Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Set Review – Red

(Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei | Art by Mike Jordana)

Beyond the Color Pie

Over the pandemic, my parents moved to the Japanese island of Okinawa. I've been looking forward to visiting, but they have strict travel restrictions, so I don't know when I'll be able to. I was curious about the symbolism of the color red in Japan, and I found this article to be really entertaining and enlightening. I think it's cool to keep this kind of symbolism in mind as you read about the new red cards from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty!

My mother sent me this photo from Okinawa. This photo is a gate to a shrine, called a Shinto Torii, which are usually painted red. Click the photo for more info! It's cool stuff.

Mythics and Rares

Atsushi, the Blazing Sky

I want to pair all of the red copy effects with Atsushi so we get copies that immediately die from the legendary rule to give us value. Splinter Twin, Twinflame, Delina, Wild Mage, Heat Shimmer, Hate Mirage, and Mirage Phalanx all give us one or more death triggers from Atsushi. I realize not all of these effects work perfectly, like Delina, but we can round that out with having sacrifice outlets in our deck as well. When our commander or its copies die, we can then choose if we need mana ramp or card advantage, giving this deck has a lot of explosive potential.

I would pack the deck with lots of other ETB abilities so all of these copy effects synergize with the other cards in our deck as well, such as Solemn Simulacrum, Plundering Barbarian, Molten Primordial, etc. Honestly, it would probably contain similar cards as a Delina deck rebalanced to have our value creature in the command zone instead of our copy engine.

Explosive Singularity

Zaffai, Thunder Conductor fans, rejoice! There are not a lot of non-X spells to hit Zaffai's ten-random-damage trigger, and this one fits the theme. We can reduce the cost by tapping our Elementals, and it flings ten damage, just like Zaffai. It's also cute in a Wort, the Raidmother deck! There aren't many decks that want to cast big damage spells and simultaneously have a lot of tappable creatures on board, so this one will be relegated to a select few.

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker

It's not as combo-tastic as the original Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, but I'm going to have a hard time not playing this card in all of my red decks! It's ramp, card selection, and re-buying ETB/attack/sacrifice triggers on our creatures!

I'm sure there are some combos that someone smarter than me will figure out, maybe with Thornbite Staff or Aggravated Assault and Dockside Extortionist or another value creature, but unlike Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, they're probably going to be at least three-card combos and we need to get to the end of the Saga before they're active, reducing the salt-factor immensely.

Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei

This little Goblin Samurai has my wheels spinning, and that's the sign of an interesting commander design! Granting our whole team haste is fantastic. In fact, Josh Lee Kwai endorsed haste as his favorite underrated mechanic in a recent Command Zone episode (#442). The Dragon token creation ability is fairly costed and could be discounted with a Heartstone or doubled up with a Battlemage's Bracers or Illusionist's Bracers.

Where Goro-Goro really gets interesting is that he points us towards Modified creatures (creatures with Equipment, Auras, or counters). We could do a sweet combination of Dragons and any of those! We could have an Equipment deck with no creatures other than Goro-Goro and their hoard of Dragons. We could do Modular Dragons! Ever seen a mono-red Auras deck? These are off-the-wall builds, but how about we turn it up a notch? If we can produce infinite mana in mono-red, we can make infinite hasty Dragons!

I don't think Goro-Goro makes the cut for the 99 of Dragon decks, however, since they usually have other ways of granting haste and don't usually have modifications.

Invoke Calamity

Invoke Calamity is a great value piece for red spellslinger decks. We're pretty much restricted to mono-red due to the casting cost, and that's true of the whole cycle of these cards in this set. It's also sort of a ritual for mono-red decks, since we pay five mana and get six mana worth of spells. I don't have a brain for combos, but if there are a couple of copy spells in our graveyard, like Fork and Fury Storm, we can have them copy each other and get an infinite Storm count. Can I interest you in two instant-speed Dragon's Approaches, anyone?

Lizard Blades

Mason brought to my attention that Lizard Blades is surprisingly only the fifth Equipment to grant double strike. We recently had Embercleave, but before that, we went ten years without a new double strike Equipment since Grappling Hook in Zendikar. Lizard Blades has the cheapest casting and Equip costs of all of these, besides Embercleave's cost reduction. Also, being either a creature that can attack or an Equipment that can buff another creature is surprisingly valuable.

Many Voltron commanders, Equipment commanders, or combat damage trigger commanders will be interested in Lizard Blades, including Wyleth, Soul of Steel, Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Blim, Comedic Genius, Gishath, Sun's Avatar, and more. There are lots of combat damage commander examples, so check out this scryfall search for more.

