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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Mar 09 2022 12:57pm
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KAMIGAWA: NEON DYNASTY

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 After 17 years since our last visit, Neon Dynasty revisits the Japan-inspired Kamigawa setting, a longtime fan-favorite despite the original trilogy having been mechanically disappointing and financially underwhelming. The twist of this reboot is that now 1200 years have passed and there's been technological advances like nowhere else in the Multiverse, allowing for a cyberpunk setting that takes its cue from well-known Japanese pop culture imagery like Ghost in the Shell, and generates the first hardcore sci-fi setting in Magic: The Gathering (give or take the steampunk flavor of Kaladesh).

 The set's entire creature type suite appears to be top-down, with the Kamigawa universe returning us en force to its two iconic classes, Ninja and Samurai, even more than it would happen in the original block – which we had covered as a series of flashback Tribal Evaluations in 2017: here, here, and here. On the other hand, Spirit, which is a big player in the world's supernatural lore, lost considerable steam in comparison to the old Kamigawa. The tribe was an incredibly large presence in those sets (probably too much: Champions of Kamigawa included a whopping 70 new Spirits, Betrayers had 45 and Saviors had 49, and remember that those two were small sets). Neon Dynasty has cut the Spirit compartment to size, but it still amounts to a reasonable 18 new members.

 In fact, the world-building defines all the tribes with more than five new additions. Each color on Kamigawa has its characteristic humanoid race, and those are all represented to various degrees: Fox (Kitsune) in white; Moonfolk (Soratami) in blue; Rat (Nezumi) in black; Goblin (Akki) in red; and Snake (Orochi) in green. Dragon is also an important part of the lore, though they're all also Kami, therefore Spirit, whereas the sci-fi angle causes an increment in the number of Constructs and Artificers. This aspect also calls for a large presence of artifact creatures, since cyber-implants are considered enough to make a person count as an artifact, an approach that's reminiscent of the aether-infused residents of the Esper shard on Alara. Simultaneously, we also get a new influx of enchantment creatures, associated with the traditional spirit world and its emanations, the same way it was done for the pantheon of Theros.

 Both elements come with a novel twist, with some artifact creatures being living Equipment, and some enchantment creatures being living Shrines. The latter is cause for the first instances of creatures without a creature type since Nameless Race in The Dark. The five Shrines from Neon Dynasty have the Shrine subtype for being enchantments, but no creature subtype at all (in case you find this strange, here's the official position and here's a more detailed explanation of why it happened. Short version: there wasn't space in the type line). It's just the same reason why Food or Clue are not creature types even if artifact creatures can have it associated to their artifact type.

    

 Micro-tribes that got new members include Citizen, Kirin, LeechMonkey, Octopus, PilotPraetor, and Rabbit. Some of these are used for the Equipment creatures, which take the form of traditional animals.

 Very large tribes entirely missing: Soldier, Cleric, Shaman, Knight, Zombie, Elemental, Elf, Vampire, Bird, Merfolk, Horror.

 Time to have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the main focus is on all the Constructed applications (though Limited is occasionally touched upon), the tribes are presented alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 287 (+15 duplicated basic lands, +210 showcase and alternate versions)
  • New cards: 267
  • New creatures: 133
  • Reprinted cards: 20
  • Reprinted creatures: 0
  • New Legendary creatures: 32
  • New Snow creatures: 0
  • New artifact creatures: 44 (of which 14 Equipment creatures)
  • New enchantment creatures: 23
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 0
  • Creature types affected: 43
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Human (+35), Ninja (+22), Samurai (+21), Spirit (+18), Construct (+9), Fox (+8), Goblin (+7), Snake (+7), Artificer (+6), Dragon (+6), Moonfolk (+6), Rat (+6)

Advisor: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 63, online: 54

 Related Tribes: Fox, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Advisor sounds like a subtype that should be popular on Kamigawa – they have an imperial court, after all. Instead, there were only three of them in the entire original block (although one of those was Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker, a character that would prove crucial to the story). The two legendary Advisors from Neon Dynasty are here to correct that lacuna.

 Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice, the courtier Fox that would go on to be named regent by the Wandering Emperor, is a very specialized value creature that can tutor up and cast for free one Aura every time we cast a different one. She's seeing play in Aura decks in Pioneer, and sometimes also shows up in Rune decks in Standard, though she has less of a role to play in those builds. She's extremely efficient, just a two-drop 2/2 with all upside in the right list.

 Naomi, Pillar of Order is another build-around with no mana requirement outside the initial cost, which is steep, but comes accompanied with a 4/4 body. The problem is, the "harmony" build-around requisite, while not very demanding, doesn't really fit anything. Having an artifact and an enchantment in play at the same time (symbolizing, flavor-wise, the balance between modernity and tradition) is something that might naturally happen in Limited, where Naomi is the signpost for the Orzhov pairing, but it's not something you engineer in Constructed. Unless they payoff is huge, and that's not the case here – assembling an army of 2/2s with vigilance for free is great, but the road to get there is very slow and involve attacking with a non-evasive vanilla.


Archer: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 91, online: 86

 Related Tribes: Goblin, Snake

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Two very effective Limited cards to represent the Archers (and if you ever played Shogun, you know those ancient Japanese bowmen should also be Samurai, but the heavy presence of enchantment creatures really put a strain on the type line). These have no regular Constructed playability whatsoever, but their channel effects make them very versatile. It wouldn't even feel outrageous to see Twinshot Sniper in Archer tribal, just to sneak a two-mana burn spell in the tribal section.


Artificer: +6

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 139, online: 135

 Related Tribes: Goblin, Human, Moonfolk

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Theoretically, the Artificers should have a big impact on Neon Dynasty, since they embody the modern era and its techno-gadgets. But there's nothing that jumps out among this group of new tinkerers. The rare, Scrap Welder, is trying so hard to be a non-broken Goblin Welder and it ends up too mild to matter. Replication Specialist has a powerful trigger, but it's too clunky. Enthusiastic Mechanaut is an improved Etherium Sculptor, but that's a card that didn't need any improvement, and the double color requirement is an unnecessary burden for something that really wants to drop on turn two. The rest is just a collection of "artifacts matter" cards with some words of text (Neon Dynasty is a very high-complexity set), but no real bite. The exception might be Sokenzan Smelter, which is seeing play in Rakdos Sacrifices in Standard (not a top-tier archetype anymore, but still around) as a way to turn random artifacts like Treasures into threats. After a while, those three-powered hasty dorks add up.


Beast: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 439, online: 429

 Related Tribes: Cat

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: I admit I'm not sure what Armguard Familiar is supposed to be. The rule text makes it sound like some kind of bio-weapon you wear on your arm, but in the artwork it's used as a puppet to entertain kids? Also, is that Tamiyo being cute with her family? They're showing us her warm, happy life just so we can be more heartbroken when we find out she's been torn apart by the Phyrexians and reassembled as an emotionles robo-monstrosity?

 Anyway, these two very unconventional Beasts represent both sides of the modernity-tradition conflict that's characterizing present-day Kamigawa. The Familiar is one of the novel Equipment creatures, which work just like Equipment, but can be willingly unattached to become independent creatures again. This is a common, so the reconfigure cost is a bit too high to be Constructed-playable, but they're generally effective cards with a double role and built-in resilience to board sweeps. On the other hand, Gloomshrieker is aggressively costed for a regrower – in fact, it has Eternal Witness mana value. Of course it doesn't even get close to the Witness's unapproachable greatness, as it requires two colors, only returns permanents, and can't be looped. On the bright side, it's more adept at sneaking in some points of damage, and it's an enchantment for enchantment synergies. Not a bad card, and more in tune with the Beast tribe than the monoblue Familiar.


