Welcome back, Kaijudo duelists! We've officially had two weeks of Kaijudo Master Challenges as well as the first ARG Circuit Series event with Shattered Alliances, and the meta has been sufficiently shaken up. This week, I'll be talking about some cards from Shattered Alliances that, in my opinion, didn't get the love they deserve when the set first came out. Truthfully, a lot of them could probably stand to see more play than they are even now. Either way, they all have a lot of potential and I hope this article can open up some eyes to a few that might have been overlooked.
5. Deep Mind Probe
Vu Nguyen recently acquired his second Kaijudo Master Challenge title in Roanoke, VA with this card (and he won't stop messaging me on Facebook about how good it is), so I guess I should probably include it. [ccProd]Deep Mind Probe[/ccProd] has quite a few similarities with [ccProd]Search the Depths[/ccProd], so in order to assess how good the Probe could be, it seems wise to compare the two. They're both Shield Blasts, which is the obvious benefit over similarly-costed draw card [ccProd]Logos Scan[/ccProd], but [ccProd]Search the Depths[/ccProd] allows you to look at the top four cards of your deck, one card deeper than Probe. Probe makes up for this hindrance by allowing you to have more control over the placement of the cards you do see. One goes in your hand, one goes back on top of your deck, and only one goes to the bottom, whereas if you cast a [ccProd]Search the Depths[/ccProd], three go to the bottom. You're getting more options with [ccProd]Search the Depths[/ccProd], but [ccProd]Deep Mind Probe[/ccProd] allows you access to more than one card that you might want in your hand out of the three you look at; with Search, anything else you might want is just going to stay on the bottom of your deck unless you have a search card like [ccProd]Crystal Memory[/ccProd] or something else that allows you to shuffle your deck like [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd]. As a Shield Blast, you can set your hand up with the best two cards out of the top three for your turn instead of just whatever happened to be on top, and hard-cast from your hand, Probe allows you to choose your next draw and prepare your plays accordingly, knowing what's coming up. This card definitely has a place in certain control decks as Vu has proven, and I'm sure it will see play in more builds over time.
4. Wild Growth
On first glance, I thought this card was kind of trashy. However, I should learn to never underestimate the power of mana ramp. This card is probably still the least-played of all the cards on this list, but I do think it has merit in certain decks; I first saw it included and actually liked it in Light/Water/Nature [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] ramp. We all know [ccProd]Mana Storm[/ccProd]'s ability to gain a player two extra mana is insane in some situations, and [ccProd]Mana Storm[/ccProd] is relatively safe to play since you're only losing the [ccProd]Mana Storm[/ccProd] itself out of your hand. You're ramping, but not completely dead in terms of card advantage. [ccProd]Wild Growth[/ccProd] is hardcore ramping that really only cares about the number of cards in your mana zone, which seems pretty awful a lot of the times than [ccProd]Mana Storm[/ccProd] would be good - you can't ramp to your Haven or [ccProd]Skull Shatter[/ccProd] if you're forced to put it in mana with your ramp spell! [ccProd]Wild Growth[/ccProd] has one very important benefit that is really the only reason I think it will see play in the future despite this downside: Shield Blast.
Against an aggressive strategy, getting to your board wipe spells or cards like [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] is crucial. Defensive Shield Blasts are great against them, but I've never really complained about them hitting a [ccProd]Sprout[/ccProd] since it allows me to get to these cards faster, sometimes just in time to survive. [ccProd]Wild Growth[/ccProd] can do what [ccProd]Sprout[/ccProd] does to the extreme against these decks, and it should almost always be live with them breaking your shields and giving you cards in hand. Card advantage is secondary to surviving to the late game for a lot of popular decks when against rush, and being ahead two mana can help you do that. Imagine going first against rush, playing your third mana, and staring down a field of a couple creatures on your opponent's next turn. They break, hit a [ccProd]Wild Growth[/ccProd] in your shields, and all of a sudden you're able to summon [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd] on turn four and take control of the battle zone! This is just one scenario in which this card's effect is very beneficial despite the rather frightening downside.
3. Serpens, the Spirit Shifter[ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] has spoiled us all when it comes to shield regeneration. The card, though expensive at level nine, is fast-acting, and comes with an additional effect. [ccProd]Serpens, the Spirit Shifter[/ccProd] can easily be overlooked in a dragon deck because of these comparisons to Andromeda, but it has surprised quite a few people since the set's release. In a dedicated dragon deck, where Serpens's primary home lies, there are many combos with this card in conjunction with the Fire Birds. [ccProd]Lux[/ccProd]'s effect that protects your dragons from being banished will trigger Serpens' shield regenerating effect, as will using [ccProd]Umbra[/ccProd] in conjunction with your other dragons to slay opposing creatures. These same Fire Birds can help Serpens come down often as early as turn five, which can allow you to survive against a rush deck. Simply ramming your smaller creatures into your opponent's could give you the shields you need to survive!
