At this point in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Draft, the winning strategies are starting to clearly separate from the rest. This doesn’t mean that the format isn’t balanced or good. Something will always be the best, and given the self-correcting nature of Draft, whatever is the best tends to change over time. At the moment, here is how I see the format:
1. Red is the worst color.
Red isn’t bad, and I’m absolutely willing to draft it. It usually requires a combination of artifact synergies and aggression, although there’s another artifact axis that’s a slower three-color Grixis deck.
The point here is that, while red can be good, there isn’t much reason to draft it until the world corrects. Kami’s Flare and Voltage Surge are still being taken way too highly, and improperly putting too many people at the table in red. I’m willing to draft red, but it’s harder to justify than other colors.
2. Blue is overdrafted.
Last week I spoke about how, in terms of card quality in how everything lines up in the format, blue has the most B-tier commons. I still stand by this. However, I often end up pivoting out of blue because the color dries up frequently. While I still think the color is very strong, I no longer bias towards it.
3. Green is the place to be.
In particular, a multicolor strategy that’s either base Selesnya or base Golgari. Regardless of the secondary color, the strategy is exactly the same: go in on enchantment synergies, draft Sagas, and splash powerful cards and interaction if necessary. I wouldn’t recommend splashing interaction if you can get on-color interactive spells because this format isn’t kind to the one-for-one removal plan. It’s important to have interaction, but synergy and power are significantly more important.
Generally, I think a lot of people have come to these three realizations at this point, but not enough such that the format has properly adjusted. This week, I expect nearly 100% of my decks to be green. But by next week, I expect the blue and red lanes to open up as more players adjust to the multicolor green enchantments strategy. This, I hope, yields a lovely balance between artifacts, enchantments, and speed, converging to a format we all conclude is one of the best ever!
The following draft was one of the harder ones I’ve had in the format. I started with Rabbit Battery, one of the few red uncommons that will get me to consider a red deck. However, green has so many good cards that I followed it up with some green cards. Gruul is not a color pair I have had success with, but I have lost to it, so I’m not ruling it out. Would you stay the course and take a red card here, or abandon the color and move towards the tried and true Abzan home for multicolor green?
Pack 1, Pick 4
The Picks So Far:
Kami’s Flare is a good Magic card, but it’s also the worst-performing Lightning Strike variant we have ever seen. Don’t get me wrong; the card isn’t bad. But it’s surprising how I don’t feel like I’m at an advantage when I have it. In one of my first drafts of the format, I had five copies of Kami’s Flare, and I went 3-3. It felt awkward to draw multiple because even though I was efficiently interacting with my opponent’s creatures, that didn’t feel like an advantage. In that same draft, I had a few copies of Experimental Synthesizer, and that felt like an advantage.
There are a lot of efficient ways to gain value in this format, most notably Sagas, and this means removal isn’t positioned as premium in the way we’re used to. Kami’s Flare is a good card, and in consideration to be the pick here, but it’s not the obvious pick. In most formats, this pick would be obvious, but the overperformance of some of the other cards in the pack and underperformance of both red and Kami’s Flare lead to an interesting and close pick.
The Fall of Lord Konda is one of the few Sagas that I don’t think is premium. I’ve put it as an option to help fight a common mistake many players make: over-indexing on advice. The last week, many content creators (myself included) have been screaming from the rooftops about how good Sagas are. It’s common to hear this, and just stop passing Sagas. For the most part, that’s good advice. But here, I don’t think The Fall of Lord Konda is a consideration. It’s a solid playable in white that I don’t mind putting in my deck, but it can be awkward, and is hence quite worse than the top three white commons. It’s not going to entice me to branch into another color.
Fang of Shigeki continues to perform. There are multiple punch-spells in green, which makes the deathtouch body more relevant than normal. Add on the enchantment synergies, and green being the best late-game color in the format, and an efficient defensive creature is exactly what the doctor ordered. While I wouldn’t fault anybody for taking Fang here, I would still prioritize Kami’s Flare over it. If I have zero copies of Fang of Shigeki in a green deck, I’m not going to miss it all that much. But if I have zero copies of Kami’s Flare in a red deck, I’d be pretty upset.
