The 600 - Predicting the Popularity of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Commanders

(Tatsunari, Toad Rider | Art by Justine Cruz)

Get Your Neon On

Welcome back to Kamigawa! Things have changed a lot since your last visit.

Also, welcome back to The 600the article series where we predict how popular (or unpopular) new commanders will be. Each commander gets an "Over" or "Under" grade. It gets the former if we believe it will lead over 600 decks a year from release date, and the latter if we think it'll lead fewer than 600. There's also one "Can't-Miss Pick," which is kind of like calling backboard in Horse.

Ready to dive in? Let's begin!


Ao, the Dawn Sky

I dig the economy of letters in Ao's name, but otherwise, I'm off it. It and the other Dragon Spirits in this cycle do their best work when they die, yet they're too expensive to reasonably function as sacrifice fodder. Great for the 99, just not for the command zone.

My prediction: Under

Go-Shintai of Shared Purpose

Players dig Shrines, but if you go with Go-Shintai as your commander, you only get access to three out of 17 Shrines, and that's including this one. Also, a horde of vanilla 1/1s is not much of a payoff. I refuse to share this purpose.

My prediction: Under

Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice

I did not expect to be impressed by a commander named "Light-Paws," but I totally am. Imagine casting Gift of Immortality and fetching All That Glitters, or Mantle of the Ancients fetching Shielded by Faith! There's no shortage of useful combinations, especially in mono-white.

However, Light-Paws has a glaring flaw, and it's not even the fact that it's mono-white (though that is pretty glaring). No, the issue is that Light-Paws is simply too repetitive. We saw this with Prime Speaker Vannifar (a close Under) and I expect we'll see it again here. Part of what makes EDH so appealing is the novelty of gameplay experience. Therefore, commanders that encourage repetitive play experiences often struggle to achieve widespread popularity.

My prediction: Under

Myojin of Blooming Dawn

I wrote several paragraphs exploring ways one might make this card viable as a commander. Then I re-read it and noticed an important clause.

"...if you cast it from your hand."

Oh. So this is an eight-mana 4/6 vanilla commander? Count me out.

I have a feeling someone's going to comment thusly (and yes, "thusly" is really a word, according to spellcheck): "Yeah, but you can cast it, then bounce it to your hand with Light the Way, then cast it again to get the counter!"

That is true, hypothetical commenter, but just because we can do something doesn't mean we should.

My prediction: Under

Norika Yamazaki, the Poet

I've been dabbling with writing poetry on my Instagram - not that you'd want to read it. It's mostly haikus about inane topics such as tacos, my cats, and my lowly New York Giants. So my question is, is Norika a better poet than me?

She's more interesting, that's for sure. Casting enchantments from graveyards is a tantalizing effect, particularly with Sagas such as Elspeth Conquers Death or the newly printed The Restoration of Eiganjo.

However, I think that's ultimately more wheel-spinny than powerful. From one poet to another, Norika, I wish you the best.

My prediction: Under

Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful

It's odd to see a Partner without any others in the set, but whatever, Yoshimaru is an excellent card! It pairs perfectly with numerous commanders, including Livio, Oathsworn Sentinel, Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh, and Reyhan, Last of the Abzan. You could even try something more off-brand, such as Slurrk, All-Ingesting or Tymna the Weaver. Good dog.

My prediction: Over

Go-Shintai of Lost Wisdom

Like our mono-white Shrine, this card should appear in Shrine decks, not lead them. Great art, though.

My prediction: Under

Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant

To borrow the parlance of the Bachelor franchise, I felt blindsided by this card. A Praetor on Kamigawa? What madness is this?

Then I remembered Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider visiting Kaldheim. Clearly they're vacationing on other planes. Nothing nefarious planned, I'm sure. Also, what is a "Progress Tyrant," exactly? Like, is Elon Musk a progress tyrant?

Anyhoo, this card is outstanding. Though seven mana is expensive (especially outside green), it's worth it. Feel free to build around artifacts, instants, sorceries, or all three. Plus, the inverse effect on your opponents puts them in an awkward bind: even if they have the answer to Jin, they'll probably have to burn another card first. Love it.

My prediction: Over

Kairi, the Swirling Sky

There's little to comment on here. Lots of text, but most of the time it'll play like a flying Colossal Dreadmaw that nobody wants to kill.

My prediction: Under

Katsumasa, the Animator

Katsumasa can effectively crew any Vehicle, plus it synergizes with dinky artifacts like Darksteel Relic and Ichor Wellspring. However, there are better Vehicle commanders in this very set, and the mono-blue low-cost artifact corner is already occupied by Emry, Lurker of the Loch (I should know, I built one of those decks). A fine commander, but we have better options.

