Streets of New Capenna EDH Set Review - Riveteers & Red
Streets of New Capenna EDH Set Review - Riveteers
If you were to go back in time two decades and explained to teenage me, that in a game of Wizards and Dragons and Dragon Wizards, we'd one day have a set that featured a faction of just guys with spanners, I would not have believed you. But here we are, assessing the value of putting Riveteers in our Commander decks.
And despite my curmudgeonly Vorthos-tinged back-in-my-dayisms, it turns out that Riveteers are pretty good. Mostly. Let's discuss.
The Mythic Rares
Ziatora, the Incinerator
There's something to be said about consistency. With all the upheaval we've had over the past handful of years with Magic -- the undoing of the block release format, the focus on Commander, the proliferation of new frames, treatments and art styles -- it's nice to know that no matter what's going on in a new set's story or context in the greater release schedule, we're going to get either a big ol' Dragon or a big ol' Demon, and with Ziatora, we get both. Despite what I just said about consistency, a Demon Dragon is something we've only seen once so far in the history of the game, in Malfegor.
That's not to say Jund/Riveteers isn't a stranger to Dragon legends, infernal lineage aside. As a commander, Ziatora is competing with plenty, in Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, Prossh, Skyraider of Kher, Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire, Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund, Wasitora, Nekoru Queen, Darigaaz Reincarnated, and also the other Vaevictis and the other Darigaaz. So it's clear that Ziatora is going to have to bring something unique to the table to inspire a 99 to be built around it. Luckily, it does.
Let's talk about that triggered ability:
At the beginning of your end step, you may sacrifice another creature. When you do, Ziatora, the Incinerator deals damage equal to that creature's power to any target and you create three Treasure tokens.
I may be looking at this one through Jund-colored glasses, but I love tossing my creatures into the furnace to get value, and that's exactly what Ziatora promises. In practice, I imagine a Ziatora list to be similar in a lot of ways to a Greven, Predator Captain deck, utilizing cheap but high-power creatures to feed to the machine, but unlike in Greven, we don't have to kill ourselves to get the value, and instead of cards, we get Treasures -- a resource, if you haven't been paying attention, that is now the most important one in Magic. Of course, no one says you can't cast Hatred in response to the trigger and end a game with pizzazz. Along with a Greven-esque build, we'll also want to incorporate some of what's going on in a reanimator deck, a Feldon of the Third Path or Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded deck, and maybe even a little Revel in Riches if you're nasty.
There are likely the cynical among us that see Ziatora and wonder why we'd bother when Korvold exists. I can't really answer that question for you; it's like trying to convince someone why hunter green is a superior shade to phthalo green. As much as they're the same, they also serve different purposes, and also sometimes if you show up at art class with a tube of phthalo green, your peers groan with tired derision.
Urabrask, Heretic Praetor
It's been almost 11 years to the day since last we've seen our reclusive anti-establishment fleshbot. Prereleases the world over will be filled with confused young people puzzled by the odd reactions to Urabrask given by their more wizened opponents. "Yeah, but where's Koth?" they'll say. "Is Koth okay?" They'll also lament that the prerelease is 50 minutes for sealed deck construction and three-plus rounds and every round will go over the allotted time, but that comes with the territory.
Since he locked himself in the Great Furnace of New Phyrexia, Urabrask hasn't changed much. He's still a 4/4 with haste for five mana, he's still anatomically perplexing, and he still shares the ability suite with his fellow Praetors, insomuch as he provides a boon for you in addition to a tax for opponents. As many have noted, a Riveteers set review could be wrapped up with only a few words, those words being "probably good in Prosper, Tome-Bound," and Urabrask certainly fits snugly under that particular quilt. It's such a unique second ability, preventing opponents from building up a hand by sending the first draw of their turn to the nowhere place, and as such is tough to theorycraft around. How relevant will that ability be in a game of Commander? If I were to bet my hoard of Treasure tokens, I'd say it'll be deceptively good.
It's unlikely that Urabrask will see much attention as a commander, itself, but rather will spend the majority of its time in the 99 of
Prosper other commanders. One interesting place we might see Urabrask shine would be in prison decks paired with cards like Drannith Magistrate, or really any decks that seek to abuse Uba Mask (I'm sure they exist).
Angel of Suffering
"Nightmare Angel" sounds like an alternate version of the title track of an overlooked Annihilator album from 1996, but it's also the first time ever we've seen a creature with that exact type in Magic.
