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By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
Oct 18 2013 10:55am
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Here we are, with an overview of Kamigawa block!  Continuing on with my block overviews for Commander.  Previous entries include Mirrodin block, Onslaught block, Odyssey block, Invasion block, Rath block, Masques block and Mirage block!  Eventually I'm going to catch up to where my set by set Overviews started in Scars of Mirrodin block so there are definitely a few more of these coming down the road.

Kamigawa block had a couple of big themes going for it.  The first is legends.  As a matter of fact, every rare creature in the block is a legendary creature!  This should be good for most Commander players, since it gives lots of options for potential Commanders.  However there are very few gold cards in the set which severely limits your deck building possibilities.  Still there are a couple of powerful dudes to build around out there.  Originally I was going to go over each legend and assess their Commander playability, but there were just too many.  You'll see how I handled this below.

The actual mechanics used in the set are very insular.  Bushido doesn't really do much and arcane spells really only interact with arcane spells, and spirits sometimes.  Soulshift seems like it could be a good mechanic but limits your deck to a spirit tribal sort of machine.  The spirit tribe is actually pretty powerful but doesn't necessarily say "build around me!" like elves or slivers especially since there's no real spirit "lord" out there.  

There's some other goofy stuff, like the flip cards, but the remainder of the mechanics aren't anything good.  With that out of the way, let's look at the cards!

LEGENDARY CREATURES 

 photo kagemaro_first_to_suffer_art_adam_rex_zpsac8ca753.jpg

Ok, like I said already, there are a ton of legendary creatures.  I'm going to break them down into groups.  First, the cycles.

Jugan, the Rising Star Keiga, the Tide Star Kokusho, the Evening Star Ryusei, the Falling Star Yosei, the Morning Star
Jugan, the Rising Star, Keiga, the Tide Star, Kokusho, the Evening Star, Ryusei, the Falling Star, Yosei, the Morning Star

The cycle of dragons obviously don't make very good Commanders since they have to go to the graveyard to get their effects, and by doing that you can't re-cast them from the Command zone.  It's possible to use them as Commanders and just use a bunch of recursion effects like some people do with Child of Alara.  The problem is that they are all mono-colored and it is therefore difficult to go this route.  I'm honestly surprised that I haven't seen anyone attempt this method with Kokusho now that he's unbanned.  However, each of these (except Jugan) are all good support creatures in decks.  Ryusei provides an Earthquake effect, Kokusho drains a bunch of life, Keiga steals a creature, and Yosei can lock people down.  Even Jugan helps out by making your dudes bigger.  It has been a while since I've seen Yosei used but all these guys are pretty good.

Myojin of Cleansing Fire Myojin of Infinite Rage Myojin of Life's Web Myojin of Night's Reach Myojin of Seeing Winds
Myojin of Cleansing Fire, Myojin of Infinite Rage, Myojin of Life's Web, Myojin of Night's Reach, Myojin of Seeing Winds

The Myojin cycle has a bunch of similarly unplayable Commanders.  Each of these guys needs to be cast from the hand to get their indestructibility counter.  Again, recursion can make these guys playable but they won't be all that great since you're wasting resources on something that should be easily available (your Commander).  However as regular guys in your deck they are all really powerful.  Everyone has faced a Myojin of Night's Reach and watched that Myojin player turn the game in their favor.  Seeing Winds can lead to a whole ton of card draw, Cleansing Fire can wipe the board, and Infinite Rage is another Armageddon effect.  Life's Web is likely the weakest of the bunch but with enough draw it can lead to some pretty silly turns.  Everyone likes indestructible dudes.

Patron of the Akki Patron of the Kitsune Patron of the Moon Patron of the Nezumi Patron of the Orochi
Patron of the Akki, Patron of the Kitsune, Patron of the Moon, Patron of the Nezumi, Patron of the Orochi

Now the Patron cycle doesn't have any of the restrictions that the dragons or Myojin carry.  However for the most part they are far less powerful.  The exceptions are the Orochi and the Moon.  The Moon is really good at ramping and can make a ton of mana with something like Amulet of Vigor.  There have been more than a few Moon decks running around in the past.  The Orochi's ability can be used during every turn.  People forget that this means you can use it 4 times a round during a 4 player game.  It's an exceedingly great way to ramp and acquire a whole mess of mana, and is even better with something like Omnath or Upwelling in play.  The Kitsune isn't bad in that it's a big flyer that passively gains a lot of life over time.  Problem is there are plenty of ways to gain life in White that aren't as fragile.  The Akki and the Nezumi are fine, just not nearly as powerful as other options.

