Best New Capenna Commander Deck Cards – Red and Black

Along with Streets of New Capenna, we’re getting five new preconstructed New Capenna Commander decks on April 29! That means tons of new cards tailor-made for my favorite format, and I’m going to review them all right here!

As a reminder, my focus is on social Commander rather than competitive EDH. These days, I’ve been leaning more toward a desire to play three 40-minute games in lieu of one two-hour slog, but I’ll be talking about cards from the wider social perspective. My goal when playing Commander is for everyone to have fun but also for me to have a good shot at winning the game – or at least doing the thing my deck set out to do – so if that’s your mindset as well, these reviews will probably resonate with you. When you inevitably disagree with a review (or think I skipped something good), please feel free to tweet at @RagingLevine with your thoughts!

Main Set

The Commanders / White & Blue / Black & Red / Green and Other

Commander Set

The Commanders / White & Blue / Black & Red / Green and Other

 

 

Header - Black

Bellowing Mauler

Bellowing Mauler
This will trigger on your end step, and in a pinch, you can simply sacrifice it to its own ability. I’m not a huge fan of effects like this that provide an option to opponents, but if you’re looking to build a sacrifice engine without making it feel totally oppressive, this can be a fun compromise card. 

Body Count

Body Count

Attacking with a bunch of Devil tokens or other small tokens can help create some tension on the board. Do you have some deathtouch enabler? Some way to pump them? Or do you just want to cast Body Count? Of course, this works just fine with mass sacrifice effects and helps ameliorate the pain of wrathing away your own board, but if you’re not hitting someone, you’re not getting the spectacle cost. Commanders like Anje, Maid of Dishonor with sacrifice effects built in that cause opponents to lose life are fantastic homes for Body Count, as is any commander who pumps out tokens like (sigh) Edgar Markov.

Dogged Detective

Dogged Detective

Finally, Eloise has a helper! Interesting to see black get catch-up draw – that’s effectively what a “return from graveyard to hand” clause is, right? Obviously you want this in decks that play well out of the graveyard, since surveil incentivizes you to fill that zone out nicely. Eloise decks are a definite good home for this both thematically and gameplay-wise, but Jund sacrifice lists could certainly get use out of this as well. 

Lethal Scheme

Lethal Scheme

Convoke and connive, together at… last? I like the upside for up to two creatures to connive, as it incentivizes you to consider convoking with creatures you might not otherwise tap for this effect. Removal spells that are always cheaper than this are certainly going to crowd this out of more “optimized” list, but I like cards that accomplish multiple things at once without costing a ton of mana, and since that’s the trap “on-theme removal” often falls into, this certainly has a home in the middle power levels.

Make an Example

Make an Example

Another fun-forward card, Make an Example forces everyone to play your evil minigame! Anyone with a small, odd number of creatures is going to be bummed, so try to do a little math and think about how other players would split their piles before you cast this… unless, of course, your opponents have tons of creatures, in which case you should just fire this off and go make a snack. There does come a point at which this can feel like busywork, so make sure you monitor if your group is the right kind of unhappy when you cast this!

Misfortune Teller

Misfortune Teller

I’m underwhelmed. Sure, you get a 2/2 or a Treasure when it enters, but a four-mana 3/1 deathtoucher? Yeah, I’m going to trade off with that whenever I can. That said, if you play against people who have low creature counts or just play utility creatures at the beginning of the game they’d be unwilling to trade off, this could be interesting.

Protection Racket

Protection Racket

Your opponents will never give you land. That’s something to keep in mind – it’s free to pay zero life and just send that land to exile forever. This is also yet another card that gives opponents choices, which is bad for optimizers and good for theme-lovers, so your playstyle and preferences will inform how you interpret this card’s power level. The big problem is that a lot of black’s powerful enablers (like Viscera Seer) are really low on the mana value spectrum, so I foresee a lot of synergies being easy to break up. That said, you are looking at the potential to draw three extra cards a turn! Realistically, you probably get one extra card you don’t care much about, a land gets exiled and an opponent loses three life. Is that good enough? It depends! I know, that’s not what you want to hear in a set review, but that’s Commander for you.

Waste Management

Waste Management

It’s Necromancer’s Covenant in mono-black instant form! That said, what makes this interesting is the flexibility, not the direct comparison for the kicked spell. Exile two of your creatures in a graveyard (either in response to Victimize or just proactively) and get two Rogues is a pretty good series of actions to take for just 2B if you have something to do with the tokens or tribal synergy with the Rogues. Anowon, the Ruin Thief is my pick for this card’s best home.

Wave of Rats

Wave of Rats

This card has a game plan: cast it for the blitz cost, get through to an opponent’s face, let it die for a card and get it back on the battlefield again. These Rats are definitely a feast or famine card, and doing a ton of work for a 4/2 trampler isn’t where I usually want to be, but Rat tribal needs more cards, of course.

Writ of Return

Writ of Return

The word “tapped” stops you from bringing back a haste creature, encoding this on it, getting through and then casting another copy of this on the same turn, which is kind of a bummer. Cipher is one of those mechanics that often feels like flavor text to me, but if you are regularly able to get through with reanimated creatures and that’s not winning you the game outright, have fun with this one, I suppose. For five mana I could be playing some better stuff, I think.

