Neon Dynasty Draft: What Magic Players Got Right…And Wrong

With Streets of New Capenna on the horizon, it’s time to look back at Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Draft. Which MTG cards did the masses underrate and overrate at the start of the format, and why?

Imperial Oath, illustrated by Nicholas Elias

I don’t see anything inherently wrong with grading a set before it’s released. We’re all starving for takes and need our content mommies, daddies, and non-binary parental figures to slop them into our Magic: The Gathering maws. What I do take issue with is filling up on those takes like a bear with a bounty of salmon in early fall and then emerging emaciated in spring. If you want to improve as a Limited player, you must check back on your initial thoughts and confront them, even if it leaves your initial thoughts like the inside of a car parked at Yellowstone with food in the back seat. Now is the winter of this content.

With Streets of New Capenna previews about to start flooding my Twitter feed like awful jokes about The Slap, I’ve broken down the data about Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty (NEO), specifically where we were wrong and how we’ve adapted. I’ll mention two different metrics from 17Lands data that I’ve compared to see where we were Week 1 and the last seven days: Average Taken At (ATA) and % Picked. The former evaluates if a card has moved up, as indicated by a plus sign, or has fallen later in the draft with a negative number. The latter looks at what percentage of 17Lands players pick a card relative to the number of times they see it. 

Cards We Underrated

Imperial Oath (+4.95 ATA)

Imperial Oath

Deserving of its own category, Imperial Oath is the winner of the Shepherd of Heroes award for the underrated white card that stabilizes the game for you, if not winning it outright. Jumping nearly five picks might be the largest delta from the opening of a format to two months in I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, you should draft and play as many copies of Imperial Oath as you see.

Suit Up (+2.85 ATA)

Suit Up

Suit Up looked more Brooks Brothers than Tom Ford coming into the format. Boy, were we wrong. Here’s what I wrote about it back on March 4th

“… 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.”

Since then, I’ve expanded the decks I’m willing to Suit Up my creatures in to include Izzet Artifacts and Esper Vehicles. In Izzet, for example, a random flyer can represent lethal, as the deck has explosive starts. In Esper, people attack into Vehicles it doesn’t look like you can crew far too frequently for me to leave the opportunity in the sideboard.

Farewell (+22.56% Picked)


A modal sweeper seemed fine initially, but Farewell was the second-biggest gainer on my list. What changed? First, there are games when choosing only enchantments will wipe your opponent’s battlefield of creatures, Sagas, and more, while leaving you relatively unfazed. Second, white wound up playing more of a defensive gameplan than anyone imagined, leaving all of these modes on the board. Finally, this format lacks very many ways to interact with an opponent’s graveyard, which makes exiling their departed cards meaningful when Shigeki / Season of Renewal / Colossal Skyturtle loops are running around. 

Green Cards

Season of Renewal (+2.52 ATA), Fade into Antiquity (+2.17 ATA), Geothermal Kami (+1.88 ATA), Spinning Wheel Kick (+1.79 ATA)

Season of Renewal Fade into Antiquity

Geothermal Kami Spinning Wheel Kick

Speaking of which, Season of Renewal turned out to be the big winner here, as most people underrated Sagas and the impact they’d have on NEO Draft initially. Getting them plus an additional creature back turned out to be big game against slower decks. Fade into Antiquity never feels like it’s light on targets and exiles them, leaving Season decks out in the cold. Geothermal Kami isn’t great defensively, but gaining three life gives you some defensive speed. Being able to return numerous targets, from an enchantment creature locked down by Tamiyo’s Compleation to your own Twisted Embrace, means it is great at any phase of the game.

Reader James V wrote in noting how strong Golgari Enchantments can be specifically, saying “you could see the frustration in the faces of my opponents as their board state remained empty.”  If you hadn’t noticed, these cards tend to favor a longer game, leaving Spinning Wheel Kick as a devastating finisher when you’ve reached eight mana. There are few games I’ve drawn it without being able to wipe out most of my opponent’s creatures.

