Streets of New Capenna EDH Set Review – Obscura & Blue

MD Alvis • April 19, 2022

(Obscura | Art by Olena Richards)

Someone on New Capenna is Always Watching…

The Obscura agents already knew you would be reading this before you ever landed on this site. How, you might ask? It’s their business to know these things… but you are also a Magic player, meaning that preview season is like Christmas to you! Today on Commander’s Herald, we’re diving into a review of the best and brightest that the Obscura ranks have to offer for our favorite format!

Brokers & White | Maestros & Black | Riveteers & Red | Cabaretti & Green | Colorless & Lands

Let’s get right into it!


The Mythic Rares


All-Seeing Arbiter

All-Seeing Arbiter seemed at first, to me at least, to be a little lack-luster for EDH. It really feels like a big, blue Mr. Manhattan (sans CGI artists’ worst nightmare) made for a format like Standard. A six-mana 5/4 with flying, even with a draw-two ETB effect, seems below-rate for the designs I’m used to seeing in this slot, such as Dream Eater or Sphinx of the Final Word. What this lacks in hexproof or ward it makes up for by giving you a lot of upside in a control deck by using some cards that you might otherwise not: instant-speed self-discard!

By using cards that allow you discard to gain an effect – especially at instant speed – you can turn All-Seeing Arbiter into a tide-turning combat-controller. Combined with controlling effects, like Foil, and game-ending threats, like Geralf’s Masterpiece, All-Seeing Arbiter can serve as a great role-player in blue decks that also care about hand size and card filtering over pure card advantage.

Even the Score

Alright…so, this is one heck of a score for fans of Stroke of Genius, PUN INTENDED.

This Stroke variant is turning the knobs on the design in a really interesting way. The big X-value draw spells have become staples of design, it seems, and rather than turning the knob that, in my humble opinion, hurts the playability of these cards the most (making them sorcery-speed, a la Braingeyser or Mind Spring) or changing their actual function (like Universal Surveillance or Finale of Revelation), this is a straight card advantage bomb at instant speed that can go over the top when you are behind or pull you incredibly far ahead at parity.

The fact that this punishes other players trying to gain significant card advantage by effectively drawing you three cards AND eliminating color constraints is absolutely great. This will definitely compete with Stroke of Genius and Blue Sun’s Zenith in decks like Jorn and add yet another bomb to the average Mizzix deck.

Raffine, Scheming Seer

Be still, my beating heart! Raffine meets or beats most of the things that I look for in a commander that is viable for my playstyle. Three mana value? Check. Evasive threat? Check. Built-in resilience? Check. Card draw engine? Check and check.

Raffine is doing a lot of different things, but arguably the most important thing is that they are incentivizing a new strategy for non-Tymna the Weaver Esper decks: friends, combat matters again! The way Raffine’s trigger works, if you attack with six creatures, you can strategically choose one to pump with a permanent boost while also increasing the quality of cards in your hand for the situation at hand! That’s wild. However, there are some specific cards that I’m particularly interested in combining with this hard-to-kill engine:

Raffine, Scheming Seer is a great enabler for a reanimator strategy in Obscura/Esper, and it gives you a really great way to gain significant advantage while binning your bombs to bring back with a Reanimate or Persist. Bonus if you can also snipe a player with commander damage or discard something with Madness, like Necrogoyf!


The Rares


Aven Heartstabber

This card is definitely not designed for us, but it isn’t not either! Aven Heartstabber is the kind of card that will surprise you, especially given the new Obscura/Esper penchant for meaningfully engaging with the combat step. A 1/1 flyer that dies into a Thought Scour and is situationally a 3/3 deathtouch flyer is actually no joke. If you can get the pump somewhat reliably, this is exactly the kind of card that, along with Baleful Strix, will be the backbone for your Raffine deck!

Cut Your Losses

I have a friend. This friend likes to be cute, and sometimes being cute means building Kwain, Itinerant Meddler as a group hug/mill deck and TKOing you with a card that leaves you no other choice other than to Cut your Losses. Seriously, though: Cut Your Losses can mill 75% of the remaining cards in an opponent’s library in one shot just by sacrificing something like a Flying Men. While not the best card of its type, these massive mill effects are part of what make those decks function, and having a critical mass of them just improves the average draw of those decks.

Errant, Street Artist

If you had a one-mana 0/3 flash defender that’s also a legendary creature that cares about…well, anything really, on your New Capenna bingo card, then you probably need to go buy a lotto ticket immediately. Errant, Street Artist has such a weird set of abilities to be on a commander, and the fact that she specifically interacts only with spells that weren’t cast is quite interesting. This works magically with Narset’s Reversal and Insidious Will, but what was surprising to me was the sheer lack of copy-spell effects in blue. That makes me think that Errant, Street Artist is more of a role-player in Izzet decks that are looking to capitalize on Fork effects and Thousand-Year Storm. Either way, this creature had my gears turning, which is great at one mana!

Ledger Shredder

Similar to what we saw above with Aven Heartstabber, Ledger Shredder provides not only a body to enable Connive in a Raffine deck, but it also sits on the battlefield generating value and incentivising your opponents to not double-spell unless absolutely necessary. It’s a little wild to think about, but giving your opponent cards and improving their threat actually makes this feel like a reasonable rattlesnake in the right pods. It’s a role-player, but I like it in blue reanimator decks or decks that want to punish opponents doing too much on their turns.

Obscura Ascendancy

I loved the Ascendancy cycle from Khans of Tarkir, and I love this cycle, too! However, Obscura Ascendancy in particular is pretty narrow. Counting mana values the way it does means that it will be difficult to consistently trigger it to get the Spirit token. However, I actually think that it being a late-game anthem effect for your Spirits is no joke: +3/+3 is a huge buff that can end the game immediately as an Obscura Overrun in the right kind of deck. In particular, that sounds dope with a Drogskul Reaver or Court of Grace. Overall, it doesn’t seem great as an engine but looks to be an underestimated finisher.

Obscura Interceptor

The baseline for Obscura Interceptor is that it’s a harder-to-cast Venser with the upside of looting and lifelink. As someone who has cast – and will continue to cast – a very large number of Vensers, I’m 100% in for this card. This kind of disruption + a clock threat is something that our community can really glean from 60-card format as a 4/2 lifelinker that answers an important spell or permanent is exactly enough to really pull you back into a game or close the door to prevent an opponent from winning the game. I really like this in an archetype that cares about permanent-based disruption, like Tymna the Weaver/Sakashima of a Thousand Faces.

Reservoir Kraken

This card is absolutely insane. Full stop. A four-mana 6/6 with trample is a crazy rate, and ward 2 is actually a huge boon towards turning off removal spells. The downside is real, though: giving your opponents the ability to tap down your threat before attacking is a tough position… but only for a while. The fact that the Fish tokens are unblockable means that tapping down your Reservoir Kraken is a losing proposition as the game goes on. I love this in, again, Raffine, Scheming Seer, but also in decks like Edric, Spymaster of Trest or builds that run Reconnaissance Mission that can convert those tokens into cards where your Kraken becomes a draw engine. This, in my mind, is actually one of the strongest mono-blue cards in the set for Commander.

Scheming Fence

Scheming Fence is a great, targeted hatebear that can turn off a Noble Hierarch or Circle of Dreams Druid while converting that disruption into mana advantage. Don’t underestimate how impactful it can be to, in effect, bolt the bird in a matchup where mana efficiency really matters. My best guess is that this card’s power level will scale with the average power level of the table, and that we’ll most often see it paired with Vehicles and/or Tymna the Weaver.

Toluz, Clever Conductor

I love Toluz. It might be that she’s an analog to Anje Falkenrath and that I have a love affair with discard payoffs, but effectively eliminating the downside of discarding and Conniving is pretty significant. Card advantage, even delayed, is significantly stronger in the course of a long game. Toluz becomes even more powerful when combined with sacrifice outlets, like Phyrexian Altar, Altar of Dementia, or even the pretty underrated Village Rites.

While I don’t want to play Madness cards with this particular commander, I do like that cards that discard as a cost, such as Sickening Dreams, Vengeful Dreams, or Bone Shards, move from borderline unplayable to game-changing bombs when you stick them in a deck with Toluz, Clever Conductor. There’s a world where this commander is really strong, and it’s a commander I’m really excited to see built by the community!

