Modern is a diverse and powerful format featuring a myriad of existing synergies that are not easily upgraded or replaced. A typical premier set might only offer one or two cards strong enough to trickle into Modern. Recent sets like Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Innistrad: Crimson Vow were on the lower end of the power scale, meaning nothing there proved strong enough to enter older formats.
Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty represents a departure from this trend. We've received a host of new and flexible cards thanks to the returning Channel mechanic, cost reducers, and card advantage engines, all designs which tend to flourish in Modern. Today, we'll highlight the decks poised to receive the biggest improvement.
NEO introduces a new take on Equipment cards with artifact creatures that can reconfigure into creature buffers. These creatures, with few exceptions, bestow their abilities onto the creature they're attached to. One of the struggles for Equipment is that they require creatures in play to do anything, and you only have so many slots in a deck: too many Equipment cards will eat away at your creature density and increase the risk of not having anything to carry your artifacts into battle. Similar to living weapon cards like Batterskull, these new Equipment creatures offer the best of both worlds, buffing creatures without cutting back the total creature count.
Most importantly, the new Equipment creatures are all tutorable with cards like Stoneforge Mystic and Steelshaper's Gift, opening up the toolbox considerably. Lion Sash in particular offers new ways to combat graveyard strategies like Dredge and disrupt decks like UR Murktide that incidentally get value from their graveyard. The Reality Chip provides a potential Future Sight-style card advantage engine that works with Lurrus of the Dream-Den strategies.
Looking beyond Lurrus compatibility, Kamigawa also contains a fixed Aeronaut Tinkerer in Anchor to Reality, which can find any Vehicle or Equipment. The best payoff available at the time of writing is Kaldra Compleat, an indestructible, haste, and trample threat that's only held back by its seven mana casting cost and Stoneforge Mystic's summoning sickness. At four mana, Anchor provides a substantial discount for Kaldra, and can leave opponents without any outs.
HollowVine is an older archetype that thrived in Modern prior to the Faithless Looting ban in 2019. It utilized cheap red draw-and-discard effects like Burning Inquiry to power through its deck and pick up value from Madness cards and other discard or graveyard-matters effects such as Fiery Temper, Flameblade Adept, and Vengevine. Without Looting, though, the deck struggled to have the card selection needed to consistently execute its game plan without whiffing.
Hope may not be lost! In the new set, HollowVine picks up an innocuous but powerful addition in the form of Containment Construct. This two-drop creature allows pilots to play anything they discard until the end of the turn. We previously saw an effect like this in Strixhaven with Conspiracy Theorist, but that only got back one card per instance of discard, and didn't affect lands.
Construct turns Burning Inquiry into a potential draw four for a single mana while also (sometimes) disrupting opponents. Unintentionally discarding Hollow Ones used to be a major risk for the deck, but Construct sidesteps that altogether. Combining this shell with the Madness support from Modern Horizons 2 like Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar and The Underworld Cookbook may breathe new life into this fan-favorite deck.
The third and final archetype I'll mention has perhaps the most subtle of changes, but perhaps also the most critical. Cascade encompasses three main shells in Modern: Crashing Footfalls, Living End and Glimpse of Tomorrow. Each of these attempt to cast their uncosted suspend spells via Violent Outburst and Shardless Agent, planting them firmly in Temur colors. The main way to counteract these strategies is to keep their build-around suspend card from resolving, most commonly through Chalice of the Void and A-Teferi, Time Raveler.
The deckbuilding requirement for Cascade requires the player to only include spells with mana value 3 or greater so they can always cascade into their intended target. This condition limits the variety of cards they can include to interact and protect their combo to things like cost-reduction mechanics or alternate casting costs like Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft and Force of Vigor.
Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty introduces a cycle of untapped lands with Channel, an activated ability that lets you discard at instant speed for a multitude of effects. Notably, these are abilities and not spells, which means they can't be countered by normal means and aren't affected by Teferi's timing restrictions. The green land of the cycle, Boseiju, Who Endures, destroys Chalice at an efficient rate on curve. Meanwhile, the blue land, Otawara, Soaring City can temporarily bounce either Chalice or Teferi (and a wide range of other relevant card types) to sneak in a cascade spell. Typically, resolving just one suspend spell wins the game.
These two cards are such a big upgrade because there's virtually no opportunity cost. Since they are lands, the deck's spell density just increases for free. And because they enter untapped, no tempo is lost if the lands are played for mana. In matchups where Teferi and Chalice aren't relevant, these function as additional "spells" in the event of mana flood. They simply raise the deck's floor against bad matchups without needing to give up percentage points for anything else. You can bet I'll be playing a lot more Cascade in the coming weeks thanks to this change, even though the "channelands" stand to improve most Modern decks by some measure.
These are the archetypes that I believe have gained the most from this new, high-powered set and I cannot wait to give them a whirl. What cards are you most looking forward to? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts or tweet me at @AdamECohen. Catch you next week!