Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty has been released for a week and the Arena Open is this coming weekend with Day One being Sealed and Day Two being Bo3 Draft. Today I would like to cover some of my favorite draft archetypes and some keys to understanding the mechanics of the set.
This Limited format has quite a wide range, from low to the ground aggro to wild 5 color good stuff decks. Let’s start from the hyper aggressive color: Red.
Red Based Draft
Red provides a strong base of artifact-based aggro. 《Towashi Songshaper》, 《Unstoppable Ogre》 and 《Scrapyard Steelbreaker》 are efficient and aggressive low drops. 《Voltage Surge》 and 《Kami’s Flare》 are efficient removal.
On the other hand, uncommons like 《Kumano Faces Kakkazan》 and 《Rabbit Battery》 are very much better in aggressive decks. 《Experimental Synthesizer》 is especially great with lots of cheap cards in the deck.
As a result we see lots of low to the ground Red aggro starting the curve at one mana and topping the curve at four mana or even lower.
The biggest question here is always what should we pair Red with.
Red White share the “Samurai or Warrior attacks alone” ability. The biggest issue I have with this ability is that I would like to attack with all my creatures instead of just one.
Instead, I want to draft some supporting cards in White. 《Dragonfly Suit》 and 《Befriending the Moths》 are great at providing flying damage which Red lacks. 《Mothrider Patrol》, 《Intercessor’s Arrest》 and 《Repel the Vile》 could help us handle creatures which cannot be answered by damage based removals. Those are the top 5 commons I would like from White when pairing it with Red.
Blue shared the “Artifact Matters” theme with Red. As I mentioned before, Red has got a very good artifact-based package. I will say Blue is a natural fit with Red in the set.
It is very common to see 《Enthusiastic Mechanaut》 as a late pick in later packs as it only works in Blue-Red artifact based decks which at most have two players drafting the theme. 《Automated Artificer》 is also great in the archetype, helping us to cast heavy hitters like 《Futurist Sentinel》 and 《Scrapyard Steelbreaker》 by turn three.
There are a couple of artifact payoffs in terms of 《Skyswimmer Koi》, 《Replication Specialist》, 《Dragonspark Reactor》 and 《Patchwork Automaton》. Even though they are mostly uncommon, the nature of the cards only being good in particular decks means we can get them later than usual.
Black does not provide many aggressive cards compared with Blue and White except one card: 《Okiba Reckoner Raid》, one of the most aggressive one-drops in the format. The other two creatures I consider playable are 《Chainflail Centipede》 and 《Dokuchi Shadow-Walker》.
Yet these are actually best along with flying creatures, and I definitely do not want to pick them highly. This means we are valuing the cards significantly differently to other players in the pod which makes it even harder to pick them up.
On the removal ends, 《Twisted Embrace》 is great but it costs double black. 《Lethal Exploit》 has similar limitations to other damage based removals. The best removal we got from Black might actually be 《You Are Already Dead》. Overall I think Black-Red is not a good color pairing unless you get to pick up 3-5 《Okiba Reckoner Raid》.
Green has only one artifact creature in the set and it is a 1/4 with reach. What Red can do with Green is the modified theme as suggested by the signpost uncommon in the colors: 《Invigorating Hot Spring》.
However, I found the modified cards not to be the reason I would draft Red in the format as I could just draft Green with better natural synergy. I would try to avoid this color pairing.
Green Based Draft
Although Green may not be good when paired with Red, it is actually my favorite color in the format. Not being well matched with the best color (Red) means the chance of the color being underdrafted is higher. Its ability to play defense and being able to mount a powerful swing back in the mid game has been impressive to me.
There are lots of solid cards in green. 《Fang of Shigeki》 and 《Jukai Trainee》 are great low drops able to play both offense and defense. 《Careful Cultivation》 can help us ramp into our bigger creatures.
While 《Bamboo Grove Archer》 is a defender and you may not want to main deck too many of it, please remember the format of Arena Open Day 2 is Best of 3. This type of polarized card gets its full value in sideboard games.
The card I love the most in Green is 《Tales of Master Seshiro》. This card basically takes up the role of swinging back against aggressive strategies. The first two chapters let us build up a bigger creature and make free attacks thanks to vigilance. The transformed side is always massive and forces the opponent to trade with you to break the board stall.
So let’s check how it pairs with other colors.
Green-White goes along with “Enchantment Matters” synergy. 《Generous Visitor》 is an all-star in this color combination, so does 《Sky-Blessed Samurai》. Three drops like 《Golden-Tail Disciple》 and 《Circuit Mender》 are great for this strategy as they can get you some life gain helping us get to late game to cast our fatties.
However, one of the common problems for Green-White is having too many Sagas. For the low drops, you really want to have actual creatures to play defense. Make no mistake, Sagas are great. You get so much value over all three chapters – but they need time to do so. Stabilizing and surviving is the key before you can enjoy all those values. For example, I will not treat the second copy of 《Era of Enlightenment》 as a two-drop.
Vehicles are also not as good in this deck type. You do not have many cheap creatures to crew it when you are busy casting 4 and 5 drops. This deck seldom double-spells until the late game.
Blue-Green is a very classic combination of stabilizing and winning with fliers. Blue provides some good flying creatures that help smooth draws as well.
One of the biggest problems of planning to cast big creatures is drawing the wrong ratio of spell and lands to do so. Cards like 《The Modern Age》, 《Moonfolk Puzzlemaker》, and 《Mnemonic Sphere》 help that alot.
The other advantage of Blue-Green is the ability to splash. Blue naturally helps us to dig into our deck much more than other colors. Splashing one to two off-color bombs with the help of gain lands would be easy.
On the removal side, the good blue tempo cards are not as great in Blue-Green. 《Moonsnare Specialist》 and 《Moonsnare Prototype》 are not as good as they are in tempo based decks. We need to rely much more on Green’s removal like 《Master’s Rebuke》 and 《Fade into Antiquity》.
For Black, it once again has the same problem as Red. The deck type has an identity problem. Ninjutsu does not work well with big creatures. The aggressive cards do not do much. There are value cards but I do not think they are better compared with those in Blue. The only reason I pair Green with Black probably is that the removals are great. Other than that I see almost no reason to do so.
The Esper Color Combination
I have almost gone through all the color combinations and it is not hard to notice my view of White, Blue and Black being mainly supporting colors in the set. This is mainly because they got a little bit of everything. They got some Ninjas, some Sagas, some vehicles, but no characters.
Imagine a table of players. Some are drafting artifact-based decks. Some are drafting enchantment-based decks. It is very easy for the Esper color combination player to only be able to draft the leftovers and their pool would just fall apart into unrelated cards.
It is still possible to draft a fine deck with good removals and a good curve but this is not how a modern Magic set is designed to be, which rewards synergy over raw rate. Therefore, I will try to avoid drafting decks based on these color combinations, though you can never account for what you’ll have to do in Sealed.
So this is all I got for the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Limited format. I wish you good luck opening bombs and not to face me in the Arena Open!
Lee Shi Tian (Twitter)