Magic’s newest expansion has us traveling to New Capenna, a world of art deco stylings and magic mobsters. A new set means new cards to examine, and in this article we’ll talk about the multicolored cards and what they mean for the game in different formats and how they’ll play.
In our last article we looked at the set’s monocolored cards; this time around we’re looking at the rest of the set, with the exception of the Commander decks – we’ll be reviewing those later on. If you missed Parts 1 or 2, you can find them here:
BPhillipYork: Pithing needle wasn’t obnoxious enough, so now you can take their commander’s abilities, so that’s um, nice. Though it’s only activated abilities, a lot of commanders are running around with a lot of triggers and not much else. You
FromTheShire: Very nice way of dealing with troublesome abilities, with the upside of being able to steal it for yourself if you have a way to use it.
TheChirurgeon: It’s neat, and I love the theft affect. The issue of putting Pithing Needle on a creature body means that it’s a lot more vulnerable, but there are some cool things you can pull off with this guy. Bonus points if you can use his mana-agnostic effect to power out Sisay’s ability at least once. Extra bonus points if it’s your Sisay.
BPhillipYork: Too expensive, not enough really going on for commander. In standard this is probably “a thing”.
FromTheShire: This is whatever in Commander but I really like it in other formats. We’ve seen these kind of graveyard based Delirium style cards be staples when you can enable turning them on quickly.
TheChirurgeon: Yeah this isn’t likely to be a Commander staple but it’s a very solid card in constructed and limited, and the replacement effect on death is a great bonus.
BPhillipYork: What a weird cool card. Very nice.
FromTheShire: I’m a big fan of cheap wraths, and while damage based ones are the weakest, they still get the job done more often than not. It also has the benefit of possibly being one sided or close to it depending on the board state – can’t wait to get my Goblin decks blown out by this.
TheChirurgeon: I get the graveyard aspect here is black but this feels like a card that could have been monored.
BPhillipYork: So this feels really strong, given you instantly draw 7 cards by sacrificing a creature with 7 power for a token with 7 loyalty counters. On the other hand, drawing 7 cards one time isn’t that huge of a deal in commander. Also a bit surprised this isn’t a planeswalker commander. So given all that, I can definitely see playing this in the right kind of deck, where you’re already cheating out creatures, most likely ones that will die during your end step, such as via Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded or Sneak Attack or plenty of other red or black temporary reanimations or cheat out effects. Those kinds of decks.
FromTheShire: Ob Nixilis is back and he’s pissed, adding red to his identity for the first time. I’m not particularly interested in him for Commander but in constructed he’s much better, and I think there are some interesting implications of creating the non-Legendary token.
TheChirurgeon: This guy rules. I love the Casualty ability, and getting two planeswalkers for your investment on the cast is a great way to protect at least one of them. If there’s a downside, it’s that in constructed you’re not going to have a 7-power creature to sacrifice, and the +1 ability doesn’t affect the actual board much. Lots of cool combo possibilities to think about here, though.
BPhillipYork: This is extremely solid, I’m not sure why Gruul is doing treasure generation like this but okay. But um yes, this is super super good card.
FromTheShire: Cool card that can either be a mana dork or akin to a Coalition Relic if you’re willing to take some damage to store the mana. Generally I think you just want a regular dork but there are some other applications – for instance, this IS a cat after all.
TheChirurgeon: I like the red-green flavor of creating a treasure token as a replacement for adding 1 mana. Creates some interesting additional interactions and lets you store the mana away, which is cool.
BPhillipYork: I guess this is.. fine, this is fine. It’s fine.
FromTheShire: Good rate for a flying trampler, with the upside of being able to draw you cards, especially in the token builds these colors love to do already.
TheChirurgeon: This is as good as a white-green flyer is going to get.
BPhillipYork: Extremely solid, but this forces you to pick one opponent and exile a card from their hand, but this can be powerful, especially if you have ways to recur it, either through some flicker effects or else reanimation and sacrifice effects.
FromTheShire: Very good, doesn’t even give your opponent something in exchange when it dies or anything like a lot of these effects do, and most of those see play across various formats already. Even in Commander this isn’t bad for targeting the most threatening deck, especially if you can flicker it.
TheChirurgeon: Taking Tidehollow Sculler to the next level by adding blue and the effect is pretty great.
