Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty's Booster Fun Lights It Up

Posted in Feature on January 27, 2022

By Clayton Kroh

Clay is a content strategist, writer, and editor. He's a content editor and writer for DailyMTG, and has contributed creative work for Magic: The Gathering sets. On the side, he writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

The Japanese influence in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is strong, and the set establishes a dramatic meeting of tradition and modernity. Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty's Booster Fun treatments revel in that thematic nexus, and the results are beautiful, evocative, and just plain awesome.

Creating Booster Fun treatments for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty was a huge, team-spanning effort. A few of the folks who contributed to this article:

  • Tom Jenkot led overall art direction and commissioned outside artists to contribute ideas.
  • Daniel Holt oversaw UX design, pitching ideas, guiding the testing of assets, and ensuring all the game pieces played correctly.
  • James Arnold headed graphic design, pitching concepts and later refining the final selections.
  • Lisa Hanson, along with the Print Innovation Team, explored new foil and print treatments, some of which debut in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.

The results of these efforts offer something for just about any fan of the rich and visually exciting land of Kamigawa.

Borderless and Extended-Art Favorites

Favorites from set to set, borderless and extended-art cards can be found in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. As a matter of fact, you'll find extended-art variants of every rare and mythic rare card in the set!

The Reality Chip extended-art variantAtsushi, the Blazing Sky extended-art variant

And borderless cards? "As always, we like to throw some borderless favorites into the set as well," said Daniel. "With Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, we leaned on not only exciting cycles, but sets of cards that connect to the previous setting. The Dragons returning was decided on fairly early in game design as something fans of the plane would want to see."

Kairi, the Swirling Sky borderless variantAtsushi, the Blazing Sky borderless variant

And of course, planeswalkers get a borderless treatment that lets them shine all the way to the edges.

Kaito Shizuki borderless planeswalker variantThe Wandering Emperor borderless planeswalker variantTezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh borderless planeswalker variant

Anything-But-Basic Lands

The ukiyo-e (pronounced oo-kee-oh-ey) lands in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty are breathtaking. Based on a traditional Japanese woodblock print artform, this basic land treatment offers amazing full-art views of the Kamigawa landscape.

"We've wanted to use ukiyo-e style for a while but knew Kamigawa was the perfect spot," said Creative Manager Tom Jenkot.

"We're always pushing ways to show the places we visit," said Daniel. "Full-art lands had tested well here, and we had the idea from a previous exploration that we wanted to try this minimalist woodblock text design. James Arnold paired the two together and it worked like a charm!"

Blending traditional style with a modern interpretation, the art in the ukiyo-e lands transports you into an expansive frame of mind through a mingling of realistic and fantastical elements that make you want to stare at them for hours.

Ukiyo-e PlainsUkiyo-e Plains

Ukiyo-e IslandUkiyo-e Island

Ukiyo-e SwampUkiyo-e Swamp

Ukiyo-e MountainUkiyo-e Mountain

Ukiyo-e ForestUkiyo-e Forest

Foil

"The artist selection for this was very important," said Tom. "You'll see that many of these artists have done work for Magic already. This is also a nice nod to the traditional Kamigawa, something that is prevalent throughout the set—albeit neon lit now. We also wanted these to be typeset in Japanese only, adding the authentic quality."

Soft Glow Treatment

Nothing says "the future" like neon, and neon glows brightly in the cities of Kamigawa. This is reflected in the soft glow treatment with its neon frame.

"The frame itself pulls from locations in Kamigawa where bright, neon glow can be found everywhere," said Daniel. "We wanted a blending of old and new, just like real-world Japan, so we have this neon paired with more traditional torii gate design on the title bar, a subtle nod to the Champions of Kamigawa set symbol as well."

Surgehacker Mech soft glow variant

The artwork for the soft glow treatment draws on anime and manga for inspiration. "I wanted the style to be different from the Magic house style," said Tom. "So, we leaned into a more anime/manga look that relies on line work more than a painterly style. The Japanese artists were already doing this in their work. In fact, a lot of the art direction was asking the artists to stick to their own style for the set!"

These included celebrity Japanese artists, such as Yoji Shinkawa, known for his character and mecha design work for Metal Gear Solid titles; Tetsuo Hara, illustrator for the Fist of the North Star manga series; and Terada Katsuya, an illustrator and character designer known for his work on the animated film Blood: The Last Vampire.

