Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Set Review

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Set Review

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty looks like it’s going to be a fantastic set. Combining traditional Japanese mythology, futuristic tech and great mechanics like sagas and ninjutsu this could be one of the best sets in recent years.

Like all my set reviews, I focus on my favourite cards in the set. This could for new designs, beautiful art, excellent flavour or fun gameplay. These are all more important to me than power level, so don’t be surprised if I skip stand out cards for constructed. Read on to find out which cards have grabbed my attention.

Top Rares and Mythics

Boseiju, Who Endures

There is one card in Neon Dynasty that stands out from every other card in the set as an absolute constructed all-star. This is going to be everywhere, and it’s going to be extremely expensive. Quite simply if you are playing green, you should be running Boseiju. Of course every set needs powerful cards but I’m frankly shocked to see something so incredibly powerful. In my Zendikar Rising set review I loved the MDFC lands which are superficially similar to the new channel lands. The MDFC lands gave you the choice of being a spell or being a land, but the lands all had the drawback of coming into play tapped or losing three life. This helped to make MDFC lands balanced against regular lands but there has been no attempt to balance the channel lands.

Boseiju is part of a cycle that also includes great cards like Otawara, Soaring City and Takenuma, Abandoned Mire. All five of the lands make any on-colour deck better simply because there is no cost to including them. Losing the basic sub-type isn’t a big drawback and being legendary is so rarely going to matter. If you draw Boseiju in multiples just play one as a land and channel the other copies. What makes Boseiju so crazy is it gives you a really easy way to include an answer to problematic permanent types in your main-deck. Normally removal spells for artifacts, enchantments and lands have to be in your sideboard but now including them in your main-deck is just free. This is going to be bad news for decks that rely on key artifacts or enchantments as part of their strategy.

So how do I feel about the channel lands? I’m excited to see what they do to each format, although I’m sceptical that they will be a net positive for any format. I like cards that make deck-building more interesting, but these are so powerful you are forced to include them in lists which reduces options, decision making and diversity. The actual channel ability as well is far more complicated that it needs to be. The discount for legendary creatures is really flavourful for a plane that has always been associated with legendary creatures but the discount is rarely going to be critical and it adds so many more words to the card. These would have been fascinating if they could only be cast if you controlled a legendary creature but I accept that this would have made them far less exciting.

Mirror Box

Returning to a old plane means we get fun call-backs to popular cards and characters from our last visit. For example Junji, the Midnight Sky is a reincarnation of the iconic dragon Kokusho, the Evening Star. But as well as call-backs we also get iconic cards updated for the modern era. Mirror Gallery is a really unique effect and after Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, Mirror Box is only the third card ever to make you immune to the legend rule. Comparing Mirror Gallery and Mirror Box shows you how much card design philosophy has changed over the many years since our last visit to Kamigawa. In the past a fun and wacky card like Mirror Gallery was given a ridiculous cost to stop it troubling competitive play. Today Mirror Box is far cheaper and has extra abilities so that players aren’t as punished for trying to do something different. It should also bring down the price of Mirror Gallery which had become crazily expensive thanks to its popularity and lack of reprints. This is a great example of how to reimagine classic cards from the past.

Invoke Calamity

This maybe the most appropriate card name in the set because casting spells for free is dangerous. This is balanced by an intensive colour requirement in the mana cost and the total mana costs you get from your free spells being six. At first glance these restrictions look like enough to balance the card whilst keeping it exciting. This counts as ramp if you get a full six mana from your spells. It counts as card advantage if you get both cards from your graveyard. It’s also a versatile spell with plenty of options to suit the current game-state if your graveyard is filled with spells. Even when played fair, Invoke Calamity is a lot of fun.

When you start looking at more specific interactions with other cards things start getting spicy. You can cast a suspend spell like Ancestral Vision that doesn’t have a mana cost and cast a six drop. It works extremely well with Increasing Vengeance when cast from your graveyard as you get the doubling effect but it only counts as two mana for your quota. Simply putting more spells on the stack is great for many spell payoffs like Thousand-Year Storm. Once you start looking for combos you find more and more crazy things you can do with Invoke Calamities and I love it.

Invoke Calamity is part of a cycle of invoke spells which all share intensive mana costs. Personally, I don’t find them as interesting as Invoke Calamity but their power level might entice people into playing a mono-colour deck. Incentives like Invoke the Ancients are great ways to bring diversity to a format by encouraging alternative colour combinations like mono colour. As an individual card, things like Invoke the Winds are nothing we haven’t seen before but it can still have a healthy impact on Standard.