My prediction: Under

Myojin of Cryptic Dreams

World-class art, abominable commander. I can't imagine anyone running this, or any other Myojin, as their commander.

My prediction: Under

The Reality Chip

Are we sure this is reality? Because in the pantheon of unlikely type lines, "Legendary Artifact Creature - Equipment Jellyfish" outranks our previous most unlikely entry, "Creature - Shark Octopus Crab" by a wide margin.

Type lines aside, this is a tough one to evaluate. As a creature, it doesn't do much; a two-mana 0/4 that allows you to peek at the top of your library is like Sigiled Starfish, only worse. Reconfigure gives it a pseudo-Future Sight ability, albeit one that can be disrupted by creature removal.

Unfortunately, Future Sight doesn't appear on EDHREC's list of top enchantments, which makes me think it's not a popular effect. Time for a reality check, Reality Chip.

My prediction: Under

Go-Shintai of Hidden Cruelty

This is some profoundly creepy artwork, though the card itself is less impressive as a commander. Remember, there are three mono-black Shrines in Magic, including this one, meaning you can kill an X/3 every turn at the very best. That's just not good enough.

My prediction: Under

Junji, the Midnight Sky

Nice stats, versatile ability, beautiful artwork. Yet again, this card works best as recursive sacrifice fodder, which it can't do from the command zone (not elegantly, anyway).

My prediction: Under

Myojin of Grim Betrayal

I'd slam this right into a Syr Konrad, the Grim deck, but as a commander, it's completely unplayable. Thank you, next.

My prediction: Under

Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion

I once saw a rat in New York City, and it did not look like this. Inconsistencies aside, Nashi lacks an elegant way to use Ninjutsu from the command zone, a la Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow. We've also seen essentially the same ability on other commanders (Etali, Primal Storm, for instance) and it's never overwhelmingly popular. Players seem excited to add Nashi to their Prosper, Tome-Bound decks, but otherwise, this rodent won't see much play.

My prediction: Under

Atsushi, the Blazing Sky

Of all the legendary Dragon Spirits, Atsushi has the best shot at 600. Why? Because it has the word "sushi" in its name. Also, because its first two deaths cover its next two commander taxes.

Here's how it works: cast Atsushi for four, sac it, and get three Treasures. Atsushi now costs six, meaning you have a surplus of two mana if you re-cast on the following turn (assuming you hit your land drop). When it dies again, you'll have five Treasures left over, and Atsushi will cost eight. Things get pricey from there, but you get the idea.

All that said, what does an Atsushi deck actually look like? I couldn't tell you. Mono-red Treasure-matters is already Magda, Brazen Outlaw's wheelhouse (and Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge's, to a lesser extent). Plus, if we want a mono-red commander that constantly recasts itself, why not play Squee, the Immortal instead?

My prediction: Under

Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei

As a general rule, legendary Goblin Samurais are appealing. However, this one is probably best suited to existing Goblin tribal decks, such as Krenko, Mob Boss. Sure, it creates infinite Dragons with Mana Echoes, Chromatic Orrery, and enough mana, but otherwise, I'm not seeing the appeal.

My prediction: Under

Go-Shintai of Ancient Wars

An excellent Shrine payoff—but not one you'd ever run as your commander.

My prediction: Under

Heiko Yamazaki, the General

You can definitely do... stuff... with this card... I'm just not sure it's stuff you'll want to be doing. Looping Pyrite Spellbomb and Ichor Wellspring sounds fun in theory, but it requires a Samurai or Warrior that can safely and consistently attack in order for this to work. In general, nobody's going to play this General.

My prediction: Under

Myojin of Roaring Blades

Even if you got the indestructible counter when casting a Myojin from the command zone, this card still wouldn't be appealing. Also, it has four arms but only targets three things, making it an abject flavor fail.

My prediction: Under

Go-Shintai of Boundless Vigor

This card is terrible on its own and not much better when you only pair it with Honden of Life's Web and Sanctum of Fruitful Harvest. Let's all do ourselves a solid and put this in the five-color Shrine deck, not its own.

My prediction: Under

Kodama of the West Tree

Now that the Kodama cycle is complete, I'm looking forward to four more Kodamas of the diagonal directions. I'm guessing Kodama of the Southwest Tree will be a Secret Lair crossover product with Southwest Airlines, which would bother me, because I despise the airline industry. Just ask my wife! I complain about flying to her all the time. Sorry, Sara.

