Revisiting the Past
Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty previews are just on the horizon. Before we jump into Kamigawa's cyberized future, I'd like to look back at some things from the original Kamigawa Block that I'd like to see either reprinted or have modern takes on. Straight reprints of these things may not be possible due to the passage of time in the storyline or modern design sensibilities, but they are all things that made the original Kamigawa great in my mind. I'd love to see them get another chance to shine.
Sakura-Tribe Elder aka "Steve"
I love a lot of the cards from Kamigawa block. There are so many powerful cards still making waves in multiple formats. No card has quite the special place in my heart as Sakura-Tribe Elder, aka "Steve." Steve does almost everything you'd want a two-mana green creature to do. He attacks on an open board, he blocks, and he ramps. Other than Sensi's Divining Top, I don't think there is any card from all of Kamigawa Block that I've played with as much as Steve. He was a Standard all-star back in his day and an auto-include in almost every green deck I play in Commander. If reprinted, he'd easily find a home in Standard, Historic, and Pioneer.
There's only one problem. Two-mana ramp spells are rarely printed these days due to current Magic design sensibilities. Not counting extra land play spells like Growth Spiral, the only true two-mana ramp spell we've seen in about the last decade is Emergent Sequence. As much as I'd like to see Steve getting some fresh life, I'll have to be content with him in Commander for now.
Kamigawa is the original home of the enchantment subtype shrine. The original shrine cycle, the Hondens, was so much fun in Champions of Kamigawa Limited, they were reprinted in Eternal Masters. A new cycle of Shrines was printed in Core Set 2021 and was again well-received. Shrines are not only fun in Limited. By design, they scream "build around me." This inspires deck builders to harness their power in multiple formats.
Enchantment-based decks are interesting because they work on a different axis from typical Magic. In typical Magic, creatures, and occasionally Planeswalkers, are the powerful offensive and defensive weapons of choice. The reprinting of Solitary Confinement in Modern Horizons 2, demonstrates that Wizards is okay with enchantment decks in Modern. Whether they're okay with them in Standard, Historic, or Pioneer, is another question. Either way though, a new cycle of shrine-type enchantments could go a long way in making enchantments viable in multiple formats.
This might be my most controversial callback to the old Kamigawa block, but I enjoyed the splice mechanic, particularly in Limited. Dampen Thought was an interesting card that made Limited at the time more than just slugging it out with creatures. Glacial Ray was another interesting card that in the right deck could act as a powerful removal spell, or as a way to kill the opponent after repeated use.
Limiting splice to only working on arcane subtype cards was the major downfall of this mechanic in the original Kamigawa block. It made the mechanic parasitic and only playable within the block. Modern Horizons 1 introduced an updated splice ability on two cards. The MH1 splice ability is open-ended allowing it to be tacked onto any instant or sorcery.
Neither Everdream nor Splicer's Skill were particularly exciting. They both saw some play in Limited but didn't really shake things up in any way. If there's a premier set to introduce this updated version of the splice mechanic in a big way, that set is Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. Who knows, a Dampen Thought variant not dependant on arcane cards could even be constructed playable.
The Kitsune, a race of fox-humanoids were an interesting change from the typical high fantasy elves and etc. which Magic usually leans on for sentient non-human beings. Adapted from the kitsune of Japanese folklore, The Kitsune are supernatural creatures, stand-ins for Magic's usual angels, and often sages or guardians. In the folklore, the more tails a kitsune had, the more powerful they were. This is reflected in cards like Eight-and-a-Half-Tails.
While entirely in the color white in original Kamigawa, some Japanese folklore speaks of kitsune as tricksters, which could be represented by them appearing in other colors in Neon Dynasty. I'd like to see them possibly show up in black or red to reflect this aspect of their folklore origins.
Champions of Kamigawa introduced a cycle of spirits with a unique subtype: Zubera. The Zubera all had an effect when they and any number of other spirits died. This played well with a pair of commons in the set, Devouring Greed and Devouring Rage. The Devouring cards allowed you to sacrifice any number of spirits to achieve a larger effect for each spirit sacrificed.
Devouring Greed in particular made it possible to draft a sort of spirits tribal deck with a potential combo-kill finish. Play lots of spirit cards, especially Zubera which all have effects upon dying, battle with creatures until you draw your combo piece to sacrifice your board and kill the opponent. I don't remember how powerful the deck was, but it was my favorite thing to do in Champions limited.
The original Kamigawa block is beloved by many, but it was not without its faults. I've focused here on the things I enjoyed most about the block and would like to see more of. While I'm not sure if any of these old Kamigawa cards, mechanics, or creature types have a place in the futuristic world of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, they are the things I think of most when I look back on old Kamigawa.
What did you like about the original Kamigawa block? What would you like to see return in Neon Dynasty? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.