Tamiyo, Compleated Sage

The magic story has been in a weird place since War of the Spark, but I think it the compleation of Tamiyo could be just what we needed. We already knew the Phyrexians were at large again after we saw Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider on Kaldheim, but killing or compleating a well established character like this makes for a great plot twist that shows newer players how scary the Phrexians are. Traditionally in law the Phyrexians are completely unable to planeswalk so having Phyrexian planeswalkers for the first time could have huge ramifications in the future.

The card itself is pretty strong. The first ability is a classic Tamiyo style ability and the ultimate is pretty unique for creating an artifact instead of an emblem. I understand the logic that a journal is more flavourful, but it takes so much work to ultimate a planeswalker, that having the ultimate be vulnerable to artifact hate is frustrating. The best part about the design is being able to pay life to cast Tamiyo earlier and cheaper than usual. The fact that she comes into play weaker as well really captures the idea of a corruption. It’s also strange to see a new mechanic on a single mythic but I expect this isn’t the last compleat planeswalker we will see.

Who knows what the future holds? Will more planeswalkers be recruited to the Phyrexian cause? Perhaps we will see a cycle of planeswalkers using this hybrid Phyrexian mana mechanic. We are certain to see the Phyrexians in the Brothers War set later in the year but how will that connect to the current Magic story? The Brothers War happened so long ago so will Teferi use his time magic to travel back in time? Also what will happen to planeswalkers like Tezzeret and Tibalt who have already helped the Phyrexians in one way or another? Will they be turned as well? I can’t wait to find out what happens next in the story which is great because I haven’t felt like this in a long time. I’m sad because I like Tamiyo, but I’m happy because stories need to have consequences and we need to see how dangerous and threatening the Phyrexians really are. That will never come across unless they are killing or converting characters we really care about.

The Wandering Emperor

Flash is such a fascinating ability to have on a planeswalker, I’m surprised we haven’t seen it before. If you play her on your opponent’s turn after they declare attackers she is pretty safe and can safely activate twice before being attacked. All of her abilities are relevant in combat making her one of the best combat tricks of all time. This is a really interesting way to design a planeswalker that manages to stand out from all the other planeswalkers despite there being over 250 of them now.

The Wandering Emperor also provides us with the identity of The Wanderer who first appeared in War of the Spark. This mysterious and anonymous planeswalker really intrigued me and I loved the lore of a planeswalker that was normally unable to stay in one place and was forced to constantly travel between different planes.

Following Tamiyo and the Wandering Emperor there is yet one more planeswalker with an interesting ability that I must mention. Not only does Kaito Shizuki work perfectly in a ninja deck but he has the sneaky ability of phasing out for a turn after his first turn in play. Like the Wandering Emperor this means you can get two activations before he can attacked which is really powerful. Phasing out fits the flavour of a ninja perfectly but it’s also ideal for planeswalkers, a card type that will take over the game if left unchecked. Getting a turn of safety for Kaito means you are guaranteed to get a good return on your three mana investment unless your opponent has dedicated planeswalker removal.

Mukotai Soulripper

Something that stands out in this set are the vehicles, especially those that require coloured mana to cast. When vehicles first appeared in Kaladesh a few like Smuggler’s Copter were too good. Since Kaladesh we have seen coloured artifacts become a regular feature in every set and so unsurprisingly this safety valve is being leant on in this set to allow for really powerful vehicles that hopefully don’t break Standard.

Reckoner Bankbuster might end up being the best vehicle in the set for standard and has definitely gotten a lot of hype, but the vehicle I’m excited about for standard is Mukotai Soulripper. As it grows and gains menace it becomes an extremely efficient and scary threat. I love the flavour of it devouring its pilot, but the strategy of consuming creatures with good death triggers like Eyetwitch seems really powerful. If that wasn’t enough it can also sacrifice disposable artifact tokens like treasures, clues and blood tokens. It just feels far too easy to get this powered up quickly, so I expect this to be very popular in standard.

Another coloured vehicle I have my eye on is Mindlink Mech. A crew cost of one really jumps out as being almost trivial, but the mech’s ability to mimic its pilot is intriguing. I’m sure there are plenty of creatures with abilities or good attack triggers that would be much better on a flying creature. My first thought was King Macar, the Gold-Cursed but the ability can’t clone legendary creatures. I’m excited to see if this can ability can be broken and which creatures make the best pilots.

