Champions of Kamigawa: Spiritbane Review (Part 2 of 2)
Today I’ll be joining with the warrior-monks of the mountain yamabushi, though instead of Spirits we’ll be hunting the snake-like Orochi. Piloted by Sam, Snake’s Path will look to meet fire with venom until only one of us remains.
Our opening game sees Sam on the play, and she leads with a Forest as I do with a Mountain. Next turn she fetches Sosuke, Son of Seshiro with a Time of Need, while I play the Battle-Mad Ronin. For our third turn, Sam adds an Orochi Ranger while I drop a Kusari-Gama after drawing first blood with the Ronin, and the hunt is afoot!
Now turn 4, Sam draws a blank for her turn, but Wears Away my Kusari-Gama once it’s my turn. For my part, I attack in again for 1 then add an Akki Rockspeaker– a rubbish card but the only one I can play. Back to Sam, she draws another blank, letting me fire in for 2 more with my weenies.
At 16 life, Sam begins to stabilise on turn 6 with Sosuke. When it’s back to me and I attack again, Sosuke allows Sam to trade out her Orochi Ranger for my Battle-Mad Ronin, leaving me with just the pitiful Akki. I play a Brothers Yamazaki, then pass. back to Sam, she adds a Kashi-Tribe Reaver and ends her turn. With Sam overextended and unable to regenerate the Reaver, I catch it with a Yamabushi’s Flame to kill it before sending in the Akki. Sam looks to call my bluff and blocks the Akki with Sosuke, only to learn the hard way exactly how Crushing Pain selects its victims.
Sam adds a Junkyo Bell on turn 8, though reduced to creaturelessness it isn’t much of a threat. I attack in for 2 on my turn, putting her at 13. She then adds an Orochi Leafcaller, but again can only sit and watch as I attack for another 2 with the Brothers Yamazaki. And so it goes, with Sam entering a creature drought. When on turn 11 she finally adds another (an Orochi Sustainer), I simply borrow it for a turn with a Blind with Anger. I grind this one out with the help of an Akki Avalancher, finishing behind a Yamabushi’s Flame for the win.
Sam opens with an Orochi Leafcaller, then adds a turn-2 Hankyu and turn-3 Matsu-Tribe Decoy. For my part, my first play comes with a turn-2 No-Dachi, which I follow up with a turn-3 Ronin Houndmaster which is immediately set ahunt. Sam fires back with another atatck on turn 4 (this time for 2), then equips the Hankyu to her Decoy and passes. For my part, I have the Houndmaster pick up the No-Dachi and slash in for 4. It’s a 14-16 game, narrowly in my favour.
Now turn 5, Sam plays Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro. The Decoy, now untapped, places its first aim counter on the Hankyu. I pick off Sachi with a Yamabushi’s Flame once it’s back to me, and swing in again for another 4. Sam’s now down to 10. Her turn-6 Sakura-Tribe Elder gives her a useful chump blocker, and she adds a second aim counter to the Hankyu. When my Houndmaster charges in, she shoves the Elder in front of it and happily goes to fetch a Forest. I add a Frostwielder and pass.
My poor Houndmaster takes it in the neck on turn 7, thanks to Sam’s Hankyu-equipped Decoy. She then plays an Orochi Ranger and passes. I play a second Frostwielder after using the first one to kill her Ranger, making her pay for her oversight. Next turn she adds a Serpent Skin to the Leafcaller, sending it in for 2 damage and taking me to 14. She then starts charging up her Henkyu again and passes turn. Back to me, my turn is a lamentable blank.
The Leafcaller strieks again on turn 9, and she charges the Hankyu’s second aim counter. She then follows up with the Kashi-Tribe Warriors. At the end of her turn, I double-ping Sam directly with my Frostwielders, then blast her with a Yamabushi’s Flame to cut her in half to 5. Back to me, I play a Battle-Mad Ronin. Now turn 10, Sam kills off one of my Frostwielders with the Hankyu, but I’m able to get off a ping in respone. The remaining Frostwielder adds a second point of damage, with a Hanabi Blast adding a further 2 (it ends up discarding itself to my graveyard). Still, Sam’s on a 1-turn clock, and when she can’t solve the remaining Frostwielder, it pings away her last point of life.
Sam begins with an Orochi Leafcaller off of a Forest. Next turn, after swinging in for 1 on my clear board, she adds an Orochi Ranger. This time I have an answering play, little though it avails me- a No-Dachi. On turn 3, Sam swings for another 3 damage before adding an Orochi Sustainer and a Hankyu. I drop a surprise Ronin Houndmaster and attack straightaway, taking Sam to 18.
