Here’s How To Win Your MTG Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Quick Drafts This Weekend

Looking for an edge in your Quick Drafts on MTG Arena? Jake Browne is back with the best strategy to beat the bots and build powerful decks.

Nezumi Road Captain
Nezumi Road Captain, illustrated by Victor Adame Minguez

Like John DiMaggio on Futurama, Quick Draft is back, baby! By the time you’re reading this, we’ll have one week left to beat the bots (not Bender, but Magic Arena) at Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty (NEO) Draft. Fortunately, the artificial “intelligence” is ignoring one of my favorite archetypes: Dimir Ninjas. So, if you’re looking to advance your rank in the new season this weekend and get some drafts in, I want to break down how you can maximize your playtime. 

Why Dimir?

What if I told you that the sixth- and eleventh-best cards, period, in Dimir were reliably available as our fourth pick? Is that something that might interest you?

Life of Toshiro Umezawa Behold the Unspeakable

The mythic uncommons of the archetype are undoubtedly Life of Toshiro Umezawa and Behold the Unspeakable. The former can pick off a small creature, make one of ours big, or gain a little life if we’re in a race. The latter slows down our opponent’s creatures and then draws us between two and four cards. On top of all of that, they both become creatures, like some kind of charitable vending machine Transformer named Ultra Snackus. 

According to 17Lands, the two Sagas have Average Taken At (ATA) numbers of pick 5.03 and 4.91, respectively, meaning they’re available roughly two entire picks (3.11, 2.76) after humans would take them in a Premier Draft. Seeing a Life of Toshiro Umezawa available Pack 1, Pick 8 feels like stealing candy from a robot baby


Now, let’s be clear: these are two exceptional cards in most decks in the format. The real kicker is that in Dimir, we’re able to use ninjutsu to return them to our hand, if we deem necessary, and repeat the whole Saga over again. Blue also contains bounce and blink effects, but we’re going to call upon our Ninjas to do the heavy lifting for us most of the time.

Uncommons We Love

Perusing trophies, I quickly noticed that most had at least a single copy of High-Speed Hoverbike, which bots draft 1.67 picks later than humans. Our Kirkland brand Light Cycles do fantastic work in this deck, tapping down an opposing blocker to set up ninjutsu and giving us an evasive threat to bounce with an “enters the battlefield” effect when we have a ninjutsu card in hand. When it comes to bikes in NEO, I’m a regular Lance Armstrong. Only without all the performance-enhancing drugs and torrid love affairs with Sheryl Crow.

High-Speed Hoverbike Circuit Mender

Circuit Mender also makes the list of staples available later than it should be—nearly three total picks after humans would have slammed the bug—and that slots in well with our strategy. Note that Mender Mending Rodriguez’s “draw a card” ability triggers not on death but exiting the battlefield, making it a prime ninjutsu target. Finally, the bots simply don’t acknowledge Dokuchi Silencer as a card (ATA 11.85). While we don’t love the sounds of Silence in our deck, sometimes we’d like anything with the keyword on it. That keyword, for what feels like the millionth time in this article: ninjutsu.

In terms of cards the bots tend to overdraft, enter our lord of the swords in Silver-Fur Master, taken two picks ahead of where humans do. If we see Splinter for Sprinters, we shouldn’t hesitate to reach a little bit, as we’re unlikely to accrue too many over the course of a draft.

Commons We Should See Wheel

Our headliner is Searchlight Companion, another evasive threat that gives us the nominal bonus of creating a 1/1 colorless Spirit token. I have been nonplussed with the tokens thus far; they tend to play like the premade side salad at a Red Lobster and not the delicious Cheddar Bay Biscuit I had hoped for. Still, the main dish of the Companion gets around our opposing blockers. I’ve found that these almost always wheel and have made the mistake of taking them early, only to wind up cutting two of the five from my final deck.

Searchlight Companion Dokuchi Shadow-Walker

Next up, we have our beefcake: Dokuchi Shadow-Walker. This is a fringe wheel with an ATA of 8.78, but we should have a feel for how popular they are at the table by Pack 3. The nice thing is that we’re never clamoring for more than a pair in a deck, as it plays more like a Lava Axe than a consistent way to pressure the battlefield. We have ways to get in damage early, so consider this a finishing move.