Undercover Operative

We have our “insert set mechanic” Clone variant for the set, but I actually think this might be one of the better variants that we’ve seen in a Standard-legal release. That shield counter effectively giving your clone Totem armor means that whatever you copy has an additional layer of protection that complicates the board state in a very significant way. Want a Consecrated Sphinx? Sure – I’ll take an unkillable Sphinx. Requiring two removal spells to have a shot at killing Undercover Operative means that your Sphinx will stick around much longer than the one you copied. While this example might be exceptional, I don’t think this is far from the baseline. Imagine any of the following creatures with a shield counter, all of which are some of the most popular cards in the format:

These are all high-impact removal magnets, and getting your own copy for next to no opportunity cost in a deck that has room for a Clone anyway means that I suspect we’ll actually see Undercover Operatives more often than we might anticipate otherwise. Thanks, shield counter!

Void Rend

Vindicate. This is just Vindicate that’s trading some flexibility to be instant-speed and uncounterable. I will still, always, play this over Vindicate because I love playing on other peoples’ turns, but this is going to be worse for the most part.

Wiretapping

I might be a curmudgeon, but I’ve had some bad experiences with Hideaway as a mechanic, specifically on the land cycle from many moons ago. Playing IRL or on webcam, having that exiled card under a land becomes cumbersome, and the number of times I’ve actually seen one of those conditions met can be counted on one hand. However, what is different about a card like Wiretapping is that there’s upside outside of the potential for a free card. It’s going to be difficult, if not close to impossible, to hit the nine cards in hand to trigger Hideaway. But, the uphill battle is mitigated by the fact that you will be drawing extra cards during your draw step, which is very strong. Even at five mana, there are decks that will want as much of this kind of effect as possible like Kwain, Itinerant Meddler or even Go-Shintai of Life’s Origin.


Uncommons


An Offer You Can’t Refuse

This card is fine, and will probably find slots at higher-powered tables. It’s a great Counterspell, and the difference between one mana and two mana is basically infinite when you’re in a back-and-forth on the stack. I think the downside of giving Treasures is greater than the token an opponent gets from Swan Song by a lot, but in a pinch this will save you in moments when a Negate or even Force of Negation couldn’t. I want to try it in my high-powered 4-Color Control deck, so we’ll see how it plays soon!

Obscura Charm

I love Charms, and Obscura Charm does a whole lot of great stuff at three mana. A nice Brought Back variant combined with both stack interaction and a removal spell seems really, really powerful. Granted that three pips in a mana cost isn’t easy to pull off on-curve, but this is the kind of card you aren’t looking to cast on turn three anyway!

Queza, Augur of Agonies

Queza, Augur of Agonies has been the center of a lot of conversation since it was previewed. This goes infinite with Drogskul Reaver, a seven-mana creature that has to be on-board before you perform another game action to cause a loop to start, and if you don’t have a Laboratory Maniac effect on board, you end up losing the game because this loop doesn’t have a “may”. It also can’t kill everyone at the table unless you have a Kozilek, Butcher of Truth in your deck. We also need to mention that Queza, Augur of Agonies comes with quite the “precon” package, given how the commander may want to be built (spoiler alert: Queza doesn’t want to do nice things):

All told, I think Queza, Augur of Agonies represents two competing truths: first, New Capenna has done a great job stretching the bounds of what this color combination can do and, second, people will always look for that seven-mana spell that “breaks EDH at its very foundation” to combo with a new commander. Never change, Magic players.

Tainted Indulgence

Night’s Whisper this is not, but any time you can spend two mana to see two new cards, it’s worth considering. Someone may push back, but two mana to draw two and (sometimes) discard one is actually a really aggressive rate. I like this in almost any deck that can support it, and I like it better than any kind of draw effect at three mana because this card lets you keep two-land hands with only minimal downside. Remember kids, friends don’t let friends play Divination


Wrapping Obscura on the DL


So, what do you think of Streets of New Capenna? What’s your favorite card in the set? I’m personally super excited to play with a new of these cards, and I have decks already looking at Tainted Indulgence, Even the Score, and An Offer You Can’t Refuse, and Toluz has my brewing gears grinding away.

Do you have any sweet interactions or combos that you are brewing around that we overlooked? Let us know in the comments!



MD might Force of Will your Cultivate because he's been hurt before. Spike at heart. When he isn't trying to jank out the table with Garruk Relentless and Clever Impersonator, you can find him hanging with his family, playing games with friends, or working as a coach and spiritual director in SW Missouri.