The Arena Open has just passed, and Streets of New Capenna feels more solved than ever… or does it? There are some strategies that are stronger than others, but when everyone at your table is trying to do the same thing, opportunities can be found with all the archetypes that they are missing. The biggest shock is that a lot of the archetypes being pushed in this set aren’t actually good to go into… most of the time. Here I will outline what I have learned so you don’t make the same mistakes that I have. I’ll start with what I think are the two most important points when playing MTG Streets of New Capenna draft, or SNC for short:
Back to Basics
Sealed and Draft for this format are incredibly different. Sealed plays out as you would expect for a three color set: an 18 land format where tempo and the ability to grind are generally equally important. Playing three to four colors in sealed is common, and if you’re lucky enough to open a decent 16 land aggro deck, you’re in a good spot.
Draft cares a lot more about tempo, and is a lot faster than this format’s Sealed. Two drop creatures are at an absolute premium. Falling behind on board is the easiest way to lose a lot of games in this format. This also punishes decks that are running multiple colors with unreliable mana bases. You don’t have a lot of time to sort your situation out before you can’t come back on board. Because of the nature of SNC draft, while a complicated three color set may make it seem like there is a cool unique way to draft it, drafting fundamentals are really the most important thing with this set.
The biggest misconception about the format is how viable three color decks are. A lot of the time, they’re strictly worse than two color decks. As a result, the best thing a player can be doing is either to play one of the unadvertised two color archetypes, or to play a two color archetypes with a splash to play some of the three color family cards. Playing a true three color deck that cares about each color equally is too difficult for your mana base. It’s easier than you think to get mana screwed with a deck like this. Even if you manage to create a mana base that can support three colors, you will need to high pick a lot of lands, causing the quality of your spells to drop. There is never a situation where there won’t be an exception, and the exception in this format is huge:
Brokers is Broken
Brokers is on a totally different level from the other draft archetypes in SNC. You can look at winrates on various draft tracking sites, all of the data will point towards the same conclusion. As a result, this isn’t a secret. Everyone and their dog who as drafted this set a few times knows that Brokers is where its at. Here’s why:
Brokers gets both of the best two color archetypes in its color identity. UW focuses a lot on having creatures with counters on them, while GW focuses on having citizens and making them bigger. These archetypes both have excellent early tempo options that can grind late. Between the two, I personally think UW is a little better. Having access to Exotic Pets makes it very difficult for the deck to end up in a disadvantageous board stall. Metropolis Angel is a threat on its own that can replace itself immediately more often than not unless your opponent answers it at instant speed.
Bant, or Brokers, also has access to the best uncommons in the set. Lagrella, the Magpie‘s ability is a new twist on an old classic. The written text is pretty confusing, so I’ll explain it like this: you can exile up to one creature that each player controls under Lagrella. Those creatures come back once Lagrella leaves the battlefield. Any creatures that enter under your control that were exiled by Lagrella enter with two +1/+1 counters on them. Your opponent’s creatures do not enter with anything extra.Disciplined Duelist is a lot more straightforward. It’s a 2/1 doublestriker that has a shield counter. This makes it a lot harder to kill than it may seem. Because of the nature of doublestrike, chumping Disciplined Duelist with a small creature will not get rid of the shield counter. If you ignore it, it can represent a massive amount of pressure. After Disciplined Duelist loses its shield counter, Lagarella can exile it. It threatens to return as a 4/3 doublestriker with a shield counter at that point.
Even though Brokers is absurd, it doesn’t undermine the points made beforehand. Your best chances at making Brokers work is to either play UW with a splash of green or GW with a splash of blue. You can try to make UG work if white is being cut and Brokers cards are available, but this doesn’t usually happen.
White is the Best Color
The overall card quality introduced in white is a bit ahead of the other colors. Inspiring Overseer is the best common in the set by a decent margin, and Gathering Throng is arguably the second best. You never want to run one of these on its own, but as long as it can search for at least one copy of itself, its a solid inclusion. If you happen to draw multiple, you can always get rid of them with Connive. A lot of the best uncommons and commons are also in GW or UW which rewards an investment in white. Ballroom Brawlers is a white uncommon that is capable of stealing a game. Because of how much this format cares about tempo, a 3/5 that threatens to swing with another creature for first strike or lifelink depending on the situation gives the player a lot of versatility.
The Importance of Finding an Open Lane
A quick summary of what we talked about so far: two color decks (with or without a splash) are king, Brokers are absurd and White is the best base color. There are a lot more things going on in the set than just that, which leads to this point.
Finding an open lane is incredibly important in SNC draft. Finding signals can be rather difficult. It isn’t uncommon for someone to pass a major bomb in an underplayed archetype like Hostile Takeover, but have other players be solidly in the two color archetypes under Grixis/Maestros (UB and RB) and therefore have the archetype be not open. This isn’t incredibly common for Grixis/Maestros because its an accumulation of the format’s worst archetypes, but happens very commonly in Bant. Seeing a pack two pick six Endless Detour isn’t incredibly rare, and can send a very misleading message. Maybe no one is in Bant, but a ton of people could be on the other two best archetypes in the set under Bant. Maybe there is a Bant player and they’re trying to wheel it (very common).
What’s the point of saying this? Knowing what the chase cards are in two color and mono color archetypes are much more important than trying to sniff out an open three color family. Even if you get that right (and it’s pretty common that its misleading), if the archetypes under the family aren’t open, it will be very hard to support it. This may be the exception of where you want to high pick a bunch of lands in pack three, but you better make sure your curve looks good. Remember, this is a tempo format where two drops are premium.
What are the SNC Draft Two Color Archetypes?
At this point, I hope I have highlighted the importance of knowing what the two color archetypes are in this set. Here, a quick overview will be given to each archetype. This will include what some of the chase cards are, and what your general game plan is with them.
Probably the most commonly drafted two-color archetype on the list, UW counters rewards you for having counters of any kind on your creatures. This was talked about before, but Metropolis Angel and Exotic Pets are the major payoffs in this archetype.
This is also the traditional color combo for flying decks, so you have a lot of fliers available to break up board stalls. Generally, you want to prioritize your threats first when drafting this archetype to ensure that your curve is appropriate and that you have enough ways to trigger your payoffs. Backup Agent and Raffine’s Informant are two commons that are quite good at allowing this. Besides the highly picked commons in either color, Metropolis Angel, Exotic Pets and Celestial Regulator can help dictate how open this archetype is. These are all high picks as splash options as well, so unlike some of the other two color commons and uncommons, they can give a lot more information. Its very likely that multiple players in a table will go for this archetype. There is enough power in these colors that you can force it and still have results, but its also pretty common for the archetype not to be open at all. Knowing what’s open is still the most important thing in SNC draft.
Make a bunch of citizens, give them a shovel and be obnoxious tempo-wise to win with this archetype. Both green and white are powerful on their own, and the common and uncommon cards in this archetype are worth investing in. A 2/3 for two that threatens to gain lifelink is very strong in a tempo format. There are a lot of citizens in these colors, so turning on Civil Servant is a relatively easy process. Ceremonial Groundbreaker gives the ability to turn any citizen into a noteworthy threat for a cheap cost. Having one or two of these makes each of your creatures a problem and can give the edge in the situation where both players are running out of cards. Darling of the Masses has a similar effect of making all your citizens more dangerous. It can also produce them. Your top priority when drafting this archetype, besides chasing after the high pick cards in individual colors, is going to be how available the multicolor cards are. Ceremonial Groundbreaker in particular is incredibly important to have access to.
A note with this archetype: sometimes Magic Arena orders your triggers on the stack incorrectly. I noticed this when interacting with citizen generators like Rabble Rousing or Darling of the Masses and Civil Servant. Make sure the token generator resolves first so that the Servant can tap the creature if you want.
Here’s where the quality of the archetypes begin to dip. You can build an amazing aggressive 15-16 land deck in red black, but this archetype only truly works if it is incredibly open. This will be a commonality with the remaining archetypes, as forcing these are not wise. You will not be able to compete with a mediocre deck that has white in it. The good news is that everyone knows this, so this archetype will be open a lot. Look for the signs if you’re going to go all-in, because a bad read will ruin your draft.
Your strategy here is to have an extremely aggressive curve and use blitz creatures to haste in damage against your opponent. The payoffs will maximize the value you get from each blitz creature before they sacrifice themselves to the glory of going face. Cards that synergize well with blitz are higher picks in this archetype as a result, so having a couple Fake Your Own Death is completely reasonable, even good.