Adamaro, First to Desire Kagemaro, First to Suffer Kiyomaro, First to Stand Masumaro, First to Live Soramaro, First to Dream
Adamaro, First to Desire, Kagemaro, First to Suffer, Kiyomaro, First to Stand, Masumaro, First to Live, Soramaro, First to Dream

A lot of good stuff here.  Each of these guys obviously scales with the amount of card draw in your deck.  I've actually made decks around Kiyomaro and Adamaro, even if they are probably the least powerful of the bunch.  Adamaro does well with some resource denial and draw spells, while Kiyomaro just needed some equipment to get there.  However Kagemaro takes the prize as the best, being repeatable board control as a Commander.  Mono-Black definitely loves being able to determine who lives and who dies.  Soramaro is awesome, being evasive and having the ability to draw and make himself bigger.  Plus, he's Blue, which makes him great.  Masumaro is just really big and is likely better as a support creature in Prime Speaker Zegana decks.  These are all fun.

Erayo, Soratami Ascendant Homura, Human Ascendant Kuon, Ogre Ascendant Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant, Homura, Human Ascendant, Kuon, Ogre Ascendant, Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant, Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant

First, Erayo is banned as a Commander, but can be used in your 99.  Even still, if your deck wants to pack Erayo it's not really going to be fun to play against.  Rune-Tail is pretty good in that it takes almost nothing to flip him and then your creatures are protected, which is a pain in the ass for opponents.  The remainder of the guys take a little work to get going.  Obviously with Sasaya you need a ton of lands in your deck but hopefully you can put all that mana to good use with huge X spells and such.  Kuon acts as a non-targeting version of The Abyss once flipped, which is great in control.  Homura likes tons of guys to turn into dragons with Firebreathing, which is what I did with my version.  They're all pretty fun.

If you're wondering where the Kirin cycle is, they're crap.  Therefore, they fall into the following Crap/Fringe pile:

Akuta, Born of AshAyumi, the Last VisitorBen-Ben, Akki HermitBounteous KirinBrothers YamazakiChisei, Heart of OceansCloudhoof KirinHe Who HungersHikari, Twilight GuardianHisoka, Minamo SenseiIizuka the RuthlessIname as OneInfernal KirinIsao, Enlightened BushiIshi-Ishi, Akki CrackshotKaho, Minamo HistorianKataki, War's WageKentaro, the Smiling CatKodama of the Center TreeKodama of the North TreeKyoki, Sanity's EclipseMannichi, the Fevered DreamMasako the HumorlessNagao, Bound By HonorOpal-Eye, Konda's YojimboOyobi, Who Split the HeavensSekki, Seasons' GuideSensei Golden-TailShimatsu the BloodcloakedShisato, Whispering HunterShizuko, Caller of AutumnSkyfire KirinSosuke, Son of SeshiroTakeno, Samurai GeneralThe UnspeakableTomorrow, Azami's FamiliarToshiro UmezawaYomiji, Who Bars the WayYukora, the Prisoner

Akuta, Born of Ash, Ayumi, the Last Visitor, Ben-Ben, Akki Hermit, Bounteous Kirin, Brothers Yamazaki, Chisei, Heart of Oceans, Cloudhoof Kirin, He Who Hungers, Hikari, Twilight Guardian, Hisoka, Minamo Sensei, Iizuka the Ruthless, Iname as One, Infernal KirinIsao, Enlightened BushiIshi-Ishi, Akki Crackshot, Kaho, Minamo Historian, Kataki, War's Wage, Kentaro, the Smiling Cat, Kodama of the Center Tree, Kodama of the North Tree, Kyoki, Sanity's Eclipse, Mannichi, the Fevered Dream, Masako the Humorless, Nagao, Bound By Honor, Opal-Eye, Konda's Yojimbo, Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens, Sekki, Seasons' Guide Sensei Golden-Tail, Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked, Shisato, Whispering Hunter, Shizuko, Caller of Autumn, Skyfire Kirin, Sosuke, Son of Seshiro, Takeno, Samurai General, The Unspeakable, Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar, Toshiro Umezawa, Yomiji, Who Bars the Way, Yukora, the Prisoner

Ok, this is the list of just junk guys who either are 1) too narrow in what they do, or 2) just plain suck.  Yes, if you want, you can make a Skyfire Kirin deck.  Is it going to be good?  No.  But you'll get style points for using him.  A bunch of these guys are spirits or have some sort of tribal affiliation so you may see them in that context but most of the time you won't.  I will point out that Ayumi, the Last Visitor is better with the new legend rule but that doesn't necessarily make her playable, despite having 7 power.  Shizuko is often seen in group hug decks and that's about it.  I hesitated to put Kodama of the North Tree in the crap pile, but really, he doesn't do enough and I've never seen him used as a Commander.  Feel free to say "I have an awesome Mannichi deck!" in the comments.  Out of all these guys I've only seen the following used as a Commander once: Kaho, Minamo Historian, The Unspeakable, Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar.  Notice that they're all Blue.

