Streets of New Capenna is bringing us a new cycle of charms! Scott looks at the four that have been spoiled and sees where they’ll fit in EDH.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of cards that can do many different things. I’ve waxed lyrical about modal cards in the past, and how they give you more utility per card slot in Commander. The latest previews from New Capenna feature a brand new Charm cycle, so naturally I’m excited to take a closer look at them and see how they’ll fit into Commander.
I’m going to evaluate these new charms based on their individual abilities, how useful they are at any point in the game, and the decks that might want them. I’ll also see how they line up against other cards that perform similar duties. If you want to learn more about modal spells, you can read my article on how to evaluate modal cards in Commander.
First up is Cabaretti Charm. This is the most creature focused of the cycle, with all modes involving your board in some form. This isn’t surprising, as Naya (sorry, Cabaretti) is a color combination that’s synonymous with large board states. The removal option scales nicely with the size of your team, and the second mode can function either as a combat trick or win condition. If you’re still in the early stages of the game, or you need some emergency blockers, the option to create tokens at instant speed can be game changing also.
Provided you’re playing a creature heavy deck, this should be a card you’re happy to see at almost any stage of a game. Ghired, Conclave Exile players in particular will love this card for the way it compliments his game plan perfectly!
There are many cards that can give you the same effects as Cabaretti Charm, but none that emulate it exactly. In order to evaluate it properly, we’ll need to look at a couple of spells.
Naya Charm is another modal spell that’s exceptionally popular, with over 10k+ decks on EDHREC registering this card. Just like Cabaretti Charm, it has removal as one of the options, but it doesn’t scale well and can’t deal with larger creatures. Its recursion and fog effects are still very useful though, so I’d probably run both cards rather than having to choose!
Overrun effects are very popular in creature decks for the ability to go over the top of opposing board states. You See a Pair of Goblins is one of the closest comparisons to this card as it gives you the option of creating two tokens, or buffing your entire team. It doesn’t give any evasion or removal options however, which is a huge difference. Provided you’re in the right colors, Cabaretti Charm is almost always a better option: not only do you gain trample to punch through defenses, but its additional functions will serve you much better in the early and mid game.
Overall, I think Cabaretti Charm is a decently powered card that gives you a lot of options throughout the course of a typical game. I can see this replacing a removal spell so you can fit more win conditions, or taking the place of an Overrun effect to give you more interaction.
Next we’ll take a look at Obscura Charm. This neat little spell is a multitool that has gotten control mages very excited. The ability to return a multicolored permanent with mana value 3 or less may seem restrictive at first, but it covers a lot of important pieces. You can reanimate sacrifice outlets like Cartel Aristocrat, powerful planeswalkers like Teferi, Time Raveler, or even combo pieces like Time Sieve. When you add on a decent removal spell and some solid stack interaction, you’d be hard pressed to find a reason to not run this in your grindy decks.
Being able to trade one-for-one in three different ways is the real power of this card. Most commanders in these colors tend to be either fairly grindy or have some sort of graveyard aspect to them, so I can see this showing up in nearly any Esper/Obscura deck.
Sevinne’s Reclamation is a great card, and it’s one of the closest analogs to Obscura Charm’s reanimation effect. Unlike Reclamation, it doesn’t have flashback and it can’t bring back lands or monocolor cards. However the extra flexibility of being an instant that also doubles as removal or a counter gives it many more useful applications in decks that can run it.
Eliminate doesn’t see a lot of play, especially when the likes of Hero’s Downfall are so readily available. When you add the ability to remove any cheap creature or planeswalker to an already good card, however, it becomes much more enticing.
It may not be as efficient as Swan Song, but it’s arguably more beneficial for the average casual deck to run Obscura Charm instead. Not only can you still deal with instants and sorceries, but you have more flexibility by being able to impact the board when the stack is empty.
I would be genuinely surprised if this didn’t become an Esper/Obscura staple going forward, particularly as you go up the power scale. The higher you go, the more efficient your spells become; this means you will have more frequent and higher impact targets to remove and reanimate!
The Maestro’s offering is next on the list, and it has a decent range of applications. First, it helps you dig for the right piece at the time, in case the other modes don’t fit the situation. This alone would significantly increase its flexibility, but it also stocks your graveyard for just that little bit more value. Next, its life drain effect is perhaps a bit underwhelming in Commander, but there will be a non-zero amount of games that will be won with it! Finally, five damage to any creature or planeswalker is a lot; it’s enough to kill 96 of the 100 most popular creatures in Commander (according to EDHREC & Scryfall), and most planeswalkers at any stage.
Grixis/Maestros is similar to Obscura in that a lot of the commanders tend to be quite grindy, but Kess, Dissident Mage is most likely to make good use of Maestros Charm. The first ability can set up your yard for later, and when you can recast the life drain it suddenly becomes much more impactful!