Boar: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 42, online: 40

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Simple instances of reconfigure and channel for the Boars. Ironhoof Boar is close to, possibily better than Zhur-Taa Swine from Gatecrash – bloodrush was indeed just a subset of channel. Bronzeplate Boar is an okay "living" Equipment. Both giving trample is a key factor, and clearly a flavor win for the tribe.


Cat: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 232, online: 222

 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The Kamigawa felines share the solid Gloomshrieker with the Beasts, and then get the dubious honor of being used as decorative clothing, while still being alive (the implications of the existence of these reconfigure creatures can be unsettling). Lion Sash is one of the rare "living" Equipment – if we count the Neon Dynasty Commander decks, every color has at least one at high rarity, but white and red have multiples. This is kind of a Scavenging Ooze that can lend its ever-growing body to something else – ideally, something evasive. And being able to "hide" as an Equipment, it can survive a sweeper and present a lethal threat of its own. All the associated costs are reasonable, to the point that this leonin fashion statement has already showed up in the sideboard of non-rotating formats, all the way up to Death & Taxes builds in Legacy.


Citizen: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 3

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Third Citizen since their re-introduction as non-token cards in Forgotten Realms. Dockside Chef is a repeatable sacrifice outlet that draws card by using any available ingredient for his recipes. The activation cost and effect are the same as fellow Citizen Skullport Merchant, but the Chef is a one-drop, and an enchantment to boot. The current Citizen lineup, which also comprises Prosperous Innkeeper, seems designed to be highly playable, and our resourceful cook is not far behind, as he has already found a natural home in Standard sacrifice lists (i.e. the decks running Deadly Dispute and Shambling Ghast) as a more curve-friendly Merchant. This brand new tribe is really blooming.


Construct: +9

    

   

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 New Tribal Total: 145, online: 144

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The robots are the most blatant expression of Kamigawa's technological present (for comparison, in the original block there were no Constructs at all), but they were all kept at lower rarities. None of these Constructs is just vanilla, as Neon Dynasty as a whole favors complexity, and there's not one specific mechanical apparatus for them (no pun intended), so they perform a variety of roles. The most Constructed-ready are Iron Apprentice and Patchwork Automaton, which are indeed part of an up-and-coming affinity-like build in Standard. They're cheap, the Apprentice basically has modular, and the Automaton grows linearly – slam dunk inclusions in aggressive artifact lists.

 Other semi-notable cards here are Shrine Steward, mostly as a specialized Commander card for Shrine-based decks; Towashi Guide-Bot as a decent card draw engine in Limited; Walking Skyscraper as the creature with the largest natural body in the set, though it gets barely played even in Limited (the "affinity for modified" is hard to pull off in a relevant way). Containment Construct reads better than it plays; it just needs to much of a setup, between discarding cards through some external means and having the mana to cast them right away. It's like madness, but clunky.


Crab: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 31, online: 30

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The first Crab to emerge from Kamigawa's oceans (the old block didn't really do much with Japan's strict relationship with the sea) is a minor Limited darling, a very solid channel creature that can work as a counterspell in the mid-game or be deployed later as a resilient win condition. It probably elicits no interest in Constructed, but it's a neat design.


Demon: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 132, online: 126

 Related Tribes: Ogre

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Oni are much less prominent in Neon Dynasty than they were in older Kamigawa sets, where the Demon tribe counted a total of 11 members. But at least we get the return of the fearsome Ogre Hidetsugu, now turned Demon after merging with an entity called the All-Consuming Ony of Chaos (as illustrated on the Saga Hidetsugu Consumes All). As a Vessel of the All-Consuming, Hidetsugu becomes the bearer of one of the most powerful abilities in the entire set, as he's capable to tap to impulsive-draw the top card of our library while at the same time dealing damage based on that card's mana value to any target. And he comes with an additional sacrifice outlet activation that sets up his other ability, and with a strong cost/body ratio overall. And yet, he hasn't found a home anywhere yet, except for Commander. Apparently there's not a very high demand for midrange Rakdos creatures, even if they're a centerpiece that can easily amount to the deck's whole gameplan.

 The other Demon in the set is a reconfigurable sword. As a standalone creature, it's a worthwhile two-drop 3/1 with menace. And when brandished by another creature, it doesn't just grant them its keyword, nor merely its power and toughness as an additional bonus (the way bestow creatures work). By instead changing its host's base body to a 5/5, it could easily end up giving a +4/+4 boost, if equipped on some random 1/1. The downside here is that Blade of the Oni loses its impact when its most logical or only available recipient is already large – in fact, it might even shrink it as a result. Also, four mana is not the most manageable reconfigure cost. But these issues are solved through correct deckbuilding, as we see in Dimir aggro lists that play the Blade as a two-drop ninjutsu enabler, and then exploit the potential extra reach it gives them in the late game. Overall, it's the only mythic Equipment creature so far, it's versatile, and has great flavor for a demonic weapon. A wildly different mechanical take from Elbrus, the Binding Blade.


Dog: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 97, online: 92

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: A couple of very popular Dogs for Limited and potentially beyond. Greater Tanuki (tanuki aren't exactly dogs, but close enough) is a ramp spell that doubles as trampling finisher, or vice versa. Spirited Companion is a classic self-replacing two-drop 1/1 a la Elvish Visionary, but this time it's white and it's an enchantment, both very crucial elements. In fact, both these doggies are enchantments, a type whose association with creature is becoming more and more relevant.


Dragon: +6

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 255, online: 250

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: It wouldn't be Kamigawa without a cycle of Dragon Spirits (not to be confused with (Ugin, the Spirit Dragon;M21) – he's a Dragon that became a Spirit, these are godlike Spirits in the form of Dragons). The original five were among the most iconic cards in Champions of Kamigawa – five powerful flyers in the form of elongated, limbless and wingless serpents, perfectly encapsulating the traditional iconography of the Eastern Dragon. They're kami, but they didn't side with O-Kagachi and instead remained loyal to the mortals during the entire Kami War, standing guard to significant places (as celebrated in Jugan Defends the Temple). They're immortal, in the sense that they can endlessly reincarnate; but their reincarnations take new names and sometimes change gender. This aspect of them was already emphasized in the original cycle, which made their main ability a death trigger. It's reiterated by these reincarnation, but now they have two different death triggers to choose from, one providing card advantage and the other affecting the board – in other words, a strategic trigger and a tactical trigger.

  • Ao, the Dawn Sky is the reincarnation of Yosei, the Morning Star. Yosei was the strongest of the old quintet, and so is Ao, who's capable of replacing himself with the best card (or cards) picked among the top seven of our library; alternatively, he can just enable a deadly alpha strike.
  • Kairi, the Swirling Sky is the reincarnation of Keiga, the Tide Star. He has the largest body of all the Dragon Spirits, old and new, and is the hardest to kill. Which might not be such a great thing for creatures that owe a good share of their mythic status to their death triggers, but to balance things out, he doesn't replace himself, and both his abilities are somewhat situational.
  • Junji, the Midnight Sky is the reincarnation of Kokusho, the Evening Star. He has the potential to further reincarnate into the most impactful creature of any graveyard, but the result is not guaranteed if not adequately set up.
  • Atsushi, the Blazing Sky is the reincarnation of Ryusei, the Falling Star. She's the smallest of the group, and her abilities might not do much, but she's cheap, effective, and essentially almost repays her own cost. She's also invaluable in an "artifacts matter" or sacrifice build, becasue she can reincarnate into three artifacts and/or pieces of sacrifice fodder.
  • Kura, the Boundless Sky is the reincarnation of Jugan, the Rising Star. She's the only one who will replace herself no matter what, potentially becoming even more threatening. She also trades for anything in the process, and can be used to tutor up any three lands, which is nuts in Commander.

 A sixth Dragon Spirit comes with a white mana cost but a five-color identity. Kyodai, Soul of Kamigawa is the material form of That Which Was Taken, the kami that a millennium ago was kidnapped from the spirit world by the recklessly ambitious Lord Konda, thus sparking the Kami War. Ultimately, Konda's daughter Michiko merged with Kyodai, ending the war and ushering the Reign of Truth. Michiko is long dead now, but Kyodai is still Kamigawa's Worldsoul, though her card is not particularly formidable. She functions more as a viable five-mana commander that does a few useful things (flash-ambush, protect a key permanent, potentially boost herself into a threat), but nothing too busted. The epitome of a "good, not great" card.

 Interestingly, the intersection between Dragon and Spirit only produced three cards that didn't belong to a Kamigawa setting (the opposite also includes O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami from Commander 2017). The first is the original crossing of the two tribes, Eternal Dragon from Scourge. Much later came the demonstrative Scion of Ugin. Finally, Vengeful Ancestor from Forgotten Realms Commander, the only one to have Spirit listed before Dragon in the type line.

 


Drone: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 63

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Drone is a peculiar creature type that only gets revisited in specific settings. The bulk of the tribe is made of the Eldrazi Drones from Rise of the Eldrazi, Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch. A minor group is composed by blue creatures that are used as guards and servitors by the Vedalken from Mirrodin, and that today would certainly be printed as blue artifacts. (Searchlight Companion) (only the third Drone to ever appear outside of Mirrodin or with no association with the Eldrazi) is similar to this second group – and to the real-life concept of drone – and has decent Limited playability as two bodies for three mana. The fact that the non-token one is the flyer synergizes well with ninjutsu, too.


Druid: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 236, online: 232

 Related Tribes: Human, Snake

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: There are no Shamans on Kamigawa this time around (which is unexpected, since there was plenty of them in the original block). On the other hand, there's a significant concentration of Druids (in the old sets there was just one, and kind of silly). It includes a classic turn-two mana dork with upside, Orochi Merge-Keeper, which is however not that popular in Limited, because you can obtain the same ramp at instant speed and with better synergy through the Monk token from Careful Cultivation. Wider Limited play has seen the four-drop Jukai Preserver, one of the most reliable green commons.

 But the Kamigawa Druids also contribute a whopping three rares to the proceedings, two of which legendary. Satsuki, the Living Lore is the most narrow, as she's made for a dedicated Saga build. Speeding up all the Sagas we have on the battlefield, and ultimately turning into a spent one is a good deal for two mana, but the strategic setup is a strict requirement for Satsuki to have any meaning at all. Some Saga lists have emerged in Standard, but Satsuki so far hasn't had have a role in them. Unlike one of the two Orochi Druids, Weaver of Harmony. The Weaver is similarly fixated on a single type of cards, but in his case the purview is broader. For one thing, his boost encompasses all enchantment creatures, while the activation doubles any trigger from an enchantment source. Once again, Sagas are what was in the designer's mind with the Weaver (and what the Standard tier-2 deck currently running him focuses on), but the wording is not restricted to those triggers in particular. In fact, the potential here is limitless, from paying one mana to draw one extra card off Phyrexian Arena to quadrupling the boost of Unnatural Growth.

 Last but not least, Shigeki, Jukai Visionary is an extremely versatile card. He can be deployed on turn two to act as a sensible blocker, then activate to ramp while also enabling self-milling strategies. We can repeat the process, until at some point we'll have enough mana at hand and good targets in the graveyard to make the channel option appealing. And Shigeki is also an enchantment, so it can be easily returned post-channeling: to hand with Season of Renewal; to the battlefield by Brilliant Restoration; and Satsuki herself can be switched for Shigeki. And that's just to mention Neon Dynasty cards.


Fish: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 34, online: 30

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Four-mana 3/3 flyer is a reasonable deal in Limited, but it doesn't really have a place in the Constructed world. The conditional looting is nice, but invites a certain amount of build-around that sometimes doesn't come together in Limited, and it certainly doesn't happen in the kind of Constructed deck that runs a four-mana 3/3 flyer.


Fox: +8

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 37, online: 35

 Related Tribes: Advisor, Monk, Ninja, Pilot, Samurai, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Kitsune are back, in roughly the same amount as the old block (Champions of Kamigawa had 9 of them, the small sets had 4 each). In the present, more technological Kamigawa, they developed a passion for Vehicles, as reflected by solid helpers like Hotshot Mechanic and Kitsune Ace. The only rare is the Advisor Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice, who specializes in Auras. Selfless Samurai is essentially just a more expensive Selfless Savior, but it can find a home in a Samurai and/or Warrior build. The rest is strictly for Limited, where the one-drop tapper/ninjutsu enabler Mothrider Patrol sees a robust amount of play, followed by the lifelinker Golden-Tail Disciple, which works as a solid base to apply modifications on.

 By the way, having seven tails must be terribly uncomfortable for sitting.


Frog: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 34, online: 32

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: I can't really tell how a Frog made of paper can deal two damage, but Papercraft Decoy is a decent two-drop for Limited. If timed right, it can be traded off and replaced. It's also yet another example of animal tribes represented in Neon Dynasty through living objects in the form of that animal. In this sense, this is an interesting variation from the Equipment creature.


Goblin: +7

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 383, online: 367

 Related Tribes: Archer, Artificer, Samurai, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: It's easier for Goblin than it is for Elf and Merfolk to appear in a wider number of planes, due to the fact that the concept of Goblin is less specific – they can basically stand if for any small humanoid with a nasty look. The Akki of Kamigawa take a more turtle-like appearance than the Goblins of other planes, with their back protected by a hard spiky shell. They were Shamans and Warriors in the past; in the modern age of the plane, they've become Artificers and Samurai. The first class is particularly emphasized, because it was the artisans of Sokenzanshi that invented the enhancers, allowing Kamigawa residents to incorporate technology in their bodies. Scrap Welder and Sokenzan Smelter are notable cards in this vein, especially the latter, a new minor staple of sacrifice lists. The "Samurai matter" and "modifications matter" Goblins are less impressive, but at least Twinshot Sniper is a valuable modal card that can still shock any target when played as a creature. It's the set's Bonecrusher Giant, to a small degree.

 The individually most powerful card is enabled by modifications, though. It's the legendary Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei, whose name almost sounds like a callback to Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, one of the most memorable cards from the original Kamigawa block (and to whom Neon Dynasty actually paid a separate homage with the Saga Fable of the Mirror-Breaker). Goro-Goro is not about copying stuff, he's about summoning five-mana Dragons at will (he's a devotee of old Ryusei, after all). The only requirement, besides the mana, is that at least one creature we control be modified, which is not a goal too hard to achieve, particularly in Gruul. Possibly even more crucial is Goro-Goro's first activation, which grants universal haste. This means for six mana total, we can throw a new 5/5 flyer at the opponent every turn. It's a bit casual, perhaps, but it's an excellent mana sink, and Goro-Goro is relevant in the early to mid-game, too, thanks to his haste-giving ability. He can provide a bit of reach to red aggro decks that struggle in the late game.


Human: +35

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2800, online: 2594

 Related Tribes: Advisor, Artificer, Citizen, Druid, Monk, Ninja, Rogue, Samurai, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: Human is still the largest tribe in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, but not by an enormous margin over the second. So that's something, I guess. In the old Kamigawa block, the amount of Spirits utterly crushed the amount of Humans (164 vs. 72), but that was probably one of the mistakes that was made back then. Not in regard of Humans specifically, but it's not healthy to have sets where half the creatures belong to one type, and one type only.


Insect: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 183, online: 179

 Related Tribes: Ninja

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Insects get one of the worst Equipment creatures, but also a slightly improved Burglar Rat, which was already a slightly improved Ravenous Rats. In this case, the upgrade merely comes from the added artifact type, but it could be a huge factor in the right build. Similarly, Circuit Mender is a better Filigree Familiar (more toughness, triggers on exile and bounce too). It's a versatile pick in draft, at the very least.

 The only Insect that's not robotic is Spring-Leaf Ninja, and that's a weird one. Ninjas in green are a new concept introduced by Neon Dynasty with only four cards, one of which, Fang of Shigeki is a reasonable ninjutsu enabler. The Avenger wants to be green's version of a Ninja, as it's a big dude with a large, hard-hitting body. In fact, it's the biggest body a Ninja ever had, tied with Silent-Blade Oni from Planechase 2012, the first set to re-introduce Ninjas after the Kamigawa block. Admittedly, the Avenger is better than the Oni, whose ninjutsu cost was exceedingly steep and whose trigger could have no real consequence. It still takes four-mana to ninjutsu the Avenger into play, which is not a terrible deal if the result is hitting for six out of nowhere and improving both our board presence (hopefully) and our hand. The problem is that green is still not a color Ninja decks care for, and they also prefer to keep their curve lower than four mana, let alone five. So it's a good card that's inherently difficult to find a home for.

 Side note, humanoid Insects weren't a thing on Kamigawa before (the entire original block only had one white non-humanoid Insect). But we had already surmised there are more "animal folk" than Fox, Rat and Snake on the plane, judging by that Frog Samurai from Modern Horizons 2, Jade Avenger.


Jellyfish: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 12

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The Reality Chip is the main MacGuffin of the Neon Dynasty story, and since all Equipment creatures have been given animal subtypes, Jellyfish was somewhat randomly chosen for it. In practice, it's a two-drop that can buy time for a while by acting as a 0/4 blocker, before turning into a proper Future Sight. That effect is clearly formidable, and we end up paying the same amount of mana in two discrete installments, with even less blue involved. As a permanent, the Chip is more frail than the original enchantment, both in the initial creature form and as the Equipment it becomes. There are different, more flexible applications for it, though, as we're seeing it pop up in Modern Hammertime lists, where it can be more easily tutored up and deployed than its older counterpart. Not to mention the fact that now we can elect Future Sight as our commander, which is a sick proposition.


Kirin: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 11, online: 10

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: The Kirin or Qilin is a mythical creature from Chinese, Japanese and Korean mythology. It made its debut with a (kind of weak) monocolored cycle in Saviors of Kamigawa, then rarely showed up since: just a couple in Tarkir block, one in Global Series: Yanggu & Yanling, and one in Modern Horizons 2, all of which were forgettable monowhite commons. Neon Dynasty revisits the subtype with two rares, which represent the first artifact Kirin (as well as the first to lose Spirit as an additional type) and the first multicolor Kirin, respectively.

 Cloudsteel Kirin is an Equipment creature that turns its host into an ersatz Platinum Angel. The effect is obviously powerful, but the reconfigure cost is quite high. The fail case is a three-mana 3/2 flyer, which is good, but probably not good enough.

 On the other hand, Hinata, Dawn-Crowned has been a surprise hit. The card doesn't read as particularly powerful. Four-mana 4/4 flyer is, again, a solid deal, if we didn't have to spread that cost over three different colors. The tax ability mostly translates into ward 1 for our permanents, but the discount is more intruguing. The way it's worded, it's an incentive for us to run spot removal, ideally spells that have more than one target. This created a mad synergy in Standard with Magma Opus, which can work up as many as five different targets, even when Hinata is the only creature on the battlefield (damage spread between Hinata, the opponent, and ourselves, plus two lands tapped). This results in a three-mana Opus, which can easily be copied with Galvanic Iteration. Jeskai Control lists are having a ball with the meddling Kirin, which is also a reasonably non-broken commander, currently the only Jeskai option in Brawl.

 Overall, both these new cards are more playable than any of the old Kirin, so there's that.


Leech: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 14, online: 13

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Here's another Equipment creature in the form of an animal. Leech is appropriate for lifelink, but only granting lifelink is not really worth a four-mana reconfigure cost attached to a black Mesa Unicorn.


Lizard: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 62, online: 60

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The parade of Kamigawa animals you can wear or brandish continues. The design of most of these is pretty simple, they're a creature with a keyword that reconfigures to give that keyword to someone else. Lizard Blades traffics in double strike, and that's always powerful in aggro decks. Both casting cost and reconfigure cost are reasonable. It's not Embercleave, but it's functional enough to earn a spot in some Standard RDW lists, although less frequently than the more efficient Rabbit Battery or the more strategic Ogre-Head Helm.


Monk: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 96, online: 93

 Related Tribes: Fox, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: No ancient Eastern setting can be complete without some Monks (to be fair, that should be true of Western medieval settings, too, but friars get usually slotted into Cleric, for some reason).

 This trio is fairly popular in Limited. Both Bearer of Memory and Golden-Tail Disciple fit the curve of Selesnya decks by providing solid stats with clear upsides (Bearer is also desirable in Gruul, but that archetype is not as prominent in the Limited meta). Ditto for the uncommon discounter/lifelinker Jukai Naturalist, which is indeed the signpost for the Selesnya "enchantments matter" pairing. But the Naturalist is also definitely Constructed material, featuring at the center of two different successful lists in Standard, Naya Runes and Selesnya Enchantments. He's really great at powering up broken plays by discounting multiple mana costs per turn, to an extent that was rarely matched by similar cards in the past, even classic Goblin Electromancer in spellslinging lists. What contributes to the Naturalist's success is that discounting costs is only par of what he does; he also wears modifications swimmingly thanks to his native lifelink, and enables "enchantments matter" effects on his own. Truly a perfect storm of a card.


Monkey: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 8

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Does walking around with an angry Monkey on our shoulder qualify as "equipping" it? This Equipment creature offers the rare chance to get a new Monkey in the game (if, for some reason, that's something we think the game should have more of), but the ability is just not consequential enough to matter, as it's too easy to play around for the opponent. And if we take that out of the picture, what remains is just a Leonin Scimitar that can turn into a random 1/1 in a pinch. Not atrocious, but not appealing either.


Moonfolk: +6

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 20

 Related Tribes: Artificer, Rogue, Samurai, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Soratami or Moonfolk are one of those tribes that only exist on a single plane, so it's hard to grow them over time. And more so if that plane is Kamigawa, which had to wait 18 years for a new visit. Which is too bad, because they're a fascinating people with unique traits (they're inspired to the Japanese moon rabbit folklore, and have subtle rabbit-like qualities like the long ears, which have been further emphasized in Neon Dynasty art). And they're Tamiyo's people. Or they were before she got turned into a Phyrexian cyborg horror. Sigh.

 The Moonfolk from the original block were very one-note, all sharing the same land-bouncing mechanic. Fortunately, these new ones are a lot more varied. The most eye-catching are those that have been redefined as sort of enhanced hackers, hence the appearance of artifact in their type lines (one could object that a cyber-implant is not enough to turn you into an artifact in the same way of the mycosynth-laced Mirran natives or the aether-infused Vedalken on Esper, but it was likely the flavor bowing down to a mechanical requirement of the set). A few of the commons have good standing in Limited, particularly Network Disrupter as a prime ninjutsu enabler and Moonfolk Puzzlemaker as an all-around solid three-drop with a nicely defensive butt and free scry capabilities. Saiba Trespassers is also Limited-playable, doubling as a miniature Sleep if needed, while Replication Specialist is one of the main payoffs in the Izzet "artifacts matter" archetype.

 Sadly, the only one with a small chance of seeing play in Constructed is Tameshi, Reality Architect. He's the creator of the Reality Chip and one of the central characters in Neon Dynasty's storyline. Amusingly, for being such a trailblazing futurist, his card is the only one in the set to replicate the traditional Moonfolk mechanic of bouncing our lands as an additional cost. It's only one land per activation, so during a turn in which we don't have a land drop to make, the entire endeavor essentially pays for itself: we can just tap a white-producing non-tapland, return it to hand, and then replay it. This way, Tameshi's rule text can be approximated as reading: "you may cast an artifact or enchantment from your graveyard; if you do, draw a card". Which is pretty enticing, like an overcharged Emry. And for the rest, Tameshi's cost and stats are reasonable. He might be too convoluted for Standard and not broken enough for Modern, though, since so far he has been sighted exclusively in Commander. Then again, most complex cards do end up there.


Ninja: +22

    

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 41

 Related Tribes: Fox, Human, Insect, Ogre, Rat, Snake, Turtle

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Ninja is the major non-Human tribe in Neon Dynasty, which is far from the way they were treated in the original block, where they showed up in a small number and only as a specific mechanical implementation of the second set, Betrayers of Kamigawa. This return puts a much larger focus on them as a key element in the core identity of the plane, and also frees them from relying exclusively on their signature mechanic, ninjutsu. Although the existence of Ninja cards without ninjutsu has already been established in Moden Horizons, through cards like Phantom Ninja and Throatseeker. That set also suggested that Ninjas can exist in any plane, since races that don't appear on Kamigawa, such as Azra or Naga,  were used in combination with the Ninja subtype. However, to date, this concept has not been exploited directly in other planes.

 Ninja is a transversal theme in the set. In present Kamigawa, most sentient races train their own Ninjas, encompassing all colors but red (impetuous doesn't agree with stealthy!). This wasn't the case in the original block, where Ninjas were strictly blue or black and either Human or Nezumi (i.e. Rat). To avoid cluttering this entry, we'll mostly look at the non-Human Ninjas while discussing their race.

 Even reviewing the Humans alone, we can witness a number of different iterations of ninjutsu. The keyword remains the main attraction of the Ninja world, but it has assumed a wider range of effects and implementations compared to its earliest instances. The rare Biting-Palm Ninja and the uncommon Kappa Tech-Wrecker mark the most notable mechanical departure, in that they acquire an ability counter upon entering the battlefield, and they may choose to remove it after connecting, in order to achieve a specific interactive payoff. In the case of Biting-Palm Ninja, it means targeted hand disruption, while the Kappa exiles an artifact or enchantment – which within the Neon Dynasty Limited environment often equals to creature removal. Both counters, if preserved, are useful means to reiterate a connection, either through the semi-evasion of menace or the threat of deathtouch. The higher rarity gives Biting-Palm Ninja better stats, but the Kappa being cheaper to cast and ninjutsu, alongside the increasing frequency of high-profile targets, makes it a more playable card, only hindered by its odd color for the tribe. Also, it's a Ninja Turtle, though they chose not to spell it that way in the type line, probably to feel less on the nose.

 Speaking of which, (Silver-Fur Master) is the first linear lord for the tribe, boosting all Ninjas (co-tribalized with Rogues) and discounting their ninjutsu costs. He's an anthropomorphic Rat who lives in the sewers and carries a cane – another reference to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

  

 Even if Silver-Fur Master is the first to provide a proper anthen, there had been Ninja lords of sort in the past, most notably Ingenious Infiltrator, Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow, and Higure, the Still Wind – one of the tribe's two original legendaries. But despite its massive tribal boost, the only other Ninja in Neon Dynasty that refers to the tribe in its rule text is Prosperous Thief, which reiterates the use of the adjective "prosperous" to indicate the creation of Treasures (cf. Prosperous Pirates, Prosperous Innkeeper). Two mana to ninjutsu in, hit for three and make a Treasure? It looks like an alluring tempo gain.

 Some other uncommon saboteur Ninjas are more specific in their scope. Covert Technician lets us put an artifact in play with mana value two or less (but this ceiling could increase if we increase the Technician's power). Dokuchi Silencer allows us to discard a creature to kill a creature. Of course the former wants to be played in an artifact build (it's an artifact itself), the latter works better when paired with madness or reanimation.

 Naturally, all this ninjutsu needs enablers in the form of cheap evasive early drops that will easily go unblocked and will easily be replayed after the Ninja took their place. Typically, such enablers are evasive one-drops that have to be recruited from other tribes. Neon Destiny offers a good exception with Thousand-Faced Shadow, a 1/1 flyer for one mana that we can return to hand to allow another Ninja to do its thing, but alternatively can ninjutsu later to make a copy of some other attacker. To a lesser extent, Fang of Shigeki may also work as an in-tribe ninjutsu enabler, while Inkrise Infiltrator is not super-efficient at that job.

 Two common Ninjas are reworked and depowered versions of similar creatures from Betrayers of KamigawaMoon-Circuit Hacker of Ninja of the Deep Hours, Moonsnare Specialist of Mistblade Shinobi.

   

 Not all Ninjas do the smoke bomb/disguise "Gotcha!" trick (or whatever it's supposed to happen when you replace an unblocked attacker). Among the ninjutsu-less Ninjas, three legendaries with multicolored identity stand out.

 Satoru Umezawa is the self-proclaimed heir of Toshiro Umezawa, most famous for wielding the renowned Umezawa's Jitte, the single most celebrated card from the original block (Toshiro himself is immortalized in Life of Toshiro Umezawa). Satoru could be his direct descendant. Then again, he's sort of a yakuza boss, so his word might not be too trustworthy (unlike Tetsuko Umezawa, who's truly descended from the Dominaria branch of the family. The Umezawa family history is terribly complicated). This said, while Satoru doesn't have ninjutsu himself, he grants it to every other creature in our hand – so technically, he's not even a good fit for a Ninja tribal deck. Except, his main attractrive is the impulse he does every turn in which we activated a ninjutsu ability, and we can enable that better if we have ninjutsu costs that aren't 2UB. He's also a three-mana 2/4. Strong commander potential.

