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Tameshi, Reality Architect Art by Scott M. Fischer

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Draft Guide – July 2023 Update

Our complete guide to drafting Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty on MTG Arena.

Hey everyone! The folks over at WotC have determined that they need to spice things up in the relationship by tossing us some throwback drafts on Arena. It’s a wonderful way to give everyone something to do if they are tired of drafting Lord of the Rings, but have zero desire to touch grass. Luckily they are sending us back to one of the most beloved draft formats in recent memory with Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.

The NEO flashback drafts will be running from July 17th until July 25th when they will be replaced by the Brothers’ War premier drafts. At least those were the announced dates, but it is already live on July 16th so luckily I was already working on this update.

Key Ideas of Kamigawa Neon Dynasty

There isn’t necessarily a best archetype when it comes to Kamigawa draft so much as three major options to choose between. You can get the other archetypes to come together sometimes, but the three big ones to shoot for from the beginning of the draft are aggressive red artifact piles, ninjas, and multicolor green decks. There is also an Orzhov value pile to fall back into when some of those don’t work out.

The red based artifact decks are really low to the ground and the best sign that it’s wide open is being passed Kumano Faces Kakkazan which is the turn one card most likely to make your opponent say, ”Well screw me” when they kept a slow hand. Sokenzan Smelter and Patchwork Automaton are also huge cards for the archetype as they quickly build towards terminal velocity. Basically, you want to go under every other deck in the format.

While you obviously want removal like Voltage Surge and Kami's Flare, don’t miss out on the chance to stock up on Iron Apprentice. I’ve played five of them and been perfectly happy with them. Don’t go bananas on them, but there have been pack threes where I first picked an Iron Apprentice because it was the best card for the deck I was building.

While I prefer playing mono red and getting away with only rocking fifteen lands, Rakdos can be slightly more powerful while giving up some mana consistency. The biggest difference maker is Oni-Cult Anvil which starts a clock that they can’t easily get out from under. The other big addition is Okiba Reckoner Raid which slots in perfectly at one mana. You can even get away with playing Clawing Torment as a way to both push damage and ping away those precious last few points of life.

The other key card in the artifact decks is Experimental Synthesizer. Playing it properly is pretty key so don’t be the person who plays their land before playing this. Think about your deck and what you can likely play before just running this out or popping it.

The ninja deck is typically Dimir and can rack up some really annoying starts. Kicking off the game with Network Disruptor into Moon-Circuit Hacker is so disgusting and there really isn’t much they can do about it.

Ninjutsu really benefits from anything that has a come into play ability like Virus Beetle or Searchlight Companion. That or you could just ninja back a ninja to keep getting the value. The really tricksy thing is to set a stop at end of combat to bounce the ninja after using the damage ability.

The best common in the set is Imperial Oath.  While there will be decks you want other commons such as Okiba Reckoner Raid first, on raw power it’s Oath by a mile. You might be thinking, “Hey it’s six mana so I should only play one or two.” That thought is incorrect, as long as you have the right deck playing up to five oaths is fine as it can just pull you right back into a game you were behind while stacking your deck with another oath on top. It won’t take long for the avalanche of Samurai to bury your opponent. The scry three is so sick on this because once you hit six mana you can just put every land on the bottom ensuring that the gas keeps flowing.

In most sets there is a complex decision tree to determine if you should block or not. In NEO, the tree goes “Are they attacking and have blue, black, or green mana”, then yes you block. While it is a little deeper than that, letting an innocent Virus Beetle through can lead to disaster if they get to bounce it for value and make you pitch another card. This makes tricks much better, but I’ll be discussing those more in depth later.

Ninjitsu also means there are a lot of times you don’t swing for free damage. Normally trading three damage for one damage is an easy choice, but here you have to be weary of getting wrecked on the swing back.

The other main archetype is the multicolor green decks which can vary from boring two-color decks to five color shenanigans with The Kami War. The base is usually Simic or Golgari splashing Imperial Oath or whatever crazy cards you get passed. You do have to prioritize fixing above any C+ level card to make sure you can actually cast everything.

Once you get deep into the game, the value starts building up and you can start doing loops to build to your inevitable victory. You just need a Season of Renewal to go along with either a Colossal Skyturtle or preferably a Shigeki, Jukai Visionary and you are Gucci.

Green is the deepest color so don’t take pack one common signals as a sign that it is open. It’s easy to fall into that trap and while it can support a lot of drafters, you don’t want to be fighting for everything.

Since the format is basically solved, almost everyone ends up fighting over those three deck types. Literally all of the content creators I’ve been talking to have made the jokes about time to force red again which matches up with my experience in previous throwback drafts. That’s where this alternative comes in.

The Orzhov artifact and enchantment deck is a fine one to fall back into when you notice you are cut on some of the other strats. While it unsurprisingly wants as many Imperial Oaths as it can get its grubby little hands on, it also leverages cards like Kami of Terrible Secrets and Naomi, Pillar of Order to stay ahead of the opposition.

A wide open version of this is much better than a watered down version of the other decks so it’s not really settling for it. I can assure you all the red players hate playing against anything that is going to grind this hard.

One of the cards that the cool kids might not have told you about is Containment Construct. It’s a secret little card advantage machine that is amazing with looting effects like Network Terminal or The Modern Age. It is almost always kill on sight because of how much value it can generate if ignored.

Most of the counterspells are unspectacular as Disruption Protocol sees barely any play and Spell Pierce is pretty niche. The one that you need to watch out for is the channel ability on Mirrorshell Crab.

Enchantment removal is maindeckable and will almost always find a target because of saga creatures. Artifact removal is a little more questionable, but I don’t hate playing the misers copy of Explosive Entry.

There are some seriously bomby uncommons floating around and everyone knows it. One of the most oppressive cards in recent memory is Kappa Tech-Wrecker. If you drop it on turn two or even if you just threaten it, they have to change the entire flow of their early game as dropping a saga is a one-way ticket to Wreckedville USA. The deathtouch also makes it hard to properly match up early and makes it super effective with Master's Rebuke or Spinning Wheel Kick.

The other big bad uncommon of the format (oh there are more, but these are the two most egregious) is Behold the Unspeakable. It negates the normal problem of tapping out for card draw by giving everything minus two to power, followed by a huge card draw, and a massive flyer. Oh, and if you ninja it back, you get to do it all over again. Good times…. Well for the one doing it.

Stop trying to make Anchor to Reality and Thundersteel Colossus happen. It’s not a thing.


The big sweeper of the format is Farewell and it is actually pretty insane. The ability to selectively exile everything can take you from “I got this” to “OMG, what just happened” in a split second. It’s good enough as a clean sweep, but sometimes you get to keep a few cards while your opponent gets nothing.

The damage-based sweeper is Seismic Wave, but it’s very situational since it only does one damage and only hits non-artifact creatures.


Everyone has to block against ninja colors and that leads to Suit Up being amazing. Three mana to kill a creature and draw a card, yes please! Don’t forget that this can also activate vehicles on its own. It can be pretty easy to swing in when they have a Brute Suit sitting there and just get wrecked in the middle of nowhere.

Most of the pump tricks are pretty bad like Kindled Fury or Favor of Jukai, but you can never be sure what you will run into during flashback events. The most likely one you are going to see is Ironhoof Boar because either mode plays well in the red artifact decks.

The most important trick to sniff out is Tamiyo's Safekeeping and luckily Arena is kind enough to give you a tell if they have priority with only a Forest in play. Countering a removal or winning a combat for only one mana is pretty big game. The two life isn’t nothing either, I’ve won a few games by tricking them into swinging for lethal only for me to gain the life and swing back for the win.


These are the Pack One Pick One (p1p1) no doubt, windmill slam, just take them rares of the set. These are not in rank order, just take these over any non-mythic uncommon or common.

Mythic Uncommons

These might be uncommons, but they sure don’t play like they are.

Do Not Draft List

These are the ones that some people talk themselves into, but you should always pass.

Wrap Up

This was one of the most universally beloved draft formats available on Arena so I’m sure you are going to have a great time while crushing the competition. Just avoid running into too many of the busted uncommons and it’ll be an awesome adventure that you’ll never forget.

I’ll be back soon with your updated draft guide for the Brothers’ War. Until then, stay classy people!

I’m always open to feedback, let me know what you loved, what you hated, or just send dog pics. You can contact me at:

Iroas, God of Victory Art


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Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

Articles: 307