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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Apr 28 2022 10:22am
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The first shard-focused set since Shards of Alara back in 2008? I’d commit a crime for that! However, while that set went super-hard into the three-color theme, Streets of New Capenna is closer to Khans of Tarkir: definitely a focus, but not the entire identity of the set. Even still, each of the five families has its own identity (even if I’ll still probably call them by their shard names), and each one is doing interesting things. But how does it work in a Limited context? Let’s find out, starting with the mechanics:

 

Mechanics:

Shield Counters:

While counters with meaning date back to Ikoria (interestingly the last three-color set), the counters given from the Brokers is much more interesting than a simple keyword. It’s pretty evenly spread across white, blue, and green, and while the protection is powerful, it’s mitigated in two different ways. The obvious way is that most of the cards are otherwise under the curve, like Dapper Shieldmate and Rhox Pummeler. The other way is that the cards are biased towards attacking, like Wingshield Agent and Voice of the Vermin. In general, I think the cards are worse than they look, especially since there are plenty of ways to get around the protection like Deal Gone Bad and Buy Your Silence.

 

Connive:

The Obscura apparently took a trip to Ixalan to research crime, as we have a pretty blatant Explore variant. However, the balance of choosing whether to get the card (by discarding a useless land) or the counter will make it play very differently. In particular, the basic “ETB connive” creatures like Echo Inspector and Raffine's Informant will play much better in aggro decks, as not only will they benefit much more from discarding lands in the late game, they’re more likely to get the counter when played on curve (when you still need lands). While the ability is powerful, I don’t think you want to jump through hoops like Security Bypass and Illuminator Virtuoso to get it, though the other sides of those cards might be worth it on their own.

 

Casualty:

The Grixis-colored shard unsurprisingly gets a spell mechanic, though the Maestros have one tied to sacrificing creatures.However, on its own in Limited, it feels like a bonus that doesn’t affect how good a card is—Light 'Em Up is good, Illicit Shipment is bad, and Rooftop Nuisance is somewhere in-between. Grisly Sigil is the obvious exception that’s designed around copying spells, and of course things change when you get the red/black tie-in spells like Body Dropper, but we’ll get to that in the archetypes section.

 

Blitz:

If the Brokers visited Ixalan, the Riveteers went to Tarkir to give us an interesting variant of Dash with less repetitive gameplay. In general, it feels like these cards are very pushed on the blitz side—imagine Girder Goons as “3B 2/2 ETBs tapped, when it ETB’s deal 4 damage to an opponent and draw a card” and that’s already decent before the main side. Conversely, a card like Mayhem Patrol has a decent front end, while the blitz side is closer to cycling. Add in the sacrifice synergies (along with absurd rares like Tenacious Underdog), and I’m wondering if I’m missing something on this mechanic’s power level.

 

Alliance:

The Naya shard obviously gets a creature-centered mechanic, but the Cabaretti’s mechanic finally gives us a keyworded form of “creaturefall.” However, like with shield counters, it feels like Wizards was scared of pushing it, as most of the cards need you to trigger it twice to get good value, either based on rate (Celebrity Fencer) or explicitly (Rumor Gatherer). On the other hand, you’ll naturally play creatures (especially in this archetype), but there aren’t that many good token producers to get multiple creatures at once (mainly Mage's Attendant and Exhibition Magician outside of the gold cards, so it may take more work than you think.

 

Hideaway:

While multiple mechanics in this set are derived from other mechanics, the mechanic directly returning comes from a strange place: a rare cycle of lands from Lorwyn (and the random Watcher of Tomorrow from Modern Horizons)). The mechanic originally had to hide a lot of stuff in the reminder text to fit on those lands (including the permanent entering tapped), but it’s been rewritten to add a number. It’s still the same basic formula of a free spell if you jump through a big hoop, and as such it’s limited to a rare cycle of enchantments whose worth comes from the non-Hideaway part.

 

Mana-Fixing:

Like with any set that actively wants you to play multiple colors, the fixing is important, and Capenna provides plenty of it. On the lands side, the Skybridge Tower cycle has a lot of upside, and while I hate the design of the Maestros Theater cycle (“when you play ~ sac it” doesn’t feel like a land at all) it does the fixing job well enough. On the artifact side, Ominous Parcel is a great design, even if I’m skeptical it’ll have a home unless the format is very slow. Then we have a neat cycle of gold cards with Rakish Revelers and friends, which are extremely high impact commons that double as extremely clunky fixers you get for free if you want the finishers. Finally, while there isn’t the typical Manalith-type artifact, there is a ton of treasure floating around, mostly centered in red and green (though Halo Scarab fills in the gaps for everyone), which can enable lots of multi-color shenanigans, as we’ll see in the archetype breakdown.

 

 

Archetypes:

One note: like with other sets that focus on a subset of colors like Ikoria and Strixhaven, I’ll be going over the two-color archetypes first, as those are the ones you’re more likely to go into by default, at least until we know how good the mana-fixing is in practice.

 

White/Blue: Counters Matter

The Azorius combines the shield counters from the Brokers and Connive’s +1/+1 counters from the Obscura while throwing in some other random counters like Backup Agent and Slip Out the Back. However, the strange part is actually using them, with cards like Exotic Pets and Metropolis Angel. The other part that would make sense is combining both kinds of counters on the same creature, but understandably that can’t happen easily. Otherwise there isn’t much of a theme here, so you’re mostly relying on efficient creatures like Celestial Regulator and Backstreet Bruiser that can’t easily fit in other archetypes. Even then though, it doesn’t feel like this deck is efficient enough to standalone and not go into a shard.

 

Blue/Black: Mana Value Threshold

Between Connive, Casualty, and other self-mill like Deal Gone Bad, there’s plenty of room for a graveyard theme in Dimir. However, it’s a strange one this time, with cards like Graveyard Shift and Snooping Newsie wanting five different mana values (converted mana costs for the Magic boomers) in the graveyard to turn on. That seems exceptionally difficult though, both because there isn’t much self-mill for free and because that’s a lot of different mana costs. Two, three, and four aren’t that difficult to find good options for, and a land isn’t too difficult for zero, but then what’s the fifth cost? One doesn’t have many playables, especially at common (the obvious choice is Expendable Lackey, but that has a weird tension), and you can’t play many five or more mana value cards (though Girder Goons is the notable exception). You’ll likely get the benefit late, if at all, and it’s not that game-changing, at least outside of rare. A more general graveyard deck is more likely to be successful than the threshold—but again, some of the best graveyard cards are Rogues' Gallery (wants a three-color deck to be great) and Graveyard Shift (Dusk Mangler is an obvious target, but so are the various three-color mythics and other splashed bombs).

 

Black/Red: Sacrifice Aggro

The Rakdos deck feels like it’s set up for success on multiple angles. There are plenty of sacrifice outlets, and the payoffs like Body Dropper and Forge Boss are high-quality. The main concern is if there is enough fodder— Exhibition Magician is the only easy token producer, and while Corrupt Court Official and Unlucky Witness are good value creatures, it only does so much. Blitz is the obvious combo, but the question is if you’ll have enough mana to regularly combo a Blitz creature and something like Light 'Em Up or Fatal Grudge. However, the cards just seem pushed in general—Murder and Strangle are great pieces of removal at common, creatures like Girder Goons and Mayhem Patrol are efficient, and there’s lots of card advantage and ways to push things through. This looks like the obvious place to start in the format.

 

Red/Green: 5-Color Treasure

The explosion of treasure reaches its natural apex here, as the Gruul create a bunch of it and use it to support a five-color strategy. However, the explicit synergies are on two distinct paths, and I’m not sure how well they work. On one hand, the red/green build-arounds want you to use treasures explicitly, but payoffs like Security Rhox and Stimulus Package feel very underwhelming. On the other, you can go full five-color, but while Courier's Briefcase is fine, Widespread Thieving and the bombs you want to cast are all rares, so it’s very rarity-depending. I’m expecting some builds of the five-color deck to be absurd, and they might run Stimulus Package as a backup plan, but the straight RG Treasure deck looks bad.