 Kotose, the Silent Spider has truly nothing to do with ninjutsu. She's basically Surgical Extraction on legs, with the added bonus of getting the chance to cast one of the exiled cards, Thief of Sanity-style. Otherwise we wouldn't be paying five mana for a 4/4 and a Surgical Extraction. Which maybe we shouldn't, to be honest. But her backstory is a heist movie and her artwork is a poster for that movie.

 And who needs ninjutsu when you're riding a giant Frog? (Which also makes being stealthy kind of a hard proposition). Tatsunari, Toad Rider is definitely the most unconventional of all the Ninjas from Neon Dynasty. His mechanical function is intriguing, too, since he doesn't create his life-draining amphibian companion, Keimi, upon entering the battlefield. You need to cast an enchantment first, which might sound like a downside, but it's actually a huge benefit. Cards like Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves or Minsc, Beloved Ranger have to be flickered in order to re-spawn their tokens. Whereas Keimi can just die and be reborn, again and again, provided Tatsunari is being played in the right build. Now, an enchantment-heavy build might not have room for this Ninja-Frog duo, nor use for black cards. To convince them, Tatsunari doubles down with a built-in wincon in the form of activated unblockability for his mini-team. He's more likely to win over Commander players, because that totally random hybrid mana gives him a Sultai identity.

  

 Finally, Futurist Operative corroborates the notion of the Ninja as a master of camouflage. When he's tapped, he's just an unassuming Citizen, you see? No need to be alarmed, let him pass! And then, surprise!, he untaps for three mana and reveals himself to be... a 3/4 vanilla? That's a really anti-climactic use of such a flavorful mechanic, isn't it?

 There are various Ninja-related cards in the set, too. Kaito Shizuki, the new native planeswalker as well as the main protagonist of the story, is theoretically a Ninja and his minus activation makes unblockable Ninja tokens. His signature spell, Kaito's Pursuit, gives menace to our Ninja squad. And Kami of Restless Shadows also cares about Ninjas, even if it could do a better job of it.

  


Octopus: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 11

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: A sea creature that latches onto another creature and grants it Curiosity? Where did we see this before? That's right, Acquisition Octopus is to reconfigure what Sea-Dasher Octopus was to mutate. They even share the same stats! Strangely enough, it appears to have become a staple ability of the tribe. Which is good, because it lowers their curve a bit.

 Aside from the cool (if a bit goofy) imagery of the Octopus used as gear in a high-tech heist, this appears to be a step back from the mutating Ikorian Octopus. To be fair, that one was rare while Acquisition Octopus is just an uncommon, but the Sea-Dasher could do its trick at instant speed and for just two mana, whereas this Equipment requires the much clunkier passage of casting the Octopus as creature, then reconfigure it, for a total mana investment of five. The only area in which it beats its predecessor is where resilience is concerned. A mutated creature dies when its pile is removed; Acquisition Octopus would just unattach and get ready to find a new partner in crime.


Ogre: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 99, online: 94

 Related Tribes: Demon, Ninja, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Even in his Demon form, Hidetsugu is still an Ogre, instantly becoming one of the most best members of his original tribe (certainly better than his first incarnation was). The other rare is the bizarre-looking Ogre-Head Helm (wearing the head of an enemy as your helm kind of crosses over from fierceness into viciousness, but doing it with a head that's somehow still alive is positively disturbing). It's one of the best Equipment creature, a two-drop 2/2 that can reconfigure to add its full body weigth to another creature's stats. And then it can be sacrificed upon connection to refresh our hand. It's the kind of card monored aggro always craves for, and it's indeed being played in that kind of build in Constructed Standard as we speak.

 On the other hand, Unstoppable Ogre is not going to leave the Limited environment, where it's solid, but not exceptional. One-toughness creatures are too easy to deal with in the format, and red in general is not well-positioned. So much for being unstoppable.

 Last, Dokuchi Shadow-Walker holds the dubious record of being the only vanilla creature in Neon Dynasty. Technically, it's not even true, because ninjutsu is still an ability, although close to be tribal rule baggage. So that makes it French vanilla therefore putting it on the same level as Fang of Shigeki and Golden-Tail Disciple, but those two have such greater playability, they make the Shadow-Walker really stand out as the only real useless dork in the set.


Phyrexian: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 228, online: 226

 Related Tribes: Praetor

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Second apparition of a Phyrexian Praetor after Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider showed up in Kaldheim. The plot thickens! The devious Jin-Gitaxias has come to Kamigawa, with the help of the sleazy Tezzeret, to further his researches into creating the first Phyrexian with a planeswalker spark, a goal that he achieved at poor Tamiyo's expense by comparing notes with Tameshi.

 The card is exactly what one would expect from a mythic Preator: a mirrored pair of continuous abilities, one benefiting its controller, the other hindering its opponents. In this case, we get to automatically copy one instant, sorcery or artifact per turn, while the opponents have the first of the same types of spell they cast every turn countered. Which also means an opponent needs to spend two spells in order to remove Jin-Gitaxias. Unless they just use, say, Oblivion Ring or Ravenous Chupacabra. Honestly, it's not the most effective Praetor ever printed, but it can still be a blast to play with and a pain to play against.


Pilot: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 11

 Related Tribes: Fox, Rat

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Not only the Kitsune can be good Pilots. The Nezumi lady known as Greasefang is the leader of a fearsome gang of bikers. Her stats as a three-drop 4/3 are above the curve, even keeping the multicolored requirement in consideration. Her ability is a bit strange, though, as she doesn't need Vehicles on the battlefield as much as she wants them in the graveyard. I guess it represents her fixing up broken bikes, or something. The salvaged Vehicle gets to attack immediately, provided we can crew it, but then it gets bounced to hand, so it's not exactly a reanimation effect. It all amounts to a lot of steps in order to exploit Greasefang's ability consistently. It doesn't look like something that's going to happen a lot on its own.

 Hotshot Mechanic remains the most likely of these new Pilots to be included in a Vehicle deck, though Kitsune Ace giving all our Vehicles first strike is nothing to sneeze at. And both are cheap and efficient. The "crews Vehicles as though its power were 2 greater" is a wording that also recurs in several Pilot tokens from the set. Two of those are created directly by Vehicles (including the super-flavorful Reckoner Bankbuster, which is pure storytelling in card form), and another by channeling the Aura Born to Drive.

  


Praetor: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 9

 Related Tribes: Phyrexian

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: The Praetor subtype is weird, because, as of right now, it's only associated with the Phyrexian leaders. It was retroactively added to two cards that simply featured the word in their names (Ebon Praetor and Sanguine Praetor), but those are very old cards, and the use of the subtype wasn't even intentional at the time. It doesn't look like it's going to be used for non-Phyrexians, and since now the Phyrexian type exists, it has become sort of redundant. At least to the extent that it just denotes a hierarchical position. Other races have those, but they aren't translated into subtypes.


Rabbit: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 6, online: 5

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: It's a Rabbit! That gets exploited as a battery! Somehow! That's advanced technology! Apparently!

