Aftermath: The Interesting Cards 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 posts are intended to highlight the winners, duds, and interesting cards in cube from the set.

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Continuing on from our last section, we'll be taking a look at the interesting cards that aren't quite clear winners but can definitely find homes in various cubes. What's keeping them from being clear cut winners is that I generally have a positive experience with the cards and they have generally played well, but they are conditional enough that I'm not confident on their power in cube. What separates them from the interesting cards during preview season is that they have proven themselves to be strong in the right situation.

Cards of Interest

Thundering Raiju
was a card I largely ignored until I started playing it in standard. It was there that I learned and understood the power of the card. The card functions as a variant of Hellrider, which has been a staple of cubes. Thundering Raiju plays worse than Hellrider as the damage is dealt based on the number of other modified creatures, whereas Hellrider is every creature. It makes up for this fact by being able to put a +1/+1 counter on creatures, leading it to play well with other synergies like modify, power matters, and +1/+1 counters. Though I wouldn't play it over Hellrider, I would want this in lower powered environments or if I wanted more synergies.

Weaver of Harmony is one of the cards I believe will become more powerful as time goes on. It is one of the best pieces to heavily interact with enchantments and enchantment creatures.More than likely, it will be irreplaceable as long as you support an enchantment theme. WotC has stated to making enchantment creatures either deciduous or evergreen, which only increases the playability of the card. The copy ability has been interesting from the times I played it as not only can you copy activated and enchantment ETB abilities, you can also copy abilities like Cycling and Channel. As a cube designer, this card has a ton of potential to grow, but for now is worth keeping an eye on as sets come out.

 Kumano Faces Kakkazan has been a stellar card to play with on Arena for aggressive decks (I'm an aggro player at heart) and has been a potent card among various cubers who do run the card. It has a line of play that allows it to be better than the one drops, aside from Ragavan, which is what keeps me interested in the card. Players who play it in cube have stated that being able to maximize the card by using each chapter feels incredible, but being unable to really makes the card feel lackluster. The main problem and also its best feature comes from the second chapter. It wants you to play a creature that turn, which isn't normally a problem in most cases. The instances where you can't feel like you wasted a turn; this reasoning sets it up to be a bad card to top deck as well. I still think the card is worth trying in any cube environment.

Rabbit Battery has been another card that has potential, but is not able to beat out the other one drop options that are available in red. As an artifact equipment creature, this will definitely thrive in the right environment. This sits at the crossroads of various strategies such as artifacts to fires. It is fairly playable though the baseline is barely serviceable, the potential is solid alongside the synergies. In cubes looking to support equipments or artifacts in red, this will be stellar otherwise the competition for the slot keeps this card out.

Touch the Spirit Realm has become one of my favorite cards from NEO as its applications and synergies are really cool, however it loses to the competition in terms of power. At face value, the card functions extremely similar to split cards as you have two modes you can choose from: An enchantment removal spell or a cheaper slow flicker spell. The removal side is able to hit both artifacts or creatures similar to Oblivion Ring. The flicker/channel part of the card is where things get interesting. You are able to use similar to Flickerwisp meaning you can flick your own stuff to generate value or you can target your opponent's cards to temporarily remove them from the game. This part is also not considered a spell making it difficult to counter since there is a limited number of cards that can actually deal with abilities. Lastly as a 3MV permanent, cards like Sun Titan and Serra Paragon can recur it for more value.

Experimental Synthesizer is a card that others have had a positive experience with, though I haven't tested with it yet. Much like Rabbit Battery, this is another card that is at the crossroads of a ton of archetypes. It plays well with artifact synergies. What makes the card stand out is that it is functionally a cantrip in red. This is solid in a color that struggles to maintain card advantage as it can be used early to smooth out your plays and cashed in later to dig deeper in your deck. With the way it is worded, the card exiling triggers when it enters or leaves. This sets it up to be an insane flicker target as it will generally net you 2 cards per blink. Going further you always have the option to sacrifice it to itself to make a token, which will also trigger the exile draw. The amount of card advantage generated in a color that needs has me wanting to actually test the card in my cube.

Tamiyo's Safekeeping has been a huge pain for me in standard as I never expected it. The card is a shrunken down version of Heroic Intervention with extra utility. Not only does this card protect your creatures, this can also target lands, artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers. On top of that, you gain 2 life. Strong combat trick, but most environments don't support them. This would be a strong one in environments that do.

Spirited Companion was a card I largely ignored at first as a Elvish Visionary in white didn't seem too crazy to me at first and then I watched it see more play than I think it should have. At 2MV, it shares the same ETB with only Wall of Omens, which is a solid blocker, but it can't attack or trade with creatures. This can, making it a decent contender in cube. Furthermore, it is an enchantment creature making it more vulnerable to different types of removal, however it also has more synergies with enchantress things. In a vacuum, this card still doesn't outshine other cards, but should enchantress become more viable as a non parasitic archetype, definite inclusion much like Weaver of Harmony.

