Aftermath: The Winners of Kamigawa Neon Dynasty

Welcome into the Aftermath series where I reexamine sets that have been out for at least a year. During preview seasons, many cube content creators, me included, will do a preliminary look at cards and try our best to gauge how they will perform in cube. This is a tough endeavor as cubes vary wildly between different restrictions and players preference. Combine this with the fact that we haven't really seen the cards in action and what we all provide is an incomplete picture of the ceiling and baseline. As time progresses, the cards are better understood and the community does an amazing job of putting out this information. These post are intended to highlight the winners, duds, and interesting cards in cube from the set.

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The missed reference to FF7 had the Emperor been facing the other way

 It has been a year since the release of Kamigawa Neon Dynasty and I think the marketing for this set was the best it's been in a long while. WotC went in on anime cards, which was a success with the player base and they had a collaboration with Hatsune Miku, which I didn't enjoy, but thought it was cool that it happened. The actual set itself was a big deal as well as many of the stronger cards in the set have made appearances in eternal formats including legacy. This also normally translates into being the biggest win for cube. At the time, I wasn't writing and relied on the analysis of others to assess sets for my own cube. From what I am remembering, it was no surprised that the set was powerful thanks primarily to the channel lands. What went under the radar was largely the sagas from this set. The sagas in this took a different approach to the general formula by having all of them transform on the third step into creatures instead of sacrificing themselves, this has made them much more powerful as a whole package.

Without further dallying, let's take a look at the cards that have proven themselves.


Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is easily one of the top 5 cards from this set and the biggest sleeper card as mentioned in a previous article. Initially, the community was intrigued by it, but downplayed its power because of the focus on the pseudo Kiki-Jiki side of the card. When the card made an appearance in almost every constructed format it could show up all the way down to legacy and I've heard rumblings of it even making it down to vintage, the perception of the card shifted with some in the Twitch chat jokingly saying the card should be banned. The card is almost always a 2 for 1 because of how powerful the goblin token is. During Pro Tour Phyrexia, I kept seeing the players spend removal on the token, but it needed to be done to prevent the treasure token; something, I've done too many times in standard on Arena. The second step is strong as well as you can use it to filter your hand to smooth it out and set up your future plays. These two abilities on the card are what makes it powerful with flipping the card being peak value. Its viability and power translates into the cube environment seamlessly, making it a card any red deck is happy to run. Its abilities have applications across multiple archetypes as well. Thus, any cube that doesn't restrict itself to budget or rarity should be looking to include this card. I foresee another longtime cube staple that will be hard to replace.

Lion Sash was a card that I and the community was confident in due to how similar it was to Scavenging Ooze. What sets the card apart from Scavenging Ooze is that it trades the lifegain to being able gain counters for exiling any permanent. This expanded list of options is great as the variety of playable noncreature permanents expand with each set. What's more is that thanks to the cards design, it has deep synergies and interactions leading to it being able to see play in different formats including legacy. The card is stronger as the game progresses as it is able to grow itself. In addition, being able to reconfigure has been more potent than it appears. Not only does reconfiguring make the other creatures bigger, players are also able to use this ability to protect the card from creature removal and board wipes as it stops being a creature. In the context of cube, this card does get weaker as Stoneforge Mystic allowed this card to function as a silver bullet when you needed it and since most cubes are singleton, there's just not that many Stoneforge Mystics running around. Even with this factored in, the card is still playable in cube thanks to its other synergies. The unique functionality of the card establishes it as a long time cube contender.

The Wandering Emperor was another card that the community felt mixed on with many not impressed with what was written on the card and underestimating the flash component of the card. The cube community made the mistake of comparing her to the other 4 mana options particularly, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, which ultimately lead some to brush her off. This was a mistake as players better understood how she wanted to be played. The flash component of the card turned the card into a modal combat trick/ removal spell similar to Selesnya Charm except this one sticks arond and continues to general value. This allowed the card to make its way all the way down to even niche legacy play. For cube play, this is very much a reality and the versatility on the card pushes it into what I think will make it a cube staple for a long time.