 At any rate, this is not just the best Rabbit ever printed (the first in red), which would be faint praise, considering how ridiculously small the tribe is, despite existing since 1997. Rabbit Battery is a legitimately good card that's seeing play in aggro decks. It's the real improvement over Leonin Scimitar that Simian Sling fails to be. One mana to drop, one mana to equip, +1/+1 and haste, done. It's a one-mana activation to give haste to the most recent creature that needs it. It's basically on par with cards like Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei, which also has to spend one red per turn to keep granting universal haste.


Rat: +6

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 61, online: 54

 Related Tribes: Ninja, Pilot, Samurai

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Aside from the biker boss lady and a solid common Samurai with the "harmony" mechanic, the Nezumi (which is the way the anthropomorphic Rat folk are called on Kamigawa) have Ninja as their class of choice. It's continuity with the original block, where Rat was the only other Ninja race other than Human. And in fact the bipeal rodents even get the linear lord Silver-Fur Master to their name, though that might just be a side-effect of the homage to Splinter fron Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For all his value in a Ninja deck, the Master lacks a ninjutsu trigger of his own (in fact, the ninjutsu cost is even just the same as the regular casting cost). The same applies to two other Rat Ninjas, with Nezumi Prowler surprise-boosting itself or another attacker, a la Blacklance Paragon, and Mukotai Ambusher just being a lifelinker. They're functional, as they're both three-powered creatures that can be deployed for two mana, but they're not the most exciting nor mechanically innovative Ninjas. And then there's Nashi. We need to talk about Nashi.

 Nashi is Tamiyo's adoptive son. She rescued him when he was an orphaned toddler and took him to live with her family in the flying city of Otawara. Growing up, Nashi got to witness her adoptive mom's book club's interplanar tea parties, and meet Ajani. Now a teenager, he became a technology nerd, always tinkering with robots and machines. We can see him in the artwork doing just that, in some sort of engineering lab. Then... WHY IS HE A NINJA?! Seriously, what went wrong in the creative process to steer Nashi away from a natural Artificer subtype and into a honestly preposterous Ninja affilation?

 Qualms with his type line aside, he's a solid three-powered three-drops, but what makes him mythic is his saboteur trigger, a reworking of the Thief of Sanity ability, with a double twist: he also exiles the top of our library, which is much more likely to hit cards we actually want to play; and we pay life instead of mana to cast the spell we choose to cast (which is only one of the two we exile), the Bolas's Citadel way. This last element offsets the fact that, unlike Thief of Sanity, we only have until end of turn to cast the exiled spell. There are two main issues with this design that prevent Ninja Nashi from seeing much Constructed play. The first is that it's hard for Nashi to hit again after the initial ninjutsu blitz. The second, which is compounded with the first, is that there's no card selection involved, it's just straight-up the top of both libraries, so odds are one of those will just be a land. It's generally a very luck-based ability, unless we find a way to make it happen more consistently. If it's just one blind shot in the dark, it's bound to be disappointing more often than not, because it just looks at two cards, one of which isn't even a card our deck runs.


Rogue: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 340, online: 320

 Related Tribes: Human, Moonfolk

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Rogues in Neon Dynasty are co-tribalized with Ninjas (which also means they benefit from their lords), but that decision doesn't affect the internal environment too much, since there's only a trio of Rogues, all of which are commons. We saw the two Moonfolk are both Limited-playable, with Network Disruptor a relatively high pick when drafting a Ninja deck, since it's a perfect ninjutsu enabler: cheap to replay, evasive, and with a sometimes relevant ETB effect, to boot. The black Rogue, Undercity Scrounger, is a weirder one. The flavor about a scavenger looting corpses is on point. And the morbid mechanic is sound, not asking for anything of us but tapping the Scrounger. Cost and body mirror Skullport Merchant. It's just the payoff that's lacking. The Merchant actively sacrifices permanents to draw cards, and provides a bit of ramp automatically. The Scrounger requires an external way to trigger morbid, an then just ramps. "Artifacts matter" builds might like him, though.

 


Samurai: +21

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 57

 Related Tribes: Fox, Goblin, Human, Moonfolk, Rat, Snake

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Samurai is, quite predictably, the other big non-Human tribe of the set, second only to Ninja. Unlike its sneakier counterpart, Samurai doesn't just have a couple lords – basically, every creature with the non-keyworded "Samurai ability" is a lord. Or, to better say, the ability affects any Samurai, not just its bearer, by triggering an effect when one of them attack.

 Despite calling out the tribe's name (that gets associated with Warrior just to be more friendly to larger formats), the ability doesn't really need a concentration of Samurai on our battlefield, since they have to attack alone. Of course, having more Samurai with different abilities means more triggers boosting the lone wolf attacker. But most of those triggers don't actually do that, instead giving us a strategic advantage unrelated to combat. This is perfectly exemplified by the mirrored pair Heiko Yamazaki, the General and Norika Yamazaki, the Poet. They're descendants of the Brothers Yamazaki from Champions of Kamigawa, except these two are just cousins. And as we can see, the attack trigger from each of the Cousins Yamazaki doesn't affect the combat at all, it just gives us recursion for one artifact and one enchantment, respectively.

 The most powerful of these effects has to be the second combat phase from Raiyuu, Storm's Edge. But even in this case, the Samurai we sen into the red zone doesn't benefit from being a lone attacker. We basically get a combat phase where only one of our creatures attacks, followed by a regular combat phase. It can be abused by taking a "voltron" approach in which we build up a supercharged beater. But it's a kind of strategy that works better in Commander than in any other Constructed format (unless it's a Bogle approach, which the Samurai don't particularly enable). The same goes for another rare Samurai that reads as formidable, the Mardu-colored Isshin, Two Heavens as One. Surely doubling all the attack triggers may lead to devastating turns. It's designed to enhance the Samurai triggers specifically, but it applies to anything that happens when we declare an attack, and that's a huge territory to explore and exploit. Plus, Isshin has a very favorable cost/body ratio. He still looks more at home starting from a command zone, though.

 Other Samurai with the pseudo-exalted ability are more concretely boosting whichever of them decide to attack. They embrace various degrees of success, but they're generally not very appealing, even in Limited (it doesn't help that the Samurai's designated color pairing, Boros, is not one of the most popular archetypes).

   

 A few Samurai have unique mechanical setups. The already discussed Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei grants universal haste and makes Dragons. Risona, Asari Commander has a saboteur ability that gives her an indestructibility counter, which afterwards gets removed whenever we suffer combat damage (something akin to the monarch mechanic, in a way). Jukai Trainee is the only Samurai to use a non-keyworded callback to the original Samurai mechanic, bushido. It's also one of only two green Samurai in the set, the other being Heir of the Ancient Fang. They're not the first instances of this pairing between color and tribe. Betrayers of Kamigawa had one green Samurai, Isao, Enlightened Bushi. More recently, Modern Horizons 2 had Jade Avenger.

 

 Another group of miscellaneous Samurai indirectly suggests that the "attack alone" ability didn't end up having too much design space. Reinforced Ronin has built-in dash, and its channel ability is essentially cycling. Sky-Blessed Samurai has affinity for enchantments, while Upriser Renegade, with his zany Elvis haircut and pose, is a straightforward "modifications matter" card. Of all the common and uncommon Samurai, the most widely played in Limited is definitely Sunblade Samurai. It can be channeled for plainscycling on turn two, and then cast as a robust vigilant body later.

