The New Cards Of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Commander

Sheldon Menery reviews the new MTG cards from the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Commander decks. Which designs are his favorites?

Myojin of Grim Betrayal, illustrated by Jason A. Engle

The Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Commander decks are out, and they’ve continued the trend of new Commander product being playable right out of the box.  While there’s still room to tune them up, the land bases are much better.  You can drop them into battlecruiser-level games and they’ll hold their own, and might even do so up the scale some. 

Plenty of content creators will talk about the decks as whole units, so I’d like to break down the individual cards that are new to us.  Some of us are going to nick singles from these decks, and there’s quite a bit to choose from.  I’ll also talk about the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Commander cards that are available in the Set and Collector Boosters.  Let’s dive right in, and we’ll start with the new commanders.


Chishiro, the Shattered Blade

The first card that came to mind when I saw Chishiro, the Shattered Blade was Bloodforged Battle-Axe.  You keep creating copies, which when gets you more Spirits.  What I like about this design is that it gives you a broad choice of directions to go with Auras.  Auras have traditionally been problematic because when an Aura-enchanted creature dies, you get two-for-one’d.  Adding incentives for playing Auras is then a good design choice. 

The Aura you probably really want here is old classic Rancor.  For just one {G}, the creature gets +2/+0 and the all-important trample.  If the creature dies, you get Rancor back to both buff up another creature and to trigger Chishiro. 

Chishiro makes a nice commander for a deck full of creatures that natively enter the battlefield with counters on them, like Spike Feeder and Spike Weaver.  As I’ll likely mention more than once, since modified creatures are a thing in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, Forgotten Ancient will shine. 

Kotori, Pilot Prodigy

One of the things that makes Vehicles playable is that crew costs are generally not onerous.  Kotori is most often going to give you the discount from three or four to two, but then there are big ones like Shorikai, Genesis Engine’s eight.  Whether you play Kotori in a Shorikai deck or vice versa is up to what you want to accomplish.  I’d lean towards Kotori because I like attacking and attacking with lifelink is good beats. 

Do note that Kotori gives any target artifact creature lifelink and vigilance.  You don’t need a Vehicle deck to make it shine.  Using Kotori’s combat trigger means you’ll get aggressive, with is something that’s lacking in Azorius decks—so there’s the outside-the-box build.  The Omenkeel, which is the back side of Cosima, God of the Voyage, could be a techy choice here.

Kaima, the Fractured Calm

Kaima presents a small problem in that it needs for you to put your Auras on creatures, meaning you’re buffing opponents’ creatures, which can potentially attack you if Kaima goes away.  Until such time, however, it’s open season.  The aforementioned Rancor is a nice option.  Vow of Lightning and Vow of Wilderness are good options since they double up the protection of your life total; they don’t need Kaima around to work.  Predatory Impetus and Shiny Impetus also work here. 

The build-up on Kaima is nice because eventually it becomes a threat to knock out some commander damage kills.  Of course, if you’re building around Kaima, remember Vengeful Ancestor.  Those little pings will add up.  Komainu Battle Armor is a good option here as well, as it makes Kaima larger, makes it more difficult to block, and then offers up a goad option.  Goad is the best mechanic to come along in Commander in a long time.  It rivals the monarch for the best of the best ever.

Shorikai, Genesis Engine

The reason Shorikai needs the can be your commander text is that it’s not natively a creature, something folks might gloss over because it has a power and toughness prominently displayed.  The obvious line to go with a Shorikai deck is to make a bunch of Pilots to easily crew it, or play Kotori, Pilot Prodigy as mentioned above.  I’d like to focus a little more on the ability to draw cards and dump stuff in the graveyard.

For just one mana, drawing two is spicy, even if you’re then looting away something.  You’re getting through your deck faster, so you’re drawing more gas.  Then use Voltaic Key, Aphetto Alchemist, or Filigree Sages, among other cards, to untap Shorikai and do it again.  Maybe go completely wacky and have it lead an energy deck so that you can use Janjeet Sentry, among other things.  As far as the cards you’re pitching goes, white has some decent reanimation.  Reya Dawnbringer is an old, expensive option.  Emeria, the Sky Ruin and Emeria Shepherd provide some repeatable reanimation. 


