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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Feb 24 2022 1:06pm
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A GUIDE TO BRAWL: NEON DYNASTY

 Winter update to the Brawl series! Back to Kamigawa! The legendaries from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty are added to the pre-existing Brawl commander options from Zendikar RisingKaldheimStrixhaven: School of Mages, Adventures in the Forgotten RealmsInnistrad: Midnight Hunt, and Innistrad: Crimson Vow.

 Legendary is typically a theme in Kamigawa sets. The 36 new commanders come mostly as monocolored options, with some dual-colored representing seven of the ten guilds (four allies, three enemies), and a single option for Jeskai, Sultai, Mardu and pentacolored – the former of which wasn't yet available in this Standard cycle.

 The total number of available commanders is brought up to 191 – which is 192, minus the one currently banned, Omnath, Locus of Creation (since October 2020). Pithing Needle is also banned in Brawl.

 

 The count by color becomes as follows.

  • Monowhite: 16 commanders (+5)
  • Monoblue: 17 commanders (+5)
  • Monoblack: 18 commanders (+3)
  • Monored: 14 commanders (+4)
  • Monogreen: 15 commanders (+4)
  • Azorius: 8 commanders (+1)
  • Dimir: 10 commanders (+3)
  • Rakdos: 9 commanders (+1)
  • Gruul: 6 commanders
  • Selesnya: 8 commanders (+1)
  • Orzhov: 12 commanders (+2)
  • Izzet: 9 commanders
  • Golgari: 12 commanders
  • Boros: 13 commanders (+2)
  • Simic: 13 commanders (+1)
  • Esper: 0 commanders
  • Grixis: 0 commanders
  • Jund: 0 commanders
  • Naya: 1 commander
  • Bant: 0 commanders
  • Abzan: 0 commanders
  • Jeskai: 1 commander (+1)
  • Sultai: 2 commanders (+1)
  • Mardu: 2 commanders (+1)
  • Temur: 0 commanders
  • Quadricolor: 1 commander – 1 banned
  • Pentacolor: 5 commanders (+1)
  • Colorless: 0 commanders

 Now let's see what the return to a new and improved Kamigawa brings to Brawl!

 Jump to: Monowhite, Monoblue, Monoblack, Monored, Monogreen, AzoriusDimir, Rakdos, Selesnya, Orzhov, Boros, Simic, Jeskai, Sultai, Mardu, Pentacolor.


 MONOWHITE BRAWL COMMANDERS

     

 Ao, the Dawn Sky: White member of the Dragon Spirit cycle. All of them amount to midrange power commanders that aren't particularly synergistic with anything because their largest impact comes from their deaths, which is not something you wish to happen to your commander. Then again, it does mitigate the sour taste of having to pay the commander tax, especially now that the rules have changed and the death trigger actually happens (otherwise, they would just be dismissed as options for a commander). Ao in particular essentially replaces himself with a four-drop or a couple of two-drops. Alternatively, he can function as an alpha strike enabler, though timing his death right within a monowhite shell can prove difficult. But it sure is an outstanding pair of death triggers. After all, Ao is the reincarnation of Yosei, who was the strongest of the old Dragon-Kami.

 Go-Shintai of Shared Purpose: Neon Dynasty also brings back the Shrines in a new cycle, and it's unfortunate they weren't allowed to share Standard with those from Core Set 2021. The new ones have the twist of being enchantment creatures, which makes them more fragile, and also require one mana to enable their trigger, now moved to the end step (so each of the three cycles of Shrines trigger in a different phase, which is weird). The white one gives us the chance to make a 1/1 token every turn for one mana. As a commander in Brawl, that's just all it'll do (in Commander, it still can't access more than two other Shrines anyway). It can be appealing enough to go wide, even if the tokens are colorless, not white, and Spirits, not Humans or Soldiers.

 Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice: Very specialized Aura-based commander. The ability reads as something designed for singleton formats, but with only white Auras as a payoff, she can become kind of an awkward resident of the command zone.

 Norika Yamazaki, the Poet: This descendent of the Yamazaki clan has a double build-around clause to fulfill, in that her deck needs Samurai or Warriors but also wants to have enchantments to recur from the graveyard. It's feasible, if more by using Warriors than the most flavorful Samurai (that's the reason the second, more widespread type was added to this family of abilities that appear in Neon Dynasty). The monowhite restriction makes it somewhat limited, though.

