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Caster Called Shots: Neon Dynasty Championship Edition

March 04, 2022
Corbin Hosler

You want to know. That's why you're here, right? To know who is going to dominate the Neon Dynasty Championship, March 11–13.

To know who is in top form. To know which stars of the game have found their way back to the big show. To know the inside track on Alchemy, a format looking to turn the Championship weekend upside down. To know about the best Historic has to offer. And, I have no doubt, to know the Top 10 songs and bands in the world of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. All that knowledge doesn't come easy, which is why we summoned some outstanding casters for the event:

Behind the scenes, coverage reporters and social experts Corbin Hosler, Adam Styborski, Athena Froehlich, and Meghan Wolff will keep the website and Twitter ablaze with updates—and for good reason as there's $450,000 in prizes and Magic World Chamnpionship XXVIII seats on the line.

Leagues Ahead

The players in the MPL and Rivals League are competing for five seats at the end of the season for World Championship XXVIII. While racking up World Championship Qualifying Points as important, the "easiest" road to the final event of the season was to win the current one. We asked our casters who they've got their eye on to take it home from the Top 8, and there was definitely a European bent to their answers.

Simon Görtzen

"My former coverage partner Simon Görtzen hung up his boots as a commentator and then immediately tore up competitive Magic as a player again," Riley said. "He was runner-up at the Innistrad Championship, he's qualified for the World Championship, and he's got the eye of the tiger."

Jan Merkel

Arne Huschenbeth

Both Corey and Marshall stayed in Germany, noting Jan Merkel and Arne Huschenbeth respectively. Jean-Emmanuel Depraz has featured heavily in these articles in the last couple of years, and this time around it's Eilidh hitching her prediction wagon to the Frenchman, while Cedric had this to say about Andrea Mengucci of Italy: "I defy you to try and find someone who plays more Magic, loves doing it, and does it at such a high level with such consistency. He hasn't had a big result in a few months so what better time to break that dry spell than this event?"

Jean-Emmanuel Depraz

Andrea Mengucci

Mani and Maria have obviously been colluding, as they both focused on Yuta Takahashi.

Yuta Takahashi, Magic World Champion XXVII

In Maria's case, this is not a surprise to regular readers of this column: "You know I'm gonna pick the reigning World Champion to watch out for. Not only is he the current 'Monarch of Magic™' he also casually Top 8'd the last big event at the Innistrad Championship. He's on a hot streak and he's not stopping now! Also, we all want another 'Yatta!' moment."

The Past Performers

Maria's "pick the last winner" strategy is well-known, which is why she turned her eye to another titan of Magic for someone else to watch at the Neon Dynasty Championship.

Yuuki Ichikawa, winner Innistrad Championship

"To keep with my list of winners, I'll pick the winner of the Innistrad Championship, Yuuki Ichikawa. Japan is showing its utter dominance in Magic right now, and I believe their decimation of the rest of the field (yes, I said decimation and I meant it) is going to continue with this tournament in the talented hands of Ichikawa."

She's not alone, with Cedric, Eilidh, Marshall all lauding the reigning champ. Matt Nass has a love of combo, and Corey points out that there's plenty of combo opportunities in both Alchemy and Historic. Maybe Nass is one to watch?

Matt Nass

And then there's Simon Nielsen, noted by both Mani and Riley with the latter explaining: He's "one of the friendliest Magic players you're ever likely to meet, Simon was a member of the legendary 2014 World Magic Cup-winning Danish team. He's won two GPs, finished strongly at the Innistrad Championship, and is no stranger to Alchemy, having done well at the recent Arena Open with White-Blue Control. He's always a contender and is from a nation that has produced incredible Magic talent."

The Digital Finest

From MTG Arena qualifying players for the Neon Dynasty Championship, there's a welcome return for Sam Black. He hasn't just had success over the years, it has always been very much on his own terms.

Sam Black

Corey explained why it's always sharp to count on Black. "While Sam is most known for being one of the best Limited players in the game, he is also a very intimidating presence to play against in Constructed. Expect Sam to come with some 'big brain' brew that will have people scratching their heads trying to figure out what he is up to!"

Aaron Gertler is another name that came up multiple times, as Mani highlighted. "I have a lot of respect for Aaron's approach to both preparation and gameplay."

Aaron Gertler

Maria pointed out there are other good reasons to root for Aaron. "He's also an excellent human being, donating half of his winnings in past Magic tournaments (like DreamHack 2020 and the 2020 Season Grand Finals, where he took first and second respectively) to charity."

Recent 2021 Magic Online Champions Showcase Season 3 competitor Tommy Ashton is another casters are tracking.

Tommy Ashton

"One of my best friends that I know is putting in a ton of work for this event," Cedric explained. "Most of his success has come on Magic Online, but it's only a matter of time before it translates to MTG Arena."

Cedric mentioned Magic Online, and the biggest qualifier there is probably Brazil's Thiago Saporito. Thiago describes himself as a "retired MTG Pro," but, as Mani noted: "he is still regularly crushing the Magic Online streets."

Dom Harvey

Another name we're starting to see a lot is Dom Harvey. Cedric gives us the inside track. "He's the very definition of an up-and-comer. You're probably familiar with his articles on Star City Games, but you may have forgotten that he won multiple SCG Tour Opens in his first year of taking competitive Magic seriously in 2019. His ceiling is immense. Trust me."

And, if you're looking for an all-rounder to cheer on, Riley has a suggestion.

Bart Van Etten

"Bart Van Etten is a familiar name from the European Grand Prix circuit. He goes hard on Magic Online, and its unsurprising to see that be his path to qualification for this event. He plays everything from Vintage to Pioneer to Limited and is a real competitor."

Premier Series Heroes

And what about players from the Premier Series, independent tournaments around the world that lead to a seat at the big show? Arya Karamchandani, Ivan Espinosa, and Edwin Colleran were all highlighted, but one name kept coming up over and over—Nathan Holiday.

Nathan Holiday

"I remember Nathan as a grinder," Maria recalled. "I'd see at almost every single tournament pre-pandemic. He's got five GP Top 8s, including a win back in 2013."

Marshall added on. "He's been out of the picture for a little while, but made his presence known in Las Vegas and might just do the same here."

Top 8 Called Shots

Now the nail-it-to-the-mast question: Give us just one name who might make the Top 8. Here's the predictions:

  • Riley - Simon Görtzen
  • Marshall – Grzegorz Kowalski
  • Corey – Jan Merkel
  • Eilidh – Yuuki Ichikawa
  • Cedric – Jean-Emmanuel Depraz
  • Mani – Yuta Takahashi
  • Maria – Yuta Takahashi

(Rich's Note: Please be advised that all our Casters are aware that there is a finite number of times that they can type "Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa is the best player in the world and is the most likely player to make the Top 8 of this event because he is the most likely player to make the Top 8 of any event ever" before the end of time. We thank them for their caution.)

Breaking Open Alchemy

Our tournament formats this time around are Alchemy and Historic, and there's a ton of hype around the first-time format Alchemy. What are our casters looking forward to?

"I'm hoping that the venture mechanic starts to make its presence felt in the format, given how so many of the cards from Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms were buffed," Riley shared. "I loved venturing into the dungeon in AFR Limited, and was disappointed the mechanic never got there in Standard—hopefully the card changes in Alchemy breathe new life into the archetype."

Cedric had a different take. "Not only do players have to take into account all the changes to previous powerhouses like Goldspan Dragon and Hullbreaker Horror, as well as Alchemy specific cards like Town-Razer Tyrant and Fearsome Whelp, but they also have to integrate Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, a set with plenty of awesome cards in its own right. It's a lot to tackle all at once."

But what fun stuff are they hoping to see get on camera in the Feature Match area?

"I think it's possible we'll see a control mirror where Discover the Formula ends up costing only two blue mana thanks to all the discount spells like Geistchanneler and Absorb Energy," Eilidh said. "I'd personally be very keen to see a red deck go nuts with multiple Electrostatic Blasts to the face, followed up by a string of burn spells from exile. A girl can dream. "

Marshall, however, was a bit more focused. "Look I'm not greedy, just throw me some Velomachus Lorehold action and I'm happy."

And some had downright dastardly ideas. Several of you may harbour the mistaken view that Riley, Corey, and Mani are quite nice people. Here's why you're wrong.

  • Riley: "I'd like to see someone cast a Magma Opus for just two mana with Hinata, Dawn-Crowned, by targeting six different permanents to reduce its cost to just a blue and a red."
  • Mani: "I look forward to seeing Magma Opus cast for two mana with the help of Hinata, Dawn-Crowned."
  • Cedric: "I'm here to see as many two-mana Magma Opuses via Hinata, Dawn-Crowned as possible."

You have been warned.

Historic is Still Historic

Alchemy is new, but Historic has already proved itself to be great at these major events. What lights our Casters' Historic fire?

Marshall is focused on being creative here. "Any Indomitable Creativity deck basically. I love getting two Serra's Emissary for the almost hard-lock."

"Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice and a whole lot of Auras," Cedric said. "Previously, the Aura-based strategies in Historic (either Orzhov or Azorius) have underperformed on the biggest stage. However, these decks never had a card as powerful (and well named) as Light-Paws. With an additional awesome two-drop in the deck alongside Sram, Senior Edificer and Kor Spiritdancer, I think it's finally time for Auras to shine."

Maria, however, had the biggest idea for Historic yet: "Attacking for thirteen on turn three, baby! Parhelion II combo is a very fun deck to play."

Thanks, as always, to the crew for covering all our bases.

Watch the thrills and spills of the Neon Dynasty Championship, March 11–13 live at!

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