is a planeswalker you can attack right after (although most played planeswalkers have defensive abilities that can deal with the Spellthief if it’s your only creature). 

The problem is this card alone doesn’t really have a default “you don’t run into my trap, sure : on your end-step I cast this for okay value”-use compared to other flash threats like Brazen Borrower, Shark Typhoon or The Wandering Emperor. If you don’t have a cheap instant to copy, you may be left with nothing better to do than casting Spellthief as a 3/2 flash for tempo, which is acceptable, but something you’d prefer avoiding. 

For me this tends to push the card towards builds that can often play the draw-go game, where you’ll have alternative ways to use your mana if they don’t play something worth stealing, instant-speed draw and interaction to copy if you have leftover mana, and just generally play a more reactive playstyle that can wait for the opportune moment to make Spellthief really good.

Holographic Double

This card is basically a weird take on a Clone, where instead of copying stuff on the board it copies something in your hand. I would look to play this card in a creature-heavy deck running many toolbox and self-replacing creatures so you can always copy something relevant, and key creatures (such as Yorion, Sky Nomad or Prime Speaker Vannifar) you’ll actively want to duplicate for maximum value.

Although compared to clones you won’t get the tempo value of cloning a five/six-drop for three/four mana, Holographic Double can bring a different, complementary way to copy creatures, notably build-around legendary ones. Normal clones don’t work so well with legendary permanents due to the legend rule sending one to the graveyard, but with Holographic Double you get a backup copy instead. This also avoids overcommitting and losing any access to your key creature with a single Wrath of God.

Saiba Syphoner

I haven’t been as excited by a card in a long time (which is 100% false since Kaito Shizuki just came out) and I foresee myself running this in most of my blue decks from this day, until my last day.

In slow games it’ll mostly be a four-mana end-step play that nets your most relevant spell back, with the small upside of being cheaper when you’re flooding or just low on cards. Also don’t miss the one time a month you’ll save two mana by casting this with your last draw spell on the stack, or on your upkeep before you may draw an instant/sorcery. 

Against Aggro though, you’ll get to throw all your spells in the first turns, then cast this for two and recuperate the most adequate piece of interaction from your graveyard. This is both good value and a way to alleviate a common issue: casting a specific kind of interaction (a sweeper, countermagic or exile effect) too early, and getting punished for it later when they do cast the thing demanding a specific answer.

Lastly, Saiba Syphoner adds redundancy and potential loops to your combo/synergy decks by getting back one of your key pieces, such as Ephemerate, Tainted Pact or Time Warp.

Semblance Scanner

Ideally you’ll want to use this in a blue Aggro variant as another Curiosity effect to reward your cheap evasive creatures. While Semblance Scanner doesn’t draw lands or interaction, the interesting dynamic is if your creature hits the opponent, there’s a pretty good chance the conjured copy will hit as well, refilling you with ways to keep applying pressure and getting value off your Scanner.

You may also want to include it in your Artifact Aggro deck for its card types and potential to copy key attackers like Thought Monitor, Patchwork Automaton or Myr Enforcer.

Four mana to cast and equip is pricey though, and the one toughness with no evasion makes this very fragile and easy to block, but it’s worth noting this can attack and generate value on its own, which means it can act as both a Curiosity effect and an Ophidian, giving it uses in creature-heavy hands and interaction-heavy hands. Having cards that bridge these gaps adds some valuable consistency to a Singleton deck.

Consuming Oni

Given the Japanese  association of the letter four with death, this thing makes a lot of sense. Consuming Oni is a great card that I would recommend playing in Aggro lists…as long as they don’t already have access to red or green. Four mana marks the top end of a lot of Aggro decks, and that slot is always contentious. For decks that have access to red or green cards, you’d usually rather play a more immediately impactful threat that can win you the game on that turn. Hellrider and Questing Beast are examples of cards like that. However, for Mono-Black Aggro and Orzhov Aggro, Consuming Oni is a great finisher. It’s hard to kill with red removal, its downside is generally negligible for those decks, and having two evasive keywords allows it to dodge common reach or flying cards like Dream Trawler and Stonecoil Serpent. I’d also recommend it for Midrange, but with Swords to Plowshares and other low-cost removal running around, this card might provide too big a drawback to reliably close the deal; that’s when the downside will really spell death for you, not your opponent.