Mechtitan Core

The last time vehicles were a big theme in a set was Kaladesh when they made their debut. Apart from Peacewalker Colossus these vehicles just don’t have any synergies with other vehicles. Unless you were building a thematic deck you would avoid having too many vehicles in your deck to avoid situations where you don’t have enough pilots to crew all your vehicles. I’m glad to see we have vehicles that get better with other vehicles instead of worse.

Mobilizer Mech and Surgehacker Mech are fun and simple reasons to play more vehicles that will play really well, but the most complicated and exciting payoff that works with vehicles is Mechtitan Core. This would never make my list if I only cared about competitive pedigree but for me the best cards in Magic bring you joy when they work and inspire you to build decks. The idea of combining five mechs into one super mechtitan is so incredibly captivating it doesn’t matter that you spent so much mana and so many cards to make one creature. Winning with Mechtitan Core is the type of challenge a lot of players are going to relish. Consistency and efficiency may be king in competitive play but in casual play it’s more important to have a dream and an inspiration and I think Mechtitan Core will inspire more vehicles deck than any other card to date.

Kodama of the West Tree

Batching is a design technique where three or more concepts are grouped together with a flavourful descriptor. It debuted in Dominaria with historic which cared about artifacts, legendary cards and sagas. It glued the entire set together. Historic was clearly going to lead the way to new ideas and mechanics even if we had no idea where it would go. The next experiment with batching was Party in Zendikar Rising but our newest experiment with batching is very interesting indeed. It feels so natural, as if it could have existed thirty years ago when the game was first created.

I’m talking about modified which groups together equipment, auras you control and counters. This is a fairly comprehensive list of the different ways that you can improve your creatures and it even counts the ability counters that were introduced in Ikoria. Typically these things make your creatures bigger, so giving them all trample is perfect for a deck built around these things. Additionally when you are playing creatures, casting auras and equipment and paying equip costs, you are going to need a lot of mana to sustain your game-plan. The last ability on Kodama is therefore especially welcome in this deck.

My big criticism of the modified mechanic is there aren’t enough rewards for building around the modified mechanic. Kodama of the West Tree is obviously fantastic, and modified is supposed to be the red-green draft archetype. However the underwhelming Heir of the Ancient Fang is the only green common with that references modified which is a pretty big sign that modified is only a minor theme in the set. I understand why because there are so many things going on in the set, from ninjas, sagas, reconfigure, vehicles and so on. I wish we were visiting Kamigawa for more than one set as there are so many themes and ideas that deserve more support. I hope that modified can return soon as it feels like a natural fit for the game.

Cloudsteel Kirin

A big part of cyber-punk is the blending of man and machine which is represented in Neon Dynasty by the reconfigure ability. We have never seen creatures that are also equipment before in part because the rules don’t allow creatures to be attached to other creatures. The rules for reconfigure have naturally been written to work around this, and I’m sure judges will have fun diving into the wacky rules interactions. But what makes reconfigure great is that the idea of a creature that is also equipment is easy to understand. It works perfectly in this set as a way to include more artifacts and modified creatures in the set. Equipment themed decks will love being able to include more creatures with-out having to cut equipment, as running this kind of deck and drawing too few creatures or too few pieces of equipment is just miserable.

Cloudsteel Kirin is my favourite of the reconfigure creatures. As a creature it’s a very efficient flier but if you use the reconfigure ability you a really cool extra ability. Being an equipment also adds new synergy to the game. In older formats, competitive players are excited about Stoneforge Mystic being able to tutor up a powerful threat and good graveyard hate with the very powerful Lion Sash. My biggest knock against reconfigure is that there isn’t enough of it. White is tied to enchantments in this set, but in Magic as a whole it has lots of equipment synergies so I would have loved more white reconfigure cards and at lower rarities. I hope reconfigure returns and we get more cards for white in particular as reconfigure is the perfect mechanic for equipment decks and I think will be more successful even than the equipment support printed in Zendikar Rising and Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.

It’s also nice to see Kirin get some love in this set. As well as Cloudsteel Kirin, we also get Hinata, Dawn-Crowned which can heavily discount spells which have lots of targets like Magma Opus. I like to see mythological creatures in Magic, especially ones that come from other cultures and traditions. Kirin have appeared in a few sets and now have some much better representation in the game. Before this set the best Kirin was probably Celestial Kirin which can destroy all lands in combination with Ugin’s Conjurant. It’s good to see this cool tribe get something more fun than mass land destruction.

