With the first spoilers of the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty set, Magic the Gathering fans were given three cards to chew on over the Christmas holiday. Two of these were mythic rares, one of which would be an easily abused Dragon Spirit in Commander, while the other was a planeswalker that promises so much, but in the end just most often draws you a couple of cards. The last card is familiar to long-time Magic players as the return of a key player in the original Kamigawa saga. While Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos is not quite the hard-hitting wombo-combo that is his predecessor Heartless Hidetsugu, he has his own powerful tricks that should make for an interesting Legendary Creature to play around with.
To put this new Legendary Creature into context, we have to first look at Heartless Hidetsugu. He was a 5 mana 4/3 Ogre Shaman with a tap ability to deal damage to each player, equal to half that player’s life total, rounded down. With a damaging doubling effect such as Dictate of the Twin Gods in play, that could eliminate anyone with an even numbered life total. This meant you would need to remain at an odd numbered life total to not take yourself out. Plus, while you would need to remain at an odd life total before activating this ability, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell adds 2 additional damage to your opponents, wiping out any opponents with an odd numbered total. There are some other potential shenanigans, especially if you don’t rely on only Red cards with Heartless Hidetsugu as your Commander, but in essence, if you set up your life total correctly, you can wipe out an entire table with a single tap of his ability.
Unlike Heartless Hidetsugu, Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos is a Black creature, but has an activated ability that includes Red mana in its casting cost, immediately making him a potential Red/Black Commander option. He doesn’t have nearly the firepower of his previous incarnation, but this four mana 4/4 Ogre Demon deals damage in a significantly different way. Interestingly, his predecessor has made a good friend in Florian, Voldaren Scion, who cares about damage dealt to opponents, and this Hidetsugu is poised to make the same connection.
Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos has two abilities, both of them extremely relevant. The first costs a single Black mana and allows you to sacrifice a creature to scry 2. As many competitive Magic game theoriests have said, scry 2 is often going to be the same as drawing one card. The difference is, with scrying, you get to choose if you want to keep one or both cards on the top of your deck, or put one or both to the bottom. Essentially, if you choose to keep both on top, it does pretty much nothing, but if you swap the order, that’s like drawing half of a card. Putting one to the bottom is like drawing one and putting two to the bottom is like drawing two. On average, you’ll sacrifice a creature and get pretty much the value of drawing a card. Considering you’re likely sacrificing a creature being targeted by removal or not serving you much of a purpose, anyway, this is a solid and versatile ability.
The second ability, however, is where this Hidetsugu shines. It costs two generic mana and one Red mana to activate this ability that also requires him to tap. With this ability, you exile the top card of your library and you can play it that turn. If it’s a nonland card, however, Hidetsugu deals damage equal to the exiled card’s mana value to any target. Suddenly, that Scry 2 looks even more exciting, since you often know what you will reveal with his ability. Hitting a land for three mana feels bad, but if you set up your draws, he’s going to hit extremely hard. Also, because the damage can hit literally anything, it can double as either removal or burn damage.
As powerful as this second ability is, it’s important to note that it costs three mana and a tap to activate. That’s a fair cost, considering how much damage this ability can deal to something or someone. Having a built in top deck manipulation ability is even sweeter. But, is this a card that can do work in Standard? It’s possible, but my favorite place for this Ogre Demon is Commander.
The most obvious deck besides Florian, Voldaren Scion is Prosper, Tome Bound. The popular Red/Black Commander has great synergy with Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos. Not only does Prosper exile a card at the beginning of your end step that you can play until your next turn, he creates a Treasure token whenever you play a card from exile. Hidetsugu can Scry to set up your draws or send unfavorable draws to the bottom of the library. Interestingly, the Red Spirit Dragon Atsushi, the Blazing Sky looks pretty good alongside here, with its death trigger which can create three Treasure tokens. These three all seem to work extremely well together, and who doesn’t love flavorful cards that also synergize well with one another?
It’s easy to be a big fan of Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos, but it’s going to take a deck that can easily complement his second ability to take full advantage. The scry ability alone is his major draw, with the second ability being a way to finish off a game in its later stages. The only problem I see is that firing off his tap ability blind could lead to hitting lands, which yes, you can play but paying three mana to play a land feels pretty bad in most cases. In theory, Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos is going to win some games on its own and it has a big enough body to stick around and do some work. But, in practice, unless you know exactly what’s on the top of your deck, it’s only going to be relevant in the endgame. If you manage his abilities well, though, this version of Hidetsugu can be a sneaky way to steal a game, especially through counter magic.
Besides the obvious fits in Commander, I can see so many cases where Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos can be good. Obviously, he’s excellent inside of any Sacrifice-themed strategy, but I feel his ability may be too slow for Modern. (Yes, he could do work in Historic and Alchemy on Magic Arena, but that online monstrosity is dead to me.) I don’t want to sound like a broken record that so many cards can be good in Commander, but like the Red Dragon, this one is pretty darn versatile. Of course, he’s two colors, which limits him somewhat, but in the strategies that want him, he’s going to make a difference. The fact that he hits creatures, planeswalkers, or players is what really makes him good.
Is he better than Heartless Hidetsugu? He certainly doesn’t require an entire deck to be built around his busted ability, but you need to pick your spots in using his tap ability. This is a really good Legendary Creature and I think he’s well-worth exploring as a Commander himself. As for Standard, I think someone will make him work well enough to at least be fun.