Multicolor cards offered in RB are powerful enough to make the cut, but you shouldn’t base your assessment on whether this archetype is open or not on the availability of them. Both colors in this archetype are unpopular, so there will be a lot of these going around most of the time. What really matters is the quality of red and black cards you are seeing. Take blitz creatures like Girder Goons and Plasma Jockey rather highly. You want enough removal to clear obstructions between you and your opponent’s life total, but two drops are your top priority. Playing two to three creatures by turn three is your goal. One drops are needed to do this, but they aren’t very popular unless you’re in the archetype, so they tend to go late.
In summary, go face and do not force this archetype. As a result, you may end up pivoting out of this archetype a lot. Grixis or Maestros also tend to be open a lot, so that’s a way to go if someone else is taking aggressive cards.
Chances are if you end up in this archetype, you’re actually playing Cabaretti/Naya or Riveteers/Jund and your splash is in white or black. This archetype is slanted to be a bit more aggressive, but not as aggressive as RB. These cards care a lot about having treasure tokens, and offers various payoffs for using them. To be honest, if you’re going to play red, trying to play back red is a more powerful option. Black is open more often than green because green is part of the broken archetype, and the payoffs offered in RB are way better than the ones offered in RG.Jetmir’s Fixer is fine, but the common payoffs in other two color archetypes blow it out of the water. The other payoffs in this archetype are pretty miserable. Security Rhox is awesome if actually manage to play it for two treasure tokens, but it has to early for that to be relevant. Its a good curve filler otherwise, but the other archetype’s uncommons are better. Stimulus Package is a bizarre build around that needs a lot of support to be worth its slot. Its hilarious with a Jinnie Fay, but even then there are probably other token generators that you can play that are better on their own like Glittermonger. Avoid this archetype unless you get a whiff of some really good three color cards and white is not open.
Probably the most underdrafted of the two color archetypes, UB graveyard focuses on getting five different mana values in your graveyard to turn on payoffs. This archetype, from my experience, is in the weirdest spot of all the two color decks. If you know how to draft this, you end up in it a lot and do pretty well.
Having five different mana values in your graveyard can be difficult to turn on in a tempo meta. Snooping Newsie as a result is mediocre. If you manage to turn it on, its fantastic, but during the later turns where you would have it on, I would much rather have a bigger creature. The two uncommons in these colors are rather powerful. Tainted Indulgence and Syndicate Infiltrator are both powerful cards that get even better when the condition is met. These make going after UB have some sort of payoff. The other attractive thing about this archetype is that it supports two three color archetypes that end up open a lot because everyone goes after Brokers. This is probably one of those archetypes that you want to splash more colors in as a result.
It may seem obvious from the theme of the archetype, but the mana value of the cards you draft are important to turn your cards on. Cards that cause you to mill have a bit more value in this archetype, but generally the more important thing is making sure you have a good curve, while also having enough variations in your mana value so that you can turn on your condition in the midgame. Your set up to go a bit later than the other archetypes, so picking removal high like Murder is more important with this archetype. Notably, Corpse Appraiser is the highest rated uncommon in the whole set, so splashing for something like this is worth considering.
This may be more targeted at players drafting in a real life pod (since you have to play against the other players in the pod vs MTG Arena where you play against random people), but I will take some time to highlight the highest winrate rares/mythics so that you’re aware of the impact they have. All of these rares according to 17 Lands have more than a 65% drawn winrate on any game:
This is a single card representation of the meta for SNC Draft. Its a body that wins the game, comes in with two shield counters (so its very difficult to remove) and can convert counters of any kind into citizens and card draws. It has the perks from both of the best two color archetypes, can create an army on its own, and is in the best color in the set. This is a bomb that you seriously consider hatedrafting.
Another card that does a ton of work, this draws cards, shrinks power on your opponent’s creatures for tempo and is a big flying body that wins the game. The factor that differentiates these two mythics from the rest of the set in draft is that they both threaten to win the game on their own, and they replace themselves very easily. This is a lot easier to remove than Sanctuary Warden, however. This is another card to strongly consider hatedrafting.
There’s a bit of a gap between the above two cards and the rest of the set, but Hostile Takeover excels in a tempo format. The reason why this one is so powerful is because its very difficult to play around. You can save one of your own creatures and kill one of your opponent’s unconditionally while deleting any disadvantage that you have on board. The few situations where this won’t clear a board are ones where you are very disadvantaged, and generally you will have something on board to try and convince a bad trade that favors Hostile Takeover. The big thing holding this one back is that it’s in one of the worst archetypes in the set. Even if you have one or two of them in your deck, it won’t save a bad draft. You’ll see this one get passed a bit more often as a result. Generally, this isn’t worth hate drafting.
