Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Set Review - Gold
(Spirit-Sister's Call | Art by Dominik Mayer)
A Golden Sun Rises
Welcome, one and all, to the review of the gold cards of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. If you've been following along with EDHREC's articles this week, this may be your 6th or 7th review. I won't stretch this intro too much, but grab a drink and some snacks, because this is a long one. Neon Dynasty brings us a wealth of new gold cards to consider, and many of them are legends. There are plenty of new archetypes to explore, so let's get right to it!
Go-Shintai of Life's Origin
Over a decade in the making, we finally received a deliberate five-color Shrine commander. There are only 16 other Shrines to work with, and I expect players will want to play all 16, though maybe some folks will prefer to leave out one or two they don't care for. Considering that hurdle, my instinct is to pad out the deck with additional density. Copy effects, like Mirrormade and Clever Impersonator, can act as pseudo-Shrines. Estrid's Invocation in particular feels incredibly powerful, as we can toggle it to be our most impactful Shrine each turn. A single Sanctum of Stone Fangs is fairly innocuous, but multiples will grow exponentially more powerful.
Remember, however, that Shrine is not a creature type, it's an enchantment subtype. Don't play any tribal payoff cards in this deck, they won't work. Don't try to name 'Shrine' with an Arcane Adaptation, either. Instead, check out Enchantress payoffs and Constellation effects, like Grim Guardian and Doomwake Giant! Consider token payoff cards, too; Parallel Lives will help make a lot of bodies.
This deck will be slow, so you'll need advantageous ways to protect and recur your board. A Cosmic Intervention with our commander in play could swing us from a horrible position into an insurmountable lead.
Most Go-Shintai decks will have a lot of overlap, though perhaps a few folks will try to focus entirely on the activated ability to cheat things like Omniscience into play. This is a terrific Shrine commander, through and through.
Hidetsugu Consumes All
While the first two chapters have utility, I don't want to include a card in my deck where I'm mostly just waiting for the final chapter. Black and red are not Proliferate colors, so it's harder to accelerate this card to its back half. Nuking token decks or the growing number of Treasure decks shouldn't be underrated, of course, but many permanents lie out of this card's reach. Exiling all graveyards is always a good option, but red and black often want to use theirs. If the chapters offered more utility, I would probably be more excited.
The Vessel half of this card is certainly a dangerous threat that demands an answer. These colors can threaten to amplify damage, and the transformed Ogre Shaman isn't required to deal combat damage for this effect to work, so Chandra's Ignition, Fiendlash, Arcbond, or Backlash all offer the chance to suddenly kill off a player. It's telegraphed and requires multiple support cards, but this is a card that will create stories. If only Toralf, God of Fury could play this in his deck. Overall, this card feels cool, and I'll enjoy seeing it in games, but I expect that to be a fairly rare occurrence.
As the first planeswalker revealed for Neon Dynasty, Kaito Shizuki needed to set the bar high for the set, and he didn't disappoint. A common critique of planeswalkers in EDH is that they're often fragile against multiple opponents and that they need to generate value before they die in order to be considered worthwhile. Kaito eschews that problem by being able to fire off two loyalty abilities before a creature can ever get to him. The easiest play pattern will likely be to create an unblockable Ninja token, then use it to draw a card on the following turn. That's solid, but nothing amazing. This pushes Kaito to be a role-player more than a win condition. However, his abilities align with one of Dimir's supported themes: "unblockable tribal" (also occasionally the 'saboteur' strategy). Rogues and Ninjas alike are often tied to this mechanic, and we'd be able to get value in a Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow, Sygg, River Cutthroat, or our newest contender, Satoru Umezawa.
The Kami War // O-Kagachi Made Manifest
It's tough to evaluate a Saga's effects against their required time commitment, especially as those Sagas get more expensive or difficult to cast in the first place. For decks running Proliferate, speed-running through Sagas is easier, but that's not always a Venn Diagram with a lot of crossover. The Kami War is especially difficult to judge because I'm not convinced the combined effects of the first two chapters are worth the color-intensive mana cost. Each card in a five-color deck inherently has to compete with every other card from all of Magic's history, and that's big competition.
So, is the back half worth the wait? Well, it's a 6/6 with flying and trample that boosts itself while also recurring cards. However, giving the choice to the opponent means we'll almost always get back whatever card hurts them the least, so it's pretty good, but not necessarily astounding.
Because of the flavor, O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami will definitely be this card's primary home. Beyond that, maybe you want to run this alongside Kyodai, Soul of Kamigawa? More likely are Ramos, Dragon Engine and Jegantha, the Wellspring, which each help to offset its prohibitive cost and are likely playing other cards that make the recursion worthwhile.
This tops my list for the mythic that impressed me the most. I really enjoy these effects, and it will work in a multitude of decks. Five mana feels fair, as you'll be recurring any number of permanent types. Creatures? Planeswalkers? Artifacts? Lands? You name it, and this can get it back. Working on your end step is the cherry that pulls the whole design together.
While there's technically a downside to work around here, I don't think losing your permanents to exile is much of a detriment for many decks. If you're a reanimator, like Karador, Ghost Chieftain, you might skip on this, but something like Tayam, Luminous Enigma might be more willing to part with their cards so that you can sacrifice counter-less creatures to make the engine run. Ghen, Arcanum Weaver's entire ethos is all about exchanging permanents, too, so the exile strikes me as an acceptable risk to double up the commander. Plus, as with all effects that replace death with exile, blink strategies, like Aminatou, the Fateshifter, get around this downside to truly cheat your way through the ability since the object is already going into exile, satisfying that requirement, and then coming back to the battlefield again anyway.
For decks that want a dash of recursion without committing completely to the grave, this is a solid piece to provide steady and impactful value.
Tamiyo, Compleated Sage
Tamiyo, no! Nooooooooo!
The trauma of losing one of my favorite planeswalkers aside, Tamiyo, Compleated Sage brings a new twist with the Compleated keyword. Nissa, Steward of Elements was the first planeswalker with a modal loyalty value, and it's interesting to see that design remain in Simic.
Like all planeswalkers, I'm evaluating Tamiyo based solely by the non-ultimate abilities. Adding loyalty to freeze a creature or artifact (including mana rocks) is solid enough utility, often targeting the biggest threat on the board. The tempo change with Compleated makes this ability more interesting; how many times have you been "one mana" or "one turn" short? Tapping down a Krenko, Mob Boss a turn early could save the game. This could be especially good in a deck focused around Verity Circle.
Her -X ability is the real showstopper. While creatures are the usual targets for reanimation, doubling effects, like Parallel Lives or Adrix and Nev, Twincasters, don't limit you to creatures, and neither does Tamiyo. Recurring any nonland permanent that fits Tamiyo's loyalty payment is incredibly powerful, and for some hard-to-remove permanents like enchantments, it can be backbreaking for opponents to have to answer them all over again. Also, if we do get to the ultimate, it's pretty absurd, and we're lucky that her Notebook is legendary, or else things would get out of hand. Ultimately the Notebook is as Simic and generic as any effect could be, giving both mana advantage and card draw.
The aforementioned Adrix and Nev, Twincasters is probably the most obvious home for our new 'walker, as is the Phyrexian Queen of Superfriends, Atraxa, Praetors' Voice. While many of the legends could use this recursion ability, it does get stronger with strategies that are likely to mill away crucial cards, like Slogurk, the Overslime, or that can manipulate her counters, like Roalesk, Apex Hybrid.
This is a big head-scratcher. I don't typically like to give opponents resources, but there are quite a few strategies that will put this to good use. Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis is a well-known Group Hug commander that has access to cards like Crafty Cutpurse to steal back all the tokens you're handing out. Gahiji, Honored One or the Goad kitty, Marisi, Breaker of the Coil, will help direct the pressure from those tokens away from you. Then, of course, there are the decks that want to burn their opponents out with Rampaging Ferocidon or Repercussion! If you're playing a token deck, your anthems could easily push these tokens to great heights, but this card requires a lot of thought before you slam it into a deck. It's aggressively costed for the tokens it makes, but you'll need to jump a few hurdles to get the most benefit, and isn't that part of the spirit of EDH?
Greasefang, Okiba Boss
Even at a glance, Greasefang, Okiba Boss carries tremendous power. Freely reanimating a Vehicle each turn on a three-mana commander is absurd, even if that card dashes back to our hand. While Greasefang will need help to Crew a Colossal Plow or Demolition Stomper, every other Vehicle is cleared for takeoff with this pilot at the wheel. While Vehicle decks are generally fair, there will be some games where an Entombed Parhelion II will quickly apply a lot of pressure. Plus, we can always toss it into the graveyard again with the likes of Bone Shards or a Cabal Initiate, rather than letting it go back to hand!
