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Kamigawa Neon Dynasty Preview: Junji, The Midnight Sky!

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When it comes to Magic lore, Kamigawa is a somewhat odd one. Power level wise, coming after all the broken artifacts in Mirrodin was a recipe for letdown, as it's hard to top Skullclamp, Arcbound Ravager, and artifact lands. As such, it was considered a bit of a flop at the time because it didn't make a huge impact on Constructed.

Keiga, the Tide Star
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni

However, because of the unique and well executed world building, as well as the focus on legendary creatures, it has become a cult favorite among Magic players over the years. This is especially true due to the growing popularity of Commander, as well as the prevalence of a few key legends in tournament play.

As such, the excitement is obvious for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, and today we've got an exciting preview card for you!

Kokusho, the Evening Star

Hey wait, that's not a new card!

Okay, you got me. Kokusho, the Evening Star was one of the original five Kamigawa spirit dragons, which were all six-mana 5/5 dragons with death triggers. These death triggers were a way to turn the new legend rule into a benefit, by allowing extra copies played to still be useful, and Kokusho was arguably the best of the bunch.

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty continues this tradition with a new cycle of five legendary spirit dragons, and heir to Kokusho's Throne is Junji, the Midnight Sky!

A big thank you to Wizards of the Coast for the Free preview card for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty! It's not 2004 anymore, as with the power creep of threats over the last decades we're now looking at a cycle of 5 mana 5/5 dragons rather than six, but like its predecessor we see a big flying finisher with a death trigger.

Let's break down the card piece by piece.

Mana cost: 3BB

This may sound silly to say, but five is a lot less than six.

Five mana is usually the top of the mana curve for most decks not interested in ramping or playing a super long game and Junji fits right in as a curve topper. You're getting a well sized body for your mana that plays good defense the turn you cast it and offers an insurance policy if your opponent is able to kill it before you untap. All and all, very reasonable.

(The art)

One of the very cool parts of Kamigawa was always the art and ambiance and we're seeing more of that here. Junji looks both majestic and evil, which an amazing color scheme that jumps off the card. Love it!

Legendary Creature - Dragon Spirit

Often times this type line is one of the least important on the card, but there are multiple factors at play here.

The legendary clause is flavorful, but ultimately created as a drawback for gameplay purposes. This means they can make legendary creatures a little better than normal, because of the threat of drawing a potentially useless second copy. The Kamigawa spirit dragon death triggers do a huge job to mitigate this, turning a drawback into a potential benefit. Rather than being stuck with an extra copy you can't cast in hand, you get the option to trigger the death triggers without needing your opponent's help!

Being a dragon is also very relevant for tribal synergies, with cards like Dragon's Fire, Orb of Dragonkind, and Temple of the Dragon Queen all being very playable cards across various formats. And lastly, if original Kamigawa is any indication, being a spirit will also have important repercussions as well.

Flying, Menace

Dragons fly! Who would have thought?

However, Junji gets another keyword in Menace, which makes it almost unblockable as it's very unlikely for your opponent to have two flying blockers, much less ones that can contend with Junji's large frame. This is a pretty big upgrade from just flying and helps ensure that your opponent is going to need to kill it; they can't just leave it in play to bash for five over and over again.

When Junji, the Midnight Sky dies, choose one:

While not as immediately impactful as an enters the battlefield trigger, a death trigger is still fairly similar in how it effects a cards playability.

The worst thing that can happen to you when you tap out on turn five for your five mana creature is for your opponent to kill it with a two or three mana card and go on with their day, attacking you and potentially playing another card as well for a big mana advantage. This is why cards like Elder Gargaroth and Baneslayer Angel can dominate games if unopposed, but are generally weak against decks with a lot of removal or interaction. The death trigger means that even if your opponent kills Junji, you still get some serious value off it.

What kind of value?

- Each opponent discards two cards and loses two life.

In any sort of grindy matchup this is very big game, turning your five mana play into a huge three for one that also forced your opponent to spend mana to kill it or trade a creature off the board. The threat of Junji dying is going to give many of your opponent's pause, while also making bounce or exiling removal much more important than usual. The timing here is great as well, as around turn five it's very likely for your opponent to only have 2-3 cards left in hand, and getting their entire hand is magnitudes better than just two cards of their choice as you always hit their best card.

This makes Junji an excellent midrange threat, while also being especially nasty in Commander with the "each opponent" clause.

- Put target non-Dragon creature card from a graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. You lose 2 life.

This is an incredibly powerful effect.

Reanimating a creature is already something that is very desirable, but opening up the potential targets to your opponent's graveyard as well is huge because it means that you don't need to build your deck with reanimating things in mind. Even if Junji is the only creature in your control deck as a win condition, you can easily just steal your opponent's creatures instead. There's also some extra value in stealing your opponent's creatures as they may be able to do things that your deck isn't capable of doing.

And of course, that's not accounting for if you actually want to build around the effect and play some good reanimation targets yourself!

The floor here is super high and two life is a small cost to pay, making this ability always solid and often great. Combine this with the flexibility of the damage and discard first trigger and you've got a huge threat that your opponent isn't going to be happy to kill.

5/5

Look, when it comes to Magic size does matter a lot, and Junji is excellently sized.

It's very common for removal to be very good at dealing three or four damage, which Junji does an excellent job of dodging. There's a whole host of cards that Junji lines up well against size-wise, from Goldspan Dragon to Old Growth Troll. This makes it both resistant to most Red removal (or other toughness-based removal) as well as able to dominate a battlefield and halt attacks.

And of course, attacking for five is also a very fast clock.

The First Of Five

Junji, the Midnight Sky is a very exciting Magic card.

It's very good on rate, offering a great body and effects for a reasonable cost, which makes it likely to see play it multiple Constructed formats. However, it also offers a path to synergy that gets the deck-building juices going as well. What cards do I want to try to reanimate with this? Am I going to sacrifice if for value or just play it straight up and make my opponent kill it? These questions are very fun ones to answer.

I can't wait to see the rest of the cycle, as well as the rest of the set.

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is coming!

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