Magic: the Gathering’s latest set is a noir city of crime families

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Having gone to the cyber future, the new Magic the Gathering set, Streets of New Capenna, is going to the past. Our real world past, that is. Drawing on tales of gangsters and noir metropolises, the newest entry details five demon crime families—the Brokers, Obscura, Maestros, Riveteers, and Cabaretti—fighting over control of a dwindling magical resource known only as ‘Halo’. If you aren’t ready to slip into your suit or a cocktail dress and rub elbows with magic gangsters, you’ll be able to get even more in the mood as more cards will be spoiled every day from now to release.

The set itself is coming to MTG Arena on April 28th, a day ahead of the global release in paper on April 29th. You’ll also be able to get handwaved into the party early, with prerelease events starting April 22nd.

Demons and dilettantes stalking the lavish parties of an art deco city while mages sling spells from their sleek limos. I’m getting my hat and coat as we speak for the latest weird evolution of Magic.

What’s the story with New Capenna?

For a city literally built by angels—eat your heart out, Los Angeles—New Capenna  sure is firmly ruled by demons. Five of them, to be exact, the heads of the five crime families duking it out to see who will come out on top. Their big bone to pick with each other is control of ‘Halo’, which is apparently what’s left of the angels who built the city, who were betrayed by the demons of New Capenna on their way out the door. Crime really does pay, if you’re a mafia demon.

Meanwhile, Planeswalkers like Elspeth, Vivien, and Ob Nixilis have gotten mixed up in things as well. Elspeth is investigating to try to figure out if New Capenna is her home or not, while Vivien is traveling in search of the natural balance. The two team up to try to prevent a war between the different families who have been riled up by a mysterious ‘Adversary’ and encountering Urabrask, the Phyrexian Praetor lurking in the city. The big secret is that Ob Nixilis is the figure behind the mysterious Adversary character, and he’s been sucking up all the Halo he can get his hands on.

Who are these crime families, anyways?

  • The Obscura are gifted magicians, associated with black, white, and blue mana. They’re blackmailers, deceivers, and masters of illusion and distraction who run constant schemes for their own benefit.
  • The Maestros are elite assassins, associated with blue, black, and red mana. They’re old money and love all of the high status and class that come with the finer things. They’re largely vampires, and their front is that of an art collecting organization.
  • The Riveteers are mostly construction workers, associated with black, red, and green mana. They’re tough and rowdy, building and breaking down the buildings of the city, and rely on brute force and intimidation.
  • The Cabaretti are cultist druid partiers, associated with red, green, and white mana. They throw the best parties and are the never-ending high-class center of the city.
  • The Brokers are demonic lawyers, associated with green, white, and blue mana. They’re a law firm that believes in a doomsday prophecy predicting the fall of New Capenna when all the Halo runs out, and their agents are experts at erasing memories.

(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro)

What prior mechanics are returning?

So far there’s only one specific mechanic we know is returning: the weirdly useful and thematic Hideaway mechanic. 

Hideaway lets you can snag a card off the top of your deck, and then play that card for free later if you meet the conditions. In the past, this was a hit-or-miss mechanic, powerful when the conditions were easy to meet

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Magic the Gathering - New Capenna Preview Cards

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What mechanics is New Capenna introducing?

Unsurprisingly the vampiric assassins of the Maestros really enjoy the new Casualty mechanic, which gives spells an optional additional cost: sacrificing a creature with the appropriate power. The return on your morbid investment is pretty good though, because if you pay the cost, you get to copy the spell for free. With the number of early utility creatures—and especially creatures with death triggers—Casualty is poised for some serious power.

With Alliance, you’ll be rewarded for building your board up with more and more creatures. Enter the battlefield effects are often extremely strong, being the basis of many powerful decks across multiple formats. To me, Alliance is the most likely to produce surprisingly powerful cards. Oh, and something that rewards you for getting together a ton of people? Yeah it’s the druidic partiers of the Cabaretti family.

With the Brokers, we’re seeing a new counter type with its own rules: shield counters. These act like little protection shields, where the next time they’d take damage or be destroyed, you cancel it and remove a counter instead. There are some powerful effects with this already in the previews—especially Elspeth—but what’s most interesting to me is that in older formats like Modern, this is a sort of sneaky benefit to white, whose removal spells are mostly Exile effects, which will ignore shield counters.

Primarily appearing with the Riveteers, Blitz allows you to cast creatures for an alternate (usually cheaper) cost and give it haste, but they die at the end of your turn. Thankfully, they also draw you a card, so this is an intriguing option for creatures to get in for quick damage and replace themselves, or in the case of newly revealed Jaxis, the Troublemaker—to speed out and copy an important creature.

The mystics and seers over in the Obscura lead with Connive right on the head of their family: Raffine, Scheming Seer. Allowing you to draw and then discard cards, each nonland card you discard also powers up your creature with a +1/+1 counter, so you can either boost your aggression or filter the extra land out of your hand. This is going to be pretty situational for how useful it is, but anything that can build you some card advantage has a shot at being powerful.

What about showcases, special frames, and alternate arts? 

If you’re a fan of cool alternate arts and frames, you’re going to be pretty happy with New Capenna. Continuing previous traditions, we’ll have quite a few.

  • We’ll be seeing extended and borderless cards returning again, along with foil etched.
  • This is another set where we’ll be getting full art lands, each of which is a truly stunning metropolis-themed art.
  • The new alternate frame is art deco, which look pretty spiffy and architectural. 
  • Here’s another version of this called ‘skyscraper’, which will apply to ten different lands. Five of them we know are the new tri-lands (having three different basic land types at once), but the other five are a mystery, and we only know they aren’t the original tri-lands and they aren’t basic lands.
  • Each of the three planeswalkers will appear in three different arts (normal, borderless, and art deco).
  • We also will be getting golden age frames, which are pretty fancy already, but they also have a version called ‘gilded’ which has the frame embossed with gold foil that shines.
  • Lastly, there is a special box topper, which is the card Gala Greeters. They have a different piece of art for every single regional release, and those regional releases/language will be the only place you can get that art.
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Magic the Gathering - Streets of New Capenna preview cards

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