It’s wonderful that, every set, we get a couple of new Commander preconstructed decks! I appreciate this for a few reasons – first, it allows more players to get into my favorite format, and second, it provides us with quite a few exciting cards tailor-made for that format. Let’s take a look all of the best Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Commander Set cards, including the cards from the decks and all the cards exclusive to Set and Collector Boosters!
As a reminder, my focus is on social Commander rather than competitive EDH. These days, I’ve been leaning more toward a desire to play three 40-minute games in lieu of one two-hour slog, but I’ll be talking about cards from the wider social perspective. My goal when playing Commander is for everyone to have fun but also for me to have a good shot at winning the game – or at least doing the thing my deck set out to do – so if that’s your mindset as well, these reviews will probably resonate with you.
If you’re looking to build specifically around the “modified” mechanic, Chishiro is the number one choice here. Passing out counters is probably the easiest way to get this going, but with Auras and Equipment providing some extra creature tokens, it may actually be good to try to build around the whole mechanic holistically. If that works, that’s likely to be the most fun option!
Kotori, Pilot Prodigy
Vehicles are the order of the day here, and Kotori can automatically crew something every turn while also giving a decently low crew cost to the rest of your Vehicles. Notably, crew 2 means that Kotori can pilot anything, which is thematically appropriate. If your Vehicle already had crew 1, no worries – Kotori doesn’t overwrite that, so you can still use the crew 1 instead of the crew 2 if you like. The plan is simple – play your fast cars, cross the border into the city and finally see what it means to be living. Or I guess attack a lot.
Kaima, the Fractured Calm
The Vow and Impetus cycles work wonders here, as they’ll keep you from getting beaten down even when Kaima isn’t around, but there are a few purely negative Auras you can play alongside Kaima in this color combination as well. The intent here, though, is clear: start passing your Rancors out to opposing creatures and let them go to battle in your stead! I like the idea of throwing Firebreathing onto an opposing creature, as you’re the one who gets to pay to pump it, and there are plenty of other similar Auras to try as well.
Shorikai, Genesis Engine
I’m glad there’s the option to make this giant mech your commander, because it means you can focus your deck on a thematic “project” of recruiting enough pilots to get this going and then bashing in for commander damage. Here’s the rough part, though: this has no built-in evasion, so you’re going to need to find some ways to get it into the air or otherwise over the top. I would suggest trying out Aerial Modification!
I like this in aggressive decks – you can crew this with an early creature and use this to catch up on lands versus anyone who is ramping. Like many similar effects, this also works well against players who went earlier than you in the turn order, at least early on – you can attack someone with more lands, use this ability, and then play a land normally in your second main phase.
I can see this being intended to help you crew Vehicles on offense and defense, but it’s just a generic pseudo-vigilance tool as well, and it can help leverage additional uses of tap abilities. Getting extra uses out of Mother of Runes, Mikaeus, the Lunarch and other similar creatures may actually be the main benefit here.
Equipment-focused decks looking to suit up a single big creature – specifically, your commander – are going to want this card for sure. I’ll be trying it in Wyleth if it’s in budget, but I think it’ll also work well in Esper decks if you’re trying to get in with Silas Renn and do some serious recursion.
I like this take on Hour of Reckoning, and if you work hard to build specifically around artifact creatures, you can certainly break the symmetry. Of course, the tension here is the point – you get to destroy other peoples’ things, but in the process, you tap a bunch of your creatures and can’t take quite as much advantage of the uneven board state. The best way to solve this is with a serious complement of Servo and Thopter tokens!
Release to Memory
The Spirits are classic Kamigawa Spirit tokens – and by that, I mean they don’t have flying. With that in mind, four mana may be too much to pay for this effect, but if you’re all in on Spirits with something like Millicent as your commander, it’s worth a test run. The more anthems you have, the better it’ll perform.
I find this card absolutely hilarious. The flavor text could have been over the top, but I think it’s in the perfect spot. Throwing this onto a creature in combat will drop its creature type, at least temporarily, meaning you can use it to remove something from combat – once it loses the creature type, it gets removed from combat right away, so they won’t be able to do something like crew it mid-combat to get it back into the mix. This is going to delete most creatures for the foreseeable future, since crew 5 is really a lot.
I’m wary of any counterspell that costs four or more mana, since that becomes a lot of mana to hold up and potentially just waste. That said, the upside of getting a ton of Thopters is pretty serious, so it’s worth making sure you have some other ways to spend mana at instant speed if you don’t find the right candidate. Plus, this is really fun to say, and that’s the mark of a good counterspell, right?
The card names in this set are really extra, and I love that. This is a great way to get Shorikai airborne, but more importantly, it’s great in decks that want to play Rise and Shine. Here come all my Treasures, Clues and Food! (And yes, I suppose, my Blood.)
This is a great way to siphon off some of the value of a sweet ETB ability on an opposing creature, but do keep in mind that you can’t use this to clone your own stuff. If that sounds like a bummer, well, I think you’re right, but that doesn’t make this less of a cool card – just less powerful.
I like the Glassdust Hulk-style can’t be blocked trigger here, and I like it even more since it gets +1/+1 counters instead of just a temporary buff. You can generate huge bursts of counters by mass-producing artifact tokens, so if you’re grabbing your copy of Ghirapur Aether Grid for a deck, you might also want Kappa Cannoneer.
Katsumasa, the Animator
Katsumasa provides another way to turn the keys on Vehicles for small installments of mana, and I think that’s the best use case for this card. I think there are some fun applications for this as a commander, but the risk profile is high enough that I’d rather not be left with just a bunch of noncreature artifacts that aren’t combat-ready when Katsumasa isn’t around. I’d instead just play it in a Shorikai deck. The mech is turning on all by itself!
Thopter tokens are the way to leverage this, so any deck with Sai, Master Thopterist, Thopter Spy Network, and so on will love Research Thief. That could be a Brudiclad deck for sure, or it might be a deck featuring any number of other artifact commanders. A wide enough board of Servo tokens would also work just fine, but flying makes this way easier to pull off. Reconnaissance Mission and similar cards are always huge targets for removal, so giving this flash makes it way easier to get a big burst of cards. To compensate for that, it’s a creature – an artifact creature, sure, so it can self-trigger, but it’s a little easier to destroy. Seems fair to me at five mana!
I love the idea of tapping all of my clues in a Lonis deck to draw that many cards, all for just UUU. Sorcery speed is no big deal when you can really leverage the improvise, so you’ll be able to cast some of the cards you’ve drawn in the very same turn. Of course, if you don’t have artifacts and need to reload, you’ll probably be spending most of your turn on this, but that’s not a terrible worst case.
Akki Battle Squad
Modified and go-wide are starting to look somewhat synonymous, aren’t they? Spreading +1/+1 counters across your team is the way to go for sure, as it’s the easiest thing to do to your whole board all at once. Finding a way to work white into the modified deck paradigm would help, but in just Gruul, cards like Curse of Predation, Curse of Stalked Prey and Fangren Firstborn can help too.
Collision of Realms
This isn’t just weird Warp World – keep reading. It’s kind of a red Wrath/Chaos Warp variant that resets everyone who has owns at least one nontoken creature back to one random creature. You can’t do symmetry-breaking Polymorph shenanigans here, because you need to have at least one nontoken creature, so you have to take a deckbuilding risk instead of being able to just pull up a heater every time you cast this. Make sure you do have big creatures, though, because if you don’t have the biggest one around, you’re kind of setting yourself behind. That said, if you’re in a losing position, you do what you have to, especially when trying to get around indestructible creatures.
Kami of Celebration
You can put this in a Prosper deck and get side benefits from modifying your creatures, or you can put this in a modified-focused deck and get some extra counters once in a while. I think the latter option is stronger since getting access to more cards is the big draw here, but it’s possible that both ways are correct, of course.
Komainu Battle Armor
One of the problems with Voltron decks is that your defensive options are often limited. Komainu Battle Armor seems like it would solve that problem, and as long as you have enough trample or other evasion to get through to the player with the biggest board, I think this card does a great job of making it hard for other players to attack you. The player whose creatures are goaded will cause more chaos at the table, encouraging players to leave back blockers or even attack them.
Smoke Spirits’ Aid
Putting Smoke Blessings on your own creatures deals you damage eventually, but it might be correct if you want to sacrifice them, get Treasures, and then sacrifice those for even more value. Otherwise, I suppose you can cast this on opposing creatures and hope they die somehow – you can even engineer their deaths yourself by goading the creatures as well.
I love an Aura that comes back over and over again, and one that allows aggressive players to punish players who are hoarding cards sounds even better. That said, most of those players have counterspells available, and those are the natural weakness of the Rancor-style Auras. Still, I’d give it a try in a deck that wants auras or focuses on the modified mechanic, as those are both likely to be aggressive.
I love the broad nature of this payoff for going with modified as a theme, as it encourages you to go into at least two of the three options if you really want good value. I would say you probably need to be doing Auras in addition to one of the other options, since drawing a card is the best of these payoffs, and just hitting one of the three consistently isn’t enough to justify a four-mana enchantment. I am glad to see it triggering in the end step, though, as that makes it harder to get wrecked on your investment than if it was an upkeep trigger.
