Magic’s newest expansion has us returning to the much maligned and beloved plane of Kamigawa, far into the cyberpunk future from our previous visit. A returning set means returning mechanics, and we’ve got our share here, plus some new ones to ponder. In this article we’ll talk about the mechanics and offer some thoughts on what they mean for different formats and how they’ll play.
Ninjutsu is a creature ability that lets you pay a cost to swap an unblocked attacker with the card from your hand, which is then put into play tapped and attacking. This allows you to sneak creatures into play, pull of nasty combat tricks, and trigger all sorts of enters/leave the battlefield effects.
FromTheShire: This is probably most people’s favorite mechanic out of the original Kamigawa block, as you might have guessed from how Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow blew up when it was released for Commander. Ninjas are a hugely popular nerd trope and the mechanic is extremely fun and great for keeping your opponents off balance so it’s not hard to see why. One of the main problems single block mechanics have is reaching that critical mass of playable cards, and while ninjas made out better in that respect than most, it’s still fantastic to get an influx of new cards and sweet new Commanders.
TheChirurgeon: The flavor fits pretty well for ninjas, and there’s a lot of sneaky stuff you can do here. I think they kind of false started a few times doing a ninjutsu commander, with the first big swing being Vela the Night-clad back in Planechase. Anyways, the more ninjas the better – keeps the surprise up and Ninjutsu as a mechanic is pretty well designed in that only the creature in your hand needs the ability.
BPhillipYork: I like ninjas, I play my Yuriko, the tiger’s claw deck when I want something that is high-powered but not cEDH. Granted cEDH Yuriko, the tigers claw is possible, especially with even more new ninjas. But the satisfaction of flipping over Draco (also of actually having something to do with Draco) and hitting every other player for 16 life at once is pretty fun. And there’s so much topdeck manipulation, when you manage to brainstorm Draco back on top again, the same turn, that’s pretty fun. I think I’ll also be taking a stab at a true cEDH Yuriko with Kamagawa, Neon Dynasty cards included. I think seeing Ninjitsu appear in other colors is also interesting, and given how reliant many decks are on etb effects could see some interesting ninjutsu esque combos appearing outside of good ol Dimir Blue Black. Obviously it’s pretty on point for the theme, which is magic and cyberpunk, so I guess it’s Shadowrun, but not. And there were definitely Ninjas in Shadowrun.
Sagas are enchantments that provide effects each time a Lore Counter is added to them, which occurs when they enter the battlefield and in your Draw Step. They also tend to be closely connected to the set’s lore and backstory. The big unique thing this time around is that the Sagas of Kamigawa Neon Dynasty transform when they reach their third phase.
FromTheShire: Sagas fit very well with the epic, mystical storytelling that Kamigawa is home to. On a plane where nearly every aspect of nature is inhabited by spirits, it feels only right that in a new twist the stories themselves come alive and transform into creatures after getting their final lore counter.
TheChirurgeon: I love Sagas and I want them in every set. Mostly because they get the raddest art of the sets. They also fit in exceptionally well with Neon Dynasty’s Enchantments theme, and that also means they’ll fit in well in the insane Enchantress decks I’m going to attempt to make after this set releases. Many of them turn into Enchantment creatures, which creates additional utility.
BPhillipYork: I like sagas, though they often struggle in 4-player games. I’d like to see more printed that do something to each opponent, though the difficulty in balancing that is fairly high. I’m also pretty excited to see some better enchantment recursion. The return of sagas, another replenish, and a 5-color legendary creature with the built-in ability to recur sagas amongst other things is all to the good in my opinion. I also like the idea of stories being so powerful they actually have effects in a game, which is an interesting flavor twist, and sagas are also a place where WotC is clearly experimenting with the design. Urza’s Saga was the first land enchantment, and also land saga, and also free saga, and now we have transforming sagas.
Channel is an ability word that indicates the card may be discarded for an effect. It’s an activated ability that gives cards a bit more utility, most notably on the new Legendary Land cycle (as shown above), where it gives duplicate lands added value.
FromTheShire: Speaking of seldom-used mechanics, we see Channel make another appearance after showing up in Saviors of Kamigawa and a few Modern Horizons cards. There are multiple similar effects out there, but the general idea is to make cards useful both in the beginning and ending stages of a game by giving you modularity on your cards which is always welcome.
TheChirurgeon: I really like this on the new legendary lands, where it gives you a reason to have more than 1 or 2 of them.
BPhillipYork: I’ll be honest I think these channeling lands are so good, really busted, that they turn into auto-includes for commander, and the only reason they might not is there are so many really good auto-includes already. However I do really like to see more value lands that don’t turn dead when you don’t need lands. I continually find one of magics worst design flaws is the way that having land in your deck interacts with actually playing the game, so this is yet another way of having optional land or spell cards, which I do like to see.
Reconfigure is a keyword ability that allows an artifact creature to attach or unattach as equipment to another creature. While its attached it stops being a creature. Note that “equipment” is not a creature type, regardless of how it’s templated on these creatures.
FromTheShire: Reconfigure is an interesting twist for Equipment, another theme that was heavily represented with the original block. Now your artifacts can be creatures when they don’t have anything to equip, or they can hop off of an equipped creature after combat damage to give you a blocker. It does make it more susceptible to removal and sweepers which is one of the big upsides of regular equipment, so that’s something to keep in mind.
TheChirurgeon: They finally figured out how to make Licids work, in a less horribly confusing way. They’ve done some interesting things with the new mechanic, and similar to Equipment it solves the problem of not losing two cards when the equipped creature dies, though now as an added bonus you get the creature back. The value on these in Commander is going to depend entirely on how strong the indvidual cards are but it’s a strong mechanic.
BPhillipYork: Artifact creatures that become essentially equipment is really just a backward twist on vehicles, but I do think it’s handled pretty nicely here, and it works well with the new modified mechanic. However, I do like the idea that you can cast something small early in the game and it doesn’t become irrelevant if your opponents get a late-game blocker out. In a sense it’s sort of like banding used the be, the ability to glom together small things to fight one large thing. Oh my is that foreshadowing something in the set…
Basically a new game term for something we’ve had forever. Modified refers to something that’s equipped, enchanted, or has counters on it.
FromTheShire: Modified is another twist on existing mechanics, this time rewarding you for equipping, enchanting, or giving counters to your creatures. While this doesn’t seem to be terribly pushed for Commander, giving bonuses for these things in constructed is very nice. The biggest reason that Auras and Equipment historically aren’t very good is that they open you up to getting 2 for 1’d or worse when you spend your whole turn and multiple cards making one creature super swole only for it to get killed by a single piece of removal, and getting a bunch of incidental bonuses to help offset the card disadvantage may well mean we see these kind of decks getting played more.
TheChirurgeon: This is a fine idea and it makes sense to give it a term and do more with it. The backstory behind making something that works in limited for both enchantment and artifact themes all makes sense and this is a good way of encouraging you to build up on your creatures. There are a ton of effects in commander that can make use of cards that key of modified creatures.
BPhillipYork: Modified is fine, it does help address the issue of how bad equipment and auras often are, except when they are totally busted Rancor and WotC seems to have a hard time hitting that on the mark. But this lets you print some decent things that modify and then get more benefit from them, and hopefully that makes more equipment or auras or obviously, reconfigured things playable without it being so pushed as cards like Embercleave.
Next Time: The Set’s Monocolor Cards
That wraps up our look at the mechanics of Neon Dynasty. We’ll be back later to look at the most noteworthy cards in the set, starting with the monocolor cards in the main set, then in the following article we’ll cover multicolor and colorless cards before moving on to the set’s Commander decks. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.