BPhillipYork: This is a confusing card but basically when you cast a 1 cost spell you get 2/2 white spirit creature token with flying, then each time you increase spell cost by 1 you get another creature, and then your creatures get +3/+3 when you hit 5 counters. This is mediocre at best imo.
FromTheShire: This is quite a bit of work that you need to draw and sequence in the correct order in order to get the payoff. Not a completely terrible inclusion in a Spirit tribal deck but not where I want to be personally. Too easy to see coming and be dealt with by the time it actually comes online.
BPhillipYork: This seems very playable in Esper color identity. Might struggle to hit the mark in 5-color and 4-color decks, but it has 3 worthwhile effects. Really have to focus on your manabase if you want to run cards like this.
FromTheShire: All of the modes are actually useful in Commander which is what you’re looking for in a Charm, a lot of them have like one good mode for us which is usually slightly overcosted. The fact that one of those modes is a frequently game saving counter carries a lot of water as well. In Modern I think we see this pop up as a powerful piece in Esper Control decks.
BPhillipYork: Probably too expensive, but the ability to stop a spell that’s normally uncounterable is important at times. You can also abuse these spells, I have a Appraoch of the Second Sun deck that wins by returning Approach of the Second sun to my hand so I can cast it again and win.
TheChirurgeon: This is cute, and the connive ability lets you drop a spell and get it back right away if you don’t have anything else to pick up.
FromTheShire: I love effects like this. My playgroups have frequently had uncounterable spells and the like pop up, and there’s nothing I love more than unexpectedly bouncing a spell to someone’s hand, tucking it, or otherwise dealing with a threat they thought was in the clear. Not a bad body to leave behind either, though I’d rather give up power and lifelink for cheapness in a vacuum.
TheChirurgeon: I had that exact same thought – Losing Lifelink and 1 power to make this a 2/1 for 1UB would have made it much more playable.
BPhillipYork: This is potentially a really powerful effect, with all the conniving and what not, though these types of effects are most common in Grixis colors there’s quite a few in black as well.
FromTheShire: A fun effect to play, but being only target player and not in red limits the upside here for me.
TheChirurgeon: Yeah having this with rummaging effects would help but as-is, I like it. Especially good with Connive effects. In constructed he’s a relevant body size and his ability is solid enough in small doses to keep your head above water against aggro decks long enough to stabilize.
BPhillipYork: Yeah this is really strong, very much a playable commander, connive X is a really powerful ability, and flying and ward 1 are also solid evasion and defensive abilities.
FromTheShire: Some serious digging through your deck here, and if Raffine is your target they can get into deadly Voltron range quickly. We have seen Esper tokens builds before but it’s not super common in Commander, and that’s one of the obvious ways to take advantage. Alternatively you can run a bunch of utility creatures and tutors and just try to find your combo a fast as possible.
BPhillipYork: Yeah um, so yes this is uh strong. Hella strong. Impulse effects are everywhere now and getting those cards back is incredibly strong. Also, the cards both enter and leave your graveyard, potentially generating even more triggers.
FromTheShire: I think this is a card you’re slotting into your 99 more often than not because the effect isn’t powerful enough to want to be your Commander. A very nice piece for connive or discard focused decks though, truly turning the graveyard into your second hand.
TheChirurgeon: It’s an interesting effect, for sure. I worry about him needing to die, as bounce or exile will just lose you those cards.
BPhillipYork: Wow a new destroy target permanent at instant speed. Nice. Really really nice solid card, but 3 colored mana means you are only going to see this in Esper decks.
TheChirurgeon: Hell yeah, this has a home in every Esper control deck, and the only question is how many you’re going to run.
FromTheShire: Oh baby. This is another instant addition to Esper Control lists, and it’s a spicy one. Between it, Obscura Charm, and the new Raffine’s Tower, there’s a very real chance that the Azorius Control decks that have been more popular of late in Historic and Pioneer have both the mana support and desire to try and push out to being Esper.
BPhillipYork: This seems ideal as another way to go infinite with Dramatic Reversal, but essentially putting your Isochron Scepter in the command zone. It’s a bit more elaborate. There’s also the potential of powerful loops of cards like taking turns spells or reanimation spells from your graveyard.
FromTheShire: The haste is sneakily great here, going a long way towards enabling loops. I do like that she both requires a mana to activate and that said mana can’t be used to activate her if you untap her, so you do have to actually put in some work to go infinite.
BPhillipYork: I’ve been wanting to make a Grixis exile deck so was quite excited to see some exile synergy on a commander. This sort of “exile the top of each players library” can be really solid. Pako and Haldan are really, really strong and run away with games. Vampires have plenty of token abilities, can run flickers and reanimations, so there’s a lot of ways to cause vampires to enter the battlefield. I also appreciate that it’s a play from exile not cast, letting you grab lands as well.
FromTheShire: As we were promised, a very unique and new take on Vampires and I dig it. Stealing other people’s stuff is extremely fun, and the flash effectively shuts off your opponents’ top deck tutors as well. Even just seeing 4 additional cards for each Vampire you play is hugely powerful.
BPhillipYork: The way I see this being played is possibly in decks that have very few utility creatures and or a weak commander, so something like a Grixis deck that runs a couple of important enablers, and needs to keep them alive. Except even the example I thought of was Prosper, Tome-Bound and he has 4 toughness so… 5 mana to cast this when you could just cast Damn. Or Damnation.
FromTheShire: Kind of a heavy mana requirement for a mini wrath, though I do like the ability to guarantee something dies and something else lives is neat. Not going to see much Commander play though.
BPhillipYork: I already built a deck around this guy, it’s a mean deck. Also kind of unfun for playing against, but that’s how Xander is designed. At 7 mana he is quite pricy, but you could also run this guy in other Grixis sacrifice decks, such as Marchesa.
FromTheShire: Big shock from the guy who has a Mogis Punisher deck as one of his pet favorites, I absolutely love this card. A great way to politic and make one person miserable, you do have to be aware that this will likely suffer from the Raffiq problem, where some players want to kill you on site for even having Xander in the Command Zone.
BPhillipYork: Yeah this is berserk strong. Like game-winning strong. Kess as an enchantment for sacrificing creatures, something that red and black often like to do anyway.
FromTheShire: Extremely powerful value engine.
TheChirurgeon: This is so bonkers good I’m surprised it doesn’t specify a non-token creature, though I guess they figure those are rare enough in Grixis they don’t need to. Giving Flashback to spells in your graveyard has always been good.
BPhillipYork: This charm seems a lot weaker than the Esper charm. Look at 5 and dump 4, or 3 life loss and gain 3, or 5 damage just doesn’t seem worth playing for 3 colored mana.
FromTheShire: It’s definitely weaker but it still has a home in some decks that are looking to fuel their yard, while occasionally being removal when needed.
BPhillipYork: I love these devil tokens, really really solid control cards for red/black so on a Grixis body with haste seems very doable. Also vampire is a pretty useful race to have at this point it seems.
FromTheShire: A useful piece for the Evelyn deck, which is also why this makes Devils and not Vampires, because triggering her this often would have been a bit much.
BPhillipYork: I mean, yeah I guess for like extra combat decks. Maybe. Sort of. No, the answer is no. Just no.
FromTheShire: The most linear of abilities, but still a strong one, and any time you start doubling things it can get wildly out of control. Absolutely expect to see some Voltron decks with extra combat steps running this guy.
TheChirurgeon: Yeah I can see this guy helping power out some stupid combat steps, particularly when you combine him with other more efficient beaters in green. The question will be whether there’s room for a Jund aggro deck that wants him. He’s a great combo with Ziatora’s Envoy, though.
BPhillipYork: Yeah this seems really dangerous to be honest. Especially with Blitz in the mix. Mass generating treasures like this in multiple ways in Korvold, Fae Cursed colors with cards like Mayhem Devil and Disciple of the Vault is um, something else.
TheChirurgeon: I really like this as a ramp effect for Jund.
FromTheShire: Now this is some serious mana generation. Haste is already one of the best abilities to have, and rewarding you with the mana to play your next threat and keep the ball accelerating is excellent.
BPhillipYork: Um this is crazy. This is an absolutely crazy card. Truly this card can just cause berserk things to happen, I don’t even. For Jund sacrifice you’re just getting so much value out of this card, and recurring powerful utility creatures, like Dockside Extortionist or things with other powerful ETBs.
FromTheShire: So much value here. Thankfully this is limited to once per turn so it’s not an instant reverse Pod go off effect but the potential to make huge things happen in one wheel of the table is certainly there.
BPhillipYork: Super strong. Impulse 3 with play not cast is super strong, and Jund sacrifice got a huge boost in this set, so forcing your opponent to sacrifice their commander or a game-winning planeswalker is a strong secondary control mode when needed. Graveyard exiling is also a way of shutting down an entirely different kind of deck.
FromTheShire: Three good modes again. Forcing them to sacrifice their best creature, effectively drawing three cards, and maybe most importantly shutting down the graveyard in a format where an absolute ton of decks use it as a second hand.
BPhillipYork: I like Excess damage (spell trample) as a mechanic, and I hope to see more of it. This is a bit pricy, but 4 for a flexible 2 for one 1 is definitely playable. Also, it doesn’t have to be the same opponent’s permanents, and that is an important non-caveat.
TheChirurgeon: They keep trying to make spell trample happen and I like this way of implementing it. The utility here is going to depend heavily on the cost of the most common artifacts, though you can always hit a treasure token if you really need something.
FromTheShire: An interesting one. In Commander we have ways to do these things with more surety for less mana, but I could see this being a good piece of removal in Standard if you care enough about paying extra to tack artifact or enchantment removal on to your kill spell.
BPhillipYork: Erm yeah this thing is a boss. I mean 4 mana but getting a free cast is potentially huge. Totally playable in slower more durdly decks.
FromTheShire: Nice way to get extra value in the most value focused colors. Being able to hit both lands and spells is great as well.
TheChirurgeon: I like how this scales with power. Already thinking about how I can build with this guy and Orfeo.
BPhillipYork: Uh yeah this is crazy for loops of sacrificing and death triggers in Jund. Doesn’t unseat Korvold but it is strong. Making treasures while sacrificing creatures, the treasures let you get even more sacrifices… just crazy. Expensive though so building into that takes some work.
FromTheShire: A fun deck, but the ability only triggering once per turn on your turn doesn’t really do it for me. Still, a great piece for when you want to Jund people out in Commander.
BPhillipYork: This is solid card draw or selection, and can be leveraged with top of library manipulation effects.
FromTheShire: Not a bad draw effect, though you have to keep in mind your number of targets when playing cards like this. If you have a 35% chance of actually getting a card it’s okay, if you start dropping down below 30% I don’t think it is, especially since you have access to much more powerful and consistent green card draw.
BPhillipYork: For Naya tokens which is a strong theme in this set and already has some support, this is a strong card. The first mode doesn’t blow me away, but for go-wide strategies this is a nice flexible card, and an instant, where white now has a lot of “do something nice the first time during a turn” which, as an instant, this lets you leverage those abilities.
FromTheShire: Decent little utility spell but nothing flashy in Commander. Elsewhere I think this is a great piece for Naya decks.
BPhillipYork: Get some more keywords and we’ll talk.
FromTheShire: We’ve seen Mantis Rider do work at some points, but this is an extra mana and not in blue so we’ll have to see how good this works out to be in the meta. The pieces are all there at least.
TheChirurgeon: It’ll really depend on whether the format slows down enough to make it work. The individual power level of the card is definitely there and Trample is a decent enough replacement for flying. But right now most Naya aggro in standard are Naya Rune decks that don’t need this. Could be something we see rotate into decks later this year, though.
BPhillipYork: These potentially one-sided non-token sweeps are really interesting and they are starting to pile up enough of them that they are actually playable and somewhat reliable.
FromTheShire: A solid most likely one sided sweeper for Naya Tokens decks. Yeah this is solid card draw or selection, and can be leveraged with top of library manipulation effects. Very specific but very good when it’s good.
TheChirurgeon: The nontoken rider is great, and it’s likely to combine well with other Cabaretti effects to give us something that looks like a Naya tokens deck. Also works just fine with the effects that create 4/4 angel tokens.
BPhillipYork: So yeah, uh this guy is totally awesome for go-wide Naya. +3/+0 with double strike and trample is really something else, and hitting those kinds of numbers shouldn’t be hard if that is what your deck does. The biggest risk is an unrecoverable board clear, but this set offers yet another way to survive those.
FromTheShire: Speaking of Naya Tokens….You’re going to get vigilance easily which is a fantastic, underrated ability, most likely get trample, and if you happen to have this out while nobody has drawn their interaction and can make it to double strike territory, this wraps games up with the quickness. Love it. Pack plenty of board wipe protection.
BPhillipYork: Um so to me, like, as far as I am concerned, the point of a card like this is to get one in play with a Chatterfang, Squirrel General and an Academy Manufactor and then generate a treasure or something and be like okay so here’s what happens. Definitely fun for a cats and dogs deck, obviously synergy with Rin and Seri, Inseperable.
FromTheShire: Moving along to another great Naya Tokens piece, this can both upgrade your tokens depending on what you were making while also being another copy of Doubling Season – outstanding. Tailor made for the Rin and Seri, Inseperable deck.
TheChirurgeon: This is a really strong effect for Tokens decks, where you can get crazy value out of every point of power you add on to your team.
BPhillipYork: Kind of a weird card, but I’d definitely see running this as a commander for a deck that can generate a huge amount of mana. A hulk pile is still a thing. It’s interesting that it isn’t something like “x where x is the amount of mana spent to cast this spell minus 3” or something to let you tick it up with commander tax, but then it would be incredibly dangerous.
FromTheShire: This will absolutely end games but you want it in your 99 not the Command Zone.
TheChirurgeon: I like this guy a lot as an tutor effect for Naya. Agree that you don’t want him as your Commander, but ramping into a big cast of him early could let you do some bonkers stuff.
BPhillipYork: Wowza. The combination with Atraxa is really something else. This will let you rapidly ramp out of control with counters, especially if you get something into play that can leverage this with a bonus. Very worth it for decks that care about these kinds of counters. Also Sage of Hours really dangerous with this, Atraxa frequently struggles to get those counters started, and this does it completely easily.
FromTheShire: Another tailor made card, this is going to be an absolute groan inducing kill on sight threat at most tables. Superfriends lists can struggle and this is a hugely useful piece for them.
BPhillipYork: This is a pretty balanced solid charm, for the common control colors makes sense, backup mode of draw 2 is totally fine, so you’ll always get value, and having it a free “pseudo-fight” I think it’s called claw or punch or something by R&D, but that’s solid and fine, also since it deals damage you can get some triggers off that (I’m thinking things like lifelink, or whenever ~ deals damage).
FromTheShire: Three useful modes again, 2 varieties of removal and a draw spell which is very solid.
BPhillipYork: This is a little disappointing unless you need shield counters and have a way to spread them around. There are ways to leverage double strike, Coastal Piracy is whenever a creature you control deals combat damage, so this could be potentially meeting you 2 draws a turn (or more if you run Bident of Thassa or Reconnaissance Mission)
FromTheShire: In constructed this is going to be a nasty little threat with both built in protection and double strike, and that’s assuming you don’t have other ways to manipulate shield counters. The shield makes Auras more interesting as well.
BPhillipYork: There are a lot of interesting things you can do with this card. Put a gilded drake back on top of your library, or grab back something out of a grave you want to recast, or prevent a reanimation or just use it to get rid of a spell or permanent you don’t like. It’s so flexible, and in Bant its easier to get up to 3 colored mana, so I definitely see running this in a lot of decks.
FromTheShire: Remember how I said I loved weird counter-esque effects? Yeah this is a great one. Deals with game ending spells, problematic permanents, and offers targeted graveyard removal. Simply outstanding.
TheChirurgeon: This is super-annoying in the best way. It’s great removal in every format and a solid counter. I want this in my Cube.
BPhillipYork: I like this a lot, feels fun and balanced, look at the top of your library is nice anyway, and removing counters can be useful. Devoted Druid springs to mind as the obvious source, but there are other counters you don’t want (animated Sagas springs to mind as a minor obsession of mine).
FromTheShire: Even if you’re removing beneficial counters not negative ones, being able to play off the top of your library is hugely powerful
BPhillipYork: So this card is a nice removal spell, and you can really leverage this in weird ways if you give creatures away, things like Zedru, the Greathearted, or other trades.
FromTheShire: A neat little temporary removal spell, I think you mainly drop this to get in a massive attack not just because you felt like sweeping the board, but targeting a few specific threats isn’t bad either.
