Welcome back to part two of my look into the best Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Pauper cards . Previously, I went over some of the fringe cards in Pauper, that could see play under the right circumstances or if a new deck comes along that needs a specific effect. Today, I’ll be looking at the roleplayers and “side grades,” or cards that can fit into specific archetypes or some of the more off-the-wall decks of the format.
You can find the other parts here:
Heroic decks are a real threat in Pauper. The ability to go tall with protection effects can end games in short order. Light the Way provides the deck with an interesting trick. By itself, it can give a Lagonna-Band Trailblazer or Akroan Skyguard two +1/+1 counters. The second mode is where the spice resides. Providing the opportunity to save an Aura like Ethereal Armor to then replay later gives Heroic some much needed late game juice. I do not expect Light the Way to become an archetype staple but when it does see play, it’s going to do good work.
As mentioned before, there is no shortage of good artifact removal in Pauper. White can hold its own here with Disenchant, Dust to Dust and Fragmentize. Lucky Offering may not hit Frogmite and Pestilence, but it does provide a nice buff to the life total. Against Affinity, where this card is likely to come in, it only misses Frogmite when compared to Fragmentize. Against Bogles, this hits everything that Fragmentize would but has the upside of that life gain.
Spirited Companion is another Elvish Visionary for the format. The good dog will not only play nicely with Kor Skyfisher but also turns on plenty of enchantment synergies. The extra point of toughness on Thraben Inspector, combined with its ability to come down on turn one means it is likely to get the nod most of the time. However, when its synergy takes precedence, expect Spirited Companion to see play.
Pauper has access to straight-up Counterspell, so Disruption Protocol might seem to be a bit too expensive to see play, especially with Stoic Rebuttal and Metallic Rebuke in the format. Still, the ability to counter a spell for UU is a big deal and this requires only one artifact in play to get the full discount. If an artifact deck was looking to fit in a fifth copy of Counterspell, it has found the card for the job.
Mnemonic Sphere is nothing special. It’s a Courier’s Capsule you can use for improvise costs or Moonsnare Prototype. Still, it’s an artifact that sends itself to the graveyard for Disciple of the Vault and in a pinch can be cycled for a single blue mana. No one piece of this card stands out, but taken as a package, it does more than enough to warrant consideration.
Springleaf Drum has seen plenty of play and Moonsnare Prototype is a close approximation. Not producing discrete colors of mana is a big deal but being able turn your artifacts into additional mana countervails somewhat. The channel ability is intriguing. Artifacts like Prototype fall off late but the chance to turn an otherwise dead draw into a tempo play is exciting, especially when activated in response to Ash Barrens or Evolving Wilds.
It takes a lot for cheap blue flyers without the Faerie creature type to see play. Network Disruptor may cross that barrier. First, it can tap down potential blockers in the event you want to get through with a Ninja. But it can go absolutely bonkers in Ghostly Flicker combo decks. Here, Network Disruptor can tap down a significant number of your opponent’s lands to lock them out of a turn. That’s pretty neat. Familiars gets another toy in the set with Skyswimmer Koi which, with enough Familiars and an Archaeomancer out, can loot through your deck provided you have a copy of Seat of the Synod in play.
Clawing Torment is an annoying little card. The fact that it gets to stick on an artifact land and slowly whittle away a life total is nice. Killing Disciple of the Vault is not nothing these days either. Again, this card does not do any one thing fantastic, but it does enough to at least get a shot at the big leagues.
Debt to the Kami is a Pharika’s Libation that can exile. There’s not much more to say except that the ability to exile is at a premium in Pauper. The result is that decks that would normally run snake juice are going to likely run this one instead.
I have not talked about any of the common Sagas to this point because I think they are by and large too slow. Okiba Reckoner Raid might be the exception. It comes down and immediately has an impact. Draining for two is exactly what most aggressive black decks in Pauper want and flipping into a Rogue with menace means it fits nicely into the Rogue decks.
Deadly Dispute has proven to be a format defining card. Reckoner’s Bargain trades the Treasure for some life points. This may be enough in decks like Mono-Black Control which struggle against Burn, but it’s going to feel awful the first time someone sacrifices a Myr Enforcer to this for two cards and a chunk of life. I can absolutely see some decks opting for a 3-2 split with Dispute and Bargain and it will be interesting to see the choices made in deckbuilding moving forward.
Ravenous Rats is closer to playable than not and thanks to Virus Beetle, these decks now have an artifact option. Once again, we see a little rider doing a lot of work in pushing a card closer to viable.
Simian Sling is the reconfigure card most likely to see play. It comes down on turn one and can start getting in for two damage early. Later, it can help to improve an attacker while continuing to ping in for extra damage. This card looks pesky and I am not looking forward to facing off against one in the coming weeks.
Voltage Surge is not going to win any “removal spell of the year” contests in Pauper. However, it does provide a good sacrifice outlet for artifacts. In a deck loaded with Ichor Wellsprings, having additional ways to clear out blockers will always be welcome.
Treetop Ambusher saw some play in Stompy when it was first released. Coiling Stalker fits a similar role except it can permanently pump any creature, but only once. Green lacks the cheap evasive creatures of blue and has never had access to Ninjutsu. This card could absolutely see play in a more tempo oriented build of mono green aggro, but it would require reconfiguring the deck to facilitate more enter-the-battlefield triggers. Is this the shot in the arm Stompy needs? I don’t think so but I hope to be wrong.
Commune with Spirits is another in a long line of curated green dig spells. That this grabs enchantments or lands means it could be a perfect fit for the Pilgrim’s Prison deck mentioned several hundred words ago. Season of Renewal might fit there as well, or really any deck that wants to run both creatures and enchantments. Having some redundancy in Tortured Existence decks is always welcome.
Jukai Preserver has impressive stats on the front side with four points of power for four mana. But the ability to channel itself for two +1/+1 counters makes it a formidable combat trick in its own right. Stompy rarely wants to pay four mana for a creature but I could see the deck trying to fit one or two of these in as flood insurance and a way to enhance its army. It also is a cheap way to improve modified synergies.
Two-mana artifacts that draw a card are always better than they look in Pauper. Ecologist’s Terrarium draws a land, but that’s usually a good thing on turn two. The fact that it can then turn into extra points of power later should not be ignored. This can turn both Guardian of the Guildpact and Kor Skyfisher into 3/4 creatures, making them far more formidable in the Red Zone.
Iron Apprentice might provide a critical mass of cards that can gift their counters to other creatures to make a Hardened Scales-lite strategy work. Between the Apprentice, Sparring Construct and various Arcbound options, it feels like a deck is lingering just below the surface and is ready to start showing up in the league.
Network Terminal is another three-cost mana rock with upside. Bonder’s Ornament this ain’t, as the Terminal needs another artifact to loot. Still, it’s possible that this card sees play in decks that had to abandon Ornament provided they can fit in enough artifacts to meet the requirement.
Did you know when you have all three pieces of the Urza Tron in play they generate seven colorless mana? Did you know that’s the casting cost on Thundersteel Colossus? Did you know Tron decks tend to run Mulldrifter, a creature with two points of power, and that just so happens to be the crew cost on the Colossus?