Pioneer Set Review: Streets of New Capenna

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Pioneer Set Review: Streets of New Capenna

04/22/22 Comment regular icon0 comments

In today's article, I present the most interesting Streets of New Capenna cards for Pioneer, and the possible impact that the new set will have on the format's competitive landscape!

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By Romeu

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translated by Romeu

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revised by Tabata Marques

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We're back with another

Streets of New Capenna

review for competitive formats. This time, I will present the most interesting cards (and cycles) for

Pioneer

. In case you haven't seen it, my Pauper set review is now available, and you can check it out at this linklink outside website!

Streets of New Capenna and Pioneer

During the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty preview season, I made a serious mistake of considering only existing archetypes back at the time, not considering the possibility that the set had to establish new decks and efficient strategies, especially with the inclusion of Oni-Cult Anvil, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker (which honestly looked bad in a Metagame that still included Lurrus of the Dream-Den), and Experimental Synthesizer.

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Streets of New Capenna has a relatively unique complexity to its Pioneer additions, as many cards are relatively interesting for the format, or for their effects, but don't have a specific home in the Metagame. This might change dramatically due to the inclusion of a powerful new lands cycle:

The New Triomes

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The new "triomes" are probably the most important cards in New Capenna for any eternal format, due to the same reasons that the Ikoria cycle became absolute Staples by enabling several multicolored archetypes in Pioneer and Modern (where there are also Fetchlands for a perfect manabase). I can imagine that, despite the difference the fact that they enter tapped can make for more aggressive lists (like Naya Winota, where Jetmir's Garden will hardly go beyond one or two maindeck copies), Midrange and Control archetypes receive a powerful tool that greatly adds consistency to lists that don't specifically rely on speed, but at value. With this new land cycle, Bant, Naya, Jund, Grixis and Esper decks, as well as four and five color variants receive a powerful upgrade to their manabase that will definitely make a big difference in creating new decks going forward. Because they have basic land types, these new lands interact with Check Lands and with cards that care about specific land types, like Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Having said that, and already highlighting the most important card cycle of the new set, let's move on to the individual analysis separated by colors.

White

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Since it can be used more proactively than Gods Willing, it is possible that Boon of Safety has some space in Boros Heroic with Feather, the Redeemed, but the use of both cards is pretty contextual: while Boon of Safety is more efficient at being reused during subsequent turns to protect your creatures from removals, Gods Willing offers some more useful combat trick options and protect the creature from exile effects, such as Fateful Absence or The Wandering Emperor.
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The new Elspeth has very interesting abilities and definitely has a place in some Midrange category. But in Pioneer, it seems to be competing with more powerful cards in its curve, and there are no decks geared towards creatures that really need her abilities for five mana.
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Extraction Specialist is a good effect on the right tribe: Humans. Recursion on white attached to creatures is always useful, and plays involving the new card and Thalia's Lieutenant or Luminarch Aspirant can be excellent in turning the tide of the game in your favor, and a 3 /2 with Lifelink for three mana, which can easily become a 4/3 on these occasions, make Extraction Specialist a considerable option in Pioneer.
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Giada is an absolutely

absurd

improvement to an archetype that occasionally appears in Pioneer's Metagame as an adaptation of a Historic deck, Selesnya Angels, where she becomes a threat that needs to be answered at any cost, or it will create a threatening position on the board.

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In addition, Giada also helps the archetype not miss the opportunity to cast a threat on turn 3, even without a third land drop. Fortunately, her mana cannot be used to cast Collected Company, but her Ramp effect is the least relevant part of all her abilities. Will she make Selesnya Angels the deck to beat in Pioneer? Given the archetype's poor matchup record against Control and removal-based Midrange, in addition to not being able to interact well against Naya Winota or combo decks, I don't think so. However, it is certain to grow in popularity and be a nightmare for fair Aggro decks.
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With an insane amount of white mana and Karn, the Great Creator, Ensoul Artifact or any other effect that turns Halo Fountain into a creature, it is possible to perform a 2-card combo with Halo Fountain (although it's a bit of a subliminal rule, you