All right, here's the list of mediocre legends.  I've usually seen them played as Commanders a couple times, or they come in as support creatures.  I'm going to try limiting myself to one sentence for each of them because there are a lot.

Arashi, the Sky AsunderCelestial KirinDosan the Falling Leaffumiko the lowbloodhigure, the still windiname, life aspectisamaru, hound of kondaiwamori of the open fistjiwari, the earth aflamekami of the crescent moonkiku, night's flowerKodama of the south treeKumano, master yamabushikuro, pitlordmeloku the clouded mirrormichiko konda, truth seekersachi, daughter of seshirosakashima the impostorsakiko, mother of summerseizan, perverter of truthseshiro the anointeduyo, silent prophet

All right, now we get to the big guns, the guys who are playable, see a decent amount of action, or are just powerful.

azami, lady of scrolls

Azami, Lady of Scrolls - We start off with the big lady herself, Azami.  If you are at a table where Azami is playing and she isn't the first person you want to kill out of the gate, the other people at the table better be Zur and... well that's about it actually.  Azami is known for drawing massive amounts of cards, taking long turns, and often winning out of nowhere with a combo that typically uses Laboratory Maniac.  Top all that off with counter magic and the occasional extra turn and you have a power house of a Commander.  She is very good, even if you go with a goofy Wizard tribal instead of cut throat "win on turn 5" kind of deck.  She is as good as it gets.  I made a tribal wizard deck using her a while back that was budget, and still did well.

Azami is generally good enough to run as a creature in your deck if you have a Wizard or Changeling sub-theme.  The good thing about her is that you can use her ability immediately, meaning that she immediately replaces herself (albeit for 5 mana).  Even still, with 2 Wizards out there that's 2 cards, and more if she survives a couple of turns.

azusa, lost but seeking

Azusa, Lost but Seeking - Another "must kill" Commander, Azusa used to be all over the place when Emrakul was still legal.  Jam your deck with 50 lands and out ramp everyone, then cast a huge bomb on turn 5 or something.  Azusa still sees a bunch of play, but not as much as we used to see.  Her game plan doesn't vary much:  Large beats, some destruction, card draw and go.  When you can have more mana than everyone else on the table, you're pretty hard to beat.

Azusa doesn't see enough play as a support creature in my eyes.  There are plenty of Simic and other decks with Green that draw a whole mess of cards that can use the ability to play a bunch of lands.  She works great with Crucible of Worlds and fetch lands, and likes Landfall a lot.  Still, without the ability to draw a lot of cards sometimes she doesn't do as much for you as you want.

eight-and-a-half-tails

Eight-and-a-Half-Tails - 8.5 Tails used to be pretty common.  He can be both a control Commander, giving your stuff protection through sitting back and building up mana, or aggro, providing a way for your dudes to get past defenders while sticking equipment on them.  Unfortunately for the old fox, he has fallen out of favor now for new and improved Commanders.  Still, with enough mana you can provide protection for any targeted removal and to slip past defenses, or even just defend.  Mass removal is still a problem, but that's what Avacyn is for.

8.5 Tails isn't a bad guy to have in your deck, giving you all the same benefits.  Once again I think people have forgotten about him though.  Include the fact that he's a little mana hungry and people pass him by.  It's a shame, because he's actually pretty good.

godo, bandit warlord

Godo, Bandit Warlord - Godo is the man.  Searching up equipment while gaining 2 attack steps isn't bad at all.  Usually there are tons of artifacts in these decks including ramp to get him out fast.  Put a couple of Swords on him and he's very tough to deal with.  More cut throat versions include land destruction, but that's not recommended.  I put together a budget version that actually did very well.  He can beat down with the best of them.  Another guy I built a budget deck around.

If you have a deck that likes equipment, you need to have Godo in it.  He searches things up and puts them directly into play.  What more can you ask for?  He goes well into Jor Kadeen decks.  He might not be as efficient as Stoneforge Mystic but there's no reason not to play both.

heartless hidetsugu

Heartless Hidetsugu - If you're a fan of fast games this is the guy for you.  Start off with some artifact ramp to get him out quick, haste outlets so you can use his ability right away, Gratuitous Violence, and include a couple of ways to ping yourself so that your life total can be an odd number.  Fill out with utility, and you got yourself a deck!  Some random life gain probably won't hurt either.  This guy will often put a target on your back, because people know that you want to burn all of them out quickly.  But lots of times you can get a game done in under an hour, and there's something to be said for that.

