Breaking Down Streets of New Capenna in Modern

Streets of New Capenna is finally here, and along with it comes a handful of cards that are looking to break their way into the Modern format. Join me as I break them down, along with a few other cards that have flown below the radar and are looking to sneak their way in.  

What once was a top deck in Modern, Humans has slowly fallen down the tiers of the Modern metagame. Modern Horizons 2 brought forth a slew of premium removal spells, and Humans has struggled to keep pace with cards like Fury and Unholy Heat. While I don’t think the addition of Extraction Specialist will cause a complete 180 effect to Humans’ place in the metagame, it does add some crucial resilience to the deck. 

Being able to recur taxing effects like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or Unsettled Marinier is a powerful tempo swing, while still applying pressure to the board with Extraction Specialist. In addition, recurring Phantasmal Image can allow you to copy the Extraction Specialist to get an additional trigger. All of these are fine options that Extraction Specialist brings to the deck, and at worst you are creating enter the battlefield triggers for Champion of the Parish and Thalia’s Lieutenant. 

Modern players reminisce about being able to play Arclight Phoenix in, looking for any effect to make their beloved deck playable again. Forgotten Realms brought Demilich, Midnight Hunt brought Faithless Mending, but none of these have been the answer to revitalize the deck. Well here we are again, with a new set and a new card that could possibly bring back the deck, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Ledger Shredder is a Swiss Army knife, acting as both a looting effect as well as a reasonable threat for the deck. Not only can you easily abuse the ability to Connive on your own turn, it forces your opponent to have to slow down, as it triggers on them casting a second spell of their own. Ledger Shredder is the card that I personally am most excited about from New Capenna, and I look forward to trying to make it work in both Modern AND Pioneer. 

Ah phasing, how do you keep sneaking into sets again? On the surface, Slip Out the Back looks just like a Blue version of Snakeskin Veil, so what makes it so much better? The answer is Phasing, as the ability to completely disappear creates a ton of versatility in many situations. Slip Out the Back is a card that I think will slip into Modern Infect seamlessly, and allows for lines of play that were once not possible. Your opponent is playing a wrath effect? Phase it out. Your opponent has an unexpected blocker? Phase your opponent’s creature out. It grows your creature, protects it, and acts as removal—what more could you want?

Fifteen mana is a lot to ask for in Modern, though cards that allow you to cheat on mana have historically been quite powerful. The first place that I see Shadow of Mortality finding a home in is various Rakdos based Death’s Shadow decks. While Shadow of Mortality is no Death’s Shadow, it is very similar in wanting you to utilize your life total to play large threats, and will play nicely with the play style of the deck. 

On the other side of the scale we find Shadow of Mortality finding a home in an odd deck featuring Calibrated Blast. Calibrated Blast looks to fill its deck with extremely high mana values, to deal large amounts of damage quickly to the opponent. The problem with this, is you often are unable to cast the majority of your deck—enter Shadow of Mortality. Serving both the role of a high mana spell AND a reasonable creature that you can cast is exactly the kind of card that the deck is looking for, and looks to play a similar role alongside Scion of Draco.

On the surface, Devilish Valet looks like a card that wants you to utilize the Alliance ability, spewing out cheap and efficient threats, or filling the board with tokens to really take advantage of the multiple triggers. While I am sure that there are some neat applications within that strategy, I think Devilish Valet will serve a role in a much more broken strategy, featuring Yagmoth, Thran Physician. While I don’t think that Devilish Valet will replace the draining effect of either Blood Artist or Zulaport Cutthroat, I do think that it will coexist alongside that effect and act as an alternate win condition, as well as a reasonable beatdown card where you can not fully combo your opponent, but still can take advantage of the plethora of undying creatures. 

Vivien on the Hunt was the talk of the town the day she was spoiled. While seemingly quite slow and clunky, Vivien brings a Birthing Pod situation to Modern. Let’s start by breaking down what exactly the combo is, and how it works. 

This combo involves Planebound Accomplice, Felidar Guardian, Karmic Guide, and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Starting with Planebound Accomplice and one Red mana, you can activate Planebound Accomplice’s ability to put Vivien on the Hunt into play. Then, you sacrifice Planebound Accomplice to Vivien’s +2 ability to find Felidar Guardian, which allows for its enter the battlefield ability to flicker Vivien, allowing for a brand new activation of her ability. Then, you sacrifice Felidar Guardian to the ability, finding Karmic Guide, which allows you to bring back Felidar Guardian with Karmic Guides ability, which once again lets you reset Vivien. Finally, you sacrifice Felidar Guardian for the final time, getting Kiki-Jiki Mirror Breaker, which allows you to copy Karmic Guide, returning Felidar Guardian, and Felidar Guardian + Kiki-Jiki allows for an infinite amount of hasty cats ready to end the game.

My biggest concern with a combo that involves so many moving parts is how easily it can be disrupted by an opponent with a smidge of interaction. As it stands, I don’t think Vivien on the Hunt will be breaking Modern anytime soon, though it is worth keeping an eye on as more cards are constantly added to the format. 

If you have ever played with cards like Memory Lapse or Aether Gust, you know just how powerful this kind of effect is. Endless Detour has the combination of being removal, permission, and graveyard hate all wrapped up in a bundle. Although the mana cost can seem restrictive, and three mana may seem slow, I am instantly reminded of another three mana spell that faced the same criticism, but proved to be a Modern all-star—Archmage’s Charm. While I don’t think the card will be exactly as good as Archmage’s Charm, I think the card is very powerful and worth keeping an eye on, as I expect it to pop up in 4-Color pile decks, as well as Azorius Control shells, which are already splashing for Veil of Summer and the occasional Ice-Fang Coatl. 

I know what you are probably thinking, “What is this 7 mana Grixis EDH card doing on a list about Modern playables?”. At first glance this card does not look like it should have a home in Modern, though there are two decks that I am excited to try out that feature Lord Xander. While I don’t think either will be breaking Modern anytime soon, I do think they are quite fun and worth exploring.

First, we have Goryo’s Vengeance, a deck that has been lost in the ever growing pool of Modern decks. This card will not replace Griselbrand, but acts as additional reanimation targets. Lord Xander has three very powerful effects, that will all trigger through reanimating, attacking, and sacrificing Lord Xander with Goryo’s Vengeance. 

Next, we have a Show and Tell effect in Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord. For the low cost of three mana, you can cheat Lord Xander directly into play from your hand through Sorin. Unlike typical Show and Tell effects, Sorin can be in play and accrue value even if you don’t have the payoff in hand. I think that there is a deck waiting to be born from this valuable interaction, and I look forward to testing it out.

A three mana planeswalker that looks to break Modern, where have we seen that before? Yes Oko, I am looking at you. While many expect Ob Nixilis to completely turn the format on its head, evaluating new cards and how they will actually play is a challenging task, which we as players are often incorrect about.

On the surface, Ob Nixilis’ casualty ability creating a second planeswalker seems like a very strong ability, and quite the powerful effect for modern. Immediately, Ob Nixilis begins to pressure the opponent by forcing them to take damage, or disrupt their hand. Take this effect and have it twice a turn as early as turn three, and things look like they will quickly snowball out of control. Even if your opponent has removal in hand, they are likely only able to deal with the first copy right away, leaving you still ahead. With many Rakdos midrange strategies already sporting some of Modern’s all-stars, I expect Ob Nixilis to quickly find a home and take his throne. 

Having the option of choice is always powerful in Modern, so when a single card can have three unique effects that are all powerful, you have the makings of a Modern playable card.

First, Obscura Charm is able to reanimate a multicolored permanent card with mana value three or less. This is a powerful effect at instant speed, and there are some valuable targets that already play alongside the colors. Returning Teferi, Time Raveler at instant speed after your opponent thinks they have finally dealt with it is back breaking. Retuning a Spell Queller to exile their spell on the stack. And if you want to get really funky, Niv-Mizzet decks can even return Wrenn and Six.

Countering an instant or sorcery is never irrelevant in Modern, and there will be a target for this mode in nearly every match of Modern that you play. For three mana, it isn’t an amazing effect, but knowing that it will never be irrelevant is quite valuable in its flexibility.

Last, we have Eliminate stapled on for good measure. Eliminate has seen fringe modern play, though having the card as an option makes it that much more versatile and likely to see play. There are a slew of relevant targets in the format, and being able to cleanly answer a Wrenn and Six or a Tarmogoyf in the same turn makes this quite strong.

Modern Jund is known for being a flexible deck that has efficient cards against a wide variety of decks, looking to trade in resources and disassemble their opponents strategy. Breaking down Riveteers Charm shows that it meets all the criteria to be exactly the kind of spell that Jund is looking for. 

