Welcome, everyone, to the Streets of New Capenna way-too-early reactions roundup! You can tell I’m excited because I believe that’s the first exclamation point I’ve used in a year. We updated Magic Arena (MTGA), then downloaded Magic Online (MTGO), and then we kind of bounced between them until we found a draft we liked. What a time to be alive!
I’m ten drafts in at this point, have watched dozens more on stream, and I’ve got to say: I’m a big fan after thoroughly exhausting every deck in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty (NEO). The houses are interesting, the mechanics play with how we think about resources, and who doesn’t love a Cat in a fedora?
Let’s break down the Day 1 action, shall we?
Blitz Is Busted
Coming in, I thought, “Oh, well. You can always have blitz as a fallback plan.” As it turns out, you’re content making it Plan A. In a number of games, I thought that I turned the corner and stabilized, only to get hit with a hasty creature that also inexplicably gets to do a thing when it enters the battlefield. With bonuses for creatures being sacrificed in Jund or entering, period, for alliance, you can wind up better off cycling it for another blitzer.
Girder Goons is the winner at common thus far, as leaving a tapped body behind plus representing four damage on its own accord is a mere four mana. I’ve found Plasma Jockey particularly devastating, too, as it not only demands a block, it nullifies a blocker out of nowhere. You’re content to get ahead on life using Mayhem Patrol sans blitz, though. I’m only sending it to its certain death if I need to find a better card late.
Here’s a deck that emphasized fast starts and was woefully low on Goons that still managed a tidy 3-0, 6-1.
Turn 1 Still Matters
While there might not be a Traveling Minister or Network Disruptor in the bunch, you still want one-drops in a few decks. Brokers Initiate is seeing play in both Azorius-leaning tempo decks and Selesnya-based Citizen decks as a card that remains relevant in the late-game. Expendable Lackey makes for great casualty fodder, or can be pitched to connive.
In the next tier, we have creatures that depend entirely on synergy with the rest of your deck in Cabaretti Initiate and Goldhound. I haven’t personally witnessed the former work, and the latter should just be Sticky Fingers if you’re in red. Cutthroat Contender couldn’t win Employee of the Month if they owned the Arby’s.
So, Was I Wrong About Five-Color Gruul?
Yes and no. I spent considerable time arguing with people on Reddit about the format’s speed because I value my time and love sarcasm. The early returns favor them, but it’s a moot point. The first week of a format rewards being aggressive as people make questionable decisions. Expect things to correct soon.
Where I think I missed was that this deck needs to rely on a Jund base and take a few splashable cards when warranted. Adding black to Gruul gives us access to two incredible cards. First, we have Fake Your Own Death, which gives us a bonus enters-the-battlefield trigger and a Treasure token of its own. On top of that, the +2/+0 helps you trade up if Corrupt Court Official or Exhibition Magician feels outclassed. (Judging them solely on their professions, they often are.) Fake also pairs well with that whole blitz thing we just spoke about, too. It’s a potent card that I can’t shut up about.
Meanwhile, I missed Rogues’ Gallery completely during spoiler season. Returning multiple creatures to your hand? Any number of creatures greater than two is an equation I can get behind, even if that isn’t an “equation” per se. I cannot stress how easy that is to pull off in this deck. I hit for the full cycle in a deck I was a game away from 3-0ing with, even if that was to my own detriment because I thought MTGO required me to get a creature of every color to cast it. That’s not how the card or words work.
Regardless, having a way to get back your powerful splashes when your opponent has answers is key, and Rogues’ Gallery gives you a path to card advantage.
What’s the Hardest Shard to Draft?
I’ve found Brokers to be incredibly rewarding when they come together, but it’s a bigger test of synergy than halibut and a microwave. I haven’t been impressed with counter themes I’ve seen, preferring the jankier double strike builds that take advantage of cards like Majestic Metamorphosis and Revelation of Power to deal massive swaths of damage out of nowhere. When someone jumps an Illuminator Virtuoso into your face for ten damage, you remember.
Most of your early plays are best saved to connive away later, but also, don’t forget to save some of them for Rooftop Nuisance so that you can still win the tempo game against your opponents with bigger battlefields. It’s a lot to balance.
What’s Being Overrated?
Blocking. As a friend mentioned on Twitter, we have a collective trauma after NEO when we see a wonky attack coming. My first instinct is to let nothing through, lest we get Kappa Tech-Wrecked or Virus Beetled again. It was demoralizing. Now? I’m much more likely to play around the combat trick and, as Arena constantly reminds me, use my life total as a resource. Where battlefield presence was mandatory in NEO, in SNC it’s simply a perk. After all, we’re happy to blitz our creatures into oblivion.
What’s Being Underrated?
Lands. One mistake I’ve noticed early on is people locking in on three colors too early in a draft. Stop taking a medium playable in a color in an attempt to “signal” to the rest of your virtual table if there’s a land available. These lands enable you to go in more directions and can still fetch for you even if they only hit two of your relevant types. Besides, you shouldn’t be hurting for playables this early in a format. People are passing the gas in a way that’s absolutely not a euphemism for anything else.
The Way-Too-Early Power Rankings
- Esper (Obscura)
- Jund (Riveteers)
- Grixis (Maestros)
- Naya (Cabaretti)
- Bant (Brokers)
Overall, I think blue tends to have incredibly powerful cards but poor partners to work with outside of Esper. Black is easily the most versatile, while red skews aggressive. White has interesting creatures, but often, the interaction it wants to play runs counter to what it’s trying to do. As always, green is bashing face, but I can’t help but wonder if Citizen is the next Human synergy that doesn’t quite get there.
Let me know what you think so far in the various comments sections across all of social media, and I’ll come argue with you like you were a bona fide Redditor. You’ve earned it!