Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Limited Articles
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Limited Guide: Part 1 – Themes and Mechanics
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Limited Guide: Part 2 – Best Spells and Archetypes
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Sealed Guide
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty (NEO) Limited Tier List
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Limited Set Review: White
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Limited Set Review: Blue
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Limited Set Review: Black
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Limited Set Review: Red
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Limited Set Review: Green
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Limited Set Review: Multicolored
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Limited Set Review: Artifacts and Lands
I have always held a love for the cyberpunk genre, even as our own reality slips into the dystopia presented by the likes of Neuromancer or Blade Runner. As such I was thrilled when Neon Dynasty started getting previewed. As someone who loved even the 2010’s Deus Ex games and genuinely enjoyed Cyberpunk 2077 at launch, the odds of loving this set seemed really high. Crimson Vow had previously lost me by pushing the needle a bit too far in the Prince direction, so it feels great to be hyped for a new set release on Arena again.
What’s more, the original Kamigawa block dropped early on in my high school days during one of the peak MTG eras of my life. I remember it hitting the ground running with the legendary Spirit Dragon cycle, an interesting legendary Land cycle, and a number of nifty Enchantments(shrines) and Artifacts.
The following sets built on these themes and added Samurai and Ninjas to the mix. The Japanese essence of this block really worked, and they introduced some iconic magic cards. A number of them still live on as some of the oldest cards in the Modern format, but it seems prudent at this point for wizards to truly modernize Kamigawa. Neon Dynasty carries over the essence of these classic sets while augmenting them with updated mechanics, card types, and a fresh sheen of brilliantly integrated cyberpunk flair. So take off your trench coat and stay awhile, it is time to look for the ghost under Kamigawa’s shiny new shell.
Even though Kamigawa makes me think of Ninjutsu/Channel and these mechanics do make a return in Neon Dynasty, we will start with some new developments which fundamentally change Creatures and are sure to shape the set even more. In a companion article (Part 2) I will highlight the best Common and Uncommon cards in each color and go over the ten archetypes of the set.
A staple of the Cyberpunk genre is the merging of man and machine. This is incorporated into Neon Dynasty a few different ways, but the most apparent is the Reconfigure mechanic. Kamigawa has always been Artifact-heavy, but now some of the Equipment has come alive and enters the battlefield in Creature form:
Blue and Red have the most support for Artifacts as well as this mechanic at common and uncommon, but every color has at least one rare card with Reconfigure. The downside of these cards is that they can be removed as a creature before you get the chance to equip them. There is a lot to like though, my favorite aspect is how they provide additional utility as the game goes on. You aren’t always going to need a 3/2 Trample on your board, but Bronzeplate Boar can break open a stalled board by giving your best attacker a substantial bonus. Red-White has some bonuses for Creatures attacking alone as well, creating a bit more synergy with Reconfigure. There are also spells which count or sacrifice Artifacts, or specifically care about how many Modified creatures you have:
Neon Dynasty has animated more than just Equipment though, and has brought Sagas back with an added twist:
Sagas make perfect sense in the context of Kamigawa, and bringing them to life is a stroke of genius. In merging Kamigawa with cyberpunk, a great tension was created between the natural/spiritual and artificial/technological. Presenting Enchantments as an avatar for the former and pitting them against Artifacts as the latter is just great stuff:
Depending on the cost/effect, not all of the Saga creatures are worth prioritizing in drafts, but I do like these three for example. Behold the Unspeakable is the best of the bunch, but Befriending the Moths is a perfectly reasonable common. In Part 2 I will be going through the best commons/uncommons for each color as well as which Rares to consider Bombs.
Sagas were handled well in Theros: Beyond Death, and they aren’t the only card concept from the set making a return in Neon Dynasty:
In addition to spells which simply exist as both card types, the Kamigawa Shrine cycle makes a return with some Enchantment Creatures which benefit from having multiples in play. These suffer the same downside as Reconfigure cards though, as they will be prime removal targets. Unsurprisingly Green-White has the most support for playing Enchantments. I see this as more of a sub-theme in the set though compared to Theros, because there are only about twenty Enchantment Creatures in the set. I wouldn’t write off any of the Shrines though, as the 1 mana at end step cost offers a very reasonable mana sink throughout the game. And if you manage to field two at the same time they become a must-remove threat.
I suppose it is worth noting that there are a fair number of Vehicles in this set. Flavor-wise these are really cool and most are some sort of mech, but outside of a couple Rare ones I don’t think these will be very impactful. Blue-White seems somewhat centered on it and those colors look strong though, so perhaps I am selling some of them short. Time will tell!
These cards are all playable, and I think the hoverbike is a good card for many decks on top of being a sweet Cyberpunk concept a la Tron or Akira. My main issue with Vehicles is they work somewhat contra to Ninjutsu, our next mechanic which offers some incredible cards:
These ninjas allow you to return an unblocked creature to your hand in order to get them in for some damage and a sneaky effect along the way. Blue decks are going to really want to play Creatures like Prosperous Thief and Moonsnare Specialist because of the value they present, and it wouldn’t make much sense to bounce your Vehicles for them as those are already a slow play.
I expect Ninjutsu-based decks to run an aggressive curve to maximize the chances of bringing in a Ninja on the second or third turn. For this reason I expect 1-drops like Network Disruptor and Dockside Chef to seriously overperform in this set.
Although Blue-Black will be the primary colors for Ninjutsu cards, Green has a couple as well. Meanwhile White has just one and Red zero, so Red-White then fittingly represents the opposing faction in Neon Dynasty, the Samurai:
There are really only about ten Ninjas and ten Samurai at common and uncommon, but most of them are impactful enough that I expect Limited decks to still feel somewhat centered on them. I love that the Ninjas favor decks that can outpace, out-maneuver, or overwhelm opponents, while the Samurai are more powerful but telegraphed and looking to best their foes as an individual with their ‘attacks alone’ bonuses. It is a fitting dynamic for UB Ninjas and RW Samurai to battle while Green stands alone, channeling the natural and Spiritual. Which brings us to the last and certainly not least mechanic of the set:
Channel is another throwback to the original run of Kamigawa, but back then it was reserved only for Spirits and the ability tended to mirror what the card did (sort of like how most of the Reconfigure equipment in this set provides bonuses that mirror the Creature). Neon Dynasty has expanded the mechanic a bit to bring it up the power level to the year 2022 (or maybe even 2077). The utility on these cards is just amazing, just look at Colossal Skyturtle! Having three modes that are all useful on a magic card is absolutely insane. Roaring Earth is no slouch either, offering incredible value throughout the game if drawn into your opening hand or a windmill slam finisher if you draw it late.
As I hinted at earlier Green does have the most channel spells, but all colors except Black have some. All of the channel lands are first pick material, and seeing the Boseiju callback among them almost brought a tear to my eye. It is the perfect symbol of nostalgia and endurance in the midst of a dark future. Just like this set, just like this game.
Part 2 Coming Soon
I can’t remember the last time I have fanboyed this hard, but boy this set is looking great! I can’t wait to start playing, but in the meantime am working on highlighting the best uncommon and uncommon spells in each color as well as first pick Bombs to help guide your drafts and build your decks this weekend. Part 2 will feature that as well as an overview of archetypes. It should be out before NEO releases on Arena. Beyond that, well we shall see how far down this rabbit hole goes.