Now turn 4, Sam adds Serpent Skin to her Ranger and sends it into the red zone alongside the Leafcaller, taking me to 12. I equip the No-Dachi to the Houndmaster and stay put on defense. Back to Sam, she does some equipping of her own when she puts the Hankyu on the Leafcaller, then taps it to add an aim counter. With the writing on the wall for the Houndmaster, I send him in for another attack. Sam takes it, and drops to 14.
Sam continues to build up her forces with a turn-6 Matsu-Tribe Decoy, then attacks in for 3. The Leafcaller is tapped again to add another aim counter, and Sam ends her turn. I shove the Houndmaster into the red zone for another 4 to put Sam at the half-way mark, then add a Frostwielder to the table. Next turn Sam engages the Leafcaller to trigger the Hankyu, killing my ill-fated Houndmaster. She attacks for another 3 with her Snakes, then adds Kashi-Tribe Warriors. Back to me, I see an opportunity to even the odds a little bit, as Sam’s left herself with only one Green mana source open (the Orochi Sustainer). I cast Yamabushi’s Flame on her enchanted Ranger, killing it. Sam responds as expected by tapping the Sustainer to regenerate the Ranger thanks to its Serpent Skin. This leaves her tapped out, so I kill it off once and for all with Crushing Pain after pinging it with the Frostwielder.
Sam’s turn 8 is a blank, giving me a little breathing room as I summon Kumano’s Pupils. Next turn Sam activates the Decoy to lure off the Pupils and attacks for 4. This kills the Decoy, of course, but Sam happily places another to replace it. With me now down to 2, things are looking bleak. I add an Akki Avalanchers to my side for some defensive support, then equip the Pupils with the No-Dachi.
Now turn 10, Sam lands another of her legends, Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro. She holds off on attacking this round to regroup, and I ping her down to 9 at the end of her turn. Back to me, I play a second No-Dachi and equip it onto the Avalanchers. It’s all for naught, though- thanks to Sachi, Sam is able to produce enough mana to trigger her Decoy three times. With my entire side forced to block it, the rest swing in for lethal.
Thoughts & Analysis
Despite the presence of some inferior cards, Spiritbane is a reasonably fun deck to play. It has a consistent creature presence and a decent assortment of burn spells to back it up. If there’s a problem with the deck, though, it’s that all throughout you tend to be overpaying for most of your cards by . This is because of the yamabushi’s particular power- the ability to exile that which they kill rather than simply sending it to the graveyard.
Sets with pronounced themes often will have what we call a “silver bullet” deck which plays against type and acts as a spoiler to keep that theme in check. For instance, the artifact-heavy Scars of Mirrodin Intro Packs came complete with the artifact-smashing Relic Breaker, exploiting the weakness of overreliance upon a particular theme. So it is with Spiritbane, which is equipped to neuter the built-in recursion engion of Spirits and soulshift. In theory this is sound, but when you actually look at the Kami Reborn deck, it becomes clear that it doesn’t actually need any help dying. The deck’s bloated and fumbling mana curve and lack of a substantial ramping package hobble the deck just fine on its own. What does that mean for the Spiritbane pilot? In essence, you’re overpaying for an ability that’s useless against Samurai (Way of the Warrior) and Orochi (Snake’s Path).
There’s another less flattering parallel to be drawn here as well. The Snake’s Path deck contains a trio of Orochi Leafcallers, 1/1 creatures that can filter your Green mana into any colour you like. Sounds great except for one little hitch- Snake’s Path is a mono-Green deck. So really what you’re buying is something in the same league as Merfolk of the Pearl Trident or Mons’s Goblin Raiders. The saving grave for the Leafcallers is that they are Shaman, and there’s a card that enables all Shaman to be table to tap for . On their own, however, they’re quite useless. With that in mind, let’s look at the Akki Rockspeaker. It’s a two-mana 1/1 that refunds a upon casting- in other words, a 1/1 for . This is almost certainly worse than Mons’s Goblin Raiders, who can at least be cast on turn 1. Unlike the Leafcallers, there is no meaningful interaction for this card- it’s just a bad selection. You might be in a more forgiving frame of mind if this was a singleton, but a trio is a serious commitment.
Overall, you’ll might find enjoyment in the warrior-monk yamabushi and their fighting allies, and Kumano, Master Yamabushi is a delightfully flavourful rare legend. Nevertheless, the fact that you’re playing an inflated-cost Red deck is hard to overlook.
Hits: Good burn package helps eliminate board threats and damage your opponent directly; strong crossover between theme and mechanics
Misses: “Overpaying for mediocrity” might well sum up the deck; silver-bullet strategy tailored to defeat an already flawed deck
OVERALL SCORE: 3.75/5.00