Dig Through Time — Betrayers of Kamigawa

Hoooleeeee crap, it has been awhile. But! Dig Through Time is back today with a review of the second set of the infamous Kamigawa block—Betrayers of Kamigawa. This set came out 13 years ago in 2005 (can you believe that 2005 was 13 years ago?) and introduced one of the most popular, most requested aspects of Kamigawa: ninjas. Ninjas used the ninjutsu keyword, which allowed you to pay a cost, return an unblocked attacker to hand, and put a ninja card from your hand onto the battlefield tapped and attacking. This mechanic was actually the seed for the emerge mechanic that we saw in Eldritch Moon, though I feel that emerge more closely resembles the other mechanic that BoK introduced which was offering. Offering was tied to the five tribes in Kamigawa, allowing you to sacrifice some number of creatures of a particular get a discount on the Patron of that tribe. Only the five Patrons used this mechanic in the set. Though the block is remembered fondly by us EDH players, and Vorthos everywhere continue to slaver for more Ninjas, Mark Rosewater just confirmed once again that a return to this plane is highly unlikely, but that doesn’t have to stop us from digging around for some hot jank gems! Let’s take a look at what underplayed treats this set is serving up.


Seeing play in 45 decks is Kitsune Palliator, an interesting take on a pretty common effect. We’re familiar with draft chaff cards like Abuna Acolyte and D’Avenant Healer that provide targeted damage prevention, but how about something that protects everything and everybody at once? It’s good for keeping you alive, it’s good for saving your creatures, and it’s good for politics. It’s also good for a soft fog, and it’s a hilarious way to counter a single activation of Pestilence. Keep in mind, it won’t prevent the next one damage per creature that would be dealt to a player, so if you’re facing down a swarm of tokens this is only going to stop a single damage from one of them.

Patron of the Kitsune plays this card the most at 13 decks for the obvious tribal synergies. Kitsune Palliator seems like it would have a happy home in some Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis builds, or even those dreaded Phelddagrif or Zedruu, the Greathearted no-wincon hug decks.


Reduce to Dreams is a beautiful, surgical mass bounce spell that sees play in just 52 decks. How often do the people in your playgroup drop mana rocks on turns one through three, and then play a big bomb artifact or enchantment like Sunbird’s Invocation? Reduce to Dreams sets those players back several turns while allowing you first chance to start rebuilding. Considering that blue has some problems with getting rid of artifacts and enchantments once they’re resolved, and especially en masse, I’m pretty surprised that this card isn’t a bit more of a staple.

Talrand, Sky Summoner, the king of all instants and sorceries, plays this card the most at 5 decks. I think this kind of effect is most needed in mono-blue and blue/black decks where the amount of interaction with artifacts and enchantments is minimal. Throw this in Phenax, God of Deception, Sygg, River Cutthroat, or Baral, Chief of Compliance.


Sickening Shoal is a phenomenal targeted removal spell (with sick, psychedelic art!) that sees play in only 191 decks. By way of comparison of effect, Slaughter Pact sees play in 1,479 decks, Snuff Out sees play in 2,547 decks, and Dismember sees play in 4,515 decks at the time of this article. Like Dismember, Sickening Shoal gives -N/-N to a creature, getting rid of indestructible creatures with ease, with no compunction about whether the creature is black or not. Like Snuff Out, and ostensibly Slaughter Pact, Sickening Shoal can be “free” to cast. Sometimes you’re tapped out and it’s worth it to exile a Nirkana Revenant from your hand to take out an opponent’s Hazoret the Fervent.

Possibly suffering from same block syndrome, Iname as One plays this card the most at 20 decks. Sickening Shoal is especially great with commanders that cast from the graveyard like Dralnu, Lich Lord and Kess, Dissident Mage. Try it in your next B/x brew. There are plenty of tempting black commanders in Dominaria that could do some fancy things with free spot removal.


Speaking of removal, Hero’s Demise is a spot removal spell that will always have a relevant target yet sees play in just 503 decks. This card has the same cost and speed as Doom Blade, but has a much better chance of taking out an opponent’s commander. As Dana Roach would say (and has said), not a single deck should be running Doom Blade, they should run this instead. Dominaria is giving us the inverse of this card in Cast Down (also better than Doom Blade), which will be able to hit everything that this card can’t.