March of Reckless Joy

As a floor, this is akin to a cheaper Thrill of Possibility (if we're not actively trying to get cards in our graveyard): pay one red and pitch one card to exile to impulse draw two. Alternatively, as another "floor" comparison, this is an instant-speed Divination: pay three to impulse draw two. If those were our only options, this card would be very playable, but it only goes up from there. The ceiling on this is to get as much card selection as we have mana or cards in hand, and impulse draw the best two cards from those options. That's basically red's version of Dig Through Time, which is very strong. I think this should be a red staple, but it's possible it will be overlooked because of the awkward wording.

It's similar to a card Matt Morgan recently challenged on an episode of the EDHRECast, and that's the card Reckless Impulse, which is a fantastic draw spell, yet has only made it into a measly 2,300 total decks on EDHREC, including less than 30% of Laelia, the Blade Reforged and less than 20% of Prosper, Tome-Bound decks. Super underplayed. Don't overlook these!

Ogre-Head Helm

I'm pretty high on Ogre-Head Helm. It comes out on turn two and gives us the option to half-wheel very early in the game. In graveyard and/or artifact decks, like Feldon of the Third Path, Plargg, Dean of Chaos, Daretti, Scrap Savant, or Osgir, the Reconstructor, this can put exactly what we want in our graveyard while restocking our hand. Having the options to half-wheel early, get out an early blocker, pump up a creature, or half-wheel later in the game are all fantastic jobs for a single card slot to play.

Scrap Welder

Scrap Welder is a welcome addition to the Goblin artificers: Goblin Welder, Goblin Engineer, and Daretti, Scrap Savant. Scrap Welder's design is so elegant that it seems like a card that already exists, yet it's unique. Where Goblin Welder seems broken and Goblin Engineer seems nerfed for EDH, Scrap Welder is a perfect balance that is powerful but not game-warping. It's a slam-dunk in the 99 of the aforementioned Daretti, as well as in Bosh, Iron Golem, Feldon of the Third Path, Osgir, the Reconstructor, Saheeli, the Gifted, and really any artifact deck that already plays Goblin Welder.

I also appreciate the toughness boost, as I find there is often incidental damage thrown around in my games that takes out my 1- and 2-toughness creatures.

Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance

Sokenzan can be pretty relevant to several red decks. Any non-Goblin go-wide red deck will be happy with the ability to create a couple of Spirits for a one to four mana on a land. I'm thinking about Márton Stromgald, Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer, Winota, Joiner of Forces, Purphoros, God of the Forge, and Akim, the Soaring Wind. Additionally, the tokens are Spirits, which is a relevant creature type and one that pairs well with Kykar, Wind's Fury and Quintorius, Field Historian.

These legendary lands don't have a downside to include in our decks and will likely see a lot of play in Commander and creep up in price, so get them early or after they rotate from Standard if they're seeing a lot of play there.

Thundering Raiju

Thundering Raiju seems fun to build around, and I'm a bit sad it isn't legendary. In any red deck that cares about +1/+1 counters, Auras, or Equipment, this could deal some serious damage. Think about how wide your decks go with any Modifications, and try to estimate how deadly the Raiju might be. I'm guessing it might be most potent in +1/+1 counters decks since it's easier to go wide with them. Commanders like Grumgully, the Generous, Marchesa, the Black Rose, and the new Chishiro, the Shattered Blade could wallop out quite a bit of damage each turn with Thundering Raiju.

Uncommons and Commons

Crackling Emergence

There are few ways to protect lands, and this is an interesting one. On the one hand, red doesn't have any other options for this effect, as we see in other colors, such as Blacksmith's Skill, Curator's Ward, Lazotep Plating, Veil of Summer, and the new Tamiyo's Safekeeping. On the other hand, if we really want to protect a land with this pseudo Totem Armor, we're simultaneously making that land more vulnerable to boardwipes and creature removal.

I foresee this card being useful in a mono-red deck that cares about a particular land. For example, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle comes to mind! Alternatively, maybe in a red Auras/Modifications deck, which we're about to see in the upcoming Commander decks, so this may have a great spot there.

Dragonspark Reactor

We were in desperate need of more Reckless Fireweaver effects, and here it is! Dragonspark Reactor isn't quite as efficient as Reckless Fireweaver, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's not as good. Being on an artifact increases deck synergy. I also like that it hits a creature and a player, so we can use it to KO an opponent and deal with a threat. The timing is also important. Since we can save up a big charge and release it at instant speed, this can be held up defensively as a rattlesnake effect and essentially be an Aetherflux Reservoir when it gets charged up enough.

