Overall, my first impression of New Capenna is that I’m just not particularly into it. I look at the spoilers, which have a lot of word-dense cards, and I don’t have a particularly strong reaction to most of it. I’m sure it’s fine and I’m sure there are cards that can do busted things, but I’m just not that interested in it.
Part of it is that I’m not very interested in these factions, certainly not how they’re expressed. The art deco city is cool, the magepunk tech is cool, the idea of a city founded by angels and run by demons all work, sure, that’s… fine. It’s not like they did a bad job of doing what they’re doing. It’s just not something I personally find very interesting, and part of that, I think, is because to me ‘demon’ has a set of affiliations and tone that makes a white-blue-green one feel ‘wrong.’ Or rather, feel non-demony.
Which is kind of a shame, the flavour and naming in this set is absolutely excellent. There’s a lot of cards with genre-keyed names that help to illuminate what the card is doing, like Buy Your Silence, Hold for Ransom, Whack, Case the Joint, Dig Up The Body, Night Clubber, Big Score, Professional Face-Breaker, Light ‘Em Up, Sticky Fingers, Evolving Door, Fight Rigging, Body Dropper, Stimulus Package, Brass Knuckles and of course, Witness Protection.
Still, a set is not its tone alone, what else is going on?
First, there’s the mechanics. I do acknowledge that design space is limited, and I understand that there’s no good reason to not just repeat uses of things that work fine. The five mechanics based on the family, and my thoughts are:
- Connive: This feels most immediately like Explore, just centered in the opposite side of the colour pie. It seems a perfectly fine mechanic that serves a useful purpose to me. See, you could flavour this as all sorts of things, like study or discovery or even your own mind unravelling, which is what draw-and-discard has been in the past. In this case, now, by giving it a ‘sneaky’ keyword, any time a card gets printed with this, it brings with it an inherent flavour that lets the mechanic do some lifting for a card that may not have lots of space otherwise.
- Shield Counters: Perfectly fine, but also completely unremarkable.
- Casualty: The obvious comparison to Kicker is not a kind one, but it’s crucial to note that this also works as an interaction with Magecraft. Casualty copies the card, that’s neat.
- Blitz: It makes me think of Dash, and the solution of drawing a card feels like it’s an undue kind of concession. I mean, it works as a way to push a deck towards being less bursty and more grindy. Like, Dash for Midrange decks? Which is fine, I suppose. It mostly makes me think of the tension in Dash.
- Alliance: Between Coven, Alliance, Ferocious, Pack Tactics, Power-5-or-more, and Formidable, I’m kind of consigned to the fact that as a colour combination just does not have room for keyword mechanics that offload rules text. I don’t think Ability Words are inherently bad, but it does feel like this has been a particularly uninspired one.
Mechanically Hideaway being updated is nice. It saves some rules space and the changes give it more useful applications. I do fear that the new rules would make reprints of the original Hideaway lands look a little ass, which is a bummer because they’re nice lands.
There’s a recent push to add treasure in depth in green. Personally, I don’t like this. I like treasure as a ‘weaker’ form of mana acceleration than green normally gets; obviously, they’re great, and power-wise, they’re perfect. But c’mon, if I told you a card called Jewel Thief arrived and gave you a burst of mana, you’d look at that flavour and name and go ‘well, that’s a red card,’ surely.
I like the draft-enabling land-alterer commons and the lands that sacrifice themselves to fetch immediately. They’re extremely nice design for their job. It’s not design tech I really need, but I still like them a lot.
Still, there are some cards I like; either because I’m going to want one for my collection of commander decks, or because there’s just something about them that appeals to me.
- Topiary Stomper is a card I’m going to want immediately. It’s just another iteration on a Rampant Growth effect. I really hope we get permutations on it – I’ve designed a few cards like it.
- Fleetfoot Dancer an eight point swing on the spot. In a deck that Just Wants A Big Idiot it’s a great design.
- Snooping Newsie continues my love of cheap creatures that grow in the later stages of the game.
- Mage's Attendant is so perfect and I kind of wish it was easier to do this kind of thing in the future. It’s a blue counterspell, but it’s out on the battlefield, saying ‘hey, you need to know I’m here, in case you do something I don’t like.’ It gets to be a pure white card, it gets to work as a white card, but still holds onto the feeling that blue counters spells. It tells a story and holds onto the colour pie.
- Patch Up does a really solid job of that kind of white card advantage I like. It’s just really efficient, it doesn’t need a dozen extra words on the card, and it still gives you reason to build to white’s advantages. It does make me imagine that you could put something like Unearth in white.
- Riveteers Ascendancy is an engine that works in a very slow, very steady way. It’s got incremental advantage, and rather than make a three-card combo with it, I’d want to make a lot of two-card combos, or a deck that can constantly find uses for it. Consider that this will let Endurance and Spitebellows recur expensive things for cheap. Just the cheapest tech is stuff like Pit Keeper and Cadaver Imp.
But yeah! It’s… just a fine set. Not something that excites me immensely.