To understand where we are with the Neon Dynasty Championship, let's look back at a timeline of events.
September 2021: In the MPL Gauntlet, Japanese players Riku Kumagai, Rei Sato, and Yoshihiko Ikawa dominate with Jeskai Mutate and claim three of the top four spots.
October 2021: From a 0–3 draft star, Japan's Yuta Takahashi goes on an unbeaten Constructed run that sees him become Magic World Champion XXVII, dominating a stellar field of the game's best, and becomes the first of 32 players to book their seat for World Championship XXVIII. Behind the Takahashi headline, Japanese players had filled five of the sixteen seats in Magic's toughest event of the season.
December 2021: At the Innistrad Championship, Takahashi was at it again—and he wasn't the only one. The reigning World Champion reached the Top 8, joined by countrymen Yo Akaike, Toru Saito, Riku Kumagai, and eventual winner Yuuki Ichikawa.
It was a dominant performance by some of Japan's finest where Ichikawa, Akaike, Saito, and Kumagai all went on to qualify and join Takahashi at Magic World Championship XXVIII—leaving room for only Germany's Simon Görtzen and Zachary Kiihne of the United States as the two players from outside Japan to make it as well.
Make no mistake. As we head into the Neon Dynasty Championship, the powerhouse that is Japanese competitive Magic is cranking out winners at a rate not seen since the halcyon days of the mid-2000s, when the likes of Hall of Famers Kenji Tsumura and Shuhei Nakamura tore 'round the globe collecting names and claiming trophies.
This success is being felt beyond the Top 8s, too. A total of 25 Japanese players qualified for the Zendikar Rising Championship, with numbers rising consistently over the last year. Now, as we prepare for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, close to 20% of the field—or precisely 46 of the 235 in total for those counting—qualified from Japan. Right now, it's hard to guess just who the next Japanese superstar of Magic is going to be: there are many, many candidates.
While it will soon be time to see if the Japanese squad can get it done yet again, you might ask: Who stands in their path to the six World Championship seats available at the Neon Dynasty Championship?
As usual, all players from the MPL and Rivals League will be on the starting line. With World Championship Qualifying Points (WCQPs) delivering seats at Worlds to the top five League finishers after the New Capenna Championship, let's see who's setting the early pace:
Germany's Christian Hauck had a brilliant Innistrad Championship, and his 39 match points plus 4 for reaching the Top 8 gives him a strong lead. Eleven wins at Innistrad sees Logan Nettles (Jaberwocki on Magic Online), two-time World Champion Shahar Shenhar, the United Kingdom's Sam Rolph, and Japanese Hall of Famer Shota Yasooka tied for second. Those following behind in the standings are pretty sensational, too, headlined by the Hall of Fame American pair of Luis Scott-Vargas and Reid Duke, two of the most popular, and most talented, to ever sleeve up a 75.
Check out the full standings to see just how close the scrum is heading into the Neon Dynasty Championship.
Beyond league competitors, four more groups of players will set out on the quest for World Championship seats at the Neon Dynasty Championship.
Looking through the start list, there are so many familiar faces who have found their way back to the big show, with online opportunities eliminating the barrier of geography. Lukáš Dušek represented the Czech Republic in the 2014 Magic Online Championship. Nathaniel Knox won the final US Grand Prix in Reno 2020 before the shutters came down around the world. Brazil's Thiago Saporito was a huge part of the success of team Hareruya Latin, alongside his Grand Prix, Magic World Cup, and Pro Tour achievements, while Switzerland's Nico Bohny returns, fifteen years after he was a team World Champion.
Magic: The Gathering Arena
It's been sixteen years since the French Hall of Famer Antoine Ruel won the Magic Invitational, but while the interface may have changed, the calculation and flair has not. From the same era of competitive Magic comes fellow Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura, who took his chance at the November 2021 Qualifier Weekend. There's a welcome return too for one of the great deck builders and theorists of all time, Sam Black, who punched his ticket at the December Qualifier Weekend. And watch out for Dominik Görtzen, who will be looking to join his brother Simon at the World Championship.
With WCQPs on the line, simply reaching round one is a massive boost toward a successful season. Among those taking another crack at glory are Denmark's popular streamer "MrChecklistcard" Simon Nielsen (a former World Magic Cup winner); combo maestro and multiple Grand Prix Champion Matt Nass; Mythic Championship III winner Matias Leveratto of Argentina; and Champion of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary Greg Orange.
Supporting player success across a wide range of independent tournaments around the world, two to keep an eye on here are Nathan Holiday and Ivan Espinosa. Holiday is a Grand Prix Champion from 2013 and developed a reputation for technical excellence, especially in multiple Constructed formats. That same technical excellence is true of Espinosa, who comes here via the NRG Series Championship, which he won across the ever-challenging Constructed landscapes of Modern and Legacy.
For players outside the MPL and Rivals League, there are eight seats available for the top performers this season to join the World Championship party. Let's check out the top of the standings:
With their eleven match wins in December, Futoshi Iwata (Japan), Tristan Wylde-LaRue (USA), and Andrey Zhilin (Russian Federation) represent the top of the leaderboard. But they, just like everyone snapping at their heels, know that they'll need at least one more solid performance, either here at the Neon Dynasty Championship or in May at the New Capenna Championship, if they're going to reach Magic World Championship XXVIII.
The Digital Divide
So just how will the players accumulate those precious points this weekend?
Seven rounds on Friday mean four match wins are needed to progress. From there, rounds eight through fifteen on Saturday whittle the field down to just eight. On Sunday, a single match win guarantees a World Championship seat, with six of the Top 8 players progressing. And for those who remain, it's the opportunity to fight for the biggest shares of a $450,000 prize purse and the title of Neon Dynasty Champion.
As usual, it's a split format event. New to the show is Alchemy, and what an addition it's shaping up to be. If you're completely new to Alchemy, this is a great place to start learning about the format.
There's no doubt that a digital-only space leads to some significant amounts of delicious, silly fun.
Stealing stuff is also great fun (wait, what am I saying?!), and for that there's
While the format is full of fresh fun, it's also full of strategic and tactical opportunity. For more on the shape of Alchemy as we head into Championship weekend, expert Mani Davoudi will have a breakdown in the coming days.
Alchemy will start our broadcast on both Friday and Saturday, and we're devoting the whole of Sunday to the new kid format on the Magic block. In between, though, it's Historic, and the path to the Top 8top eight is sure to be littered with powerhouse spells and gasp-out-loud moments. Can Izzet Phoenix continue to lead the pack? Will Golgari Aggro get it done at top speed? Will
As always, the coverage team—both in front of and behind the camera—will bring you all the action. For a detailed metagame breakdown, Hall of Famer Frank Karsten will be your guide, explaining how each of the finely tuned engines of excellence do their thing. On screen and in game, Cedric Phillips and Mani Davoudi will pair up with Marshall Sutcliffe and Eilidh Lonie respectively, while all the news that's fit to broadcast comes from the Host-Expert-Reporter triumvirate of Maria Bartholdi, Corey Baumeister, and Riley Knight.
Magic has always been a game that is part art, part science. Every deck in the field will be the culmination of hypothesis, data, iteration, inspiration, a dash of courage, and an inevitable quantity of guesswork. This weekend, as Alchemy makes a big stage debut at the Neon Dynasty Championship, make sure you join us to find out who is the ultimate . . .