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December 13, 2011


Champions of Kamigawa: Snake’s Path Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

Our final visit to the land of Kamigawa finds us amongst the snake-like Orochi tribes, as they find themselves on the defensive against a kami attack. They have numbers and venom on their side, but will it be enough?

Game One

I’m on the play, and open with a Forest and Jimi leads with a Swamp. Next turn I have no real play outside of Time of Need, but go ahead and cast it to take advantage of the open mana. With a couple of Warriors in my hand, Sosuke, Son of Seshiro is the logical target, and into the hand he goes. Jimi plays a Swamp and passes.

Now turn 3, I deploy my first creature, a Matsu-Tribe Decoy, then pass over to Jimi who can only play a Swamp. Next turn out comes Sosuke, powering up my Decoy which I send in for first blood. At 18 life, Jimi responds with an Ashen-Skin Zubera. Four turns, four lands- and all of them Swamps, we joke that her deck must be cursed.

I go in hard for 5 on turn 5, and as expected Jimi chumps her Zubera to stop Sosuke. The discard effect compels me to pitch a card, but I have a Forest in hand for precisely that purpose. Jimi goes down to 16 life, and I follow up with an Orochi Ranger. Over to her, she’s clearly struggling without Green mana, but manages a Honden of Night’s Reach. She’s still wide open, so next turn I swing with the sde for 8, cutting her in half. I then play an Orochi Eggwatcher and pass. Once her upkeep comes, the Honden forces me to pitch my last card in hand- another Forest- and she adds a Gibbering Kami.

It’s too little, too late. I swing for lethal on turn 7, though she manages to chump the Kami to stay up at 3 life. The dying Kami soulshifts the Zubera, but it’s effectively game and Jimi scoops after drawing.

Game Two

As before, I begin the game on the play. Jimi has learned the lessons of Kami Reborn, whose difficult mana curve ask for the additional assurance of being on the draw. I lead with an Orochi Leafcaller off of a Forest, then next turn add a second alongside a Sensei’s Divining Top after a 1-point attack. Jimi then lands her first body, the Ashen-Skin Zubera. I press my advantage with a turn-3 Matsu-Tribe Decoy while Jimi plays a Forest.

Sosuke, Son of Seshiro

Now turn 4, I attack in with the Decoy and Jimi blocks with the Zubera, tapping it down. I follow up with an Orochi Ranger and pass. Back to Jimi, she plays a Burr Grafter. At the end of her turn, I trigger the Top and look at the top three cards of my library. I rearrange the order, returning them back as HankyuOrochi Sustainer – Forest. Next turn I draw the Hankyu, then tap out to play it and equip it to my Leafcaller, tapping it to add an “aim counter” to the Hankyu. Over to Jimi, she attacks for 2 with the Burr Grafter, and I block with my Decoy, snaring it in the process. She follows with a Venerable Kumo, now finally starting to establish a board presence.

During my turn 6 upkeep I trigger the Top, putting the three cards back as Orochi Sustainer – Forest – Lure. Drawing the Sustainer, I deploy it to the board and pass. Jimi then attacks in for 3 with the Venerable Kumo and Ashen-Skin Zubera. I block the former with my Decoy, the latter with my Sustainer, and lose the Decoy when Jimi tosses off a Kodama’s Might. She then celebrates her triumph with a second Venerable Kumo. I trigger the Top to see if anything new comes up, and am rewarded by seeing another Sustainer (note: sarcasm). I tap the Leafcaller for a second aim counter as Jimi’s turn comes to an end, then as my turn begins I draw then play the second Orochi Sustainer is as many turns. Triggering the Top again nets a Strength of Cedars to the top of my library, then I pass. Jimi plays a Soilshaper, then attacks in with one of her Venerable Kumo and the Burr Grafter to put me at 16. I add a third aim counter at the end of her turn.

