Welcome back to another session with The Epic Experiment!
New Capenna is just around the corner and previews are wrapping up. Some of the new cards look to be sweet new options for decks and the triomes are sure to be big sellers. We are also seeing some fun new legendary creatures to be used as Commanders for your next deck. Today I want to have a look at the top new cards for Commander from New Capenna, and how they might be used in the future.
I want to start with what may be a hot take. I want to debunk Lord Xander, The Collector because there have been a number of people who have been very excited for this guy. Xander is our entry as the leader of the Maestro’s and has promise as an exciting card in the right build. But my honest concern is that this card is a trap.
As a 7 mana card in Grixis, this is going to be a very difficult card to cast reliably. Grixis is known as a colour combo that struggles to ramp reliably, and even with all the treasure makers in this set. I don’t expect that to change. Commander players looking to use Xander are going to be waiting a very long time for him to come down, and it may be too late for him to really make a difference. A comparable card is Thraximundar, who is 7 mana and in Grixis colours. This card is only found in 1000 decks according to EDHrec, suggesting that many players have learned that the high mana value is a serious impediment.
Next, let us look at the text box. He has three clauses of text. The first one is an Enter the Battlefield trigger. This has promise because forcing your opponent to discard a number of cards could be big play and derail an opponent. My fear is that there is going to be a real disconnect between what players expect versus what they get in reality. What I expect to happen is that most players at the table will have 4 or 5 cards and at best you are nabbing 2 cards from a single opponent. You know what else nabs two cards from a single opponent? Mind Rot. People don’t play Mind Rot frequently in Commander for good reason. If I told you Xander was going to be a 7 mana Mind Rot, you might rethink your position on playing it. Let us also not forget, this can be countered and a savvy play group will counter for this sort of big splashy effect and you may never see this enter into the battlefield.
The other two abilities, I expect, are going to be more or less moot. If Xander resolves he is going to be taken off the table immediately. Your opponents cannot let this card get going and will absolutely remove it, probably by exile, to ensure you can’t get an attack trigger or the death trigger. Among the top played instants are Swords to Plowshares, Bootlegger’s Stash, Chaos Warp, Despark, Anguished Unmaking, Reality Shift, Utter End, Declaration in Stone, and Deadly Rollick. All of these can deal with Xander and there is nothing we can do about it. My full expectation is that Xander is going to be met with exile, and the triggers will never get used. Sadness goes on the stack. Sadness resolves. Xander will return to your command zone.
The Triomes complete a cycle of tri lands from Ikoria that have already proven to be outstanding and there is no reason to believe that these will be any different. I won’t go over them in too much detail because they are very universally understood to be terrific additions to our format and provide Commander players with yet more powerful options for their mana bases.
Top 10 New Capenna Cards for Commander:
When treasures were introduced in the Ixalan block, they were a pretty novel idea. Streets of New Capenna has taken the idea of treasure tokens and ratcheted up the dial to about a 12 and this card is a wild offender. The game of Commander is predicated on ramping and this card makes that ramping even more rewarding. There are plenty of strategies where the raw number of artifacts matters and Bootleggers’ Stash powers that right up. Many other Commanders are also interested in this card like Elmar, Ulvenwald Informant, Old Gnawbone, and plenty of others. Add in the effects of things like Academy Manufactor and Xorn, we are on the verge of seeing Treasure decks explode. However, I think the most obvious card to be powered from Bootleggers’ Stash is Marionette Master because it will just become a devastating win condition.
I know that this card says blah, blah, blah, you win the game. And that still isn’t why this card makes my list. In a game of Commander, if you can successfully get 15 creatures down on the battlefield, you should probably win the game regardless. I’m not really considering the alternate win con at all. What has me excited is that the first two modes require you to untap creatures. I learned that the ability to untap a creature with an activated ability is huge. Commanders like Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, Osgir, the Reconstructor, Shorikai, Genesis Engine, or Rhys, the Redeemed make this sort of effect super powerful, not to mention it leans right into the Convoke mechanic.
