Tribal Update Report: NEO and NEC


The Tentacled One
Did you think a Tribal Update Report was never going to happen for this set? You were not quite right, in that case. I guess? Yeah, I fell way behind. But the next set isn’t out yet, so I figure this still counts. Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty takes us back to a plane we left 17 years ago. Feel old yet?

This is Kamigawa, but it’s not your grandfather’s Kamigawa. Or something like that. It’s all high-tech and stuff. So, what’s back from the old times and what’s brand-new? Those of us that experienced Magic at its lowest point in the mid-00’s get to revisit equipment, Ninjutsu, shrines, Channel, samurai (but not Bushido), and an emphasis on legendary permanents. And this brave new Kamigawa also incorporates vehicles, sagas, enchantment creatures with a new “Reconfigure” mechanic, and an emphasis on “modified” creatures. A modified creature is one that is equipped, enchanted, or has counters on it.

This set is a bit off the beaten path, but in my experience the design is fun and well-balanced. The power level isn’t necessarily as pushed as we were experiencing during the height of the Philosophy of F.I.R.E. But this set is by no means weak! It tweaks which game concepts get pushed more, so it seriously boosts some decks, while offering little to others. I think that when it comes to a midrange-focused game with lots of combat and manipulation of resources, this set has some strong and unprecedented tools, so when it comes to Tribal formats, this set should be a hit.

New tribes
None. But there is something funny! The new “Go-Shintai” cards are a cycle of shrines, and each of these enchantments also counts as a creature. They have no native creature type. I believe these are the first creatures since Nameless Race to simply not have a creature type. They do have a subtype in the spot where a creature type would go, but it’s an enchantment type (shrine), not a creature type. This has confused many players and the idea of playing Shrine Tribal or “Shribal” has become a popular meme.

You cannot pick “Shrines” as your tribe. That isn’t allowed. But it is kind of funny.

New additions to existing tribes
Advisor: Two new cards. One of these will make a great commander, but that’s about it.

Archer: Two new cards. No overall impact.

Artificer: Seven new cards. A couple of these show real promise if you’re running red.

Beast: Two new cards. Not much use in this tribe.

Boar: Two new cards. Not bad. Some potential use here.

Cat: Two new cards. One of them is bonkers. Automatic inclusion in any Cat Tribal deck with white.

Citizen: One new card. Tribe remains Tier 7.

Construct: Ten new cards. Some of these are great. They might even make the cut. And in this tribe, that’s saying something.

Crab: One new card. On the one hand, it’s not great. On the other hand, neither is this tribe. So maybe?

Demon: Two new cards. Demon Tribal is in such a weird place these days that I have no idea what’s going on. These cards seem fine.

Dog: Five new cards. They’re good dogs.

Dragon: Eight new cards. Probably not a great fit for Dragon Tribal, but they have some potent abilities, so they’re worth a look.

Drone: One new card. Do not play this tribe.

Druid: Five new cards. Marginal potential impact here.

Egg: One new card. While it’s not directly useful for Egg Tribal, it’s pretty good. Probably not going in a Tribal deck. Probably.

Fish: One new card. Artifact-based triggered ability, which I don’t think that Fish Tribal properly supports.

Fox: Nine new cards. Nothing jumps out at me as making Fox Tribal shine, but Fox Tribal is weak enough that these new options probably represent some improvement.

Frog: One new card. It’s a weird one and not especially good.

Goblin: Nine new cards. Most of them aren’t useful to Goblin Tribal and I think the others don’t quite make the cut, but there are a couple of niche choices that could be interesting.

Human: Forty-five new cards. Obligatory “humans have it all” analysis here.

Hydra: One new card. Looks pretty good. I could see myself running this in Hydra Tribal. Or just in +1/+1 counters decks in general.

Insect: Five new cards. Marginal impact.

Jellyfish: One new card. This thing is bonkers. Unfortunately, I think that Jellyfish Tribal would bog down the combo potential of this card.

Kirin: Two new cards. These are probably the two best kirins in the game now. The tribe is still quite bad.

Leech: One new card. Possibly the best leech in the game. The tribe is still bad.

Lizard: One new card. Whoa. This thing is good.

Monk: Eight new cards. It is likely that Monk Tribal would go in a different direction that these cards don’t help with. They’re OK, though.

Monkey: One new card. Monkey Tribal was pretty bad before, but with Ragavan and now this, maybe it can go from pretty bad to pretty mediocre.

Moonfolk: Ten new cards. Moonfolk were pretty bad before, so this is basically a revolution for them. The old ones have little synergy with the new ones, but the new ones are generally better. Maybe mix in a few key players from the old moonfolk and you have a semi-decent deck.

Ninja: Twenty-two new cards. Some of these involve ninjas branching out into colors other than their traditional blue/black. Those ones probably don’t matter too much because a Ninja Tribal deck is likely still blue/black. Well, maybe we could go blue/black/green. Maybe. But yeah, some of the black ninjas here are great. The tribe has just improved a bit.

