Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty
This article is one of our set prospectives, a series in which we survey the Cube community about the cards they intend to play in their cubes from a particular set. Our survey is conducted between the set’s full-spoiler and official release and is meant to measure and document Cube designers’ first impressions of new cards.
Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, Magic’s latest expansion, is breaking fresh ground with its sci-fi aesthetic. We surveyed 263 unique Cube curators with over 283 cubes on this set. These designers are reporting in with everything from the context of an “only showcase art” cube, an infinite-mana cube, and everything in between. See where our respondents’ cubes fall on the Cube Map.
Cube curators are optimistic about Neon Dynasty for their lists — the median designer is testing 12 cards and has given 3 cards a rating above 2.5 (strong likelihood to stay long-term). The number of cards tested is only slightly lower than the record-setting Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Zendikar Rising. Each each of those sets had a median of 4 cards per respondent rated above 2.5, one more than for Neon Dynasty. Whether our audience is changing its tastes, our audience itself is changing, or NEO’s cards are more contentious than usual, we observe lower ratings for Kamigawa than the number of tests might lead us to expect.
|Eater of Virtue||55.6%||2.6|
|Blade of the Oni||48.0%||2.2|
|Boseiju, Who Endures||47.7%||2.7|
|The Wandering Emperor||40.1%||2.3|
|Touch the Spirit Realm||28.0%||2.2|
|Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire||26.9%||2.3|
|Otawara, Soaring City||23.7%||2.2|
|Takenuma, Abandoned Mire||21.9%||2.2|
|Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance||17.9%||2.1|
|The Reality Chip||17.2%||2.0|
|March of Otherworldly Light||17.2%||2.0|
|Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh||15.4%||2.2|
|Junji, the Midnight Sky||15.1%||2.0|
|Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki||11.5%||1.9|
|Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion||10.4%||2.1|
|Tamiyo, Compleated Sage||9.3%||2.0|
|Kodama of the West Tree||8.6%||2.1|
|Kumano Faces Kakkazan // Etching of Kumano||8.2%||1.9|
|Okiba Reckoner Raid // Nezumi Road Captain||8.2%||1.7|
|Atsushi, the Blazing Sky||7.9%||2.1|
|Discover the Impossible||7.5%||2.1|
|Invigorating Hot Spring||7.5%||2.2|
|March of Reckless Joy||7.2%||2.0|
|You Are Already Dead||6.8%||1.9|
|Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei||6.5%||1.9|
|Michiko's Reign of Truth // Portrait of Michiko||6.5%||2.0|
|Jugan Defends the Temple // Remnant of the Rising Star||5.7%||1.9|
|Imperial Recovery Unit||5.7%||1.9|
|Tameshi, Reality Architect||5.4%||2.0|
|Ao, the Dawn Sky||5.4%||1.9|
|The Restoration of Eiganjo // Architect of Restoration||5.0%||1.6|
|The Modern Age // Vector Glider||5.0%||1.8|
|Shigeki, Jukai Visionary||4.7%||1.9|
|Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos||4.7%||1.8|
|Kyodai, Soul of Kamigawa||4.3%||2.0|
Only six cards from Neon Dynasty are being tested by over 40% of our respondents, a marked decrease compared to past surveys of highly-tested sets. Many of these are impactful frontrunners in constructed formats, or invite obvious comparisons to broadly successful Cube cards, which are both factors we’ve observed to be highly correlated with cards that are initially most appealing to Cube designers.
More than half of the most popular NEO cards are new Equipments, including cards which showcase the new Reconfigure ability. These equipment/creature hybrids allow Cube curators to tune the opportunity cost of drafting and maindecking Equipment in their formats, across a variety of design goals. High-efficiency, faster formats may enjoy the low-risk nature of such Equipment, while synergy-driven cubes will value the wealth of game text that can cross-pollinate with other synergies.
“I love how Reconfigure lets me play more Equipment without oversaturating.”
Of the non-Equipment which are seeing broad inclusion into Cube lists, Boseiju offers a catch-all removal spell with minimal opportunity cost, and The Wandering Emperor is a bold new direction in the design of planeswalkers. Each offers novel, powerful rules text, which is often successful in generating pre-release buzz among the Cube community.
Notably, compared to other recently printed cycles of rare utility lands, the Legendary cycle from NEO which includes Boseiju is seeing less play and lower ratings among our respondents. This may be due to a perceived saturation of such effects, or a fatigue in testing such lands, not necessarily the rules text of the lands themselves.
Some of NEO’s most highly rated cards are tested by relatively few curators (well below 40% of respondents). Some, like Greater Tanuki or Containment Construct, offer new opportunities for rarity-restricted cubes and redundancy for other lists, so there’s a degree of selection bias where the people testing the Construct are highly likely to want this artifact 2-drop over against the many alternatives.
“The design of many of the commons and uncommons in this set is interesting enough that I'm now considering building a Peasant cube.”
Other effects, like Kaito Shizuki, Twinshot Sniper, or Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire, are more difficult to analyze. These effects have few clear analogies for their power level, and lean into unusual mechanical space (e.g. attacking-focused Dimir cards) that may suppress the community’s enthusiasm.
There is a palpable excitement in the air in the opening weeks of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, as its novel and powerful effects begin to hit game tables. Even though its cards aren’t as highly rated as past surveys, that’s not stopping our respondents from testing a lot of Neon Dynasty!
Here are my own thoughts:
NEO has a lot of power hidden in consistency-boosting baubles.
Experimental Synthesizer, Mnemonic Sphere, The Reality Chip, and other consistency-boosting artifacts do not do much to support the “tribal”-style, linearly scaling synergy of Tempered Steel or Master of Etherium. Instead, their synergy is of the same kind as Emry, Lurker of the Loch and Goblin Engineer, in that they offer their controller card advantage at minimal cost, while also enabling a web of interlocking synergies. They may look unassuming and were not widely tested by our survey respondents, but I predict that artifact-centric Cube curators are underestimating their appeal and power.
“Wizards nailed the cyberpunk flavor while still feeling like Magic.”
NEO’s Sagas play smoothly despite their complexity.
A notable absence from the most-tested cards of this survey were the Sagas of NEO. They may suffer the “double-faced tax” that we’ve consistently seen lowers survey results for double-faced cards (DFCs), but my Retail Limited experience with NEO has taught me the Sagas have positive play patterns and reasonable rates. I’ve personally seen great things from Boseiju Reaches Skyward, Okiba Reckoner Raid, The Modern Age, and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, but it’s clear the Saga designs are just thoughtfully executed throughout the set. For my money, NEO’s Sagas offer some of the best DFC gameplay since the mechanic debuted in Innistrad.
Neon Dynasty has something for everyone.
Only six cards are seeing broad (>40%) testing among our respondents, and yet the median respondent is testing twice that many NEO cards. Whatever the cause of this quirky result, it’s obvious that designers are testing some deep cuts. My bet is that every card in this set, no matter how unassuming, will be some cube designer’s idea of a perfectly designed card. Maybe that someone will be you!
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