Now turn 8, the tide seems to be turning against me as Jimi’s managed to establish a beachhead with her Spirits. I tap the Leafcaller to add a fourth aim counter to the Hankyu, then pass it over to the other, untapped Leafcaller in case I need to use it. Back to Jimi, she casts Dance of Shadows, animating one of her leftover lands via the Soilshaper. She swings with her side for 15, and I’m forced to mount a vigourous defense. I immediately snipe one of the Venerable Kumo with the Hankyo, which in truth I’d been saving for direct damage to the face but no longer had the luxury of time. I block the Burr Grafter with my Orochi Ranger for a trade, but she pops the Grafter to give her other Kumo +2/+2. Still, that’s 11 damage rumbling through, taking me down to 5 life. Sadly, even the Top has seemed to abandon me, showing me a trio of Forests and no salvation in sight.

Still hoping to pull off a win, I swing for 3 with the Ranger and Leafcaller on turn 9, dropping Jimi to 16. Back to Jimi, she plays a Burr Grafter, again letting her animate a land with the Soilshaper. She sends the land in on the attack alongside her remaining Venerable Kumo and the Ashen-Skin Zubera. I block the Kumo with an Orochi Leafcaller, futilely pumping it with Strength of Cedars to kill it, but I’ve overlooked soulshift. Jimi’s happy to return the Burr Grafter to her hand.

I continue to try and grind Jimi down, keeping up just enough blockers for detente, but when Jimi unexpectedly blasts my last blocker with a Swallowing Plague, I succumb to the inevitable, overwhelmed by the relentless tide of Spirits.

Game Three

On the play once more, I lead with an Orochi Leafcaller while Jimi matches with a Hana Kami. Attacking in for 1 on turn 2, I follow up with an Orochi Ranger. Jimi plays a Soilshaper, then sends in the Hana Kami for 1.

Now turn 3, I attack for 3 damage to drop Jimi to 16, then add to my ground troops with a Matsu-Tribe Decoy. Back to Jimi, she gets another of those nettlesome animated lands after playing a Dripping-Tongue Zubera and attacks with it to put me down to 15. Next turn I attack again with the Decoy for 1, adding a Sakura-Tribe Elder. Jimi raises with a Thief of Hope, letting her animate another land to lead a 4-point attack. I block the land with my Elder, popping it to get a fourth Forest into play.

Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro is called forth on turn 5, but I hold my forces back in the absence of a useful attack. For her part, Jimi adds the Ashen-Skin Zubera, siphoning 1 life with the Thief of Hope. She’s now at 16, with me at 14. Back to me, I look to snipe the troublesome Soilshaper with my Decoy, using its special ability to force the Soilshaper into blocking. Jimi spares no troops to its aid and it dies a lonely, abandoned death. I then tap my two remaining Shaman for  each, thanks to Sachi, and this lets me play a Kashi-Tribe Reaver with two Forests open to regenerate it. Wise to her tricks, Jimi then kills off Sachi with a Swallowing Plague. This- and the resultant siphon from the Thief of Hope- put Jimi back up to 20 life. She then celebrates by sending both Zubera in to attack. I block and kill the Dripping-Tongue Zubera with my Reaver, but take 1 from the Ashen-Skin to leave me at 12.

Now turn 7, I attack in with the Reaver for 3 before adding an Orochi Sustainer. Back to Jimi, she adds a Kami of Lunacy to the board (draining me for another 1 life) before attacking in with the Zubera. I block with my Sustainer and they bounce harmlessly off of one another. Next turn I make a misplay that costs me the game. I need to solve her Kami of Lunacy, since I have little way to stop it. I recognise the solution lies within my Matsu-Tribe Decoy while her Kami is still vulnerable, but I’m a mana shy to be able to save the Decoy through the Serpent Skinin my hand (the word for this is

Orochi Leafcaller

“greedy”). Rather than accept the trade, I take leave of my senses and hold off, allowing the Kami of Lunacy to live and clinging to some hope of alpha-striking her through my Decoy. Instead, I play a Sakura-Tribe Elder after a 3-point attack and pass. The game’s momentum was already headed Jimi’s way, but this lapse certainly sped up the conclusion. My Reaver then falls to a Pull Under (another 1-point siphon), and Jimi swings for 4 with the Kami of Lunacy. I’m now down to 6. I pop the Elder at the end of her turn to grab another Forest.