Kami of Mourning

Good mourning, everyone. Kami of Mourning offers great staying power for a variety of decks, turning any threat into a recurring threat. Your ability to get consistent returns with this card will depend on your deck; for Aggro, you’ll usually be getting a one or two drop, making your opponent’s life difficult as almost any threat you play will cause the chosen card to return upon death. For Midrange, this is a value engine though likely only in Mono-Black, where your options are more limited. The most intriguing possibility for this card, though, is Aristocrats strategies. While your targets in that list are even more limited (that archetype rarely sacrifices anything above a mana value of two), the ability to turn a Doomed Traveler into a repeatable sacrifice target is very tempting. For other non-standard applications, you can use this card in a Combo list, utilizing Prime Speaker Vannifar to apply the effect on a Corridor Monitor. That allows your Combo chains to be much more explosive, and less vulnerable. As a final note, the factor that this card can target both itself (Which also allows you to apply the effect to more creatures every time the Kami returns) and other cards in your graveyard gives it an excellent amount of versatility.

Painful Bond

Faster than a Night’s Whisper, cheaper than a Blood Pact, Painful Bond represents premium draw power for any Black Aggro list. Even if it guaranteed two damage on use, people would likely still run it, but in lists that have a low mana curve it is startlingly free. Even in Midrange, Aggro-leaning lists can run it for its power. Not having to pay up front is a great positive that makes up for the potential of impacting more than two cards. It’s a simple effect and a great one at that.

Soul Servitude

When I look at this card, my Soul Shatters. Soul Servitude takes the best and worst traits of edict cards and ramps it up to 11. On the plus side, if you get a really good target with it, you can immediately discard a card to get that card to play for yourself. Unfortunately, in the situation where an edict is least useful, such as when your opponent has multiple weaker creatures, Soul Servitude is an overpriced removal option that isn’t worth the card to draw. The Soul Shatter comparison I made earlier wasn’t just for the sake of comedy. Where Soul Servitude limits your targets to avoid sacrificing any tokens that you won’t be able to copy, it also has no ability to guarantee your opponents highest mana value creature, and can’t hit planeswalkers. Soul Shatter is already a relatively niche option outside of Control lists, and I don’t think Soul Servitude can fulfill that role more effectively in our format. Consistency is important, and the peaks and valleys of this card are simply too wide.

Swarm Saboteur

If this card was a metal gear boss, their code name would be “Ambush Beetle”. Swarm Saboteur being a deathtouch threat that generates card advantage is good, and having Ninjutsu to rebuy ETB effects and get a guaranteed hit is also good. However, for decks that aren’t looking for that ETB value, the card is less optimal. It attacks poorly due to its one toughness, and the Virus Beetle it creates drop off in value the further along the game is. Still, it’s worth running in decks with that desire to rebuy ETB or can utilize their cheap evasive threats to guarantee the early hit. Dimir Tempo might be a home, given it presents a threat that can destroy the walls that Control likes to play while being okay defensively against Aggro lists due to trading up. 

Undercity Plunder

Let’s see what we can pull out of your opponent’s deck, shall we? Typically, punisher cards that give your opponent a choice aren’t great. However, Undercity Plunder does allow for card advantage regardless of what your opponent chooses. It should be noted that conjuring a random card from your opponent’s library (Which can include lands) is typically worse than drawing a card. That you can sometimes get an out of color effect doesn’t override that it’ll usually be worse than drawing a card designed to advance your game plan. However, Plunder is a source of advantage, and I can see it being played in decks running both black cards and Young Pyromancer type effect as a way to generate tokens; it counting as potentially two spells is great, and the base effect can deprive your opponent of valuable resources. Outside of those decks, I think it can be an option in Midrange, but might be too unreliable as a straight value card. Only time will tell whether this plunder is a diamond in the rough.

Join us next time for the review of red, green, and multicolor cards. Or, in other words, industry, nature, and that one terrifying samurai lady.

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