Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Set Review: Black

As you close your eyes from the grim world of Innistrad, you wake up to the artificial lights glowing from everywhere in the futuristic plane of Kamigawa. An electric feeling goes through your body as you observe the fascinating technology flowing around you and the animated miracles it enables. You gaze in wonder when discovering the Moonfolk, Kitsunes, Nezumis, Akkis and Humans of this plane, living in harmony with the Kami, their spiritual protectors. Yet you remember one thing: power belongs to those strong enough to take it and pay its price. You know that beyond this deceptive web of progress, Ninjas, Samurais, and Spirits among other untold forces are battling for secrets, influence, and riches. As your journey through the city continues, you search for spells and minions ready to serve your next plots, keeping your eyes open and your mind scheming…

Biting-Palm Ninja

Biting-Palm Ninja is a sneaky Human (and a Ninja, who would have guessed?) featuring the returning Ninjutsu mechanic. It has the ability to Thoughtseize your opponent once when dealing them combat damage, exiling their best card. I really like this card: the three power and menace for three mana is already a decent body, as we’ve seen before on cards like Sedgemoor Witch. It will definitely help you to hit the opponent even if you don’t use Ninjutsu. This should see play in Tempo and Human decks.

Blade of the Oni

Blade of the Oni is a Demon Equipment including the new Reconfigure mechanic. Would it be just for the body alone, I would play that card: this is the first time we get a 3/1 with menace for just two mana with no downside! Such a threat needs to be dealt with quickly, which will be hard to do without enough blockers or early removal. But the Reconfigure pushes it even farther, as you can turn any of your creatures into a terrifying 5/5 Demon that will still leave the Blade behind when it’s dealt with. Your opponent better look twice at your harmless Gilded Goose before it reveals its true demonic form. This is a powerhouse, and certainly one of the most impactful nonland cards from the entire set.

Dockside Chef

Dockside Chef is one of those hidden uncommons who have the potential to go much farther than Limited. Out of a Thraben Inspector’s body you get an ability to sacrifice artifacts and creatures for card draw, a much welcome effect we have already seen before on cards like Skullport Merchant. Eggs and Aristocrats always love to get some extra value from their tools, and this is one of the cheapest ways to do so. On top of that, it is a one mana enchantment, which will get it in the conversation alongside cards like Tatsunari, Toad Rider if Enchantress decks wish to add black.

Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos

After more than a thousand years, all of the Kamigawan legends we once knew and loved are now long gone, immortalized across the ages through the Saga cards. All of them? No, everyone’s favorite Ogre is still alive and kicking. Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos, previously known as Heartless Hidetsugu, has now embraced his demonic form, and is no less deadly than before. With his second activated ability, you get to exile the top card of your library, deal damage equal to its mana value to any target, and have the option to cast it. That may sound a bit random until you realize you are able to sacrifice creatures to his first ability to scry and find the perfect hit for the second one. This is one flavorful legend on top of an on-rate body, definitely up there for Rakdos Sacrifice decks among others to abuse his power.

Invoke Despair

Invoke Despair is a sorcery that works as a multi-target edict from the Invoke cycle. A single card making our opponent sacrifice an enchantment, a creature, and a planeswalker? That’s a good three for one if you ask me, and a high ceiling for the card. Its floor isn’t bad either, as all the sacrifices they miss still get us to draw cards and inflict life loss. I especially like that it gets to remove a planeswalker at the same time as the creature token many of them create. Answering enchantments is also welcome, as our color struggles to remove them. Having your opponent sacrifice the permanents of their choice is usually a downside, however it’s rare they get more than a single relevant planeswalker or enchantment for us to remove. This alternate form of removal might instead save the game when you are facing a single hard to remove threat like the dreaded Dream Trawler. Due to its high cost, this spell is reserved to Mono Black Midrange or Control only.

Junji, the Midnight Sky

Junji the Midnight Sky is our member of the Dragon Spirit cycle. Having a potent body and a powerful death trigger, it is likely to find places in some Midrange builds. The first one that comes to my mind is Reanimator: Arena doesn’t feature a lot of reanimation spells, especially below five mana, so you might as well get an efficient Dragon on top of it. Sometimes you will even reanimate Junji itself for even more value. Worst case if your graveyard gets exiled somehow, you still get the versatile option to Davriel’s Shadowfugue on your opponent, which might be just what you need. A second potential home is Jund Dragonstom, a deck aiming to win by casting Dragonstorm and comboing off with Bladewing the Risen. While the non-Dragon clause on reanimation doesn’t help the combo, Junji is still a powerful card in the Dragon tribe, which can potentially find a slot.

