Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Set Review — Black

(Blade of the Oni | Art by Jason A. Engle)

Step on the Gas

Funny, Neon is a noble gas, and this set is Neon Dynasty, pairing together the nobility of bright gas with regality. That's probably just a coincidence....

Welcome to your daily dose of set review, EDHREC-style. This installment we're looking at black! After all, what is neon without the contrast of darkness?

Legend 1985 GIF - Legend 1985 Tim Curry GIFs

This is a massive set, filled like a glass tube full of 10Ne, so let's dive right in.


Junji, the Midnight Sky

It's Kamigawa, you know there has to be a five-color Dragon cycle! Junji is no Kokusho, the Evening Star, whose ubiquity in reanimator decks is still very apparent, and who can siphon the life from your opponents to you, often repeatedly. If you ever wanted to see the power of shirking the singleton nature of EDH, just loop Kokusho a few times and you'll see how back-breaking it is, so much so it once got him banned (back in February 2008!). He remained banned for four years (Sept. 2012) when he was taken off the ban list and banned as a commander, which was done away with in 2014.

However, while Junji, the Midnight Sky may not have the reputation and legacy his predecessor does, its still a complete menace (heh). While "flenace" (flying + menace) isn't as fun to say as "flample" (flying + trample), Junji is on-rate (5/5 for five mana) and is seldom going to be blocked against two disposable flying blockers.

Honestly though, it's that triggered ability that's so alluring. Like the Kamigawa Dragons of yore, these soaring serpents are meant to die, destined to, even! Black has no shortage of sacrifice outlets nor reanimation capabilities, so it's likely that this Dragon in the command zone will signal a value-oriented reanimation deck, looking to loop Junji to either force discards or reanimate non-Dragons at will. I particularly like Junji paired with Kaya's Ghostform and Supernatural Stamina effects to efficiently get it in and out of the graveyard.

To date, there are only 12 black Dragons, and outside of Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon or Kokusho, the Evening Star, you likely wouldn't want to be reanimating Dragons anyways.

You can also just 'cheese' the whole scenario by running something like Conspiracy, choosing any creature type but Dragon (e.g., Goblins!). This'll make it so that when Junji dies, the reanimation trigger goes on the stack, which can target itself in the graveyard, since Conspiracy makes Junji no longer a Dragon, even in the graveyard. Thus, a sacrifice outlet, Junji, and Conspiracy gets you infinite death triggers, enter-the-battlefield triggers, leaves-the-graveyard triggers, etc. Add in a Blood Artist, and you're off to getting yourself a W. I wouldn't be surprised to see this card crop up lists helmed by Junji just for this kind of synergy, but time will tell.

Being able to hit any creature in a graveyard is incredibly potent, as you can almost play like a Chainer, Dementia Master or Geth, Lord of the Vault style deck, looking to rip opponents' utility creatures and haymakers for the low cost of 2 life! With an instant-speed sacrifice outlet, this becomes really difficult for your opponents to play around.

The discard portion can't be overlooked, either. Even if that opposing Umbris, Fear Manifest has gone to town on everyone's graveyards, Junji, the Midnight Sky brings incredible utility in forcing asymmetrical discards for each opponent, and with life loss to boot! I can easily see this slotted into discard-centered decks running Waste Not, Megrim, Raiders' Wake, and my favorite, Geth's Grimoire. Sacrifice Junji to cause a total of six discards and six life loss while I draw six? Yes, please!

Its discard potential is so potent, I wouldn't be surprised to see this in the 99 of discard-themed commanders like Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, Tinybones, Trinket Thief, or Tergrid, God of Fright.

Overall, this is one Dragon I don't want to see die across my battlefield. I'd rather it Rest in Peace elsewhere.

Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion

I'll start by disclosing that I'm a big fan of Rat Ninjas. Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni may see a bit of play, but I can't help but think that with a new influx of low-mana-value Ninjas, Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow decks will look to lean their curves more for those options. My hunch is that bigger Ninjas may see more action in Satoru Umezawa lists.

