Nimble Larcenist Art by Volkan Baga

Three New Grindy Decks Made Possible by Streets of New Capenna


Hello fellow gamers. To say that I am excited about the Streets of New Capenna would be an understatement. Those of you who may have read a few of my articles in the past know that I enjoy two things: Decks that start at three colors and go up from there and decks that grind. The new set is definitely scratching both of those itches for me.

We get a whole new bundle of Triomes which we anxiously awaited since Ikoria gave us the first batch of them many moons ago. Three-color decks are not only going to be easier to pull off, but I think they are recommended at this point. We also get access to a whole bevy of new and exciting spells that, if I am being honest, lean heavily towards favoring controlling and grindy strategies.

I am going to explore those elements in three theorycrafted decks below. A disclaimer first: Bear in mind it is likely none of these decks will survive first contact with the enemy as we don’t even know what the enemy looks like yet! The mental acrobatics required to really understand the format don’t exist in a vacuum, at least not for me, so play testing and tweaking will be needed. All of that being said, I think each of these decks has the kernel of something very promising. For me, the Esper deck is my front runner as it received at least 6, if not more, new format staples.


Esper Control Standard – The List

Void Rend Art by Rovina Cai
Void Rend Art by Rovina Cai

Let’s start with that promising color pie first. I have had great success with Esper (Obsucra) in all formats from Historic, Alchemy, and Standard. I would say that lately it’s been a mixed bag of success but I am certain that is about to change.

Here is the list I am thinking of running:

Obscura Control
by Josh
Standard
best of 3
13 mythic
34 rare
10 uncommon
3 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (6)
3
Kaito Shizuki
$29.97
1
Niko Aris
$0.79
Instants (17)
3
Vanishing Verse
$10.47
4
Void Rend
$7.96
4
Obscura Charm
$1.00
Sorceries (2)
1
Doomskar
$1.99
1
Emeria’s Call
$6.99
Artifacts (2)
Enchantments (3)
Lands (25)
1
Island
$0.25
1
Plains
$0.25
1
Swamp
$0.25
1
Field of Ruin
$0.25
3
Shipwreck Marsh
$14.97
3
Deserted Beach
$35.97
60 Cards
$538.7
Sideboard
1
Vanishing Verse
$3.49
3
Test of Talents
$2.37
1
Soul Shatter
$1.49
3
Doomskar
$5.97
15 Cards
$27.79

The Plan

This plan is not revolutionary nor is this concept new, we have a standard land-go control; what is new is the tools we have in our toolkit to make this really work. Early on, our aim is to respond to any play our opponent makes.  From turn two forward, we should be removing and or countering everything; with the introduction of Void Rend there is no target off-limits. We have so much redundancy here with Obscura Charm, Jwari Disruption, Vanishing Verse, March of Otherworldly Light et cetera, that we have the means to make this plan possible.

We can tap out too if we would like to drop a Kaito Shizuki, or Reckoner Bankbuster as these are difficult to remove and we can respond to their follow-up play with removal anyway. I am not at all nervous to -2 on Kaito the turn this Ninja hits the board. If they have a burn spell to knock this planeswalker out, we have 4 copies of Obscura Charm to bring it back. If our opponent declines to make a play on their end step, we can punish them with Tainted Indulgence or an activation of our Reckoner Bankbuster to restock our hand.

As we near four and five lands we now gain access to a lot of instant speed threats including The Wandering Emperor and new-comer Obscura Interceptor. These will help us gain tempo and incremental advantage as The Wandering Emperor is excellent removal and/or pressure while Obscura Interceptor can stall a spell and replenish some life.

From there we exhaust our opponent of resources giving us time for Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, Emeria's Call, and Hall of Storm Giants a chance to mop up. We also have one other durable top end threat that has caught my fancy in the form of Sanctuary Warden.

New Card Choices

I am not going to break down each card since a lot of these are the usual suspects, but I wanted to spend some time on some of the new cards in this deck and why I think they are good.

First, we have Obscura Charm which is just a beautiful card, I cannot imagine too many scenarios where you are unhappy to draw it and even less where it’s completely dead in hand. Each mode will be useful depending on the situation. Against control we have pseudo Negate that can help us force through a threat. Against aggro decks there will be no shortage of 3 CMC or less targets to Eliminate. The recurrence mode seems tailor-made for Kaito Shizuki, and in a pinch, Nimble Larcenist and Niko Aris are also fine targets. The best part of this card is truly the flexibility it affords.

When Void Rend was spoiled my first reaction was “What were you thinking Wizards? Were you thinking that its time for control to shine? Were you thinking that mono-colored decks are so passe? Whatever you were thinking I thank you from the bottom of my control-loving heart.”