Anywho, for those who came for a card evaluation and not a rant, this card is excellent. I love it with Equipment like Lightning Greaves, Auras like Rancor, and counter factories like Forgotten Ancient.

The only problem is, this Kodama slots too well into other commander decks, such as Kestia, the Cultivator, Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith, and Galea, Kindler of Hope. It will definitely see extensive play, just more often in the 99.

My prediction: Under

Kosei, Penitent Warlord

At first blush, getting Kosei enchanted, Equipped, and countered up sounds harder than getting my cats off my kitchen counters (they're sitting there as I write this). Yet upon further review, that all might be easier than it seems. After all, there are several Auras and Equipment that also provide +1/+1 counters, such as Hydra's Growth and Armory of Iroas. That gets you two-thirds of the way there! With backups like Snakeskin Veil, Withstand Death, and their many equivalents, you just might get away with this Voltron nonsense.

This is one of the most all-in commanders I've ever seen, and I must say, I've talked myself into going all-in on it.

My prediction: Over

Kura, the Boundless Sky

A fine card, but more of a fringe-playable in Landfall decks than a legitimate contender for 600. Plus, the name is misleading, because when you fly high enough, you eventually reach space. Ergo, the sky is not boundless.

My prediction: Under

Myojin of Towering Might

I wouldn't care if it was 'Myojin of You Win the Game', it's getting an Under!

My prediction: Under

Shigeki, Jukai Visionary

Pro: Shigeki ramps, packs the graveyard, and provides card advantage. Con: None of these things affect the board. I know many EDH players enjoy durdling (me, for instance), but this is taking things too far.

My prediction: Under

Kotori, Pilot Prodigy

Vigilance and lifelink both get better the bigger the Vehicle, and Kotori's first ability reduces the Crew cost on even the biggest ones. In fact, with its 2 power, Kotori can solo-pilot anything. Factor in all the support for Vehicles in this set and this becomes a clear pick.

My prediction: Over

Shorikai, Genesis Engine

This card should get an Over simply by virtue of novelty. After all, it's Magic's first Vehicle that's also a commander. (Yes, Cosima, God of the Voyage technically came first, but it's rarely cast on the Vehicle side). Also, since Shorikai generates its own Pilots, could one argue it's Magic's first self-driving car? If so, I'm sure it's on the road in California.

My prediction: Over

Tameshi, Reality Architect

"Reality Architect" would be an incredible tagline for a LinkedIn profile. That's neither here nor there, I just thought it should be said.

Anyway, although the return-a-land clause is meant to be a downside, it becomes upside with cards like Mystic Sanctuary, Idyllic Grange, or anything with Landfall. Tameshi is even appealing enough to steal some decks from Hanna, Ship's Navigator. I'd hire this Reality Architect any day.

My prediction: Over

Kotose, the Silent Spider

Judging by comments on r/EDH, many players were hoping for a literal Spider card here, and Kotose is definitely not that. She has little use in our format since players can't run duplicates, unless you're playing against Shadowborn Apostles, Relentless Rats, or Persistent Petitionerss, in which case, you win the game.

My prediction: Under

Satoru Umezawa

This card is nothing short of stunning. You get a free Anticipate the first time you Ninjutsu each turn, which you'll be doing often, since every creature in hand becomes a NinjaI expect Satoru decks to run efficient unblockable threats, like Slither Blade, combined with cheatable big boppers, like Archon of Cruelty. Best of all, you can swap unblocked attackers every turn to repeatedly trigger ETB abilities.

This is an excellent commander in a popular tribe with a massive payoff, and he comes from a great family. What's not to like?

My prediction: Over (Can't-Miss Pick!)

Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos

The play pattern here is sweet. Pay a black, sac a creature, fudge your deck so you have something big on top, then pay two and red, flip the big thing, kill another big thing. Note that the scrying doesn't tap, so you can do it multiple times in a turn, provided you have the requisite mana and sac fodder.

I like this version of Hidetsugu, especially compared to the last one. Although, let's be honest, nobody likes the last one unless they're the player running it.

My prediction: Over

Chishiro, the Shattered Blade

Chishiro provides free handlers for your Equipment and Auras! With menace, those handlers will be tough to block in big numbers. Plus, once you suit them up, Chishiro can stack counters on them to make them even bigger. This seems like a beatdown extraordinaire, with a little more pizazz than the average Gruul legend.

