Have you spent the last several weeks staring at Twitter spoilers and giving a slack-jawed “What?” in response, like I did? I don’t care how much Halo you’ve consumed; there’s no disagreement over how powerful the cards in Streets of New Capenna (SNC) are. (Also, please consume Halo responsibly.)
The introduction to the five Demonic crime families of New Capenna gives an essential lens into how to draft the latest set. Obscura (Esper), Maestros (Grixis), Riveteers (Jund), Cabaretti (Naya), and Brokers (Bant) tell us that we’re going to be going back to building around Shards, something I’ve missed dearly.
As a rule of thumb, I prefer solid mono-colored cards early in the draft unless I open something busted with an impossible-to-replace effect. For example:
- A card like Strangle goes into 60% of the archetype-defined decks, so I’m more likely to slip it easily into my final 40 than not.
- Maestros Charm can deal considerable damage but will be much tougher to shoehorn into 80% of the decks it would be a splash in.
- If I open a Fleetfoot Dancer, I’ll break off a toe trying to figure it out.
With that in mind, let’s tackle five virtual packs of SNC and look at what we’d want to start a draft with in a vacuum.
We’ve seen the gradual demise of Phantom Monsters over the last few sets, where a 3/3 flyer for four mana doesn’t cut it. I expect Paragon of Modernity to be underrated as an even worse creature when looking at base stats. With Treasure abundant and a dearth of mana sinks, expect Paragon to get out of hand quickly in the late-game.
I also love Grisly Sigil as a card that I think will confuse people initially. You can use it to pick off a one toughness creature, but ideally, you have some sacrifice fodder (a Corrupt Court Official, for instance) for the casualty portion. Doing four damage, which kills a bevy of threats here, and gaining four life for one black mana and a throwaway creature is solid.
As I mentioned up top, I’m reticent to get into too many colors initially, but Corpse Appraiser is a card I’m eyeing here. Unless your fixing is top-notch, this is unlikely to come down on Turn 3, allowing for either your or your opponent’s graveyard to fill up a bit. At that point, this is a tidy two-for-one, giving you a 3/3 body for three mana and a free Strategic Planning.
A much safer pick is Kill Shot, which will feel right at home at the dinner tables of the Broker and Obscura families, but still makes for a decent passed appetizer at a Cabaretti party. Killing things remains one of the best things you can do in Limited Magic, even if you’re only getting their most aggressive threats.
Still, I can’t pass up Professional Face-Breaker here. Generating Treasure helps you ramp into your game plan, but also being able to cash in your leftovers for legit snacks makes PF-B one of the rare creatures you’re happy to see at any point in the game. The fact that it has menace, leading to potential two-for-ones, is icing on the cake.
My Pick: Professional Face-Breaker
I suspect Girder Goons will be underrated a little initially, as they essentially represent six power and toughness for five mana. Leaving behind a token for casualty is value I expect to be important in SNC. Sometimes, you’ll blitz them out and feel okay about cycling it for four damage to the face and a 2/2 Rogue. I have Scheming Fence just above it, as the body is fine, but stealing an ability can be game warping when you hit it late in the game. I love this take on a Meddling Mage.
Whack is a card I’m having trouble evaluating initially, as this is either very expensive for sorcery-speed removal or an incredible bargain when targeting a white creature. Unfortunately, removal seems to keep getting worse lately, so this may be a little high, even for a weak pack. With Brokers Charm, I’m going to be using the bite portion more than the Divination, as being able to add a point of power and taking out an opposing creature at instant speed is extremely punishing.
Still, I have Prizefight as my pick here. I’m evaluating creating a Treasure token as worth almost half a card here, as three-color decks love the option to fix or ramp. Fight spells don’t get quite the bonus of bites during combat, but here I have the convenience of only being committed to green instead of Bant.
My Pick: Prizefight
Now, this is a pack. A few of my favorite commons in the set are here, but let’s start with Buy Your Silence. This almost reminds me of Wanderer’s Strike in War of the Spark in that I think the cost is too expensive compared to the threats we’re seeing. War was a faster format, but it also didn’t give our opponents the genuine advantage of a Treasure Token. If our opponent has ways to get value out of said Treasure tokens, this gets even worse.
With Deal Gone Bad, I value instant-speed interaction so highly that I’m happy taking it over a Whack here, with self-mill as a bonus. I don’t like it any better than Inspiring Overseer or Jewel Thief, which I have ranked in that order. These are two incredibly pushed commons with powerful enters-the-battlefield effects that are fine ways to start any draft. On a scale of one to Organ Hoarder at ten, they’re eights.
Any game where my opponent casts a Pugnacious Pugilist feels like a game where I will need to come up with an answer or die quickly. Again, we’re creating casualty fodder, creating scenarios where we could be trading in a Devil token to copy Dig Up the Body, for example. The knock on cards like Pugilist is that you’re stuck waiting until your next turn to get value, but blitz means that isn’t necessarily true. As pushed as some of the commons are, a five-mana 4/4 feels oddly at home in SNC.
My Pick: Pugnacious Pugilist
Corrupt Court Official is our stand-in for Burglar Rat, which is always a fine play but will let you down if you’re expecting a Virus Beetle-esque impact. I wouldn’t take it over a Ceremonial Groundbreaker, which you’re going to want in any deck that contains Citizens or ways to make the tokens, but this is a card you should be looking for in the middle of the pack. Think of it like Ravager’s Mace in Zendikar Rising. Staking your claim to an archetype through a niche piece of Equipment is not advised.
With Draft rewarding blisteringly fast decks lately, I put Sticky Fingers as a top card in this pack, but one I suspect you’ll be able to steal late before people catch on. Often, this will replace the mana spent to cast it immediately by generating a Treasure, replace itself if the creature dies, and give a threat a little evasiveness in the meantime. Turn 2 Riveteers Initiate, Turn 3 Sticky Fingers will elicit a lot of groans in this format.
If you’re looking for a card making it worth forcing a family, Brokers Ascendancy is it. Enchantment removal is a shadow of what it was in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, so this feels almost like an emblem that reads, “Your creatures get better in perpetuity.” Prioritize creatures and as many generators of creature tokens as you can and reap the rewards.
My Pick: Brokers Ascendancy
The cycle of Overlooks may seem a tad awkward, but they should shoot up pick orders, as they’re more flexible than they look. For example, I’ll toss a Riveteers Overlook in any Cabaretti or Maestros deck, as two out of three lands isn’t awful. It’s too early to take here, though.
The same goes for Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder, but I can see the temptation. The man who can never find a turtleneck that fits can sit back and give your creatures a nice little buff, yet mix it up when needed. I would be higher on him if there were better creatures at common with trample, as this isn’t something that has me dying to load up on Rhox Pummelers. Security Rhox, on the other hand, feels more flexible, even if you never cheat it out for the Treasure-enabled cost.
Prize Fight is here, but can you ever go wrong with Murder? That would be my pick without Giada, Font of Hope in the pack, even if having two black mana becomes a higher tax when the expectation is to be in a couple of other colors, too. Unconditional removal simply never goes out of style.
On the other hand, I could see this being the least correct in a few weeks of any pick on this list. When we see creatures with substantial bonuses for entering the battlefield, getting rid of them can be too little, too late. Here, our Angel legend is tremendous as a base 2/2 vigilant flyer in a format where you can easily amass a few more. Inspiring Overseer and Paragon are cards I’ve mentioned I like, but Shattered Seraph and Metropolis Angel feel even better with an extra point of power and toughness.
My Pick: Giada, Font of Hope
I can’t wait to get into this Draft format, as it reminds me of one of my all-time favorites in Khans of Tarkir. Shards tend to play a slower game, too, and the breakneck speed of sets lately has tuckered this geriatric millennial out. We’re in for something special with this set, so study up.