As Doggert mentioned in his constructed breakdown a neat interaction to remember with Void Rend is it ignores ward effects which seems to be increasingly relevant as more and more cards seem to have this keyword. It is also important to note that cards like Malevolent Hermit just saw their stock plummet.

I am little less certain about how good Tainted Indulgence is and we may end up going with Memory Deluge or a split. There were at least 3 very interesting cards from the Obscura guild spoiled that focus on this five unique CMCs in the graveyard: Aven Heartstabber, Obscura Ascendancy, and of course Tainted Indulgence. Of these, Tainted Indulgence seemed to have the best fail-case scenario. While its not perhaps as good as Expressive Iteration, it has several advantages over it:

  • First and most obvious is that it’s instant speed which is what we’re looking to mainly operate on.
  • Second, we can actually cast this card on turn two which is never advisable with Expressive Iteration.
  •  Last, chucking a card into the graveyard is not always a bad thing. Even if our deck doesn’t really focus on it, we do have Obscura Charm that can help us recur something we may have tossed away.

It may be worth playing something like Evolving Wilds (really missing Fabled Passage right now) just to give us an easier time of getting 5 different CMC cards in our graveyard. On a side note, cards like Obscura Storefront are only a marginal upgrade to Evolving Wilds and the only reason I would run these tapped fetch lands is to feed the graveyard.

Sanctuary Warden seems right at home in a deck that runs very few threats. From the very early days, control mages saw the value of running hard-to-kill creatures like Eternal Dragon, Aetherling, and Nezahal, Primal Tide were often great additions.

These days, most decks run a fair amount of creature removal so as a control mage, when you finally do play one of your precious few threats, the only cards remaining in your opponent’s hand are probably removal. Sanctuary Warden can absorb a full three premium removal spells before hitting the bin.

Not only that, this angel is a great source of card advantage and I can easily imagine it and Kaito Shizuki working together to generate an army of 1/1 chump blockers and drawing an extra two cards a turn to boot. I am also really excited to get into a state where I can cast Doomskar and the only creature to emerge from the rubble is my giant angel beater.


Shigeki Detour Ramp – The List

Shigeki, Jukai Visionary Art by Anna Podedworna
Shigeki, Jukai Visionary Art by Anna Podedworna

Our next deck features one of my favorite color pies that really does not see much love these days. When Endless Detour was spoiled, I thought immediately: well, here is a card that makes Bant (Brokers) worth exploring further. My next thought was holy smokes this would be annoying to loop with Shigeki, Jukai Visionary.

Here is the list:

Endless Detour Shigeki Ramp
by Josh
Standard
Ramp
best of 3
6 mythic
32 rare
11 uncommon
11 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (2)
1
Wrenn and Seven
$12.99
Instants (5)
4
Endless Detour
$1.00
Sorceries (4)
2
Emeria’s Call
$13.98
Artifacts (4)
Enchantments (6)
1
Druid Class
$0.69
1
Felidar Retreat
$0.79
Lands (23)
6
Forest
$1.50
2
Island
$0.50
3
Plains
$0.75
1
Field of Ruin
$0.25
60 Cards
$195.96
15 Cards
$46.15

As you may have noticed this is sort of a mutation of the Seleynsa Ramp deck with some new blue control elements.

The Plan

Our plan on the early turns is to ramp as soon as possible, and to that end, we have Murasa Rootgrazer, Topiary Stomper, Druid Class, and even Shigeki, Jukai Visionary to help. You will note that even though this is a three-color deck, it is definitely a base green and white with just a smidge of blue. This configuration allows us to play 11 basics aiding the ability of both Murasa Rootgrazer and Topiary Stomper to ramp us.

During the mid-game we have the potential to go quite wide with Wedding Announcement, Felidar Retreat, and Esika's Chariot. While these are all great by themselves, I think Brokers Ascendancy is quite batty when you pair it with token generators like these. We also look to keep our hand full with Reckoner Bankbuster activations so we’re rarely running out of gas.

Another nice element in the deck is access to a lesoon-board thanks to Professor of Symbology; cards like Mascot Exhibition and Containment Breach are great by themselves and even better to cast multiple times thanks to Shigeki. The Professor of Symbology is one of those cards you don’t mind seeing early or late as there is usually something in the board we can pull to advance our position.

The top end of our curve features Titan of Industry and Sanctuary Warden which are excellent, durable threats and welcome targets to recur with Shigeki. I think one of the reasons we have not seen more Shigeki decks right now is that some of the best cards in the format tend to be legendary at the moment. It’s nice to see non-legendary cards that we are not embarrassed to play.

