Forget Ninjas — Artifacts Are The New Stars Of Kamigawa!

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty’s artifacts make up a quarter of the latest MTG set… and much more of its potential impact in Standard and Modern. Bryan Gottlieb shares four intriguing artifact-based decks.

Surgehacker Mech, illustrated by Wisnu Tan

When I sat down to write this article, I didn’t have any kind of thematic conceit in mind. My goal was to simply share some of the most interesting decks that the impending release of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty inspired me to create. Then I looked back over the decks I intended to share. Every single one was heavily leveraging new artifacts.

Some of this is rooted in just how much artifacts are capable of in this set. In the cards I’m highlighting today we have card advantage, countermagic, removal, aggression, mana sources, tutor targets, engines, sweeper protection, and more. Artifacts have been expanding their range for a while now, but Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is really taking it to the next level.

A quick Scryfall search suggests this set contains 70 (!) artifacts. While that represents about a quarter of the set size, it would not shock me if artifacts make up 80-90% of this set’s impact in competitive spaces. And this is as things stand right now. With The Brothers’ War on the near horizon, there’s a good bet the focus on artifacts only increases in the smaller formats like Standard and Alchemy. Start wrapping your head around playing some more answers to them not only in sideboards, but in maindecks. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself facing down powerful engines like this:

At its core this deck is simple artifact aggro, designed to leverage Michiko’s Reign of Truth alongside multiple cheap artifact threats. Even better, those threats can turn into Equipment for your eventual Portrait of Michiko. Giving a big beater haste and double strike via Rabbit Battery and Lizard Blades respectively will win a few games on Turn 4 or 5 with good curves. That’s all well and good, but this deck starts to get exciting when you look at its card advantage and incremental damage engines.

Oni-Cult Anvil Reinforced Ronin Experimental Synthesizer

These three cards in particular mean that your deck is set up to grind just as much as it is to run over an opponent, and those are the types of aggro decks that really catch my attention. Getting two cards of value out of a card like Experimental Synthesizer feels like you’re playing with a Modern deck in Standard, and this is all happening while buffing your Portrait of Michiko in the background. Add Ingenious Smith and it becomes hard for you to run out of threats.

In sideboard games, I want to flesh out midrange plans a bit more, and you’ve got the type of card advantage required to play a controlling role built around Reckoner Bankbuster and Surgehacker Mech. We’re already playing Hotshot Mechanic anyway for its stats as a cheap artifact creature, so crewing up after dishing out removal and turtling up should be trivial. Just pop in the Shatterskull Smashings to get your land count high enough to support the new mana requirements. Against pure control, I’m looking to max out Reinforced Ronin to both push damage and lean into my Oni-Cult Anvils.

This deck is so exactly my style of nonsense. This is certainly what I’m sleeving up on Day 1 of the new format, but I can’t write about Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty’s artifacts and ignore the best card in the entire set.

Moonsnare Prototype unlocks a lot of decks, perhaps none more so than this oddball Izzet Vehicles list. Surgehacker Mech is ready to step up as your primary from of removal, especially when it’ll often be good to go on Turn 3. It’s accompanied in Game 1 by Mindlink Mech, and wow are there some good synergies with this card. Rabbit Battery crews it up to make a hasty flyer on Turn 3, but when the Lizard Blades hop in the cockpit, things get completely out of control.

We’ve got fine options for card advantage in this deck as well, as our Izzet allegiance gets us the absurdly pushed Expressive Iteration. Also finally getting some run is Voltaic Visionary, mostly for its ability to crew a Surgehacker Mech singlehandedly for just two mana, but it will also happily carry those Lizard Blades into combat for you. Round things out with some removal and a fun-of Atsushi, the Blazing Sky as an additional way to crew up our bigger mechs, and you’ve got another deck with a flexible approach to winning games that still offers extremely powerful nut draws.

The sideboard brings more removal, disruption, and card advantage, including a Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh that should routinely get you a card in hand, and will certainly win the game if it ultimates. Maybe we’re a little too soft to big bodies, but you’ve always got Moonsnare Prototype to bail you out.

Forsaken Monument has always been an absurdly powerful card. It just asks a lot of you in deckbuilding, and its requirements have not been kind to the types of effects that could accelerate out Monument itself. Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty addresses that problem twice over with Automated Artificer and Moonsnare Prototype. We’ve even picked up colorless removal in the form of Surgehacker Mech.

If this deck has a real flaw, its that it has a hard time producing bodies that are large enough to crew our many Vehicles prior to Forsaken Monument coming down. This is where Mech Hangar comes into play, and it gives us a viable path to victory with just Surgehacker Mech. Cosima, God of the Voyage is also a concession to the problem, and a way to both add more Vehicles to the mix and actually put some power on the battlefield.

This deck looks like the weakest of these three options, but there’s still some potential here. Plus, you might just get to assemble a Mechtitan Core, so even if you lose a bunch, it’s probably worth it.

Standard is not the only space where I expect the artifacts of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty to shine. It doesn’t take a deckbuilding genius to recognize that Stoneforge Mystic can grab the Equipment creatures. What is far more interesting here is how those creatures also interact with Aether Vial, and the synergies all the cards in these packages have with Urza’s Saga. Lion Sash has the type of effect that is playable in Modern on its face, but in a Stoneforge Mystic / Aether Vial deck it’s truly next level. Blade of the Oni is markedly worse, but battlefields are more compact in Modern, and it can be hard to turn up multiple blockers in some instances.

I’d certainly file this list in the “very rough draft” category. Do we really need to have eleven different Equipment for our Stoneforge Mystics to search up? Probably not, but there’s the weird sense of each inclusion being free enough that I can’t talk myself out of them. Each one has such different roles and mana requirements that for now I just want to spend time learning how much I can get away with.

We’ve got so many ways to cheat on mana in this deck that classifying its approach as fair feels like a disservice. Sure, the end result is some creatures and some light disruption. But between Solitude, Stoneforge Mystic activations, Aether Vial, and Urza’s Saga, you’ll play some turns at plus six or seven virtual mana, with more than enough on-battlefield mana sinks to ensure maximum expenditure of that savings. That backed up by the disruption of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben; Lion Sash; and Thoughtseize might be just enough to keep pace in an explosive format.

Mirrorshell Crab

I’d be remiss if I left Mirrorshell Crab out of the discussion of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty artifacts entirely, although artifact synergies have almost nothing to do with my excitement about this card. Mirrorshell Crab has immediate potential in every deck that cares deeply about keeping its converted mana cost high enough to trigger specific cascades. It’s of particular note for something like blue-based Living End decks, where it’s checking multiple boxes as a reanimation target, reasonably cheap disruption, and a blue card for Force of Negation. I even wonder if there’s some space in Standard to just play this card fairly and look to rebuy it with Raise Dead or reanimation effects.

On the whole, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty looks to be a complete home run. There are powerful cards destined to make an impact across multiple formats, but nothing that really frightens me for its potential to be broken in half. That’s a tricky needle to thread, and I wonder if slotting a lot of power into artifacts is a big portion of its success. Doing so enables important synergies in older formats with things like Nettlecyst or Stoneforge Mystic while also introducing vulnerability to a wider removal suite — a vulnerability sure to matter in fairer environments like Standard.

Artifact focus is still a tool that I would use sparingly, but there’s no question it paid big dividends in the development of this set.