Applying Lessons From Multi-Color Sets of the Past To New Capenna
Multi-color sets are historically very popular, and their Limited environments are usually equally beloved. The first true multi-color Limited environment was Invasion block, my all-time favorite Limited format. Since Invasion came out, twenty-two years ago, we've had a number of multi-color environments over the years, each bringing something new to the experience. Let's look at some lessons we can learn from these past formats to help us find our way in Streets of New Capenna (SNC) draft.
Lesson One: Take Fixing Early and Often
This lesson is applicable to every multi-colored format in Magic's history but was especially important in Invasion block. Unlike some later multi-color sets, there are no fixed land slots in Invasion block with common duals. The best duals in Invasion were uncommon like Coastal Tower and the allied-color lands in its cycle. There was another cycle of uncommon tri-lands found in Planeshift, and the enemy-color painlands like Battlefield Forge appear at rare in Apocalypse. This puts fixing of any kind at a premium in Invasion block, and SNC is not much different.
There is a land slot in SNC, but it's just for basics. Fortunately, there are not one, but two cycles of common dual lands that can be found mixed into the commons of SNC. The first is a cycle of "enters the battlefield tapped" allied-color duals, and the second is basic land fetching tri-lands tied to one of the five guilds.
Allied Color Duals
Of course, we also have the allied-color "triomes." Due to their value, I imagine folks will be taking them highly regardless of other draft considerations. There's also an interesting cycle of mana fixers unlike anything we've seen before:
SNC Mana-Fixing Creatures
I said this about this cycle in a previous article: "The coolest part about these mana fixers is you can cast them in the late game to add another threat to the board when you no longer need them to fix your mana. They all have decent stats and abilities for common creatures, so I anticipate seeing them on the battlefield as well as in exile."
Having played with them in the prerelease, and a bit on Arena when the set finally went live, I can confirm that everything I said about them was true. A few, like Rakish Revelers might even be better than I first gave them credit. I'm just as happy to be curving into them on turn five without needing to fix my mana, but it's nice to have the flexibility.
In many ways, the current cycle of mana-fixers that turn into late-game creatures in SNC makes me think of the cycle of three-color creatures in Khans of Tarkir. They just deal with mana-fixing in different ways. Instead of fixing your mana, the 3-color KTK creatures could be played as colorless creatures for three mana until you have the colors available to turn them over. It's kind of a stretch to compare them, but it's the closest comparison I can find between the SNC cycle and any other cards we've seen in the past.
Even in a multi-color set where fixing is crucial, there are sometimes cards that are not bombs but are still too good to pass. This leads us to our next lesson.
Lesson Two: Prioritize Monocolored or Two-Colored Cards in The First Pack
In Return to Ravnica's full-block draft, Dragon's Maze was the first pack opened. If the pack was weak or medium, lacking any of the top tier uncommon removal Like Turn // Burn, Far // Away, Putrefy, or the best common, Zhur-Taa Druid, it was often correct to take the best monocolored card in the pack to leave options open.
Great Monocolored First Picks in Dragon's Maze
SNC features two monocolored commons that I'd happily first pick overall but the biggest bombs and best removal in the set:
These commons are both incredibly pushed in terms of their stats and value for three mana. The treasure Jewel Thief comes with can easily help fix my mana or accelerate me into five-mana plays a turn earlier. Wind Drakes are great in any Limited format. Inspiring Overseer is a Wind Drake that also gains a life and draws a card when it enters the battlefield. Even if my opponent spends a removal spell to take her out, I'm still up a card and a life in the exchange.
In addition to these cards' raw power on their own, the fact that they are monocolored leaves more room to navigate during the course of the draft, allowing me to easily move into any of the three-color gangs matching my first pick, which might be open. The same is also true for the two-color signpost commons like Jetmir's Fixer. Taking the red/green Fixer leaves me open to easily move into either Cabaretti or Riveteers, depending on which is open. This flexibility of choice also means I'm less likely to be forced to abandon early picks if the draft goes in a different direction.
Both of our first lessons revolve around setting up the early stages of our draft, so we may reap the rewards later in the draft. Our final lesson is all about reaping those rewards.
Lesson Three: Take All The Bombs/Play All the Bombs You Are Passed
In triple Khans of Tarkir draft, The fixing, combined with the set's numerous Morph creatures, made it possible, and ultimately rewarding to play as many colors as possible. Off-color morph creatures could simply be played as colorless creatures, allowing a player to get on the board until their mana showed up to allow them to flip. If a player was diligent in following the first two lessons we've discussed, they were in a great position to pick up game-ending cards like Flying Crane Technique and Ankle Shanker that could get passed in pack three because someone upstream didn't take the fixing to allow them to splash them.
In addition to all of the mana fixing we discussed in the first lesson, there are a number of cards in the set that incidentally produce treasures. This means it is conceivably possible to splash a fourth or even fifth color in our three-color SNC decks. If we have enough treasure producers like Glittermonger, we might not even need to run lands to support these splashes. If we've been disciplined about taking fixing highly and keeping our colors limited early in the draft, we are free later in the draft to scoop up any and all bombs that come our way.
While there aren't necessarily cards as game-ending as Flying Crane Technique in the format, I feel like SNC will play out in much the same fashion as Khans, and I will be drafting accordingly.
We've only managed to scratch the surface here in discussing multi-color Limited formats of the past and what we can learn from them. What multi-color sets would you like me to have discussed, and what lessons from these sets are you bringing to your SNC drafts? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.