Noble: Two new cards. Both are sagas that transform into creatures that do their own things and don’t synergize with the tribe.

Octopus: One new card. The tribe would use it because it’s fine, but it doesn’t shore up the major deficiencies of Octopus Tribal.

Ogre: Six new cards. A couple of potential build-arounds for the tribe.

Phyrexian: One new card. Powerful, but not quite as hard-hitting in Tribal formats.

Pilot: Four new cards. They’re good.

Plant: Two new cards. Both are quite strong.

Praetor: One new card. Praetor Tribal gradually creeps toward being something that could actually make sense.

Rabbit: One new card. I mean, it’s probably the strongest rabbit in the game, so there’s that.

Rat: Seven new cards. Decent cards, but limited utility for the tribe because by now Rat Tribal has some excellent synergies already, and these new rats are pulling in different directions.

Rogue: Four new cards. Marginal impact.

Samurai: Twenty-seven new cards. Good stuff here. The tribe probably shifts to accommodate the “modify” theme of this set.

Shaman: Three new cards. All of them are sagas that transform into shamans. The tribe already has better options.

Snake: Ten new cards. Of course, this set gives the tribe some help. I’ve already used a couple of these myself in EDH.

Spirit: Thirty-two new cards. There’s a lot here, as we’d expect from a Kamigawa set. The traditional tribal synergies are gone, though. These new spirits mostly emphasize other themes. The potential is notable, but I’m uncertain how this would shake out in a real-world scenario.

Turtle: Three new cards. One is a ninja, of course.

Warrior: Six new cards. Nothing groundbreaking.

Wizard: Four new cards. The abilities on display here are fine, but the mana costs are probably just a bit too much for Wizard Tribal to make efficient use of them.

New tribal synergies to look out for
Heiko Yamazaki, the General: Probably the most notable example, but there are several cards in this set that specify samura or warrior. Circumstances being what they are, I don’t imagine that Warrior Tribal would lack the depth to start splashing into “samura or warrior” cards, and the cards themselves tend to be samurai anyway (Heiko Yamazaiki is a human samurai). But it’s a prominent trend in this set. In principle, it could matter. There are too many of these cards in the set for me to bother listing them all.
Kaito’s Pursuit: Synergies with ninjas and rogues. This is a very real option to punch damage through and disrupt an opponent.
Kami of Restless Shadows: Another ninja/rogue synergy.
Prodigy’s Prototype: Not a direct synergy, but it’s a vehicle that makes pilot tokens, and the tokens are good at crewing vehicles. Fun.
Prosperous Thief: Another notable ninja/rogue synergy.
Shorikai, Genesis Engine: Not directly helping Pilot Tribal, but it can make those little pilot tokens and, if this is pertinent, it can be your commander.
Tatsunari, Toad Rider: Frog Tribal synergy.
Tribute to Horobi: Weirdly, this is kind of a Rat Tribal synergy.

Overall set analysis
I waited until two weeks before the release of the subsequent set to start this report. This time, it wasn’t on purpose or anything. I’ve just been busy. In a way, it’s kind of a blessing. I didn’t see a lot to appreciate in Neon Dynasty when it was initially spoiled. I mostly viewed it as a low-power set. Seeing and playing with the cards over the past two months has changed my mind on that. WotC seem to have changed their design approach from the sets most notoriously associated with the “Philosophy of Fire” and the set doesn’t feel like the power level is pushed. But this set does some unique things and pushes some mechanics that weren’t so prominent before. Aggro decks, creature-based combo decks, and some control decks really benefit here. The raw power of some of these cards spills over onto what Tribal theme decks are capable of. If a tribe gets significant representation in this set, it probably gets a substantial boost. That might seem obvious, but it hasn’t been true of every set.

Winners and losers for this set? Tier adjustments?
The biggest winners seem to be…
  • Cats
  • Constructs
  • Hydras
  • Moonfolk
  • Ninjas
  • Pilots
  • Plants
  • Samurai
  • Snakes
  • Spirits
And since this set represents a return to a plane that was the subject of a three-set block in 2004 and 2005, we could view the old tribes from those sets that didn’t benefit here as “losers.” Kamigawa Block had a prominent focus on spirits, but wasn’t a heavy tribe-themed block on the whole. Spirits tooke a back seat this time, but got enough new toys that I wouldn’t call them losers. There are a few other contenders for the “loser” label here, but ultimately they probably just did OK with this set. Demons, foxes, monks, and ogres were pretty big in the old Kamigawa sets and might be kind of lackluster here. There is one tribe, however, that only ever appeared in Kamigawa sets and got nothing in this release. The real losers are the obscure pet tribe of multiple CPA members: the zubera. Sad, I know.

I have no recommendations for tier list adjustments at this time.

Ban list update recommendations
Nothing for now.

This is a fun set. Too bad about the zubera. Streets of New Capenna prerelease is coming up tomorrow. The new set will release before I ever get around to writing a report for it, but perhaps I’ll get one out quicker next time around…