Aerial Surveyor

The low crew cost means you’ll be attacking with Aerial Surveyor crewed by utility creatures.  Esper Sentinel is a nice start.  Qasali Pridemage will do the trick by itself.  You’ll be getting enough lands that eventually you might just use a mana creature to crew Aerial Surveyor, since you won’t need the mana from the creature anymore.  Noble Hierarch can provide an extra bonus to Aerial Surveyor attacking alone. 


Drumbellower offers a portion of Seedborn Muse in a new color.  There’s the simple application of Drumbellower, untapping your creatures so that you can attack and still have some defense.  Then there’s the more complex line that allows you to use activated creature abilities multiple times.  Since Drumbellower doesn’t untap lands like Seedborn Muse, you’ll want to focus on low- or zero-mana-cost abilities, like Elvish Piper or Saryth, the Viper’s Fang.  With just a few mana creatures, you could get quite a bit onto the battlefield in a turn cycle with Yisan, the Wanderer Bard.  However you want to use it, I suspect we’re going to see lots of Drumbellower in tables in the very near future.  

Ironsoul Enforcer

Focus on artifacts that sacrifice in order to do things, like Wayfarer’s Bauble.  Regrowing Solemn Simulacrum will never hurt.  I like Azorius Cluestone and friends for repeatable card draw.  From Aether Spellbomb to Tainted Sigil (a criminally underplayed card), you have loads of choices.  If you want to go big, Noxious Gearhulk will get you there.

Once again, attacking alone suggests either the exalted mechanic or some of the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Samurai which trigger on attacking alone.  The fact that Ironsoul Enforcer will trigger on your commander attacking is nice since you can avoid risking Ironsoul Enforcer.  In a Voltron build, you can get back any relevant Equipment for later use (you won’t have a window to equip because you’re in the combat step—unless you have stuff that lets you equip as an instant).  This card is sauce all around.

Myojin of Blooming Dawn

It’s nice to see everyone’s favorite high-cost Spirits back.  In many battlecruiser-level Commander games, this one is going to create a huge pile of Spirits.  I’d play it in a proliferate deck so that I could get extra indestructible counters first, then start going full Spirit ham.

Organic Extinction

An excellent sweeper in your Thopter or other artifact token-creating decks, Organic Extinction carries some flavor with it as well.  Whenever I play Organic Extinction, I’ll probably quote Saruman’s fires of industry line from Lord of the Rings.  One of your choices will be how many of your artifact creatures that you want to tap as opposed to paying mana since the battlefield will now be clear(er) of things that can block.  What’s really nice is tapping artifacts whose tapping is meaningless, like Eldrazi Monument, Door of Destinies, or Akroma’s Memorial

Release to Memory

Some big deal graveyard hate is coming to white.  Although it already has Rest in Peace, getting an instant like Release to Memory is a thought-provoking step for white.  The blowout, of course, will be hitting the player who just cast Living Death.  Oh, wait.  That’s me.  Be right back, I’m going to go buy all of these while they’re still a dollar.

Swift Reconfiguration

One of this season’s cards that has sparked the most interest, Swift Reconfiguration has many uses. One of them is being able to turn a planeswalker which happens to be a creature, like Gideon, Champion of Justice, into a Vehicle that is no longer a planeswalker—meaning that it can’t be attacked to take off loyalty counters, but it still has its activated abilities.  Check out the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Release Notes for more details. 

Swift Reconfiguration is a one-mana spell that can save your important creature from a sweeper, although you’ll then have to figure out a way to get it crewed later.  It can also serve as a single-creature Fog, since it takes the creature attacking you out of combat because it’s no longer a creature.  Swift Reconfiguration’s flexibility is the reason so many folks are talking about it.

Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful

I like that Dogs are starting to catch up to Cats in the Magic world. Back when the folks in R&D (now Studio X) asked us on the Commander RC what we thought about their idea for the partner mechanic, our response was, “Be very careful.”  Yoshimaru is the kind of careful partner design that we appreciate. 


Access Denied

Counterspells in Commander need to do more than just counter a spell.  Because you have three opponents, a one-for-one is often not going to be enough.  Access Denied comes from the same family as Overwhelming Intellect.  The thing you’re really going to want to counter with it is someone’s big Genesis Wave

Cyberdrive Awakener

What a cool finisher.  I can see all the artifacts coming to life, rising up into the air, and crushing their enemies.  A fistful of Treasure tokens become a swarm of death.  Other than my Karn Evil No. 9 deck, I don’t really have an artifact-heavy one.  Cyberdrive Awakener is a strong argument to build one.