White and black decks are known for their recursion abilities, so even if our Boss gets thrown into commander jail for an extended period, we won't be left without a strategy. This deck has a limited power ceiling, but I gained a ton of respect for this free-wheeling legend while writing. It might be my favorite underdog of the set. If you're not convinced by black and white Vehicles, combine this with the blue and white legends from the Buckle Up precon by using Sydri, Galvanic Genius at the helm!
Say "hello" to what I believe will be the most popular legend of the set. While we don't have any numbers at the time of writing, Hinata, Dawn-Crowned is surely to be in the top three legends from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. I think Isshin and Satoru will compete, but Hinata hits a sweet spot of being incredibly powerful, eminently build-around-able, and exceptionally versatile. I'll admit I'm biased, as Battlefield Thaumaturge is a card I've adored for a long time and I've always wanted to find a home for the Strive mechanic, but Hinata finally gives us a commander for that exact niche. There's something great about a legend that turns a subset of cards into total powerhouses. I'll keep it brief, but here are some of the absurd plays coming soon to a table near you:
Targeted removal is usually efficient, but Hinata turns each of these into almost unfair effects. Heliod's Intervention destroys every opposing artifact and enchantment on the board for two white mana. March of Swirling Mist phases out every opposing creature for a single blue mana. Crackle with Power will need a little more mana to truly make an impact, but that impact will be enormous.
Any number of cards could have fit into this category, but these are some of my favorites. Sublime Epiphany already did a lot for six mana, but what if we dropped it to just two? Dance of the Manse becomes a two-mana version of the new Brilliant Restoration. There's some tension with Finale of Promise, as many spells will have X costs, but getting a two-mana discount is still really good.
All these X spells are massively impactful in their own way, though I suspect that many players might actually load their Hinata decks with too many of them. One of Hinata's most elusive strengths is the passive discount on normal targeting effects, which may end up getting glossed over in favor of the splashy plays. Don't overlook it! Negate suddenly only costs a single blue mana! Jeska's Will becomes two mana! Generous Gift becomes two mana! While Hinata can scale multi-target effects to great heights, don't forget about subtle advantages of gaining a lot of one-mana discounts.
There's no way I'll be able to spotlight every spells that Hinata, Dawn-Crowned empowers, so leave your favorite one in the comments below!
Isshin, Two Heavens as One
"Hesitation is defeat!"
Inspired directly by famed swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, Isshin, Two Heavens as One brings to bear both his own katana and wakizashi as well as a flurry of combat-oriented combinations. Isshin certainly gives Wulfgar of Icewind Dale competition. It's undeniable how similar their abilities are, yet Isshin hardly invalidates Wulfgar, as their colors don't overlap. The key difference between them is that Isshin can take a defensive stance with cards like Marchesa's Decree or Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs. We can build up an impenetrable wall of blades, then crush our enemies when their lines break.
Considering how ingrained "When X attacks" triggers are within the Mardu colors, we have a surplus of options for Isshin. Each player can build their own unique take on specific effects, but I want to look at some cards that might get overlooked for our swordsman here.
Curse of Opulence and Curse of Disturbance seem like good fun to give anyone who attacks the cursed play double the benefit! Duelist's Heritage is a pet card of mine, and Isshin only amplifies it even more! Double double strike? Awesome. Fervent Strike, Etali, Primal Storm, and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar are all pretty gnarly. Titans, both of the Grave Titan and the Eldrazi-with-Annihilator variety, are sure to be popular with Isshin.
Revenge of Ravens, Emberwilde Captain, Cunning Rhetoric, Search the Premises, and tons of other awesome cards make attacking us truly painful. While there's always the chance an opponent will blow past our defenses, Isshin fortifies us pretty dang well. Oh, and Breena, the Demagogue certainly puts pressure onto our opponents to attack elsewhere, and Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant gives double Goad and double card draw - though the life loss could add up pretty fast!
Even as a member of the 99, Isshin can add an extra element to several existing commanders. Isshin curves right into Kaalia of the Vast, and I'll let your imagination do the rest for that one! Getting to reanimate a second creature with Alesha, Who Smiles at Death also seems very powerful.
Isshin, Two Heavens as One is going to be an absolute terror. He'll keep swinging for longer than he has any right thanks to his recursive color identity. And there will be times that even a single attack may be enough to break your opponents' spirit.
