Streets of New Capenna Set Review - CEPHALIDS
Me tasting every new Cephalid/Cephalid Looter | Art by Keith Garletts
My Time Has Come...
You thought we were done with set reviews? Nah, bitch, we just got fresh new Cephalids for the first time in fifty years, and I am one of about three people who've been staring at the stars waiting for this.
Hi, I'm Naomi, founder of the Cephalid Advisory Group, and I'm not salty that I didn't get a preview card. Let's talk Kalamari!
Real quick, I'm going to mention a lot of "first Cephalids in forever", and I obviously don't mean Changelings, so get that Morophon, the Boundless comment crap outta here. Oh, and I'm combining the regular set and the Commander cards because, believe it or not, there still aren't that many new tentacle folks.
A Quick Word on #BeakGate
Outside of the main controversy of not reprinting Cephalid Snitch in a set with organized crime and Cephalids, I would like to briefly address the revamped Cephalid aesthetics from New Capenna. Yup, there is actual Cephalid controversy in the year of our tentacle lord 2022 because god loves me, apparently.
Basically, Cephalids aren't quite as sexy anymore. They lost a lot of the beaks and traditional squid features in favor of a more generic human look with a few tentacles here and there. Mark Rosewater did address this Cephalid chicanery by saying that this is just how they look on a different plane.
Personally, I like the new look, but my take is inherently biased since I'm pretty sure all of the people who've been waiting on new Cephalids could fit inside a single porta potty with plenty of legroom. So I feel like one of those dummies who likes the Star Wars prequels just because "oooh they have a lot of lightsabers!" while ignoring the innumerable flaws surrounding them. Like, yeah, the new Cephalids look sort of bland compared to the old ones, but holy #$%! people, there are new Cephalids! There's a goddamn Cephalid on the box of a Commander Precon! What???
They're also showing up with a lot of cool lore on a plane where everyone's in gangster wear and flapper dresses, and I am 1000% on board with Zoot Suit Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor doing their thing.
Kamiz, Obscura Oculus | Art by Chris Rallis
Part of the problem is that one of the Cephalids is reeeeeeal ugly, I mean even for a squid. Sorry, I just do not like the art on Kamiz, Obscura Oculus at all. Everyone else is gorgeous, and even the box art isn't half bad, but it's just a weird pose with their eyes closed and I really wish the photographer went with another shot.
Okay, let's review these bad folks.
Kamiz, Obscura Oculus
Now that I've crapped on their appearance, let's talk about the most popular Cephalid commander ever printed. By a stupid margin, mind you; pretty sure Aboshan's still sitting at around 50 decklists total on EDHREC.
Damn, actually I just checked and our king is up to 113, over twice as many as a year ago. Good for you, dude, maybe now my binder full of foil Cephalid Snitches will be worth something.
Anyways, Kamiz, Obscura Oculus is an insane card that gives something unblockable, lets you loot, and then gives something smaller than the unblockable creature double strike. That's some weirdo stuff, which is exactly what I want from my favorite tribe. Like, sure, let's play Esper Cephalid Ninjas, that's a real sentence people are going to say when this deck comes out.
The obvious play here is that Kamiz lives for "when this creature deals combat damage to a player" effects, either by making a creature unblockable to guarantee the hit or by letting another one hit and trigger twice. This also makes the one Cephalid anyone actually played before this set much better; thanks Cephalid Constable!
I don't think they're going to overthrow Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow or anything, but Kamiz is an exceptional precon commander that Wizards is going to overcharge us for.
4 out of 5 as a Commander, 3 out of 5 as a regular. Solid card for decks that can use it.
Queza, Augur of Agonies
This is the spoiler I was the most excited for as soon as the text "Legendary Creature - Cephalid Advisor" was leaked. When I saw the art of a suave squid doing some classic Cephalid orb crap in a badass tux, I was pumped.
Then the full card was revealed and ahhhhhh..... it's a bad wheel commander in Esper? Okay, I guess. Honestly I'm pretty disappointed in Queza, Augur of Agonies. I don't particularly enjoy wheel decks, and Queza mechanically is just not my style. She's not a strictly wheel commander when compared to something like Nekusar, the Mindrazer, but she still wants you to draw a million cards per turn to drain your opponents. Sorry, I mean an opponent, singular. God, she's worse than Psychosis Crawler.
To be fair, she's an uncommon legendary creature that's built around Obscura doing their thing, and I guess she's fine at her job. We got a legendary uncommon creature named Naomi last set, and she sucks as a Commander too, so it happens. Queza is the most classic Cephalid of the set: sweet art, fantastic flavor, and mechanically sort of a turd floating in the pool.
2 out of 5 as a Commander, 2 out of 5 as a regular. Guess you can plop her in your Esper Blue Sun's Zenith tribal deck?
Not to get too graphic, but I'm pretty sure I've had sex dreams about a Cephalid with flash. Creature-Counterspell-Kinda Hybrids are nothing new to Magic, but having a lifelink body that loots when it enters adds a nifty layer of versatility to our friend that its contemporaries lack. While I don't see myself running this over Unsubstantiate or Venser, Shaper Savant, there are a few niche cases where I feel like being able to Chord of Calling this up could genuinely be very helpful. At that point you're running a four-color deck and really shouldn't be relying on a slow Esper remand on a stick, but I 100% encourage you to live out your five-color Cephalid Tribal deck dreams.
2 out of 5, good card just strictly outclassed.
Finally, something I can play in Aboshan. Psychic Pickpocket might not seem like the flashiest card, but compare it to every other mono-blue Cephalid and it starts looking a lot better. I run Cephalid Broker; my standards are not high.
As for everyone else, this obviously ain't the best if you don't care about that creature type. It's not horrible in a Rogue deck, Disperse that loots on a stick is fine, but I doubt it'll make many final cuts.
3 out of 5 in very specifically Aboshan, 2 out of 5 everywhere people actually care about.
Okay, so you know all of that nice stuff I said about the last card? None of it applies here. Revel Ruiner is straight draft chaff that I doubt will ever see play, and it doesn't even have the sad fallback plan of crashing at Aboshan's crib before probably being beheaded. I don't know that much about Rogues as a tribe, but I refuse to believe anyone would play this dud. Way to ruin my revel.
1 out of 5, unironically worse than Cephalid Snitch. Ouch.
Annnnnd we're back, alright, to flavorful blue dudes with mediocre abilities that I will still put into my deck as a person who is paid actual money to write about Commander. A 3/3 part-time defender for 2 is a bad rate that won't see play anywhere outside of the one squid who's been socially isolated for 25 years. Damn, that hits a little too close to home.
2 out of 5 in Aboshan, 1 out of 5 for everyone who isn't as cool as I am.
Hey, look, it's the best Cephalid ever printed. Despite their ugly, tentacle-free face, Cephalid Facetaker is a powerhouse at nabbing "when this creature deals combat damage" abilities. I mean, the obvious play is to copy a 1/1 with vigilance so you can keep them untapped to use Aboshan's ability on your opponents' turns, but otherwise it's still a phenomenal creature that jams especially well with Kamiz, Obscura Oculus.
4 out of 5 all around great creature doing their tribe proud.
Hey, look, it's the most okay Cephalid ever printed. I've previously written about insane mind control combos you can pull off with Aboshan's help, namely using Willbreaker and Arcane Adaptation, but having a one card way to steal something for a minute is great in its own right. The"noncommander" restriction and the fact that you can't use it to put a shield counter on your own creature in a pinch is sort of a let down, but I'm still excited to borrow stuff. It's a faster version of Callous Oppressor that requires fewer politics in exchange for more restrictions and mana.
3 out of 5 pretty solid card.
Okay, this isn't technically a Cephalid, but there's clearly one in its art, and it might be another 75 years before we see these beautiful bastards again, so I'm taking what I can get. I'm not going to do this with every squidward-adjacent card (Case the Joint is just trash), but there's a card with a Cephalid on it that has the rules text of "Legitimate Businessperson." Thank you Santa, thank you.
It's also just phenomenal Commander removal at a shockingly low mana value. Half-priced Lignify in a new color is pretty sweet.
4 out of 5, aggressively costed way to keep Commanders in their cubicles.
The word Cephalid has lost all meaning; we'd better get some more during The Brothers' War, and if I don't get one to preview from the next batch, I am going to flood 1/3rd of the contiguous United States.