After years of waiting, Magic has finally gone back to the Japan-inspired setting that had become a cult classic since the original visit in 2005. But Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty has a further twist up its kimono sleeve. More than 1200 years have passed since the events of the Kami War depicted in the original Kamigawa block. Ninjas and Samurai still exist, but the plane's technology is now definitely futuristic, beyond anything that was ever portrayed on official Magic cards before, making Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty the game's first science fiction set, specifically using cyberpunk aesthetic.
Produced by a team led by head designer Mark Rosewater himself, this sought-after return to Kamigawa appropriately focuses on the conflict between tradition and modernity. The 302 cards in the set belong to one of these two philosophies, either describing the marvels of the new mechanized world or the surviving culture of the past. They feature illustrations by famous manga artists, including Tetsuo Hara of Fist of the North Star fame. A showcase treatment is reserved to Ninjas and Samurai specifically, while 10 full-art basic lands have artwork inspired to the classic Japanese ukiyo-e style, popularized in the West by the iconic Hokusai's painting The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty plays on the contrast between what remains from the plane's past and what defines the new technological era. The colors of mana take a clear position in this conflict, with blue being the one more skewed towards modernity and green caring the most about tradition. Red stands close to blue, while white is only second to green in its reliance to the forms of the past. Black is placed exactly at the center of this dichotomy, benefiting from both undercurrents.
On the past side, the set features a large number of returning mechanics and concepts. These don't just derive from previous Kamigawa sets, which still see the comeback of the channel ability word, this time also applied to lands, like the newly green-aligned Boseiju. Another established Kamigawa mechanic we see again is the Ninjas' defining keyword ninjutsu. A legendary sub-theme is also present, but the main weapons of the traditionalist faction, which represent the old empire and the spirit world, are the enchantments. Auras and enchantment creatures are in direct opposition with the futurists using Equipment and artifacts. Sagas in particular return with a twist: they're now double-faced cards involving the transform mechanic on their third chapter, in order to become enchantment creatures. This is, for instance, how the story of Boseiju is narrated.
In recent centuries, the inventions of Kamigawa's Goblin artisans (the "akki") and the experiments of a Soratami group of researchers called "Saiba Futurists" led to incredible technological advancements. By exploring the nature of the spirit world, the Futurists found a way to separate the traditional magic from its original kami source. At the same time, techno-magical bio-enhancements were developed, which resulted in the use of the batching term "modified", meaning a creature that has Equipment attached and/or is enchanted by a beneficial Aura and/or has any kind of counter on it. Cards from the futurist faction may care about modified creatures. A special new form of Equipment is first cast as an artifact creature but can attach itself to another creature by using the keyword reconfigure. An example of this is the powerful Reality Chip.
The Reality Chip is what gave the mysterious planeswalker called The Wanderer a respite from her constant, random planeswalking. Now able to remain on what's revealed to be her native plane, she became the new Emperor of Kamigawa. At the same time, the Soratami Tamiyo was captured and experimented on by an unexpected foe: the Phyrexians! Thanks to the unholy studies of the blue Praetor Jin-Gitaxias in collaboration with the futurist Tameshi and the always ruthless techno-mage Tezzeret, the process of compleation was successfully used on a planeswalker – making Tamiyo, Compleated Sage the first planeswalker card to feature Phyrexian mana in its cost.
Rounding off the number of protagonists of the set, Kaito Shizuki is a young cyber-Ninja planeswalker who was at one time best friend with Tameshi, before discovering the latter's alliance with the Phyrexians.