Now turn 9, I trigger the Decoy to lure Jimi’s Thief of Hope, using the Serpent Skin as a combat trick. While it gets rid of one problem, it brings back the Soilshaper thanks to soulshift, which Jimi re-casts at the first available opportunity. Once I’m down to 2 life, I scoop after drawing nothing.

Thoughts & Analysis

The jury certainly was unsparing when it came to thoughts on Kami Reborn, and while it certainly performed well enough here, it did show the same weaknesses we identified in its review. What it also did was to highlight some of the flaws in Snake’s Path. First, though, I’d like to mention some highlights from the pre-game ‘warmup friendly’ match we played before these three.

We labeled Snake’s Path a “Green Weenie” deck at the outset, and while that certainly is an apt description it’s not necessarily the only one that fits. Unlike Red and White Weenie/Swarm strategies, there are a lot of inefficient attackers in this deck. Cards like Matsu-Tribe Decoy, Orochi Eggwatcher, Orochi Leafcaller, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Orochi Sustainer don’t bring enough attack power to the table to give you consistent, early aggression. Instead, as utility creatures they are overcosted as attackers, even if their utility abilities are useful. As a result, Snake’s Path will peter out much more readily than, say, Way of the Warrior, as they fall behind too quickly to reliably overwhelm your opponent.

That isn’t to say you won’t manage to do so, as we say with Game One. Rather, it’s simply not consistent in the way that other Weenie/swarm decks tend to be. That said, this is a calculated tradeoff, as Snake’s Path can almost be said to have a sort of combo-ish element to it. This brings us to our pregame friendly. I certainly had little difficulty getting a mass of Orochi, but then some fun things started to happen. My Shaman went into mana-producing overdrive once Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro touched down, and this allowed me to get out both the Junkyo Bell and the Orochi Hatchery (with an X of 4). Next turn I dropped a Lure on one of my Snake tokens and took a sudden and crushing victory through alpha strike. With the presence of Lure in addition to a trio of the Matsu-Tribe Decoys, this is an integral part of the deck’s win condition. It’s not so much overwhelm as slip a bunch of weenies past the defenses in one crippling strike.

It’s a fun strategy- when it goes off. Otherwise you might be left with a surprisingly slow-to-develop deck that feels like it should be faster than it is. Overall Snake’s Path had its moments, but it performs at its best when you manage to head decisively down either the Warrior or Shaman path, as personified by Sosuke and Sachi. It can tend to struggle somewhat if you muddle between both poles. Not for nothing the friendly was won on the back of the mana-ramping Shaman tactic, while Game One was stitched up with my power-pumped Warriors.

Hits: Taps into the same fun, tribal strategy that Champions of Kamigawa’s decks tend towards; solid synergies built between cards

Misses: Deck tends to flounder a bit when you don’t get a concentration in one of the deck’s two strategic paths; creatures are power-light for the mana paid

OVERALL SCORE: 3.90/4.00

26 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lia
    Dec 13 2011

    If I remember right, Kamigawa was about the time that Wizards said they’d like to introduce more control into green because of its lacking Eternal appearance. I think Coldsnap is what sealed it, but with the recent recognition and development of “tap out” control as an archetype, do you think this deck would perform differently if it was played as such?
    For that matter, can it even perform as such? It doesn’t appear to be able to.

  2. Willis Terry
    Dec 13 2011

    It seems like the main goal of this deck is ramp, but it cannot do that very well, much less anything well. It is too diverse, and Sosuke’s summoning does not come out for another set. The Snake theme is too weak to be a viable theme at this point. Hankyu was a good try though.

  3. Nerethos
    Dec 13 2011

    I was a bit disappointed with this deck’s performance. I was hoping that because of the strong tribal and decent amount of ramp that you’d be able to clog the red zone quicker then your opponent. Sadly this green deck doesn’t exactly do it in a way that elevates itself to win.