Xander’s Pact

Xander's Pact

Try to cast this early while your opponents are all still alive – that way you’ll have a better selection. If you copy this with the casualty ability you might have the opportunity to pay 12 life or so in a single turn, so make sure you have the skills to pay the bills, so to speak. When in doubt, ABE: Always Be Exsanguinating.

 

Header - Red

Audacious Swap

Audacious Swap

This card is a flavor win for sure, but what does it actually do? Well, it spins the wheel on a random card in an opponent’s deck being worse than a nonenchantment (sigh) on the battlefield. I suppose you can also use this to try to high-roll out of your own deck, but that seems like a much better job for Transmogrify. The opponent getting to cast their card for free has its ups and downs – on the one hand, cast triggers, and on the other hand, someone could theoretically counter the spell if they wanted to. I think this is a cool story generator for decks that don’t want to play removal as strong as Chaos Warp.

Determined Iteration

Determined Iteration

You need to either want your token to die for some effect (remembering that populate is limited to creature tokens) or have a huge token to populate. This lives in the Maestros deck, which means the intent there is to have it copy tokens for use as casualties, and since blue has the ability to create token copies of creatures, I think both sides of this are totally feasible. For a card that needs a lot of support, it has the decency to cost only two mana, so I’m willing to give it a look in something like Brudiclad, Hofri or even Extus.

Indulge // Excess

Indulge // Excess

I love the design of this card – we have the normal half, meant to be cast in your precombat main phase, and the aftermath half, meant to be cast in your postcombat main phase. The wider you’re going, the stronger this is, and if you’re playing Jinnie Fay, the pile of Treasure you’ll be rewarded with becomes more of a Hotel for Dogs. Or Cats, I guess. The wider you’re going, the better this is, especially with Jetmir at the helm, token doublers aplenty and some backup to make the team indestructible.

Industrial Advancement

Industrial Advancement

If your game plan involves welding something like Myr Battlesphere back into play, using Sneak Attack to cheat huge monsters onto the battlefield or using temporary reanimation spells, this is an interesting one. This keys off mana value, not power, so no Lightning Skelemental shenanigans here. Keep in mind that you are taking a bit of a flyer on hitting something, so making sure you have a high density of top-end creatures is important, which is going to skew your curve in a serious way. This card requires commitment!

Life of the Party

Life of the Party

Fun-forward from the name on down, this card’s best feature is the havoc it causes. Championing it with something like Nova Chaser or just bouncing it to your hand to replay repeatedly sounds like the game plan to me, but you could just also cast it to have fun. There isn’t really an inspiring option for a commander that helps you recur this easily – Extus comes close on the front side.

Mezzio Mugger

Mezzio Mugger

Blitzing this seems a bit desperate, but on the other hand, a five mana 3/3 with no haste or evasion is a bit awkward even if the ability is fun. If you’re all in on playing other people’s cards, go for it, but remember that you are going to have to pay mana. I’m not that impressed here.

Rain of Riches

Rain of Riches

The way I’m reading that last ability, you don’t have to use Treasure to cast your first spell in a turn. The restriction basically means “once per turn” and is just locking you in to the first time you use Treasure to cast a spell each turn. The two-Treasure rebate makes it easier to cast something else the turn this comes down, so if you’re doing some rad Treasure spellslinging or just any Treasure-themed goodness, this could be really strong. 

Rose Room Treasurer

Rose Room Treasurer

This doesn’t go infinite with Chatterfang, but it does get you some extra Treasure and the opportunity to blast something, making it a nice fit in a Jund tokens/sacrifice list. Honestly, this card is fantastic in any list that wants to make tokens and use Treasure – I’m considering it for Juri already.

Seize the Spotlight

Seize the Spotlight

You get to choose the creature if an opponent picks fame, so I expect this to be a very powerful draw spell in the late game. That said, if people have no creatures or only control a Birds of Paradise or something, you’ll be very disappointed with the outcome. I expect the higher end of this card to be present more often than not, especially if you have a sacrifice outlet with which to trash the creatures you steal. Again, we are giving opponents a choice, which is bad for optimizers, but I still think this card looks powerful regardless. Am I getting tricked by a complicated Browbeat? Maybe!

Spellbinding Soprano

Spellbinding Soprano

The value here is really in the encore, so you should absolutely be willing to hurl this into the garbage early on. Then you can return it with encore, attack all three of your opponents and have a wild second main phase with mid-level draw spells. All of your Behold the Multiverses, Chemister’s Insights and so on get really good when they’re discounted by three! You will have to spend some time sculpting a hand to hit critical mass before you go off, but I can see an Eruth or Veyran deck being interested in taking one big turn after hitting a high note with this card.

Turf War

Turf War

Everyone can fight over our utility lands! And, uh, whatever I have that I’m about to sacrifice. When you use this card, you get to pick, so make sure to stack the choices in your own favor. This is by no means a high power card, but it adds a fun subgame to combat as lands get passed around the table.

 

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