Hey there magic people! Recently I wrote about Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. The full set had been spoiled, but not the Commander decks. I’m going to take a look at those right here, right now!
The big question of course is: are they Bangers or Clangers?
Note: Bangers, like a sweet fireworks display, are good. Clangers, like a vehicle that won’t stay out of the shop, are bad. If I got it wrong, tell me in the comments!
Upgrades Unleashed (the Red/Green Deck)
These are fun colours in a fun combo that will serve the little kid in you. Modifying creatures is something most decks already do. It’s easy, rewarding, and can be achieved a number of ways. I built a deck recently that this reminds me of, around Vrondiss, Rage of Ancients. That deck is lots of red/green fun with lots of wacky token generators. Leave a request in the comments if you want a list! Bang!
Some utility here, but overall this is a low value bunch of cards outside of Bear Umbra. It’s nice to see a few key staples like Chaos Warp, Beast Within, Rhythm of the Wild, and Rishkar’s Expertise, but the rest are pretty flat. There also isn’t a ton of synergy and I’m not sure exactly how the cards reflect what the commander is trying to do. At least you get 2 Mossfire Valleys. Oops. Clang!
Commander – Chishiro, the Shattered Blade: Banger!
Chishiro is totally decent! It offers repeatable interaction that results in tokens and counters. Having two very Kamigawa types (snake/samurai) is also a big plus, because there are a handful of useful tribal cards in R/G, like Seshiro the Anointed or Godo, Bandit Warlord. This could go directly into my Vrondiss deck, or sub as the commander. Like Vrondiss, the tokens Chishiro creates are spirits, opening up synergies with cards like Blood Age General, Lifespinner, Sekki, Seasons’ Guide and of course, Clash of Realities! While it’s not that competitive, it will grow a modified army quickly with the +1/+1 counters, and Chishiro’s 4 mana cost is reasonable for repeat castings. Bang!
Kaima, the Fractured Calm – Clanger!
While Red/Green auras matter is a fun idea, the execution here is too clunky. The auras have to be on creatures for this to do anything, which excludes fun stuff like curses and land enchantments. Since they’re going on creatures that will be goaded, the auras need to be recurring or else end up as super-clunky 1-for-1 removal, which Kaima doesn’t help. And hexproof/shroud are common, thanks to Lightning Greaves etc. Rancor would be fun, though.
Also, by itself, Goading isn’t really a great strategy. Goading and forcing combat can be really narrow and pointless, and players will try and foil you by doing things like tapping before combat or not playing creatures at all. The payoff with Kaima is a bigger pig (spirit) but there’s no evasion here, and the stats are kinda weak for the cost. Maybe the best thing going for Kaima is being a repeatable spirit to cast from the command zone, as many of the red/green spirit payoffs require a cast trigger, like combining Loam Dweller and Elder Pine of Jukai. Still… clang!
Kosei, Pentitent Warlord: Banger!
Samurai Shrek is already a flavour win (garlic, fish, and more!) but the mechanics here are just plain fun. We have a low cost in a mana-rich colour, a huge toughness value, which synergizes with fun stuff like Assault Formation, and a serious payoff. Drawing cards and hitting all other opponents for damage is a plan, and having a clear path to get there in giving this guy a counter, aura and equipment is the kind of cause and effect I can get behind. Bang!
Akki Battle Squad – Clanger!
Despite being a goblin, and extra combat steps being powerful, there are better ways to get a similar effect that doesn’t only untap your modified creatures. Better yet, there are repeatable ways to get more combats in the same turn. No haste or any evasion doesn’t help the Akki Battle Squad, and a vanilla 6/6 for six mana isn’t great. At least it can likely trigger the turn it comes in. Clang!
Ascendant Acolyte: Clanger!
While it promises to be huge, and get huger, this human monk is just a big beat-stick at its best. No evasion, no self-protection like hexproof or indestructible, and it threatens to be a 1/1 for five mana that does nothing else if there’s no counters around. Clang!
Kami of Celebration: Banger!
Kami of Celebration offers a sort of card draw effect that works well with going wide. Having a few creatures with +1/+1 counters on them attack is pretty easy. Having a secondary ability that modifies is cool, but the amount of times it’s going to trigger probably isn’t many. A high cost and fragile body with no keywords isn’t great, but dropping this and immediately attacking with several modified creatures is probably going to make you forget those things fast. Bang!