Filling Out the Rest

Ideally, we’re coming out of our Dimir draft with a low-to-the-ground, aggressive deck that can ninjutsu a variety of abilities designed to keep our opponents off-balance. As such, here’s a quick set of rankings that address where we want the commons in each slot to wind up. Since one-drops keep getting better with seemingly every Limited environment lately, let’s start there. 

One-Drops (Two to Four Slots)

#1: Okiba Reckoner Raid

Okiba Reckoner Raid

Our ideal Turn 1 play, Okiba Reckoner Raid starts pinging immediately and gives us a menace’d-out Dennis to return at a later date.

#2: Network Disruptor

Network Disruptor

Evasive? Check. Takes away blockers? Check. An enters-the-battlefield effect for the times when we need to recast it? Check. 

#3: Clawing Torment

Clawing Torment

We don’t ever want multiple copies, but Clawing Torment removes a blocker while adding damage if they can’t get their creature off the battlefield.

Honorable Mentions: Ninja’s Kunai, Iron Apprentice

Ninja's Kunai Iron Apprentice

I’m lower on Ninja’s Kunai than most, as this deck hates turning our creatures sideways if it doesn’t involve attacking, but sometimes throwing it at our opponent’s face will make for lethal. Iron Apprentice is only needed when we fail to find any other Turn 1 plays, but simply leaving the battlefield doesn’t let us throw its counter on another body, so I’m not a huge fan.

Two-Drops (Nine to Twelve Slots)

#1: Virus Beetle

Virus Beetle

Virus Beetle is the card I loathe facing more than anything because, when paired with ninjutsu, I feel like I have to use actual removal spells on it, lest I discard twice. Beetle is our top target to bounce when given the option and has led to more concessions than feels right for a Ravenous Rats. It’s also an artifact, which is surprisingly relevant.

#2: The Modern Age

The Modern Age

If there’s one card the bots are dead wrong on, it’s The Modern Age, with an egregious Average Last Seen At (ALSA) of 7.23 compared to 4.82 in Premier drafts. We love to see it early to set up our turns with a 2/3 flyer coming soon after, but it also is a reason we hold excess lands later in the hopes of cashing them in for a timelier play. 

#2.5: Moon-Circuit Hacker

Moon-Circuit Hacker

Moon-Circuit Hacker feels damn near tied with our previous listicle item, as it’s often a de facto one-drop that draws us a card. If anything, I’ll take it higher because it’s another card the bots are a little too high on (ALSA: 3.56), meaning I’ll have a hard time accruing an army of keyboards making hacker noises. 

#3: Lethal Exploit

Lethal Exploit

While we don’t accrue a ton of modifications here, Lethal Exploit is the early interaction that is kid-tested and mom-approved, insofar as I always play one for kicks. 

#4: Inkrise Infiltrator

Inkrise Infiltrator

We’ll spend our early turns bouncing Inkrise Infiltrator until the mana is lying around to pump it, swinging with a 3/4 flying Ninja with wings that frankly disgust me. 

If this list of Turn 2 action feels a little light, don’t worry: most of our best uncommons play here. When they don’t, we feature quite a few options for ninjutsu at 1U and 1B.

Three-Drops (Three to Five Slots)

#1: Suit Up

Suit Up

You are underplaying this card, and it shows, drafters. We’re not playing six and throwing caution to the Wind-Scarred Crag, but what choice does our opponent have when we attack a Virus Beetle into their Shigeki, Jukai Visionary? Risk it getting ninjutsu’d back for another discard? Drawing a card off a combat trick where our opponent is highly incentivized to block makes too much damn sense. The only problem: our robot enemies love this card 2.52 picks more than we do. Get one, thank me later.

#2: Searchlight Companion

Searchlight Companion

See above.

#3: Nezumi Bladeblesser

Nezumi Bladeblesser

I’ve come way up on Nezumi Bladeblesser, finding it not at all challenging to give it both menace and deathtouch, a Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker-level hilariously deadly combo. Nothing beats attacking with it and a Saga creature, getting the double block, and then ninjutsuing our Saga back for a Mukotai Ambusher to give our #Blesser deathtouch. If you pull it off, tag me on Twitter for a prize.

