Champions of Kamigawa: Snake’s Path Review (Part 2 of 2)
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?
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.
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.
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 Hankyu – Orochi 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.
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
“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