Komainu Battle Armor: Clanger!
I want to love the Komainu Battle Armor equipment dog, and it tries hard, but this is super-clunky. The ideal situation is attacking an opponent with a bunch of creatures to goad, which means plenty of possible blockers. Menace isn’t the answer. The dog is too small by itself, and the bonus it gives isn’t enough to help another creature either. The biggest issue is reconfigure 4. It’s too high, and while you can get it on an evasive creature for a repeatable goad effect, you might find the evasive creature aspect to be better than the goad. Clang!
Rampant Rejuvenator – Banger!
Not my style, but Rampant Rejuvenator entering play with Hardened Scales already there, and a sacrifice outlet waiting in the wings like Ashnod’s Altar, seems like easy value. This rewards a lot of decks for doing what they were already doing with some very efficient ramp stapled to a creature body. That stuff works. Bang!
Tanuki Transplanter: Banger!
The other equipment dog, Tanuki Transplanter, will be huge for dog people and those who like Super Mario 3 references. It’s in the right colour to attach it to something enormous and make a pile of mana to do swingy things after combat. A 5 power creature, Orochi Leafcaller and Aggravated Assault makes for lots of combats. Lots of potential here. Bang!
Collision of Realms – Clanger!
While Collision of Realms is a decent enough boardwipe, it will still leave some potential chaos behind. Some bad luck, and you can put some opponents in a way better position than they had. Only replaying a single creature per player means it’s tough for you to break the symmetry in a meaningful way. The best thing here is being a great answer to indestructible creatures, commanders, tokens, and recursive stuff. At seven mana however, that’s an expensive meta call with too many fail cases. Clang!
Concord with the Kami: Banger!
While the best case scenario with Concord of the Kami (drawing a card because you have an enchanted creature) is also the toughest to pull off, this is an awesome card. Plenty of decks will have no problem getting the other two conditions with counters and equipment, and we have several new cards that synergize with those very things. This would be playable if you had to choose one of the options and only one. Bang!
One with the Kami: Clanger!
One with the Kami is trying hard not to be a useless aura, but the best case scenario is playing this in response to something of yours dying. Not a great start. It will mostly go on a creature that’s about to die, but it doesn’t have to. It can be a decent response to a boardwipe if you have a ton of modified creatures, but the result is still a bunch of 1/1s. I’m not sold. There are a lot of non-death answers to huge creatures, like Path to Exile and Chaos Warp that will ignore this. Plus holding up four mana to play this doesn’t sound appealing. Clang!
Silkguard – Banger!
Silkguard has lots going on, and will rarely be a dead card. At worst, you can play it for G as a sort of counterspell, nullifying something that targets your modified creatures. Also protecting auras and equipment is a cool side bonus as well. Saving a Swiftfoot Boots or Sword of Something and Something from destruction is often worthwhile. The first ability, putting counters on X targeted creatures, has a number of applications, and instant speed ties everything together neatly into a versatile little package. Heroic Intervention it’s not, but it does a lot. Bang!
Smoke Spirits’ Aid: Banger!
Smoke Spirits’ Aid is easily the weirdest card in the set. Making aura tokens is rare enough, but having them bestow a death trigger that does damage and creates treasure is all kinds of strange. The main drawback here is sorcery speed, but this is a prime candidate for copying, either to make a pile of treasures for yourself or pain for an opponent. Assuming you don’t kill yourself or ramp your opponent into their own wincon. Just being able to create a variable number of enchantments on a spell makes this really intriguing with cards like Eidolon of Blossoms. Even if it ends up being completely unplayable, huge banger status for breaking new ground in design! Bang!
Unquenchable Fury: Banger!
There’s one line on Unquenchable Fury that instantly makes it a playable aura. The recursion. It comes back. Any aura with this on it, like Rancor, is worth considering. Many of those still suck, but that’s auras for you. The damage effect on this is actually pretty great. It triggers on attack, and the creature is the one dealing the damage, which can be super relevant. It’s also potentially a lot. Very playable in all sorts of decks, from aggro to heroic to goad decks where it’ll target opposing creatures. Bang!