 

Green/White: Citizen Tribal

A straight-forward tribal deck should be simple to evaluate, and there are plenty of citizens to pick up between token producers and natural tribe members. However, I’m not sure what to think of the Selesnya overall, as while the individual pieces seem weak, the whole seems decent. In particular, the Initiates seem important, as a Cabaretti Initiate being pumped by Backup Agent and/or Ceremonial Groundbreaker is efficient, while Broker's Initiate is a good defensive option, something to tap for Civil Servant, and a late-game threat all in one. Some of the token producers are strange though—Couriers Briefcase doesn’t fit here at all, while Luxurious Libation is a weird design in general. More than any of the two-color decks, this needs to be a straight deck without splashes, but otherwise it has potential.

 

Green/White/Blue: Protective Midrange/Aggro?

I don’t get what the Brokers are trying to do at all. It feels like an aggro deck, but being three colors inhibits that. The three-color cards are efficient and cheaper (and cards like Brokers Charm are likely to appear in Constructed), but you aren’t going to get GWU quickly in Limited. Lagrella, the Magpie is weird (note only your creature gets the counters), but a difficult to cast Banisher Priest isn’t going to attract me in a format with great removal. Shield counters are good, but the creatures themselves aren’t efficient enough to be special. I’m staying away from this archetype.

 

White/Blue/Black: Card Advantage Control

Conversely, a control deck works well in a three color archetype. I’m not sure how often Nimble Larcenist will hit in Limited, but Queza, Augur of Agonies and Shattered Seraph are both win conditions that help you stabilize. Overall the deck is going to have to be very creature-focused, as the spells aren’t that great beyond removal—Case the Joint is only a slightly better Inspiration, and the counter package of Make Disappear, Disdainful Stroke, and An Offer You Can't Refuse is underwhelming at best. Instead, you have a bunch of creatures even beyond the creatures with Connive, as Inspiring Overseer is an all-star, Corrupt Court Official is fine, and Maestros Initiate trades well and gives a lot of value. This deck seems fine, and should get better the slower the format is.

 

Blue/Black/Red: Graveyard Value

Interestingly, the first thing I’m drawn to isn’t anything directly related to the Maestros’ theme, but instead how efficient Glamorous Outlaw is. Obviously the shocking success of Imperial Oath is going to cast a long shadow over formats for a while, and while the Outlaw isn’t nearly as impactful, it’s close and helps you cast your spells. Beyond that, I’m worried the themes are being stretched a bit thin, with a focus on both instants and sorceries and creatures. Obviously a single “kicked” Casualty spell can turn on both Cormela, Glamour Thief and Corpse Appraiser, but ideally you’d want to rely on self-mill for graveyard synergies, and then you aren’t as likely to work both. That may just mean you want one or the other, but that doesn’t work towards a straight three-color deck (instead likely splashing Corpse Appraiser into blue/black or black/red). I think there’s a fine deck here, but it’s more likely to be two colors and a splash than straight three colors.

 

Black/Red/Green: Fast Midrange

The creatures of the Riveteers are efficiently costed, and there’s a lot of haste with both Blitz and cards like Crew Captain. You also get all the good black and red removal, along with Riveteer's Charm and green fight cards like Prize Fight. The problem is if efficient creatures is good enough in this format. You can play them more quickly with all the treasure in green and red, but the other color combos have good removal and efficient creatures too, so you don’t want to spend resources for a slight speed boost. I think this deck is fine, but not at the top to start.

 

Red/Green/White: Creature Swarm

I mentioned I didn’t like Alliance much in the mechanics overview, but if you play all three colors of the Cabaretti it feels like there are enough payoffs and enablers for the strategy to work. I am worried about the color requirements though (Rumor Gatherer being double-white in particular is rough), and there aren’t that many sources of card advantage beyond various 1/1 tokens. Instant-speed creature creation also feels important, and while something like Warm Welcome is obvious, you might need to lean into treasures for Stimulus Package. This deck has a high ceiling, but the floor is one of the lowest of the archetypes.

 

Other Important Cards:

I mentioned above how the removal in red and black is so good, but the opposite is true in the other colors. White has Buy Your Silence and Hold for Ransom, both okay but below the “average” rate. Blue’s counters are bad, Run Out of Town is worse than the average Griptide, and Witness Protection isn’t great in a set with Casualty. Prize Fight in green is fine, but fighting is worse than biting (though Blitz makes it better). Instead, there are impactful combat tricks, including Boon of Safety, Majestic Metamorphosis, Antagonize, and more. There’s a lot of instant-speed token production as well, whether it’s a flash creature like Swooping Protector or random Citizen generator like Warm Welcome. This could have a lot of strategic complexity, even if the basic abilities are relatively simple.

 

The other main cycle is the enemy color hate cycle ((Whack) and others), and not only are they good on their own, you’re going to hit the colors more in a three-color set. As for the non-fixing colorless cards, they’re all pretty bland. In particular, the gold-focused cards (Paragon of Modernity and Scuttling Butler) feel too clunky.

 

Kamigawa Remix:

Oh hey, a surprise remastered set! It’s only up for a week on MTGO, but unlike Innistrad Double Feature, Wizards actually curated a unique set. Granted, combining the infamously underpowered original Kamigawa and the FIRE-fueled Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is a strong contrast, but it’s interesting. As I said, the short timeframe (and awful listing on DailyMTG) means I can’t do a full article on it, but I do want to give a few pointers.

 

The obvious point is that synergy-driven archetypes are going to take a big hit, particularly when there isn’t much overlap. On the original Kamigawa side, there aren’t many Arcane spells, so Splice isn’t nearly as as big a priority. There also aren’t that many Spirits, so getting a Soulshift chain isn’t practical. On the Neon Dynasty side, artifacts and enchantments aren’t nearly as prominent in original Kamigawa. In particular, the WB “balance” cards take a big hit, since you’ll have to get most of your enablers from the Neon side of the packs. Conversely, Samurai and especially Ninjas are better here, as the synergies cross over.

 

On the individual cards side, you probably will be building your decks primarily out of Neon Dynasty cards, then picking up the rare good original Kamigawa cards as support. This will mostly be removal (and all the good artifact/enchantment removal like Terashi's Grasp and Wear Away), but there are other important cards. Notably Kodama's Reach and Sakura-Tribe Elder give the multicolor deck even better fixing (especially since you can still get gainlands). Manriki-Gusari is important as well, since it kills Reconfigure creatures. I’m sure there will be more synergies, but this is the obvious stuff I can see on an initial glance.

 

Conclusion:

Overall Streets of New Capenna is an interesting set that’s very slow. The power also varies wildly, as Jewel Thief and Inspiring Overseer sit along other overpriced commons. It’ll be interesting to see how a pure three-color set sits along FIRE design. It also seems like some of my opinions are outside the consensus, so more than usual a wide variety of opinions is good.

 

The question is when you’ll see me next. It will probably be my Double Masters 2022 predictions, as I don’t cover Commander Legends sets (and my design is pretty solid at this point). However, alongside the first look at Baldur’s Gate, we got an announcement that an Alchemy Horizons set based on it will come to Arena in July, featuring straight reprints from the Commander Legends set, versions of cards balanced for 1v1 play, and new digital-only designs. Importantly, it will be a full draftable set, the first Alchemy set to do so. Ignoring all the problems with it (there is no reason to put it in digital Standard for one), it would be an interesting set to cover. Let me know if I should cover it or not (or if, like the rest of the established Magic sphere, you’re boycotting anything Alchemy-adjacent). Until then.

 

Vincent

@VincentSIFTD on Twitter