Toshiro Umezawa plays this card the most at 82 decks. He’s from the same set as the card, and he synergizes extremely well with spot removal spells—he might even want that Sickening Shoal—so Hero’s Demise is a solid choice for him. Like Shoal, this deck works well with Kess, Dissident Mage and Dralnu, Lich Lord. And really, it belongs in any deck that runs Doom Blade for value, since this is just better.


In addition to being the only Italian spirit on Kamigawa, Mannichi, the Fevered Dream is a fantastic way to cause some combat chaos that sees play in only 58 decks. Let’s talk about how good this is with first strike. Let’s say you have a Bloodmark Mentor and your creatures all have greater toughness than power. You swing out with your team of big butts, activate Mannichi, deal your first strike damage, and then, before regular combat damage is dealt, activate Mannichi again, allowing your team to survive any unfavorable blocks. You can use the ability defensively as well. If an opponent attacks you with a horde of goblins and a Shared Animosity on board you can allow the Animosity trigger to resolve and then activate Mannichi, taking damage equal to the attackers’ toughness instead of their power

Skyfire Kirin plays this card the most at nine decks because…both cards are spirits? There’s really no synergistic overlap between the two, it’s entirely the Same Block Effect at work. Mannichi could be really great in a big butts Alesha, Who Smiles at Death deck. Speaking of high toughness, Neheb, the Eternal has a big butt that wouldn’t mind getting swapped. any R/x commander that’s looking for on-board combat tricks that incidentally kill 0-power creatures should take a look at Mannichi.


Seeing play in 31 decks Kumano’s Blessing is an interesting removal option in decks that run Red. Chandra’s Ignition suddenly has the potential to exile the whole board of creatures, pingers like Prodigal Pyromancer can exile all the tiny dudes, creatures with deathtouch gain super deathtouch instead, you could surprise drop it on an opponent’s creature in response to an Alpha Brawl to make that Brawl a little nastier. Auras get a well-deserved bad rap for two-for-one-ing you, but sometimes an effect makes it worth it, and the flash stapled onto Blessing takes out some of that sting.

Uril, the Miststalker plays this card the most at 8 decks. Commanders that can deal direct damage to creatures like Kaervek the Merciless, Nin, the Pain Artist and Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind are all exceptional candidates for Kumeno’s Blessing. If reanimator is a problem for your Red deck and you can’t find other options, take a look at this card.


Enshrined Memories is creature card draw that sees play in just 193 decks. It’s not that green is hurting for card draw necessarily, but in a creature heavy deck this card can pretty efficiently fill your hand up with cards in the late game. Green tends to ramp by fetching and tutoring land cards, which thins the deck a bit, and green also plays mana doublers like Zendikar Resurgent which often gives you surplus mana. All I’m saying is, there are worse cards to sink your mana into. *cough*Animist’s Awakening*cough*…

Rosheen Meanderer, who can sink four mana right into Enshrined Memories, plays this card the most at 60 decks. Selvala, Heart of the Wilds and the new legends Marwyn, the Nurturer Grand Warlord Radha from Dominaria are also pretty good commanders to run Enshrined Memories.


Do you enjoy stealing cards from your opponents, no matter what color you’re playing? Then Ornate Kanzashi, which sees play in 91 decks, might be the card for you. The wording on the card allows you to play the card it exiles. That means you can play lands exiled with Ornate Kanzashi, which is convenient because you will have to pay the mana cost for any nonland cards you exile, including the colored mana. Pair this puppy up with Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient and Rings of Brighthearth to double your fun.

Sen Triplets plays this card the most at 14 decks for the card theft synergy. I mentioned that Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient could double the effect, so building around this card in mono-red could be a thing, and it’s also on-theme for the mono-red Grenzo, Havoc Raiser.


The Action

This week, to showcase some of those sweet, sweet spot removal spells, I want to walk you through my Korlash, Heir to Blackblade voltron deck. (And let me just say how incredibly excited I am that he can now wear the Blackblade thanks to Blackblade Reforged which comes out in Dominaria!) So, Korlash is a bit of an interesting card. He gets bigger with each swamp you control, so the deck looks for all of the non-green ways to drop extra lands each turn. On top of that, Korlash can regenerate, allowing me to dodge most board wipes. So, I run a fair amount of board wipes, and play spot removal and evasive equipment for everything else.

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Dean is a husband, father, writer, and long-time fan of Magic and gaming in general. He co-hosts the Commander Time! podcast with Nate Burgess and Patrick Sippola. Currently located in Rochester, NY; he loves playing with new people, so if you're ever in the area, shoot him a message. You can find him on Facebook, or tweet @GrubFellow.