That said, Nashi is really sweet, and not that big of an ask given the cost and benefit. While this is one of the rare instances where the Ninjutsu activation actually costs more than the card's mana value (Thousand-Faced Shadow being another option), I think that's well worth the cost. The combat damage proc puts it squarely in saboteur-style lists, with an almost Etali, Primal Storm or Gonti, Lord of Luxury style effect, mixed with a Bolas's Citadel. It's also reminiscent of the Fallen Shinobi.

Of course we're going to see this crop up in Ninja tribal decks, but I'm really excited to see where this goes besides those lists. I actually think it's a worthy consideration in Gonti, Lord of Luxury decks, as Gonti's nascent deathtouch often makes for uncomfortable blocks. Just swing at the person who has an unfavorable block, then Ninjutsu Nashi in for Gonti. You can then re-cast Gonti, Lord of Luxury from hand to trigger Gonti again!

Plus, since Nashi exiles each player's top card, you can facilitate some 'Lantern control' elements like the namesake Lantern of Insight, or set up your own library with top-deck manipulators like Sensei's Divining Top, Scroll Rack, or even undervalued one-off effects like Forever Young.

Overall, sweet card with some neat tricks and build-around potential.

Blade of the Oni

A Demon that is also a sword. I mean, can you get any cooler?

This thing is efficient, evasive, and just downright awesome. It comes down early and ahead of curve to start dealing damage, and can Reconfigure later to Equip to a creature, possibly buffing it in the process. Menace will often get you there, at least against the one player who just hasn't developed their board enough, or isn't willing to sacrifice to a bad blocking scenario.

Demons may not have the best synergy with each other like other tribes (outside of niche options like Liliana's Contract) but New Capenna is right around the corner, which purportedly has Demon themes throughout, and hopefully further Demon synergies.


Biting-Palm Ninja

Ability counters are back!

Ninja decks will always welcome more options, and while it has no nascent evasion, it enters with a menace counter! Unless your opponent has two blockers, you're gonna get in for damage, and you can remove that menace counter to Pick Their Brain.

Usually, removing a menace counter in this manner means sacrificing evasion for one-time interaction, but because you're likely to run this in a Ninja deck with other Ninjutsu effects, you can return this to hand with another Ninja and repeat the process all over again.

Obviously this will see a lot of play in Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow and Satoru Umezawa decks, but I'm even excited to even give this a try in my 'menace tribal' deck.

Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos

Hidetsugu is back, but having survived his encounter with the All-Devouring Oni of Chaos, now, 12,000 years later, he has assumed his Demon form.

Flavor is on the mark here. Sacrificing negligible creatures to harness chaos and reduce variability (AKA scrying) in order to set up an explosive spell on the top of the library. Obviously, it works well in a Worldgorger Dragon + Animate Dead combo shell, and with Prosper, Tome-Bound, but so does pretty much everything that exiles for play in Rakdos colors.

We've gotten a lot of Rakdos aristocrat commanders over the years, but I'm quite fond of this with niche tech like Haunted Crossroads or Mortuary in creature builds and taking advantage of the Vial Smasher the Fierce design of dome-ing people with big spells. Scheming Symmetry seems particularly fun here, and definitely throw in a Volrath's Stronghold if you've got one.

The mana required is the real bottleneck here, as you would need to spend one mana to activate his sacrifice outlet to scry, and another three to activate his ability. Sinking four mana just to set up the damage isn't great, especially when you want a high-mana-value card off the top to get the most potential, which will now cost you even more mana on top of your earlier four since you would have to cast it this turn. Alternative cards here, like Murderous Cut or Curtains' Call, seem worth consideration here, which can hit hard but don't always cost what their mana value is. It's reminiscent of Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow in some ways.

My personal weird take is Demon tribal. Demon tribal is already a thing with any of the Rakdos, Lord of Riots, Rakdos, the Showstopper, Rakdos the Defilers at the helm, but I actually think Hidetsugu makes a great possibility for Demon tribal, sacrificing creatures to set up big damage from the high mana value of Demons off the top of the library. Cost-reducers, like Heartless Summoning and Urza's Incubator, make it so you get the most out of Hidetsugu's exile ability, but their cost isn't nearly as steep, and with Demons on the horizon in New Capenna, there's synergies around the corner!