  4. Ben (aka Panahinuva)
    Dec 13 2011

    The tribal theme seems fun, but tribal usually just isn’t enough interactivity within a deck in a non-tribal block. In Lorwyn, just throwing tribal stuff in a deck would do the trick, but in Kamigawa a little more thought was needed since the tribes (apart from spirits) weren’t very well supported. It comes out here, with the deck feeling a bit ungainly and heavily dependent on its pair of legendary lords to do damn near anything well. However, the deck does seem pretty fun, and frankly I’ve realized that’s the most important part of a theme deck, so well done them.

  5. Montesque
    Dec 13 2011

    This one seems like it might have been better as an all-shaman deck…or maybe all-warrior. As you said, getting caught between the two looks like it would spell trouble.

  6. tenthtechpriest
    Dec 13 2011

    It bears repeating: where. the hell. is Seshiro the Anointed.

  7. Eric
    Dec 13 2011

    Sadly, it just doesn’t look like it can consistently execute well. It does look like fun, but very hit or miss in the results. I’d agree that it should have committed to one path

    • Dec 15 2011

      Instead, the path is just sinuous.

  8. outhouseinferno
    Dec 13 2011

    Yeah, this doesn’t seem much like a weenie rush deck unless you get the god hand. I can sort of see it playing a waiting game with the “slow tap”, the bows, and regenerator dudes, and it has some tokens to gum up the ground game.

    But then there’s bunches of tiny men who don’t do much else, barring the shaman mana.

    Kashi-Tribe Warriors really should have had reach or something. They’ve got the stats of Giant Spider, and hell, they’re even hanging out in a tree.

  9. Varo
    Dec 13 2011

    I am a bit dissapointed with this deck’s performance, it seemed fun to play, but now i don’t think it anymore. Maybe it’s that it has to many sakura tribe guys for its own sake?

    I don’t know if there are solid snake commons in Kamigawa that are not in this deck, but i’m off to search for them, let’s hope that the deck can get better with a few additions.

  10. Dec 13 2011

    I’m really excited about the next set. Whatever it is.

    • tenthtechpriest
      Dec 13 2011

      From the looks of it we’re going back to time spiral for planear chaos. Then maybe there’ll be enough time to start another set before Dark Ascension stuff rolls off the presses.

    • Dec 14 2011

      I laughed.

      • Dec 14 2011

        Candidly, we were a bit disappointed by these decks. We had pretty high hopes based on what is a fantastically flavourful set, but the decks themselves were something of a letdown.

        • Dec 14 2011

          Despite the decks being lame (IMHO), I always enjoy the writing style. Now that I know what set is coming up next, I really am excited.

        • Dec 16 2011

          That’s cuz the cards are bad. So many bad cards in this set. It’s very depressing.

  11. Ira
    Dec 14 2011

    The impression I’m getting of this deck is that it wants to give the player a taste of too many different strategies. Ramp, snake tribal, Green weenie, whatever. I understand why you’d want to do this in an intro pack, in order to give players some idea of how different play-styles work and give them a good base to expand on with their own decks; but it does mean that the deck itself suffers out-of-the-box.

    Which to me raises a question about what theme decks/intro packs are supposed to do. Are they meant to be playable and fun out of the box, primarily, or is their primary role to let players build off them, getting them into the game and introducing them to deckbuilding. Most decks we see here do both to an extent, but the ideal balance between them is an interesting question…

    • Dec 14 2011

      That’s a really good question, and one we’ve constantly examined over the course of this site. The conclusion we’ve arrived at is this: Theme Decks are meant to be “as-is,” and tend to be less geared as an invitation to tinker as they are really just to function. The earliest theme decks showed a surprising number of four-ofs that you just don’t see outside of Event Decks these days.

      Over time the three-of became more prominent, which gave some opening for teinkering by the player. Still, they weren’t custom-built for tinkering until you got to the Intro Pack age beginning with Alara. Here you had smaller decks with lots of one-of cards designed to give players the buffet experience- try a little of a lot of things, then decide on what you want to go back for seconds on.

      Unfortunately, this came at the expense of deck quality- Alara’s were shaky, and Zendikar’s were pretty poor overall. Once we got into Scars, there was a move to restore balance- make them playable, but also invite modding. That’s about where we are today.