Another white bomb, Elspeth plays into the counter mechanic that UW loves so much. It can turn anything into a threat by giving it evasive keywords and can default into bringing another threat on board for immediate presence. Its a kill on sight threat that isn’t capable turning a game on its own, but is very close. Personally, I only think the top two cards should seriously be considered in a hate drafting situation, but this one is close.
Titan of Industry
The last card in this category, Titan of Industry is a creature that either asks the opponent for an immediate response or will stabilize a bad position on impact. Playing a 7/7 trampler that blocks fliers, can protect itself, and spawn in another 4/4 or help stabalize in other ways will always be strong. The mana cost can hold this one back a bit, but making it your game plan tends to work out.
Top Commons in Each Color
To finish off our SNC draft guide, I will highlight each the top commons in each color. Multicolored commons will not be included in this. The goal for this portion is to allow you to identify possible signals. This will help dictate what colors are actually open at your table.
This was touched on before, but white has access to two of the best commons in the whole set. Inspiring Overseer is the best common overall. It immediately replaces itself and is a threat because it has flying. Gathering Throng‘s ability to replace itself is also huge. its a citizen as well, which allows Ceremonial Groundbreaker to turn it into a 5/2 trampler. There’s a bit of a discrepancy here with the data because of the nature of this card. The drawn winrate generally assumes that you don’t draw multiple of these. This is due to the first one finding all the others. Therefore, it is much better to draw one of these than it is to draw two. Raffine’s Informant wraps up the top three white commons, with Backup Agent coming in fourth. This may seem strange, but remember, once again, that two drops are at a premium in this format. Both of these two drops get counters which synergized with the multicolored payoffs. Some of the other white commons that aren’t mentioned here have higher winrates than all the commons in other archetypes. This outlines just how far ahead white is.
This one’s up for interpretation, but Run Out of Town comes up as the best blue common. I’m not sure if I agree with this, but it is a strong card regardless. Majestic Metamorphosis is definitely strong, but in a sneaky way. The obvious ways to use this card is either to push damage for lethal, or try and win combat between two creatures. You can also use this to turn something into an artifact and destroy it with Broken Wings or Citizen’s Crowbar, or shrink a gigantic creature. Two card combos aren’t disadvantageous with Majestic Metamorphosis since it replaces itself. Echo Inspector is less controversial than the other cards on this list. Conniving into a 3/4 flier is strong in this format because of many three power fliers there are.
Get ready for some cards that might surprise you. This is incredibly valuable information since most players probably draft black wrong in SNC:
Get ready for another spicy card! The third best common in black is… Fake Your Own Death. This is due to how well it synergizes with blitz. Corrupt Court Official is another powerful black common, but it is behind the other cards on this list. Corrupt Court Official and Murder have a much higher pick rate than the other two, so use this information to conquer your FNM!
These winrates are much lower than the other colors talked about here. This suggests that red is probably the worst color in SNC. Regardless, there are still some good commons you can play:
Red is a lot more comprehensive than black or blue when understanding what the best commons are. Strangle is the best common in red. It’s removal that’s cheap – fantastic in a tempo format. We mentioned already that blitz is a very powerful mechanic, so it makes sense that Plasma Jockey and Mayhem Patrol are the follow-up commons here. Blitz creatures that are hard to block are good for hitting face.
There’s a gap here between Jewel Thief and the rest of green, but For the Family comes second. This is a card that gets better the more I draft it. You don’t want to pick this too highly since you need creatures for it, but its a strong combat trick. This may be a good card to look for on the wheel. Following are ‘Blitz is good’ theme, Caldaia Strongarm comes third. Don’t need a bunch of explaining for this one. Haste with an upside is good. If you’re behind, just play it to fight for board. Granting counters also plays into Bant synergies.
The most important takeaways from this guide are identifying what dictates playable archetypes as being open, and what those archetypes are. Start by aiming for a two color archetype and splash for your family of choice. If you spend too much time trying to play all three colors, you will lose to your own mana base. Don’t fall for all the shiny rare cards in three colors and end up running five color jank. I’ve made it work before, but this is a really bad practice most of the time.
If you become incredibly comfortable with the set, I encourage you to explore. Try those wonky four color decks and see if you can make it work. From experience, its going to be tough since everyone else is trying to go fast, but nothing ventured nothing gained. Stick to your fundamentals, draft responsibly, and you’ll have a lot of fun.