Invoke Despair

While a bit limited, I quite admire this. A targeted edict somewhat in the mold of Remorseless Punishment, culling varying permanent types at best, and losing them life and drawing you cards in the case they can't. Against a player with none of these permanents, it becomes five mana for them to lose six life and you draw three cards. That isn't great, but it's not nothing either, especially since it adds redundancy for black to take out enchantments. I could imagine this card cropping up in mono-black lists, like K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth, cuz paying one mana and eight life to get this effect doesn't seem all that bad.

I'd really like to see this with twinning effects, like Twincast, Reverberate, or Double Vision, to really take advantage of its potential.

March of Wretched Sorrow

The black part of the discard-centric cycle comes in alright. It reminds me of Sickening Dreams with a Swallowing Plague restriction, though I suppose hitting planeswalkers is nice too.

If this hit players, you'd have a lot more potential, but losing cards to remove creatures in a color that's got so many ways of already removing creatures doesn't feel as good. In a Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose or Tivash, Gloom Summoner deck that desperately wants to gain swells of life, I could imagine this card making a case for itself.

If you happen to be in a deck that creates massive hand sizes, though, this can just be a life swing, discard outlet, and removal spell all in one.

Mukotai Soulripper

Well, well, well! With the return of Vehicles in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, it looks like King Macar, the Gold-Cursed's garage is getting a little bigger.

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed has just the power to handle this Crew cost of 2, and since Macar makes Gold tokens, you can actually sacrifice them in a pinch to the drivetrain of this Soulripper to make it a bit bigger. Getting in for five menace isn't entirely exciting, but I like the flavor of this card and what people may come up with with cards like Macar or Pain Seer.

Remember: there's no Crew cost that family can't handle.

Myojin of Grim Betrayal

The Myojin make their return once again. While not as backbreaking as the Myojin of Night's Reach, I like that the indestructible counter here (sorry, divinity counters) actually synergizes with the ability. It requires a lot of setup and mana, but I suppose you could board wipe with Myojin out, weathering the destruction with its indestructible counter, then remove it after to get everything that just went from the graveyard to your side of the field. Or perhaps a Dimir mill deck would like to Traumatize someone, and then steal all the milled creatures?

I kind of prefer Thrilling Encore over this card in most cases, but what about you?

Ruthless Technomancer

Oh my.

Disciple of Bolas is already a great card that sees quite a bit of play (17,000+ decks), but trading life for Treasure tokens, even without the card draw, is still great. I don't want to be hyperbolic or say anything can truly compare to Dockside Extortionist, but it certainly feel like it was cut from the same cloth, enabling swells of mana generation on an ETB that can be looped more easily since it's a creature.

Double those Treasure tokens with your token-doublers (Anointed Procession), or get extra goodies with Academy Manufactor and Xorn. That second ability practically facilitates value unto itself, particularly in decks with high power, like Greven, Predator Captain, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, or in the tribal-ETB focused shell of Inalla, Archmage Ritualist.

To be clear: I don't think this is a mono-black staple or belongs in almost any black deck, but the ones that do want it will really make use of it.

Soul Transfer

First of all, incredible art. That "Doctor Octopus"-style arm is menacing.

A conditional ceiling, but exiling a creature or planeswalker for only three mana ain't too shabby. What you sacrifice in speed (being a sorcery) you gain in mana value and modality, tacking a Flay Essence-style effect with Aid the Fallen.

Tatsunari, Toad Rider

(Yes, this is technically not a card that can go into mono-black decks, but the gold set review later this week already has a TON to talk about, so let's tackle Tatsunari in this article to make things easy for that writer!)

Sultai enchantments have never been formally supported... until now. A Ninja without Ninjutsu and who rides a toad but then makes a Frog token (yes, Toads are Frogs, but not all Frogs are Toads, just to make phylogeny more confusing), and cares about casting enchantments, this thing is wacky, and it's eerily similar to Jiraiya from Naruto.

The activated ability means many will likely put Grolnok, the Omnivore, The Gitrog Monster, and maybe Froghemoth here for the value they generate, and because you can just make them smash in as needed. It's basically a Spire Tracer form of evasion, which is pretty flavorful since it evokes the fact that frogs Leap as their form of evasion. I think most decks may balance some enchantment effects, including Auras, and trend towards a Voltron strategy, using the activated ability as a means of evasion and threatening commander damage.