   

 Elsewhere in the set, the big reveal of The Wanderer being the current Emperor of Kamigawa in disguise (she can't use her name because of the traditional naming taboo) leads to a new planeswalker card that creates Samurai. The same does Naomi, Pillar of Order, while Ancestral Katana is their new tribal Equipment, a simpler version of the legendary Oathkeeper, Takeno's Daisho.

  

 Overall, the big boost to the tribe is self-evident, although not as much impactful as the one Ninja has gotten. The quality of the new Samurai and their mechanics is somewhat lacking. Tribal Samurai as a whole has been certainly improved, but not in a very crucial fashion.


Snake: +7

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 101, online: 93

 Related Tribes: Archer, Druid, Ninja, Samurai

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The Orochi are well represented in Neon Dynasty, particularly by their two rare Druids, the ramp/recursion engine Shigeki, Jukai Visionary and the enchantment ability duplicator Weaver of Harmony. The resident Ninja, Coiling Stalker is nothing special, as its connection trigger can only distribute +1/+1 counters at the rate of one per creature, and maybe not even that (if our creatures already had +1/+1 counters from other sources). More widely played in Limited is the one-drop Fang of Shigeki, helpful for ninjutsu purposes and excellent with popular bite effects like Master's Rebuke and Spinning Wheel Kick. Another a hit with drafters is Bamboo Grove Archer, which discourages early attacks from both ground and air, provides synergy with "enchantments matter" cards, and can be repurposed as anti-flyer spot removal in a pinch.


Spider: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 65, online: 63

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Every set needs a Spider to protect green from those pesky flyers. Webspinner Cuff is a strictly better Hitchclaw Recluse (the body and cost are also the same as Obelisk Spider and Sporeweb Weaver), since we can turn it into an Equipment if needed. The toughness boost we grant this way is nice, although the reconfigure cost is quite high. And in a tribal setting, giving reach to another Spider is completely moot. Just an okay card for Limited.


Spirit: +18

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 561, online: 551

 Related Tribes: Dragon, Kirin

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Not counting the Dragon cycle and the Jeskai Kirin, no Spirit card in Neon Dynasty comes in white or in blue, which is a big departure from the original block. Most of all, though, the role of the kami and their spirit world is much more understated this time (which was expected: how many times a single creature type gets 70 new members at once? That was just sheer lunacy). That said, the Spirit tribe still amounts to a big component of the set and scores several of the best creatures – a nice reversal of the original trio of Kamigawa sets, where so many Spirits were unplayable fluff.

 The main innovation for the tribe is its novel association with the enchantment type, in a similar manner to the Gods of Theros, except without directly being enchantment themselves (unless they emerge from the third chapter of a Saga). The kami are literally otherworldly, and enchantment is the better card type to represent the traditional aspects of the world they especially care about. The most influential "enchantments matter" Spirit cards, which make up the core of the same lists that also run the "enchantment lord" Jukai Naturalist (namely Naya Runes and Selesnya Enchantments), are also very very simple. Generous Visitor and Kami of Transience don't directly enable "enchantments matter" triggers but instead benefit from them, growing linearly when an enchantment is cast. They're both cheap plays, getting the aggression started early on, before potentially snowballing out of control if left unchecked. To earn its rare status, Kami of Transience complements the growth ability with native trample and free-of-charge recursion every time one of our enchantments go to the graveyard – which makes it a nightmare to deal with for an opponent who's unable to exile it. The Visitor's option to place its +1/+1 counters elsewhere shouldn't be underestimated, either.

 Green just dominates the Spirit world this time around. The mythic Kodama of the West Tree completes the "Kodama Trees" mega-mega-cycle after 18 years, and it's a terrific three-drop 3/3 that gives all our modified creatures both trample and the chance to ramp us every time they connect. The uncommon Blossom Prancer is a five-mana 4/4 with reach that digs five-card deep into the library to find a creature or enchantment, or alternatively just gains us five life.

 Thundering Raiju is another Spirit that's focused on modifications rather than enchantments (but since Auras are modifications too, we could potentially get back on track that way). It's basically a self-modified four-drop 4/4 with haste that hits the opponent for five in a vacuum. Standard Monored Aggro lists like the Raiju, although it competes for space with Atsushi, the Blazing Sky, which provides card advantage and doesn't want other curve-toppers in the deck, for the sake of her double impulsive draw.

 Unforgiving One is again on the "modifications matter" train, this time exploting the number of modified creatures to fuel a recursion directly onto the battlefield as an attack trigger. Menace helps it survive the attack, but there are a few too many hoops to jump through in order to an achieve an optimal result.

 A series of uncommon Spirits presents a range of varied ETB effects. Geothermal Kami is a hit in Limited, has a reasonably big body (the average creature in the format is relatively small), and can extract life and further value by resetting Sagas and other enchantments. Gravelighter is the tribe's new Fleshbag Marauder, a strong candidate for the title of best "edict creature", due to being a flyer and potentially replacing itself as an alternative mode. The trio of common "Kami of X" is mostly underwhelming.

    

 Of course we couldn't end this review without mentioning the remembrance of the Kami War and the Great Old Serpent O-Kagachi. It was the storyline of the original Kamigawa block, after all. The Sagas have proved to be quite helpful as narrative tools, and the Neon Dynasty twist of making them into double-faced cards has been a big victory. It's amazing how much story can be conveyed on two card faces.


Turtle: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 26, online: 24

 Related Tribes: Ninja

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The Testudine tribe doesn't just get a very tongue-in-cheek yet extremely well-designed Ninja Turtle (in the form of a kappa; I guess the Shell of the Last Kappa was a lie). They're even graced with Colossal Skyturtle, arguably the best channel creature in the set, if not also one of the best ever. We're gifted with what essentially amounts to a triple split card: either a two-mana bounce spell, a three-mana Regrowth, or a seven-mana 6/5 flyer with ward 2. Very high pick in Neon Dynasty drafts, despite being multicolored, as well as the primary finisher in the Standard Bant Restoration deck, alongside fellow channelers Greater Tanuki and Mirrorshell Crab.

 The only thing that's missing here is the Mutant subtype on Kappa Tech-Wrecker. Since the Teenage subtype hasn't been introduced yet.


Warrior: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 837, online: 814

 Related Tribes: Fox, Goblin, Human, Ogre

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Warrior is used to much larger influxes than this, but the fighter tribe had to take second seat to the local Samurai. In fact, this small group of commons looks like a half-baked attempt to justify the co-tribalization they have going on all the Samurai tribal cards. The only Warrior we haven't already covered elsewhere is the Human one, Scrapyard Steelbreaker, which can eat artifacts to boost itself – but not exactly with Atog's efficiency. Of the others, the one-drop Mothrider Patrol is the only one that can be seen in Limited with some regularity. It's a one-drop flyer for ninjutsu, and a tactical if expensive tapper in the late game.


Wizard: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 871, online: 847

 Related Tribes: Moonfolk

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Only two new members for the largest class in the game. Makes sense: technological Kamigawa has no much room for traditional wizardry anymore. That being said, the inventor of the Reality Chip, Tameshi, is labeled a Wizard rather than an Artificer, which is strange. The same could be said for Moonfolk Puzzlemaker, actually. Aren't those puzzle boxes artifacts?


SUMMARY

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS