Welcome back to Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty First Impressions week!
All week long, various members of the SCG Staff will share their thoughts on the Top 5 Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty cards in each format. On Monday, we kicked things off with Standard. Today we’ll knock out Pioneer, and Friday will be Modern. To add a little fun to the mix, a scoring system has been put in place so that we can get an idea of what card ranked in what place in the aggregate to close out each article. The scoring system is as follows:
- 1st — 5 points
- 2nd — 4 points
- 3rd — 3 points
- 4th — 2 points
- 5th — 1 point
Let’s kick things off with the online PTQ juggernaut that is Dom Harvey!
- Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice
- Boseiju, Who Endures
- Michiko’s Reign of Truth
- Moonsnare Prototype
- Greasefang, Okiba Boss
Orzhov Auras (Lurrus) was a breakout deck in Pioneer in 2020 but has mostly vanished since then. Compared to Historic, Pioneer’s version lacks a second engine creature like Kor Spiritdancer to join Sram, Senior Edificer. Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice is just the ticket there. It lacks the raw power of Spiritdancer and forces some odd deckbuilding and sequencing decisions (as the Auras have to be uniquely named among the Auras you control and have to enchant Light-Paws itself), but I think it’s absolutely worth jumping through these hoops.
Boseiju, Who Endures is a safe but correct pick for any of these lists. In Pioneer, it gives Lotus Field a searchable answer to the few useful hate cards against it. It gives any green deck some additional coverage against Jeskai Ascendancy, other common targets like Portable Hole, or some of the most exciting new tools that are also in this set.
Ari Lax took a comprehensive look at Michiko’s Reign of Truth in a wide range of formats, but I think it’s most likely to land in Pioneer. It’s a more reliable version of All That Glitters for the Azorius Ensoul (Lurrus) lists that played the spell. It also could be a redundant version for a new, aggressive white deck based around artifacts or enchantments. Similarly, Rabbit Battery looks like the perfect card to breathe new life into Izzet Ensoul.
Moonsnare Prototype may be the missing piece for your preferred style of artifact nonsense — Paradoxical Outcome, Emry, whatever — to finally make the leap to Pioneer. As in Modern, the artifacts themselves are underwhelming, but the cards that care about artifacts are appealing and a cheap artifact that makes mana is exactly what those cards are looking for.
Greasefang, Okiba Boss probably wouldn’t make the list on merit, but I’m excited by its Soulflayer vibes – the two-turn kill with Parhelion II is fast enough in this format, and backup options like Esika’s Chariot have more room to breathe here too.
- Secluded Courtyard
- Greasefang, Okiba Boss
- Michiko’s Reign of Truth
- Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire
- Tatsunari, Toad Rider
There are a few ways you can look at additions to Pioneer. First, you can try to focus on the linear decks new printings enable; unlike Modern, the interaction is capped by current design principles and costs, letting stuff like Jeskai Ascendancy thrive. Second, you can focus on the raw best cards on rate that can supplant the moderately powerful cards at the top of the format.
I’m guessing Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty will be more of the first one, but that doesn’t mean those synergy cards don’t have a good rate stapled onto them.
Tatsunari, Toad Rider is spot-on for that role. We know there’s room for creatures in this space to thrive in the format, thanks to Graveyard Trespasser. Tatsunari naturally slides into the already formidable Enigmatic Incarnation decks as a huge honking threat for when your primary engine doesn’t show up. That is a bit narrow, but I can see other decks making simple changes to get the best of six power of flying over two bodies for three mana.
Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire is the raw-rate card on this list, but it’s also unique. A split card good land-decent removal just doesn’t exist in the format, or really in most Magic formats. Eiganjo also promotes white as the secondary color for control in a format where Dimir or Izzet is often the default control choice, and likely has secondary effects if it starts having a presence in the format.