can untap Halo Fountain with its own ability if it's a creature

), but I suppose this combo requires a very specific setup to work and the new artifact doesn't seem to do enough on its own to establish an archetype. I want to be wrong, and I love Combo decks, especially those that aren't linear, so I'm giving an honorable mention to the new alternate wincondition.
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Another interesting addition to Boros Heroic, Illuminator Virtuoso offers a good body with a double strike for a good cost, and with a trigger that can be used both to filter your hand, removing cards that are not useful for the situation, as to create a snowball effect. Unfortunately, I suppose this new creature requires a very proactive alignment to be good, and the fact that it doesn't instantly grow to a point where it can evade the format's main red removals is a huge drag. It seems to be worth a test as 2-of in the first few weeks to gauge its usefulness, but I'm not confident it has enough to fill Boros Heroic's creature slots.
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Mage's Attendant offers two non-human bodies, with a total of 4 power, for three mana, and that could be enough to consider adding it to Naya Winota. But if we look at Naya Winota's current base, the archetype is very robust in its non-human drops, and the deck's 3 mana slot isn't very favorable because it's usually the turn you expect to cast Esika's Chariot or Winota, Joiner of Forces with a mana dork. Mage's Attendant also competes with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker in the three-drop slot, with the Neon Dynasty saga being much more useful in the long run than the new creature.
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Honorable mention. There may be a time when Patch Up is part of an archetype where it returns three one mana creatures that have a huge impact on the board (can we have Death's Shadow on Pioneer, please?), making it a powerful recursion piece.

Blue

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Have you always wanted to draw more cards than that player who cast Treasure Cruise? Well now you can! Even the Score isn't good enough for most occasions, although I could see it being used rarely on some Control deck's sideboard.

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A Little Chat is an interesting card selection and card advantage option for the minimal cost of two mana and a small creature, offering half the versatility of Memory Deluge, but I'm not sure where it would fit in the current Metagame or which archetype could benefit greatly from it. Overall, the new cantrip looks like a good element for Tempo decks that want to trade one of their creatures for digging deeper for an answer. It seems fair to consider its inclusion in archetypes like Dimir Rogues or Flash decks, but except for the Azorius Flash variants (where I suppose there are better options for a slightly higher cost), these decks haven't been doing well in the Metagame.
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Make Disappear follows the same pattern as the card above: it's a useful element for Tempo decks that don't mind swapping one of their creatures for a more efficient effect for the occasion.
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Another tool for Tempo decks, Slip out the Back is an efficient way to protect your creature for a low cost. It also doesn't seem to have a home currently, but it's worth the honorable mention.

Black

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I'm probably thinking about Commander here, but if you find a way to damage yourself over and over again, Angel of Suffering allows you to mill your entire deck and win the game with Thassa's Oracle while functioning as a threat on its own. ... I guess I miss playing with Inverter of Truth.
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Grisly Sigil is a very elegant design, being a mediocre removal on its own, but granting through its Casualty cost the ability to deal up to 4 damage to a creature or Planeswalker for just one mana. It may be worth it in Sacrifice lists, or in archetypes that have no problems in recurring creatures from the graveyard to the battlefield, such as Mono-Black Aggro.
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The Death's Shadow we have at home. My review for this card may not be too partial due to my long history with Death's Shadow, and Shadow of Mortality definitely has some unattractive elements when compared to the best black one-drop in the game's history. Was it really necessary for Shadow of Mortality to cost two black mana? I really liked the trade-off between cost and power, but investing two mana and thirteen life to get a 7/7 creature isn't quite where I'd like to be, especially since that creature won't grow up later on. This might be a good time to try again to come up with new lists with Scourge of the Skyclaves and Shadow of Mortality along with a Suicide strategy, possibly on Rakdos or Orzhov if we follow Historic's standards, but I don't think this is where a competitive player would want to be in a Pioneer where the best decks include Naya Winota, Mono Red and Izzet Phoenix.
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Despite the relatively high cost for returning from the graveyard, Tenacious Underdog offers a good body for a 2-drop in a tribe that might care about having greater recursion with their threats.

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Red

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Honorable mention because you never know what kind of madness a player can do with cards that double their own power for effects that doesn't require heavy mana investments. Between Secure the Wastes and Rally the Ancestors, I can imagine some absurd combinations involving Devilish Valet attacking for 20 or more damage the turn it comes into play.
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Honorable mention. In addition to the sensational name, Professional Face-Breaker offers ramp and pseudo-card advantage by attacking with many creatures and dealing damage to the opponent, and can find a home in Mono-Red, Gruul, or other variants that care about filling the battlefield rather than dealing direct damage.
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I don't think it's necessary, especially since you need to

untap

with it to start being useful, but Pyre-Sledge Arsonist does an insane amount of damage next to sac outlets and especially Bolas's Citadel. Mayhem Devil is significantly better in this category, but it's important to know that there are other options in the format.
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Strangle might become a variant, or replace Fiery Impulse in Izzet Phoenix, as it can also be used to deal with Planeswalkers, and removes a Narset, Parter of Veils that has used her ability once on its own.
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Honorable mention. The only red artifact sweeper I remember existing in Pioneer is Vandalblast, and Structural Assault has some relevant advantages compared to the Return to Ravnica card.
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Unlucky Witness is another good support for strategies that involve sacrificing creatures with cards like Deadly Dispute, Witch's Oven and the like because it offers another payoff, but I don't see it being useful on more aggressive decks.