Buckle Up (The White/Blue Deck)
While I’ll get to the reprints in a second, the biggest clang here is the choice of colours. Blue and White are terrible on mana, skew heavily to control and/or frequent boardwiping, and disallow some of the best existing pilots, including at least one from the main set. Why this deck wasn’t also black is beyond me, and a 3+ colour pilot commander is obviously now in demand. An even bigger miss is leaving red out of the mix. While there are black vehicles in the main set, and those are totally underserved, adding red invites the all-important keyword ‘haste’ to the grand prix. Why is haste so important? Do you like to go fast in your vehicles? Or would you rather be outraced by your standard-issue Gingerbrute? Haste helps make your vehicles relevant the turn they come down, because you have three opponents with answers and turns of their own. Being strong against boardwipes is fine, but you still need a few pilots. Haste just smooths everything, like asphalt over a gravel road. Clang! And also Clunk!
There are very few valuable cards here, and the best things are the heavily reprinted Swords to Plowshares and the getting there soon Generous Gift. Solemn Simulacrum has seen better days. Emry, Lurker of the Loch, Sai, Master Thopterist, Mirage Mirror and Spire of Industry are all good too, but it’s a steep drop from there. Big clang!
Commander – Kotori, Pilot Prodigy: Clanger!
Why buck a trend? The ‘Commander’, Kotori, Pilot Prodigy is another clanger. Reducing vehicle crew costs is fine, and so is giving the vehicles lifelink and vigilance. But this doesn’t really address the biggest problem with vehicles: most are just vanilla beaters that don’t scale well to Commander. Plus they need a creature or two to be creatures, which is somehow not efficient. While they’re a harder target, vehicles spread your modifications thinner, and Kotori can’t protect itself and dies in all your own boardwipes. Not inspired. Clang!
Shorikai, Genesis Engine: Clanger!
It’s so tough to classify the big mech itself, Shorikai, Genesis Engine, as a clanger, but it clangs. As a Commander option, it’s sure to be sleeved up a lot, because it seems cool. I hope those people don’t take it too hard that this is ultimately a vanilla 8/8 that needs tons of help to be… a vanilla 8/8. Sure it draws and discards, which are usually great things, but you’ve paid five mana if you activate that once. Not great if that’s all this card does before an opponent blows it up. Adding a pilot token is handy, but needing at least 3 of those, or other creatures, seems like the kind of thing that opponents will have time to plan for. And with the big payoff being a vanilla 8/8, the only concern is Commander Damage from a voltron-esque creature that needs a voltron support package to voltron. Not being compatible with cards like Lightning Greaves make this too easy to target outside of your turn.
There is some weight to the card selection and pilot generation if the plan is a swarm of smaller mechs backed up by removal, countermagic and wipes. That is definitely a strategy, but it’s nowhere near as exciting as a swarm of mechs could be, in large part because it would likely seek to avoid creature combat and just turn the mech sideways unopposed. And the available vehicles are still mostly smallish vanilla beaters themselves. And your best cards are everything but the mechs. Feel free to disagree! I 100% want this to be awesome. But Clang!
Katsumasa, the Animator: Clanger!
While bringing artifacts to life is every Geppetto’s dream, and Katsumasa, the Animator seems like the perfect guy to turn a stack of clues, treasure or food into an invasion force, this is slow, mana-intensive, and requires a deckbuilding balance between token producers, mana rocks and protection for your stuff as a Commander. You could pass on tokens, but turning your Sol Ring and other rocks into creatures seems like the best way to get them killed, and Katsumasa doesn’t make them big enough, fast enough. Vehicles are a maybe, as Katsumasa can crew and animate in the same turn. Putting a white mana symbol on this would make it much better and give it more interesting cardpool. Same with the other colours. Not feeling the fun here. Clang!
Aerial Surveyor: Clanger!
How much work do white decks have to do to put a stupid Plains on the board from their deck?! Aerial Surveyor is a turn four or later, conditional, specific-to-basic-Plains, ‘ramp’ source. Compare that to Rampant Growth, which while not repeatable, gets you ahead early without asking much. Or try Wayfarer’s Bauble. Or mana rocks. Clang!
Cyberdrive Awakener: Banger…?
