Kumagoro42's picture
By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Mar 17 2022 10:11am
0
532 views


NEON DYNASTY: THE COMMANDER DECKS

> summary <

 As it's increasingly usual for premier sets, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is accompanied by two 100-card preconstructed Commander decks that take place in the same setting. The white-blue one is called Buckle Up and is about Vehicles; the red-green one is called Upgrades Unleashed and cares about modifications.

 

 Eight of the new cards, all creatures, are exclusively found in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Set Boosters and Collector Boosters instead of the two decks, due to them not fitting any of the two themes or color combinations (which, for one thing, don't include black). One of these is a new "living" Shrine, and just like its counterparts from the main set, it doesn't have a creature type (Shrine being an enchantment type, not a creature type).

 Let's 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: 139
  • New cards: 38
  • New creatures: 24
  • Reprinted cards: 101
  • Reprinted creatures: 39
  • New Legendary creatures: 12
  • New Snow creatures: 0
  • New artifact creatures: 6
  • New enchantment creatures: 1
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 0
  • Creature types affected: 17
  • Tribes with more than one addition: Spirit (+8), Samurai (+4), Dog (+3), Human (+3), Moonfolk (+3), Wizard (+2)

Artificer: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 140, online: 136

 Related Tribes: Moonfolk

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Katsumasa is part of the Vehicles deck, as his activated ability suggests – you clearly wouldn't want to spend three mana to turn any random artifact into a 1/1. Then again, the triggered ability would put +1/+1 counters on several noncreature artifacts, so it's possible to go wide by animating a bunch of baubles and then making them increasingly larger. But it's still mana-intensive and the counters trigger at the beginning of the upkeep, which is unfortunate.


Construct: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 146, online: 145

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: This robot does a more explosive version of Katsumasa's artifact animation. Granted, it's a one-time ETB deal (unless we can retrigger it, which is fairly possible), but considering it also makes them evasive, it becoms a legitimate alpha strike move. Maybe it's far-fetched, but it's not too hard to picture Cyberdrive Awakener as the win condition of a Legacy list filled with cheap cantripping artifacts and mana rocks.


Dog: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 100, online: 95

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The canine tribe is unexpectedly well-represented in these decks – or better, two of them come from the red-green modifications deck, while the monowhite Yoshimaru (the Wanderer's dog! Who faithfully waits for her, like an imperial Hachikō!) is one of the eight cards only found in Neon Dynasty Set Boosters and Collector Boosters. In this case, the main reason for this distribution is the presence of the partner mechanic, which wouldn't match any of the legendaries in the white-blue deck. In fact, Yoshimaru is essentially a serviceable one-drop that can be paired with any of the other 42 nonwhite partner commanders, in order to simply give them access to white cards. It's likely there are more interesting partnerships to make, but a low-to-the-ground aggro list might enjoy taking the goodest boy for a walk.

 As for the two modifications-related Dogs, Komainu Battle Armor is an Equipment creature (not sure how one would wear an armor with that specific shape, but that's what they're selling us). +2/+2 and menace doesn't seem enough punch for a grand total of seven mana it requires to get online, but forcing an opponent's creature into attacking has some occasionally high tactical value. Tanuki Transplanter is also an Equipment (and here I can't even tell how does that work, as it looks like an independent gardening automaton), requiring once again a seven-mana investment. But in this case, the result may end up generating a crazy amount of mana, possibly earning back its costs right away, so it's a much more appealing proposition, particularly in Commander.


Goblin: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 384, online: 368

 Related Tribes: Samurai

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: These funny-looking Goblin Samurai are no joke. The ability is straightforward and befitting a "modifications matter" build with a long curve. Simply put, such a thematic deck automatically get two combat phases per turn out of the Akki Battle Squad, and they don't even have to attack to trigger it. The only issue is that the Squad doesn't enable itself, but that's where the theme comes into the picture. It appears extremely trivial to have at least one other modified creature in a list devoted to such a broad mechanic.


Human: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2803, online: 2597

 Related Tribes: Monk, Samurai, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: I know this is a small product, therefore statistically skewed, but seeing Human as only the third largest influx of new creatures is still pretty nice.


Hydra: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 56

 Related Tribes: Plant

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: For being a Legacy-Vintage card, this Hydra is quite underwhelming. The four-mana cost is meant to mirror the cost of typical green ramp spells that fetch two lands directly onto the battlefield – untapped at that, although they're just basic. Problem is, the Hydra has to die for that to happen, and meanwhile we just get a 2/2. Sure, there'll be situations where we'll make Rampant Rejuvenator very large before sending it to its death, which is what the modifications deck aims for. But is it really worth all the trouble, not to mention the potential waste of +1/+1 counters?


Monk: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 97, online: 94

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: It's funny that this Monk does something more Hydra-like than the actual Hydra in the set. In a deck built around +1/+1 counters synergies, this guy can be very large right away, to then spiral out of control fast. This said, he doesn't trample, unlike Primordial Hydra, Kalonian Hydra, or even Managorger Hydra, so the threat he poses is never truly worrying for the opponent.


Moonfolk: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 23

 Related Tribes: Artificer, Pilot, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The Moonfolk of Neon Kamigawa stick to their newfound relationship with artifacts. The master Artificer Katsumasa animates them, his protegée Kotori drives them if they're Vehicles. She's the designated commander of the white-blue Vehicles deck, and she does a pretty good job at it, being able to crew any Vehicle on her own, including Titanic-class stuff like Parhelion II and (less glamourously) Colossal Plow, as well as her vice-commander Shorikai, Genesis Engine. This super-pilot ability is actually granted to any two-powered creature we control, plus our Vehicles get two very crucial bonus keywords, lifelink and vigilance. She's a narrow card, but extremely efficient in the right build.

 Less narrow is the only non-legendary Moonfolk in the set, Research Thief. It's essentially a Toski for artifact decks – it just loses indestructible in exchange for some personal evasion and the chance to ambush-enabling its saboteur move via flash. It seems primed to become a must-run in all Commander decks centered around artifact creatures.


Ogre: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 100, online: 95

 Related Tribes: Samurai

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This is definitely a weird one. Right off the bat, because of the color. Ogre wasn't getting a monogreen member since Arabian Nights' Ghazbán Ogre, which is like saying since the dawn of time. The design is also as top-down as they get. The idea here is that Kosei is going through a redemption arc, making amends for his violent, Hidetsugu-following days. So he lost his red rage and is now a peaceful big guy that won't hurt a fly, hence his complete absence of power. But the moment a threat manifests itself, he'll take up arms to defend the village that gave him a second chance! It's great flavor, which mechanically translates into the not-so-easy setup of having to check ALL the modification categories: in order to unlock his double connection trigger, Kosei needs to be carrying an Aura, an Equipment and a counter, all at once. This is a lot of work that's bound to be disrupted by an opponent at some point. The reward is somewhat noteworthy: the Cold-Eyed Selkie card-draw ability plus the Hydra Omnivore damage multiplication. But overall it feels like more of a meme than an actual strategy, as cool as the whole deal is. For one thing, Kosei relies entirely on his modifications to facilitate the connection, so we also have the extra step of providing him with the correct tools. Otherwise, we're just getting a slightly overcosted Wall.


Pilot: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 12

 Related Tribes: Moonfolk

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Clearly, Kotori is a pilot first, Moonfolk second. She doesn't even fly, which is kind of a flavor fail, because all Moonfolk are naturally capable of flight (they literally live on the clouds!), and nothing in Kotori's back story establishes she's unable to. Then again, it could just be to strongly suggest not to treat her as a mere three-drop flyer, rather than the way she was designed, which is as a crew for Vehicles. Speaking of which, Kotori's kami-inhabited giant mech is Shorikai, Genesis Engine, the secondary commander of her deck – let alone the very first Vehicle that we're allowed to start from the command zone. It's a big body, but mainly a card-advantage engine. And it can eventually generate its own crew, should Kotori fail to show up. Although it needs three of those Pilot tokens to turn on its systems (which is a bit annoying, Melvin-wise, because they amount to crew 9).


Plant: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 57, online: 53

 Related Tribes: Hydra

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Vegetal Hydras are starting to be a thing in MagicGenesis Hydra is also reprinted (with new art) in the same deck that features Rampant Rejuvenator. It's not too outrageous a concept, to be fair. A mass of extending branches and vines may resemble the many heads of the mythological Hydra. The association is gradually losing the initial mechanical mirror, though. Granted, the Rejunevator is literally "made of land", but the original Phytohydra and Sprouting Phytohydra had that whole "the more you cut them, the more they grow back" Plant feel.


Samurai: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 61

 Related Tribes: Goblin, Human, Ogre, Snake

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Four Samurai, four different races in Naya colors. We've already seen the peculiar green Ogre pacifist, as well as, at the other end of the spectrum, the belligerent red Goblin team that grants an extra combat phase to "modifications matter" decks. The monowhite Ironsoul Enforcer reworks the new non-keyworded "Samurai ability" about getting a trigger when attacking alone, which in this case is applied only to himself and the commander. The payoff is alluring: free graveyard recursion of any artifact, something that's sure to be abused in a Commander format, what with all those crazy broken cards like Mindslaver. This alone could make the Enforcer quite popular. Then again, the effect coming off an attack trigger isn't ideal, since a vanilla 4/4 might not find a clear coast beyond the red zone, and our commander won't necessarily be wired to safely be an attacker.

 Speaking of, it's a Samurai the proposed commander of the red-green "modifications matter" list. Chishiro, the Shattered Blade tries to push towards a build that doesn't just pick one way to achieve the modified state, but all three. Playing Auras and Equipment under Chishiro's watch gives us 2/2 menace tokens. And then Chishiro assigns a +1/+1 counter on each modified creature we control at end step. The second trigger is certainly powerful, basically granting to our whole modified team what Biogenic Ooze grants to its fellow Oozes. It kind of hides the fact that Chishiro doesn't actually help acquiring modifications; he further modifies creatures that were already already modified. Besides, the token-making ability isn't bound to trigger too frequently, unless we engineer a specific combo like Gatherer of Graces sacrificing Rancor over and over. Chishiro makes for an okay leader in a "modifications matter" list, but that role would probably be covered more effectively by something like Halana and Alena.


Snake: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 102, online: 94

 Related Tribes: Samurai

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Chishiro is an Orochi, and his other tribe is actually more likely to support the modifications theme than Samurai is, although not by a lot. He also has a companion Spirit, Kaima, the Fractured Calm, which acts as a secondary commander for his deck and shares the same approach of directly referencing the various elements that cause modifications, rather than their batch word. I'm not sure this is a very good idea, since it forces the player to follow a specific direction rather than shape its own. On the other hand, I would believe it if they told me playtesting is showing that, say, nine times out of ten a "modifications matter" deck is just a "+1/+1 counters matter" deck in thinly veiled disguise. In fact, there are other new cards in the set with this kind of "you've also gotta run Auras and Equipment!" clause, like Kosei, Penitent Warlord and Concord with the Kami.


Spirit: +8

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 569, online: 559

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The Spirit tribe was the absolute dominator of the original Kamigawa block, roughly amounting to a whopping half of all the new creatures. Neon Dynasty revised that insane proportion, bringing it down to a more reasonable ratio. It helped that the kami aren't so central in Neon Kamigawa's identity anymore. That said, they constitute a large share of the new creatures in these Commander decks, or at least in the set of cards they belong to. The major reason for this increased presence is the printing of a new cycle of Myojin, the "kami gods", which were missing from the mother set, and are instead released inside Neon Dynasty Set Boosters and Collector Boosters – a strict necessity, otherwise black couldn't get its member.

 But let's have a look at the three non-Myojin Spirits first, which are regularly part of the two Commander decks. Drumbellower's ability immediately catches the eye as a variant of extremely powerful untapping effects like Seedborn Muse's and Prophet of Kruphix's. Of course Drumbellower is white and not green, so the lands don't get untapped. It's a severe limitation, but it still gives all our utility creatures with a tap ability the chance to activate again during every other opponent's turn. At the very least, it's universal vigilance and a flyer for three mana. It's likely set to become a minor staple in multiplayer. The same might be partially true of Kami of Celebration, which causes modified creatures to impulse-draw every time they attack. In a deck with a low curve (as it's usually preferable when impulse drawing is involved), this Kami basically functions as an enhanced Toski, since the attackers in this case don't even need to connect. And we also get a free +1/+1 counter to distribute, as a bonus effect grafted onto the spells we cast this way. The only downside is that the Kami itself is neither cheap nor has good stats, but the profit is undeniable, at least with the right setup.