Angel of Suffering, for me at least, represents the apex of a card that checks every box. It's mono-black, it's mythic, unique, has a weird ability, and fantastic art. While I don't currently have any decks that can make use of it, Angel of Suffering is the kind of nonlegendary card I'd consider building around. It's thematically similar to "Lich" cards that turn your library into your life essence, but much less punishing if things go wrong. In most decks that want it, it'll pull double-duty, filling the graveyard for commanders like Karador, Ghost Chieftain or Sedris, the Traitor King, but also acting as some bubble-wrap for your life total, especially when paired with Eldrazi titans. Of course, the cool kids can also pair it with Azor's Elocutors to start rules-based fights at the table.
P.S. -- if any of you open Angel of Suffering in a prerelease sealed event and play your entire sealed pool to make use of its ability, please send me a picture.
It's a red mythic enchantment for six mana; of course it's ridiculous.
If you've ever played with or against Eye of the Storm, you already know how badly Arcane Bombardment will warp any game in which it's played. That's not a knock on it, though. Sometimes a game of Commander needs a little spice, which is why six-mana red enchantments exist in the first place. There will certainly be the player who has a Time Warp sitting in their graveyard when this hits their field, thus turning every cantrip into a free turn, but there are also players like me who just want to put this into a Syr Carah, the Bold deck alongside every burn spell ever printed.
Jaxis, the Troublemaker
Jaxis will be making trouble for players who favor the subset of mono-red decks that do very similar things, in the sense that it'll slot into existing Sneak Attack-style decks, or it'll usurp whichever commander people are using at the time. The card reads as a much punchier Feldon of the Third Path, with a healthy portion of Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker mixed in with a dash of Zurgo Bellstriker.
It's worth noting two things about Jaxis. One, Blitz seems to function from the command zone, much like Dash does as long as you still remember to pay the commander tax each time it dies, and two, despite that annoying "activate as a sorcery" caveat, it still combos with Zealous Conscripts and Phyrexian Altar to go infinite. Toss something like Impact Tremors in the mix, and hopefully you'll ping your opponents to death before you draw your deck. I'm sure there are ways around that, though.
For me, Jaxis will likely fit right in with its new two-power pals in the 99 of Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Of course, I'd be lying if I said I didn't consider during spoiler season pretty much every two-power-or-less creature in red, white or black, at least for a minute or two.
Ognis, the Dragon's Lash
I have a soft spot for legendary creatures that encourage keyword tribal builds. I've played flash tribal with Wydwen, the Biting Gale, I have a Fynn, the Fangbearer deathtouch deck, I've played Zurgo Helmsmasher sturdy-tribal, and I've even played Taniwha Phasing tribal. That last one I would not recommend.
So naturally, I've got my eye on Ognis. Despite only bearing a passing resemblance to the one true Viashino, Ognis and its hybrid mana cost will surely end up as the commander of a deck for me. Whether it'll be good is another thing entirely. There was some lamentation among Commander players when Ognis was revealed regarding the caveat that the Treasures created with its ability come into play tapped (largely thanks to Aggravated Assault), but we only need one new card that forms a two-card combo with an old favorite per set.
Luckily, there are plenty of solid haste creatures to use, and even more ways to give otherwise good creatures haste as an afterthought -- too many, in fact, to mention here. Ognis doesn't strike me as oppressively powerful, which is certainly welcome, but if you're the kind of Magic player that needs to go fast, Amulet of Vigor unlocks that previously mentioned interaction with Aggravated Assault, so have at it.
My initial reaction to this card when it was revealed was to shake my cane at the screen and mumble grimly to passing pidgeons about how in my day, we were tough and played Recurring Nightmare.
But the fact that a card printed in 2022 reminds me even slightly of the best Magic card ever printed (don't argue with me) pretty exciting in and of itself. There are a lot of interesting interactions with Riveteers Ascendancy that beg to be utilized, most notably with things that are heading off to the graveyard anyway, like perhaps a Shriekmaw or Fleshbag Marauder. It's limited by the "once each turn" rider, but there are four turns in a cycle of Commander for a reason. For me, it'll fit right in with Shattergang Brothers.
It seems like with every new set, we get a card like Tenacious Underdog. It's certainly not unique, as we've had one version or another of this card for decades. The mono-black, returning-from-the-grave creature with a set-specific ability is not new. Just look at Ashen Ghoul, Undead Gladiator, Bloodsoaked Champion, Cauldron Familiar, Skyclave Shade, and probably many more I'm forgetting. Hell, even Gravecrawler can fit into that category, if you count "being a Zombie" as a mechanic in Dark Ascension.
Nether Traitor this card is not, but I can certainly see a world where Reassembling Skeleton needs a boxing friend, especially considering that Blitz provides you with an extra card each time.
Unleash the Inferno
I've been around long enough to have played my share of Violent Ultimatum, and not only that, I was happy about it. With Unleash the Inferno, you may be sacrificing the ability to just nuke three permanents with no strings attached, but you're gaining a cheaper, instant-speed way to almost always kill two things. Whenever I accidentally read articles about competitive Magic, they seem to be in favor of two-for-ones, and melting a pesky creature and a mana rock (or Smothering Tithe, or Propaganda, etc.) seems like pretty good value to me.