Cyberdrive Awakener could easily have been called ‘Artifact Deck Alpha Strike Card’. Because that’s what it does. You play this when it’s time to win, like if you have a couple dozen treasure tokens. I gave this a ‘Banger…?’ because it seems like it won’t be that great most of the rest of the time. The flying effect is cool, but this is all about that ETB trigger combined with flying and the ease of making artifact tokens. It will win a lot of games, but also sit in a lot of hands waiting for the right time. Bang…?!
Whether it’s crewing vehicles, making mana, activating abilities, or just being handy for blocking, untapping your creatures on opposing turns is big time value. Having evasion and a relevant type are both extra awesome. Probably an instant staple, even at 1 toughness. Bang!
Imposter Mech: Banger!
With a small body and high crew cost, Imposter Mech isn’t good when you play it if there are no decent opposing creatures to copy. Which isn’t so much of a problem. Most of the time it’ll copy the best thing you don’t own, and with a built-in hedge against boardwipes, this card will likely have plenty of appeal outside of vehicle decks. One of the best vehicles printed so far. Bang!
Ironsoul Enforcer: Clanger!
Like too many white cards designed for Commander, Ironsoul Enforcer needs a ton of specific work to do anything, is slightly overcosted, and like the worst design offenders, requires combat to trigger. Combat is great, but it happens usually once per turn, where other colours get cards that trigger on things like drawing a card, or playing a land. This even requires specific, awkward combat. And what’s the payoff? Artifact recursion? Seems like this is bad compared to Refurbish which guarantees you that recursion for less mana. Not repeatable, but Ironsoul Enforcer barely guarantees you one trigger. Rafiq of the Many maybe, but those decks hardly need the help. Clang!
Kappa Cannoneer: Blastoise!
It’s a Pokemon! There’s some Legacy and Vintage buzz about this guy, who could come down for essentially U in the right shell, and be a tough thing to remove. Kappa Cannoneer in Commander is either going to be too small to be of much consequence, or a huge problem, sometimes out of nowhere. Spells or abilities that generate plenty of tokens can make the Blastoise into a kill shot. Pretty sweet even if it is kind of a win more, and as far as blue cards to lose to, this is so much better than all the alternatives. Blastoise Bang!
Research Thief: Clanger!
While it comes with the element of surprise and a flying artifact wizard moonfolk body, Research Thief is probably inferior to any of Bident of Thassa, Coastal Piracy or Reconnaissance Mission. Those don’t die to boardwipes, which is really relevant. It might get you a surprise big draw, but how many cards for five mana is worth it? This is fine to cast on an end step, but a little awkward to cast during combat based on the cost. There are probably a few decks that would like this, but I feel like you can get a better effect for five mana, or get a similar effect on a less fragile card. Clang!
Access Denied: Banger!
In the proud tradition of extremely playable five mana counterspells comes Access Denied, poised to join Desertion and Spell Swindle as surprisingly excellent reasons to hold up mana. Flying artifact tokens do plenty of work, and getting a swarm in exchange for something like Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur is a huge swing. Even a single token combined with a timely counter might get the job done with some equipment. Bang!
Organic Extinction: Clanger!
While there isn’t a great way to abuse high casting costs in a white deck, it’s only a matter of time. Until then, Organic Extinction is a tiny drop in the massive bucket ‘o’ boardwipes we have now. And unlike most of those, you need some sort of boardstate to make this castable. Some deck might want this badly, but it’s very very niche. Clang!
I’m a little surprised by Release to Memory, because it seems like a mediocre card designed for Standard maybe ten or fifteen years ago. I would have guessed it was a reprint. How is this a Commander card? Because it might make a pile of tokens? If they were flying spirits maybe, but still, only hitting one opponent is questionable. Clang!
Swift Reconfiguration: Clanger… in Commander….
Was Swift Reconfiguration printed for Legacy? It seems like solid removal for 60 card Eternal formats. In Commander however, this is more comparable to cards like Chained to the Rocks or On Thin Ice, or even Pacifism. Flash helps, and giving a creature a crew cost to be itself will shut down some problems, but this is a fragile enchantment, and makes the creature a fragile artifact that can still become a creature. Sometimes the best thing these cards do is turn the creature into something that’s tough to change, like with Darksteel Mutation, Song of the Dryads or Imprisoned in the Moon. But Commander has no shortage of flexible removal, and ways to make this card barely consequential, like playing a creature that can crew it, or just sacrificing it and replaying it if it’s the Commander, make this too unreliable. Clang!
