#905: Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Commander
I sit down with Designer Corey Bowen to talk about the design of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Commander decks and Set Booster cards.
Posted in Making Magic on February 14, 2022
Last week, I began showing off the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty vision design handoff document, the document Vision Design creates to inform Set Design what work they've done. It was too long, so today is part two. As with last week, the text on the left is the official document as it was turned in and the text on the right is my commentary.
The next named mechanic is channel. This is the one mechanic we're bringing back from original Kamigawa block in the main set. Channel is a mechanic that allows you to pay mana and discard the card to generate an effect, usually thematically tied to the card it appears on.
Channel originally appeared in Saviors of Kamigawa and only on Spirit creature cards. In "Hockey," we're using channel exclusively on artifacts and enchantments, although that can include artifact creatures and enchantment creatures. Channel is allowing us to get more spell effects onto artifact and enchantment cards to raise their as-fan in the set. Some examples:
Enchantment — Aura
Enchanted creature gets +3/+3 and has reach.
Channel – 1G, Discard CARDNAME: Target creature gets +3/+3 and gains reach until end of turn.
Artifact Creature — Construct
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, target creature can't block this turn.
Channel – 4R, Discard CARDNAME. Creatures can't block this turn.
The unnamed mechanic is nicknamed "Balance," and it's a threshold mechanic where you get a bonus if you control both an artifact and an enchantment. There are two different ways we're executing it. First includes cards that give you a single reward if you have both:
Creature — Human Shaman
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you control an artifact and an enchantment, draw a card and lose 1 life.
Target creature you control gets +2/+2 until end of turn. If you control an artifact and an enchantment, instead put two +1/+1 counters on it.
Second are cards that give you a bonus for each, but the two abilities combine well together:
Creature — Rat Monk
CARDNAME has deathtouch as long as you control an artifact.
CARDNAME has menace as long as you control an enchantment.
Flame War Veteran
Creature — Human Samurai
CARDNAME has +2/+0 as long as you control an artifact.
CARDNAME has +2/+0 as long as you control an enchantment.
Balance is focused in black because it's the color in the center of the conflict (see above) and seen next most in white and red, the two support colors.
The set also has two tribal themes: Ninja/Rogue and Samurai/Warrior. Each tribe has the Japanese class creature type found in original Kamigawa block along with a more generic class creature type often used in Magic. Any card in the set that mechanically references the more specific creature type will reference the broader one as well. This is done to help build tribal connections in sets around it, as Ninjas and Samurai are tricky creature types to use in other sets. Both Ninjas and Samurai are centered in their original colors from Kamigawa block (blue and black for Ninjas and red and white for Samurai) but have an added third color to give the creature type something new (green for Ninja and black for Samurai). Some examples:
Creature — Rat Cleric
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, return target Ninja or Rogue card from your graveyard to your hand.
Artifact Creature — Human Rogue
Whenever another Ninja or Rogue enters the battlefield under your control, Scry 1.
Artifact — Equipment
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, attach it to target Samurai or Warrior you control.
Equipped creature gets +2/+0.
Equip 3 (3: Attach to target creature you control. Equip only as a sorcery.)
As long as enchanted creature is a Samurai or Warrior, it gets +1/+1.
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, enchanted creature fights up to one target creature.
The Ninjas/Rogues and Samurai/Warriors do not serve any one side of the conflict. There are traditionalists, there are modernists, and others somewhere in the middle. This allows us to do both classic old-school ninjas and samurai as well as allowing us to have more modern, technological ones.
Here's our first pass at what each of the two-color combinations are doing in Draft.
White-Blue – Vehicles
The set has several Vehicles/Mechs. We focused them into blue, white, and colorless such that white-blue could draft a Vehicle deck. This is probably one of the themes I most expect the Set Design team to change or expand upon.
Blue-Black – Ninja/Rogue
This archetype is playing a very traditional blue-black sneaky style gameplay but flavored with a tribal Ninja/Rogue component.
