Saviors of Kamigawa: Truth Seekers Review (Part 1 of 2)
Although I was not actively playing when Kamaigawa block was released, such was its ripple effect that even now I am aware that many players found the set somewhat less than enjoyable. Comprised of a number of cards that had either heavy interactions with or even outright reliances upon other cards within the block, it seemed very much a self-contained world that did not integrate well with non-block cards.
That aside, a player who enjoys strong story and concept will find a rich, Japanese-myhtos-based world as well as a treasure trove of very interesting and unique mechanics within Kamigawa that make for a fun visit through the block’s many preconstructed decks.
Seeking the Truth
We begin our visit to Kamigawa with a look at Truth Seekers, a Green/White deck from the Saviors of Kamigawa expansion, which concluded the block in June 2004. It is undeniably a creature deck, with only nine non-creature spells on offer. The land count is almost evenly split between the basics, and for added versatility it also throws in a “slow land” in the form of Tranquil Garden.
On first blush, the creatures seem a little top-heavy. Ramping is slight, with only the pair of Elder Pine of Jukai fitting the bill, but the composition of the deck is such that once one hits the table you’ll be taking full advantage (32 of the deck’s 36 nonland cards are either subtype ‘Arcane’ or ‘Spirit’). Still, Truth Seekers packs in eight creatures (and two Sorceries) with a converted mana cost (CMC) or 5 or more. This means that it is a statistical certainty that one of these expesive cards will be sitting in your opening grip, more or less giving yourself an effective mulligan into the midgame.
The rest of the deck’s critters, however, follow a fairly solid mana curve:
Compare this with the curve with the rest of the deck included:
The problem for Truth Seekers isn’t so much in the casting, but in the value for mana. Many of the creatures are slightly overpriced for their power/toughness because they have additional abilities that the deck’s engine relies on.
First the Bad News
For an example of this, consider the following:
Paying 3 for a 2/1 First Strike creature is nobody’s idea of a great deal, and the deck is loaded with such tradeoffs. Only the Gnarled Mass (a vanilla 3/3 for 3), the Ghost-Lit Redeemer, and Dripping-Tongue Zubera come close to cost parity with what you might expect to get out of a creature in the sub-5-CMC range, and the latter one only because it replaces itself.
To compound concern, the nine non-creature spells in this deck concern themselves very little with the fate of your beaters. Sure there’s the Giant Growth variant, Kodama’s Might, but that’s it as far as creature support is concerned. The remainder of the cards concern themselves with lifegain or putting 1/1 Spirit tokens into play.
Examining its pieces in this way, there’s not a lot to be excited about with Truth Seekers. But sometimes you come across a deck that is more than the sum of its pieces, whose interlocking synergy allows the combined deck to punch well above its weight.
And on first blush, this may well be one of them.
A Living Web
The cards of Truth Seekers have a number of interactions that can summarized as follows: exploit creatures with enter-the-battlefield (ETB) effects by returning them to your hand and casting them multiple times.
For this strategy to work, you need to have two resources. First, you need to have creatures with ETB effects (the Elder Pine, Nikko-Onna, Haru-Onna, Briarknit Kami, Bounteous Kirin). Then, you need to have ways to yank them back into your hand (Nikko-Onna, Haru-Onna, Eiganjo Free-Riders). Note the overlap with the Onnas.
As mentioned before, the deck’s creatures at the lower end of the spectrum are somewhat frail, and there’s little in the non-creature range to deal with enemy creatures, so Truth Seekers asks you to put your trust in it to ride out early- and mid-game damage through its lifegain suite of cards. With no effective removal to speak of, it seems a lot to ask.
Put another way: by the time all this casting and yanking back and recasting and splicing and other assorted zaniness is done, you’ll either have a decent-sized fatty to start the beats with (Bounteous Kirin, a pumped Briarknit Kami, Nightsoil Kami, Kami of the Honored Dead), or you’ll be amongst the “honored dead” yourself.
Now that we see what the Truth Seekers engine is trying to accomplish, the question becomes whether or not it can succeed. At the very least, this unconventional strategy should make for some interesting games. Join us next time when we put Seekers to the test, and see if it can match ambition with accomplishment.