Even against a more control-oriented deck, Serpens has merit. With 6500 power and Double Breaker, the card is a legitimate threat that gets over cards like [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Wildstrider Ramnoth[/ccProd]. Serpens' effect can come in handy against control or the mirror match when swinging in at shields; if you get stopped by some untimely Shield Blasts, the extra shields might allow you to survive your opponent's counter-push. It's important to remember that in order for your opponent to win the game, he or she is going to have to break all your shields eventually, so while the shields Serpens sets might seem insignificant at the time, they will eventually become options for you to use later in the game.
2. Blade Barrier
When comparing this card to [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd], the creature with the exact same stun effect, [ccProd]Blade Barrier[/ccProd] might seem a little lackluster. Lyra is good in the decks it's good in because it has a body. Dragon decks benefit from the Celestial Dragon, and control can use it to stall against opposing threats and kill them on the next turn, as well as for game-ending pushes. However, I was thinking about [ccProd]Blade Barrier[/ccProd] in the context of the wrong decks - it really shines in more aggressive builds.
A card like [ccProd]Blinder Beetle[/ccProd] might do the job of temporarily bypassing a blocker for a turn to allow you to swing for game more efficiently, but if you don't win the game, a card like [ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd] is just going to untap on your opponent's turn and start going after your guys. This is where [ccProd]Blade Barrier[/ccProd]'s utility really shows. It's able to not only let your creatures get past a blocker for a turn, but your opponent then can't use it to attack your creatures, and the blocker will still be tapped on your next turn! [ccProd]Blade Barrier[/ccProd]'s only true downside in an aggressive deck is that it's a spell, and thus doesn't add to your positioning in the battle zone. This is a pretty important downside, but a level three Lyra would have just been insane for obvious reasons for a whole slew of decks. [ccProd]Blade Barrier[/ccProd] takes an incredibly useful effect and gives it to a cheap spell that these aggressive decks can use.
The main reason I'm such a fan of this card isn't even for its ability to get around blockers. Think about the most dangerous card in a dragon deck to a rush player (outside of a potentially crazy [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd]): [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd]. If Herald is able to get in an attack against your rush deck, it often spells game over thanks to Andromeda or [ccProd]Infernus the Awakened[/ccProd]. [ccProd]Blade Barrier[/ccProd] allows you to stun the card and go in at shields without fear of it bringing some gigantic dragon down on you. With its benefits against dragons, blockers in control, and even other rush decks to stun Double Breakers, I'd say this card is almost staple level in mono-Light and probably deserves a lot of testing in other variants as well.
1. Wildstrider Ramnoth
People had their doubts about this card when Shattered Alliances was first spoiled, but it's quickly becoming the king of ramp strategies. If you're running a deck that focuses on ramping up quickly to an expensive card like [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd], [ccProd]Wildstrider Ramnoth[/ccProd] needs to be included. We already know that a 6000 power, Double Breaking body is solid for a level six creature, but the effect can quickly decide ramp mirror matches. All Ramnoth has to do is sit there, and you'll be reaching obscene levels of mana in no time, allowing for things like a turn eight [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] - assuming you didn't already play a card like [ccProd]Sprout[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Reap and Sow[/ccProd] that game. It's important to note that the mana generated by this card comes in before your untap step, allowing even multi-civ mana to be used right away. I used two copies of Ramnoth in my deck for the ARG Kaijudo Master Challenge in Akron, OH, and it was definitely one of the best cards for the strategy. It generated a continuous flow of mana that allowed me to reach my power cards quickly, it didn't trigger the effects of cards like [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Cyber Scamp[/ccProd] like [ccProd]Mana Storm[/ccProd] would have, and it functioned as an ever-important threat in the late game when I put my opponent under [ccProd]Squillace Scourge[/ccProd] and began to go for game. Since it had this sort of late-game relevance thanks to Double Breaker, I actually didn't mind top-decking this card in a lot of situations, something that also makes [ccProd]Reap and Sow[/ccProd] one of the best ramp cards in the game.
The one obvious flaw of this card is that it has to stay in the battle zone for a turn in order to start getting its effect, but if you look at it, there are actually few popularly played cards that get rid of Ramnoth on turn five or six, when it usually should come out. Control and dragon decks can tap it with Lyra, but that won't do anything unless they have other big things in the battle zone, and you'll be free to start ramping on your next turn; they'll probably be forced to use [ccProd]Piercing Judgment[/ccProd] on it even if they can't capitalize on the tap effect, or risk you getting to a dangerous amount of mana. Tempo decks with a bunch of cards like [ccProd]Rusalka, Aqua Chaser[/ccProd] and [ccProd]General Finbarr[/ccProd] are the true worry for Ramnoth, but it's just so beneficial on the occasions when your opponent doesn't have those cards that I think it deserves its position at the top of this list.
Ramnoth wraps up my top five list! Hopefully this article brought to light some cards that you might have been on the fence about and inspired you to give them a test for upcoming tournaments. Speaking of tournaments, in addition to the Kaijudo Master Challenges happening across the country, the second ever ARG Circuit Series event is in Columbus, OH this weekend! There's a Kaijudo tournament on Sunday with over $700 worth of prizes in the prize pool, so be sure to check it out if you're anywhere near the area. Good luck to all who attend, and remember to Play Hard or Go Home!