Again, don’t over-index on my statements about Kami’s Flare. While it’s significantly worse than these effects usually are, that still leaves a pretty good card, because “two mana, instant-speed deal three damage” is usually one of the best cards in an entire format.
This pick comes down to Virus Beetle and Kami’s Flare. And I genuinely believe, if your goal is to maximize your win-rate, the correct pick is Virus Beetle. Beetle has been incredibly impressive. There are a good chunk of one-toughness threats, making the body surprisingly relevant. It also has artifact synergies. In this format, there’s so much use for excess lands that the discard effect can be more potent than expected. This doesn’t even consider the bonus of being able to return Beetle to hand thanks to ninjutsu. Virus Beetle is one of the top commons in the whole format, and I view Golgari as the best green-based deck.
However, I took Kami’s Flare. The main reason for this is that I haven’t gotten to play much with Gruul, and I think leaving that open as a strong option maximizes my long-term success. I understand what a strong Golgari deck looks like, and I won’t learn much by taking the Virus Beetle. It’s possible I learn a lot, and can use that to win more in the future, by taking Kami’s Flare and pursuing a red deck. That is why I landed on the red removal spell.
Pack 1, Pick 6
The Picks So Far:
Let’s talk about Imperial Oath.
By now, you’ve probably heard horror stories about Imperial Oath. I was skeptical at first, but the card has far exceeded my expectations. It’s the best top-end at common, and it’s splashable, which means Imperial Oath is effectively a white/green hybrid card. Given the bias to enchantments over artifacts, a white/green hybrid card is effectively colorless, and so, again, if your goal is to maximize your win-rate, I believe taking Oath is correct here. I’m most likely to end up in some green deck, and it will be a great splash in a color that’s good at splashing and loves to splash.
However, that isn’t in line with my desire to draft that Gruul deck. Jukai Preserver is a solid playable in any green deck, but it’s nothing special unless you’re particularly aggressive. And Gruul not only is aggressive, it has a modified theme that Preserver bolsters. I took Jukai Preserver because it’s the better pick for that particular deck I’m pursuing, and a playable if I backdoor into a normal multicolor green strategy.
The end of Pack 1 was relatively interesting. Based on what wheeled, it’s clear that white is an open color, and it’s one of the best colors to pair with green. While I do want to pursue Gruul, and learn about it, it’s possible I need to give up on that dream.
Take some time to think about where you stand. What will you take out of this last pack?
Pack 2, Pick 1
The Picks So Far:
Voltage Surge, while it may look enticing for an assertive Gruul deck, isn’t where you want to be. Yes, it combos nicely with my Experimental Synthesizer, but Shock isn’t particularly well-positioned in the format otherwise. It’s playable in any red deck, but not a pull into red, as it might look. Jukai Preserver is a more enticing pick for Gruul, and even continues to keep me open to end up in a multicolor green strategy.
However, this pick is a turning point. Both Farewell and Michiko’s Reign of Truth are incredibly powerful white cards, and if I take one, it’s pretty likely that I wheel a good card for the Selesnya midrange deck that I would end up in. The fact of the matter is, the card quality delta is too high from Farewell and Michiko’s Reign of Truth to Jukai Preserver. And when you add in the fact that white was open in Pack 1, it becomes clear that the correct thing to do is let go of Gruul and end up Selesnya. But between Farewell and Michiko’s Reign of Truth, what’s the better pick?
Honestly, I don’t know. They’re both incredibly powerful. Farewell has been overperforming by an incredible margin for me so far, so that’s what I landed on, but I would not be surprised if that’s incorrect. Regardless, white was so open this draft that Michiko’s Reign of Truth wheeled, and I got to have my cake and eat it too!