Most Ninjago sets are based heavily on the tie-in media, but the latest theme, EVO, takes a different direction. As LEGO designer Niek van Slagmaat shared on Twitter, this wave is meant to be “a line of Ninjago that [will] not only stand on its own without content but also be the epitome of Ninjago toys.” That’s a pretty challenging goal, but it does open up a lot of creative spaces for new adventures. We’ll be taking a close look at most of these sets, starting with LEGO Ninjago 71766 Lloyd’s Legendary Dragon. This 747 piece set will be available January 1st, 2022 from the LEGO Shop Online for US $69.99 | CAN $89.99 | UK £54.99. Dragons are pretty safe territory for Ninjago – but how does this latest beast stack up?
The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
Unboxing the parts, instructions and sticker sheet
Right away, we get a different feel for these sets. The usual lush (and sometimes chaotic) box art has been toned down to a more stark approach. The background has a very clear distinction between the actual toy and the setting, with the photo-realistic backdrops of yore replaced with a more flat and hand-drawn scene. I think it’s a pretty positive change, as I’ve remarked in the past that it was often difficult to figure out just what you were buying. The lack of a theme-specific storyline means that the message here is pretty clearly “This is a Ninjago set. Did you really need more info than that?” The age range is set at 8+, which matches the building complexity.
The back of the thumb-punch box takes this new product clarity to an even higher level. Gone are any backgrounds at all for the main detail shot. Instead we get a clean white backdrop that feels like it could be lifted from a fan review. The only concession to action are the small movement lines added around the minifigures. The play features are called out on the right edge, with the same line-art style from the front of the box. Once again it’s super clear what is a real toy, and what is meant to stem from your imagination.
The stickers here are pretty minimal, with a few repeated designs that will spice up the dragon and help blend the blue and green color scheme.
This set contains a bunch of new-for-2022 parts, as well as some that at exclusive to this set. First up is this new click-hinge assembly. Also appearing in some of the new Monkey Kid sets, this new joint assembly offers a lot of increased strength for a single joint, or opens up a range of additional motion if you use each of the pin connections to connect to a different assembly. Minimalist builders could even use use these as small spaceship turrets as-is.
This set introduces a new 1×3 plate with clips on the outer studs. This 3-wide connection also opens up a lot of great building avenues, as you couldn’t replicate this exact configuration out of other pieces. You could get close if you were willing to go with a 1×3 plate with the needed 1x1s on top, of course. but a single sturdy plate is just grand to see.
Less likely to ever be seen again are these dragon-specific pieces. The upper and lower jaws are both cast from existing molds, but both are new colors, and the eye print on the green upper jaw is unique. The cloth wings are also great pieces, if a bit more challenging to re-use in a non-fantasy setting.
Part of the EVO theme is the idea of “battle flags”. Each set has a 2×3 tile with a unique print to “capture and display” once you complete the mostly unspecified “mission” that each set represents. The Legendary Dragon comes with this print of throwing stars – an odd choice as those minifigure accessories aren’t included in this kit at all. Why didn’t they go with a dragon of some sort? Anyway, if you want this part, this is the only set to offer it.
The Legendary Dragon has a very solid inner torso/core, with plenty of SNOT connections. There is some interesting Technic gearing that will eventually let the wings flap when you move the switch in the center of the dragon’s back.
The first few pages of instructions build up a larger and larger core, giving this dragon a more hefty feel than most of the recent Ninjago dragons. If anything, it’s even more dense than the massive Skull Sorcerer’s Dragon.
Once things are a bit more locked into place, you can see how the switch’s motion is translated into a smooth front-to-back sweep for the wings.
The dragon’s head is also very sturdy. Several of the recent dragons, like the Jungle Dragon, have had lower jaws attached with robot arms. Not so here; the overall construction is think and chunky. The large gold horns add a great bit of color, contrasting nicely with the greens and blues of the main body. All three of those new 1×3 clip plates are used in this section.
Also different from recent dragons is the tail construction. Instead of hinged sections connected with long Technic pins, the Legendary Dragon uses Mixel ball joints. This means the dreaded “floppy tail” “play feature” has been avoided, and this dragon can hold onto a full-body pose as long as you’d like it to.
The legs and feet have a limited range of motion. The shoulders/hips are connected with click hinges, but the elbows/knees are locked in place. The feet are mounted on ball joints. The limited range is offset by how sturdy the stances are; once aligned this dragon does feel like it’s going to hold its ground.
At this point the instructions suggest that the Legendary Dragon is “done. ” The wings are meant to be seen as a “upgrade”, fitting into the EVO theme of basic builds that are enhanced to be more combat-ready. I can kind of see it, but at this stage this design doesn’t say “dragon” to me, so much as “giant iguana”. Maybe it’s too many years of reading D&D monster manuals, but dragons have wings, dangnabbit.
Speaking of those wings, they have a pretty standard Technic rod “finger” design that holds the cloth wing taut. the underside of the wings have a great bright blue hue, making them feel a lot more organic than just repeating the pattern on top.
The other EVO “power up” is the saddle for Lloyd to sit in. It has a flag pole attachment for the victory flag. Since most other ridable dragons have had a removable saddle, this doesn’t feel like too much of a bonus or upgrade. But the design is nice, with some nice hinging at the front to allow the saddle to fit snugly against the dragon’s body.
The bad guys also get a quick small build: Python Dynamite’s ballista. It features a firing missile and a turning crossbow. Nothing too special, but you have to love those teal tail elements. I mean, c’mon. It’s a teal part. Those are always a win to me.
The finished model
Putting the wings on the Legendary Dragon quickly upgrade the build from “nice” to “pretty darn impressive”. As mentioned earlier, this dragon is a lot more bulky than other recent offerings, giving it a very different feel to its more lithe and lanky brethren. The dark blues and various green shades play well together. My only nit is that the bright green on the head seems a little too bright, but it does draw the eye and make the head stand out against the rest of the build.
The “battle ready” version seems like the only way you’d want to display this dragon. Those wings are really great looking. I guess you could lose the saddle, though.
The heavier joints in the legs easily support the greater weight of this build. Even the toe design is nice, with enough points of articulation to make sure you can make sure the dragon is in firm contact with whatever surface it’s on.
The dragon also looks good when seen from the top and bottom. The color variation on the wings works particularly well, improving an angle that rarely gets a lot of love in LEGO models.
Compared to the recent Jungle and Water dragons, the Legendary dragon feels like the big brother/sister of the group. It still fits into the family, though. Ninjago dragons are rarely a miss. (Although sometimes they’re not quite as good as these.)
I did notice something fun when comparing the dragons. The pieces used for the Legendary Dragon are the same as the Water dragon – but with the head/jaw orientation swapped. The face printing really disguises this, and the two dragons manage to look very different. It also helps that the Legendary Dragon has a very different construction style where the jaw attaches to the head.
The bad guys are ready to take the dragons on, even if they do feel really outmatched. The free-standing ballista doesn’t lock these bad guys in to any specific geographic region the way a small land mass build would have.
This set comes with four minifigures. All are exclusive to the EVO theme, but none are exclusive to this set. From left to right, the characters are Python Dynamite, Viper Flyer, Lloyd, and Nya. I suspect even the causal Ninjago fans will be able to pick out the good guys from the bad guys.
Lloyd comes with a new ninja hood, dual-sided torso print and printed legs. He also has a standard hairpiece and Lloyd’s common dual-expression face. The instructions show him being “upgraded” by adding the shoulder armor and hood. Pretty much the standard assortment of stuff for Lloyd, but I guess you have to try and sell the adventure somehow.
Nya comes with a new ninja hood, dual-sided torso print and printed legs. She has her standard dual-expression face. She has a light blue sword in a shoulder-guard sheath, and a brick-built, enormous edged weapon. It’s described as a “spear” in LEGO.com’s product description, but it looks more like a Final Fantasy sword to me.
The two snake foes in this set are a Viper Flier and Phyton Dynamite. We might never learn more about these latest bad guys, but the continued snake-imagery does keep them firmly in the Ninjago universe.
The Viper Flier comes with a backpack accessory with four wings. It has dual sided printing on the torso, and printed legs. The dual molded head has inverted colors from Python Dynamite.
Compared to the Maaray guards from the Seabound sets, these orange snakes are pretty much just a palette swap. They look a little shorter thanks to the lack of shoulder armor and flippers, though. Which color scheme do you prefer? (I’m still more fond of the teal accents.)
Conclusion and recommendation
The latest wave of Ninjago sets is based on the concept of “upgrading” – you take a base model and add new features and weapons to make it a more powerful combatant. It’s a concept that works very well in some of the other sets, but the Legendary Dragon really doesn’t fit the brief. The suggestion that the wings should be added later, or that the saddle is a big perk, are so iffy that LEGO didn’t even try to push that logic on the box art. But, taken on its own, this is yet another great dragon to add to the Ninjago bestiary. The shaping and colors are great, the flapping wings have a good range of motion, and the model is sturdy and posable. The assortment of minifigures is okay – the new snake foes are interesting, and the latest versions of the ninja uniforms look good. For $70 US for 747 pieces, the price-per-part is a little on the high side at 9.3 cents, but a good selection of parts coupled with four minifigures softens that slightly harsh edge. This set should fit in well with any fantasy dragon-lover or Ninjago fan. Parts-pack builders might want to look for a sale, but otherwise there’s no real reason to wait to pick one of these up. You know. If you want to. (Do you? Sound off in the comments!)
LEGO Ninjago 71766 Lloyd’s Legendary Dragon will be available January 1st, 2022 from the LEGO Shop Online for US $69.99 | CAN $89.99 | UK £54.99. It may also be available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
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