The first set of the year is a refreshing moment for Standard to many Magic: The Gathering players because it marks the end of the longest time between Standard-legal sets each year.
Nearly three months after the release of winter’s Innistrad: Crimson Vow, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty brings to Standard a collection of cards that strengthened established archetypes and created new strategies.
The major themes from Neon Dynasty are starting to pop up in tier Standard lists. Both Rakdos Midrange and Naya Runes are archetypes that exist thanks to Neon Dynasty. Archetypes like Jeskai Control and Orzhov Control were made better by enablers from Neon Dynasty.
Here are the top eight cards from Neon Dynasty that are shaking up Standard.
The Wandering Emperor
It’s fitting that the emperor of Kamigawa would be one of the strongest cards in a return to the plane. The Wandering Emperor has found a home in various control builds that can support it, and for good reason. This versatile four-mana Planeswalker is able to find value at any point in the game and into any battlefield.
She’s a key part of Orzhov Control, a deck that’s become the best control deck in Standard, in large part due to The Wandering Emperor. Its combination of exile-based removal, combat trick, and token generation each help a grindy control deck win.
Budding Esper Midrange and U/W Control lists are using The Wandering Emperor too. For a card that’s an excellent combat trick in Limited, it’s an interesting twist that its best shells in Constructed rarely engage in combat.
Most Commons are only playable in Limited. Occasionally, these low-powered cards can provide crucial utility for decks in Standard to go from good to great. Spirited Companion is an excellent two-mana 1/1 that draws a card when it enters the battlefield. This is a key turn-two play or Orzhov Control lists.
Spirited Companion immediately replaces itself. This is important because it reduces the chance of missing land drops and helps find key answers, which is key for control decks to outlast aggro and midrange.
In Orzhov Control Spirited Companion is made better because it’s sacrifice fodder for cards like Deadly Dispute and Rite of Oblivion.
Rakdos Sacrifice decks are frustrating to play against and Oni-Cult Anvil is a big reason why. The value-based deck slowly chips away at the opponent’s life total and has an answer for any attempt the opponent makes to wrestle away control of the match. Oni-Cult Anvil doesn’t look like much. The two-mana Artifact creates a Construct token and can sacrifice an Artifact to drain the opponent for one life.
Combined with a Blood token package with Voldaren Epicure and Bloodtithe Harvester and Oni-Cult Anvil has a consistent source of Artifacts to sacrifice. Experimental Synthesizer works well with Oni-Cult Anvil as a card advantage engine and Warlock Class can accelerate the life draining.
Neon Dynasty brings another Common that could make an impact on Standard. Mirrorshell Crab is a solid filler piece in control decks looking for a finisher that retains value if you can’t cast it. True control decks can use anything as a finisher once they have the battlefield locked down. Cards like Castle Ardenvale were finishers, killing the opponent with a 1/1 over a series of turns.
Mirrorshell Crab is much better than that. As a 5/7 with Ward 3, the crab is hard to remove and is an imposing force on the battlefield. What makes Mirrorshell Crab a great option is the Channel ability to counter a spell or ability for three mana. Countering abilities is huge for control decks, which usually can’t interact with abilities. These strategies don’t value narrow counterspells that hit abilities like Stifle.
Mirrorshell Crab offers that utility to negate a Planeswalker activation or enter the battlefield ability, while still being useful in situations where countering abilities is irrelevant.
Tamiyo, Compleated Sage
There hasn’t been a deck that’s taken advantage of Tamiyo, Compleated Sage yet. This doesn’t mean Tamiyo isn’t a strong card or that it won’t start creeping into the meta as Neon Dynasty Standard matures as a format.
Tamiyo has the ability to shut down opposing Creatures or Artifacts with her +1. This is the key to Tamiyo’s playability in Standard. In a deck that can support U/G like Bant or Temur Ramp, Tamiyo paves the way for top-end finishers. The Compleated keyword allows Tamiyo to enter the battlefield a turn early if the need arises.
Ninja’s isn’t dominating Standard, but that hasn’t prevented Kaito Shizuki from being an excellent value engine for U/B strategies.
Kaito’s passive plays out even better than it looked during preview season. Getting two activations of his loyalty abilities is powerful. With proper deck building, the +1 essentially just says “Draw a card,” and for three mana it’s a wonderful deal. Esper Planeswalker is the current top-tier home for Kaito. The archetype uses Kaito as a card-advantage engine and a must-answer threat because his ultimate, if it can be activated, is enough to win the game on its own.
Boseiju, Who Endures
The most expensive card in the set is being experimented with in every Magic format. Boseiju, Who Endures is a removal spell stapled onto a land.
Versatile lands are big in Standard. Zendikar Rising and Adventures in the Forgotten Realms introduced MDFC lands and Creature lands, both of which are heavily played in the format. Having lands that can provide value beyond producing mana have proven to be great at breaking stalemates or applying pressure from unexpected angles.
Boseiju is generally played in one or two copies. There’s no reason not to cut a Forest and include Boseiju, but the removal ability does come at a cost. Potentially accelerating an opponent’s mana is a genuine concern, which is why decks aren’t just running four copies of Boseiju and firing it off at every opportunity.
Even at one copy, Boseiju can change the tide of a matchup and will be replacing a Forest in every Green deck going forward.
Naya Runes is one of the newest innovations that came from the release of Neon Dynasty. This deck uses the Enchantment payoffs and enablers from Neon Dynasty with the runes from Kaldheim. Jukai Naturalist is necessary for the deck to function because it reduces the cost of Enchantments by one mana.
This cost reduction allows Naya Runes to double and triple spell during a turn, getting multiple activations of Generous Visitor and Kami of Transience. This is all made possible by Jukai Naturalist.