Imposter Mech

This Clone-bot is cheap, like Phantasmal Image, and that comes with the price of needing to crew it in order to attack.  Still, having a game-altering creature that’s immune to mass creature sweepers is very strong.  Do make sure to note that Imposter Mech can only copy an opponent’s creature, which prevents crazy Sharuum, the Hegemon loops.  I like the flavor of watching an organic creature battle its mechanical mirror image.

Kappa Cannoneer

This one is going to be quite deadly.  Setting aside your ability to improvise to get it onto the battlefield (hello Smothering Tithe), the fact that it just keeps getting bigger whenever you have an artifact enter the battlefield means it’s going to get immense—and it’s not like it’ll lose the counters.  If Kappa Cannoneer isn’t dealt with in short order, bodies will hit the floor.  It’ll be tough to take out with targeted removal since it has ward 4. The unblockable part is just icing.  Some folks love it because it’s an adorable Turtle. They’ll keep loving right up until the time that it crushes them. 

Katsumasa, the Animator

A new take on animating artifacts, Katsumasa slowly builds the army that’s going to serve him (and you).  Putting counters on Vehicles as they lay sleeping means they just keep getting larger.  Using Katsumasa’s activated ability means you don’t have to crew something; it just becomes ready to head into combat.  Katsumasa is then big enough to crew many things himself, and the rise of the machines will come.  Another great flavor card that doesn’t sacrifice playability.

Myojin of Cryptic Dreams

Myojin are about absurd effects at absurd mana costs.  Myojin of Cryptic Dreams fits the bill.  I’m going to make a run of it in a deck that has Progenitor Mimic and try to copy everything.

Research Thief

Research Thief is another utility creature that’s big enough to crew many vehicles all alone.  Of course, you don’t need Vehicles for the card to be valuable.  It triggers on any of your artifact creatures dealing combat damage to a player, to include itself.  You’ll be drawing cards like mad. 

Universal Surveillance

Now you won’t have to sacrifice those Treasures in order to cast the big spell; you can just tap them for Universal Surveillance’s improvise ability.  You can then use the Treasures to cast whatever you draw.  Everybody wins.  And by everybody, I mean you.


Myojin of Grim Betrayal

The indestructible counter will do double duty on Myojin of Grim Betrayal.  It’ll let you cast Damnation or other sweeper, then remove it to get everything back onto your side of the battlefield.  If you want to get tricky and reanimate Myojin of Grim Betrayal instead of paying eight, you can pair it with Daring Fiendbonder.  Assuming you’re not going to try proliferate shenanigans, you can also try Tyrite Sanctum, although that’ll take a little time.

Ruthless Technomancer

I like my enters-the-battlefield triggers and I like my sacrifice outlets, so Ruthless Technomancer scratches both itches.  It also gets right between the shoulder blades with reanimation.  I think I’d play it without the activated ability, which is making me wonder how I can cheaply make a bunch of artifacts that aren’t Treasure to sacrifice to it.  This will require some brewing. 


Akki Battle Squad

Having extra combat phase cards that don’t easily get out of hand (here’s looking at you, Moraug, Fury of Akoum) makes better game experiences.  They can be savage, even lethal for someone, without just being “Oops, I win.”  Akki Battle Squad is such a card, since it triggers only once each turn.  One of the noteworthy things about Akki Battle Squad is that it untaps all your modified creatures, even those that didn’t attack.  You’ll be able to get double activations or an activation and an attack out of something, which is excellent flexibility.

Collision of Realms

A neat way of red dealing with creatures that doesn’t involve damage, Collision of Realms plays on red’s chaotic nature in that it gives everyone who shuffled in a creature at least something back.  Whether that’s a tiny utility body or giant monster is left up to chance.  You can choose whether to shuffle your commander into your deck or put it into the command zone.  If your commander is your only creature and you choose to put it into the command zone, you’ll shuffle but not get a creature. 

Kami of Celebration

A nice addition to your Prosper, Tome-Bound deck, Kami of Celebration helps make more modified creatures since you get to target where the counter goes.  Those creatures will then create more Kami of Celebration triggers. 

Komainu Battle Armor

As I’ve mentioned, I think goad is one of the best mechanics for commander ever.  Komainu Battle Armor will take advantage of someone who’s left only one creature back to block, since it has/grants menace.  Compared to Sword of Light and Shadow and friends, the reconfigure cost is expensive.  I consider that an example of an Equipment being costed correctly, with the Swords being way too pushed for what they do.

Myojin of Roaring Blades

Simple, straightforward, and in need of being equipped with Basilisk Collar

Smoke Spirits' Aid

Certainly a unique card, Smoke Spirits’ Aid is a giant flavor win.  I love the imagery of the smoky little Spirits creating a little bit of pain for someone when their creature dies.  Getting the Treasures is a fine bonus and will eventually repay you nearly everything you invested into the spell.  Pair it with Hinata, Dawn-Crowned, and you can target as many creatures as you like for just one red mana.  That sounds like profit. You control those Auras even though they’re enchanting someone else’s creature, so they count for things like Serra’s Sanctum

Unquenchable Fury

There are times when Unquenchable Fury will kill someone in an unfavorable combat situation.  You might not be able to get through, but you can dome them for what’s in their hand.  Nicely, even if you’ve put it on something that you know isn’t going to live through combat, you’ll deal damage and get Unquenchable Fury back, ready to smack people again—thus creating the concept of the chump attacker.  Unquenchable Fury goes great with Akki Battle Squad, since you’ll get another trigger to go along with whatever combat damage happens. 


Ascendant Acolyte

In the deck you know you’re putting it into, Ascendant Acolyte will get out of hand quickly.  Add Battlefront Krushok and Crowned Ceratok, and you’ll be wrecking life totals in short order.  If you’re playing Ascendant Acolyte with Forgotten Ancient, you can stack the triggers so that Forgotten Ancient’s resolves first, thereby doubling what you move over as well.  You already know what kind of insanity happens when you add Doubling Season to this mix.

Concord with the Kami

I’m a fan of the design here because Concord with the Kami can go into decks that do only any one of the listed things or really shine in decks that do all of them.  It doesn’t do anything too broken; it just provides solid value when you’re playing modifications.

Go-Shintai of Life's Origin

Now I have somewhere to point people who want to play Genju of the Realms as their commander.  Yes, it’s a five-color commander that doesn’t have WUBRG in its cost.  Fortunately, it’s interesting instead of being busted. 

Kosei, Penitent Warlord

Getting Kosei enchanted, equipped, and with a +1/+1 counter on it (fulfilling all the mods of Concord with the Kami) won’t be easy, but it sure will be rewarding when you do.  The Timmy in me wants the enchantment to be Colossification.  Kosei is a very compelling build-around mono-green Voltron commander.

Myojin of Towering Might

An indestructible 8/8 that you can’t cheat onto the battlefield is healthy for the format.  It can be a viable creature in your green decks with little regard for is activated ability.  That said, what’s great about the ability is that you can go wide by distributing the counters among eight creatures or go high by putting all eight onto one—most especially your commander. 

One with the Kami

This might be one of the most busted cards in the set.  It goes infinite with Grumgully, the Generous and a sacrifice outlet.  It provides endless value in your decks that play with +1/+1 counters, like many of the recent Humans decks and those that have Gavony Township.  What’s keeping it from being completely broken is that it’s an Aura, so the creature it enchants will also die to a sweeper.  No matter what, it will rebuild for you in the face of said sweeper.  Cool design, even if part of me wishes it said nontoken creature.

Rampant Rejuvenator

The most appropriately named card in the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty family, Rampant Rejuvenator might run you out of nonbasic lands when it dies if you play your cards right.  It’d be fun to see Colossification on this one too. 


Another card that creates a cool image in your mind of its effect. Don’t discount the idea of playing Silkguard for X=0 just to protect your Auras and Equipment—plus creatures that are already modified.  It’s especially valuable in environments that frequently see Aura Shards

Tanuki Transplanter

Who is a very good Dog?  Tanuki Transplanter, that’s who.  Getting two or more mana every turn that you can use post-combat will lead you to some very explosive turns.  You can even attack with it, then have at least two of the three you need to reconfigure it onto something else.  The basic play pattern looks like it’ll attack as a creature early, then attach to a larger creature when attacking with a 2/4 becomes untenable. Another very cleverly designed card.

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Commander fires on all cylinders.  The cards are big and splashy, with game-altering effects.  There are build-around commanders that don’t necessarily push you down specific lines of play.  All of them bring exactly the kinds of things I want to infuse into my Commander games.  The challenge here will simply be where I can find room enough in existing decks to put them, or time enough to build new ones. 

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