The Modern Age has been strong in much the same way as the other Kamigawa sagas. The first two steps are sweet and help you smooth out your next couple of turns after you play it. Step 3 gives you a solid creature that serves well as both an attacker or defender depending on your needs at that point in the game. In a way, it tries to mimic Looter Il-Kor. As an enchantment, it has synergies there and will also play well alongside decks wanting noncreatures. More powerful cubes will have better options, but this is worth taking a look every so often.

From the comments from the last article, Tamiyo, Compleated Sage was a card that was mentioned several times. It made me do a double take as I disregarded the card initially. I found the card underwhelming since it seemed all over the place. What's drawing me to the card now is the -X ability. This allows her to function as a reanimator card in colors that normally don't do this (Blue can do it with Body Double and Green can with Moldegraf Monstrosity) and she is able to return any nonland permaments including planeswalkers. This is amazing at outvaluing your opponent. She is also able to +1 to protect herself or stop your opponent's from tapping their artifacts. She offers Simic something unique, which is where her value will come from. This will be different from cube to cube, I would defintiely relook at her.

Kaito Shizuki was another card that a lot of people were asking about. From my experience with him, he's solid, but boring. Having the phasing allows him to stick around for at least one more turn, guaranteeing you 2 uses of him. This allows you to safely create a ninja if you want to expand your board state or do some card draw shenanigans either option is good. He's great to play with as they are often looking to replenish their hand. My main concern is that for my group, he is never amazing or rather never feels amazing, making us think he is doing less than what he actually might be doing. This makes him feel easily replaceable. This is why he isn't a strong recommend from me, but I do think he is strong enough to make it in a ton of different cubes.

Oni-Cult Anvil isn't a card I play a ton with but I play a ton against since it's extremely popular in constructed. This card is awesome as a welder payoff card from the activated bleed effect and the token generation making it annoying to play against. Unfortunately, this card largely depends on having a deep artifact theme, which my cube doesn't really have. If your cube does, I'd definitely take a look on how to include this card.

Reckoner Bankbuster  has shattered my perspective on vehicles. When they were first introduced vehicles were generally bad aside from Smuggler's Copter, which has lead me to dismiss them when I see them. Bankbuster has been good for me since I tried it in Arena Cube and got me to start playing it in constructed. This card has one of the cheaper artifact draw effects, which is a selling point and it makes for a decent card to play on curve as the 4/4 body is powerful and the crew is reasonable. Still not a huge fan of vehicles, but this definitely needs to be played with to be understood.

Eater of Virtue should be seen as a sidegrade to Bonesplitter that definitely has its utilities. One of the main concerns about this card was that it prevented you from recurring your creatures from the graveyard. This is a legitimate concern as the decks that want this card also want to play recursion to keep up in terms of card advantage. I don't have a ton of experience with the card, but I had a game where an exiled Vault Skirge allowed me to oppress my opponent. This might be a cool card to try out, but it has the potential to be worse than Bonesplitter. I'm planning to keep it in my cube for a while to see how it pans out.

Shorikai, Genesis Engine is a card I'm hyped to try to include with my next update thanks to @Zolthux. Every now and then he'll post pictures of his games and Shorikai is ever present in the ones I see. The card seems really cool now that I'm taking a second look at it. Initially I considered it too slow, but playing a bit more cube help me recalibrate my opinion. Activating the ability is a ton of value as it garners you card advantage and a token. I can see this taking over games quickly. 

Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful has been a stellar card from my testing.  He grows from legendary permanent entering the battlefield, which includes all planeswalkers and any legendary land. Some see this as too much build around. When I originally ran him, I knew he would be a solid card as long as he could grow into a 2/2. This card has easily been growing to 3/3-4/4 every time I've seen him played. I have a large number of legendary permanents, which might be why he works for me. If you run a large enough number of legendaries, this is worth considering for aggro and midrange piles.

Kappa Cannoneer has been a considerable threat in artifact heavy cubes. The improvise allows you to drop it down really early. Even if artifacts come down afterwards makes this card unblockable and beefier. This is a scary fast finisher and difficult to deal with thanks to the Ward 4. So in cubes with deep artifact sections, I would include it. 

The End Step

WotC did a really good job with designing these cards as all of the cards mentioned are interesting enough that you want to make them work in cube(and some people have). Many of the cards fill specific niches and are waiting for their time to shine. I think anything else I have to say has already been said in my previous article. If you wanted to take a look at what I thought were the best cards from the set you click this link here. 

Outside of blog writing, I've been also working on my YouTube channel running a general magic podcast with my friends and making YouTube shorts about cube. It's been an interesting endeavor and I plan on continue working on it, but I don't find it as enjoyable as writing these articles for a variety of reasons. If you want to take a look, just click this link here.

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