Kotose, the Silent Spider
Gonti, Lord of Luxury is one of my favorite cards of all time, and whenever a new theft effects releases, I take note, from Thief of Sanity to Xanathar, Guild Kingpin.
Sadly, Kotose, the Silent Spider just falls short. Kotose needs to stick around to actually play the stolen card, which is a significant issue. Notably, Kotose doesn't exile the stolen card upon resolution, so theoretically you could repeatedly steal a singular, powerful instant or sorcery from an opponent as long as you have the mana for it. Ghostly Flicker continues to be a powerful engine in this style of deck, and Thassa, Deep-Dwelling gives you a way to cycle through a new option each turn. Even so, I think we're stretching real far to try and make this work, amidst a field of more interesting options.
Also, if you happen to bring a Kotose deck to a pod where someone is playing Relentless Rats or its contemporaries, you might want to discuss switching decks to avoid a non-game for that player.
Raiyuu, Storm's Edge
Raiyuu is our definitive Samurai tribal commander. Though some players may opt for Isshin, Two Heavens as One for Samurai tribal, plenty of others will gravitate towards the two-color Raiyuu with good reason. Isshin wants to generate as many attacking triggers as possible, but many of the new Samurai in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty want to duel with our opponents by attacking one-on-one. Raiyuu leans into this with possibly the strongest tool in that arsenal: extra combats.
Attacking with a single creature could also point this deck in the Voltron direction, but Raiyuu doesn't need to be the only threatening piece in that strategy. Angelic Exaltation and Sublime Archangel mean that each of our lone Samurai will be attacking to the sound of cheers from their comrades. Remember, the Exalted buff will carry over into the second combat. Iroas, God of Victory with Silent Arbiter will help to protect ourselves while also overcoming enemy defenses as well. Even without tribal components, Raiyuu still helps to generate extra combats on his own. I've talked a lot about Samurai in particular, but Raiyuu also could helm or be a part of a Warrior deck (not that Najeela, the Blade-Blossom needed help).
Risona, Asari Commander
Risona, Asari Commander adds a mini-game to an aggro gameplan, and it's nice to pair the effect with Blasphemous Act and Wrath of God effects to shut down enemies. Of special note is the synergy with Nesting Grounds, which can move the counter off of Risona to another of her creatures, giving her the chance to accrue more counters to share with the whole team.
Thing is, we already have commanders in these colors with innate indestructibility, so this is fairly well-explored territory that probably doesn't add enough novelty to stand out amongst the crowd. Sorry, Risona.
There are going to be two main types of decks for Satoru Umezawa. The first will be a mix of Ninja and Rogue cards to really take advantage of unblockable and combat damage effects. The second will focus on cheating Blightsteel Colossus-level threats into play. Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow, this is not. They are both Dimir Ninjas, but their decks could look wildly dissimilar, depending on the path you choose. They'll both use the classic Triton Shorestalker and Slither Blade setup cards, but the payoffs could be very different, and you can tune them to the desired power level of your own meta. (Will this be the deck that finally makes a home for Mindleech Mass? I hope so!)
Many folks have asserted that Satoru won't belong in Yuriko decks because he doesn't have Ninjutsu himself, and the four-mana version he bequeaths to other cards in your hand is likely to be way more expensive than any other Ninjas Yuriko's already using, but the card advantage effect is nice, so I still like it.
Satsuki, the Living Lore
Satsuki, the Living Lore currently has a little under 25 Sagas within her card pool, and she will likely end up playing nearly all of them to have a "Saga tribal" deck. Accelerating all of your Sagas seems like great fun, even if the effects like largely be scattered across many themes. But hey, that's part of the fun of deckbuilding!
Tying all of these possible themes together is a challenge many players would enjoy. Many green and white Sagas have a focus around counters and tokens, which are already a strength of the color pair. Add in some support, like Hardened Scales and Huatli's Raptor, and you'll quickly wind the clock forward. To really take advantage of them, you'll want even more recursion to get the back from the graveyard. Brilliant Restoration, Resurgent Belief, and other such effects could be devastating if you happen to bring back a handful of Sagas at once. This also means you'll want Eidolon of Blossoms, Setessan Champion, and Rite of Harmony to power through your draws. There are also potential combo lines here that might fit into the magical 'mana value 2 or less' zone that white cards are famous for recurring, but I'll leave that to the more dedicated brewers!