Each of the channel lands have become cube staples, each with varying degrees of power. As a general rule of thumb, the cube drafting experience improves as players are able to play more of what they draft. As monocolor lands, players will always be able to include them in the decks since they are replacing basic lands. Being lands that come into play untapped, the only trade off to playing the cards is losing the land type, which is negligible in most cases. Their channel abilities lets players treat them like instant speed spells, which is vice versa of the DFC land/spell cards from Zendikar Rising, which are still respectable in cube. This allows them to see strong synergies with land strategies using cards like Life from the Loam. They are also harder to deal with in the hand as many of the popular hand disruption spells like Duress or Thoughtseize are unable to target land cards in the hand. Additionally since the abilities are from the channel, your opponents are unable to counter it as well unless they can counter abilities

Of the cycle, the best is easily Boseiju, Who Endures, which many were aware of already. Having a naturalize effect on a land was a huge deal as generally that effect is often left to the sideboard due to how narrow it is. Having it on a land allows players to have the effect on hand when needed and a land when needed. Neither scenario is bad lending to the viability of the card. What pushes it further is the fact that it can also hit nonbasic lands making this card. This expands the card's utility and allowing any deck to have more tools at their disposal with no loss of opportunity.

The rest are pretty debatable on where they rank against each other, but I'm biased towards the white one as a Boros. Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire is sweet to me because it is a removal spell. The ability is conditional though as the target needs to be attacking or blocking, otherwise players can avoid this simply by not doing either. The channel ability is more difficult to deal than other removal cards. This is because the ability comes from a land, which are considered colorless. As a colorless source, this invalidates protection from color, which is common as Mother of Runes and family are popular cube staples. This may be replaceable in the future, but I highly doubt it.

Takenuma, Abandoned Mire has been stronger than I expect every time I've seen it played. Being able to recur a creature or planeswalker is always a pain as it invalidates whatever effort was spent to send the card into the graveyard. The mill 3 is relevant as it helps feed your graveyard to make more targets, which also further supports graveyard based decks. This is especially relevant in land decks, which are generally green black and heavily graveyard based. Being instant speed makes it even more potent. WotC has designed creature recursive lands before, but the way Takenuma is designed sets it apart and will help it remain in cubes.

Otawara, Soaring City is stronger than I give it credit for. I always downplay bounce cards as I'm not a huge fan of them. The card is able to bounce any current nonland permanents (we don't know what Battles are as of this point). As with any bounce spell, you are able to use it to set your opponents back, but you can also use it to target your own stuff. This is useful for when you want to protect your stuff or rebuy the ETB/ Cast trigger on your cards. The card that comes closest to this card would be Karakas and that one is limited to just legendary creatures, but is repeatable. The uniqueness of the card is why I foresee a long life in cube for this card.

Sokenzan, Crucible of Defense is the card that I like the least amongst this cycle and its largely due to the cost to channel the card compared to its effect. I often will compare the card to Raise the Alarms, which does something similar, but at a much smaller cost. The haste does make a difference, but I have yet to have been in a scenario where it did. What makes it better is the same reason as above on why this cycle is good, but token generation on a land has been done before and it wouldn't be surprised to see it again. What will keep this card relevant in cube will be the fact that this card is a token generator in the red section. Had it been white, I can definitely see this card getting replaced in the future.

As someone who was still playing Simic Skyswallower, Colossal Skyturtle has been a blessing. Both cards are similar enough in function that in most cases you are able to switch one out for another. The turtle trades in trample and downgrades shroud to ward in exchange for the channel abilities. This is huge as Simic Skyswallower primarily functions as a reanimation and fatty cheat target, which is a role this card and fulfill. What I like more about the card is that the channel ability adds more utility to the card as well as being its own discard outlet. This allows players to not worry as much about finding discard outlets saving them some space in their drafts and in the decks. This card remain as long as I'm interested in a Simic Skyswallower esque card.

The End Step

WotC did a really good job with designing these cards as all of the cards mentioned aside the Skyturtle see constructed play beyond just standard. Their playability translates over into the cube. Though I think eternal formats suffered, it honestly feels like cube has been the biggest beneficiary of FIRE design. Having cards that can serve multiple functions or extend their lifespan within a game is a huge deal as it makes every card you add less gimmicky. It lead to dumb things like Ragavan, but it also lead to sweet designs like Fable or the channel lands. I'm honestly hoping WotC does follow through with toning down the power level as I feel there's always a plethora of cards worth trying out in cube with every set. As for Kamigawa Neon Dynasty, I believe this set is probably one of the best that we had in quite some time. So please return, sometime in the future to see the second installment, where I discuss more cards from NEO: the cards that aren't guaranteed slam dunks, but are definitely relooking at every now and then. The link to the second article

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