The Dragon-Kami Reborn

I’m so happy that sagas have once again returned. Given the huge amount of time that has passed since the original Kamigawa, both in life and in the lore, Sagas are a great way to reintroduce the main characters and events from Kamigawa. This time the sagas are double-faced and transform into enchantment creatures when the third chapter resolves. I’m tired of double-faced cards but this is the best use of them since the double-faced lands in Zendikar Rising.

The Dragon-Kami Reborn combines two incredible art pieces with a cohesive mechanical identity. It takes time for you to accumulate cards in exile with hatching counters but casting any creature for free is an incredible payoff. Sagas are very popular cards but I’m not so keen on sagas that just feel like a random combination of unrelated abilities. The Dragon-Kami Reborn is a shining example of building a narrative with interconnected abilities.

I also like that this saga takes work to maximise. Firstly you can play dragons or changelings so that you can cast multiple creatures from the egg. Alternatively you can try to put the biggest creatures you can on top of your deck. Another problem is getting the egg to die. A canny opponent isn’t going to kill the egg so you might need sacrifice outlets to get your payoff. Sagas often give players so much value you don’t need to sculpt your game-plan around them. I love this saga because I have no idea what the best way to build around it would be, but it’s clearly powerful in the right deck.

Thousand-Faced Shadow

The original Kamigawa block was famous for being unpopular, even if it had a number of hardcore fans. Some people didn’t like the flavour, some didn’t like the low power level and others didn’t like the parasitic mechanics like arcane spells. One real highlight that stood out as being popular was the ninjas and the ninjutsu mechanic. The biggest problem with the ninjas was there were only eight of them printed and most of them had expensive mana costs.

A successful ninjutsu deck needs cheap evasive creatures to function efficiently. Unfortunately the original Kamigawa block didn’t give us any ninjas that fit this bill so ninjutsu decks were forced to rely on cards like Cloud Sprite and Will-o’-the-Wisp which whilst still fun diluted the identity of the deck. When ninjas returned in Modern Horizons we got Phantom Ninja which was a step in the right direction for a thematic deck but ninjas were still drawing from a very small and limited pool of ninjas. Neon Dynasty has literally doubled the number of ninjas in Magic and these new options will be so important for deckbuilding.

Thousand-Faced Shadow is an example of Wizards now designing cards to support archetypes instead of just designing cool individual cards. A one mana 1/1 flying creature is perfect for a ninja deck on turn one, but probably terrible on later turns. The four mana ninjutsu cost on the other hand is unplayable during the first few turns of the game. Being flexible like this reduces the odds of a ninja deck drawing too few evasive creatures or too few ninjutsu payoffs. This isn’t the most exciting ninja in the set but it glues the deck together to provide good consistency. After all a fun but unreliable game-plan doesn’t stay fun if it never works.

Satoru Umezawa

Ninjas are a very popular tribe but there are very few of them as they are so closely tied to the plane of Kamigawa. If you want more ninjas, Satoru Umezawa gives us a cool option by giving any creature the ability to sneak into play like a ninja. This is a really fun way to cheat huge monsters into play but it shouldn’t be too broken. Once you have paid for Satoru, his ability and the unblocked creature you have paid enough mana to stop this from breaking the game. Cards that cheat creatures into play without paying their mana costs have a long history in the game but they must be so hard to balance. If you make them too weak the card is boring and if they are too strong the card can ruin constructed formats. I think Satoru does a really good job of using the flavour and fun of ninjutsu to keep the card fun and exciting without having to make the card too powerful.

March of Swirling Mist

Some cards are designed for fun casual games, some cards are role-players for limited formats whilst others are pushed to see constructed play. The march cycle are clearly in this last category. Combining the flexibility of a variable casting cost with the power of cost reduction and being instant speed, these cards have everything they need to make their mark in constructed.

With all the new ninjas in standard, March of Swirling Mist could be a key piece of a mono-blue tempo deck that can use phasing to protect its own threats or remove blockers temporarily. We last saw this type of deck in Standard when Ixalan was legal with cards like Curious Obsession. This archetype was fascinating to watch and was challenging to play with and against. Notably on the march cycle, the cost reduction requires cards of a specific colour. This stops you discarding unwanted lands but also incentivises you to focus your deck on one colour. How will this restriction shape deck building? Does it stop this seeing play in blue-black ninja decks or is it so good it sees play anyway? I don’t know. I must talk about the fantastic art which is perhaps the most beautiful representation of a magical Japanese mythology plane in the set.

