- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty
Wake up Samurai, we've got a meta to burn...
Pauper players are eagerly awaiting the release of Magic the Gathering's ninety-first expansion set Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty which is available now on MTGO and set to release in paper play this Friday on Feb 18th, 2022.
This set brings with it the return to our rat ninja friends from the Kamigawa plane only now it's 1200 years into the future and with the added flavor of a more "neo-dystopian cyberpunk" themed art aesthetic. Clean.
Seeing how Pauper content creators and grinders alike have been talking about these new pieces I figured I would throw my hat in as well with my top picks to consider before the set officially releases later this week.
As always, some of these will no doubt be heavy hitters with respect to the current meta, however, for the players out there that want to experiment and tinker with designs that might not be the most competitive, I'd like to call out some picks for that crowd as well which could have potential in your pet decks or other jank engines.
Before jumping with our list, I also wanted to call out the a few pieces for having some great art.
Return to Action didn't make my list of picks, but I think this card art captures the set the best and is a return to an older style of card illustration that I truly love. Spell Pierce is obviously a reprint in this set, but I really dig the art as it's one of the cooler images that seems to depict how a counter effect would look which I think is pretty rad.
Lastly, if you're a big fan of playing with Japanese versions of cards, then these full-art lands from the set were made for you. It's no surprise prices are rising on these so if you're thinking of throwing more than a few copies into your themed lists, now is the time to buy.
It's got "companion" in the name, therefore we must look at it. This pup brings Elvish Visionary effects in White, but perhaps only for newer or dedicated white decks. Max from Snap Bolt Games has mentioned giving this a serious shot in UW Evoke so that could be pretty tasty as a way to continue providing targets for Ephemerate. Either way, Companion could be a cool piece to brew around and potentially allow for something that might come out in the future to really solidify this card in the format due to its card drawing ETB abilities in white.
I've heard many players talking about how excited they are to brew with this one. A 5/7 artifact chunker for two blue and five colorless that forces opponents to pay an additional 3 colorless anytime they target isn't the most exciting, but the Channel ability on this crustacean is something new we haven't seen in Pauper yet.
This crab grants the opportunity to counter spells or abilities in the early game and it's not a spell, but an ability itself, meaning it can't be countered unless answered with another crab or the 3 colorless cost is paid. I'm interested in brewing with this a bit for Dimir Reanimator as another big body and early game interaction. At the end of the day, it also feeds the Angler.
The Modern Age // Vector Glider
Saga's have now made their way to Pauper. Cool.
I think this is the best of the saga cards in this set. I'm not sure where it goes, but could be an interesting brew piece. It does a lot for two mana though even though it's slow. Maybe that's interesting as a flicker target for continual looting effects. Hopefully, there are more interesting saga type designs coming to Pauper in the future.
Hacker has been one of the most anticipated additions since it was spoiled last month. Commoners have already started brewing with this ninja in both faerie and non-faerie lists alike. It's likeness to Ninja of the Deep Hours, but for the more affordable cost of one blue mana will give mono U lists an edge in the meta. Even though it seems that it's not a strict upgrade to Deep Hours, I'm not so sure that a Six Ninja list doesn't favor Hacker. When it comes to card advantage, it can be amazing when having two Hackers on the board as you could keep them working off one another just like its Deep Hours counterpart.
This piece doesn't fix mana, but it can give a little power if put in a low-cost artifact deck.
The Channel ability is interesting in that it's another one that can't be countered as it's an ability. Sending a big threat or combo piece to the bottom of an opponent's library is pretty strong, however, it's going to cost you.
This 1/1 artifact flyer looks interesting and is already seeing some experimentation in blue Artifact Ninja builds, one of which was seen recently from a Pauperganda brew by Deluxicoff.
Disruptor seems to be a good way to add a bot to the board while providing an evading body as well as manipulating your opponent's board for just 1 mana with a Pestermite-like effect.
It's a flicker spell so it's already worth mentioning in a format where skilled pilots blink pieces in and out of existence much to their opponents' chagrin and often when it best suits them. This doesn't necessarily outshine any of the other blink spells available in the format, but it might be interesting as a way to target artifacts. Perhaps it could reset and buff a Geist?
Expensive. But interesting for artifact decks that might want to draw through their libraries. This has potential for a combo piece in the format if there's a way to capitalize on this ability with Ashnod's Altar and Myr Retriever. Maybe this is the card that engine was looking for since Retriever's downshift? It's included for this reason. Also, the art absolutely rules here.
