Have you been drafting Streets of New Capenna? I believe this is an extraordinary set because all the cards are full of abilities even in common rarity (check on the glorious 《Jewel Thief》!).
In my opinion, I dislike cards that start getting overpowered as mana issues are still a big part of Magic. When all your cards are designed with abilities, it would easily amplify the snowball effects on how good your draw is.
However, it is not the part I want to focus on today. Instead, I would like to share some of my understanding of the format from a top-down approach.
The Texture of The Format
First of all, although it is designed as a tri-color format with good mana fixing, the number of gold cards is actually limited. Also, there are no enemy color cards in the set where the power of having all three colors is only shown at the uncommon or higher rarities.
The common tri-color cards mainly served as a color fixing role and were overcosted with the ability attached. Therefore, I tend to believe the format is a two plus one color format (splashing third color) instead of a traditional tri-color format.
With such understanding, we could start looking into the color pair. The easy way to go is the ally color pairs as there is a gold card cycle at each rarity. And then we will look at how each ally color could be paired with the third color to form the shard.
One of the best aspects of having lots of treasure makers is that it naturally fixes and ramps your mana which we could cast our cards much easier and it is a perfect color combination to splash.
We then try to look at the Cabaretti and Riveteers tri-color common and uncommon as we expect them to wheel as a card to splash.
For Riveteers, we got 《Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder》 and 《Masked Bandits》. While 《Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder》 goes well with Blitz or any Menace/Trample creatures to get extra values, it looks like mostly extra beef in addition to the green fatties to me.
In general, if I drafted some alliance synergy, I would prioritize white mana fixing over black and hope to get passed some good tri-color uncommons or even 《Jinnie Fay, Jetmir’s Second》 to combo with treasure makers. If I drafted menace or trample creatures like 《Mayhem Patrol》 and 《Jewel Thief》, I would prioritize black over white.
The gold cards are 《Body Dropper》, 《Fatal Grudge》, and 《Forge Boss》. Once again a very straightforward theme of sacrifice. Blitz and Casualty are mostly the engines to trigger the sacrifice effect with value in the format. Blitz is easy to handle as we just pick up those good Blitz cards.
Casualty is more tricky. Mostly I want to pick up some value creatures with enters or leave the battlefield effects. 《Corrupt Court Official》 is one of the best examples where we can generate lots of extra value by sacrificing it to 《Dig Up the Body》.
To splash, we could go either green or blue. Green provided us some extra Blitz cards like 《Caldaia Strongarm》 and 《Riveteers Decoy》. If we are going for some more aggressive strategy, we could go with green. Once again, 《Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder》 is just a great card to go with Blitz.
For Blue cards, we got 《Corpse Appraiser》 and 《Cormela, Glamour Thief》 as the tri-color gold cards (《Glamorous Outlaw》 feels like a random filler for me). It points us to a more spell/value-based strategy. I could see if we are able to pick up a high number of removals and drag the game longer, it would be good for us to splash blue to grind our opponent. In general, I believe it is more common to match Green with a Black-Red-based deck.
The gold cards are 《Snooping Newsie》, 《Tainted Indulgence》 and 《Syndicate Infiltrator》. We can see the theme of “five or more mana values among cards in your graveyard” here. To facilitate this requirement, we would like to get a more diverse mana value of cards in the deck.
Connive and Casualty does help us build up the grave a little bit but the context of the deck is fundamental to enable the payoffs. We do not want our deck filled with high numbers of random high drops. Therefore good one mana value cards like 《Ominous Parcel》 and the sacrifice lands look more attractive to me in such a scenario.
Cards that mill yourself are and spells based decks are much easier to enable the ability as it helps us build up the graveyard naturally. 《Dig Up the Body》 and 《Deal Gone Bad》 are the cards I would like to have in my 40s. Also, we might wanna prioritize cards that generate values from our graveyard, like 《Expendable Lackey》, 《Halo Scarab》, and 《Maestros Initiate》, for bonus value from the self mill.
Red naturally fits with the theme as we got a good 1 mana value removals, 《Strangle》. 《Corpse Appraiser》 helps pile up the grave and 《Cormela, Glamour Thief》 is great in a spell-based deck which is also the direction of the deck I would like my deck to be if I am in Blue-Black.
On the other hand, white seems to not synergize with the “5 different mana value” theme at all. 《Nimble Larcenist》, 《Queza, Augur of Agonies》 and 《Shattered Seraph》 are both solid cards. It suggests we go long and win with good cards. It is a solid strategy but it does not abuse any of the Blue-Black gold cards. Therefore, I would prefer to pair red with my Blue-Black-based deck.
Here I would prioritize some cheap counter enablers like 《Backup Agent》, 《Raffine’s Informant》 or even 《Brokers Veteran》. Another note to those gold cards is all of them are packed with evasive abilities. It points us towards the “turtle and fly over” game plan. Both 《Brokers Initiate》 and 《Backstreet Bruiser》 are fine low drops provided we would like to play defense.
Unlike being in Blue-Black based strategy, all the Obscura cards are actually nice where 《Nimble Larcenist》 and 《Shattered Seraph》 both got flying and 《Queza, Augur of Agonies》 could deal direct damages and gain us some life to get out of the range. Here we could see the difference between the same three color combinations but different cores would lead to so many different valuations of cards.
On the other hand, Green does not provide many evasion creatures but some counter synergies in terms of 《Caldaia Strongarm》 and 《Disciplined Duelist》. 《Lagrella, the Magpie》 and 《Spara’s Adjudicators》 are also strong cards to let us race our opponent efficiently. If you wonder why White-Blue is arguably the best color pair in the set, it is easy for us to understand when we see how good White-Blue pairs with either of the third colors.
The gold cards are 《Civil Servant》, 《Darling of the Masses》 and 《Ceremonial Groundbreaker》. It is clear the theme is to build around Citizen. One of the things I dislike is that most citizens do not overlap with other abilities. For example, cards with Connive, Blitz, Alliance and treasure are mostly not Citizen. To build up the Citizen synergy, we ended up drafting creatures focusing on raw powers instead of abilities.
Meanwhile 《Ceremonial Groundbreaker》 also does not look as good as 《Quick-Draw Dagger》 most of the time. Make no mistakes, a turn two 《Civil Servant》 is still one of the best openings in the format but I sometimes find it difficult to give up some stronger creatures to pick up Citizen and end up with a solid creature based deck instead of synergized deck.
If I am drafting a creature-based deck that needs some sort of card advantage, I would pair the deck with red for 《Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer》 or 《Brazen Upstart》 to get extra cards. If I am in need of removals, I would just pair it with blue for 《Lagrella, the Magpie》, and 《Spara’s Adjudicators》. Meanwhile, I think most White-Green decks might simply wanna stay in two colors and focus on curves to beat down the opponent.
I hope you guys like this top-down approach to understanding the format. Especially when you find out sometimes a Blue-Black-based Obscura doesn’t work while White-Blue-based Obscura just gets you 3 wins much more often. Or when you find out some color combination always gets lots of card inflow while some color just never works.
Sometimes we could draft infinite times to learn a draft format. Sometimes we can simply read and try to break down how we should approach a draft format as well. I hope this article could give you a brief understanding of the format and how reading could make a change!