I could have picked any of the marches for this slot. March of Otherworldly Light is incredible removal and March of Wretched Sorrow has fantastic art. March of Reckless Joy works really well when discarding cards as a variation on Thrill of Possibility that can become even bigger when you have lots of cards to discard. The only march I’m uncertain on is March of Burgeoning Life because I’m not sure how best to use it but I’m eager to see if this march sees constructed play and if it enables any shenanigans.

Farewell

Is there a better phrase in all of Magic than choose one or more? With over 23,000 different Magic cards now, it’s surprising we only have a dozen cards with this wonderful line of text. This exclusive grouping includes some great cards like Sublime Epiphany, Casualties of War and Collective Brutality. Not only does this line of text stand out but so does the art. Seb McKinnon once again provides some gorgeous art. What I like most about it is how different it looks from the usual style of art for a board-wipe. These spells are almost guaranteed to show epic wide-scale destruction so something much more intimate and touching is incredibly refreshing to see.

Farewell also deserves such great art because it might be the best six mana wrath in Magic’s history. Exiling instead of destroying is huge, and the flexibility is so powerful. Austere Command and Merciless Eviction have traditionally seen plenty of play in Commander and I think this is perfect for the format. Six mana spells are seeing less and less play as the format speeds up, but I think Farewell does more than enough to justify itself. It even provides a way to exile graveyards to counter strategies that are otherwise difficult to interact with. The only weakness Farewell has, is that it can’t touch planeswalkers. Of course you can just run planeswalkers yourself to maximise the power of Farewell. This is a great card and I doubt we’ll be saying goodbye to Farewell for a long time.

Top Commons and Uncommons

Roadside Reliquary

The rare lands may be spectacular, but the lower rarity lands are very strong as well. Mech Hangar is perfect for building around all the cool new vehicles whilst Uncharted Haven is the non-snow version of Shimmerdrift Vale which I loved in my Kaldheim set review. I expect to see Uncharted Haven appear in sets on a very regular basis going forward. Meanwhile Secluded Courtyard is an even better version of Unclaimed Territory. I’m very happy that these two lands are uncommons because tribal decks are extremely popular with casuals and budget players. I’m also interested to see if having another four copies of this type of land enables more tribal decks in constructed decks.

My favourite of the uncommon lands however is Roadside Reliquary. Lands that can replace themselves are a neat solution to the problem of drawing too many lands but this one also has the opportunity to give you card advantage if you play artifacts and enchantments. In draft this is the Black-White archetype, but I wonder if any colour pair will be able to make use of the reliquary given how many artifacts and enchantments there are in this set. I’ll definitely be playing it based purely on how beautiful the art is. I like that you can still use the land to draw a card if you only control one of the card types which is a great safety valve for when your game-plan isn’t coming together. This theme of combining artifacts and enchantments looks like it will be really fun because you get rewarded for combining all the great things about Kamigawa, like the sagas and the reconfigure creatures.

Peerless Samurai

Peerless Samurai gets my vote for the best flavour text of the set. I love the way the name, art and flavour text combine to tell a story. The card only exists to support a draft archetype but the creative elements of a card can elevate it beyond what pure rules text can achieve alone.

Peerless Samurai is part of the red-white archetype that gives you benefits for attacking alone. Other examples include Asari Captain and Akki Ronin. This has the potential to be a fun archetype where you attack turn after turn and your solo attacker has so many buffs your opponent is forced into lots of unfavourable trades. It really fits the theme of noble samurai but unfortunately I’m sceptical the archetype will find success. It just conflicts with the fundamental aggressive game-plan of pushing as much damage as quickly as you can. I’m glad that it works with warriors as well as samurai, so players aren’t limited to the small number of samurai found in the Kamigawa sets.

Patchwork Automaton

A unexpected side-effect of Kamigawa becoming a futuristic plane is that it’s now home to advanced technology and hence powerful cards for artifact decks. Patchwork Automaton really stands out as a cheap aggressive threat for artifact decks that probably needs to be answered very quickly. Ward 2 is crazy because it makes it almost impossible to kill the automaton without spending more mana than your opponent. I’m excited to see what this can do in eternal formats where there are so many broken cheap artifacts.