      • Dec 14 2011

        Just to clarify, most if not all theme decks come with some tips on how to upgrade them, and the earliest ones had an “advanced deck” list of 60 cards, so to varying degrees all precons invite tinkering.

        • Ira
          Dec 14 2011

          Right: as it happens, my first M:tG precon – my first M:tG purchase, actually – was the ‘Tidal Mastery’ theme deck from Mercadian Masques, and I remember the booklet with it being a good deal larger than those you get in modern intro packs.

          One thing this makes me wonder about, though – and you have mentioned it before – is how precons should be rated. The Alara and Zendikar decks were meant to heavily encourage the player to modify the deck. Should we take that into account when we rate them, or not? What’s the relvance of all this to the prospective purchaser? For instance, I rarely play precons straight out of the box, but I like buying them; I see them as skeletons that I can build on and upgrade, in order to create the deck I truly want to play. Of course, when you take this philosophy too far you get, for instance, the huge rush to buy decks like ‘Rats’ Nest’ in Betrayers of Kamigawa, simply for the Jitte: I don’t think precons can ever be looked at as merely convenient supplies of cards.

          Well, individual preference and all that, but Ertai’s Lament seems to aim at some, if not completely objective, at least pretty well-supported and logical ratings for different decks. It’s a complex problem.

          • Dec 15 2011

            Complex indeed, and one I’ve given a lot of thought to as well. I think we have to be careful in endorsing a sort of ‘relativism,’ because the end result of that sounds something like, “there are no bad precons, just ones that invite you to tinker more than the others!” Certainly to those like me who keep them 100% intact for play purposes, that’s not optimal. By the same token yes, we want to be sure to acknowledge where decks are leading you to build.

            I think Zendikar is actually an example of that. After introducing the Intro Pack, Wizards seemed to want to position the product as a gateway to entry level. The early Intro Packs were somewhat simpleton affairs, which I feel hurt them overall. Over the course of time, though, I strongly feel like they’re getting it right- balancing having a solid and fun deck as-is while giving some obvious paths for improvement. M12’s and INN’s decks I think are very sound for this, giving you at least one and in some cases two subthemes to build upon/select from.

            I’ve never been very satisfied with the rating system we use, as it tends towards the arbitrary. I’m actually working on a much larger project at present, and the new “scorecards” for each deck is the first step in giving a bigger snapshot of a deck than just a number from 1 to 5.

            Great discussion!

  12. benwsf
    Dec 14 2011

    I sort of feel like this deck is trying to do too much. It is extremely reliant on one of its two lords. Seshiro the Anointed would have been a great addition in this deck instead of Junkyo Bell. However, this deck has some strong points. Lure and Matsu Tribe Decoy are essential as psuedo-win conditions. Once you get a legend out, this deck has a much better chance of winning. Some of the cards were weak (Orochi Sustainer, though granted it appears to be the only one-drop snake), and this deck has many problems, but it is full of flavor. I still love snakes.

  13. Tom
    Dec 14 2011

    I remember a friend of mine who had a super causal snake deck.
    It was the silliest causal deck ever and ran all three snake legends and omnath.
    It’s terrible when you equip omnath with a snake skin, terrible

  14. Dec 14 2011

    I so need a Sensei’s Divining Top for my EDH decks! And since I love precons… this is like a win-win situation!

  15. Dec 16 2011

    I did play a snake deck once. And it was pretty cute. You know, River Boas and Sosuke’s Summons and Seshiro and such, with Overrun as a finisher. But you’ve gotta actually play good cards. Not bad ones. That’s the real problem here. Bad cards are bad. Good cards are good. So, more good cards, fewer bad cards. Like Sensei’s Divining Top, see, that’s a good card. Or Overrun. That’s a good card too.

    So yep, that’s my expert advice. Play good cards; don’t play bad cards.

  16. Limbonic_Art
    Dec 3 2012

    I just got this deck n the mail today, and to my surprise, I did not have to spend an arm and a leg on it despite containing the much coveted Sensei’s Divining Top. After reading the reviews I’m less excited to pilot it, but hopefully I will get to do so soon. I got this deck for about 15 with shipping, there are good deals out there,you just have to be patient for them.


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