I love this card for decks that care about getting a massive number of artifacts on the board, like Prosper, Tome-Bound, Saheeli, the Gifted, Kamber, the Plunderer/Laurine, the Diversion, Odric, Blood-Cursed, and any Partner with Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith.

Experimental Synthesizer

Experimental Synthesizer is great staggered impulse draw in red that's relevantly tied to an artifact. It helps increase our concentration of artifacts in an artifact deck, potentially replacing a nonartifact draw spell, like Reckless Impulse. Experimental Synthesizer comes down early to smooth out our deck's launch and sacrifices itself, leaving behind a body. All of these parts are very relevant, as we can recur it easily in red with Goblin Welder or Daretti, Scrap Savant effects, and we have something to affect the board when it leaves the battlefield. That token is especially relevant for everyone's favorite: Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer! I'm going to call this a staple for red artifact decks, and I'm really happy to see it at common.

Go-Shintai of Ancient Wars

By itself, Go-Shintai is a pretty inefficient way to deal damage to opponents, and the end step trigger means it doesn't help with things like Rakdos, Lord of Riots. In Group Slug decks, there are more efficient ways to dish out damage. Perhaps in Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, where we can repeatedly pay one on end step to deal four damage to an opponent? However, I would be surprised if that made the cut. In mono-red, we're limited to three total Shrines we can get on the battlefield, so I'm guessing this will be relegated to the five-color Shrine deck, where it will be a pretty good win condition.

Heiko Yamazaki, the General

I saw some folks on Twitter saying this should have been partnered with Norika Yamazaki, the Poet. I agree, and I'd certainly allow it as a Rule 0 pair if anyone proposed them as their commanders.

By herself, Heiko is a pretty tough sell. She's a mono-red Voltron and artifact reanimator, so that points us towards Equipment. However, she needs to attack, which may make her vulnerable, and we'd have to cast (and Equip) the artifact she retrieved after combat, which also weakens that strategy. Voltron is already a difficult strategy with many hurdles, and Heiko having lots of hurdles herself is going to be nigh unplayable. If you come up with an unusual strategy that works better with Heiko, be sure to let us know in the comments below!

Kumano Faces Kakkazan

This Saga seems unassuming but could find some good homes in the right decks. I like the front side for Rakdos, Lord of Riots. The first chapter helps deal damage, and the second makes those creatures we cast larger. It's unfortunate those things don't happen at the same time, but Rakdos hopefully has other ways to deal damage by the time chapter two rolls around. The damage is also good for Torbran, Thane of Red Fell decks, and the back side in particular will be back-breaking when Torbran or Rakdos hits the table with a Pyrohemia or Blasphemous Act, exiling our opponents' creatures.

Rabbit Battery

When we don't care about the hexproof or Shroud, this is a great Equipment instead of Swiftfoot Boots or Lightning Greaves, such as for combat commanders like Narset, Enlightened Master. Equipment decks will also appreciate having an Equipment that can also double as a creature; for example, Akiri, Fearless Voyager or Wyleth, Soul of Steel. Finally, being able to recur a creature from the graveyard that also functions as an Equipment is pretty nifty, such as with Alesha, Who Smiles at Death.

Reinforced Ronin

I keep mistyping this as "Reforged Ronin", which makes more sense for what we're going to be doing with this card most of the time. Coming down as a 2/2 for one red is great if we need to get in damage early, but the far better use for the Ronin will be to Channel it to draw a card. Crucially, this is an artifact, so we can easily get it back to hand to get some repeatable card draw -see Experimental Synthesizer. I like the Synthesizer a bit better, but if you prefer drawing to hand instead of exile, the Ronin might be your guy.

Tempered in Solitude

In most decks, this isn't worth including, but in decks that plan on having only one creature attack, Tempered in Solitude is excellent repeatable card draw. Delina, Wild Mage will get an impulse draw from only Delina attacking, since the other creatures come in after her attack trigger. It's a slam-dunk for Laelia, the Blade Reforged, who wants to impulse draw all the cards and get pumped up for a big smash. Most Boros Voltron or Equipment commanders will suit up one creature for attack as well. Perhaps some Rakdos decks, like Greven, Predator Captain or Blim, Comedic Genius, may also like this. However, it will be a big disappointment to want to attack with more than one creature and need the card draw, so season your decks with Tempered in Solitude carefully.

Wake Me Up Before You Goro-Goro

What do you think about the new red cards from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty? Which one is your favorite? What decks will you be adding them to? Let us know in the comments below! You can find me on Twitter for hot takes and box breaks @jevinmtg.

Jevin Lortie has been playing magic on and off since Portal. He has a PhD in nutritional sciences, so he always tells people to get a healthy serving of fruits and vegetables – especially ramp-les and draw-nanas.

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