Best Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Pauper Cards, Part 1 – Fringe Cards

The day the full card list was revealed I called Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty the long-anticipated “Pauper Horizons”; that is a set that would push the boundaries of the format in the way Modern Horizons did for its namesake. The Neon Dynasty Pauper cards inject tons of new options into the format while also builds upon its existing architecture. Like other Horizons sets, it is going to force players to reevaluate old cards in a new context.

Pauper already has decks built to take advantage of both artifacts and enchantments. These being two of the main “factions” in Neon Dynasty means that these strategies are going to have a new suite of tools at their disposal. The fact that so many of these cards have multiple types means cards with delirium deserve an additional look. Unholy Heat should see more play since it can take out Gearseeker Serpent-sized threats and Strange Augmentation could power up aggressive black decks (while also ticking off the modified box). Tempo and control decks have historically made good use of Ninjas and there are several in this set that deserve another look. Take all of these factors together, in addition to cards that do their own thing, and you have a recipe for a hugely influential release.

Over the next few days, I’m going to be talking about the cards as they fit into three broad categories. The first are Fringe Cards. These are going to be options that could see play if the circumstances align correctly or are cards that are interesting enough to merit further exploration once the set comes out. The second grouping are Role Players/Side Grades. These cards are either analogous to existing options or fit a specific role in various decks. The final grouping are the Heavy Hitters – cards that might enable a new deck or add a ton of power to the format.

You can find the other parts here:



Header - Fringe Cards

Sunblade Samurai

Sunblade Samurai is merely a 4/4 with vigilance but the exciting part is in the channel ability. The ability to get a land and pad your life total is a big game for slower white decks, helping them to reach their endgames more reliably. Vigilance means this plays exceptionally well with Prismatic Strands and being a 4/4 means it is going to survive most sweepers. While it will never replace Guardian of the Guildpact it does provide some additional bulk in the late game without being a dead draw early.

Armguard FamiliarChainflail Centipede

Equipment occupies a weird space in Pauper. While cards like Viridian Longbow and Flayer Husk see play, the days of Bonesplitter and Vulshok Morningstar mattering seem to be in the rear view mirror. Armguard Familiar and Chainflail Centipede present an interesting option. Both are serviceable creatures in their own right but put in work towards enhancing other creatures. Being artifacts means these are at least going to get a look for Affinity and metalcraft builds, but I think in both cases the stars are going to have to align for them to see heavy play.

Moonsnare Specialist (Showcase Ninja)

Beyond Ninja of the Deep Hours and Okiba-Gang Shinobi, the pickings for Ninjas in Pauper are slim. Moonblade Shinobi has seen some play but that’s about it. Moonsnare Specialist has some merit in a way to rebuy enter-the-battlefield effects while potentially saving another blocked creature. In a deck that leans hard on Ninjas – we’re talking Smoke Shroud here – this could be included as a fairly impactful tempo play

Kaito's Pursuit

Kaito’s Pursuit might look like another Mind Rot variant, but did you know there’s an aggressive black deck in Pauper that leans on Rogue synergies? Thanks to Morsel Theft, mono-black Rogue “Burn” (we see you, Bump in the Night) is a fringe contender. Kaito’s Pursuit could be a finisher in the deck if it ever finds itself in board stalls.

Twisted Embrace

A few years back, there was a Heliod’s Pilgrim prison deck that won with Protective Sphere and Pestilence. Heliod’s Pilgrim helped to fetch Abundant Growth and Trace of Abundance to fix your mana or Quiet Disrepair to keep you alive. Twisted Embrace fits perfectly into this strategy as an Aura that can take out an offending creature. Will this be enough to put Pilgrim Prison back on the map? Probably not, but the deck does get a ton of new tools from Neon Dynasty.

Undercity Scrounger

Undercity Scrounger is one of the few repeatable ways to generate Treasure in Pauper but it looks to be the best of the bunch by far. Being in black means it is already going to be surrounded by removal spells or sacrifice effects and four toughness means it is large enough to survive most Pestilence activations. The extra Treasure can come in handy, whether it is to flashback Chainer’s Edict or to sacrifice to Deadly Dispute. There is some work to be done, but the payoff seems worth the effort.

You Are Already Dead

Speaking of black based removal decks, You Are Already Dead is a pretty sweet combo with the aforementioned Pestilence. More than that, pairing it with Cuombajj Witches makes for a sweet one-two punch that does not leave you down on cards.

Akki Ember-KeeperAmbitious Assault

Akki Ember-Keeper is another effect that is hard to find at common – a repeatable way to turn dying creatures into tokens. While you do have to put in some work, finding +1/+1 counters to throw around is rather easy. If a Boros Arcbound deck ever takes off, this could find a home as a way to close out games with Makeshift Munitions. If that deck does come to fruition, it would not surprise me if Ambitious Assault found its way into the list as a way to push through damage while being card neutral.

Explosive Entry

Artifact removal spells are plentiful in Pauper, but Explosive Entry has the upside of potentially buffing your creature. This is going to be competing with Abrade and Shenanigans for slots, but I can absolutely see a go-wide creature deck opt for Entry since it comes with an extra point of power.

Ironhoof Boar

Ironhoof Boar probably is not good enough to see play but there’s a lot to like about this pig. First, it can come down and hit hard. Second, it can get itself into the graveyard while also pushing through damage. While the entire package may not be enough it still has a lot of pieces that could fit into different builds.

Kami's Flare

Searing Blaze is a heck of a card that only sees regular play in Burn. Kami’s Flare is no Searing Blaze, but it’s close enough if you look the right way. It’s easier to cast than the Worldwake stand out and does not ask for a land drop. Instead, it just asks that you own a modified creature. Between Arcbound options and First Day of Class, it shouldn’t be hard to find a +1/+1 counter floating around in your red decks, meaning Kami’s Flare is going to be competing with Abrade and Flame Slash for the foreseeable future.

Towashi Songshaper

Some Affinity decks have turned to Glaze Fiend as a way to push through damage. Towashi Songshaper is no Glaze Fiend but it does get in for two on its own accord. While this one may not herald the second coming of Fling, it does provide another option if you want to avoid getting blown out by Electrickery.

Bamboo Grove Archer

Green decks have no shortage of ways to deal with flying creatures. Bamboo Grove Archer is the latest in a long line of creatures with reach. This one might take on increased importance these days as a way to help prevent more aggressive Ninja decks while also providing an uncounterable way to kill creatures. Five mana is quite a bit but if it is going to take out a creature it might be good enough.

Greater Tanuki

Greater Tanuki is no Krosan Tusker in that it does not put you up a card. Instead, it puts the land directly into play, allowing you to jump to five mana. This requires taking a turn off and in the current format that is a big ask. The stars may align in the future for a more traditional green ramp deck and in that case Greater Tanuki could get the call.

Tamiyo's Safekeeping

Tamiyo’s Safekeeping is a Vines of Vastwood or Snakeskin Veil for decks that care about life gain. If Marauding Blight-Priest or Blood Researcher decks ever take off, I can expect this one to get the nod over the other options. The fact that this can also protect your noncreatures is a pretty big game as well, allowing Bogles to “counter” a Leave No Trace in a pinch.

Ninja's Kunai

Ninja’s Kunai is another in a long line of Equipment that can be turned into damage. Unlike others, the rate on Kunai is pretty good at three damage for three mana. Whether or not that proves to be enough remains to be seen but it could provide some reach in certain decks.

Papercraft Decoy

Papercraft Decoy uses “leaves the battlefield” for its draw trigger. This makes it a prime target for Ephemerate or Ghostly Flicker, as well as Kor Skyfisher. Two mana is a fairly steep cost but being able to turn the Decoy into a source of card advantage could be what some non-monarch decks want moving forward.

Searchlight Companion

Any creature that generates two bodies in Pauper gets a second look, mostly due to their ability to reduce the efficiency of Chainer’s Edict. Searchlight Companion is another in a long line of sideboard options against these effects. The three mana price tag is a bit pricey but the fact that this can slot into any deck is not without merit.


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