Universal Surveillance: Clanger!
At sorcery speed, and with three Us in the cost, Universal Surveillance is still going to take a bite out of your mana when you probably least want it to. Instant speed card draw is just better, and while you can turn all of your treasure tokens into cards without sacrificing them, the wish-case scenarios on this card shouldn’t blind you to the fact that blue has decades of card draw and filtration spells at instant speed to take over this. Blue Sun’s Zenith is the obvious competitor. You also can’t target an opponent to win to game if you have a huge pile of mana. Clang!
There aren’t that many cards here, so I’m only doing a Top 5. It’s like the best half of the Top 10 lists you love! It’s a clickbait list muffin top!
5. Unquenchable Fury – An aura! Recurring and with lots of potential for damage, this is a pleasant surprise.
4. Chishiro, the Shattered Blade – A fun-looking Commander that looks strong enough to compete, too. Lots of Kamigawa synergy brings older cards forward. Lots to love.
3. Drumbellower – Instant staple, and probably something people will be complaining about in due time. Untapping things is good, and play this right and you’re almost taking extra turns.
2. Imposter Mech – Another instant staple, and in the running for best vehicle out there. Cheap to cast is awesome, and even being blue and not being able to copy your stuff won’t hold this back.
1. Kosei, Penitent Warlord – This is my favourite new card in a long, long time. With an obvious deckbuilding challenge built in, and an epic payoff, Samurai Shrek is an entirely new way to approach mono-green. Sadly, the only green donkey, the cringey-named Fat Ass is silver bordered, and you can only play that version of the deck by yourself in the Swamp. Which is the dream.
Happy Kamigawa players! It looks like a ton of fun. Thanks for reading!
Two cards need further mention! There are a number of cards that appear outside of the Commander precons, but are Commander cards. I thought they’d be most inaccessible, but my roommate opened the juiciest one! Which one?
We’re going to forget the new Myojins, like Myojin of Towering Might, because even though they have lots of power-sounding words, they seem pretty underwhelming. We’re going to gloss over the Shrine commander Go-Shintai of Life’s Origin because it’s niche and obvious, and Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful because it’s a meme card and obvious. Plus it’s destined for 60-card constructed and Mox Amber interactions.
Let’s talk about Ruthless Technomancer. There were some whispers about it being black Dockside Extortionist. Not a great comparison, I don’t think, but it might end up in just as many decks. This is less of a massive swing enabler, and more of a do-all. Something it does will fit in with nearly every black strategy out there. It has a massively powerful ETB trigger that I could waste hours breaking down, plus you’re a lot more in control of it than with Dockside Extortionist. Making absurd amounts of treasure might seem appealing, but using this repeatedly via blink triggers, or reanimation, and making the primary focus of this creature into the sacrificing might be one of the best usage patterns.
However: there is an easy-to-miss part of the reanimation ability that makes it sneaky-strong. Often, reanimation scales to mana cost, or you might assume that, considering we’re sacrificing treasures. But it’s based on power. Which means a single treasure token and 3 mana means you can bring back all sorts of great creatures, from Doran, the Siege Tower to Kagemaro, First to Suffer to Guiltfeeder and even Necrogoyf. And that’s not even considering creatures with 1 power, which costs the same.
Finally, this is a human wizard, which might seem trivial, but it plays extra nice with cards like General Kudro of Drannith and Inalla, Archmage Ritualist. Both are seriously synergistic types, and will see more favourable interaction in future. Grab this one if you can!
The other card needing mention is from the precon. There is an interaction between Swift Reconfiguration and Devoted Druid that makes infinite mana. Woo hoo. It really makes little difference in Commander, as there are already plenty of ways to make infinite mana, and since neither of these cards is a legendary creature, it means you’ll have to find them first. You can tutor like crazy, but basing your deck around finding both halves of a mana combo is pretty sketchy. Try building something fun instead.
It also bears mention that the same combo has existed with the card One with the Stars since that card’s printing and it has made no ripple despite being in a better colour for Commander. Cheers!