Other artifacts that get better with more artifacts in Kamigawa are Automated Artificer and Runaway Trash-Bot. Cards like this are very exciting for artifact decks and I certain we will see much more to come in the near future. Dominaria is another plane with advanced technology and there is no way we get a set based around the Brother’s War without some extremely powerful artifacts. I assume that cards like Patchwork Automaton are seeded into Kamigawa to support not just the themes of Kamigawa but also to support future archetypes in standard. It’s always a fun game to try and predict which cards are designed to pair with mechanics and themes from later set, but this seems like a very obvious example.

Era of Enlightenment

My favourite part of preview season is all the speculation and discussion about new mechanics. The Kamigawa sagas have provoked a lot of interesting conversations. A lot of sagas we have seen in the past have had powerful effects in the early chapters but the new sagas are far slower. Very often the big attraction is the creature on the backside. Take Era of Enlightenment. The back side is a 2/2 first striker which is great for two mana, but you have to wait two turns for it to flip and because it doesn’t have haste it still can’t attack. Because the back side is so good, the first two chapters on the front side only provide small incremental bonuses.

The question is will players play these sagas and wait for them to transform or just play ordinary creatures that can attack much earlier? Which sagas provide enough benefits to compensate for the delay? We have sagas at common now which is surely in part because being creatures makes them better for a creature centric format like limited. But limited formats are getting more and more powerful. If your opponent is attacking you with ninjas or buffed up samurai do you have the time to wait for your sagas to transform? I feel like no-one will know until we get to play with the cards. Even the simplest versions of these transforming sagas at common are really hard to evaluate.

Of the common sagas, my favourites are the cheap ones like Era of Enlightenment and Okiba Reckoner Raid. Slow sagas are going to be horrible to draw late in the game, but if these two in particular are played in the first few turns they are going to be very good creatures. The art on the reverse, Hand of Enlightenment in particular is very beautiful.

Mirrorshell Crab

Channel doesn’t just appear on the busted rare lands but appears on almost any type of permanent. In this set the channel mechanic doesn’t connect to any theme or flavour and the channel abilities are often unrelated to the card when cast normally. For example Moonsnare Prototype has players excited for its potential in Modern but dissecting its design, the two modes of this card have nothing to do with each other and there is nothing to connect all the channel cards together.

We see this all the time in other sets with mechanics like kicker and cycling. Reinforced Ronin even has the channel version of cycling. When channel first appeared in Kamigawa however it had a much stronger identity as it only appeared on spirits and the channel abilities reflected the abilities of each creature. I’m a little sad to see this mechanic lose all its past thematic identity but I have to admit we get a lot of cool channel cards in this set.

My favourite of the channel cards is Mirrorshell Crab whose channel ability does nicely reflect the crab’s ward ability. Having a cheap channel ability also complements a big expensive creature as well. If you can’t afford a seven mana creature, a three mana counterspell is really useful. The counterspell can be defeated if your opponent has too much mana, but in that scenario you are probably close to casting the crab for seven mana. It’s also a big creature that can put itself in your graveyard which is really useful for reanimation strategies. For example it pairs with Argivian Restoration really well. This is a really nice common and easily one of my favourite commons in the set.

Containment Construct

Do you hate discarding cards knowing you missed out on the cards you discarded? Well Containment Construct is for you. Instead of discarding cards for ever, this little robot gives you one last chance to play those cards. Looting effects like Akki Ronin get upgraded into card advantage but what makes Containment Construct so good in this set are all the channel cards. Discarding is part of the channel cost, so you can channel Sunblade Samurai to find a plains and use that plains to cast the samurai. It makes the channel lands even better as the construct also lets you play lands from exile.

I don’t know how this combines with traditional discard strategies. Clearly madness and reanimator strategies don’t want to cast the cards they discard for face value, so this seems to create a new type of discard deck using channel, cycling and blood tokens to get card advantage. That seems really fun, but I don’t know if it is powerful enough to make waves in constructed. I hope I’m proven wrong, as it sounds like a really fun deck with lots of opportunities for deck brewers to discover novel synergies.

Go-Shintai of Lost Wisdom

One of the most beloved cycles from the original Kamigawa block were the shrines such as Honden of Infinite Rage. These were all quite simple, giving you a free effect at the beginning of each turn. For many years shrines were a fun casual option but with only five shrines it wasn’t really possible to build an entire deck around shrines. In the M21 core set we got six more shrines such as Sanctum of Fruitful Harvest. These were more varied designs and having some cheaper shrines made running a shrines deck much easier. They also strayed from the formula of upkeep triggers for more variety. The newest shrines completely break the formula as they are now creatures for the first time.

