The Red Mythic Rare Legendary Dragon Is Really Good, Duh

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty preview Atsushi, the Blazing Sky is both a throwback to the Dragon Spirits of old and a potential force in the future Standard. Ari Lax offers two early builds.

Atsushi, the Blazing Sky
Atsushi, the Blazing Sky, illustrated by Victor Adame Minguez

Atsushi, the Blazing Sky

Wizards of the Coast (WotC) absolutely know what they are doing with these early preview streams.

They want to get people hyped up for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, which means showing off cards that are flashy even without a ton of in-set synergies giving them context. The early preview for Modern Horizons 2 was Urza’s Saga, and that card created a lot of buzz on a ton of levels.

For Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, that is Atsushi, the Blazing Sky. Between the raw numbers and text on the card and the pedigree of the original Champions of Kamigawa legendary Dragon Spirits like Yosei, the Morning Star, Atsushi does not disappoint on being jaw-droppingly powerful.

Light Up the Stage Goldspan Dragon

The immediate eye catching part of Atsushi is that you basically draw two cards when it dies. There’s not a lot of nuance here. Even Goldspan Dragon, the previous Dragon that pays you back on a removal spell, has been vulnerable to your opponent just killing all your stuff. We saw this all the time in the Gruul Adventures era of Goldspan Dragon, where the mana boost didn’t matter if they just killed Dragon and the thing you spent the mana on. You can’t trade cardboard against Atsushi the same way because of what they got for free off the death trigger.

It’s also important to point out the line-up of Atsushi against opposing Goldspan Dragons. If they have Goldspan Dragon, attacking into Atsushi and trading isn’t great. If they don’t have Goldspan Dragon, you just hit them with Atsushi because, instead of a reactive answer, you have a big flyer.

With that said, the “cards” option is the weaker of the two death triggers.

Black Lotus Light Up the Stage

The comparison between the two effects looks a lot dumber when you break it down like this, but it should really highlight how good having the option of a 75% refund in the face of removal is.

Divide by Zero Alrund's Epiphany

Imagine the two scenarios. You play against Mono-Green Aggro❄. They have the Blizzard Brawl. Normally that’s a disastrous, lose-the-game scenario for your four-drop to face, but with Atsushi, things go poorly for your opponent in multiple ways. If you’re really under the gun, you get a redo “turn of mana” to fire off removal. If you aren’t immediately dead, you get to untap into some even more dominating threat.

Sure, against removal out of a control deck in a long game, you probably want the two cards, but a lot of Magic is played these days by taking big actions that self-propagate more actions to take later. In most games, running out of stuff is typically less of a threat than running into a bottleneck of doing things with the stuff you already drew.

Immersturm Predator Ulvenwald Oddity

There is a slight question of whether a four-drop 4/4 with some text is actually good enough for Standard. The answer appears to be yes if it does enough other things. Atsushi is at least in the same discussion as Immersturm Predator and Ulvenwald Oddity, especially if blocking an Esika’s Chariot and trading has threatening big-play implications for your next turn.

Burn Down the House By Invitation Only

All this talk about trading off Atsushi should make the point that the card is best when it does threaten to trade. I almost want to view the card as a removal spell that is solid to draw and cast when it isn’t lining up as removal.

One thing this points towards is Atsushi being a good card to pair with sweepers. Normally there’s midrange tension between good threats and big sweepers, but Atsushi can almost play the role of Wall of Omens in Modern. You cast Atsushi, and it either bogs down the game or forces your opponent to commit more resources. Then when you fire off Burn Down the House, you get your Atsushi resources back and effectively kill more of their stuff for free.

Atsushi, the Blazing Sky Greater Good

Atsushi does not point me towards most sacrifice outlets. Neither death trigger is directly worth a four-mana investment. Atsushi does look good if you pair it with some sacrifice effect that pays you off for sacrificing a larger thing, like Greater Good did way back with the original Champions of Kamigawa Dragons. The closest thing in Standard is Tend the Pests, which isn’t an individually good card or a big enough payoff.

The sacrifice thing also has implications for Atsushi’s presence in decks, because there’s the built-in sacrifice of drawing two copies of your legendary creature. Is Atsushi a four-of card, or are you afraid of the legendary drawback? I think the answer is somewhere in the middle and I expect Atsushi to be a solid two-of or three-of. Drawing multiples isn’t horrific due to the buyout of a Reckless Impulse, but I’m not in the market to draw Reckless Impulse at double the cost.

That’s a lot of chatter for a card that isn’t especially a build-around, but just a lot of good rates and good abilities in the same package. Where is Atsushi’s good rate best used?

Esika, God of the Tree

I actually got Kaldheim‘ed into building this deck. For those who missed out on the delight that was Kaldheim Limited, getting Kaldheim‘ed is assuming you know what a card from Kaldheim does, only to find out it has secret extra text or a weirdo version of an ability with a normal template. In this case, it’s the fact Esika, God of the Tree has text to make all your legendary creatures produce mana and gain vigilance. Atsushi wants to block, often has good attacks, and plays well with extra mana both on the drawing cards side and as redundancy for the Treasure dump, which seems like a perfect pairing for all the text on Esika. There’s also the fact the Treasures off a dead Atsushi are your five colors for The Prismatic Bridge, which is just neat.

Valki, God of Lies Orcus, Prince of Undeath

In addition to The Prismatic Bridge or just having multiple spells, there are some nice scaling threats in Jund colors to spend loads of mana on. Valki, God of Lies is an obvious one with the Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor side looming over long games, but the curve of “Atsushi, trade off, play a fifth land, and cast Orcus, Prince of Undeath for four to return Atsushi” deserves a look.

Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider Sorin the Mirthless

One high-end option I looked at was using Esika or Atsushi mana to one-shot people with Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider into a planeswalker ultimate, but the pool of good ultimates is pretty shallow in Standard. You can’t really expect to get to thirteen in one turn for the Tibalt-Vorinclex kill from the Emergent Ultimatum days. The one reasonably costed planeswalker that does have a good ultimate is Sorin the Mirthless plus a Vorinclex swing adding up to nineteen damage, but Sorin’s double-black cost clashed with the mana costs of the early drops I wanted the most here. If Jaspera Sentinel finds its way out of the deck, the Vorinclex end-game could easily find its way back in.

Malakir Rebirth

After playing with the Rakdos Evoke deck in Modern, I’m really interested in pairing Atsushi with a few Malakir Rebirth. Saving a thing is nice; saving a thing and getting extra death or enters-the-battlefield value is game-ending. Honestly, I might want to play more than the one copy in this deck since the card also pairs well with Goldspan Dragon or randomly having a free mana due to Esika.

Shizo, Death's Storehouse Iwamori of the Open Fist Bard Class

I am fully aware that I am building the legendary creature theme deck three cards deep into Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty previews. You know, Kamigawa, the plane previously defined by every rare creature being legendary. If you see me in a month building the Bard Class version of this Atsushi deck don’t be shocked.

Playing Against Dragons

I’ve already mentioned there was a full cycle of legendary Spirit Dragons in the original Champions of Kamigawa, and that those Dragons included some of the most powerful and iconic cards from that block. And if you know anything about how they make return sets or just listened to the reveal stream, you may intuit that Atsushi, the Blazing Sky is just one of a cycle of Dragons with similar death triggers.

Maybe Atsushi is the best one and the rest are destined for the Commander tables. But odds are you will see multiple legendary Spirit Dragons winning Standard matches over the next year.

Infernal Grasp Power Word Kill Thundering Rebuke

This should have a significant impact on the removal spells you’re selecting. I’m still playing Infernal Grasp in my Jund list because I’m okay with the line-up against Atsushi being not great if I’m trading up on mana, but Power Word Kill was basically a Pioneer printing at this point.

Vanishing Verse Brutal Cathar Baleful Mastery

Death trigger Dragons make the white answers look a lot better. Brutal Cathar is appropriately named when it’s answering Atsushi, and Vanishing Verse has some good targets showing up in the near future. On the black side of things, my Jund list included Baleful Mastery and I expect to see an uptick in that card’s metagame share in the future.

Fading Hope Divide by Zero Disdainful Stroke

Really, the biggest issue for these Dragons might be the blue removal that’s among the most prominent answers in the format. Casting a four-drop into bounce spells over and over, only for it to not have an immediate impact once it does stick, is kinda dicey.

Remand Keiga, the Tide Star

But it’s time for some old-school stories. For much of the time that the Champions of Kamigawa Dragons were in Standard, Remand was also in Standard. If Divide by Zero is one of the best answers in Standard today, Remand was at least twice the card it was back then.

And yet the best Remand decks in the format often just paired it with those same Dragons. At the end of the day you play answers so that your good threats aren’t overwhelmed, and wow were the legendary Dragons some good threats.

So with that, I’ll leave you with what I expect to be the best Atsushi deck in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Standard. Let me know if you have seen this one already.

Atsushi, the Blazing Sky

A good card that fits great in the best deck? If somehow you weren’t paying attention to all the other things Atsushi has going for it, you absolutely should be now.