Magic: the Gathering head designer Mark Rosewater says he’s received more positive feedback on Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, the upcoming cyberpunk Standard set, than any other Magic set before it. Replying to a comment on his blog from an excited fan, Rosewater wrote: “I’ve gotten more positive response to Neon Dynasty than any set since I started this blog”.
Rosewater began his ‘Blogatog’ blog in 2011, and uses it to perform an unofficial community outreach role for Magic: the Gathering, responding to fans and commenting on the games’ successes and its controversies. So – at least in terms of positive comments posted to the head designer’s blog – that would put Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty ahead of 59 MTG sets, including fan favourites such as 2011’s Innistrad and 2019’s Modern Horizons.
Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty has transformed the plane of Kamigawa (which the game first visited in 2004) with cyberpunk tropes, while keeping enough from previous sets to still be recognisable – and it seems to have succeeded at drawing in new fans, while keeping many old ones happy. As Rosewater writes: “There’s nothing we’ve ever done (and I mean nothing) where there wasn’t some negativity,” but, in this case particularly, “the vast majority is positive”.
Wizards of the Coast has also ramped up its marketing efforts for Neon Dynasty, putting out a constant stream of promotional content. The most recent example is an anime trailer by Japanese animation studio WIT, released on Tuesday evening, which shows Neon Dynasty’s main characters Kaito and The Wanderer duelling with Magic villains Tezzeret and Jin-Gitaxias.
In some ways it is surprising that Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty would be a massive hit with fans, given that Magic’s first attempt at the plane was one of its worst ever flops. There were a number of reasons for this, from an abundance of surreal artwork that lacked mainstream appeal, to parasitic mechanics that didn’t play well with other sets. Most of all, though, the set was just catastrophically underpowered at the time, and few of its cards saw any play in competitive Standard. Responding to a fan’s query about splitting Neon Dynasty into two sets, Rosewater let on that it was difficult to get the green light for a single-set return to Kamigawa.
If the positive fan reception of the Neon Dynasty set is followed by a commercial hit, continuing Magic: the Gathering’s winning streak (it just had its best ever year) then perhaps it could be good news for longtime magic fans. We might see more returns to (and redesigns of) old planes that weren’t an instant runaway success on the first visit. Rosewater’s already cracking japes on his blog about cyber-kithkin, so maybe we’re heading to Lorwyn and Shadowmoor sooner or later?