- Asari Captain: This gives an aggressive version of Exalted to a singular Warrior or Samurai, but at this mana cost, I would rather play a Angelic Exaltation. This will push damage through, but it's likely be included more often to hit a proper density of tribal creatures than for its effect.
- Colossal Skyturtle: This might be the best uncommon of the set. Toggling between an instant-speed and "uncounterable" Regrowth or Unsummon is a huge boon for so many decks. We're not ever planning to play it as a creature, but if it happens to get reanimated, cool! Also, I just realized it's also an enchantment creature, which opens the door for Tuvasa the Sunlit or Eutropia the Twice-Favored to use it for Constellation triggers, too! This card may not be an obvious all-star, but every championship team has its role-players.
- Enthusiastic Mechanaut: Not only does this Goblin Electromancer variant have flying, it's also an artifact! This is a new staple for artifact decks. Cost-reducers are huge, especially for combo decks, and on-type cost reducers are extremely relevant. Foundry Inspector appears in over 31,000 decks. Etherium Sculptor appears in 23,000. Mechanaut, we're excited to welcome you to the team.
- Gloomshrieker: While we'll never see another card that directly competes with Eternal Witness, Wizards has continued to try to pinpoint exactly where they want this power level to be. Green and black love their graveyards, but the disappearance on death is hard to stomach. I'd pass on this one and instead choose something more recurrable.
- Invigorating Hot Spring: Looks like Rhythm of the Wild just got a new companion piece! We're limited to using this ability across four different turns, but decks that already distribute counters, like Marath, Will of the Wild, are happy to get a pretty universal form of haste! Even outside of +1/+1 counter decks, commanders like Atarka, World Render, Tovolar, Dire Overlord, Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder, and many others value haste and combat boosts very highly. The Hot Spring offers enough compared to its contemporaries to be a solid inclusion in any red and green deck that wants to bash face.
- Jukai Naturalist: We have our winner for the most solid role-player of the set! Enthusiastic Mechanaut had a lot of other on-type allegories, but this is one of the first enchantment cost-reducers that is also itself an enchantment (most of the other options are off-type cards, like Herald of the Pantheon). If you're playing Enchantress with green and white, you're playing this, and your various Enchantress cards will draw you a lot of cards when you do.
- Naomi, Pillar of Order: A single 2/2 doesn't sound like much, but I think Naomi might surprise people. These colors have terrific enchantments they'll want to play anyway, and will have plenty of mana rocks to enable the effect. With a few token power-ups and Populate effects, there's some fun to be had here. Naomi won't necessarily pull any players away from something as powerful as Thalisse, Reverent Medium, but she's pretty cool, even if she's pretty low-key.
- Oni-Cult Anvil: This triggers only once a turn, which soured me on this card at first. Really, though, the first ability is just a bonus. The main draw here is the ability to ping enemies. Of course, with the tap effect, this is also a limited effect, barring any untap shenanigans, so once again, there's tension, since EDH has so many other sacrifice outlets and Disciple of the Vault effects that aren't so restricted. Still, I think this is nice for Rakdos, Lord of Riots.
- Prodigy's Prototype: This is probably my personal favorite gold uncommon of the set. It'll only find a home in Vehicles decks, especially those in the Buckle Up Commander deck, but it'll make an impressive impact there. We don't even need to Crew the Prototype to reap the benefits! Tapping down all your creatures is often a weakness of Vehicle decks, since it can leave you defenseless, but the Prototype offsets that by giving us more Pilots! We'll still likely want something like Always Watching to boost our Vehicles and give them vigilance to further bolster our defenses, but this is a respectable card to help fill out this archetype.
- Silver-Fur Master: We end on a straightforward note! Efficiently costed "Lord" effects are always playable in their tribes. Play it early and reap the benefits of cost reduction. I'm sure the new Satoru Umezawa will be a fan, as of course will Yuriko, and this non-Rogue may even pop up in Rogue decks here and there to buff up that tribe, too.
Mending with Gold
We made it! We survived! Thanks for joining EDHREC throughout this spoiler season! Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is about to make a huge impact on the Commander format, and I'm excited to see what everyone takes away from the set. For the gold cards, I'm most excited for Isshin, Hinata, and Spirit-Sister's Call (with an honorable mention for Go-Shintai). Those are just my favorites, though - what are yours? With so many options, brewers will be busy for a while.
Thanks for reading and following along with us this week, and leave your thoughts on this set's offerings below! Until the next review!