Why Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Changes Everything For Aggro In Standard

From cheap red spells to powerful Vehicles, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is full of great cards for Standard MTG decks. GerryT serves up a variety of aggro builds using the latest set.

Thundering Raiju, illustrated by Xavier Ribeiro

After numerous sets filled with very few cards that impact Standard, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is an absolute godsend. Of those cards, a shocking number of them fit into aggro decks, and I’m not mad about it. 

As Bryan Gottlieb pointed out to me, the decks Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is promoting are all “smart aggro” decks, which I like. They’re aggressive to the point where they’re playing one-drops and not things like Goldspan Dragon. Yet, they have card advantage, interaction, staying power, and plenty of ways to use their mana in the mid-game. Those decks tend to be the best choice possible in their respective formats when you find the right combination, so I’m excited about the future. 

Oddly, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) chose right now to ban Alrund’s Epiphany. I’m happy that it’s gone and think Standard will be better off in its absence, but unlike Innistrad: Crimson Vow, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty actually promotes a paradigm shift that could have potentially rendered Alrund’s Epiphany irrelevant. 

One of the main drivers behind aggro’s power boost is the prevalence of Vehicles.

Mindlink Mech Surgehacker Mech

Reckoner Bankbuster Mukotai Soulripper

Certain Vehicles are powerful, plus some of the cards encourage you to play with multiple Vehicles. The value of removal, especially cards like Abrade and Skyclave Apparition, has skyrocketed as a result. Sorcery-speed removal likely won’t cut it anymore.

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is also packed with cards for Mono-Red Aggro. 

Kumano Faces Kakkazan Thundering Raiju

Kami's Flare Lizard Blades

A single set providing almost an entire monocolored aggro deck is wild, but I fully support it.

We could play twenty one-drops if we wanted to. I wouldn’t be surprised if the deck was supposed to load up on one-drops and spend most of its mana moving Equipment until Thundering Raiju came down. We’re not even playing Falkenrath Pit Fighter, which, before this set, was the best one-drop red had available. 

Overall, I like Voltaic Visionary as a card, especially with a few ways to gain haste, but Ogre-Head Helm deserves trying. This deck should be very good at emptying its hand, and having a way to reload completely would be nice. Plus, it serves the modified theme, although at a slightly more expensive rate than the other cards in the deck.

Ogre-Head Helm Upriser Renegade

Upriser Renegade is likely just a Limited card, although I can see an upside in Standard as well. It can get out of control and holds Lizard Blades well. Will Erker brought Creepy Puppeteer to my attention, which works well with Lizard Blades. That said, Thundering Raiju is likely the stronger four-drop of choice.

There are no Vehicles in this Mono-Red Aggro deck, but that’s only because red is focused more on modified creatures. If we want aggro decks with Vehicles, we have to look at the other colors. 

Even though this deck may not be the strongest possible Vehicle deck you can build, it’s important to highlight what’s possible. Colossal Plow, formerly relegated to meme status, is now the real deal. Hotshot Mechanic can help crew it, or you can use Mobilizer Mech or Mech Hangar. Many of the cards in the deck are artifacts, which means you want Ingenious Smith, plus Oswald Fiddlebender gets a chance to shine.

Now, eighteen two-drops will make for an awkward mana curve, which leads me to believe sticking as closely to mono-white as possible could be a mistake. Not only does it mean you’ll often have unspent mana on your odd-numbered turns, it means Oswald Fiddlebender has a hole in his mana curve. A Mindlink Mech is a fine option, but the best I could do in white was Imperial Recovery Unit. It’s not the worst card and probably shines in some matchups, but it doesn’t stack up to what other decks in the format are capable of doing for three mana.

Colossal Plow Hotshot Mechanic Oswald Fiddlebender

If you wanted to truly utilize Oswald, I’d recommend looking at Experimental Synthesizer. Colossal Plow triggers The Book of Exalted Deeds, so that could be a tutor target. If we wanted to go up to a five-drop, Dollhouse of Horrors would be the target.

Michiko’s Reign of Truth seems like an obvious inclusion for a white artifact deck. Without the early creatures, it’s unlikely to have a relevant impact until later. The card is powerful, just not in this particular deck.

With some slight deckbuilding adjustments, Stonebinder’s Familiar could help fix the mana curve and grow enough to crew the big stuff.

Using Jaspera Sentinel to power Magda, Brazen Outlaw was already a solid combination. Now we get to add Moonsnare Prototype into the mix. Combine that with the various Vehicles and Magda will always be busy. 

We need some additional early creatures to enable Sentinel and Prototype. Both Ascendant Packleader and Lotus Cobra do the job well, plus each has its upside. Ascendant Packleader is appealing because of how well it plays with Vehicles. If I wanted a couple more four-drops, I could see playing even more copies maindeck.

Sadly, Mindlink Mech doesn’t work with legendary creatures, like Magda or Toski, Bearer of Secrets. However, it does work pretty well with Lotus Cobra. By using Lotus Cobra to crew, you can gain an absurd mana advantage. Given how important getting onto the battlefield quickly should be in Standard, it makes Temur look very appealing. 

The random Lizard Blades is mostly for the Mindlink Mech synergy, which may or may not be worth it. Briarbridge Tracker crews the larger Vehicles and also provides a power bonus to Mindlink Mech, so it seems like a good fit. 

There’s a low opportunity cost to run a singleton Mechtitan Core to find with Magda, but I’m not sure that it’s worth it. There aren’t any other ways to generate Treasures in the deck, so it’s unlikely to ever come up. Plus, when you need to activate Magda, it’s usually because the game has gone long and you’re light on resources. Ideally, the card you’d tutor for with Magda would be good on its own, and that isn’t the case with Mechtitan Core. I could see playing a single copy, mostly to draw it naturally rather than as a tutor target, though.


Why is this deck suddenly good when it gained very little from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty? Plus, the format is probably speeding up massively. 

Spell Pierce helps, as does Essence Capture. It means the games are less likely to get away from you in the early-game. Plus, having the format converge on artifacts means that cards like Annul and Thieving Skydiver are absolutely backbreaking if you wanted to load up on them. Decks are likely going to move away from cheaper removal because they’re going to have to kill Vehicles. Stopping the enablers won’t be enough, especially with Mech Hangar around.

You could, in theory, remove Delver of Secrets and focus on the Spirit angle. That would allow you to play more Snow-Covered Islands for Ascendant Spirit instead of the DFCs needed to transform Delver reliably. 

Regardless, I’d argue that the deck needs Mischievous Catgeist in any form. You could potentially build a version that only has evasive threats, but the clock seems too anemic. If that’s the case, you’ll likely need some card advantage to capitalize on whatever tempo advantage you’ve gained.

I started building this deck because of Geistlight Snare, even though I eventually moved away from it. Geistlight Snare seems like an obvious plant in hindsight, which makes me wonder if there’s a deck built around Generous Visitor and Geistlight Snare.

Exploring that took me down another strange path. 

The plan here is to cast some one-drop creatures and grow them. Thankfully, there’s some overlap in what they each want, although it isn’t perfect.

Generous Visitor wants enchantments, Stonebinder’s Familiar wants to exile cards, and Willow Geist wants things to leave your graveyard. Many of the cards in the deck do two of those things, and you have to hope it all comes together. Teachings of the Kirin somehow checks each box, although I’d expect it to play out worse in practice.

Teachings of the Kirin Tapping at the Window

Teachings and Tapping at the Window can fill your graveyard. You might pick up a Kami of Transience for free. Granted, that involves an enchantment dying, which isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish. There’s enough synergy to be interested, but I can see enough scenarios where your cards don’t work together for it to be frustrating. 

I started building decks like these because Generous Visitor is a Spirit that wants enchantments and Geistlight Snare can potentially cost one mana. Unfortunately, most of the blue cards didn’t cut it for me, nor did I particularly want a super Mana Leak. In this case, it was about the destination and not the journey.

What if we took the enchantment theme and simplified it?

Turn 3 kills in Standard? It’s not as outlandish as you think. 

With Jukai Naturalist and Runeforge Champion, your Runes cost zero mana, which can allow you to tear through your deck quickly. If you had a Generous Visitor on Turn 1, the game might already be over. Dealing twenty damage might be unrealistic, but getting so far ahead you can’t lose is very possible.

Jukai Naturalist Runeforge Champion

You could play red Pathways to cast the singleton Rune of Speed. Realistically, it seems less likely to come up than getting Field of Ruined multiple times. Plus, adding extra clicks to MTG Arena is a massive downside. Save your wildcards. I’m sure there are other potential improvements to be made, but the deck already looks solid. 

When I started writing this article, I certainly didn’t expect to end up with Runeforge Champion or Suspicious Stowaway in my decklists, but here we are. Not only does Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty provide new cards to build around, it also gives ways to power up old stuff. I wish we had more reasons to care about Standard, but I’m happy to have something to exercise my brain. The next couple of weeks will be fun.