NG is popular because too many archetypes produce insane points. SK movement, SK Lippy, MO Viy, as well as NR anything have engines and/or pointslam that are auto-lose for an opponent if uncountered. And only NG has adequate counters that still allow a deck beyond counters. At least NG decks have variety.
Yes - IMO it's the only faction that allows creativity and some semblance of strategic play from match to match (not just from one "pre-fab-meta-deck-with-built-in-play-sequence" to the other). Most other factions are just trying to blindly outscore each other regardless of what the other person is doing on their side of the board. Why even have an opponent in that case? Just play once and post your high score online