I don't think that I've ever seen him used as a regular creature in a deck.  Maybe in a deck with a life gain theme?  Not sure how he would work out though.

hokori, dust drinker

Hokori, Dust Drinker - Ok, while no one actually plays with Hokori, that doesn't mean he's not extremely powerful.  A living Winter Orb, he's really good at slowing people down.  Include a lot of artifact mana to get around his restriction, as well as a lot of cheap spells, and you should be able to control things out of the gate.  But once again, you will have a huge target on your head.  People don't like having their lands messed with.  On top of that Hokori is pretty fragile.  My guess is that he becomes pretty expensive relatively quickly.

I have seen Hokori used as a support creature in various mana denial strategies.  Again, he's very good at what he does.  That doesn't make him likeable though.

horobi, death's wail

Horobi, Death's Wail - Horobi is an interesting legend that I actually built around a while back.  The trick is to have a lot of card that target, including colorless ones like Urborg or Cauldron of Souls (they die before they have the chance to gain persist).  I also included indestructible creatures, and ways to make your dudes indestructible like Eldrazi Monument.  The trick is that these cards need to be useful even when Horobi isn't out there, because he often becomes a target himself.  He can make a pretty good control Commander though.

The only time I've seen him used as a support creature is in an Iname, Death Aspect deck, since he combos well with Kuro, PitlordLiving Death him back and target all your opponents' creatures to wipe the board again.  Protection from Black is a problem, but you should be fine with creature superiority.  I can't imagine too many other times when you would want him in your deck.

iname, death aspect

Iname, Death Aspect - Iname is great at one thing:  mass reanimation.  You want to put in your Twilight's Call, Patriarch's Bidding, even your Living Death so that when you put your desired spirits in the graveyard by casting Iname, you can bring them back.  This also means tutors in your deck, plus a little bit of graveyard hate.  The question is, how many spirits do you want in your deck?  Do you only want a few high powered ones?  Or a whole ton of them to flood the board?  I've seen both versions work.

Unless you're playing a spirit heavy deck with a decent recursion theme, I don't really see using him as one of your 99.  I guess he's like an expensive Entomb or Buried Alive with a body attached.  You could put a few silver bullet spirits in your deck, like Kokusho or Yosei or something.  Maybe it is worth trying out...

ink-eyes, servant of oni

Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni - The rat mistress, who doesn't like stealing stuff from graveyards?  Of course, she was passed up by Geth, Lord of the Vault for a while (and even Geth has sort of fallen to the wayside now).  Still, there's something to be said about having your team led by a ninja rat.  Don't forget that you can actually ninja her out from the Command zone too!

Ink-Eyes is actually better as one of your 99 because a lot of times people don't expect her.  So you can pillage people's graveyards and bounce a useful "enters the battlefield" critter back to your hand to be replayed!  (My favorite for this is Mulldrifter.)  A little bit of graveyard stealing is always nice.

kiki-jiki, mirror breaker

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker - I've seen Kiki as straight up combo, and also as goblins.  But most of the time even the goblin versions have some sort of combo in them.  The fastest combo is usually with Zealous Conscripts, which can be searched up using Imperial RecruiterThornbite Staff with a free sac outlet can also lead to goofiness. Then there's some complicated combo with Lightning Crafter that sounds like a pain to do online.  But abusing "enters the battlefield" guys and including sac outlets is a pretty good way to go with him.

Kiki is excellent as a regular dude in your deck.  Most people play with creatures that have an effect when they enter the battlefield, and Kiki makes those repeatable.  Add some sort of sacrifice outlet for more fun.  I've used him in Brion Stoutarm decks, and decks that enjoy having a lot of dudes, period.  Good times.

kira, great glass-spinner

Kira, Great Glass-Spinner - At first I was going to put Kira into the Tier 2 crowd, but really her ability is very solid if you have creatures that you enjoy protecting.  She comes out quick and really makes pinpoint removal much  harder to use.  She's very good at protecting creatures like Arcanis or Lighthouse Chronologist, Teferi or Consecrated Sphinx she does an excellent job.  Of course, she does nothing for board wipes, but making cards like Swords to Plowshares and Duplicant that much harder to use is always nice.

Kira is an excellent support creature for all the reasons previously mentioned.  There are a lot of dudes that you don't want to have messed with out there.

konda, lord of eiganjo

Konda, Lord of Eiganjo - For a little while back there Konda was seeing play with every Wrath variant you could find (and there are a ton of them out there).  He could take a licking and keep on ticking.  Although he didn't hit very hard, he stuck out there unless there was a Hallowed Burial played.  However, I haven't seen him in a very long time.  On top of that, Avacyn, Angel of Hope is an actual card now, and pretty much better than Konda in every way for just 1 more mana.  So....  yeah.