Black-Red – Artifacts in Graveyard
This archetype uses artifacts as a resource (sacrificing and discarding them) and then has numerous cards that can use the artifacts in the graveyard as a resource and/or returning them to battlefield/hand.
Red-Green – Auras
This archetype is a midrange deck that makes use of Auras to help boost its creatures. It's one of the decks that also leans heavily on enhanced.
Green-White – Enchantment Creatures
This deck cares about enchantments but is more focused on enchantment creatures through a go-wide strategy. Note that this is the archetype most on the tradition side of the conflict.
White-Black – "Balance"
This is the archetype that most cares about trying to play a combination of artifacts and enchantments.
Blue-Red – Install
This archetype plays into artifacts and specifically the install mechanic, which in turn plays nicely with enhanced. This is the color most on the modernity side of the conflict.
Black-Green – +1/+1 Counters
This is another archetype playing with enhanced. This combination is about getting creatures onto the battlefield and then building them up with +1/+1 counters.
Red-White – Samurai/Warrior
This is an aggro deck with a Samurai/Warrior tribal flavoring.
Green-Blue – Channel
This is the color combination that plays most into the channel mechanic. It has ramp style gameplay that can play the cheaper side early and the more expensive side mid- to late game.
A big part of "Hockey" is that it's a top-down set based on both original Kamigawa block (and its inspirations from Japanese mythology) and Japanese pop culture. Below are the guidelines for all the references we make in the current card file separated into the two categories:
Ability: "Channel" – Direct pull from original Saviors of Kamigawa. Previously appeared only on Spirits. Aiming to appear exclusively on enchantments and artifacts here.
Almost all creature types are pulled directly from Kamigawa. Most relevant are:
Colorless 1/1 Spirit tokens without flying – These are the primary creature tokens made in original Kamigawa block.
Ninjas – While these don't have ninjutsu like previous Kamigawan Ninjas (although it will appear in the Ninja Commander deck), they should play well with them and feel "tricky" and "elusive" overall.
Samurai – While these don't have bushido like previous Kamigawan Samurai, they should play well with them and feel combat oriented.
CW06: Taming of the Moths – Saga referencing Kamigawa moths being trained and used by the emperor. Becomes flying Insect, like previous moths.
CW17: Michiko's Reign – Saga referencing Lord Konda's daughter, Michiko, ruling during her lifetime. Becomes a 2/2 Human like previous Michiko card.
UW01: Isamaru Defends Eiganjo – Saga telling the story of how Isamaru (Konda's faithful hound) would rally his troops in battle. Becomes a 2/2. This is famous for being a legendary one-mana 2/2.
UW03: Majestic Kirin – Flying Kirin mechanically tied to the set. Previous Kirin triggered off casting Spirits or Arcane spells.
UW11: Genju of Rice (and all other Genjus) – Reference to cycle of Kamigawa enchantments that animate lands. Previous cycle returned the Aura to your hand when the land died. Current cycle saves your land only.
RW03: Michiko and Kyodai – At the end of the Kamigawa story, the spirit stolen by Konda "Kyodai" formed a bond with Konda's daughter "Michiko" where they became one and restored balance between the spirit and mortal realms.
RW05: Kitsune Outwit the Akki – Saga generally playing up the cleverness of the Kitsune and the dimwittedness of the Akki. No direct reference.
RW06: Yoichi, the Morning Star (and all other Stars) – Referencing the cycle of Spirit Dragons in Champions of Kamigawa with death triggers.
RU02: Scion of Sakashima – Reference to the well-known Shapeshifter, Sakashima the Imposter. Should stay Shapeshifter creature type and 3/1 PT if able.
CB02: Haunting of Takenuma Swamp – General reference to the swamp areas of Takenuma. Effects are not a direct callback to anything.
CB19: Caress of Night – Referring to the Myojin of Night's Reach, a powerful Kami that aided Toshiro Umezawa in his adventures. She is typically associated with discard abilities.