Green

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Honorable mention. Despite the extremely high cost, Bootleggers' Stash has a unique and specific effect to not be mentioned in this article.
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Like Luminarch Aspirant, Fight Rigging offers yet another way to add +1/+1 counters to creatures every turn, an element that can be crucial to building a Hardened Scales list. In addition, the new enchantment also offers a way to replace itself via Hideaway, which might not be too difficult to achieve if the deck's gameplan works as expected.
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I really like the mix of Elvish Vanguard with Essence Warden and the temporary ramp that Gala Greeters offers. I don't know exactly

where

this card fits into the format, but it's powerful enough to deserve an honorable mention.
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Titan of Industry could be another powerful payoff for Mono Green Devotion decks that have been reappearing in Challenges. It's kind of weird that a creature that's basically a cluster of buildings elemental is green and not an artifact (so it can't be tutored by Karn, the Great Creator), but its abilities and versatility make up for the inclusion of a copy or two between the maindeck and sideboard.

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The new Vivien is basically Birthing Pod done right: it doesn't interact with untap effects and can't be reused without being blinked first, and with Felidar Guardian banned due to the combo with Saheeli Rai, I don't know of any other ways to get the new Planeswalker to be reused over and over again in a single turn. We already have pseudo-Pod variants in Pioneer with Enigmatic Incarnation, and I wouldn't be surprised if Vivien on the Hunt enabled another variant that, unlike the enchantment, only needs creatures to work every turn. I believe she has the potential to become a staple.
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The Thragtusk we have at home. I actually like how they added Trample and a more impactful token for the cost of one green mana and two less life.

Multicolor

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All cards in the charm cycle look average to Pioneer, and may occasionally appear on some lists, but none of them are instant staples. Among them, Brokers Charm, Maestros Charm and Riveteers Charm stand out for offering proactive card advantage or card selection options, in addition to their other effects, and spells such as Archmage's Charm and Esper Charm were or are important to their respective formats due to this versatility.
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Aven Heartstabber is my favorite card in this set because it offers an efficient, evasive threat and generates some value if removed from the battlefield. The question is whether we have a base in Dimir or variants that can support five different mana values ​​in the graveyard without difficulties to make Aven Heartstabber a threat that emulates what Dragon's Rage Channeler is in Modern.
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Brokers Ascendancy is another powerful addition to Hardened Scales, as well as being an efficient option for variants of Bant Superfriends and the like that may eventually appear in the format. It seems like a strong enough option to justify creating a Bant Scales or even a Bant Tokens that can benefit from a steady power buff for your permanents every turn. It probably won't be a Tier 1 archetype option, but it will definitely make for a fun strategy.
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Honorable mention. Endless Detour will most likely be a Standard staple, and it may have enough potential for Pioneer as well due to its versatility.
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Evelyn, the Covetous offers a relatively uncommon effect that interacts with any Vampire, and can be cast with black mana because of its hybrid cost. It's probably not enough to take the Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet or Champion of Dusk space out of the archetype, but deserves an honorable mention.
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Fatal Grudge is an extremely powerful removal for the right occasions, and sacrificing Oni-Cult Anvil tokens with it to remove a problematic creature or artifact from the opponent and still draw a card for two mana are great qualities.

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Of all New Capenna's crime lords, Jetmir seems the best of them to see play in 60-card constructed formats because he just needs a full enough board to become a must-answer threat while also possessing a 5/4 body which will commonly be a 7/4 for four mana. He can see play in go-wide decks without major hurdles, especially alongside cards like Esika's Chariot and other permanents that significantly increase the number of creatures in play.
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Honorable mention, merely because playing Lord Xander, the Collector with Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord on turn 3 is a devastating play. As he doesn't win games on his own and the cost of the leader of the Maestros is very high, I suppose Xander doesn't do enough for this combo to be effective.
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Lier, Disciple of the Drowned and Bloodthirsty Adversary have seen some play in the format, so Maestros Ascendancy deserves an honorable mention for reproducing Kess, Dissident Mage's effect at the cost bonus of sacrificing a creature.
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What about the one many consider the most powerful card in Streets of New Capenna? Ob Nixilis, the Adversary is potentially dangerous if played on the right base, and many bases, not just Sacrifice-themed, are ideal for the new Planeswalker: Decks with aggressive small creatures or Midrange can also benefit from its abilities. Fortunately, its +1 effect is extremely conditional and gives the opponent freedom of choice, but it stacks