 The Wandering Emperor: The mystery behind the enigmatic Wanderer has been partially revealed. We still don't know her name, but we know she's the emperor of Kamigawa. Although, clearly, she's been unwillingly touring the Multiverse ever since her spark ignited, so the seat has been mostly vacant (she has now elected Light-Paws as regent, at least). Her new planeswalker card is very dynamic, dropping at flash speed in the opponent's turn and immediately using one of her three abilities, none of which is an ultimate. They all amount to some version of ambushing, either by powering up an existing blocker, making one, or killing an attacker. They're all useful moves in the subsequent turns as well, and combine to make the nameless Emperor a planeswalker very capable at defending herself, which is completely flavorful. Not a bad "good stuff" monowhite aggro commander, either.


 MONOBLUE BRAWL COMMANDERS

     

 Go-Shintai of Lost Wisdom: The "living" Shrine in blue is the weakest of its cycle, because it's only useful if we're looking to win via milling. Which can be a legitimate proposition in monoblue Brawl, but it still feels quite janky.

 Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant: Second sightning of a Praetor outside of a New Phyrexia setting. Jin-Gitaxias used Tezzeret's Planar Bridge to travel to Kamigawa, where he finally succeded in finding a solution to the problem of turning planeswalkers into full-compleated Phyrexians without losing their spark, at the expenses of poor Tamiyo. As most Praetors do, new Jin-Gi makes for a very expensive commander, but also a game-changing presence on the battlefield, since he'll duplicate most of our spells while countering most of the opponent's, all without asking for any extra resource beyond his mana cost. A strong Timmy/Tammy option in blue.

 Kairi, the Swirling Sky: The reincarnation of Keiga, this new blue Dragon Spirit is more expensive but more resilient than his white counterpart. The death trigger affecting the board is not as game-winning, and the recursive one is not immediately impactful, but they're still a solid couple of modes. It just goes back to be a not particularly synergistic top-end commander. Playable, but probably more useful in the deck than in the command zone.

 Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh: As usual, Tezzeret wants to be surrounded by artifacts, and that's not too hard to engineer with the current Standard pool, even in monoblue. Providing specialized mana discount, card advantage and board presence, he positions himself as the best choice for this kind of thematic list.

 The Reality Chip: Ever wanted to have an Equipment as your commander? The reconfigure mechanic fulfills that (strange) dream, because all the cards bearing the mechanic starts as creatures, before changing into pieces of gear of some sort. The Reality Chip is a very crucial item in the Neon Dynasty story, but it's also somehow a legendary Jellyfish, so it can sit in the command zone waiting to produce a Future Sight effect once brought online. For just two mana of taxable cost, it seems like an extremely profitable deal. It might just be the best all-purpose commander blue has currently available.


 MONOBLACK BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Go-Shintai of Hidden Cruelty: On its own, the monoblack living Shrine can just kill creatures with one toughness – which is not even too bad of a deal for a single mana every turn, and sure has its applications, but it's too restrictive to bother putting it in the command zone. Especially since it's accompanied by an overcosted deathtoucher.

 Junji, the Midnight Sky: Another Dragon Spirit, another excellent commander without any particular synergy. Just like the white one and the green one, Junji (the reincarnation of Kokusho) replaces itself when it dies. In fact, it's the only one who can leave on the battlefield something even more powerful than he is, provided there was such a creature in any graveyard. So maybe it has some synergy with a reanimation plan, backed up by a sacrifice outlet to trigger the process when it's more convenient. But Junji also looks in the graveyards of our opponents, so it may just happen that we're facing a deck with juicy targets with our monoblack "good stuff" Junji build.

 Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion: Nashi is a young, orphaned Nezumi (the ratfolk that are one of the sentient races of Kamigawa) who was adopted and raised by Tamiyo as her own son. Now that he's older, he's become a precocious artificer – although his card made him a Ninja for some reason. And his ninjutsu trigger doesn't even have anything to do with artifacts, which is weird, considering the artwork showing him tinkering with a robot in a lab. At any rate, he's sort of a ninjutsu-fueled Thief of Sanity, but with two important variations: he can also cast a card off our own library (which are the cards we really want to get access to, since we picked them), and it can be paid with life rather than mana, making it an amazing tempo gain. Ensuring subsequent connections past the initial ninjutsu maneuver can be tricky, so a deck that chooses him as a commander should feature quite a few ways to sneak a creature past enemy defenses.


 MONORED BRAWL COMMANDERS

    

 Atsushi, the Blazing Sky: For being the iconic color of Dragons, red gets the smaller member of this cycle, in the form of the female reincarnation of Ryusei. The death trigger affecting the board is also prone to become moot in the late game, when the Treasure tokens won't do much for us, unless we purposely built around an artifact synergy of some kind. Impulsively drawing two cards is always going to be good enough, though. Yet another solid commander option.

 Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei: Atsushi's number one fan makes for cheap commander with strong potential. For a mere two-mana investment, we get the opportunity to remove summoning sickness when it matters, and eventually to summon a big flyer or three. Granted, the abilities are both mana sinks, and Goro-Goro himself is pretty easy to get rid of. Plus, we need modified creatures as enablers for the token-making ability, something red on its own can struggle more than when paired with green. But all in all, this little Akki is an interesting build-around wih a couple different payoffs that also play well with each other.

 Go-Shintai of Ancient Wars: One constant ping every turn we have one residual mana to spare can be a decent commander in a burn-style deck. Not extremely enticing, for sure, but at least we get the little additional strategic value of pinging planeswalkers, too.

 Heiko Yamazaki, the GeneralNorika's cousin Heiko shares the same attack trigger, but switches the payoff recursion from enchantments to artifacts. Her ability is slightly more appealing. For one thing, it's easier to get cheap artifacts into the graveyard for value, compared to the slowness of Sagas being sacrificed after reaching their final chapter – which isn't even how the Neon Dynasty ones work. This said, Heiko has still the stats/cost ratio of an uncommon. A deck with her in the command zone is feasible, but monored still has Magda, who supports an artifact theme in a much more nuanced way.


 MONOGREEN BRAWL COMMANDERS

    

 Go-Shintai of Boundless Vigor: One of the two Go-Shintai that legitimately work even when they don't share the battlefield with any other Shrine. The white one goes wide, this one goes tall, like color pie would recommend. It's kind of an unassuming commander, and it gets reset every time it dies, which makes its later, commander-taxed iterations very underwhelming. But it can be a big trampler threat, and it's self-modifiied. Not a go-to option for green, but playable.

 Kodama of the West Tree: This card completes a 18-year "Kodama Trees" mega-mega-cycle that was started in the original Champions of Kamigawa, and most recently appeared in Commander Legends, with the more direct mirrored member Kodama of the East Tree. Notably, none of these Kodamas share a mechanical quality, the only common trait being they're green Spirits. The Western Kodama is the smaller of the bunch, and yet the first one to appear at mythic rare. It's a terrific three-drop in regular Constructed, and can work as a commander of a deck that specializes in modified creatures – which requires almost no effort to build in monogreen.

 Kura, the Boundless Sky: The final Dragon Spirit, the female reincarnation of Jugan (who gets furher homaged through the powerul Saga Jugan Defends the Temple). She's the odd monogreen flyer, can trade for anything and replaces herself with a larger ground-based creature. Nothing wrong with putting Kura in the command zone, if nothing else catches our attention.

 Shigeki, Jukai Visionary: This Orochi (the Snake people of Kamigawa) is a mechanically complex creature that's able to do a plethora of different things, including ramp, self-mill, and recursion. He could successfully lead a deck with a graveyard theme, but also a generic midrange one. Be warned, though: the channel ability cannot be used from the command zone, so we need to return Shigeki to hand from the battlefield first (conveniently, it's what his first ability does). On the bright side, channeling a commander lets us put it back to the command zone but doesn't count as having cast it, so it doesn't increase the commander tax.


 AZORIUS BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Tameshi, Reality Architect: The good futurist gone bad Tameshi is kind of the crux of the story in Neon Dynasty. A former best friend of Kaito Shizuki, Tameshi would go on to become the creator of the groundbreaking Reality Chip, ending up working for Tezzeret and the Phyrexians – an unwise choice that will eventually cost him his life. His card reflects his genius. The activated ability is, on face value, a reanimator of artifacts and enchantments, but what hides in plain sight is a card-drawing engine based on the old Moonfolk mechanic of returning our lands to hand for value. Landfall triggers to exploit in white and blue aren't too many, but the entire business is so high on profit that it doesn't even matter what we do with the returned lands – worst case scenario, we discard them to the very apropos Thirst for Discovery. Tameshi is quite possibly the best Azorius commander available in Brawl at the moment; at the very least, the most intricately fascinating.


 DIMIR BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Kotose, the Silent Spider: Five-mana for a 4/4 body and a Surgical Extraction that also lets you play one of the exile cards – something you might not even have much interesting doing, especially if the targeted cards were combo pieces. It's not an incredibly profitable deal, and it gets worse in a format where you can't hit more than a single card anyway, one that the opponent has already played.