UB01: Adventures of Toshiro Umezawa – Saga referencing the main character, Toshiro Umezawa, from the Kamigawa story. First two acts are abilities from Umezawa's Jitte, then becomes a 2/2 Human Samurai with bushido 1 like previous Toshiro card.
UB07: Revenge of Night's Reach – Saga referring to the Myojin of Night's Reach, a powerful Kami that aided Toshiro Umezawa in his adventures. This isn't referencing any specific moment in time, but more aligned to her discard abilities from previous Kamigawa.
MB51: Tomiko Umezawa – Descendent of Toshiro Umezawa. This will be the fourth Umezawa family member. They have not yet had a through line in abilities.
CR06: Hidetsugu Pillages Minamo – Saga referencing when the ogre, Hidetsugu, destroyed the school of Minamo and stationed himself there. Rummaging and then becoming the menacing ogre is flavorful but not a direct reference to previous Hidetsugu card.
CR19: Yamabushi's Spark – Yamabushi cards, stemming from Kumano the Master Yamabushi, all exile creatures that they would otherwise kill, showing their dominance in battle over spirits.
RR03: Kiki-Jiki Aids the Tide Star – Referencing the famous akki "Kiki-Jiki Mirror Breaker" and how he helped Keiga the Tide Star retrieve the dragon's pearl back from Oboro, the palace in the sky. Acts I–II play up his cloning abilities, then Act III becomes the 2/2 Goblin like previous Kiki-Jiki that creates a treasure "the pearl" when successfully getting through blockers.
RR04: Hidetsugu, Oni of Chaos – Referencing the ogre Hidetsugu and how after a life of worship to the Oni of Chaos, he becomes a demon. Mechanics not directly tied to previous card and probably shouldn't be.
CG01: Jukai Gardener – Small tie to Budoka Gardener in Champions of Kamigawa.
CG02: Kainu Duelist – Functional bushido 1 reference. Would love to get more of this in the set if able as one of the few mechanical connections.
CG10: Boseiju Rises Above – Boseiju is a legendary tree in original Kamigawa that will be a main landmark in New Kamigawa. This Saga represents Boseiju rising above the growing metropolis. Not currently a mechanical tie.
CG13: Commune with the Kami – Direct reference to Commune with Nature that premiered in Kamigawa. No strong connection.
UG01: Budoka Monks Defend the Temple – General reference to Kamigawa monks fighting off intruders, previously angry kami, and bandits from their sanctuaries.
UG03: Kappa Ninja – In Champions of Kamigawa, we had Shell of the Last Kappa. If they aren't back in full here, it is charming to have one. This specifically is a Turtle Ninja joke.
UG05: Azusa's Journeys – Referencing popular legendary creature Azusa from the Jukai forest who would travel across Kamigawa documenting her journey.
UG40: Rite of Spring – Reference to Kodama's Reach from Champions of Kamigawa.
RG54: Kodama of the West Tree – North/Center/South Tree were in OG Kamigawa. East Tree is in Chevron. This will complete the cycle. There aren't direct ties between the other four.
MZ01: O-Kagachi's Rampage – Refencing the legendary dragon spirit, O-Kagachi, rampaging across the land in search of That Which Was Taken—aka his spirit daughter. Current acts are vague flavor references, but it should remain a WUBRG Dragon Spirit that is a 6/6 flyer.
MZ52: Tamiyo Hole – Tamiyo is our known Kamigawan Planeswalker. Will likely be Phyrexianized in this set. Stay tuned.
UA03: Humble Bokken – Equipment designed to get more board-permanent bushido references in the set, since our one or two creatures die so easily.
These cards are references to existing Japanese media or existing notions in Japanese culture, whether fictional or historical. I'm explaining in broad terms what they're about so that if the top-down reference is to remain, it should try to remain with these descriptions in mind.
CW05: Honorable Avenger – A fighter that, when their friends are killed, becomes stronger.
CW09: Shrine Dancer – A miko: A priestess of a particular shrine.