The first ability is essentially Forbidden Alchemy, which is a pretty popular card for its ability to dig while setting up for later turns. Maestros Charm may not have flashback, but even the first use is pretty reasonable by itself.
There’s no direct analog to its life drain ability, as most of these effects tend to gain you life equal to the life that was lost. Gray Merchant of Asphodel is one of the most well-known cards of this type; it’s certainly not as powerful as Gary, but a few of these smaller effects can really add up over time!
The removal that’s most similar to the final mode on Maestros Charm is perhaps Unholy Heat or Magmatic Sinkhole. They may be much cheaper to cast, but they also require careful setup. Most of the time, you’d rather have a guaranteed way to remove something over something that’s simply more efficient.
Overall I think this is one of the weaker charms in this cycle, but I think it can help to smooth out the balance of removal, card selection, and reach in the right decks.
The second most recent charm to be previewed is Riveteers Charm, and it’s a real powerhouse. It’s got removal, card advantage, and graveyard hate, which is an impressive suite of options for a three mana instant spell. The edict effect gets rid of the most expensive creature or planeswalker, all but guaranteeing that you end up with a profitable exchange. The impulse draw effect is actually quite strong, and would be ideal to play on an opponent’s end step. Untapping with three extra cards at your disposal is no joke! Finally, instant speed graveyard hate is an invaluable tool; there are so many dedicated graveyard strategies as well as incidental value from the bin, and it’s great to know you’re ready to combat that.
One of the closest comparisons to the removal aspect is Soul Shatter from Zendikar Rising, which is a premium removal spell in the format. While Riveteers Charm only hits one opponent, it’s likely going to be more than enough to deal with the biggest threat on the board.
Commune with Lava or Reckless Impulse are two spells that provide a similar form of card advantage, and I think Riveteers Charm is better than both in most cases. Sure, Commune with Lava can scale better into the late game, but you rarely ever play it to exile more than three or four cards. And while Reckless Impulse may be cheaper, this spell is an instant, and the extra flexibility gives you greater agency at all points, which is more than worth the extra mana investment.
I think it’s worth comparing this card to Rakdos Charm for a number of reasons. It’s another charm that’s wildly popular, and is known for being good in almost any situation in Commander. While Rakdos Charm lets you kill an opponent that’s gone too wide, or blow up an Aetherflux Reservoir at the right time, it has also had a lot of success as a flexible role player. This is the niche where I think Riveteers Charm fits perfectly. It’s not the flashiest card, nor can it even have the same number of dramatic moments as Rakdos Charm, but it will almost never be any less than very good. You always need interaction and card draw, and incidental hate is a necessary evil in most pods. This is a rare card that you’ll be happy to draw at any stage of the game, and I expect to see many Jund/Riveteer decks make use of this genuine gem.
Finally, Brokers Charm was just previewed, and it looks like it could be a great flexible piece in many decks. What makes a modal card a good card, is the utility it has at any stage of the game. As I mentioned in my previous article on modal cards, Quadrant Theory can be applied to more than just cards in Limited. If you use Brokers Charm as an example, you’ll see that while it may not be amazing in the early game, it’s great when you’re at parity, when you’re behind, or when you’re looking to close out the game. Removal in the form of creature based damage and enchantment removal is always going to have a use, and exchanging Brokers Charm for two cards when removal isn’t needed is a great fallback to have.
When I looked for cards to compare to Brokers Charm, three classic spells sprung to mind. It doesn’t have as many targets as Disenchant, but once again the other options available to you make up for it.
Rabid Bite may not be the most powerful removal spell, but it still has a fairly respectable showing in Commander. Brokers Charm is a better version of it, both by buffing your creature and letting you hit a planeswalker.
Lastly, Divination may seem like it’s outclassed these days, but the ability to draw two cards is still desirable. In fact, Brokers Charm is one such card that surpasses it in terms of usability, and it’s one that I expect we’ll see much more of over the coming months.
Overall, I think Brokers Charm lies somewhere in the middle of the cycle; it has decent flexibility, but isn’t loaded with the same level of high impact options that Riveteers Charm has. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this about as often as we currently see Esper Charm, which is quite a lot!
I think all five of these charms are fairly solid; I wouldn’t be surprised to see them show up quite a bit in Commander, especially Riveteers Charm. We might just have another group of multicolor staples that could stand tall alongside the older charm cycles from Alara, Tarkir, and Ravnica.
What do you think of these charms? What decks will you be putting them into? Are there any niche applications that I’ve missed? I’d love to hear about your wild ideas and applications for these cards, so let me know over on Twitter!
Scott is an Irish content creator and the Head of Budget Magic for the Izzet League. He focuses on affordable decks in Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper, particularly ones that stray from the mainstream. When he’s not writing about his favorite decks, he can be found talking incessantly about them on Twitter and on The Budget Magic Cast.