Betrayers of Kamigawa dropped in 2005, which saw mechanics such as ninjutsu, bushido, and offering featured to a mixed response. Betrayers of Kamigawa is the expansion to Champions of Kamigawa which continued the emphasis on legendary creatures and powerful spells. Saviors of Kamigawa was a little while away, but the second set in the block offered plenty for constructed and Commander players, and that legacy remains today.
And in 2022, the Shinto-inspired plane will return with Kamigawa Neon Dynasty. Set 1,200 years after the events of the original Kamigawa block, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty looks to continue the Kamigawa storyline, with a marriage of feudal traditions within a futuristic setting. Expect to see beloved tribes such as Ninjas, Samurai, and Spirits return in a setting that has never been seen in the MTG multiverse before. With that ahead, let's continue our look back on the value of the original Kamigawa block with the second offering, Betrayers of Kamigawa.
Seeing Isao, Enlightened Bushi on a list of valuable Betrayers of Kamigawa cards may seem odd, but there are a few reasons why. Not only is circulation minimal in comparison to recent MTG sets, but Isao, Enlightened Bushi makes for an excellent Voltron Commander in green.
Although there are no decent green Samurai cards in MTG, Isao, Enlightened Bushi is difficult to remove since the Human Samurai can regenerate itself. Plus, with the number of impressive Equipment cards such as Lightning Greaves, Sword of Feast and Famine, and Whispersilk Cloak, you'll be piling on the damage in no time. After all, winning in Commander becomes much easier when your opponents are starting on 21 life.
Betrayers of Kamigawa saw the return of Samurai with Kentaro, the Smiling Cat being the headline legendary Samurai of the set. While largely unimpressive, the human Samurai gives you the option to cast your Samurai with generic mana instead of using colored mana.
With that, it does breed an interesting Commander strategy by using generic mana rocks such as Thran Dynamo, Sol Ring, and Basalt Monolith to cast these Samurai removing any mana demands. Unfortunately, Kamigawa block did not bring enough Samurai cards to support the tribe fully in a Commander capacity, but that may change with the incoming release of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.
Often an overlooked commander, Opal-Eye, Konda's Yojimbo makes for an excellent general if you are looking for a Death & Taxes-style strategy. Since the Fox Samurai cares about directing damage to itself, you can use this to protect powerful creatures such as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Grand Abolisher to keep taxing the battlefield.
Going further, you can load up on enchantments such as Spirit Mantle, Ghostly Prison, and Solemnity to prevent the Commander pod from attacking you at all. As you won't be winning through combat damage yourself, you can use cards such as Felidar Sovereign and Approach of the Second Sun to win the game. Opal-Eye, Konda's Yojimbo is a unique Commander, one that brings its own deck building restraints to give yourself a challenge if you fancy it.
With the anticipation of more Ninjas coming in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, cards like Higure, the Still Wind are beginning to go up in demand and in value. Foil versions of the card especially are rising in anticipation of the upcoming set release.
What makes Higure, the Still Wind such an interesting card is the ability to search for Ninjas upon dealing combat damage, allowing you to find a particular Ninja card given the situation. Normally you don't see Higure, the Still Wind leading a "Ninja matters" Commander deck, but often within the 99 as support for the tribe. You don't want to limit yourself to being only in mono-blue when there are ninjas in other colors such as Fallen Shinobi or Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow which are too good to not play.
One of the few Betrayers of Kamigawa cards to see play in Modern is Kira, Great Glass-Spinner. For three mana, Kira gives your creatures the ability to counter the first spell or ability that targets them.
Sometimes, you see the card feature in creature tribal archetypes such as Merfolk and Spirits as a way to force your opponent to use more resources to remove your creatures. Since the creature is a Spirit itself, it pairs up well with Supreme Phantom and Drogskol Captain to make it even more difficult to remove. Plus, it's an excellent blowout if you manage to put Kira into play off an Aether Vial to generate even more advantage.
Toshiro Umezawa is a major and powerful character in the MTG universe, who is also the founder of Clan Umezawa on Dominaria. Not only is Toshiro Umezawa one of the very few non-Planeswalkers to hand it to Nicol Bolas, but it's also expected there will be a return of the Umezawa lineage in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.
Toshiro Umezawa sees plenty of play in Commander for its second ability. Since removing creatures in black is effortless, you can replay an instant card from your graveyard if you killed a creature an opponent controls. In a way, Toshiro Umezawa riffs on Yawgmoth's Will but with a few extra hoops to jump through. With that, there are some creative and interesting ways you can build Toshiro Umezawa in Commander, especially with the release of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty coming soon.
When there are Commander preconstructed deck releases, you often see cards rising in price to marry synergy with the product, and Lifegift is one such example. While it may seem rather innocuous, gaining life pairs well with Strixhaven: School of Mages cards such as Dina, Soul Steeper as a way to leverage life loss in your opponents.
Given that Betrayers of Kamigawa is a small set with few cards in circulation, quirky and unique cards such as Lifegift are prone to rise in price over time. Cards like this are far from exciting but are effective in supporting a particular game plan—in this case, lifegain is incredibly synergistic alongside Bolas's Citadel, so you can play an unreasonable amount of cards from the top of your library.
Another ninja that you'll want to play in Commander is Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni. Unlike Higure, the Still Wind, Ink-Eyes operates better as a commander thanks to having Rat as a creature type. As such, you often see Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni leading an army of Rats, using an excessive amount of Rat Colony to win games.
Ink-Eyes's second ability is powerful, too. The ability to take any creature from the defending opponent's graveyard to put into play is a huge tempo-swing in your favor. Admittedly the ninjutsu cost is high, but one successful connection may be all you need to win the game. There are various ways to make Ink-Eyes unblockable, meaning you can take more creatures from the opponents' graveyards to promote your strategy.
One of the best Equipment cards ever printed in MTG, Umezawa's Jitte sees extensive play in Legacy and Commander. The card is that good—it doesn't see play in Modern as it's banned, a decision made almost 10 years ago by Wizards of the Coast.
The fact the card gains counters through any kind of combat damage is absurd, allowing you to use these counters for a wide range of options given the situation. Although Modern emphasizes 1 toughness creatures such as Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, and Dragon's Rage Channeler, Umezawa's Jitte is far too good to let free in the Modern environment. What is more likely, however, is a "fixed" version of the Equipment in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty for example, since the card is tied deeply to the setting thanks to the Umezawa bloodline.
Since the legendary planeswalker rule change in Ixalan, Mirror Gallery is becoming one of the most interesting cards in Commander. As the legend rule does not apply, this allows you to copy legendary creatures and legendary planeswalkers without sacrificing them due to the effect. With this, Mirror Gallery commands a steep price due to the emphasis on legendary permanents in Commander.
Also, the artifact pairs well with Inalla, Archmage Ritualist, a "Wizard matters" commander that copies Wizards as part of the commander's ability. With Mirror Gallery in play, legendary Wizards such as Arcanis the Omnipotent can stay around without being sacrificed, meaning you can draw all the cards! Mirror Gallery is a truly unique card that is difficult to reprint in any supplemental product but could see a reprint in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.