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Love/Hate for Streets of New Capenna

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Going new places is awesome!

Magic has a long history of revisiting past planes that have been popular, but after our third and fourth visit to Innistrad coming back to back it was easy to be left wanting something new. Well, it's been a great time to want something new in Magic lately! Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty took "revisiting a plane" to a whole new level, giving us a wonderful look at a unique futuristic cyberpunk theme that is nothing like anything we've ever seen before in Magic.

Now with Streets of New Capenna, we get to visit another very unique world that is thematically different than anything we've ever seen before! At the same time, while we're in setting that is flavorfully brand new, mechanically we get our second ever shot at a "shard" set, that is a set based around the three allied color pairs.

At the time of writing this a little under 200 of the 281 cards in the set are spoiled, which means it's time for first impressions in the form of my love/hates! Note that these are not just static rankings. The point is to shed light on cards I think are being over or undervalued based on first impressions. The point of my Love/Hate article is not just to call cards good or bad, but to view cards based on the first impressions people have been having or are likely to have. The goal is to dispel undue hype or to draw attention to cards that are being overlooked.

Let's get started!

Love - Fleetfoot Dancer

Fleetfoot Dancer

Let's start with a really easy one... Fleetfoot Dancer is very good!

One of the hallmarks of tri-color sets is that three color gold cards get to be really really good on rate. Think Mantis Rider, Sprouting Thrinax, and Siege Rhino. Well add Fleetfoot Dancer to that list!

Fleetfoot Dancer is all the goodness of Questing Beast with 95% less words, and in some ways can be even better. The 4/4 haste ground creature for four mana is becoming a new staple, with the aforementioned Questing Beast as well as something as simple as Ulvenwald Oddity seeing good amounts of play. While the Vigilance on Questing Beast did allow it to play a bit of defense as well, lifelink is the ultimate tool to win races which gives Fleetfoot Dancer an edge in a number of spots.

Fleetfoot Dancer is all the best parts of Questing Beast and Adult Gold Dragon; as long as there is a deck that can reliably cast it, it's going to see a lot of play.

Hate - Shadow of Mortality

Shadow of Mortality

Look, I know Death's Shadow, and Shadow of Mortality ain't Death's Shadow.

There's no doubt that Death's Shadow is one of the premier threats in Modern and an exceptionally powerful card, so it's understandable to see Shadow of Mortality and want to feel the same thing. However, Shadow of Mortality has a few too many marks against it.

For one, at its absolute best it is going to cost two mana, both Black. This makes it difficult to cast unless you're heavily committed to Black, and also means that you need to be at 7 life or less when you cast it to get a good rate for it. If you're casting Shadow of Mortality for three or four mana it's just not consistently good enough to be worth the hassle. Secondly, it's just not that big! Death's Shadow had the benefit of the potential to be in the double digits, especially as a swing back after you've been attacked down low. This variable size is a major part of what makes the card so good.

Just about the only real utility Shadow of Mortality has is that it is a fifteen-mana spell in formats that want a critical mass of that for cards like Calibrated Blast, but is also potentially castable. Otherwise, Shadow of Mortality is a pretty big dud.

Love - Make Disappear & A Little Chat

Make Disappear
A Little Chat

They say good things come in pairs and this pair of Blue, two-mana instants that both have the Casualty ability play very well together.

Casualty is the Maestros (Grixis) mechanic, allowing you to sacrifice a creature to copy a spell and get more of the effect. So, what we have here is two Blue instants at the same cost that offer up a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario to your opponent.

Quench has always been borderline playable in Standard. It's not as close to Mana Leak as you may like, but it has seen some fringe play. Make Disappear is just Quench with all upside, as later in the game you can sacrifice a smaller creature to help make sure you can counter that key spell. On the flipside, A Little Chat has a lot in common with Deadly Dispute, one of the best card draw spells in Standard; two mana, sacrifice a creature at instant speed, draw two cards. While you lose the ability to sacrifice artifacts or get the mana back, you get much better card selection.

Both these cards want a lot of the same things, which makes them play very well together. In a deck with a good amount of sacrifice fodder and/or a way to consistently make tokens, this could be quite the duo. Is it finally Overcharged Amalgam's time to shine?

Hate - Elspeth Resplendent

Elspeth Resplendent

One of the things we find out about New Capenna is that it is the home plane of Elspeth, recently back from the dead after her adventures on Theros. Unfortunately, Elspeth Resplendent is one of her worst planeswalker incarnations.

Five mana is a lot for a planeswalker, so you really need to get what you pay for, but with a plus ability that relies on having a creature in play and only adding modest stats to the board, and a minus ability that trades down on mana and leaves her at a very vulnerable two loyalty, the power level just isn't there.

Elspeth is definitely playable as maybe a sideboard sticky threat for aggressive decks against more controlling decks to help diversify your board, but all in all is very underwhelming.

Love - Ob Nixilis, the Adversary

Ob Nixilis, the Adversary

On the other side of the planeswalker coin on New Capenna is Ob Nixilis, The Adversary, who is basically the opposite of Elspeth Resplendent in almost every way.

While Elspeth feels overcosted and doesn't give you enough value, Ob Nixilis is a ton of material for only three mana. Played straight up, Ob Nixilis can create very useful tokens while also just ticking up and annoying your opponent, which plays perfectly with the slow-bleed style that most sacrifice decks tend to operate on. But, you can actually get a pair of planeswalkers on turn three for only three mana, and all you have to do is sacrifice an Eyetwitch or Shambling Ghast to get there!

This is honestly going to be very difficult to conceptualize without playing with first, but it is just an obscene amount of material for only three mana. Sacrifice decks tend to do a very good job of building up a board of a lot of permanents that form a Voltron-like machine fairly quickly, be it Oni-Cult Anvil or Witch's Oven, and Ob Nixilis fits that mold perfectly.

I can't wait to try this one out!

Hate - Evolving Door

Evolving Door

Everybody is always trying to find the next Birthing Pod, but Birthing Pod is banned for a reason and there's zero chance Wizards of the Coast is going to print something remotely close on power level anytime soon. Pyre of Heroes is probably the closest were going to get, but that one is of course tribally locked and very difficult to abuse.

Evolving Door and its multicolored clauses is close, but felled by a few backbreaking words:

"You may cast the exiled card."

Unlike most Birthing Pod-style cards, Evolving Door doesn't just put the card in play for you, but rather makes you cast it yourself. For a three-mana artifact to ask you to sacrifice a creature, pay a mana, and then pay full retail for the creature you fetch up that is heavily limited by being directly tied to the colors of the creature that was sacrificed... it's just too much.

Love - Witness Protection

Witness Protection

Some cards are winners on all fronts, from design to power level to flavor, and Witness Protection is one of those cards.

We've seen these sorts of Reprobation and Kasmina's Transmutation type cards before, but never this efficient. One mana is a lot less than two, which sounds silly but we're talking Lightning Strike to Lightning Bolt levels of power swing here. Most important as well is that Witness Protection is in Blue, which is perhaps the worst of all the removal colors.

On pure rate alone it's not clear if Witness Protection is powerful enough, but if your deck cares about enchantments or auras in any way at all Witness Protection is a huge pickup. The most obvious case here is Azorius Auras in Historic, but with the right synergies Witness Protection could see play in many different formats.

Ten New Brews!

Things are a little bit different this time around, as we are returning to a somewhat old school release schedule where the release of New Capenna is going to be more spread out than it has been recently. The full card list should be out by this weekend, next weekend is the prerelease, and the official release in both paper and on MTG Arena and Magic Online will be in two weeks.

However, while it's a bit spread out, I'll still be doing my usual new set spread with my Complete Set Review, my Bronze to Mythic Draft run, and of course my Ten New Brews! Standard has been quietly pretty awesome lately and I can't wait to delve into New Capenna and see what new decks come out!

I'll be jumping right into the fray on day one with ten new decks packed full of brand-new cards from the new set when it releases on Thursday April 28th on my stream and on my YouTube! Friday April 29th's article right here on CoolStuffInc.com will have all ten of those decklists, as well as my thoughts on each deck and the new direction of the format.

I'll see you there!

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