Unless you are going with the Indestructible theme pretty hard core, it is hard to justify putting this guy into your deck.  You could also go with a Kamigawa theme, or samurai theme, but they are both stretching the limits pretty hard.

maga, traitor to mortals

Maga, Traitor to Mortals - Maga was the big bad mono-Black Commander for a long time.  I actually built a deck using him for my 4th article.  He is great because Black has a bunch of ways to make a ton of mana.  Include all of them so that you could hit people with Maga's direct damage, then sacrifice him and do it again!  If you can use Essence Harvest or Rite of Consumption, even better!  However I haven't seen him used for a while.  I think the older players may have just got tired of him, and the newer players have so many new toys to use.  Still, he is an excellent Commander and you should worry if you see him at your table.

Unless your deck is focused on making a ton of mana, it's hard to justify using Maga in your deck.  There are a variety of Golgari decks out there that love big mana that he could fit in.  Also, I liked him in my Rakdos, Lord of Riots deck, even though it wasn't big mana and more like cost reducing.  So Maga can find a home in some decks where he isn't a Commander.

marrow-gnawer

Marrow-Gnawer - Who doesn't love rats?  This guy is great in not only makes your rats difficult to block, he also can increase the number of rats you have!  Sounds like a really good deal to me.  I've seen him used with Relentless Rats, but honestly there are enough rats out there now that you don't even have to go that route.  A very good tribal lord.

If you aren't going to have him leading your team of rats, you should consider him if you have a plan or focus on making tons of rats.  However, even if you don't, he can still be very useful.

reki, the History of kamigawa

Reki, the History of Kamigawa - Reki is pretty good.  When you build around him, you put a bunch of legends into a typical mono-Green shell.  As a matter of fact, I already did that once, HERE, and it was prety fun to play.  It's just really nice to have a cheap Commander that has card draw attached.  Plus, my guess is that he's the only Commander that has tattoos!  Come on, prove me wrong! (I fully expect to be wrong.)

As a regular dude, he obviously goes into Captain Sisay decks.  I know that I've toyed around with several legendary themed decks in the past, and if they have Green he's obviously in them.  But those are pretty much just corner cases.  Still, tattoos!!!

shirei, Shizo's caretaker

Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker - Shirei was basically a Zubera enabler, but in Commander you have a ton more options.  Black has a lot of little dudes that force discard, or have little effects, and you can keep killing them off to use Butcher of Malakir or Grave Pact to keep critters under control, as well as have Harvester of Souls draw you cards.  Essentially he's a goofy control deck most of the time.  If you want to get really goofy try using Pentavus type cards as well.  But you have to put up with a lot of triggers, which can be annoying.

I can't imagine too many situations where you would put this guy into a deck that didn't involve him being the Commander.  I guess it's possible though.

zo-zu the punisher

Zo-Zu the Punisher - In this era of mega ramp, Zo-Zu seems like he'd be pretty techy.  You could put him into a Goblin shell, a control shell, or even a land destruction deck.  There are a few similar cards out there as well, like Invader Parasite.  Of course, people really like being able to play their lands, and you will almost always have a bullseye on your head  if you rush this guy out there.  Still, most of the time he really just hurts the mono-Green player, who needs to be kept in check anyways.

There are a variety of land hate type decks out there that would love to have Zo-Zu in their decks.  Of course, most people don't play those types of decks.  But if you like running Wildfire or Armageddon, he can bring some pain to the party.

CREATURES

 photo Budoka_zps83cdb4ba.jpg

blood speaker Blood Speaker - This guy always sees play in Demon tribal decks, because who doesn't like to tutor up your Demons?  But really, you only need to play with 2 or 3 Demons to really make him powerful.  If you're playing a control deck with Black, and you're running Rune-Scarred Demon, Bloodgift Demon and Kagemaro, First to Suffer, you should strongly consider adding this guy.

budoka gardener Budoka Gardener - This guy definitely can help you ramp, especially if you draw a lot of cards.  The good thing is that once he's done helping you ramp, he can make that mana count by creating huge dudes!  Admittedly I've only seen him flip and live long enough to create the elementals a couple times, but it still seems cool.

jushi apprentice Jushi Apprentice - Another fun flip card, this guy can draw early.  Once he's flipped, watch out!  Great in Niv-Mizzet decks or decks that like Psychosis Crawler.

kami of false hope Kami of False Hope - This may not seem like a power player, but if you have a way to recur him over and over, you can effectively stop receiving damage.

