Sometimes the past inspires the future. This is true in spades for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.
After our last visit in 2004, we return to a Kamigawa with a shiny, new aesthetic built on the plane's past. Kamigawa holds a home in my Magic past, as Saviors of Kamigawa was my first experience drafting, where I went 2–1 with a hyper-aggressive deck featuring three copies of Wicked Akuba, losing only to the double Earthshaker deck I met in the finals.
(If an almost 20-year-old draft story isn't interesting, don't worry I'm getting to the preview card next.)
Doing well with an aggressive deck early (and often) is probably why I still tend to favor two-drops and attacking early any time I draft. Pulling what we know from the past and trying new situations in the future helps us understand changes in the world.
It's also, sometimes, how new Magic cards come to be. Anyone familiar with our original visit to Kamigawa will recognize where one cycle of new legendary lands comes from. This is Takenuma, Abandoned Mire:
Champions of Kamigawa brought us a cycle of rare legendary lands, each entering the battlefield untapped and including an activated ability.
While these can't be your commander, years later, each has found a place in Commander decks since being legendary isn't a drawback in a Singleton format, entering untapped lets these take the place of a basic land (within reason), and each activated ability has its own niche of value to provide for legendary creatures:
- Eiganjo Castle can protect small commanders, such as Rhys the Redeemed or Oswald Fiddlebender, from small damage sweepers such as Volcanic Fallout.
- Minamo, School at Water's Edge does incredible work with things like transformed Growing Rites of Itlimoc or Storm the Vault, artifacts such as Aetherworks Marvel or The Chain Veil, and commanders such as Arcum Dagsson or Emry, Lurker of the Loch.
- Shizo, Death's Storehouse is an interesting card to keep opponents off balance and on the defense. While fear—"this creature cannot be blocked except by artifact or black creatures"—is a depreciated keyword for designing new cards, it still works wonders today, particularly in combination with other evasive abilities. Granting fear to the right legendary creature (or commander) can make attacks even better, such as with Greven, Predator Captain or Tergrid, God of Fright.
- Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep falls into a similar play style that Shizo, Death's Storehouse does. First strike can transform a trade into a one-sided loss and ups the stakes when blocking powerful legends such as Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell.
- Often overlooked, Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers offers the modest "+1/+1 until end of turn" boost, which is admittedly narrow. Commanders like Leinore, Autumn Sovereign (where you want to adjust the power of your creatures before combat to ensure you turn on her coven ability) and Prime Speaker Zegana (where she can draw you an additional card on top of the +1/+1 counters) do find ways to put this land to work.
Takenuma, Abandoned Mire—and the others in the cycle coming with Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty—works differently. Instead of a static ability on the battlefield, it's an activated ability from your hand. Channel is a powerful ability, as it puts a spell-like effect on a permanent, lets you play it anytime like an instant, and won't be countered by your typical fare of Counterspell. (It's still an ability, so it's fair game for Overcharged Amalgam, Repudiate // Replicate, and friends.)
Returning a creature or planeswalker to your hand isn't a frequent effect to see at instant speed, and getting a discount on channeling it for having multiple legendary creatures in play fits right at home as an homage to the original cycle caring about legendary creatures themselves. If you're a fan of commanders such as Kethis, the Hidden Hand or Sisay, Weatherlight Captain, you'll quickly find a home for Takenuma, Abandoned Mire.
Keep an eye out for the rest of the cycle to see what other legendary lands you might want to visit in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty!