The Over/Under - A Review of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Commanders

Junji, the Midnight Sky | Art by Chase Stone

Neon Your Mark, Get Set...

It's a return to a return to Kamigawa.

We're back for another edition of The Over/Under (the article series formerly known as The 600). When Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty (NEO) dropped a little over a year ago, I gave each new commander an "Over" or "Under" grade. The line stopped at 600 Commander decks, so "Over" meant they'd lead more than 600 decks by this time, while "Under" meant under 600. In this article, we're going to review my predictions and see where things went well and where they went wrong.

For a full analysis of all my picks, read my original article. Or you can keep reading this article since I'll be referencing my prior thoughts when necessary. Now let's take a look at the state of my NEO predictions.

The Cycles

With three complete WUBRG (white, blue, black, red, green) cycles, I think we've got a clear starting point. I predicted under 600 decks for all five Dragon Spirits, and here's how they finished:

Surprisingly, the mono-white commander came closest to the mark (usually the blue card in the cycle is the best). I think I summed up the problem with this cycle well enough last year:

"Ao 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."

What about the Shrines? Did they perform any better?

Nope. They actually did far worse. However, there was technically a sixth member of this cycle that did much better (we'll get to it later).

So what about the Myojin? Did they salvage the cycles?

Not even close. In fact, this cycle boasted the set's least popular commander in Myojin of Towering Might. Six decks? Even The Prismatic Piper leads with more than that...and it's vanilla!

The Almost Overs

Several NEO commanders almost reached 600 decks, so I think they're worth discussing. Let's begin with a staple Magic creature type line: the Goblin Samurai.

My prediction: Under

Final deck count: 452

Here's last year's analysis:

"...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."

Oddly, only 12% of Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei decks on EDHREC list Mana Echoes, and not a single one boasts Chromatic Orrery. They're much more focused on Equipment and Goblin tribal themes, which perhaps explains their good-but-not-great performance. Goro-Goro is a decent enough commander for either archetype, but certainly not the best option.

My prediction: Under

Final deck count: 452

I recall assigning this an Over in an early draft, then changing my mind prior to publication. I think you can see that conflict in my evaluation.

"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."

There is no "durdle" theme on EDHREC, but maybe we should add one for Shigeki, Jukai Visionary. The deck's top three cards return stuff from the graveyard, which is not exactly what you want to be doing when, say, Satoru Umezawa is Ninjutsuing Eldrazi on you.

(Side note: Shigeki has about size four font in its type line. I'm not saying that affected its popularity...but I'm not not saying it, either.)

The last of our almost-made-it commanders is...

My prediction: Under

Final deck count: 465

I'm actually surprised at how well this thing did despite last year's scathing review.

"...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 suppose my chump blocking comment was a bit uncharitable, since it's easy enough to slap a Rancor on Kaima, the Fractured Calm. Furthermore, 88% and 80% of decks are running Enchantress's Presence and Eidolon of Blossoms, respectively, which recoups the cards you lose to Aura-ing. I should also thank Kaima for introducing me to Sluggishness and Bequeathal, two silly cards I'd never seen before.

With all that said, I feel like I've talked myself into this commander. I was right to go Under, but now I might have to build it myself.

The Easy Overs

Though NEO was mostly Unders, it offered its fair share of hits, too. Let's start with a particular pooch.

My prediction: Over

Final partner deck count: 2709

Personally, I love this guy. He's in my Commander Cube. I speculated that he'd "pair perfectly with numerous commanders, including Livio, Oathsworn Sentinel, Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh, and Reyhan, Last of the Abzan," and those are indeed some of his most popular Partners. My only question is, what breed is Yoshimaru? Malamute? Basenji? Kamigawan Malinois? We may never know.

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 4119

I thought this thing would go Over. I did not think it would become the most popular Azorius commander of all time, beating out studs like Brago, King Eternal and Millicent, Restless Revenant. I think I underestimated the plentiful artifact synergies in blue and white, plus the Vehicle support from the rest of this set. Note to self: players love Vehicles.

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

Final deck count: 6903

Another note to self: players also like Ninjas. Especially Ninjas that cheat out massive threats. Here's last year's take:

"I expect Satoru decks to run efficient unblockable threats, like Slither Blade, combined with cheatable big boppers, like Archon of Cruelty."

Both those creatures appear on Satoru's page, though it turns out I was thinking too small. After all, Blightsteel Colossus appears in 43% of these decks. No wonder it didn't miss.

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 12120

Wait. There are two heavens? Does that mean there's an even better area, like the VIP lounge in a club?

Theological confusion aside, Isshin is not only the most popular commander in the set—he's the eighth most popular commander in EDH history. I still think it's weird that this arrived right after Wulfgar of Icewind Dale, but I'll get over it. Speaking of Overs...

The Overzealous Over

I only missed a single Over pick in the entire set, and it was a close one.

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 542

I still think I made a decent case for this guy:

"...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."

However, like perms and shoulder pads, Voltron decks have fallen out of favor. After all, there are only 4230 such decks on EDHREC, which ranks at 66 out of 100. Not great. I thought a new spin might revitalize the theme, but no go.

The Unwise Unders

I must be a pessimist, because I had five Under predictions that went Over. We begin with...

My prediction: Under

Final deck count: 2411

Remember when I said players love Vehicles? They even like 'em enough to hop in a car with an anthropomorphic rat named Greasefang. Here was my reasoning for the Under:

"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."

Think again, punk! It's totally worth it, especially when you're reanimating stuff like Parhelion II and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. Plus, Greasefang expanded his car collection with the Warhammer 40K decks, namely adding Reaver Titan and Thunderhawk Gunship.

My prediction: Under

Final deck count: 1216

Gone are the days when Boros (white, red) commanders were easy Unders. I wrote...

"Aurelia, the Warleader provides multiple combats without a condition, so I fail to see why 600 players would select Raiyuu instead of her."

Well, it's exactly because of the condition that players play Aurelia. Raiyuu is also the first functional Boros commander that specifically supports Samurai. I never knew there was such a big market for them, but once again, I botched an obscure tribal commander. I've done this so often that I think I'll add it to my bio.

And finally, my annual worst pick of the set:

My prediction: Under

Final deck count: 5288

My rationale for the Under is lengthy, but I think it's worth including.

"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."

I've never felt so much like a Magic Boomer (I'm not a Boomer, I'm a Millennial, but still). I feel like I'm out of touch. I was so confident about this take, yet I was so, so wrong. Maybe I don't know what fun means to this younger generation. Maybe there's some reference to Euphoria in the artwork and I don't understand it. Whatever the reason, the Paws went Over.


Correct Picks (39)

Incorrect Picks (6)

My Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Correct Prediction Percentage: 87%

My Overall Correct Prediction Percentage: 75%

That's 12 points above my average, and my best showing since Kaldheim! But before I do a victory lap, I'll admit that this set was pretty easy to call. I mean, we got not one, not two, but three complete cycles of obvious duds. Until next time, and thanks as always for reading!

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 Nahiri, Forged in Fury. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.