It's been a month since Streets of New Capenna released and it has had an impact on Modern. That has certainly been felt. By some decks. To an extent. Why yes, I am being quite cagey. The set has a lot of interesting cards in it and there is power enough for Modern there, but it is quite limited. The most visible addition has been fairly limited in impact and the most impactful additions are nearly invisible. That's just how it goes.
Which is mostly what I said in my preview articles. However, leaving it there is ignoring a lot of nuances involved and trivializing the impacts that SNC has had. Which is particularly relevant since the metagame update article is next week, otherwise known as the first look at how SNC impacted Modern. And it will look like nothing's changed, which isn't true. So today I'll be going through my predictions for SNC and comparing that to what's actually happened.
The Big Catchall Disclaimer
Obviously, I can't cover every single card that's seeing play from SNC. I can't find every niche card seeing niche play across all of Modern. It's just impossibly time consuming and this article would run to the dozens of pages. So I'm sticking to the cards that I actually covered in my preview articles. Also, I covered the big SNC card, Ledger Shredder, in detail last week. No need to retread old ground.
With that out of the way, and going in the order that I reviewed them in:
These were always going to be a cheat since they completed a cycle that was already seeing Modern play. The new triomes are being played in three-color-plus decks as one-of fetch targets, just as predicted. Just a massive gimmie.
I thought that the Triomes would be used in 4-Color decks sparingly since they don't need more fixing, and would instead primarily give hope to struggling three-color archetypes. Specifically, Spara's Headquarters and Xander's Lounge would lead to a boost in their Alara shard midrange deck. That didn't exactly happen.
Instead, Headquarters has been fully incorporated by the 4-Color decks and Lounge sees almost no play. As of May 28 (which is the day that I pulled all the data I'm using in this article from MTGGoldfish), Headquarters had been played in 103 deck during may compared to Lounge's 11. I knew that midrange Grixis wasn't going to work out, and was proven right. Headquarters making it outside of straight Bant was a little surprising.
As for the other three triomes, they're in the middle, nearly literally. Raffine's Tower is second most played at 50, while Ziatora's Proving Grounds and Jetmir's Garden both have 47. Garden's play is split between 4-Color and actual Naya decks while the other two are exclusively in their Alara shard decks.
Headquarter blowing up like this was unexpected because I overlooked the reality that 4-Color Omnath leans heavily into Bant colors with red being a support color. It's natural that such a deck will need more fixing for Bant. My underestimating of Tower is tied to Shredder seeing lots of play, as most of the decks running Tower are Shredder-centric decks. That Proving Grounds sees play in Jund isn't as surprising as how much Jund is seeing play. I would never have expected that to be the case, but the deck is truly eternal, apparently.
What I Missed
More importantly, the distribution of the decks highlights an oddity in Modern: black is very underrepresented. The average representation of the non-black lands is 75 while the black average is 36. The top decks in the metagame don't run black. This is an imbalance to keep track of.
An Offer You Can't Refuse
This was a card that I thought would see niche play as an anti-combo card. The drawback is quite steep; too steep for use against fair decks. However, interrupting combo often justifies extreme measures. There was an outside possibility of countering your own spells to ramp, but I discounted it as too cute.
On that last point, the data agrees. I stopped hearing about Offer countering Mishra's Bauble very quickly and nobody's talked about it since release. It is far too cute without being good. As for the first point, I'm shocked to say that so far I was completely wrong. The only decks playing Offer at all are combo decks maindecking the spell. And in numbers that strongly indicate that they're intending to use it to protect their combos rather than for the ramp trick.
What I Missed
I would never have called Offer as combo protection. I can't say unequivocally that it isn't being used for ramp purposes in these decks, of course. However, the most common configuration is two maindeck and that indicates intention to counter opposing spells, not your own. Unless they're really going for that low-probability gotcha line.
The best explanation I can come up with is that these decks are afraid of A-Teferi, Time Raveler and want a maindeck counter for him, specifically. There's no other noncreature spell that actually sees maindeck play which any combo deck might care about because counters and discard could be answered for value via Veil of Summer, which all the decks I found have in their sideboards.
It gets more perplexing considering just how much play Counterspell sees. If combo players are really worried about winning counter wars Flusterstorm and Veil make more sense than Offer. There has to be something I'm still missing here.
Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
I pegged Ob Nixilis, the Adversary as a niche card for decks that already had sacrifice fodder, and that's where Ob is actually seeing play. The abilities are too mediocre on their own to be worthwhile for most decks. However, an otherwise bricked Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is a solid sacrifice to get and additional mediocre effect.
One thing I didn't mention (but thought about) is that double Ob is extremely good against Burn. Making a devil token and then draining for two goes a long way against Burn, and if it happens twice a turn the game is over. That shouldn't be taken as advice to sideboard Ob specifically for the Burn matchup.