 Definitely less intriguing is the legendary Spirit from the modifications deck, Kaima, the Fractured Calm. Its rule text is perplexing, to the point that we can just call it a pretty bad card, considering it comes from a Legacy-Vintage product and is rated as a mythic. Kaima wants us to place Auras on the opponent's creatures in order to force them to attack, thus making our boar Spirit grow out of its initial, awfully below-the-curve body size. But enchanting enemy creatures is just not something that's done very much in Gruul, if at all. We might run something like Kenrith's Transformation, but chances are we're gonna put it on the opponent's commander, so offering them a free way to suicide it and send it back to the command zone is nonsensical. Kaima's valuable applications, even counting the political ones (e.g. buff an opponent's creature and unleash it against another opponent), appear to be very few. It's also weird that Kaima wants us to use our Auras to modify the opponent's creatures rather than our team. In a "modifications matter" build!

 As for the five Myojin, the new kami deities borrow the exact same bodies of the original ones, but in most cases their costs are lowered (the old Myojin were kind of overcosted). They also bring back the indestructible counter mechanic (with a slightly different wording that makes it easier to replace): once again, the Myojin get the counter only if they're hardcast, and then they can discard it to generate a powerful one-time effect. These are all new and tap into other common mechanical wells of their color.

  • The white effect goes from a board sweep to its opposite: a mass token generation. They're about the same power level, though the new version is easily disrupted by the opponent using, in turn, a sweep (we can play around it by activating the Myojin in the opponent's end step, but it's still more likely to get counteracted than the old one).
  • The blue effect goes from massive card draw to triple permanent cloning. The former was absolute advantage while the latter is potentially explosive, but more situational. It's possible the new Myojin were designed to encourage us to keep them around longer than we used to. They've never been a significant presence on the battlefield, but they're still indestructible bodies after all. Even if Heartless Act may ambush them.
  • The black effect goes from complete hand discard to massive reanimation, although it's best used in combination with a sweeper. When timed right, it's arguably the most likely to spell game over, especially in multiplayer. It might run the same risks of the white go-wide trick, though.
  • The red effect goes from land destruction to a triple seven-damage spell. It's the least flashy of the five, but also the one that applies to a higher number of relevant board states.
  • The green effect goes from unlimited hand deployment to surgical overrun. Worst case scenario, you can transform the Myojin itself into a 16/16 trampler (that stays a 16/16 permanently). This is, out of the five, the effect that can end games more consistently. Unlike most Overrun variants, we don't have to commit to the alpha strike beforehand; we can just wait for the blockers to be declared, which is a huge game-changer.

 By the way, I wonder if it's intentional that these new five Myojin, listed alphabetically, go in the same order as the color wheel.


Turtle: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 27, online: 25

 Related Tribes: Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty revealed that the kappas are still alive and well on the plane, despite Champions of Kamigawa's Shell of the Last Kappa implying they were extinct (as Mark Rosewater recounts, they just wanted to reference their existence at the time, and species believed extinct are known to occasionally resurface). They also are established as non-Spirit, with the subtype Turtle as their main descriptor. Curiously, though, Kappa Tech-Wrecker from the main set hates artifacts (following on the steps of Steelbane Hydra), whereas Kappa Cannoneer is one. In fact, it positions itself as the finisher of choice in artifact-heavy lists, where it can drop for little mana due to improvise, and then become an ever-growing, hard-to-kill, unstoppable threat. Turtle is not the right build for such an approach, since there wasn't any artifact member until now. Also, I'm not sure those abilities translate well the idea of carrying a giant cannon.


Warrior: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 838, online: 815

 Related Tribes: Turtle

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: "Warrior Turtle" doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "Ninja Turtle", does it?


Wizard: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 873, online: 849

 Related Tribes: Human, Moonfolk

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: As his color implies, Ruthless Technomancer is not found in one of the two Commander decks, where he would be illegal, but only in Neon Dynasty Set Boosters and Collector Boosters. This guy and the black Myojin are indeed the only black cards in the entire set. This allows the Technomancer to ignore both the modifications theme and the artifacts/Vehicles theme of the regular decks. As much as he's still partially trafficking in artifacts, he doesn't necessarily have to be surrounded by them, unlike the other new Wizard, Research Thief. The Technomancer's pseudo-exploit ETB makes Treasures out of a creature, and then he reanimates creatures (including the one we sacrificed, which could generate interesting loops) by sacrificing artifacts, which of course could easily just be the Treasures we created with the first ability, since both instances look at the creature's power. The Technomancer's abilities are less efficient than the Thief's straightforward card draw via saboteur. And black is not a color too likely to be included in a proper artifact build. But he could still do good work, whether it's ramping off some low-cost high-power fodder a la Rotting Regisaur, or acting as a neat recursion engine.


SUMMARY

> top <

 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS