Set Prospective

Streets of New Capenna

May 9th, 2022 — Parker LaMascus

This article is one of our set prospectives, a series in which we survey the Cube community about the cards they intend to play in their cubes from a particular set. Our survey is conducted between the set’s full-spoiler and official release and is meant to measure and document Cube designers’ first impressions of new cards.

Everybody call your godfather and assemble the crime family — Streets of New Capenna is bribing its way into cubes near you! We collected surveys from 255 cubes designed by 230 individuals to get the Cube community’s impressions of Magic’s latest set. When the respondents curate environments as diverse as a mono green cubes, Peasant EDH cubes, and even Infinite Mana Cubes, there’s sure to be something for everyone.

Results

Cube curators are somewhat ambivalent towards New Capenna as a whole, but many respondents nonetheless found individual cards worth their excitement. The median respondent is testing 9 cards from SNC and gave 3 cards a strong rating above 2.5, a distribution that closely hews to the lackluster reception of past sets like Crimson Vow and Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Roughly 43% of our respondents were retained from the contentious-yet-popular Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, which is about on par with our 48% retention from MID to NEO and the 45% retention from MH2 to MID, so we can safely ascribe the mixed results for New Capenna to a a difference in our respondents’ attitudes, rather than a change in who’s responding.

View our respondents on the Cube Map.

Filter by rarity:
Card TestersRank 
Tenacious Underdog48.9%2.2
Ziatora's Proving Ground40.3%2.7
Raffine's Tower40.3%2.7
Xander's Lounge39.8%2.7
Spara's Headquarters39.8%2.7
Jetmir's Garden38.5%2.7
Inspiring Overseer35.3%2.5
Ob Nixilis, the Adversary33.0%2.3
Titan of Industry26.7%2.2
Goldhound26.7%1.9
Jewel Thief24.9%2.3
Sticky Fingers19.5%1.9
Jinnie Fay, Jetmir's Second19.5%2.2
Scheming Fence18.6%2.2
Gala Greeters18.6%1.9
Professional Face-Breaker18.1%2.0
Ledger Shredder17.2%2.0
Witness Protection16.7%2.0
Unlicensed Hearse16.3%2.1
Citizen's Crowbar15.8%2.0
Raffine's Informant15.4%2.0
Strangle14.9%2.1
Unlucky Witness14.5%1.8
Mage's Attendant14.0%2.2
Workshop Warchief13.6%2.2
Tainted Indulgence12.7%2.0
Make Disappear12.7%2.0
Patch Up10.9%2.1
Jaxis, the Troublemaker10.4%1.8
Rumor Gatherer10.4%1.9
Big Score10.0%2.1
Sanctuary Warden9.5%1.9
A Little Chat9.5%1.8
Extraction Specialist9.0%1.8
Shakedown Heavy8.6%1.9
Illuminator Virtuoso8.6%2.0
Depopulate8.6%2.0
All-Seeing Arbiter8.1%2.0
Rob the Archives8.1%2.0
An Offer You Can't Refuse8.1%2.1
Luxior, Giada's Gift7.7%2.0
Witty Roastmaster7.7%2.0
Giada, Font of Hope7.2%1.8
Body Launderer7.2%1.8
Vivien on the Hunt7.2%1.8
Riveteers Requisitioner6.8%1.9
Body Dropper6.8%2.3
Mayhem Patrol6.8%2.1
Riveteers Charm6.3%2.1
Night Clubber6.3%2.0
Raffine, Scheming Seer6.3%1.9
Waterfront District5.9%2.6
Tramway Station5.9%2.6
Racers' Ring5.9%2.5
Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer5.9%2.0
Void Rend5.9%1.9
Toluz, Clever Conductor5.9%1.9
Slip Out the Back5.9%2.2
Hypnotic Grifter5.9%1.8
Prizefight5.4%1.9
Skybridge Towers5.4%2.6
Botanical Plaza5.4%2.6
Park Heights Pegasus5.4%2.0
Dusk Mangler5.4%2.0
Reservoir Kraken5.0%1.7
Fight Rigging5.0%1.9
Endless Detour5.0%2.4
Boon of Safety5.0%2.0
Glittering Stockpile4.5%1.8
Elspeth Resplendent4.5%1.7
Devilish Valet4.5%1.8
Brokers Ascendancy4.5%2.0
Quick-Draw Dagger4.5%1.6
Obscura Charm4.5%2.2
Cards being tested by fewer than 10 respondents not shown.
Single Card Discussion
The “Triomes”
Jetmir's Garden
Ziatora's Proving Ground
Raffine's Tower
Spara's Headquarters
Xander's Lounge

These supremely flexible and fetchable lands complete a cycle begun in Ikoria and constitute the most highly-rated cards from New Capenna. Indeed, even relative to the Triomes of Ikoria, the New Capenna lands were rated 10% higher on average, from 2.4 all the way to 2.7. We’ve observed that Constructed play and well-known comparison points are a sure-fire sign of survey success.

“This set is great, but not very many cards are going to make it into Cubes because many options are 3 colors.”

Even so, as top-rated cards in these surveys go, the Triomes’ 40% share of respondents is far from record-setting. The top-rated Consider from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt achieved a similar rating but was tested by 96.7% of those respondents! It’s likely that the subset of designers who are testing the Triomes already know that the tri-lands fit their goals, as a highly-contested element of a Cube draft phase and/or enablers for certain archetypes and effects, and as a known quantity are added with the expectation of keeping them around.

Welcome to the Family
Tenacious Underdog
Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
Titan of Industry
Jinnie Fay, Jetmir's Second

The most-tested card of New Capenna is the Tenacious Underdog. Not only is its art a delightful reference to American Gilded Age paintings like George BellowsDempsey and Firpo, but the Underdog’s Blitz ability emulates popular recursive aggro threats in the Black sections of many cubes, and implicitly enables popular synergies like Aristocrats. However, its 48% test-rate still falls well short of top most popular cards from the recent past.

“New Capenna feels more combat/creature focused than recent sets. Even Casualty is tied directly to creatures, which makes it very interesting.”
— Grumblegamer

Ob Nixilis, The Adversary (already better-known by the sobriquet “Mob Nixilis”) offers a novel combination of planeswalker mechanics for the low price of {1}{B}{R}, echoing the powerful planeswalking mainstays of many a Cube. Again, we see Nixilis fall short of truly universal appeal, both by its middling popularity of 33% and its average rating of 2.3, but 3-mana planeswalkers walk such a razor-thin line between mediocrity and dominance that The Adversary will be one to watch.

Like John Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie before it, Titan of Industry is not someone you want as your enemy. (But instead of forming monopolies and busting unions, this Titan just busts up battlefield stalemates.) The modality and rate on the Titan is remarkable, and its reasonable mana value means it can flex between the role of cheat target or ramp payoff in cubes that support both strategies.

Rounding out the most-tested rares of New Capenna is Jinnie Fay, Jetmir's Second, whose flapper gown is more fabulous than anything, save her Divine Visitation-adjacent rules text. Jinnie's eminently flexible hybrid-mana cost and novel rules text is a recipe for spicing up the stale synergies of 16.3% of our respondents’ cubes.

Uncommonly Appealing
Inspiring Overseer
Jewel Thief
Goldhound
Sticky Fingers

Neck-and-neck with the rares and mythics of the prior section is a surprising quartet of common roleplayers. Beating out Mob Nixilis at a 31% test-rate is Inspiring Overseer, whose color-shifted ability appeals to Cube curators who support flicker strategies, as well as rarity-restricted curators. Its dominance in the early weeks of New Capenna Limited no doubt contributes to its notoriety.

Goldhound is the latest in a long line of synergistic "glue" commons, whose textbox is so densely synergistic that it can’t help but interact with a wide variety of other cards — put simply, Goldhound will synergize with a ham sandwich. Though its rate may fall short of Red’s premier one-drops, 24% of our respondents are testing the Goldhound, at least partly due to this opportunity to create novel interactions.

Jewel Thief offers a funky spin on a Watchwolf-with-upside threat, where immediacy is traded for a powerful ability suite and a slight rebate on mana. The additional lines of text relative to Watchwolf create additional opportunities for synergy, which combined with the strong rate is enough to recommend the Thief for testing in nearly a quarter of respondents’ cubes.

Finally, the success of Sticky Fingers in our survey cannot possibly be because of its novel rules text combined with an intriguingly high ceiling. No, it can only be due to one thing: Andy Mangold has suddenly manifested “the SaffronOlive effect” of boosting the popularity of any card he endorses on air. While it’s endlessly reassuring to know our respondents are faithful listeners of Lucky Paper Radio, they should remember that Andy has 0 Pro Tour wins under his belt, and all his podcast statements are only statements of opinion. Consult a registered Pro Tour competitor before making any financial decisions concerning New Capenna bulk commons.

Conclusion

The Streets of New Capenna might be as dirty and mean as the Gilded Age from which they take inspiration, but the set offers a smorgasboard of options for Cube curators. While no card garnered a majority endorsement this time around, the high ratings and low test rates signify that the card file is stuffed to the margins with hidden gems. Dig deep, and you’re sure to find a diamond in the rough.

My own thoughts:

Gold sections don’t have to be a pain point in Cube design. Following in the footsteps of recent multicolor sets like Strixhaven, New Capenna offers a huge array of pushed multicolor rates, from flexible removal to rate monsters — but relatively few people are testing these cards, fearing that they won’t be worth the slot, or will clog up drafts, or won’t be very castable.

“It’s nice to have so many multicolored options available in the set - the gold cards will have a hard time finding open slots, but, I don’t think the ones I pick up here will be dethroned any time soon.”

These concerns are valid, but plenty of workarounds exist for designers disappointed to be missing out on New Capenna’s most prominent feature. For example, when I recently cut Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath from my cube, I didn’t think of it as an irreversible cut; instead, I channeled my inner football coach who benches their starters throughout a match. Knowing that Uro isn’t gone forever allows me to experiment freely with other options. Similarly, prior versions of my cube have had 2 “tri-color flex slots” so I could shuffle in whatever cards I liked, without taking too many slots away from my cube’s consistency. You could even go more radical with some “wild card” vouchers during draft that can be exchanged for the drafter’s choice of 3-color cards.

Uhh, where’s Ledger Shredder, people? If the Vintage playsets and $8 price tag are anything to go by, the power-motivated segment of our respondents missed by a lot on this Bird Advisor. There are a few actionable insights here: one, preview season card evaluation is tough and nobody bats a thousand; two, New Capenna’s apparent lack of strong consensus in our results says more about its (lack of) Constructed hype than it does about the actual viability of its card file for Cube; and three, if Constructed-style card evals apply to your format, you’ll probably test fewer duds if you wait until the first tournament results roll in before filling up your shopping cart.

“Tenacious Underdog is super hot 😱. That is my only comment.”
— Tigar

The art of New Capenna heralds an aesthetic sea change. It’s hard to top the sheer variety of Magic art, given the non-representational abstract pieces, winking artistic references, and real-world craftsmanship we’ve seen before. But New Capenna is the first time a Magic set’s aesthetic widely emulates identifiable styles of Western art history: there’s post-Impressionist flattening of 3-D perspectives, like the still-life paintings of Paul Cézanne; there’s the distorted humanoid forms of the war-time Expressionism of Otto Dix’s The Skat Players; and there’s even a little bit of a Paul Klee in the whimsy of Ognis, the Dragon’s Lash. Coming right after NEO, whose art embodied many themes of Eastern artistic tradition, it’s clear Magic’s creative team is at the top of their game. The talent, daring, and craft of Magic’s artists is a privilege and a joy to witness.

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