 Satoru Umezawa: Meet the descendant of the fabled Toshiro Umezawa, of Umezawa's Jitte fame (arguably the most celebrated card from the original block, which also got a tribute in Life of Toshiro Umezawa). Satoru's lineage claim might actually be unsubstantiated; he's mostly known as the leader of a yakuza-style syndicate, the Hyozan Reckoners. In any case, he's a pretty fantastic commander, and not just for a Ninja tribal deck, since he turns every creature into a Ninja – and then every Ninja into card selection and card advantage! Of course, a build with Satoru at the helm will have plenty of ninjutsu enablers, so it might well include actual Ninjas too, to make use of the setup when the boss is not around.

 Kaito Shizuki: The second Kamigawa native planeswalker we meet, after poor Tamiyo. Kaito is a Ninja and one of the main protagonists of Neon Dynasty. Phasing out at the end of the first turn is great flavor and a good way to protect himself right at the beginning, when the Kaito player could plus him to draw a card without worrying about setting up a defense, or make a 1/1 unblockable Ninja to better support the first ability in the following turns. A neat little package that fits an aggressive Dimir list, especially one that's featuring other Ninjas, since the unblockable tokens are perfect enablers for ninjutsu; we will lose them in the process, but it might be worth it.


 RAKDOS BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos: Last time we saw Hidetsugu, he was an Ogre with a knack for dealing massive yet precise amounts of damage. Since then, our anti-hero merged with a demonic entity ominously known as the All-Consuming Oni of Chaos. The result is an outstanding card with two different activated abilities. The second and juicier one, which involves tapping, is a win condition in itself, since it revisits Hidetsugu's penchant for damage, extending it to any target, not just players. And it's attached to a clean instance of impulsive drawing, to boot. The first ability is a sacrifice outlet, something the black and red pairing always finds an use for, and has the added value of setting up nicely its companion ability via scry. For a total of four mana, Hidetsugu can, every turn, engineer a burn spell of potentially deadly intensity. And if we happen to have extra mana, we could cast the exiled spell as well. Rakdos's current lineup of Brawl commanders is quite impressive, but Hidetsugu sits with the best of them.


 SELESNYA BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Satsuki, the Living Lore: The theme Satsuki pushes is self-evident. If we want to build a Saga deck, she can help. Maybe not a whole lot, but the Sagas will work through their chapters faster every turn, and then we can basically exchange Satsuki for a spent or nearly-spent Saga, at the cost of increasing her commander tax. Or at least, that's what we might do, provided we're able to sacrifice her without waiting for external circumstances to cause her death for us. Which is not ideal, but the potential build-around exists.


 ORZHOV BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Greasefang, Okiba Boss: Another specialized commander, this time for Vehicles. Greasefang's way to care for those is a bit narrow, since we need Vehicle cards in our graveyard, or the ability will do nothing. But at least the stats overvalue the cost. The number of Vehicles that are currently available under an Orzhov identity is not huge, but some of those are good cars. Too bad Mechtitan Core exiles itself.

 Naomi, Pillar of Order: "Controlling an artifact and an enchantment at once matters" is a wide mechanic that debuted in Neon Dynasty. Naomi exploits it to create a bunch of 2/2 vigilant Samurai. It's a strong ability, though it's not clear what kind of deck is able and willing to support it.


 BOROS BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Raiyuu, Storm's Edge: The Samurai theme comes primarily in white and red, so Raiyuu has no real competitor for the position of commander of that tribe – with Warrior added to fill the ranks, which means Raiyuu also has authority over Kargan Intimidator, Akiri, Fearless Voyager, and whatnot. The exalted-like ability doesn't really amount to a second combat phase, since at least one of the two phases only affected one creature, but we can find ways to make that matter. And we can also recruit Moraug, while we're at it.

 Risona, Asari Commander: Risona is essentially a three-drop 3/3 with haste that is sometimes indestructible, but the mechanism through which she acquires and loses the indestructible counter isn't really wired in our favor. She's a valid creature in an aggressive list, but not exactly designed to be an effective commander.