First, we have removal in the form of an edict effect for creatures OR planeswalkers. Edict effects often do not see much play as they give your opponent the ability of choice, however Riveteers Charm does not give your opponent much of a choice, restricting them to specifically the highest mana value. This lines up quite well with the current meta, as it removes Murktide Regent and Primeval Titan, as well as can still be a relevant card against Azorius Control where most removal spells often are blanks in your main deck.

Seeing three more cards than your opponent is big in any Modern game, being able to do so after trading one-for-one with your opponent all game is even bigger. Jund is not the kind of deck that usually gets access to card advantage, and having the ability to “draw” cards late in the game while still being a relevant card in the early game is quite powerful.

Last, but not least, we have graveyard hate. Incidental graveyard hate has always been a powerful effect, and in a world with delve cards, flashback, delirium, and a slew of graveyard specific strategies, it is important to have access to graveyard disruption even in game one. Having cards that incidentally cover graveyard strategies already in your main deck also allows for some slots to open up in the sideboard.

What will likely turn out to be the card that doesn’t find a home in Modern, Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer is a card that is worth mentioning for a few niche interactions. It is important to note that Rocco’s ability triggers even if x is equal to 0, which allows you to find both Dryad Arbor and Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar. I think a very similar comparison is that of Finale of Devastation, which saw quite a bit of play in G/Bx food shells as a way to tutor out Asmo, though Rocco does the same while also leaving a body behind. 

Tainted Indulgence is a card that immediately draws comparison with Chart a Course, a decent card advantage and looting effect that has seen play in Modern. In this new version, you are trading a slightly trickier mana cost for the added value of being an instant speed effect, along with an alternate requirement to simply draw two cards rather than loot. I expect to see Tainted Indulgence find a home almost immediately in Esper/Grixis reanimation shells that can take advantage of the looting effect with Archon of Cruelty. While having five different mana values in the graveyard may seem like a difficult hurdle, these reanimator style decks often have access to a wide array of mana values that synergize ending up in the graveyard, like Grief and Solitude. 

Anguished Unmaking has seen fringe Modern play throughout the years as players have tried to make Esper Control a viable strategy—enter Void Rend. Similar to Anguished Unmaking, Void Rend retians the same powerful ability to remove any nonland permanent, and swapping the drawback of losing 3 life while gaining the powerful ability to be uncounterable. Void Rend offers some of the best removal that Esper has seen in a while, and I expect to see a few Azorius Control players try to adapt Void Rend into the Strategy, which is made easier than ever with the added bonus of Raffine’s Tower making mana even smoother. 

First, we need to acknowledge the interaction with Luxior, Giada’s Gift and Devoted Druid, as it allows for infinite mana. How does it work? Luxior, Giada’s Gift gives the equipped creature +1/+1 for each counter on the creature, which in this case is Devoted Druid. You can tap Devoted Druid for 1 Green mana and then use Devoted Druid’s activated ability to add a -1/-1 counter to untap itself, which is essentially negated by Luxior, Giada’s Gift. So what makes Luxior good when we have already had access to infinite mana with Vizier of Remedies? The first, is that it can be easily tutored with either Stoneforge Mystic or Urza’s Saga, the latter being quite powerful. Urza’s Saga sequences quite well with Devoted Druid, being able to both cast Devoted Druid and then make mana to equip the turn that it also tutors Luxior.

Now that we have talked about the most hyped interaction with Luxior, Giada’s Gift, I want to highlight another combo with the card that not as many players have noticed – Saheeli Rai. For the first time, we have an equipment that is able to be equipped to Planeswalker that are not creatures. Now, with Saheeli Rai’s -2 ability, you are able to make infinite copies of Saheeli Rai that are artifacts in addition to themselves. Circling back to Urza’s Saga as not just a tool to find Luxior, it can also find a win condition in Altar of the Brood, which combined with making infinite copies of Saheeli Rai allows you to mill your opponent’s deck in one shot. 

There is not much to be said about the new “Triomes” and how they will immediately have an impact on the Modern format. If Ikoria was any indicator on how flexible and powerful this cycle of lands is, I expect them to be just as strong as the former ones. Of the new lands, I expect to see them all see play, with some being slightly stronger than others based on existing decks in the format, such as Spara’s Headquarters and Raffine’s Tower.

There you have it, of the 281 cards entering the format with Streets of New Capenna, there are 20 cards (including the “Triomes”) that I expect to have the potential to see play in Modern. New Capenna is an exciting set, and I look forward to not only playing with all of the cards, but seeing how others utilize and try to adapt them into the format.

What new cards from New Capenna are you excited to play with the most? What card do you expect to make the biggest splash and declare their spot as a contender in the format? Let me know!