March of Wretched Sorrow

March of Wretched Sorrow is an instant speed removal spell from the March cycle. It is similar to Erebos’s Intervention, a card that already sees a decent amount of play in Gladiator. We lose the ability to deal with graveyards, but get the option to target planeswalkers instead. Exiling cards from our hand to cast the card earlier is also an interesting tempo play. As Aggro is very popular in the format, I think that the Control decks which play Intervention will definitely consider this option in addition or as an upgrade. If you sit on top of a mana engine like Wilderness Reclamation, it will become even deadlier. Aggressive and Midrange strategies usually cannot afford the expensive cost of these removal spells though, and care less about the provided lifegain.

Mukotai Souripper

Mukotai Souripper is a two-drop vehicle with a big body and a low crew cost. Most creatures can crew it, especially the 2/2 Zombie token with Decayed if you have any available. In an aggressive position, you’ll try to fuel it with sacrifice fodder, be it a creature you don’t need like the 0/1 Goat from Woe Strider or an artifact token, like Blood or Treasure, since generating those can be quite easy thanks to cards like Voldaren Bloodcaster or Skullport Merchant . As a vehicle, it survives a wrath but also gets blown out by the popular Prismari Command or Kolaghan’s Command. A 4/3 body isn’t as great as a 4/4 when it comes to blocking, but the potential to grow and get menace as well makes this a deadly attacker. I’m very hyped for this card which I can see myself playing in Jund Sacrifice or Mono Black Zombies.

Nezumi Prowler

A mechanically improved Rat Ninja gazes upon you from the rooftop, ready to strike in the blink of an eye. Being a 3/1 for two mana is already a neat statline for an uncommon. Mono Black Aggro always craves for better creatures and Nezumi Prowler is one of them. Bringing deathtouch and lifelink when it enters is also a great way to shift the tide of combat in your favor by granting them to a blocked creature of yours. Avoiding the creature type restriction Dire Fleet Poisoner or Blacklance Paragon requires is a big deal. Yet there is no doubt our Rat friend will do its best alongside its fellow Ninjas, as they give it a chance to use its threatening ETB shenanigans multiple times.

Nashi, Moon Sage’s Scion

Nashi, Moon Sage’s Scion is not only a Rat Ninja, but also the adopted son of Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. And he comes with an interesting ability, allowing us to play one of the top cards from both your library and your opponent’s by paying life equal to its mana value when he hits our them. The potential to overrun a game all by himself is there, yet I currently believe his body remains a bit too weak to get there in generic decks. To hit your opponent the first time, he can be helped by cheap creatures with flying, deathtouch, or that just can’t be blocked which he will Ninjutsu into when he’s least expected. To hit them later, he’ll need some removal for your opponent’s creatures. Dimir Tempo decks have both, thus Nashi should at least find a home here.

Soul Transfer

Soul Transfer is a sorcery removal spell that cares about artifacts and enchantments you control. Gone are the days where three-mana removal spells are auto-include staples. Although we just got a reprint of the similar Hero’s Downfall in Crimson Vow, the card hardly found its place in our format, which means that for us to play Soul Transfer we need to have ways to use both modes at once. The two decks I see achieving that are Tap-out Control and Eggs strategies. Being sorcery speed for a removal is a big restriction, as it becomes unable to deal with creature lands and to successfully play in the Draw-Go pattern. On the other hand, the spell still offers flexibility with the Raise Dead mode, and exiling is often a relevant upside. We’ll have to see if it finds its way in other strategies too.

Tatsunari, Toad Rider

Tatsunari, Toad Rider and his Frog mount Keimi combine a total of six power and toughness added to the board for the low cost of three mana. However, you still need an enchantment to get the Frog, and more of them to get some drains out of it. If you control both of them, they can also get evasion. That’s a fun card to play in enchantment shells, ready to out-jank your opponent with a froggy beatdown.

Tribute to Horobi

Tribute to Horobi is a cheap saga that turns into Echo of Death’s Wail, an enchantment Spirit which is the real payoff. While having an evasive 3/3 that provides card advantage is worth the low cost of the card, the rats you temporarily provide to your opponents will hurt your gameplan too much if you play Aggro. Thus the card will find its home only in Aristocrats strategies, where you’d love to get that three for one and sacrifice it for card draw or drain thanks to cards like Yawgmoth, Thran Physician or Sanguine Brushstroke. It’s quite a blowout if your saga is destroyed before it reaches its final form, but the card might be worth it regardless.

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You smile as you see your machinations taking shape. So many toys to play with. So many puppets to which you now hold the strings. You’ve bargained with Demons, trained with Ninjas, mastered forbidden technologies, and found useful allies you will eventually throw away on your road to greatness. While the Neon Dynasty light glows your way, you hear the fight of the Gladiators in the Arena as it continues reaching new heights. Now is the perfect time to show them what you are made of.

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