With Magic: The Gathering’s new Streets of New Capenna looming just over the horizon, IGN is pleased to reveal the full decklist for its Obscura Operation Commander premade deck. In addition to official first looks at all of the deck’s new cards, I spoke to Wizards of the Coast Senior Designer Gavin Verhey to talk about the Saboteur-centric design, the rise of Treasure counters in Commander, and one of the deck’s breakout cards.
Like all of New Capenna’s five Commander decks, each based on a different one of his five demonic crime families, Obscura Operation features 17 brand new Magic cards. It’s a white-blue-black deck led by Kamiz, Obscura Oculus, with a strategy focused on using creatures that have triggered abilities when they hit an opposing player – often referred to as “Saboteurs”.
Scroll through the gallery below to see all the new cards next to the full decklist, and continue reading just below to hear Verhey talk about the deck itself and the proliferation of treasure in this format.
According to Verhey, this Precon went through the most tweaks and changes of the five from New Capenna. “What we really wanted to capture was the feel of the Obscura,” Verhey tells me, “and the Obscura in New Capenna can get through any locked door, they know all the secrets, and it was a great fit for Saboteurs.” That means you creatures sneak past your opponent’s defenses to steal knowledge for yourself, often in the form of cards to play.
Verhey says a Saboteur-themed precon is something WOTC has never done before. “We make a lot of Commander decks every year, and one of the things we need to do to make this work is try different themes and find new and different themes that we can make.” In sets like New Capenna, that have more than two precons, Verhey explains, they generally try to make at least one of those decks a “slam dunk,” in terms of what people already know and love about a suit combo or strategy, but they want it Also, at least one deck needs to be “a bit out there,” both to keep things fresh and potentially find new territory worth returning to later.
But while Obscura Operation might be a bit off the beaten track for a preliminary round, one map in particular stood out to me that we probably could have seen coming: Smuggler’s Share. This white enchantment (which can be seen in the gallery above) continues a recent initiative that is very open to WOTC, trying to give white better card draw and mana ramp options – a color traditionally associated with those two things in color to fight has commander format. Verhey says Smuggler’s Portion is a card of his own design, and it seems to me we’ll see a lot more in the future.
“For Commander, we have yet to find ways to have it [white] being able to get card advantage and get some amount of mana ramp in a very white way, and one way white can do that is by setting rules or by encumbering the opponent,” explains Verhey. To that end, Smuggler’s Share doesn’t draw you cards unless your opponents do, and it doesn’t give you Treasure tokens unless your opponents are playing multiple lands (or cracking-fetch lands) themselves. Still, Verhey says, “I think this card has a great chance to shine,” comparing it to cards like the treasure-generating staple stifle tithes — although, by Verhey’s own admission, it’s far “fairer” than tithing.
The urge to help White was clear, but WOTC has also expressed a desire to make new Commander cards less generically powerful and instead fit them into more specific strategies so they aren’t automatically included, which homogenizes the format. Smuggler’s Portion struck me as a broader, more powerful design, and Verhey says that’s intentional (although it depends a bit on the decks you’re playing against). “We love being able to try to make narrower niche cards that are purposeful in a way – the only point where we’ve bent that a bit is for white, just because white has long been lacking in the staples it needs in Commander. So it makes a lot of sense to up that a bit.”
Gavin Verhey on Treasure Tokens in Commander
Speaking of Smuggler’s Share and Smothering Tithe, a hot topic among Commander players of late has been the power and proliferation of treasure tokens in this format – something Verhey confirms is “one thing we’re certainly talking about and evaluating”. Originally introduced in Ixalan in 2017, these artifact tokens, which can be tapped and sacrificed for one mana of any color, have since become a common mechanic that can (and often does) appear in any set. While they can be a great way to both snag out big cards and repair your mana more easily, some players worry that they might be too powerful now that they’re easy to mass-generate.
Those of the command zone Josh Lee Kwai tweeted recently thought that maybe all treasure should follow in the footsteps of two New Capenna cards and enter the battlefield tapped, so I asked Verhey for his take on the idea and the concerns in general. “[Treasures are] generally pretty funny I think. Just as a bit of a mana boost is fun, I don’t mind if treasure comes in untapped most of the time. I think the most dangerous thing is when a card creates a huge explosion of treasure that enters the battlefield untapped.”
Most seasoned Commander players probably won’t be surprised to hear Verhey’s example of this: Blackmailers at the port, a creature from Commander 2019 that can produce boatloads of treasure and is poetically inflating its own price on the secondary market to over $60 at the time of writing. “I could definitely envision a future world where we try to tap in Treasure’s big blasts, and then the slower rivulets come in or the ones from untapped.”
Another lesson Verhey learned is to be careful about things that simply reward you for having treasure, because “it turns out that having treasure around is already very good, so can it can be a little dangerous to have gigantic, powerful treasure rewards.” A good example of this would probably be Revel in richesa black enchantment that lets you simply win the game if you start your turn with at least 10 treasure – a task that’s gotten considerably easier since it went to press in 2017.
Aside from that, Verhey also points out that Treasures also play an important role in Streets of New Capenna’s limited formats, which revolve around tricolor archetypes. “It’s a really great way to help you splash a third color or even a fourth color into some decks if you want, so Treasure has an added bonus in Streets of New Capenna, which is pretty relevant.” That pinning angle could be a reason green gets more treasure in this set too – but for that matter the card Bootlegger’s Stash Some members of the community are already preparing for more treasure explosions around the Commander table.
Streets of New Capenna will officially release digitally on April 28th and physically on April 29th, with all five Commander precons available then. you can check out the card we previously revealed from the set hereor look back at a Entertainment with players and Wizards of the Coast about the future of the game and its licensed crossovers.
https://www.ign.com/articles/magic-the-gathering-streets-of-new-capenna-obscura-operation-commander-decklist MTG Commander: Complete Obscura Operation Decklist and WOTC’s Gavin Verhey on the Rise of Treasures