quickly

when you cast Ob Nixilis along with its Casualty cost, and two cards, 4 life, or a card and 2 life every turn snowballs easily in fair matchups. Ob Nixilis also offers two bodies to attack or block when it comes into play (provided you've sacrificed a creature with power 3 or greater), which can also snowball in the long run without too much difficulty. Finally, its ultimate is an absolute card advantage bomb and, despite the rare occasions where you can cast it and create a copy that already offers you the seven cards in your hand, your opponent will have serious problems if you reach this ability, not least because you will have already exhausted most of their resources. In other words, the new Ob Nixilis really is a card that needs to be respected, but it requires the right shell to work: One that presses the opponent's life total so they really need to consider whether it's better to lose 2 life or discard a card, one where your tokens make a difference when setting the clock, and one where sacrificing a creature isn't a waste of resources.
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Venser, Shaper Savant was once a card that saw some play in Modern, and Obscura Interceptor is a nice adaptation. With the recent rise of Flash decks with Spell Queller and The Wandering Emperor, it is possible that Esper variants of this archetype will take an interest in Obscura Interceptor as a Tempo play that offers hand filtering and a 3/1 or 4/2 body with Lifelink.

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Honorable mention. Some archetype might eventually be interested in casting Rocco as yet another creature tutor alongside Chord of Calling and Finale of Devastation, utilizing the new elf for more consistency in finding the right cards and still getting a 3/1 body in the process.
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Phyrexian Revoker exists in Pioneer and sees little to no play, but the human subtype and ability to copy the named card's activated abilities might make Scheming Fence a reasonable option in the right Metagame.
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Like Aven Heartstabber, Tainted Indulgence requires the right shell to not be "only" a relatively improved version of Chart a Course. There are numerous graveyard interactions that could benefit from pseudo-looting, and it is very likely that we will see it being used in some numbers in a variety of strategies. It seems to have more potential in Modern than in Pioneer, but who knows?
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I like Void Rend as a broad and efficient removal that doesn't allow interactions in Control mirrors, and this spell definitely deserves its space in flexible slots in Esper Control lists, Esper Flash, or the Doom Foretold variants that usually appear in the Metagame. The new removal can also be a useful option for Niv to Light lists to be tutored with Bring to Light, although it cannot be added to your hand with a Niv-Mizzet Reborn.

Artifacts

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Unlike Modern, I don't remember having combos that could abuse this legendary equipment in Pioneer.
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Unlicensed Hearse is a great graveyard hater for Pioneer, as it lets you pick specific cards from your opponent's graveyard and get stronger with each activation. Casting this artifact on turn 2 against an archetype that is more reliant on graveyards, or that casts multiple low-cost spells will eventually make it a threat that needs to be respected by the opponent, and I wouldn't be surprised to be attacking with an 8/8 or greater creature when using this vehicle to respond to opponent's graveyard interactions at the start of the game. Unfortunately, the new vehicle doesn't work as well as Rest in Peace for dealing with Delve spells, but it offers a good answer for dealing with one-of things like Arclight Phoenix, Parhelion II, Cauldron Familiar, Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, Dreadhorde Arcanist, among others and, despite being worse than Grafdigger's Cage for all these occasions, the fact it can be used as a complementary threat during the match creates some flexible perks for Unlicensed Hearse.

Conclusion

That was my review of Streets of New Capenna for Pioneer and, as we could see, the new set brings many interesting cards to the format and a manabase improvement that can establish a significant difference in the way decks are built in the competitive landscape. The new Triomes are the biggest new addition to the format, Ob Nixilis, the Adversary is definitely the card every player will keep an eye on, and there are a dozen other cards that can have medium or high impact on the Metagame, or even being able to establish new strategies.

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Time will tell which cards will succeed in impacting Pioneer and what we can expect in the future. For now, I'll just leave you with a brief reminder of every release: don't press the panic button too soon, give the format time to adapt to new cards and possible new decks. As a last word: Wizards has announced the

Explorer

format, a Pioneer adaptation for Magic Arena that will gradually be getting the important cards that are not already included in the platform, and I plan to cover and write articles about it, in addition to evaluating its pros and cons compared to Pioneer on tabletop and Magic Online. So, my next article will most likely be related to the new format. Thanks for reading.
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Romeu

Journalism student, writer and translator for Cards Realm. Plays virtually every Magic: The Gathering competitive format and is a lifetime Final Fantasy fan.

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