lifespinner Lifespinner - Being able to tutor stuff up is nice.  There are lots of Spirits out there, so if you're running tribal you need to give him a shot.

nezumi graverobber Nezumi Graverobber - Old school graveyard hate that will give you the opportunity to plunder people's graveyards after he gets flipped.  Good stuff.

nezumi shortfang Nezumi Shortfang - The interesting thing about this guy is that you can use his discard ability at instant speed.  Meaning that if an opponent has few cards in hand, use Shortfang during his draw step and he's limited to only playing instants and making tough choices.

nikko-onna Nikko-Onna - Possibility of repeatable enchantment removal is always nice.

ninja of the deep hours Ninja of the Deep Hours - Not seen as much in Commander, but still worth considering.  I used him in my Sygg deck that featured and bunch of evasive "enters the battlefield" types, as well as ways to make creatures tough to block.

okiba-gang shinobi Okiba-Gang Shinobi - Another useful ninja.  Most people don't expect to have to discard 2 cards out of nowhere.  And if you can continue to get him though, he's a real pain in the butt.

sakura-tribe elder Sakura-Tribe Elder - Very easy to use, very good at ramping.  Commander staple.

samurai of the pale curtain Samurai of the Pale Curtain - I know that Dryad Militant is a card, and this is the other half.  Worth knowing about.

shape stealer Shape Stealer - I never see this guy played except for in shapeshifter tribal decks.  The main issue is that he's horrible offensively.  Oh well.

stampeding serow Stampeding Serow - The sequel to Stampeding Wildebeests, sometimes you just want to use your "enters the battlefield" guys over and over.  Species Gorger is bigger, but this guy has trample!

throat slitter Throat Slitter - Removal on a stick, but it's sad when all your opponents are playing Black.

traproot kami Traproot Kami - In mono-Green, big wall is big.  Reach is really what makes this thing nice.

yuki-onna Yuki-Onna - Repeatable artifact destruction is worth considering.

ARTIFACTS, ENCHANTMENTS AND LANDS

 

honden of cleansing fire honden of infinite rage honden of life's web honden of night's reach honden of seeing winds
Honden of Cleansing Fire, Honden of Infinite Rage, Honden of Life's Web, Honden of Night's Reach, Honden of Seeing Winds

The Hondens are goofy, but fun when you get a bunch out.  Every once in a while I'll see a 5 color deck bust out a Honden and remember that they exist.  Unfortunately for the most part they just don't do enough on their own.  Probably the most powerful by itself is Honden of Seeing Winds, because drawing cards is good.  Next is Honden of Night's Reach, because denying resources is also good.  The remainder are pretty much chaff.  But it's always a thing of beauty when someone gets 3 or more of these guys out.

boseiju, who shelters all Boseiju, Who Shelters All - Some decks are based around 1 or 2 sorceries.  Others just don't like having their stuff countered.  Boseiju is made just for you.

cage of hands Cage of Hands - The good thing about this Arrest variant is that you can bounce it to put it on something else.  The bad thing is that it doesn't stop activated abilities.

captive flame Captive Flame - Giving any of your dudes Firebreathing isn't a bad thing.  Not nearly as fragile as Moonveil Dragon, and not as hard to flip as Homura.

forbidden orchard Forbidden Orchard - A good political tool, people like free stuff.  And it gives you any colored mana you want!

freed from the real Freed from the Real - If you have a Commander or a bunch of creatures with activated abilities, you can get multiple uses out of them with this card.  Plus, it's the name of a pretty good podcast!

general's kabuto General's Kabuto - Shroud and the ability to shrug off damage is nothing to sneeze at.  Darksteel Plate may be better, but this is still pretty good.

genju of the realm Genju of the Realm - I've never seen this thing played, but I really want to.  Someone please make my dream a reality!!!

ghostly prison Ghostly Prison - Common enough almost to be considered a Commander staple, along with the original, Propaganda, plus on a body, with Windborn Muse.  Good at keeping people from attacking you, especially with tokens.  People are willing to pay the price if their dude is big enough though.

hall of the bandit lord Hall of the Bandit Lord - Haste enablers are good.  This is a haste enabler.  Therefore, this is good.

heartbeat of spring Heartbeat of Spring - Powerful and symmetrical enough that even group hug decks don't always run it.  Still, everyone will love you if you play it.  Until they break it in half.

in the web of war In the Web of War - Another haste enabler, this one gives your dudes a bonus as well.  Good times.

journeyer's kite Journeyer's Kite - This is an excellent card in the right deck, despite what other may think.  If your deck is slower or controlling and not playing Green, spending some extra mana to hit land drops is never a bad thing.  I stick it in almost all my White/X decks.  I know it's 5 mana before you get your first land, but you'll almost always be happy when you draw it.

