Expectations are high heading into the Streets of New Capenna preview season. Multicolor sets are always a hit, and this is our first set with a focus on the tricolor ‘Shard’ combinations since Shards of Alara block that gave them that title over a decade ago.
Even if we got nothing more from this set, we are already promised a cycle with an impressive pedigree that is guaranteed to play a big part in Constructed. The shape of a format is often determined by the mana as much as the spells, and the mana in most formats just got a big upgrade:
You’ll learn to recognize the names of these five quickly, even if you don’t have a copy editor on your case! [Copy Editor’s Note: “On your case,” is it? That can be arranged…] I wish Jetmir’s Garden was ‘Naya Triome’ and fully expect to register the wrong tri-land at least once before I finally commit them to memory…
Standard last year offered ample proof of the Triomes’ power. We can expect some of that context to carry forward to Streets of New Capenna and there are some new variables to figure out too.
Back for another tour together in Standard, Triomes and Pathways operate very differently as mana fixing. Triomes bridge competing mana requirements at the cost of entering the battlefield tapped; Pathways are painless, untapped sources of whatever colour you need now, but they can’t pivot to fill another role later. They combine to form strong manabases that still have specific strengths and weaknesses. Consider this deck from last year:
- 4 Lovestruck Beast
- 4 Edgewall Innkeeper
- 4 Bonecrusher Giant
- 4 Brazen Borrower
- 4 Kazandu Mammoth
- 4 Goldspan Dragon
Temur Adventures had to support double green, double blue, and double red with a heavy reliance on its overworked Triomes. Its Pathways and Fabled Passages could only offer one colour at any given time; if you didn’t draw Ketria Triome, casting your spells was a struggle.
The ‘slow lands’ from this visit to Innistrad fill that gap admirably, but don’t make it easier to cast cheap spells of different colours early. Curving out with a white one-drop into a red two-drop is still difficult and is impossible if that two-drop costs RR, unless you’re willing to hold your nose and register one of the worst land cycles of all time…
The Snarls are still an embarrassment, even with the theoretical tie-in to this cycle’s basic land types. Unless you have a land-heavy hand, holding a Triome to let Snarl come in untapped still leaves you with a tapped land that can mess up your sequencing later. Snarls clash with other fixing – every Stormcarved Coast or Riverglide Pathway interferes with Frostboil Snarl – as well as the increasingly wide range of utility lands you can choose from in Standard. The one-of Otawara, Soaring City isn’t a free replacement for another Island if it means your Snarl is tapped instead.
Standard and Alchemy
This creates some warped incentives in choosing colours for Standard and Alchemy. Look at this Boros Aggro deck from accomplished attacker Thiago Saporito at the last Set Championship:
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 2 Reidane, God of the Worthy
- 2 Elite Spellbinder
- 3 Brutal Cathar
- 3 Intrepid Adversary
- 3 Adeline, Resplendent Cathar
- 4 Hopeful Initiate
- 3 Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat
- 3 Rabbit Battery
Saporito has to work with an inflexible manabase that constrains his options in the early turns, as his fixing is not conducive to casting cheap spells of both colours. Contrast this with the Rakdos Midrange deck that has taken Alchemy by storm since the release of Alchemy: Kamigawa:
A slower deck like this can afford a Triome that makes both of its colours, and at that point splashing the third colour looks both easy and tempting. Pathways are very strong at enabling these small splashes; a Rakdos deck can become a Grixis deck with up to twelve blue sources via Xander’s Lounge and Clearwater / Riverglide Pathways with minimal effort. You don’t intend to cast the Orvar, the All-Form in this sideboard, but you have that option now and can open up a larger blue splash if you like.
Meanwhile, a full Grixis Midrange deck like the one Jim Davis went on an amazing tear with at the Set Championship gets a very welcome upgrade for its mana. If your Golgari deck wanted Valki, God of Lies, your barely Jund deck can easily cast Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor. These slower decks boast better mana than their faster rivals despite the extra colour.
Triomes may put four-colour and five-colour decks back on the menu too. We saw these manabase incentives taken to their extreme in Zendikar Rising Standard, where it was almost easier for Four-Color Ramp to cast Omnath, Locus of Creation than for Gruul Adventures to cast Questing Beast. The situation thankfully isn’t quite that bad now, but you can aim high in the early days of Streets of New Capenna.
Ultimately, it’s impossible to gauge the full impact of the Triomes until we see what these colour combinations are capable of. Ikoria was nominally a ‘wedge’ set, but this didn’t manifest in Standard: you either jumped through hoops to cast Emergent Ultimatum or didn’t bother at all. Strixhaven mostly missing the mark for Constructed meant that these wedges didn’t act as a bridge between the enemy colour pairs as desired. If some new Grixis or Bant deck does emerge to conquer Standard, I expect some new three-colour cards to be the headline act.
Once a defining deck in Historic, Sultai Ramp relied heavily on Zagoth Triome not just to fix its mana but to allow Nissa, Who Shakes the World to set up another play like Aether Gust or Eliminate immediately. When Yasharn, Implacable Earth became the go-to foil for Jund Sacrifice, some players turned to Bant instead:
This deck had to play an awkward mix of lands to juggle its demanding mana requirements. Spara’s Headquarters is exactly what it would have needed to relieve that burden.
Nissa isn’t what it used to be in Historic, but the Bant shell is still promising. Azorius Control is popular right now, and may have an interest in a light splash for Growth Spiral or other green cards.
Archmage’s Charm in particular is a cornerstone of blue decks in Historic. Triomes make it possible to balance a tricolour manabase without running too many lands that don’t make blue mana. Even before an infusion of new cards, Esper and Grixis now look more appealing as alternatives to Jeskai Control.
Pioneer already offers an example of promising Esper decks held back by their mana.
There’s no shortage of good spells in the Esper colours – the mana has always been the main problem. Raffine’s Tower is the ideal land in its own right that also encourages this list’s focus on checklands like Drowned Catacomb to tie the manabase together.
These lands aren’t an automatic upgrade for decks in these colours. As highlighted in the Lurrus of the Dream-Den ban announcement, new cards entering a format over time increases the pressure on decks to be efficient and lower their mana curves. The cost of a land that enters the battlefield tapped is much higher when your deck is full of one-drops and already has uses for extra mana. A deck like Jund Sacrifice can consider its new Triome, but is likely to pass.
The Omnath colours can count several successful decks under their banner. Four-Color Ascendancy, Four-Color Fires (Yorion), and Four-Color Incarnation (Yorion) all offer enticing payoffs – if you can solve the puzzle of making the mana work. Unlocking Triomes in the Bant and Naya colours lets you play more than eight fully functional Triomes in your 80-card deck or select the right mix for a 60-card one.
This has implications for one card in particular. Chained to the Rocks is the best removal spell for its cost in Pioneer but makes you work hard for it. Ketria Triome and Raugrin Triome answered that call for these decks in the past, but Jetmir’s Garden joins that roster if you want a greater emphasis on colours that don’t overlap on those Triomes (green and white at the same time, for example).
These lands are also great news for Pioneer’s most colourful character. I have no idea where to begin building the Five-Color Niv-Mizzet manabase but the full cycle of Triomes gives you more freedom to choose the spells you want to focus on and then reverse engineer the mana from there.
In every other format, you have to draw the Triomes naturally for them to have an impact. In Modern, fetchlands ensure that just a single copy can make a big difference in almost every game.
Four-Color Control (Yorion) is a strong contender for best deck in Modern and is held together by a manabase built around fetchlands alongside shocklands and Triomes. It seems like a natural home for these new recruits, but it’s more complicated than that. The first problem is that you don’t actually have much room; the deck has an artificially low land count thanks to cantrips like Abundant Growth and Ice-Fang Coatl as well as Wrenn and Six ensuring land drops for as long as it survives.
Once you account for other Triomes, all the relevant shocklands, basic lands, and the new Neon Dynasty legendary lands, there isn’t much room to customize. Any optional land has to compete with an additional fetchland, which can represent a wide range of lands while enabling Wrenn and Six or Omnath, Locus of Creation. You can’t just add two more Triomes and call it a day.
When you have to make a choice, will the new options supplant Ketria Triome or Raugrin Triome? Ideally you want the option to fetch a Triome and then a basic to cast a two-drop while having all colours available. Spara’s Headquarters plus Mountain does this and casts Wrenn or Iteration, but many lists without Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer are reluctant to play a basic Mountain. Jetmir’s Garden plus Island misses Wrenn and makes it hard to cast Counterspell in the short-term. Replacing basics with shocklands opens up some options here, but it’s not clear that the permutations offered by the new lands are better on average.
The most common setup for Indomitable Creativity demands not just a heavy focus on red mana for its signature spell, but also a high quantity of Mountains for Dwarven Mine. Jetmir’s Garden and Xander’s Lounge allow Creativity decks on opposite sides of the colour pie to cast their spells reliably if they can take a turn off to fetch them.
This includes the Primeval Titan version of Indomitable Creativity, where Jetmir’s Garden makes it much easier to maintain this commitment to Mountains while working towards hard-casting Primeval Titan. If you prefer triggering Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in other ways, these lands help there too – just look at this recent Jund Valakut list, where Ziatora’s Proving Ground makes the splash for Hidetsugu Consumes All much more trivial:
Guillaume Wafo-Tapa has been tearing up the Modern Challenges on Magic Online (MTGO) with variants of Azorius Control, often with a very light splash for sideboard cards or to power up Prismatic Ending. Raffine’s Tower and Spara’s Headquarters make this even easier, but also let you aim higher – Wafo-Tapa’s Esper Control deck from the months before Modern Horizons 2 can now pair Archmage’s Charm with Esper Charm more easily.
Spara’s Headquarters may singlehandedly help an entire archetype to compete in this space:
- 4 Polluted Delta
- 4 Flooded Strand
- 1 Snow-Covered Plains
- 4 Snow-Covered Island
- 1 Snow-Covered Forest
- 2 Breeding Pool
- 2 Hallowed Fountain
- 1 Mystic Gate
- 2 Flooded Grove
- 4 Misty Rainforest
- 2 Castle Vantress
- 1 Hall of Storm Giants
- 1 Boseiju, Who Endures
- 1 Otawara, Soaring City
- 1 Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire
- 3 Spara's Headquarters
The Wilderness Reclamation decks want to be based in blue for Counterspell and Archmage’s Charm, while dipping into green for Growth Spiral and Reclamation and accessing cheap removal in their third colour. This was possible in Temur and Sultai, thanks to Ketria and Zagoth Triomes, respectively, but the dream team of Reclamation and Solitude was mostly off-limits – until now. Yorion isn’t a central pillar of this list the way it has been in others; it’s here because there are so many exciting tools for this first draft that cutting any is painful!
The first cycle of Triomes revolutionized manabases in all major Constructed formats. This new (tri-)cycle will finally finish the job.