Kosei, Penitent Warlord
This is clearly all about story equity. It’s a ton of work for something very win-more, but if you pull it off, it’s hilarious. Obviously it should be your commander so you can reliably get it in play – otherwise, why bother?
One with the Kami
I love that you can flash this on a creature that isn’t about to die and get a pile of tokens from whatever does die – at least, as long as it’s modified. If something unmodified is dying and you want Spirits, you can still flash this in but get less value out of it. Four mana is kind of a lot, so it’s important to set your deck up to get multiple triggers out of this.
I love this – you can build it up over time with proliferate and other counter-adding effects and then sacrifice it, or just let it die in combat whenever and get some lands. This is really only great if you can grow it somehow, since otherwise it’s just a bad Seal of Explosive Vegetation.
Attacking with the Transplanter gets you two mana each time, which means it takes two swings to recoup your investment. If you attach it to something, the deal is still kind of rough – you have to spend seven mana before you get anything significant out of this. That said, the fact that it’s a piece of Equipment makes it easy to slap it on something large and recoup that mana quickly, so it just depends on how reliably you can spend that extra mana.
Myojin of Blooming Dawn
We’ve got a cycle of Myojin that are throwbacks to the originally cycle from Champions of Kamigawa! They’re costly, they enter with an indestructible counter if cast from hand and they use that counter to do something powerful. This one lets you go really, really wide – you get a Spirit token for each of your permanents, and yes, that includes land. That means this probably goes best in Selesnya ramp decks – I’d try it out in Karametra.
Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful
Partner doesn’t show up in the main set, but I love that we’re getting it as part of the Commander supplement! I wish this was costed such that it could keep its counters like Skullbriar and have its faith rewarded over multiple lifetimes, but I think it’s also good to have this costed at just W to mirror Isamaru. And yes, the parallel to Jurassic Bark was instantly apparent (if you know, you know). I like the idea of creating weird partnerships like Yoshimaru and Rograkh or Yoshimaru and Sakashima. Let’s not even think about Yoshimaru and Tevesh Szat. Too rude.
Myojin of Cryptic Dreams
Well, if I’m spending eight mana for a 3/3, I had better be casting a really powerful permanent spell. It’s a shame it only copies permanent spells, but on the other hand, I suppose I’ve seen enough Time Warps in my life. The indestructible counter gives you some room to wait for the perfect permanent spell, but the restriction of only copying a spell you control is a little iffy. I would rather just cast good permanents.
Myojin of Grim Betrayal
This is definitely a self-mill payoff, with the caveat that you can’t mill the relevant cards in advance – you need to mill them the same turn you activate the ability. Traumatize, Mirror-Mad Phantasm and Morality Shift are all interesting options to massively fill your own graveyard at a moment’s notice, and I might put my Mimeoplasm deck back together to try this out.
Okay, this card looks fantastic. At first we get a card that resembles Disciple of Bolas, but instead of cards, we get Treasure. The activated ability lets us sacrifice that Treasure (or other artifacts!) to return creatures to the battlefield, including whatever we sacrificed with the Technomancer. This card keys off power, not mana value, making it easy to return utility creatures like Gray Merchant of Asphodel with strong ETB abilities. In any deck making plenty of artifact tokens, this is a powerful option indeed.
Myojin of Roaring Blades
21 damage sounds like a lot, but if I can’t put it all in one place, I’m not particularly excited.
Go-Shintai of Life’s Origin
Hey, it’s our Shrines commander! I’ll definitely be building around this one at some point, since I’ve loved Shrines since the days of Enduring Ideal. It’s not too costly, it helps you recur Shrines all by itself (albeit at a rough cost) and it ups your Shrine count quickly and efficiently. I look forward to seeing what else goes in this deck besides a pile of Shrines.
Myojin of Towering Might
Now this is an interesting option for modified-themed decks at the top end. It comes in with a counter, so it’s modified for a bit, and then you can spread some counters around and give creatures trample. You can even put one on the Myojin itself and set up a huge alpha strike! Eight mana is a lot, but if you’re mono-green or heavy green in Gruul, it shouldn’t be too bad to make this happen.
Okay! That’s it for all the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Commander cards. Come on back next time when we’ll start in on the Precon Budget Upgrades!
Eric Levine, also known as RagingLevine, is an accomplished Magic Judge, having head judged many Grand Prix events as well as the Mythic Championship. He's been writing about Commander since 2012 and enjoys building casual, fun decks to play with friends after long days at tournaments.