TheChirurgeon: I like this effect a lot. Commander could use a few more ORing effects that scale to your number of opponents.
BPhillipYork: There are some really dangerous things you can do with this guy as a pure draw engine. I don’t know if you noticed all the “create an unblockable fish” cards but you can really leverage this with Coastal Piracy et al. I already built a conquest deck with him as the commander.
FromTheShire: Certainly some power here, but I’m not sure it does enough to make it out of the 99.
BPhillipYork: Yeah, this is okay, Avatar tribal. Probably one of your best cast scenarios is you have treasures you want to cash in, but also have selective permanent destruction going on, and you could potentially flicker it various ways to really get going.
FromTheShire: In Commander this isn’t bad for dealing with troublesome permanents though it is a pretty hefty chunk of mana when you would likely prefer 1/3 the cost for 1/3 of the targets. In other formats this costs a million and will also get you killed almost instantly.
BPhillipYork: Yeah this seems fun. Not like good, but fun. Multicolor deck go.
FromTheShire: A kind of Niv-Mizzet Reborn effect, expect to see your favorite streamer trying to break this in some format on their longshot segment. Massively powerful once you start chaining them together.
BPhillipYork: If you’re using this to return creatures with powerful ETBs this can be a fun card. The timing and play patterns of vehicles like this is a bit weak though.
FromTheShire: Definitely a fun little value bounce card.
BPhillipYork: This card can potentially create some really weird scenarios, for one thing it means your Planeswalkers can no longer be attacked so they can just sit there and power up to win the game. It also lets you insta-ult by equipping this onto a creature, then getting it killed, putting the loyalty counters on the Ozolith, then putting those counters onto a different (now also equipped) planeswalker. Some of the planeswalker ultimates are scary (I’ve never lost a game where I resolved Tamiyo, Field Researcher and got her emblem). Also it’s kind of totally in Gideon’s face.
TheChirurgeon: Elspeth has a way to be Gideon, but she’s not Indestructible as a creature. Ironically this is much better on classic Elspeth, with her double-plus loyalty abilities. Could be cool on Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor, though.
FromTheShire: Super cool card, there’s some fun stuff you can do here, and I extra like that they made this cheap enough to actually really make you do the thing. Auto-include in Superfriends decks, I think we’re going to see a lot of this.
BPhillipYork: Nice. Nice way to strip out cards from graveyard and then if you need generate a huge fattie vehicle. Also, instant speed so you can respond to someone’s Deathrite Shaman.
FromTheShire: Targeted graveyard hate that is “on tribe” for vehicle decks, excellent. being able to turn into a beater while it does it is even better.
BPhillipYork: Triomes are what they are, nice, playable, flexible enough and fill your manabase pretty well, back up cycling if you don’t need them or can get lands out of your graveyard. Nice to see the cycle completed. Oh yeah, why aren’t these in the precons? The cycle of precons, one for each of these… Raffine’s Tower should be in the Obscura Oculus precon right? Am I crazy here? I feel like this is so obvious that it’s kind of out of control.
TheChirurgeon: You are absolutely not crazy and it’s continually stupid that WotC don’t just package the good duals from every set into buyable precons. These are great and as with the Ikoria lands, I need to get a set of 20.
FromTheShire: Triomes have been absolutely massive across multiple formats, doing so much to mana fix, and it’s great to have the cycle finished. Criminal not to have them in the Commander product.
BPhillipYork: Yeah basically new fetch lands though they ETB tapped, but given they grab 1 of 3 lands instead of 2 I think these are probably playable. They are also triggered pretty carefully so you can’t go nuts with Panharmonicon, and also they are triggered, so you can’t save them for when you want to reshuffle after a Brainstorm. All in all these are significantly weaker than the strongest fetches, but still playable.
TheChirurgeon: This feels like a weird in-between for Terramorphic Expanse and the Shards of Alara fetch lands. They’re pretty weak, but you could get by with these in limited formats or Commander.
FromTheShire: Yeah in general Commander play these are fine, not great. Like you’d prefer an actual fetch but are those actually 25+ dollars better performing in a typical game? Absolutely not.
Next Time: Commander Decks
That wraps up our look at the set’s multicolored and colorless cards. Join us next time as we do a deeper dive into the Commander decks released alongside the set, picking out our favorites, and talking about the future build-arounds. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.