Dishonorable mention to Moonfolk Puzzlemaker, which has been painfully dull for me thus far. Our deck shouldn’t lack evasion to the point we need something with so little offensive punch.

Four-Drops (Up to Four Slots)

#1: Twisted Embrace

Twisted Embrace

Not overly synergistic, Twisted Embrace kills things. We don’t sport a ton of hard removal, so it plays. If we’re worried about getting blown out in response, an uncrewed High-Speed Hoverbike makes a perfect home for it.

#2: Moonsnare Specialist

Moonsnare Specialist

Man-o’-War continues to be a robust Limited card. We don’t need to be sold on Moonsnare Specialist, especially when considering we can use it to bounce our Sagas for extra value.

#3: Kami of Terrible Secrets

Kami of Terrible Secrets

This may be controversial over Mukotai Ambusher, but I am absolutely in love with Kami of Terrible Secrets. And not Kanye-rebound-relationship love where I’ll be over it in a week. Drawing cards can be critical to keeping this deck gassed up, and a point of life is a point of life. It’s also an awkward block for our opponents, giving us another high-value target with an enters-the-battlefield effect for, say it with me, ninjutsu.

#4: Mukotai Ambusher

Mukotai Ambusher

An all-around solid playable that will help us win a race or two, Mukotai Ambusher does what’s asked of it while providing us another artifact. Ambusher may also be the best target in the deck for the +2/+2 mode of Life of Toshiro Umezawa. 

#5: Tamiyo’s Compleation

Tamiyo's Compleation

I’m not in the Tamiyo’s Compleation of the Month club, let’s put it that way. We’re never playing more than a single copy.

#6: Skyswimmer Koi

Skyswimmer Koi

I still yearn for the days when a 3/3 flyer for four total mana was a worthwhile play.

Five-Drops and Higher (One to Two Slots)

Hopefully, we’re getting some support here from our uncommons and rares. Still, I am okay with a random Mirrorshell Crab here in addition to our Shadow-Walkers, even if we’re usually spending our mana like it was a pandemic check from the government. Remember those? They were dope.

Our Traps

Most people would expect Kami of Restless Shadows here, but we’re happy to play one if, and it’s a big if, we have a couple of high-value targets at uncommon or higher. Otherwise, our Ninjas and Rogues tend to have run their course by the time we’d be casting their recouped versions on Turn 6.

With all of this freaking ninjutsu we’ve been talking about, where does Papercraft Decoy fit in? Doesn’t the Circuit Mender effect apply here? In short, no. Paying for ninjutsu plus two to draw off a Decoy is too mana-intensive for us. This also applies to Acquisition Octopus, which seems like a no-brainer given our access to evasive creatures. We need to be doing cool, dangerous things quickly, not amassing resources. We’re Brock Samson, not James Bond.

Go-Shintai of Lost Wisdom

Shrines of all sizes, shapes, and colors are plain out. I’ve tried using Go-Shintai of Lost Wisdom to cheat things onto the battlefield. Then we’re left with a Go-Shintai of Lost Wisdom. Not ideal. The exception is a deck that is swimming in The Modern Age and Dokuchi Silencers. Actually, not even then. Please forget I said anything.

Do We Splash?

In general, I don’t think we need it. I’m rarely short on playables and would rather play with consistent mana that doesn’t enter the battlefield tapped so that I can be nimble and linear.

Kappa Tech-Wrecker

The one exception I see is green, where the number of Kappa Tech-Wreckers going around the table makes me practically verdant with jealousy. Sultai (or Dimir with a green splash) can be highly synergistic, as KT-W, Coiling Stalker, and Spring-Leaf Avenger all have, you guessed it, ninjutsu. I also don’t mind a Colossal Skyturtle as a closer or early Unsummon when needed, but overall, I would tend to say we’re better off Dimir.

Ninjutsumming It All Up

You bet your sweet bippy I got it in one more time. Overall, there’s a lot to love in this deck, mainly playing the bots instead of a draft table. Getting value later in your picks means you can focus on taking big swings early. Just make sure those swings aren’t with an Enormous Energy Blade. So go forth and ninjutsu, my friends.