kusari-gama Kusari-Gama - A forgotten piece of equipment, it almost always guarantees that your large equipped creature is going to get through, because no one wants to sacrifice their entire team to it.  And you can pump your dude too!

lifegift Lifegift - Play this against any ramp deck (and there are a ton of them out there) and you will gain soooooo much life.

meishin, the mind cage Meishin, the Mind Cage - If you want time to set up your combo, this will do it for you.

mikokoro, center of the sea Mikokoro, Center of the Sea - A Howling Mine you can activate whenever you want to.  If you really need draw, it's worth looking at.

minamo, school at water's edge Minamo, School at Water's Edge - There are a ton of Commanders out there that tap to do stuff, from Niv-Mizzet to Vorel.  There's also stuff out there that doesn't untap normally, like Grimgrin and Merieke Ri Berit.  Basically a great card in any Commander deck with Blue.

miren, the moaning well Miren, the Moaning Well - Sort of like a Diamond Valley that taps for mana.  Ok, so you gotta pay mana to get your life gain.  But for decks that can make big dudes, looking for sacrifice outlets, or are just hurting for life gain, can come in handy. 

nature's will Nature's Will - Similar to Sword of Feast and Famine in that it is normally this is seen for combos with Aggravated Assault type cards.  But even still, people forget that it can tap down your opponent, so good at keeping Counterspell players in control.  Also, you get to untap your lands for EACH creature that hits, which means that if you have a mana sink you can flood it with mana.  Underrated card.

night dealings Night Dealings - Repeatable tutors are nice, even if you have to jump through a few hoops to get them.  But you were planning on doing damage to your opponents anyways, right?

orochi hatchery Orochi Hatchery - Sometimes you want to be able to make tokens over and over.  The initial cost is pretty steep, but if you get it out with Seedborn Muse you can go nuts.

pithing needle Pithing Needle - An underrated card, is good at shutting down activated abilities of Commanders.  And even if you're playing against beat down Commanders, there's usually something annoying on the board you don't want to deal with.

reito lantern Reito Lantern - Good at both graveyard hate and putting something back into your library so that you can tutor for it again.

scroll of origins Scroll of Origins - This is sort of a fixed Library of Alexandria.  If you plan on drawing a ton of cards, and you aren't in Blue, this is an interesting substitute.

sensei's divining top Sensei's Divining Top - I hate this card because it slows down games.  However, even I can admit that the card is good.

shizo, death's storehouse Shizo, Death's Storehouse - Sometimes you don't want your Commander to be blocked.  With Shizo, you have a pretty good shot of getting it past most blockers.

tatsumasa, the dragon's fang Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang - I see this thing played every once in a while.  If you have a ton of mana, you can blink it back and forth.  The equip cost isn't bad either.  It just takes a ton of mana to keep it going.

tenza, godo's maul Tenza, Godo's Maul - Just a solid piece of equipment for Red beat down Commanders.  It's not flashy, but it is good at what it does.

that which was taken That Which Was Taken - Making things indestructible is always fun.  This is a card that I'm surprised I never see.  It seems like it would be good with proliferate, especially with the Myojin.

umezawa's jitte Umezawa's Jitte - The pointy fork of doom is still pretty good in combat based decks.  You can pick off little dudes, make your guys bigger, and gain life as a last ditch resort.  The Swords are more flashy, but the Jitte isn't bad at all.

INSTANTS AND SORCERIES

 

Endless Swarm Enduring Ideal Eternal Dominion Neverending Torment Undying Flames
Endless Swarm, Enduring Ideal, Eternal Dominion, Neverending Torment, Undying Flames

So it's a rare day when I see these guys played.  All of the Epic spells basically shut you off from playing cards from your hand.  The problem is that when you're limited to "playing" only once spell a turn, you're severely limiting your plays.  Really these require a good amount of set up to really get you comfortable with playing them.  Still, I have seen Eternal Dominion played once or twice.  I've even used it back in the day.  Typically your opponents will have some good stuff in their decks to use. And Enduring Ideal has been known to actually win a game or two, although I have yet to see it win in Commander.  Still, if you want to have fun you can try these guys out.  