I’ve discussed Michiko’s Reign of Truth at length in its own article. It deserves a spot on this list for both raw power and adding to the already good Ensoul Artifact decks. Cheaper Cranial Plating. Turns into a big creature against removal. Recurrable with Lurrus of the Dream-Den. You know the deal by now.
Greasefang, Okiba Boss gets the nod over Michiko’s Reign of Truth as the linear highlight because it does something so new and weird that it just has a higher ceiling for success. The direct combo of this into Parhelion II making a million attacking power on Turn 3 feels beyond the scope of what other decks are doing in the format, especially with the fail case being a three-drop 4/3. You have to question whether there’s redundancy in the “producing a relevant Parhelion II” department; still, this is such an obvious fair-combo hybrid start you have to give it a try and assume there’s a decent chance it hits.
But the “unquestionably going to succeed” card in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty isn’t even a theme of the set. It’s a random land: Secluded Courtyard. The overlap of Unclaimed Territory and Cavern of Souls is what set Five-Color Humans off to succeed in Modern. Pioneer now has those eight rainbow creature type lands to let Humans or Elementals or whatever other type I’ve forgotten about pop off. It’s just going to inevitably happen, and whatever deck it shows up in wouldn’t be able to function without Secluded Courtyard in the format.
- Lion Sash
- Secluded Courtyard
- Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance
- Hidetsugu Consumes All
- Spirited Companion
There are many cards that I think could see Pioneer play. Some of them have the potential to be very good. But my list focuses on the cards that have clear homes where they should excel.
Spirited Companion is easy to overlook, but Elvish Visionary in another color and with another relevant type is deceptively powerful. It plays well with the various Enchantress cards, and in any deck using Yorion, Sky Nomad as a companion. As both an enchantment and a creature, it’s also excellent with Enigmatic Incarnation. It’s not going to light the world on fire, but it’ll be a solid role-player in several decks.
Hidetsugu Consumes All is another good role-player in Rakdos Midrange that provides significant value in a format where there are plenty of decks with cheap creatures and Chained to the Rocks and Portable Hole as commonly played removal spells. Normally, a disruptive Saga like this would be a narrow sideboard card. Because it transforms into a creature as its third chapter, it’s much easier to maindeck and live with the times when its first chapters aren’t that effective.
It’s particularly effective against Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven, which have picked back up recently. I expect this to be sought after for players who struggle against Jund Sacrifice. The only thing holding it back is Lurrus of the Dream-Den, but the companion isn’t as powerful in Pioneer since it’s not as big as Modern.
Next up are two nonbasic lands that help out fringe archetypes. Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance is an excellent addition to Indomitable Creativity archetypes, offering two tokens on curve for a Creativity for X=2 without taking up a spell slot. That allows the deck to play even more interaction and bolster the control gameplan without hurting the combo plan at all. When they pass the turn on four mana, you cannot tap out against them, making it much harder to outpace the disruption.
Secluded Courtyard I have higher because it can potentially unlock a range of archetypes. Courtyard and Unclaimed Territory make tribal aggro manabases possible, and those decks only get better as more cards are added to the format. I’m not sure exactly when one such deck will emerge, but it’s only a matter of time.
Topping off my list is Lion Sash, a card that compares favorably to current format staple Scavenging Ooze. You lose out on lifegain but it grows more easily. Further, the versatility of being an Equipment to go all-in on an unblockable threat or hide a threat from a sweeper is incredibly valuable. There’s not an obvious home for Lion Sash right now, so it does break the mold of the rest of the list; still, the pedigree of Scavenging Ooze combined with its added utility is enough to vault it to the top of my list.
And now, without further ado, the SCG Staff’s Top 5 Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty cards for Pioneer are…
5. Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance — 3 points
4. Boseiju, Who Endures — 4 points
T-3. Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice; Greasefang, Okiba Boss; and Lion Sash — 5 points
2. Michiko’s Reign of Truth — 6 points
1. Secluded Courtyard — 9 points
Cya back here on Friday for our thoughts on Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty’s impact on Modern!