CW11: Champion of the Province – A fighter that draws strength from their friends.
UW:02 Kitsune Navigator – A fox that is also a pilot.
UW04: Niten Ichi Student – A samurai that uses two swords.
UW08: Mecha Naginata – A giant weapon made for a mecha to use.
UW10: The Power of Friendship – Exactly that.
RW40: Power Ascension – When your back is against a wall, you become more powerful than you thought possible.
RW57: Weapon Deification – When a weapon wielder creates a bond with that weapon to unlock both of their potentials.
CU11: Substitution Jutsu – When an attack would hit a ninja, but instead, they dodge it, and in the cloud of smoke, there's just a log in their place.
CU13: Ensnaring Wires – A ninja's razor wire or garrote used to tie/trip enemies up.
UU05: Disguised Agent – An undercover ninja.
UU10: Effortless Focus – Mushin or "empty mind"; used during martial arts to "concentrate."
UU40: Electromagnetic Pulse – An EMP weapon.
RU06: Master Hacker – A master hacker/slicer/netrunner.
CB15: You Are Already Dead – A situation where you attack an enemy with no apparent effect, but in the pause between now and when they die, you say this line.
UB06: Shinigami – A Shinigami or spirit of death.
UB09: Extraordinarily Large Sword – A weapon often used by a protagonist that is usually much larger than they are.
UB11: Forbidden Technique – Something that should never be taught or used but often is.
RB02: Psychic Awakening – A person's latent psychic abilities awakening, usually to the horror of them and everybody around them.
RB06: Cheat Death Code – Hacking life itself to remain immortal. Doesn't necessarily need to retain a "technological" flavor.
RB07: Bloodline Power – A technique passed down a family's bloodline.
MB52: Human Ascension Mecha – A mecha that was created by infusing a robot with the soul of a person, and their family can pilot it the best.
CR04: Street Samurai – A classic cyberpunk protagonist.
UR05: Wandering Ronin – A ronin or wandering swordsman that has no lord.
UR08: Wave Motion Blast – A giant laser cannon from a spaceship that takes a while to recharge.
UR09: Missile Salvo – When a mecha fires many missiles.
UR11: Destruction Wave – A giant blast of energy that engulfs the target and perhaps those behind it.
UR40: Cherry Blossom Festival – Celebration of Japan's national flower.
RR07: Overwhelming Spirit Surge – An attack where the user converts their life energy into destructive potential.
RR07: Energy Sphere – A giant ball of energy that is made by the user asking for the energy of other beings.
CG14: Dojo Sparring – Training with others.
CG15: Cherry Blossoms in Bloom – Reflecting on Japan's national flower.
UG03: Kappa Ninja – A kappa, or turtle-based mythological creature, that is skilled with a weapon.
UG09: Judo Throw – A one-on-one battle using only hand-to-hand combat, no items.
UG40: Honorable Duelist – A fighter with honor.
RG01: Quick Learner – A fighter who can learn techniques simply by seeing them.
RG06: Kainu Squad – A group of three ninjas who work as a team.
RZ04: Beyond the Veil – Glimpsing the deity or force that governs life and death.
CA02: Power Suit – An exoskeleton used for combat.
CA03: Giant Mecha – A giant mecha used for combat.
UA06: Hero's Mecha – A mecha that's better than others if the right pilot is in it.
UA09: Nunchaku – Nunchaku.
I tried to capture as much as I could about the vision design philosophy in this document, but if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or talk with Ari Nieh who served as my strong second (and is on the "Hockey" Set Design team).
Thanks for reading,
I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the curtain. As always, I'm eager for any feedback—on this document, on my commentary, or on Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty itself. You can email me or contact me through any of my social media accounts (Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and TikTok).
Join me next week for some card-by-card design stories from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.
Until then, may you enjoy exploring Kamigawa.
I sit down with Designer Corey Bowen to talk about the design of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Commander decks and Set Booster cards.
This is another in my "R&D Vocabulary" series where I explain various lingo R&D uses.