This makes my list because it is just super interesting to transform your planeswalkers into creatures. I’m not sure if we have ever seen this sort of ability printed before, and I really have no sense what this is going to mean in the long term. I imagine myself turning Ugin and big daddy Karn into creatures and smashing my way through the table, but I am 100% sure there are far more clever things to do with this. I am very excited for what this means for the long term playability of planeswalkers in Commander.
Real talk here. This Casualty mechanic on a Planeswalker feels very broken. The fact that you can sacrifice a creature that you no longer need to get a second copy of a Planeswalker seems positively absurd and seems like abuse. The real ticket is if you can sacrifice something large enough to get your copy of (M)Ob Nixilis here to ultimate right away because that feels like a wild combo enabler. Who doesn’t want to draw a fresh 7?
I don’t know where Ob Nixilis is going to go, or what exactly it is going to enable because I have no real point of reference for this sort of card, but the power level is unmistakable. I am wagering that it is going to be a powerful force in the weeks and months to come.
Ah yes. More treasures. This is the mythic creature that I have been most excited about because it includes all my favorite things. It includes flinging my creatures at my opponents faces, ramping, and generally making a mess of the board. I have already highlighted the Academy Manufactor and Xorn to really double down on the treasure making, but how does flinging some stuff around like Feasting Troll King, Desecration Demon, or Omnath Locus of Rage tokens sound? These all seem like good times. However, Revel in Riches is the real winner here.
This card got my attention because I have seen how powerful the Hideaway mechanic can be. It is deceptively strong and the sort of high risk/high reward play that can totally tip the tide of the game. The fact that this just enables itself, powers up your graveyard, and plays great with a whole slough of cards from Dredge cards, to reanimation, to Delirium means that this has wide scale applicability. Don’t sleep on this card.
Where Lord Xander sucks, this is the Grixis vampire Commander we all wanted. The flavour win is high because it feels like a Grixis vampire, steals stuff off your opponents decks, and is generally just the sweetest card I have seen from the Maestro’s. The extra sweet goodness with this is that it has Flash, meaning you can flash it at the end of the turn before you untap to ensure you get your value. It is also templated such that once each turn (not just on your turn), you can cast a thing you stole from your opponents. This deck is going to be in the flash deck with Leyline of Anticipation, and Vedalken Orrery to make the game a living nightmare.
This is a Birthing Pod variant and those always garner close consideration. The most interesting thing in my mind is that in a 3 or more color deck, you can sacrifice a multi-colour token, like a Green and White citizen token, to go and find some sort of gold dragon or terrifying creature to power your deck. My first inclination is multi-coloured dragon decks, but I am betting Slivers, Allies, or even Humans will be able to make good use of this. Put this on your watch list.
Here we go… another Birthing Pod, but this time on a Planeswalker. Vivien’s +2 is going to be the thing that gets her attention, but I’m not sure it is actually the best mode. I think that because the Planeswalker ability can only be activated once per turn, it makes it more difficult (not impossible) to break Vivien for a massive infinite combo. The +1 could very possibly be a powerful source of card advantage and allow creature heavy decks to refuel on cards and get back in the game after a board wipe. The -1 is exactly the sort of thing Populate heavy decks are going to want to gravitate towards. With all three modes being highly desirable and applicable in different decks, and Vivien being mono-coloured, I think she is going to garner a fair amount of consideration.
You know what green decks needed? More stuff to gum up the ground while they ramp. Stomper is a ramp card attached to 4/4. It is one part Cultivate, one part obstacle/menace that your opponents need to deal with. Yes, it has a drawback. But let us be real, in a landfall heavy deck getting to 7 mana shouldn’t be hard, meaning that Stomper is now active. So Omnath decks, Dinosaur decks, just big Ol’ Mana decks… they are all gonna love our cute little dino here because he is ramping while building board presence.
Well, there we have my early thoughts on New Capenna. The set looks super sweet and very powerful, and is sure to shake up the Commander format. With Battle for Baldur’s Gate just around the corner, we are going to be in for a pretty tumultuous time.
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