The metagame continues to be dominated by UR Murktide. Making lots of Wizard tokens with Mage's Attendant would be theoretically crippling against said deck. In practice, that is not the case as I suspected and Attendant isn't doing anything in Modern. Much to my chagrin.
Luxior, Giada's Gift
After SCGCon Pittsburg, there hasn't been a single Luxior, Giada's Gift list that didn't run it alongside Devoted Druid. Also, as expected, they're all Urza's Saga decks to help find Luxior. And also as expected, they're not exactly reviving the creature combo deck. The problem's with the deck have been switched around and the backup plan is better, but that has not altered the structural weaknesses of the deck. Maybe next set.
Another niche card, I mainly used Extraction Specialist to make a point about SNC's impact on Modern. There were so many conditions on Specialist being good that I didn't think it would see much play despite filling a niche that is going unfilled. The only possibility was in Humans to get back utility creatures.
So imagine my surprise when that turned out incorrect. Specialist isn't seeing much play, but the play it does see is mostly in non-Humans decks. And even one Humans list is mainly doing so because of Pyre of Heroes!
What I Missed
Never underestimate the power of the fringe. You never know what odd interactions are out there that can make a card worthwhile. Fringe decks might be one piece of redundancy or resiliency away from being actively good. Also, Yorion, Sky Nomad decks are perfectly willing to maindeck niche cards, reasons need not apply.
In a similar vein is Witness Protection. It's a card with a good effect eclipsed by something Modern already has, specifically Dress Down, and so sees no Modern play. As if to prove the point, Protection is seeing decent play in Pioneer, which lacks Dress Down.
The only reason anyone might play Sticky Fingers was if Ragavan was banned. Ragavan is still legal, and so the slight possibility of Fingers being played becomes zero. Moving on.
Vivien on the Hunt
I was dismissive of Vivien on the Hunt. There have been so many attempts to recreate Birthing Pod over the years that I'm burned out on the possibilities. I'm not saying a pretender can't be good, but I am calling them pretenders for a reason. And Vivien has...done a surprisingly good job of pretending so far.
The early attempts at making Vivien work went roughly as I expected. Dedicated shells, often incorporating the Felidar Guardian/Saheeli Rai combo. Some included Luxior to combo with Saheeli because, frankly, why not? However, as May's worn on the decks have gone the A-Omnath, Locus of Creation route. I worried about the implications of this a few weeks ago and while Vivien combo hasn't caught on overall, being an Omnath deck certainly has.
What I Missed
I thought that having to play Planebound Accomplice would severely limit Vivien's play. That has been less burdensome than expected because of Yorion. Most of the Vivien decks are also Yorion decks and so there's space to burn. I also didn't appreciate how well the Vivien combo compliments Saheeli combo and that Accomplice can help that combo too.
Which brings up an interesting point about Modern combo decks. If Vivien strategically synergizes with Saheeli and the deck can function thanks to Yorion, are there more combos that can as well? With 80 cards, could there be more decks that can successfully hybridize? I have no idea, I don't have the creativity to conceive of such a deck nor the madness necessary to try. But current Vivien decks do suggest that there is an untapped potential of such decks in Modern to be discovered. Combo players, get cracking!
Had Bootleggers' Stash worked out, it would have been a first for Modern. Not only would it (finally) make Time Sieve good, it would have brought a bit of Vintage gameplay to Modern never previously possible. Sadly, that wasn't to be. I suspect that other players found out as I did that making Stash work in Modern was too much work. It costs too much and is in a color that doesn't really play well with artifact decks.
However, the gameplay that Stash might have brought around is in fact trying to gain a foothold in Modern. Whether out of a desire to get their money's worth out of Sieve or genuine interest in the deck I can't say, but players have combined Academy Manufactor, The Underworld Cookbook, and Asmor...Asmorandwhatwasitagain? Asmo... Asmoran... AsmorandcomeonIcandothis... Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar (THERE! GOT IT!) to create a token engine to feed Sieve and eventually win via giant Shredder or Saga tokens.
What I Missed
I consistently underestimate the appeal of Asmorandwasthisjokeevenfunnythefirsttime and that whole food engine. Everyone was so high on Modern food right after MH2 dropped but it never lived up to the hype. When everything comes together its a solid midrange system but if anything's out of sync the deck just doesn't do anything.
Adding Manufactor doesn't really fix the main problem with the Asmoandherfoodiefriends engine but it does provide some durdly ways to get out of it and get some payoff. And taking infinite turns also alleviates the otherwise extremely anemic clock. However, the problems with the overall deck persist and I doubt it will seriously catch on, at which point we can all go back to assuming that AsmoIdontcareanymore just isn't worthwhile.
Despite appearances, Streets of New Capenna has had an unexpected effect on Modern. It just isn't an especially dramatic one so far. Should some of the fringier cards and/or strategies manage to defy current trends and catch on, that would lead to a dramatic overhaul of Modern. But whether that's possible has yet to be seen.