New Capenna Shards Like Never Before
Whenever a set comes out which puts the color pie up front in its design you know I am right there eager to talk about it. The last time we got this type of set was back in Strixhaven. That set showed us a new way to look at enemy pairs like we never had before, and now we are here once again to spark a new discussion about magic's latest set Streets of new Capenna. I know this set has had a mixed reception due to its themes and how it fits into the greater multiverse, but on its own it's own I find new Capenna to be a feat of great world building and most importantly a new way to look at Shards. For that reason I want to bring you along with me to discuss each of these five factions as I believe there is something very special that can happen when we frame the color pie within specific themes. Now grab a glass of Halo, swear allegiance to your family and let's begin our discussion on Shards of new Capenna.
Each of the five Shards or factions in this set utilize the design philosophy of placing a core color, or as I have coined it in my videos discussing shards, a bridge color. I won't go into a tangent about that concept here, as you can check out my videos on each of the shards later, but essentially what this means is that each shard has a bridge color, a color which bridges the gap between its two allies, forming a color combination known as a Shard. This has a major effect on the factions, in that the bridge color will often form the core of its identity while the allied colors compliment it with the traits they have in common, with that bridge color. Keep this in mind while we discuss each of the factions and I am sure you will begin to catch that theme for yourself.
As I said at the top each faction is based on a common theme and then from there each shard is molded to fit into that theme. In the case of New Capenna the theme is criminal family tropes, all of which are inspired by real gangs of the past as well as those popularized in fiction. With that as the core concept behind their design, the magic team then had scratch their heads and come up with which tropes each shard would fall under and then of course give it that magic the gathering twist we are all fond of. When we think of Shards we often think of the set Shards of Alaraa and while it's the set which solidified the idea of Shards in our mind it really didn't do much more than give us a basic version of these Shards.
What I mean is that the Shards of Alaraa were shards in a vacuum, as they were constructed with no interactions between them or themes to lay on top of them. This just isn't the case for new Capenna. Here these Shards are given form in new ways, what ways, well I think its time to get into that. Let's discuss each faction and from there come to a conclusion as to the effectiveness of this idea and what we can learn about shards as a result, starting with the Obscura.
The Obscura are the Blue centered faction of this Plane, and are of the combination Esper. In the days of old they were Wizards and this skill has persisted into the modern faction. They use their talents in fortune telling, prophecy and esoteric communication to gain an upper hand in their families dealings. They trade in secrets and utilize deception for their own gain and it's said that they can make or break a persons future. Just to even be admitted into the organization one must prove their ability to gather information, as we see on the card Obscura Initiate which reads
“Obscura initiates are required to bring a gift of information. They are judged on both how useful it is and how hard it was to obtain”
Control is a common theme for Esper. Being a blue focused shard its no surprise that the Obscura deal in information and control as the key to unlock their mission as Blue utilizes manipulation, scrying and magic to often further its ends. This strategy all comes together with the colors which are bridged by Blue. It's neighbor White has a focus on society and will push it in the direction it deems fit, and Black holds a desire for power which it enacts with whatever tools it has at its disposal. Because of this the Obscura work behind the scenes to make things happen, and utilize blackmail and coercion as the tools of their trade. I mean what else are you going to do with all of that information you have on everyone. This sentiment is best explained by this quote from Kamiz on the card Deal gone bad.
“Feed the rumor mills with delicious treachery. Bad blood between those two is a good deal for us.”
In a lot of ways the Obscura see themselves above the other families and the ones who are truly in control of New Capenna.
The Maestros are the Grixis crime family of new Capenna with the bridge being Black. As you could imagine, Black and crime make for a deadly pair. On the outside the Maestros hold an air of elegance, they are Patrons of the arts and culture and yet underneath they killers. Their path to power is a straight forward one, and in turn is a path coated in blood. With two crossed daggers as their crest it may not be as hidden as they pretend it to be. Many of their rank are vampires which is a great pairing with this families concept, as vampires often portray the trope of elegance married to death. On gleaming stages and back lit allies their work is never done.
As I said the Maestros bridge or core color is Black and because of this their ambitions and self satisfaction take center stage. While the Obscura work behind the scenes with grand plans this just isn't the case when Black is at the center, often Black will take the straightest path forward to their goals and this mean offing those that get in the way something this color isn't shy of as we see on Maestro's Initiate which reads. “How far are you willing to go for your family, clean-blade” that last phrase clean blade lets us know that it's expected of you to kill for the family, and that its merely a matter of time before your blade is stained with blood.
The other colors present are Blue and Red and while blue isn't felt very strong here it does add a coldness when applied to Black, turning Black into something of a sociopath who only see their intentions, never letting emotions get in the way. You may ask well isn't red the color of emotion what does it mean to have that color present with what you have said. Well in this case with empathy so overpowered by Black and Blue the case for red becomes more about self satisfaction and of loyalty. Red can turn a blind eye to the feelings of others and instead turn inward to the finer things in life. I want to end our discussion of the Maestros with the flavor text from Cormela, Glamour thief
“She sees the world as a gift meant for her”
A simple line that could be said about each member of this family.