Blazing Shoal Disrupting Shoal Nourishing Shoal Shining Shoal Sickening Shoal
Blazing Shoal, Disrupting Shoal, Nourishing Shoal, Shining Shoal, Sickening Shoal

Free spells!  Cool, right?  Well, the cost for free isn't really easy with these cards.  Still, it's good to know about them.  Most of them aren't that great, but I've seen Blazing Shoal come out of nowhere, tossing a Greater Gargadon and killing someone with Commander damage.  Nourishing Shoal seems like it would be a cool combat trick, and Sickening Shoal is decent removal.  Still, you have to exile cards in order to play these for free, and not everyone likes to do that.

desperate ritual Desperate Ritual - There are infinite combos out there with this guy.  Plus, there are Izzet decks out there that like the additional bump in mana that this card provides. However you likely won't see it outside of limited cases.

final judgment Final Judgment - Sometimes you just want that Seedborn Muse to go away permanently.  There's something to be said for a Wrath that deals with recursion as well.  However it is slightly expensive, and now there's stuff like Merciless Eviction, which gives you options.  Worth knowing about as an additional way to wipe the board.

flames of the blood hand Flames of the Blood Hand - Not nearly as good a card at preventing life gain as False Cure, it still has the ability to shut it off.  Plus, it deals damage (to a player)!  It used to be Standard playable!  I know, there's better stuff out there.

gifts ungiven Gifts Ungiven - BANNED.

glimpse of nature Glimpse of Nature - Elves still love this card.  I actually think that it would also be good in Edric decks since they are usually filled with little dudes.

goryo's vengeance Goryo's Vengeance - Instant speed recursion is fun, but this limits its ability to legendary creatures only.  There are a bunch of legendary dudes that have ETB triggers and death triggers, specifically the Kamigawa dragons and the flip legends we talked about above.  But it also works well with Child of Alara, The Mimeoplasm (as graveyard hate), and Tuktuk the Explorer!  Never forget about Tuk tuk!

hero's demise Hero's Demise - Everyone plays with legendary dudes, it's the name of the game!  Still, more limiting than Murder and Hero's Downfall.

hinder Hinder - Awww, yeah, the original tuck spell!  Commander staple.

kodama's reach Kodama's Reach - Maybe not the original ramp spell, but pretty close.  Commander staple.

one with nothing One with Nothing - Best card in the set, hands down.  You guys already know how to break it, you don't need me to tell you how.

otherworldly journey Otherworldly Journey - Blinky blinky blink blink.

overwhelming intellect Overwhelming Intellect - So you're playing Thraximundar, and you've missed a land drop despite getting a Signet into play.  You finally have enough mana to cast your Commander, when all of a sudden the Prime Speaker player busts out his Intellect!  That's just demoralizing.  Not only is your creature countered, but they get to draw a mess of cards too!  Sure it costs a ton but it's definitely a blow out at times.

rally the horde Rally the Horde - Mono-Red can sometimes need token makers, so here's another one.  You never know how many you're going to get, but Lovisa love the little dudes.

rend flesh Rend Flesh - Before Hero's Downfall, before Murder, before even Go for the Throat, there was Rend Flesh.  Simply outclassed now, which is sad.

reverse the sands Reverse the Sands - If your Commander gives you the ability to manipulate your life total (like Selenia, Dark Angel) or if your deck just sucks your life dry, you should try this card.  It's like Sorin Markov, but takes work to set up and people won't hate you if you play it.

seek the horizon Seek the Horizon - If you want a lot of cards in hand, or just like digging up basics, this might be worth looking at.

strength of cedars Strength of Cedars - Like Rubblehulk, although a little bit more expensive and without the flexibility of being a creature.

terashi's grasp Terashi's Grasp - A little extra life gain with your destruction isn't a bad thing.

through the breach Through the Breach - I have yet to see this actually played in Commander but it's good to know about it.

time of need Time of Need - If you have a lot of legendary creatures this is a good tutor.  Great in Reki and Sisay decks.

time stop Time Stop - I used to see this card all the time.  For some reason it seems to have dropped off the radar recently.  It's good at countering stuff that can't be countered, and exiles spells that are on the stack.  Sort of the catch all answer to everything.  Commander staple.

twincast Twincast - The first Fork reprint.  It's pretty good at getting your own copy of something an opponent casts, or doubling your own stuff.

CONCLUSION

All right, the staples from this block that you should probably own.

There are a few other cards you can make arguments for, like Yosei, Kagemaro, Pithing Needle, Ghostly Prison, Umezawa's Jitte and Twincast, but those are a little bit more specialized I think.  And then there are the lands:  Mikokoro, Minamo, Miren and Shizo are all lands that I use frequently and you guys should consider as well.

Despite not making huge waves on the power scale, Kamigawa has a lot to offer the Commander player.  If you ever play spirit tribal this is the set for you.  And there's a creature for just about every ability.  Plus tons and tons of legends!  If there's something you think I missed or didn't evaluate properly let me know in the comments.  Until next time!

Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com

CONQUEROR & COMMANDER ARCHIVE