 SIMIC BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Tamiyo, Compleated Sage: Alas, tragedy struck in Kamigawa. The beloved scholar/tea party host Tamiyo has been subjected to one of the worst atrocities in the Multiverse, the Phyrexian compleation. Now that her organic body has been entirely replaced with artificial parts, she can discount one mana from her cost in exchange for two life we have to spend on her behalf. This option also makes her enter the battlefield with two fewer loyalty counters, though, so it might not be the most ideal plan, particularly if we expect to use her minus ability to reanimate a permanent by way of reforging it as a token (a process that's intended to mirror what happened to Tamiyo herself). Aside from that, Phyrexian Tamiyo can defend herself quite efficiently with a freezing plus that's reminiscent of the original Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. If we employ her as a pseudo-removal that way, we can work towards her ultimate, although we should bear in mind that it doesn't create the usual emblem; rather, to keep with the artifice theme, it generates an artifact token that can easily be removed or bounced into nothingness, the first instance of this kind of ultimate to be so easily countered. Regardless, the Compleated Sage makes for a well-rounded Simic commander with some versatility (for one thing, she can be valuable at the head of a self-mill build), possibly the new go-to as a generic commander in her color combination.


 JESKAI BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Hinata, Dawn-Crowned: The celestial Kirin have only sporadically shown up after the monocolored cycle with which they were introduced in Saviors of Kamigawa. Of course they were expected to make a reappearance here in Neon Dynasty, and Hinata gives the tribe a new legendary since the original quintet. Why is it in Jeskai colors is entirely unclear (apparently, Hinata is just a fan of the mortal world), but its mirrored abilities are interesting, if not exactly mind-blowing. The stats are also just okay for a triple-colored card, and the overall impact on the board is more situational than it reads. It mostly encourages us to run targeted spells to get the discount. From the opponent's point of view, it mostly means all our permanents get ward 1 (their combat tricks also get taxed, but that's not really a factor in Constructed). It's not bad, but it's not something that pushes us to get Hinata out of the command zone asap. Its main selling point at the moment is just the fact that it's the only option we have for a commander in these colors.


 SULTAI BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Tatsunari, Toad Rider: As his epithet somewhat unnecessarily points out, Tatsunari rides into battle on the back of a giant toad, Keimi – which is not a very stealth move for a Ninja, but you don't choose a pet, a pet chooses you. Contrary to similar cases, like Tolsimir or Minsc, Tatsunari's companion doesn't get created when its master enters the battlefield; instead, we need to cast an enchantment first (and then it'll get a drain life trigger for each subsequent one, which is nice but just a bonus). It might look like a downside, and it sure would have been great to immediately deploy two 3/3 bodies for three mana. The advantage of Keimi's creation being a cast trigger is that it will come back again and again, something that shouldn't be overlooked. Especially considering the activated ability makes the duo almost unblockable, and that could be a win condition on its own, as we can easily set up a clock where we kill the opponent in two or three swings. It's not a build-around per se, but it could be. And for this Brawl cycle so far, the only other commander we can choose in Sultai is Jorn, God of Winter, who's probably more powerful, but also more demanding in terms of deckbuilding.


 MARDU BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Isshin, Two Heavens as One: When Legends first introduced gold creatures all those years ago, not all of them were properly designed at the time with a clear idea of what the multiple color requirement actually entails. But at least the original triple-color creatures, those Elder Dragons that would soon give birth to an entire format built around them, were effective in showcasing their exceptionality. A creature that demands us to play three specific colors should be impressive and remarkable, as they channel the strenghts of three different strands of mana. Not all of them are or can be memorable, but disillusioned imperial bodyguard Isshin here is a good example of this concept. His stats are above the cure, and his ability is powerful and lends itself to a build-around. It's meant to emphasize the Samurai "exalted" mechanic, but there are all kinds of attack triggers to abuse in Mardu colors. Isshin positions himself as the aggro-combo face of the triplet, whereas Extus is the more control-oriented one.


 PENTACOLOR BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Kyodai, Soul of Kamigawa: Often five-color commanders end up being annoying, because they sort of circumvent the primary tenet of the format (i.e. the fact that the commander dictates the color or colors of our deck), facilitating combo builds. When they're also uber-powerful to boot, they can easily get out of hand. It's not Kyoda's case. In theory, she should be a very formidable entity, the Worldsoul of Kamigawa, a spiritual being that contains the essence of Michiko Konda, Lord Konda's daughter, who released the captured Kyodai from her prison and merged with her to end the Kami War. In reality, though, it's just a 3/3 flash flyer that protects one permanent as long as it stays around. Sort of a glorified combat trick, although with more flexibility and lasting upsides. And then, sure, we can boost her stats to make her into a proper threat, but that WUBRG activation reads more as a way to give Kyodai a five-color identity. Which is good, so now we have one more simple, gentle commander for fun pentacolor builds like the one centered around Shrines (at least in Historic Brawl).


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