It’s hard to evaluate how this change will impact the shrines. Simply having five more shrines is great for shrine decks but how do these shrines compare to the originals? Being creatures gives your deck a way to block and defend itself, but also leaves you vulnerable to removal. One of the advantages the old shrines have is that many decks have no access to enchantment removal so once your shrine engine is set up it will snowball and take over the game. This explains why all the new shrines trigger at the beginning of your upkeep so you can get their effect before your opponent has a chance to use sorcery speed removal. I’m really excited to see how these new shrines perform.

My favourite new shrine is the blue one. Being only two mana makes it much cheaper than most shrines and the sooner you can start playing shrines the better all your shrines will be. An 0/4 flying blocker is perfect for a slow deck on turn two and the mill trigger enables a fun strategy of trying to recur shrines from your graveyard. The art is also extremely strange which is perfect for a creature with no creature types. (Shrine is an enchantment type.) I don’t know how shrines will play in limited but I expect to see this shrine attacking in ninjutsu decks which is weird but fun.

Kitsune Ace

Alongside all the cool vehicles we have we also got some cool pilots to support them. You don’t need pilots in your vehicle decks because normal creatures can crew vehicles but I love the way pilots like Speedway Fanatic give their abilities to the machine they control. Kitsune Ace is very similar to Gearshift Ace from Kaladesh but I really appreciate a couple of small changes that were made.

Firstly Kitsune Ace is our first pilot at common, which is great for budget players and limited formats. Having an alternative to granting first strike is also pretty strong. First strike doesn’t matter if your opponent sacrifices a small creature to block a big vehicle or if the vehicle hits your opponent. Untapping the pilot however is great for blocking which vehicle decks can struggle with. Tapping two or more things to attack with each vehicle whilst keeping blockers available can be really hard, so a pilot that can crew and block is perfect. I must point out how well it works with Brute Suit letting the mech attack and block. Unfortunately you can’t give it first strike when blocking with Kitsune Ace, unlike Gearshift Ace, but that would be too good for a common.

I must also mention the mention the brand new pilot tokens as seen on cards like Born to Drive. These are really efficient for crewing your vehicles. For example Born to Drive is perfect in combination with Consulate Dreadnought or Colossal Plow where six power would normally be a very high hurdle to clear. Since these don’t rely on a keyword, I hope these pilots will be able to return in the future. I’d like to see some of them on red cards which had lots of vehicle support in the Kaladesh block.

Blade-Blizzard Kitsune

This set is the debut of our first, and so far only, white ninja and it’s one of my favourite of all the ninjas. This ninja is one of the very few ninjas whose ninjutsu cost is more expensive than its regular cost and for good reason. Double-strike creatures typically get blocked because they are so dangerous. Any pump spell can turn this fox into a threat that takes huge chunks out of your life total. Ninjutsu is a great way to set this up by putting it into play after blocks have been declared.

You can also get creative and use another ninjutsu creature after first strike damage. You only hit for two damage instead of four, but constantly swapping your ninjas in and out of play sounds like a lot of fun. I also just love the art and flavour text. This is a perfect uncommon for me. It’s powerful without being too complex, but good players will find tons of creative ways to exploit ninjutsu.

Ninjutsu is one of those mechanics that encourages all sorts of shenanigans. Going back to Thousand-Faced Shadow, If you have lots of mana, you can ninjutsu in the shadow and after you get the trigger, use another ninjutsu creature to return it to your hand. These tricks were never an option with old ninjas because their abilities all relied on combat damage, but I love all the tricks you can do with the new ninjas.

Rabbit Battery

I said Cloudsteel Kirin was my favourite reconfigure card, but Rabbit Battery might be the most elegant reconfigure design. A haste creature on turn one is great, and giving haste and a stat-boost on later turns is a great way to continuously apply pressure turn after turn. It can even let aggressive decks fight back after a board-wipe. If it’s attached to a creature it won’t die to a board-wipe that only kills creatures so it’s ready to attack or give another creature haste on your next turn. It might be one of the simplest reconfigure cards, but it’s perfect for its archetype and the costs are super cheap at one mana each. It also marks the first rabbit in Standard since Vizzerdrix in ninth edition in 2005 which is pretty crazy.