As gifted as those three artists are, the amount of art needed for the set required lots of additional talent. "We had a great opportunity to partner with Kogado Studios in Japan for this project," said Daniel.

Kogado is an art agency based in Japan that has been in business for two centuries—yes, that's 200 years. Wizards has collaborated with the agency on past projects, including the Japanese Mystical Archive variant cards from Strixhaven: School of Mages and War of the Spark.

"We've worked with Kogado on many projects," said Tom. "This was the largest project with Kogado to date. War of the Spark had 36 planeswalker commissions, the Japanese Mystical Archive cards totaled 63. There are 133 commissions for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Booster Fun—so much amazing Japanese art!"

Neon Ink Treatment

Hidetsugu is the infamous Ogre who merged with the All-Devouring Oni of Chaos, becoming a demon himself and the envy of Kamigawan cultists. His return in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty embodies that theme of the old meeting the new, and he's sporting some sweet new ink.

"Hidetsugu was chosen as an appealing card both mechanically and flavorfully for the neon ink treatment," said Daniel. "It's been 1,200 years since the original Kamigawa setting, but Hidetsugu is one of the few characters to play a role in both timelines."

"We wanted to use a print treatment to enhance the theme of this set," said Senior Creative Art Director Lisa Hanson, who oversaw print treatments. "Neon ink was an obvious choice. We spent some time trying out different ways to incorporate neon ink into the frame and art before landing on the final treatment.

"It was hard to select one color, so we decided to go with four distinctive colors."

Red HidetsuguGreen Hidetsugu

Blue HidetsuguYellow Hidetsugu

Neon Ink Foil

The years have been kind to Hidetsugu.

"The cards were first printed using our standard traditional foil process," continued Lisa, "but we needed to remove all printed color that would have appeared underneath the neon ink. Then we silkscreened the neon ink on top of the printed card, which gives a subtle matte finish to the card surface."

Even in the printing processes, the traditional joins with the modern in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.

Ninja and Samurai Treatments

Both Ninjas and Samurai creatures were iconic from our first trip to Kamigawa. Now both get unique treatments in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.

"Both internally and externally, it was clear that Samurai and Ninjas were big hits for fans of the original block and the new," said Daniel. "So, we knew right away we wanted to focus a subset of Booster Fun on these creature types. And the two had a nice parallel to one another."

Satoru Umezawa Ninja treatment variantGoro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei Samurai treatment variant

"The Samurai treatment has softer, more rounded and natural elements to it in the knotted ropes and padded armor," said Daniel. "In contrast, the Ninja treatment was built with hard, sharp edges with a colder technological concept. Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty plays with the tradition-versus-modernity theme, and we can see hints of that reflected across these Booster Fun treatments."

"The treatments were purposely designed to look great next to each other," said Tom Jenkot. "We wanted to separate the Samurai, Ninjas, and others in a way that gives them their moment to shine—or glow as it is with neon."

Phyrexian Treatments

As is their wont, Phyrexians like to slither their tech-creepy way into new places. In Kamigawa, they wreak havoc.

But wait. Have you read the fiction yet? If not, and you don't want any spoilers, pause your reading here and jump over to see what's going down in the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty storyline.

Are you back yet? Great! Now we can compleat this.

"We've seen Phyrexians in the past," said Daniel, "and incorporation of the language and aesthetics on the cards has been dabbled in before. We started seeing this trend when Vorinclex mysteriously appeared on Kaldheim."

This time, we have the distinct displeasure of encountering Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant in all his Phyrexian frame horror:

Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant Phyrexian variant

"It only made sense to pick the treatment up again for Jin-Gitaxias, who is up to no good on Kamigawa," said Daniel. "But this time around, we have our first ever Phyrexianized planeswalker, Tamiyo!"

Tamiyo, Compleated Sage borderless planeswalker variantTamiyo, Compleated Sage Phyrexian planeswalker variant

"Many elements of the original treatment cross over onto the planeswalker treatment, like the wire-y background and the Phyrexian-language swap. Even for the borderless version, we bring in the small details around the text box and title bar. We even had to create a hybrid Phyrexian mana symbol just for Tamiyo!"

Now that you've had a glimpse of the Booster Fun cards in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, your next step is to check out Harless Snyder's Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Product Overview and Max McCall's Collecting Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty articles to find out where to get these electrifying cards!

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