To get to that top end, we can buy time with our suite of interactive spells including four copies of Endless Detour and a lone copy of March of Otherworldly Light. As the game drags on, we should have built up a sufficient mana advantage which we can use to channel Shigeki to really pull ahead. We even have a sort of soft-lock on our opponents through looping Bala Ged Recovery, Endless Detour, and Shigeki, truly making the detour their spells take endless.

What’s great is we have an excellent sideboard as well. Is the opponent playing heavy control elements? Side in our Test of Talents and Niko Aris. Are they an aggressive deck? We have access to Workshop Warchief and Doomskar to help blunt that aggression.

As you can see, we have many avenues of attack making it hard for our opponent to shut us down and many ways to disrupt our opponent which in my mind is hallmark of a good deck.

New Card Choices

Let’s break down some of the new cards in this list and why I think they will have a home in standard.

Doggert also highlighted Topiary Stomper in his constructed review and I agree with him that this card has potential; while this creature is not going to be thrown into any deck, in a ramp focused shell it certainly has merit. The trick is how quickly can we get to seven lands to turn this into an asset rather then just a subpar ramp spell which we are easily capable of.

Another great facet of this card is that it can be recurred with Shigeki. Since our plan is often to go long and grind out our opponent, I can see a game state where we have thinned out most of the basics in our deck and have assembled a massive mana advantage for which we certainly have an outlet. Topiary Stomper to me is a card with a “U” shaped potential, that is, were happy to see it on turn 3 to advance our mana position and then again in later turns when we hit 7 mana as an efficient beater. The middle stages between those two mana thresholds are not as impactful, but in multiples this card can help its kin get activated so we are not exactly sad to see duplicate copies either.

We would normally be pretty exposed to Farewell given the amount of board presence we are looking to establish, but having four copies of Endless Detour will really help buy us time to finish them off, and unlike say Test of Talents, it’s a card we not worried to main deck. We know it will always be useful against any matchup.

Much like Drown in the Loch was a staple for Rogues, Endless Detour also has amazing flexibility to interact with the stack or remove a resolved threat. As mentioned earlier, we can really give our opponent’s headaches by repeatedly rerouting any threatening spell they attempt to resolve once Shigeki starts recurring this card. In a pinch, we can even recur Shigeki itself by targeting our own graveyard with Endless Detour.

Sanctuary Warden and Titan of Industry provide us with excellent value: they both have enter-the-battlefield effects and they both have a way to protect themselves with shield counters. Furthermore, they both have inherent card advantage which is inherently great, and finally, they both can close the game out in the hurry due to their large evasive (trample/flying) bodies. What more could you ask for in top-end threats?

Finally, we have Brokers Ascendancy. I am hesitant to include more than one copy of this card in the deck since we are taking more of a toolbox approach to deck building here rather than a focused and linear strategy (though maybe with testing I will reassess the count).

While it’s true Brokers Ascendancy can even make something like Professor of Symbology become threatening over time, it is much better served with cards like Wedding Announcement that generate multiple threats quickly. I will also note that this received the same treatment as the Alchemy nerfed Luminarch Aspirant in that it does not trigger before combat making it pretty ineffective the turn it hits the board which seems small, but I would argue quite significant. Put all these limitations together and (it seems to me at least that) this card makes more sense in a deck like mine that doesn’t mind going very long as opposed to a token generating focused more aggro style deck.


Five-Color Control – The List

Vanishing Verse Art by Chris Seaman
Vanishing Verse Art by Chris Seaman

For my last list today, we are going to take another crack at five color control. We experienced mixed results with are most recent foray into this style of deck. That was of course before we had access to a whole new set of Triomes.

Here is our list:

5c Control Streets of New Capenna
by Josh
Standard
Control
best of 3
6 mythic
33 rare
12 uncommon
9 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (1)
1
Kaito Shizuki
$9.99
Creatures (3)
Sorceries (4)
2
Doomskar
$3.98
Artifacts (1)
Enchantments (10)
2
Druid Class
$1.38
2
The Kami War
$1.58
Lands (25)
2
Forest
$0.50
2
Island
$0.50
1
Mountain
$0.25
2
Plains
$0.50
2
Swamp
$0.50
1
Field of Ruin
$0.25
2
The World Tree
$8.98
60 Cards
$384.38
15 Cards
$12.89

The Plan

This deck is almost a mashup of our last two lists as we have access to heavy control elements and ramp elements thanks to Obscura cards and Brokers cards. Now that we are five-color, we also get to take a stab at running The Kami War once more as well as the Path to the World Tree.