I think this instant spell is a tad expensive, but a nice gotcha ability if you're playing a midrange blue deck that wants to hang back. If a Vehicle deck eventually emerges later in the format it might be a lot more playable as a cantrip.
Another pricey addition, but this thing can lock down permanents pretty well. I could see this in some sort of Pauper prison deck and I'm interested in including one or two in an Acid Trip list as sideboard tech for future combo decks in the scene.
If ninja lists go the way of blue artifacts rather than fae, I could see these being an interesting play against a Shield Sphere, Phy Walker, or Ornithopter taking them offline and bleeding their opponent out over time. Regardless, maybe Dimir Fae wants to jam a few of these, who am I to judge? Several of these on the board is an interesting clock for just one black mana.
Okiba Reckoner Raid // Nezumi Road Captain
Another saga addition, this time in black. At first glance, this might not seem too impressive, but drain for 2 for a 2/2 Menace isn't too bad for a single black investment. Some Mono-Black lists are using rogues and this could fit in there possibly somewhere.
Another card similar to Village Rites, Costly Plunder, and the format favorite: Deadly Dispute. This one is interesting as a way to sac artifacts like Ichor Wellspring to draw three, or like a Frogmite, Enforcer, or other Affinity creature to gain some big life at instant speed before it's destroyed by an opponents' Gal Blast. Could be great technology for decks that use these types of "draw two" cards against the damage matchup such as Burn or lists that decide to shed blue and Thoughtcast like Rakdos Affnity seems to be doing.
Seems like this would be a major piece in a Black Metal deck that wants to manufacture Lotus Petals and turn on Glaze Fiends or something even weirder. Four toughness is a good-sized butt as well when it comes to insulating against unwanted interaction.
You Are Already Dead
Cool reference, we get it, we see what you did...
I think this piece is interesting as a pseudo-deathtouch effect that cantrips. Played similarly to Tragic Slip post-combat, I could also see this card being played potentially in Black Devotion to synergize well with Witches. Good to see more power and card draw in Black.
Synthesizer is a cheap red artifact with both an ETB & LTB effect which makes it interesting if you're able to bounce it with Kor Skyfisher or Glint Hawk. For that reason. I would consider testing this in a Boros Monarch build of some kind to see if it has any staying power.
Does Stompy want this? No doubt it has some great synergy with this list, but the age-old question Stompy pilots will face: what to take out? More importantly, what wants to be bounced in Stompy? Burning-Tree Emissary or Eldrazi token generators perhaps.
I do like the value it brings to tokens and other Rancor targets to keep pressure on. So with that, Green Snake Ninja seems cool.
Commune with Spirits
This piece is very similar to Commune with the Gods that has seen play in combo decks like Walls Combo, and older Hexproof lists. This could see some play as a cheap way to dig for threats or more tasty auras like Ethereal Armor or Armadillo Cloak.
Fang of Shigeki
Folks keep telling me to leave the 1/1 Deathtouch creatures out of my picks, and though they are absolutely correct to shame me, the meme will live on! This one is also an enchantment which is a slight upgrade to the typical 1 drop touchers. Nothing special here, but if deathtouch is wrong, then let's start a club or something.
This good boy is a straight upgrade to Krosan Tusker. If you're playing this as technology in TortEx, or other strange beast decks, consider this one instead. Also an enchantment as well. Don't let your dreams be dreams.
Season of Renewal
If you're going to let Tanuki out of the kennel in your Tortured Existence list, then Season of Renewal makes Tanuki better. I would love for this to be one colorless cheaper, but I could see this being tinkered with for specific toolbox lists.
With the ban of Bonder's Ornament several weeks ago, this looks like the best replacement outside of just moving in another direction completely. Even though it only costs two, realistically it could be useless. I'm not sure Affinity wants this but there are a few lists I could think of that could benefit from its inclusion like Snap Bolt's Golgari Muck list if more robots were added.
Hack the planet you crazy techno-mage, you.
So that rounds out my top picks for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, twenty-two selections with blue (9), black (5), and green (6) getting lots of love, the others not so much this time around.
Still, I'm pumped to try a few of these new pieces in casual paper & online play and I think the recent meta shift has been interesting, to say
For a recap of 'The Cauldron', our evergreen Pauper staples list, check out this free resource and article here.
If you're a newer player to the format looking for another tool to aid you in your brewing, someone constructing a Pauper cube, or just someone who wants to refine their already powerful Scryfall searches a bit more for a comprehensive list of powerful Pauper pieces; these new picks have been added to this living document.
As always, thanks for reading and until next time, happy brewing friends!