I particularly liked the mention of Evolutionary Leap by my co-writer, Mason Brantley, since you can sacrifice Keimi and get another creature out of your deck to hand, which, if they're enchantment creatures, can start the process all over again. Dense Canopy and Smoke Shroud are also some neat tech.

While Keimi's trigger isn't super powerful, I'm an avid fan of Grim Guardian, and I'm excited to see what weird brews people come up with for this. Bonus if you can Helm of the Host your Keimi so that one enchantment starts to drain even more!

Tribute to Horobi

What an odd card. The first portion of this Saga feels very gift-stocrats-y, similar to Grismold, the Dreadsower or Toxrill, the Corrosive decks that want to gift away creatures to opponents to punish them for having them die.

Yet, as opposed to flipping into something interested killing opponents' creatures, like the original Horobi, Death's Wail, this is a mono-black creature with haste that cares about sacrificing your own creatures. The flip trigger of getting all Rat tokens is cute, especially if you happen to face a lot of Plague of Vermin or Marrow-Gnawer decks, but not entirely impressive otherwise.

Although niche, check out the "Security" article from way back in the Champions of Kamigawa set, and Horobi's relation with Rats and sacrifice will start to make a bit more sense.

Uncommons and Commons

There are a lot of under-the-radar goodies here that don't brandish the gold or orange symbols, so let's take a quick look at some notable ones!

  • Dockside Chef: Well, this may be one instance where saying, "I'll cast Dockside," doesn't immediately elicit panic from your opponents. Great art and flavor, and I'm all for more Skullport Merchant variants.
  • Go-Shintai of Hidden Cruelty: I know at least 3,782 Sanctum of All players are excited to see a new cycle of Shrines. Being a creature and having nascent deathtouch already makes for a rattlesnake effect, but having the ability to slowly remove increasingly more threats as you deploy more Shrines seems excellent.
  • Gravelighter: A Fleshbag Marauder variant, but with an upside and a downside depending on what you're after (more draw, or straight removal?). It's tough to derail Plaguecrafter's reach, but in a Meren of Clan Nel Toth or Araumi of the Dead Tide this can still pull quite a lot of weight.
  • Leech Gauntlet: More lifelink in black decks is welcome, and I like the flavor of this being a Leech (I'll be honest, I had no idea there were even 15 total Leeches!).

  • Life of Toshiro Umezawa: A flavorful allusion to the infamous Umezawa's Jitte. We got a similarly flavored card in Umezawa's Charm in Modern Horizons, but I'm stoked to see this rendition as a Saga, with the added bonus of an enchantment creature on the backside facilitating black-centric spell-slinging.
  • Nezumi Prowler: More Ninja tech for you Ninja lovers (personally, I'll just take more Rats). The Ninjutsu cost is low, and since its ETB gives both deathtouch and lifelink, you can either give it to itself or to another creature to make for uncomfortable blocking scenarios. Overall, neat little card!
  • Unforgiving One: This thing is quite a sleeper in the right shell. Being an attack trigger is always a bit of a risk, but menace helps it get through, and with something like Felisa, Fang of Silverquill, this has some nice engine potential.
  • Lethal Exploit: Fine, but nothing amazing. There are less conditional shrink effects out there, but the +1/+1 counters synergy can see help with Felisa, Fang of Silverquill or Nikara, Lair Scavenger adjacent decks.

Lights Out

We had mouths on hands, demons in swords, and chopstick-wielding ghosts just trying to get their ramen on. What a ride.

So, what do y'all think? Which black cards are you excited for? Which of the ones I didn't have space for are you excited about? Sound off in the comments below!

Trent has been playing Magic since the early 2000s, when instead of exercising in a summer sports camp, he was trying to resolve a Krosan Skyscraper on the sidewalk (it always ate a removal). He saved up his allowance to buy an Akroma Angel of Wrath on eBay, only to find out it was a fraudulent post, forever dashing his hopes of ever getting a big creature to stick. He’s since “grown up” and, when he’s not working on his dissertation in Archaeology, spends too much time thinking how to put Cipher in every one of his decks and digging for obscure cards (see photo).

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