The Riveteers are the beating heart of New Capenna and of the combination Jund with a center or bridge of Red. They are known for building up as much as they are for breaking down and in many ways disregard the lavish city life that the other families engross themselves in. They are simple folk of industry and remind me very much of the old dockside crews or unions of times past. With Red at their core they don't aim to control, corrupt or manipulate, instead they like to put in a hard days work during the day and at night they blow off steam through sanctioned brawls. Many of the other factions know its not worth getting on the bad side of the Riveteers because not only are they willing to stand up and fight they are also more than willing to tear down any building that doesn't suit them. They believe themselves to have the right to shape new Capenna and while most of their influence lies in the lower levels their steel hammers can be heard across the city, making and unmaking as they please. As told to us on the card Crew Captain which reads.
“The Riveteers are as good at raising buildings as they are at razing them”
Clever use of words and right to the point. Jund is a combination of natural selection, of independence and understanding of its place as an individual and the power of community. Each person has a deep sense of purpose because of Green, this is reflected in how they view themselves in relation to the city and the mark they have laid upon it. Their Black side provides their sense of independence from the rest of the families and finally Red is the driver of how they approach life. They are passionate, loyal and most of all just like to have fun. They are very much driven by their Red side and would be much less complex without the addition of its allies. For the Riveteers I want to end on this quote as it hold a deeper meaning to me for this family, in that I don't want you to disregard them as simple brawlers as their blood sweat and tears have stained this city, just look to the card Riveteers Overlook
“Along the outer girders, in gold filigree, are inscribed the names of all those who fell to their death during construction.”
Welcome to the party, the Cabaretti ask that you grab a glass of halo and join in on the fun, as the Naya faction of New Capenna they surely bring a unique twist to this Shard. The Cabaretti are a font of culture and influence and if you want to make it in this city you best show up and impress. They are a family who dictate style, pop culture and trends. Of course there is always more going on under the surface, no family simply does things for the good of the city, there is always something in it for the Cabaretti and their parties are more than a service for new Capenna.
Its in places like these, with the music loud and the drink flowing where the real power moves happen. Naya may seem like an odd pairing for the Cabaretti, I know it took me a bit at first but lets break down this combination to understand why it works. Green is at the core of the Cabararetti and right there you may feel at odds but look at it this way. On new Capenna culture is more than a word, it seeps from every pour of the city. Every aspect of it and every family within embodies the city life and the Cabaretti exemplify it to an extreme. In a lot of ways the Cabaretti is New Capenna in its purest form, thus Green works very well as a core with this context in mind, whats more is that if we frame it this way the other colours also fall into place.
White is the influence over society through the use of culture and Red is the expression of it. With this in mind I can understand why the magic team placed the Cabaretti in Naya. This all culminates into a faction which utilizes culture and influence to dictate much of New Capenna and in that way they have a hand in everything, they can dictate who is in and who is out, they can make a business thrive or die. For this family lets end it on this quote from the card for the family
“The Cabaretti cultivate an image of harmless hedonism, happy for the other families to underestimate their formidable firepower.”
The Brokers are the closest thing to law and order there is in this city of crime and quick profits, as the Bant family of the Plane with a center on white it's little surprise. The Brokers deal in arbitration and protection, but they don't do it for the money, no they trade in something more valuable to New Capenna, favors. If they stick their neck out for you, which they often do without asking, then you will owe them down the road. In most cases you don't really have a choice, when faced with losing your teeth or business, you'll take any help you can get from this family, just don't forget debts owed. The best comparison you could make for this family is a group of lawyers and cops who abide by the rules set out by their leader, the almost obsessive Falco Spara.
A Demon Aven who spends most of their time writing and reading contracts which hold some semblance of order between the families, as without the brokers the city would quickly descend into gang warfare. With their core or bridge color being White this outlook and action makes a lot of sense. Of course white is the color of law and while strict law isn't present here on New Capenna it takes on a new form of crook, the lawyer. Jokes aside, order is the primary weight behind the Brokers and the side of white which shines through here, its just that it takes a form of self serving arbitration on the behalf of others in the hopes that new Capenna may thrive.
This is all held up by Blue which not only turns this ideal into a unique style of magic called contract magic, it's also the mechanism in which the esoteric legal theory of the family is bread. Finally we have Green, the idea of collectivism, purpose and tradition. New Capenna is a place of new ideas and yet the ties to what bread the city and those traditions are held up by this family. We either thrive as a unit or fall together, a sort of mantra you hear when white and green come together. To end our discussion on the Brokers I want to share this quite from the card Brokers Ascendancy which reads
“This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. And more importantly, a profitable one, Now sign here.”
New Capenna is an exciting setting if your like me and love the color pie. Anytime we get to see new interpretations of an ingrained color combination I am happy and it goes to show that the magic team can really make the color pie stretch and yet keep it believable. You may not agree with New Capenna's place in the greater multiverse but you have to admit its a feat of world building and utilization of the color pie. You see the true gift that is the color pie comes when a theme is selected and then we ask ourselves how would these combinations fit into it. Its almost as if the world building is done automatically and that my friends is the power of the color pie.