My prediction: Over

Kaima, the Fractured Calm

I like that Kaima adds spice to a sometimes bland color pair, but isn't this deck positively rancid when Kaima dies? If opposing creatures aren't Goaded, they're free to attack you with the very augmentations you spent mana to give them. Plus, no matter how big it gets, Kaima can get chump blocked into oblivion. I'm off it.

My prediction: Under

Satsuki, the Living Lore

Satsuki has a sweet hat and even sweeter rules text. For the low, low cost of two mana, you can turbo through your Sagas, which works especially well for this set, since a bunch of new Sagas flip into creatures. In addition, you get a useful modal death trigger that can restart those loops. Players love Sagas, and this is our first commander specifically made for them. Sounds promising to me.

My prediction: Over

Greasefang, Okiba Boss

You don't see many rodent pilots on the roads these days, which is probably a good thing. Speaking of them (pilots, not rodents), Greasefang is far less appealing than Kotori, Pilot Prodigy. Reanimating creatures is often about cheating mana, since you can bring back big creatures for less than their usual cost. Thing is, Vehicles are often already cheap, since the cost and stats are offset by the Crew requirement. Therefore, a commander that specializes in reanimating Vehicles doesn't seem worth it. I think many players will agree.

My prediction: Under

Naomi, Pillar of Order

Naomi's doing her best Grave Titan impression, without much success. If I want Grave Titan, I'll just play Grave Titan.

My prediction: Under

Raiyuu, Storm's Edge

Combat-happy Boros commanders have to be exceptional if they want to stand out. Alas, Raiyuu, Storm's Edge is not exceptional. Aurelia, the Warleader provides multiple combats without a condition, so I fail to see why 600 players would select Raiyuu instead of her.

My prediction: Under

Risona, Asari Commander

When indestructible premiered in Darksteel, I remember my friends and I being blown away. We were like, "Wait. You mean it can't be destroyed?" I'm an old man now (turning 30 next month), and I see the folly of my youth. Indestructible is good but rarely great, especially when it can be taken away so easily.

My prediction: Under

Hinata, Dawn-Crowned

I did not expect to like this card, but it really is quite versatile. You get free additional targets on your Comet Storm, discounts on your Curses, and reductions for your Voltron targets. Plus, if you do go Voltron, Hinata helps defend your boppers from targeted removal. Finally, I think players will appreciate a Jeskai commander that does something a little different.

My prediction: Over

Tatsunari, Toad Rider

Several aspects of this card are perplexing, not least of all how (or why) someone invented 'toad riding' as an activity. Did the futuristic cars get poor gas mileage or something? Also, since when is Sultai an enchantment-matters color combo? Oh, and why doesn't the activated ability just grant flying!? Isn't "can’t be blocked this turn except by creatures with flying or reach" just the exact same thing as flying?

The funny thing is, none of these questions matter. It's a Ninja riding a toad. How does that not go Over?

My prediction: Over

Isshin, Two Heavens as One

A little weird to see this card printed so soon after Wulfgar of Icewind Dale, but Mardu is probably a better home for this effect than Gruul, anyway. If Wulfgar was good enough for an Over, I think Isshin will be, too.

My prediction: Over

Go-Shintai of Life's Origin

I could've selected this as my Can't-Miss Pick, but where's the fun in that? This card will probably have 600 decks by the time you finish reading this sentence.

Five-color Shrine decks already existed before this set, back when we only had 11 Shrines and the deck's most common commander was Sisay, Weatherlight Captain. Now, with six new Shrines and a legitimate commander, these decks are going to surge in popularity.

My prediction: Over

Kyodai, Soul of Kamigawa

As I've mentioned in these articles before, no five-color commander has ever gone Under in the three-year history of this series. But could Kyodai be the first?

It's a contender. This isn't one of those pushed five-color behemoths like Kenrith, the Returned King, Morophon, the Boundless, or Golos, Tireless Pilgrim (rest in peace, you robotic jerk). It's basically a Restoration Angel in the command zone with a random WUBRG activation. Doesn't seem all that appealing.

Nonetheless, some EDH players might play it exactly because it's less powerful than existing options (because they're hipsters, I'd imagine). I also think it's unwise to bet against history, especially on a plane with so much history. It's the reluctant Over for you, Kyodai.

My prediction: Over

Recap

Under

Over

Can't-Miss Pick

I'm looking forward to holy Shrining, Vehicle driving, and toad riding. Hope you are too. Until next time!

Kyle A. Massa is a writer and avid Magic player living somewhere in upstate New York with his wife, their daughter, and three wild animals. His current favorite card is Aeve, Progenitor Ooze. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.