Green Fixing

Jungle Hollow (+1.62 ATA), Blossoming Sands (+1.56), Grafted Growth (+1.52), Thornwood Falls (+1.51), Network Terminal (+1.4)

Jungle Hollow Blossoming Sands Grafted Growth

Thornwood Falls Network Terminal

In the early weeks, nothing felt better than jamming your three-to-five color green deck when all of your splashes were so easy to cast. The halcyon days of wheeling your Network Terminal may be over, but the deck still slaps if your table is sticking to the traditional archetype scripts. Check out my primer on how to draft it in my article on hidden decks from last week.

Cards We Overrated

Eater of Virtue (-21.18% Picked)

Eater of Virtue

Sierkovitz, one of my favorite people in Magic and an incredible numbers guy, chastised people for drafting Eater of Virtue too highly on a recent podcast appearance, and the data backs him up. This looked like a slam dunk in any deck initially, but instead is probably best in your red-based aggressive strategies. Most decks simply don’t like exiling their creatures, or else receive no bonus from doing so when they’re the back side of a Saga. Consider me the eater of crow.

Boros Aggro

Risona, Asari Commander (-2.43 ATA); Asari Captain (-2.05 ATA); Peerless Samurai (-1.91 ATA); Ancestral Katana (-1.88 ATA); Imperial Subduer (-1.65 ATA)

Risona, Asari Commander Asari Captain Peerless Samurai

Ancestral Katana Imperial Subduer

I mean, who was drafting Peerless Samurai that highly to begin with that it has almost two full picks to fall? Kidding aside, the singular focus on two tribes didn’t pan out the way the design team had hoped, leaving this as one of the most underdrafted decks I can remember. Red decks are happy to poach the more aggressive cards, while white broadly ignores the Samurai and Warrior cards altogether. If you find yourself in that situation, check out my piece on how to win in Boros, as long as you understand you should try to find yourself in any other scenario first.

Three-Color Rares

Isshin, Two Heavens as One (-3.09 ATA); Hinata, Dawn-Crowned (-2.1 ATA)

Isshin, Two Heavens as One Hinata, Dawn-Crowned

Largely a reflection of how bad Boros was, Isshin, Two Heavens as One will be destined to rule in Commander and drool like Pavlov’s dog in Limited. Hinata, Dawn-Crowned shares a similar fate, but this seems to be more representative of the efficiency of spells in the format. I think Studio X missed an opportunity to give us a Fireball-esque effect that could have reaped the benefits of Hinata’s cost reduction ability. Alas, a 4/4 trampler for four mana couldn’t find a home here.

Roaring Earth (-13.24% Picked)

Roaring Earth

With modified being a flop, Roaring Earth fell ironically flat, as you often didn’t want to play enough lands to make it count. The failsafe as an incredibly expensive flash creature wasn’t ideal, either. What’s the ideal game scenario for this? Cast a two-drop on Turn 2, then cast this Turn 3, play a land, and give your two-drop a +1/+1 counter? Then play a three-drop, another land, and give it a counter? You feel like you’re always playing a little behind your curve. 


Hotshot Mechanic (-2.21 ATA), Mobilizer Mech (-2.2 ATA), Dragonfly Suit (-1.79 ATA)

Hotshot Mechanic Mobilizer Mech Dragonfly Suit

Azorius Vehicles felt niche from the first drafts I tried it in, relying on too many cards that are generically good like Reckoner Bankbuster and Surgehacker Mech. People aren’t passing those to you. I’ve had some success in Esper versions of this deck, but honestly, cards like Hotshot Mechanic and Dragonfly Suit aren’t the ones that are paying you off for going three colors.

Crew costs seem relatively low, despite a generation of Pilots that can drive Vehicles beyond their strength, so everything here felt more geared to Constructed. Mobilizer Mech is the epitome of this. When the median crew cost in NEO is two mana, paying three for a free activation feels relatively boring.

Cards We Properly Rated

This is a long list, so I’ll defer to my full spreadsheet. Please, don’t touch anything. I mean, you can’t because the data is locked, but if you want to mess around with different views, please make your own copy.

Final Picks

I’m not sure if a format is ever truly “solved” at this point, but it feels like we have a solid handle on NEO. Cards go where they should in a draft. When they don’t, you move into those colors. This is the way. That way leaves plenty of room for exploiting some of these misfit toys that we’re seeing stuck on the island that is the end of the pack, and next week I’ll bring some spicy brews to the table that I cannot advise drafting. They’re simply fun.