We are obviously attempting to buy time any way we can since are mana base will not be terribly fast thanks to so many tap lands. To that end, we have access to 15 forms of targeted removal (17 if we count the Kami War) and five board sweepers (with access to more in the sideboard).

Our card advantage comes in the form of Shigeki, Jukai Visionary, Reckoner Bankbuster, The Kami War, Kaito Shizuki, Riveteers Charm and Path to the World Tree so we’ll always have plenty to do.

To kill our opponents, we will be looking to snipe them with a very large Druid Class activated land, or our O-Kagachi Made Manifest. Although to be honest, with a deck like this, our greatest weapon is our opponent’s frustration and despair and concessions will normally be our quickest win.

From experience, I know that decks like this struggle against aggressive plans because we mainly run answers and not many threats thus having the wrong answer to the current threat can spell death. I believe the flexibility of cards like Void Rend, all of the new charm spells, and Endless Detour will help us overcome this problem to a certain extent as all of them are extremely flexible cards that can answer scary threats when there is one or have other utility when there isn’t.

Another big factor is being able to sustain our life points so cards like The Meathook Massacre, March of Wretched Sorrow, Druid Class, and even the Path to the World Tree offer us some form of life gain to keep us out of the danger zone.

All in all, I feel like this deck will function very similar to the 5-Color Niv Deck that sometimes shows up in Historic: we have a lot of super-efficient and flexible disruption, and we have big payoffs like The Kami War, Shigeki, Jukai Visionary, and to a lesser extent Path to the World Tree.

Similar to our ramp deck, with our sideboard we can gear our answers more closely to align to what our opponent is doing. I am particularly concerned about Mono-White Tax type decks hence three copies of Ray of Enfeeblement. Against other midrange and aggro type strategies Workshop Warchief seems like a good stop gap. If we face off against other controlling style decks, we can bring in Devastating Mastery for planeswalkers, Negate and Test of Talents for spell interaction, and Niko Aris for additional card draw that can be recurred by our Obscura Charm.  

New Card Choices

Top of mind for impactful new cards is the access to all these Triomes. The obvious boon here is that we have so much mana flexibility so we can more confidently run all of our multi color spells. Let’s not forget that Triomes also serve as a form of flood protection thanks to their cycle ability. Again, as a deck that runs mainly answers and not threats: the only thing worse than not having the right answer is having no answer at all.

We talked about the benefits of Void Rend and Obscura Charm as well as Endless Detour in our previous two list so I won’t repeat myself here, but along with these New Capenna cards we also get to try Maestros Charm and Riveteers Charm.

Maestros Charm seems tailor-made for Shigeki (despite not even sharing a color with it!) because of its ability to load up your graveyard with juicy recurrable targets. Furthermore, dealing five damage to a creature or planeswalker is never a bad thing obviously and, while the life drain ability would probably only be used in desperation to stay alive or to end the game on the spot, its nice to have the option.

Riveteers Charm on the other hand seems like a straight upgrade to Soul Shatter (if we take color requirements out of the equation that is) and it’s also quite useful to have a graveyard hate spell you are not embarrassed to main deck! On that note if I am in Jund, I can see this card really supplanting the role of Go Blank as the graveyard hate spell of choice.

Finally, drawing three cards for three mana is a pretty good rate, of course this is not exactly draw three, but it is nice to know you can cast this on their end step and with sufficient mana, potentially casting a spell you hit instant speed (which we have a ton of) that has been flipped over, and then use the remaining exiled cards on your turn.


Conclusion

I am certain that several, if not most, of the gangs in Streets of New Capenna will reshape the meta. Obscura cards, at least to me, appear the most impactful, and because of that, I see the control archetype’s stock ascending.

At the same time, we have gotten at least a few new tools to make ramp decks worthwhile and I would love to see tier 1 ramp deck in standard as it feels like its been too long since that was the case.

Finally, I do think that a five-color deck is within reach now too mainly because of the new Triomes. Some of you may have wondered why Meeting of the Five was not an obvious target for such a list. I have not written it off completely, but I am trying to think what combination of 3-color cards I could hope to hit that would outright win the game, because generally that is what card that cost 8 converted mana needs to do. Upon reflection I am not certain that combination exists with our given card pool, but of course that could change.

Thanks for reading, I hope one or all of these decks bring you joy and your opponents despair!

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Josh

Josh has been playing Magic: the Gathering since Ice Age (that came out in 1996 for you whippersnappers out there). He was a MODO grinder and early beta tester for MTGA where his handle is Parabolian. He is no stranger to Mythic ladder and has frequently finished in the top 1200. Josh loves to brew decks but he loves to win too. Sometimes those two interests align and sometimes he goes on epic losing streaks.

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