The "excess damage" design space is one only recently explored, and as a former connoisseur of burn spells, I'm certainly happy to see the potential for direct damage spells to regain some relevancy in Commander. My only complaint is the lack of giant mechanoids in the rest of New Capenna's card art.
Sure, it may just be a Thragtusk in suspenders, but there's nothing wrong with that, especially for that Blitz cost. Six mana to attack for five, gain three life, make a 4/4 and draw a card -- that's pretty good value in a card that can slot into any number of decks that care about just one of those attributes. Ghired, Conclave Exile will love the help making Rhinos (especially if they're as well-dressed as the warchief), Trostani, Selesnya's Voice will gain you 10 life with one Blitz, and Najeela, the Blade-Blossom will get two Warriors for the price of one.
Just remember that, unlike his feral cousin in Thragtusk, Workshop Warchief does not pair as well with something like Restoration Angel.
I'm assuming the art depicts what happens when you don't say yes when a Viashino asks if it can read you its poetry.
In practice, Ziatora's Envoy is reminiscent of Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire and would likely fit perfectly into such a deck. With topdeck manipulation already part of the plan, ensuring a solid flip off the top with the Envoy's trigger doesn't seem too difficult to manage.
Black Market Tycoon
When this card was first spoiled, I knew I was going to write the Riveteers angle of the set review, and I wrote down a note in my phone for a hilarious joke. Unfortunately, simply writing "Khajiit has wares if you have coin" no longer really works when I was one of about a thousand people who also thought of that joke.
At the end of the day, Treasure Cat ends up being yet another gift to Korvold, Fae-Cursed King players, but if you've got a reliable way to give Black Market Tycoon lifelink, you can make good on your capital by earning plenty of passive income.
Little by little, my dream of having a Commander deck dedicated solely to spells that exist in both Magic and Diablo draws closer.
In the right decks, Corpse Explosion is a three-mana sweeper, and will likely find a home in any deck running black and red, big creatures, and ways to get them into the graveyard. I've played my fair share of Disaster Radius, which costs more than twice the mana as Corpse Explosion, so I'm happy to see this new version.
Yes, we know that Prosper, Tome-Bound has a bouncer now, but Professional Face-Breaker (what a name, by the way) is an excellent card for just about any deck that wants to attack every player at once. That ability triggers for each player you're able to crash into each turn, so you could potentially earn three Treasures for your face-punching prowess. I could see it immediately finding a spot in Captain Lannery Storm, or really wherever Grim Hireling is also lurking about. At any rate, I think I took apart my Juri, Master of the Revue Treasure deck a little too soon.
We've been going on and on about Treasures, and while it's no surprise that there's an "answer" to a new problem printing alongside the cards that create that problem, I don't think this is the answer we need. I do appreciate how it manages to get around the very likely scenario that opponents would just flush their Treasure tokens down the toilet to get around the sweeper, since Structural Assault will see them die anyway and still do the damage. Would I rather that damage be done to the players themselves? Yes. Unequivocally.
I'm convinced that this card exists to allow for someone at Wizards to write that pun into flavor text. It was probably kicking around in someone's head since War of the Spark.
As for the card itself, the coolest part of it is that sweet outfit. If only we could go back to the good ol' days of wearing pinstripe slacks and no hard hats to construction sites. Things were simpler then.
Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder
A worthwhile inclusion into the pantheon of power doublers, Mr. Orfeo will likely not spawn too many decks for himself -- Neyith of the Dire Hunt, Targ Nar, Demon-Fang Gnoll, Grunn, the Lonely King, and especially Xenagos, God of Revels fill that space in more interesting ways, but if you ever wanted to add black to that power-doubling mix, look no further than Mr. Orfeo.
I've never seen a Charm I didn't like. And yes, that includes Freyalise's Charm.
The whole idea of Charms is that in a vacuum, each ability is mostly minor on its own, but the versatility of having three of them on one card is where their true power lies, and with Riveteers Charm, that power is more evident than usual. Each of its abilities can be game-changers at the right moment. Opponent trying to intimidate you with a Draco? Charm. Need some card advantage? Charm. Someone won't stop playing a Chainer, Dementia Master deck? Hit 'em with the charm.
While the three-color combination most commonly referred to as Jund received plenty of interesting new cards, I can't help be a little disappointed that Wizards didn't cater directly to my niche desire for a Jund -1/-1 counters commander. Oh well, there's always Baldur's Gate.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for more colors, more reviews, and more art deco shenanigans. See you next time.