Magic: The Gathering is kicking off its first set of 2022 with a bang, as Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty returns to an old setting and an unexpected plot line.
Wizards of the Coast’s trading card game is returning to a world from its past—Kamigawa, the plane based on Japanese history and mythology from its 2004-2005 products—but longtime players will find it looks quite different. Becca Scott and B. Dave Walters hosted an in-depth look at Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty ahead of its February release, with insight from Worldbuilding Design Manager Meris Mullaley and Product Marketing Manager Harless Snyder.
For the development and creative teams, Neon Dynasty was an interesting opportunity. Magic: The Gathering has never done science fiction before, so incorporating it alongside what people expect from the Kamigawa setting and the game as a whole presented a challenge. Judging from what we saw today, it seems they may have walked this tight rope nimbly, paying homage to the past while forging an exciting new future.
Long after the original Champions of Kamigawa block, the plane continues to live in harmony with the kami spirits of the natural world, but has also incorporated technology into their societies. Some groups, like the Saiba Futurists and the Asari Uprisers, believe this technology is the path to a brighter future, while others, like the Order of Jukai want to stick to the old ways. Control over this new resource and philosophical debates about how it should be applied are a crux of the setting.
New planeswalker character Kaito Shizuki was childhood friends with Kamigawa’s emperor when they were children, and Neon Dynasty focuses on his quest to find her after her unexpected disappearance. However, the emperor herself has also recently awoken her planeswalker spark. In fact, we’ve already met her as the mysterious Wanderer introduced in War of the Spark.
The Wandering Emperor cannot control her planeswalking power, which awoke when she was attacked by returning villain Tezzeret. Kamigawa’s new technology has yielded a tool which may help her stabilize her spark—the Reality Chip. Unfortunately, Tezzeret returns for this same prize, and brings horrifying backup in the form of Jin-Gitaxias, Phyrexian Praetor.
New Phyrexia ultimately wins the day, claiming the chip for their own horrible machinations. In the process, a familiar face falls to their threat as well, as veteran planeswalker and Kamigawa native Tamiyo ends up “compleated” or assimilated into their twisted machine.
Beneath this story, Neon Dynasty brings modern Kamigawa to life with mechanics and vibrant art. The Ninjutsu and Channel mechanics are returning from the original block, and Saga enchantments are also back with a twist. Now, once a Saga resolves its phases, it turns into an enchantment creature. For instance, the Saga card “The Kami War” transforms into “O-Kagachi Made Manifest,” a gold dragon spirit. This allows the new set to feature callbacks to the old block, and feature long-gone characters like O-Kagachi and Michiko.
Artifacts are a major focus point as well. Vehicles return, featured as motorcycles, giant mechs, or anything in between that the cyberpunk style might entail. The Reconfigure keyword allows players to manage their equipment a little easier, while the Modified keyword checks if creatures have been enhanced by either +1/+1 counters, equipment, or auras. These mechanical touches show the relationship between the people of Kamigawa, the kami, and the burgeoning technology.
Of course, there will be plenty of gorgeous alternate-art cards for collectors to chase. Ninja and Samurai creatures have variants with unique frames, as Crimson Vow did for vampires, including Kaito and the Wandering Emperor’s planeswalker cards. Wizards of the Coast also partnered with Kogodo Studios to create additional variants for Kaito, the Emperor, and Tezzeret.
And to put the neon in Neon Dynasty, “soft glow” variants will feature on villainous characters like Jin-Gitaxias. The returning ogre demon Hidetsugu, in fact, will receive four different colour variations, featured in Collector Boosters. If that’s not enough, Jin-Gitaxias and Tamiyo will have alternate printings in Phyrexian text—hard to read, but enough to twist your stomach with dread. Collectors are definitely going to have their hands full chasing some of these unique printings, given that each rare and mythic rare has at least one variation.
(Personally I’ll be chasing those beautiful ukiyo-e style full art lands above all else, and lamenting the absence of the Bushido mechanic.)
Planeswalk to this exciting new setting next month when Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty launches on Magic Arena on February 10, the same day a story webcomic will debut online. Prerelease events start February 11 online and in-person where available, with the full release a week later on February 18.