The holidays are coming up, and WotC has given us the gift of some early Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty previews. We got to see three cards from the set on Weekly MTG last week – let’s take a look at these exciting new cards and evaluate them for Standard and beyond.
Kaito is the ninja planeswalker players have been waiting for. He’s great at enabling ninjitsu – which hasn’t been confirmed to appear in the set yet, but seems very likely to show up. This card will likely overperform if Blue-Black Ninjas decks make their way into Standard.
But even if that turns out not to be the case, Kaito’s +1 is great for a variety of decks. Decks like Dimir Witch are always looking for ways to generate extra cards, so if you can play Sedgemoor Witch into Kaito, then you’ll absolutely take over the game. The +1 also has obvious synergies with graveyard-based strategies. While we don’t have many graveyard decks in current Standard, we could see Kaito pop up in formats like Historic or maybe even Modern.
Kaito’s ability to phase out the turn he ETB’s is also a huge advantage. Most cards just don’t have the ability to be immune for a turn cycle, so if he starts seeing play, decks will have to reconsider what removal they use. Efficient, sorcery-based answers like Bloodchief’s Thirst in Standard and Prismatic Ending in Modern won’t cut it against Kaito.
If you can keep Kaito around, you can get multiple activations out of him – which is important, as his -2 ability works really well with his +1. You can -2 Kaito to get a 1/1 the turn he comes in, and on the following turn, you can attack with an unblockable creature, activate his +1 after combat, and get your card. Having a 1/1 hit and you draw a card could allow you to start digging yourself out of a hole, assuming you have enough turns to keep attacking. Also, fun side note: in the mirror, you can use your Ninja tokens to pressure your opponent’s Kaito, but funny enough, they will never just straight body it.
Kaitos ultimate is very flashy and hints at a possible Ninja deck in our future. Honestly, though, this ultimate could just win the game in Modern Reanimator by grabbing Archon of Cruelty or Mulldrifter. While I often don’t value ultimates very highly, this sort of game-ending one can come up, given how grindy Modern is at the moment. I’d put the chance of this coming up at around 5%, but if Kaito ends up being great in the deck, it will be good to keep in mind – especially postboard, when your opponents will be stocking up on graveyard hate.
Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos
Wow, Hidetsugu has a lot going on! Its base stats are a little below average for four-mana creatures these days, but it has two activated abilities that work well in tandem.
The first ability allows you to sacrifice a creature (including Hidetsugu itself) to scry 2. It’s great to have an ability that softens the blow of removal, and being able to chump and sacrifice creatures to scry will help you dig for the cards you need. However, we don’t really want to be sacrificing creatures for low value. Ideally, you’ll want some creatures with “on death” triggers, or cards that benefit from creatures dying. There aren’t quite enough of those sorts of cards in current Standard, so we’ll need to keep an eye out for them as preview season continues.
Meanwhile, Hidetsugu’s second ability allows you to pay three mana to exile the top card of your library and play it that turn. You will still need to pay the exiled card’s mana cost in order to cast it, so ideally, you’ll want most cards in your deck to have low mana values. However, that’s not all this ability does: if you exile a nonland card, Hidetsugu deals damage equal to its mana value to any target. While there’s a bit of tension here, Hidetsugu has the potential to kill some real threats with just a few points of damage. That being said, if you’re looking to answer some of the biggest creatures in Standard, like Lier or Old-Growth Troll, Hidetsugu may not be up to the job.
Hidetsugu is a really exciting card, but it may not see real Standard play in a format dominated by cards like Alrund’s Epiphany. I could see it finding a home in Historic Sacrifice, which checks a lot of the boxes Hidetsugu needs to work. It might require a lot of setup, but it’s at least worth thinking about how we might jump through the hoops.
Atsushi, the Blazing Sky
I love Dragons, and Atsushi is a really interesting one. While a 4/4 for four like Hidetsugu may not be as impressive on the ground, Atsushi has both flying and trample on its side. Plus, this card has an ability that triggers when it dies, which gives you two strong options. The difference between a three-mana activated ability and a triggered ability that could give you three mana is night and day.
As Goldspan Dragon has shown us, threats that give you Treasure tokens can be huge. Atsushi may not give you mana as consistently, but just like Goldspan Dragon, it will put players in a very awkward spot if they want to get rid of it. Are you sure you want to kill Atsushi and allow your opponent to have at least seven mana on the next turn? That sort of swing can be game-ending, especially given how many seven-mana haymakers we have in Standard right now.
Atsushi’s other “dies” effect is great in the late game. Having access to two more cards will allow you to present a constant stream of threats – and maybe even chain copies of Atsushi. I’m not sure if a “big red” deck can be a major player in Standard right now, but this card makes a strong case for it.
We’ve only seen three cards from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty so far, but WOW, are they exciting! What are you most looking forward to seeing in the new set? Tweet at @masoneclark and let me know! Happy holidays!
Mason Clark is a grinder in every corner of the game who has played at the pro level and on the SCG Tour with Team Nova. Whether he’s competing in Standard, Historic or Modern, Mason plays with one goal in mind: to be a better player than he was the day before. Check out his podcast, Constructed Criticism, and catch his streams on Twitch.