Once upon a time there was a plane called Kamigawa. There, a brutal and power-mad Lord Konda stole That Which Was Taken, the power of the greatest of kami—the spirits, gods—and hoarded that almighty power for himself.
This was widely regarded as a bad move. (Spoiler alert: The war did not go well for non-kami kind.)
While the story of Magic's visit to Kamigawa was one filled with flavor and merciless slaughter of humanoids, the flavor and feel of Kamigawa block was something I really enjoyed. The Kami War was terrible for the mortals of the plane, but wonderful for my journey into the game.
My first draft was Champions of Kamigawa–Betrayers of Kamigawa–Saviors of Kamigawa, and I nearly won. My aggressive, Wicked Akuba–fueled deck ran straight into the wall of the double-Earthshaker deck my finals opponent had drafted. Cracking my prize packs in glee, I opened a card that blew my mind: Final Judgment.
"The clashing warriors turned to face O-Kagachi, the greatest kami, and their sigh of awe was their last breath."
". . . And their sigh of awe was their last breath" perfectly summed my response. You see, I had read the Kamigawa books. I knew O-Kagachi was the greatest among the kami and the unquestioned power of the story.
Now I could see what it looked like. Kinda. Maybe.
A great dragon's head peeked out from the clouds, with snakes-or-are-they-tentacles rising behind—not precisely what I had envisioned and not exactly clear either. But there it was, in all its divine glory.
Except it wasn't divine, and this wasn't all its glory. It took twelve years, but now I get to truly see the majesty of its appearance with O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami.
On Wars of the Spiritual Nature
O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami is the O-Kagachi I recall from the Kami War. As That Which Was Taken was, well, taken, the divinity of O-Kagachi was elsewhere. When O-Kagachi shows up in the story to take it back, it's as a kami that can die—no immortality (indestructible) like the Myojin.
"The Great Old Serpent," as it was known, was quite miffed at Lord Konda for his not-so-petty theft. And so there came a time in the war when O-Kagachi struck at Eiganjo to reclaim That Which Was Taken. This is that O-Kagachi, the greatest of kami bent on one thing: wreaking absolute vengeance upon the mortals who dared steal its power.
There's not a lot of subtlety when you're the most powerful thing on a plane and you have a mission of destruction on hand.
A quick look at O-Kagachi shows us what we get. First, he's a fine if difficult-to-cast rate as a flying, trample 6/6 for six mana. The downside of requiring all five colors isn't really a downside for our purposes: We're not trying to draft O-Kagachi, but build a Commander deck it can hang out in. The five-color requirement is a powerful upside for us, opening up any card we want to play and giving us an immediate payoff for hitting our lands on curve.
Second, as its name literally spells out, O-Kagachi is here for vengeance. Using O-Kagachi as your commander will lead to some interesting decisions for opponents. Can they risk what happens if you swing back at them? Are they safe attacking you if O-Kagachi is in the command zone? How will they choose their attacks when you have O-Kagachi in play but other opponents do not? There aren't easy answers to these questions in most games, but what they choose to do will tell you about what they might have in hand (Swords to Plowshares) or in mind post-combat (Damnation).
Finally, the O-Kagachi is both a Dragon and a Spirit. While Commander (2017 Edition) is bringing us draconic goodies en masse, a focus on spiritual needs is left to the O-Kagachi owner. Thanks to Kamigawa block and Spirit being a long-standing creature type—not just on Innistrad but everywhere in Magic—there's now an obvious leader for all the Spirits in the game. (No, Karona, False God doesn't count. Read her name!)
Making the most of the creature-that-brings-vengeance side of O-Kagachi is straightforward:
- Find haste. Swiftfoot Boots and Ring of Valkas are two options here. There are many, many more.
- Get an opponent to attack you. Alluring Siren or Angel's Trumpet can work. Or just taunt them into it by not leaving up good blockers.
- Bring out O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami and unleash the fury.
The politics—how you interact with the players around you in a game, and vice versa—of O-Kagachi are straightforward. You're not going to get many opportunities to trick opponents into getting punished for attacking you, and having O-Kagachi hang around on the battlefield is an obvious rattlesnake that will deter attacks anyway. The net result is O-Kagachi is not a sneaky commander, and without some luck or a focus on specific effects to make opponents attack you, the vengeful side of him isn't going to be the lead.
But its creature types are another story.
Thanks to Scion of the Ur-Dragon, we've had five-color Dragon decks for years. Fate Reforged and Dragons of Tarkir loaded us up with Dragons in every color, and seeing the Scion decks resurge was awesome. Yet there's never been a Spirit equivalent until now.
There are plenty of legendary Spirits. Geist of Saint Traft; Brago, King Eternal; and Karador, Ghost Chieftain are among the most popular Spirit commanders, but they aren't viewed as Spirit tribe leaders. O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami fulfills that purpose perfectly:
Ever wanted to play all the Zubera in Commander? Now it's on-theme. Want to get the most out of spell creature Spirits the Onna? "On-a-stick" versions of Shatter and Demystify and Unsummon and more are the mere casting of a Spirit away.
Drogskol Captain is one of the most powerful tribe "lords" ever printed. Now it can power up any Spirit and protect them from targeted effects. When you're ready to move into closing a game out, Drogskol Captain is among the best Spirits you can have on hand.
Cards like Forked-Branch Garami, Rattlechains, Angel of Flight Alabaster, Tallowisp, and even Genju of the Realm all provide so much more value in a deck packed with Spirits. Even a "Limited" Spirit like Battleground Geist is impressive with the right friends alongside it.
Soulshift, a mechanic unique to Kamigawa block, means some utility creatures can be recycled later or provide more value simply thanks to a Spirit-filled graveyard. Promised Kannushi (not a Spirit) can get back your best Spirits, like Kokusho, the Evening Star and Karmic Guide. (Did you know Karmic Guide was a Spirit too?!) He Who Hungers turns Spirits into discard effects and rebuys one when it bites the dust. Rootrunner can muck up an opponent's mana, particularly when they go to shuffle. Body of Jukai hits big and buys back something else big. Kami of the Honored Dead can hold the fort well. The range of options is surprising for only one block of options.
All the cards already working with any tribe obviously support Spirits too. Conspiracy and Ashes of the Fallen are two of my favorites to think about (see soulshift above), but classics like Door of Destinies, Grave Sifter, Steely Resolve, Cover of Darkness, and Urza's Incubator all power up tribes like Spirits.
Metallic Mimic, Brass Herald, Obelisk of Urd, and Adaptive Automaton all beef up plans to make Spirit tokens, letting you go down a path that looks at cards like Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens, Lingering Souls, Drogskol Cavalry, and Twilight Drover.
Immense Spiritual Pressure
While O-Kagachi will be happy enough to play along with its Dragon buddies in Commander 2017, I'm gleefully excited to see the first true Spirit Commander deck out in the wild soon—especially once the updates can officially hit places like EDHREC.
As long as you don't steal anything from O-Kagachi, I'm sure it'll be your friend too.