Welcome to Judgement Day; a series of articles that looks at popular opinions within the Magic community and finds out if they are rooted in fact or simply mass hysteria. Today, we’re going to look at a fairly easy target: was Kamigawa block as terrible as everyone thinks it was?
For those who weren’t around then, Kamigawa block was a block set on the Japanese-inspired plane of the same name. Story-wise, it focused on the heroics of a band of characters trying to stop the end of the world at the hands of an angry spirit dragon who was trying to get his baby back from an old man’s mirror (it makes more sense if explained in more detail but that’s not what we’re here for).
With themes of Spirits, Arcane spells, and tons of legendary creatures, Kamigawa came in during a very interesting time for Standard. It came in just after the notoriously degenerate Mirrodin and at a time when Magic was fast and heavy. It was then followed up by the Ravnica block, which focused heavily on multicolour play, something that the Kamigawa block lacked. In general, players didn’t like the higher cost and lower impact of the cards in Kamigawa block, but that’s not to say that the entire block was a write-off.
First, we’ll look at Kamigawa block the way it was first introduced to most players: Limited. The Limited format for Kamigawa was kind of like a so-called “battleship Magic” meta, but without the battleships. Almost everything cost more than what most players are used to. Want a 1/2 flyer that can tap to give +1/+2 to a creature? That’ll be 3 mana for Kabuto Moth please. Want to destroy a land? You’ll need 5 mana for Feast of Worms. How about Unsummon? Consuming Vortex is just like that, except it costs twice as much (quadruple if you splice). Now, you may be thinking that this sounds like a bad time for everyone and, it kind of is if you have the wrong mindset. If you went into Kamigawa Limited expecting the same experience as Mirrodin Limited, you were going to be very disappointed and I think that that initial disappointment is part of the reason that Kamigawa gets such a bad rap for its Limited environment. It had a lot of solid, albeit insular, mechanics such as Arcane and Spirits and it is a generally fun time.
For Standard at the time, Kamigawa had some pretty solid additions as well. Katsuhiro Mori drove his Ghazi-Glare deck to win the 2005 World Championship and a good section of it was from Kamigawa. Another popular deck was UG Meloku control, which was mostly Kamigawa as well. Finally, there was the rise of Owling Mine near the end of the block’s time in Standard, which was also a popular deck that relied a fair bit on cards from the block. So, despite being so reviled, Kamigawa gave rise to a bunch of popular decks that some still have a fondness for even now.
Finally, let’s look at the lasting impact the Kamigawa block has had on the Eternal formats. There are so many cards that have become staples in one way or another that it wouldn’t be possible to make them all into one list without going on for too long and making my editor hate me. To start, we have a card that’s so good it’s either been banned or there are calls for it to be banned in every format: Sensei’s Diving Top. It made such an impact on Legacy that its recent banning killed one of the top tier decks when it left. Then there’s Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker also has powerful decks built around him, as does Glimpse of Nature and Azusa, Lost but Seeking. Several popular hate cards were introduced in this block as well, with the likes of Pithing Needle, Kataki, War’s Wage, and Threads of Disloyalty first seeing print here. Finally, Commander got a bunch of staple cards from this block, just a few of them being: Azami, Lady of Scrolls, Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni, Time of Need, Hero’s Demise, Minamo, School at Water’s Edge, and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea.
I feel like Kamigawa block has gotten a much worse reputation than it deserves. I think that if it had been released at a different time, it would have gotten much more love. It’s only crime is that it got stuck in the middle of two very powerful blocks and it was just “good”. It was the peanut butter in a ham sandwich; great somewhere else, but bad in the place it was put.
If you’re looking to try out any Kamigawa block cards you can do so on Mondays at 7:00 pm at the store or try out some Commander during our Friday Night Magic at 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm. Legacy might be your jam and we will be hosting a Magic Legacy Quarterly with 100% of the entries paid out in store credit.
Jay Edwards is an advocate for janky magic combos, and exploring fun and casual Magic ideas. When he’s not contributing columns to A Muse N Games.ca, he keeps himself busy as a Magic Judge. His new column, Tapping Cardboard, will appear here twice monthly so be sure to check it out!