Hello to all the Battle Boxers, Cubers and fans of non-traditional format building out there and welcome to my Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Battle Box Set Review! Last week, I released the updated template for my Battle Box (affectionately nicknamed “The Danger Room”) which allows the stack to add a “mana pack” in order to also function not only as a one-on-one Battle Box but also a uniquely draftable Cube.
To me, the Battle Box format (and Cube building) represents a creative space in Magic where deck builders are largely freed from the elements of the game that tend to constrain. I aim the power level of my stack at what I refer to as “mythic-less” Magic. I’m not really concerned with the top tier of powerful cards that tend to dominate games of Constructed and instead choose to focus on building to a pool of cards that mimics the game play of two stellar draft decks (the caveat being that no deck will include mythic caliber cards, i.e., Umezawa’s Jitte, Grave Titan or planeswalkers) going head-to-head against each other. The Cube draft facilitates the same style of play and allows players to focus upon which iconic Limited archetype they’d like to build around.
When I do my review, I’m less concerned with identifying the cards with the “most stats” as being the best cards in the set. I actually look for the cards that have the most unique Limited designs that are not mythically powerful. Essentially, I’m looking for the cards that I believe a lot of people would tend to agree are pretty fun in excellent Limited decks.
As is always the case, I encourage readers to have fun with the format and make it their own by playing with the cards they actually enjoy. We all love different elements of the game and building a Battle Box or Cube is a great way to give new life to cards both new and old.
In the abstract, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty doesn’t strike me as an outstanding set for Battle Box or Cubing. With that said, there are a handful of excellent designs that I am excited to get my hands on and try out.
The reason I say it’s not a great Battle Box set “in the abstract” is that the set is highly, deeply designed around synergistic themes and mechanics (ninjitsu, reconfigure, legendary and modified) we’d sort of expect to see from a throwback to Champions of Kamigawa block. These are cards created to be played together and because my Battle Box draws cards from across the entire history of the games it’s difficult to include enough cards for every possible synergy mechanic (and draw them together in concert) to work as intended.
Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty stands out to me as a set with a very high ceiling to be a beloved Limited format, but so many of the synergy cards want to piggyback off other cards with the same mechanic. I prefer cards that are flexible as opposed to synergy-specific, which is something to keep in mind as informing my opinions about the new cards before ever having had a chance to actually play with them.
Pound-for-pound, I see white as having the deepest pool of quality Battle Box staples of any color in the set. I found six cards that I wouldn’t bat an eye at drawing from somebody’s Battle Box stack.
If you’re looking to start up a Battle Box with extra draft cast-offs (which is how I built my first Battle Box), white has a solid core to build around with solid flexible cards.
The card I’m most excited about and will be adding to my Danger Cube:
At this point, Danger Cube is so tight on space that I don’t have a ton of room to add new cards to the format. It’s also meant to incorporate and represent cards from across the history of the game, which means I don’t necessarily want to add more than a handful of cards from individual sets. I’m looking more for standout cards and/or cards that fit specific roles that I’d like to amplify in the drafting of the Cube.
Lion Sash drops a checkmark into a bunch of different categories. Most importantly, it provides extremely focused and nimble graveyard interaction. Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow both added a lot of discard and graveyard synergy, so I’m interested in cards that interact with that axis of play. It also has artifact typing and functions as a set of “pants.” Unique, functional and flexible.
Any two-drop creature that draws a card when it enters play is an excellent card to consider in a Battle Box. The enchantment typing is also interesting on this creature. I try not to incorporate too much redundancy of cards that do similar things and would give the nod to Wall of Omens in the head-to-head because I have baked a “walls matter” draft archetype into the Bant Shard for Cube draft.
My impression of Farewell is that it’s likely too powerful for my stack because it’s too flexible and I have little doubt it would feel mythically powerful when drawn and played. With the exception of the new Boseiju (which really takes the cake in terms of being ridiculously powerful because it is so uniquely flexible), I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Farewell will be one of the most important printings from Neon Dynasty.
Without having gotten a shot at the Limited format to play cards in context, I find the blue cards in the set to be rather difficult to evaluate and understand. There are a lot of bouncing, modifying and ninjutsu synergies that feel geared toward playing Limited or multiplayer Commander.
I’ve had poor results with trying to incorporate Ninjas in my stack in the past. The issue is that a disproportionately high number of my mana value three or higher creatures have ETB abilities (and many are quite powerful) which means that the “drawback” of returning a creature in order to ninjitsu tends to be disproportionately great.
With that said, I’m not adding either of these blue cards but I do think they fall into the wheelhouse of being great tools in somebody else’s more synergy-oriented stack.
No matter how I build or rebuild my stack Black is always the color that fills up its portion of the deck most quickly. Midrangey cards are a huge part of Limited play and black is the king of midrange (not to mention, one of my favorite colors to play for funsies).
Biting-Palm Ninja feels like an excellent Battle Box staple that I’m going to take a pass on for my stack because of the bad luck I’ve had with the ninjutsu mechanic in the past. With that said, of all the Ninjas in the game, Biting-Palm is the one I’d be most inclined to put in a Battle Box.
I actually have a diverse spread of artifacts and enchantments across colors which makes a card like Soul Transfer kind of interesting because it’s reasonable to get the extra bonus. I love that it exiles and provides a way to deal with planeswalkers (if they are in the format).
If I add a black card to Danger Cube it will be Dockside Chef. Sacrifice synergies are a huge part of both black and red in my stack and this is a very solid one-mana value creature because of its ability to recycle resources in the later stages of a game.
On a personal bias level, I have a soft spot for Kamigawa plane Red cards. I like the unique flavor of Kamigawa’s Goblins and Samurai.
After having written about my Battle Box for a decade, I’m often surprised at how often the design of non-mythical power level red cards impresses and excites me and Neon Dynasty is no different.
Of all the colors in Neo-Kamigawa, the ted cards are my favorite.
When my stack was larger for the sake of being a large sampling of cards I’ve collected and enjoy playing with over the years I never took much issue with drawing a card like Corrupt Eunuchs and Twinshot Sniper is an upgrade. I have Flametongue Kavu holding down that role in my Cube (and again, I’m not looking for redundancy in the form of two excellent cards that do the same powerful thing).
Yes, please! I haven’t decided what I’m cutting, but 100 percent I’m adding Rabbit Battery to my stack. I love flexible one-drops and Rab-Bat is exactly what I’m looking for.
Additionally, I want to shout-out about The Shattered States Era. It’s a powerful Threaten effect (which tends to be something that is too inflexible like Threaten or too much like Zealous Conscripts). It’s likely competing with a card like Goblin Bombardment or Lava Coils in Danger Cube but depending upon how much I like the card in Draft I could see myself loving this card.
The synergies that inform the play patterns of green in Neo-Kamigawa don’t translate particularly well to Battle Box; primarily green seems focused on enchantment synergies and mana production. Both great things for green to tackle in the set, but not great for finding a sampling of cards I’d want to incorporate into Battle Box.
I have been working on making enchantments matter more and having a more realistic distribution within my stack, but my impression is that a lot of these cards rely too heavily on a high critical mass of artifacts to be effective.
The two cards that caught my attention as options for my stack:
It seems like nearly every new set has a green combat trick that also shrugs removal. Tamiyo’s Safekeeping is a well above average version but I’m sticking with Vines of Vastwood and Blossoming Defense.
Blossom Prancer is a cool design. It’s better than a Kavu Climber but that’s not really saying too much. For the fan of a common/uncommon Battle Box, Blossom Prancer is a very nice five-drop. I’ve gravitated toward having my five or higher drops in my stack feeling like “rares” and providing effects or flavor that feel special. For me, that’s a drawback, but for a stack that wants a particular power level, Prancer is a great option.
When I read the spoiler, I always look at artifacts and multicolor spells first. I guess you could say it’s the equivalent of starting with dessert and there are some sweet new options coming in Neo-Kamigawa.
I love this card. It’s Arcbound Worker that isn’t limited to spreading love to only fellow artifact creatures. What I love about Iron Apprentice in a Battle Box is that it functions as a synergy card in a format where proper synergy enablers are often too specific to be reliable. I can also see Iron Apprentice being a fantastic card to draft across multiple color combinations and archetypes.
Kamigawa has never been known for having a strong correlation to multicolor spellcasting but there are a few enticing designs shoehorned into the set:
There’s likely nothing here that will find its way into my personal stack, but I do think all of these options are worth taking a look at and considering. For me, it just comes down to the fact that I cut my stack way back and don’t find any specific card more interesting than what I’ve already got.
It is certainly the case that we can have too much of a good thing in Magic. Eternal Witness is a card with a lot of nostalgic iconic clout that is ridiculously powerful in Battle Box because it provides so much flexibility at so little opportunity cost. I thought Timeless Witness was too much recursion on a single card and I didn’t find gameplay was made better with an excessive amount of Regrowths.
I have some dates for the Danger Cube draft set up on the horizon and I’ll have a better sense of the role recursion needs to play in order for archetypes to match up properly. With that said, I could certainly imagine a scenario where I bite the bullet and replace the ubiquitously flexible Eternal Witness with a similar but less flexible option like Gloomshrieker.
Over the past year I’ve been toying with ways to play with mana production in a way that adds rather than detracts from Battle Box. I’ve actually liked including some creatures that function as mana rocks as a way to create some variable opening sequences that are not just about power and toughness. With that said, it’s a fragile dance and the inclusion of mana dorks has more to do with the Cube draft aspect of my stack than the one-on-one Battle Box game play.
So, I’m interested in creatures with abilities that have some amount of mana utility as well as reasonable combat stats for both formats.
I’ve moved away from uncommon Dragons in the five-plus mana value slot for Battle Box, but Colossal Skyturtle is a particularly cool big drop uncommon for C and U stacks.
Another solid legendary wedge option to round out a stack. I’m sticking with the Mardu spells I already have.
Last but not least:
I’ll likely add Uncharted Haven to my mana pack for drafting. It’s a solid little color fixer that would be accessible to every drafter’s deck.
After making my first impression of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, these are the cards, in order, that I anticipate adding the most to my enjoyment of playing and building Battle Boxes and Cubes:
2. Lion Sash
Overall, I think that looks like a pretty solid group of new cards to Battle Box with (especially the top three cards, which I’m actively chomping-at-the-bit excited to add to my Danger Cube).
A big part of what makes Battle Boxes and Cubes so much fun is that it gives fans the ability to really be creative, think critically and express their own ideas about what is fun about playing Magic. Obviously, we are all beholden to our own experiences and perceptions over time and I’d love to hear about cards readers are particularly excited to try out at home in the comments. If I overlooked something that you’re excited about – by all means, let me know in the comments below!