Last updated on July 14, 2022

A Little Chat - Illustration by Matt Stewart

A Little Chat | Illustration by Matt Stewart

Today I’m here to tell you everything you could ever want to know about the new casualty mechanic from Streets of New Capenna.

The Maestros family have a knack for getting things done, even if it leaves a few bodies (theirs or others) on the side of the road. Their signature mechanic shows off this aspect to the family by letting you use your unwanted creatures as fodder for powerful spells.

But that’s enough talk. Let’s dig right in!

How Does Casualty Work?

Cut of the Profits - Illustration by Donato Giancola

Cut of the Profits | Illustration by Donato Giancola

In laywizard’s terms, you can copy a spell with casualty when you cast it by paying an additional cost of sacrificing a creature with power “N or greater.” For example, sacrificing an Expendable Lackey for a second copy of Rooftop Nuisance.

You don’t have to sacrifice a creature, but if you do a copy is placed onto the stack on top of the original and will resolve before it, meaning you can choose new targets if applicable. The power required for casualty is always specified after “casualty” on a card, with a range from 1 to 3 (and X for Ob Nixilis, the Adversary).

Not too complicated, right? Cast a spell, sacrifice a fodder creature if you’d like, and enjoy an extra copy of the casualty creature.

What Set(s) Is Casualty In?

Casualty is a new mechanic that only appears in two sets, Streets of New Capenna and New Capenna Commander, both of which debuted in April 2022. Whether or not we’ll see this mechanic later on other planes is currently unclear, but there doesn’t seem to be any problem with it balance wise.

Is Casualty a Triggered Ability?

Casualty is two static/triggered abilities that both function while the spell is on the stack. The static ability references the additional cost available to you, and the triggered ability puts the copy on the stack when/if that cost is paid.

Does the Casualty Copy Count as a “Cast”?

You copy the spell with casualty, you don’t cast the copy, so it won’t trigger cards that care about when you cast spells, like Widespread Thieving.

Which Spell Resolves First, the Original or the Casualty Copy?

Anhelo, the Painter

The casualty copy always resolves first. If you control Anhelo, the Painter then you choose the order that the copies resolve.

Can You Sacrifice Multiple Creatures to Pay a Casualty Cost?

Only one creature may be sacrificed as an additional cost for paying casualty.

What if the Original Spell with Casualty Gets Countered?

The copy still resolves even if the original is countered. It’s placed on the stack independently as a consequence of the additional cost being paid.

Can You Counter a Casualty Copy?

You can counter a casualty copy. You could also counter both the copy and the original with counterspells like Double Negative, Summary Dismissal, and Whirlwind Denial.

Can You Kill the Sacrificed Creature in Response to Stop Casualty?

Casualty references an additional cost paid as the spell is cast. The creature will be sacrificed before you’d even have the option to kill it.

What if a Spell Has Two Instances of Casualty?

Anhelo, the Painter

As stated in 702.153b of the Official Rules, “If a spell has multiple instances of casualty, each is paid separately and triggers based on the payments made for it, not any other instance of casualty.” So you cast your casualty spell and have the option to pay up to two separate costs. This is only relevant for Anhelo, the Painter and will otherwise never come up.

If a Spell with Morbid is Given Casualty, What Happens?

Good things for the spell’s controller, presumably! Because a creature is sacrificed as an additional cost for casualty, both the copies and the original acknowledge this and have a boosted morbid output.

Gallery and List of Casualty Cards

Casualty Cards Reviewed

Blue

A Little Chat

A Little Chat is a neat Sleight of Hand variant. You can get simple 2-for-1s or better by sacrificing something like Solemn Simulacrum or Dogged Detective to this. This has been one of my favorite casualty cards in Limited and seems efficient enough to see some EDH and Standard play too.

Cut Your Losses

Cut Your Losses is a splashy mill card that plays best with other mill cards, where your goal is to cast/copy it and then finish your opponent off with Fractured Sanity, Glimpse the Unthinkable, etc. This is also another card that can instantly win with Bruvac the Grandiloquent.

Cut isn’t a card I expect to see any play in non-casual formats because there are a lot more efficient options that will see play instead, like Tasha’s Hideous Laughter and Maddening Cacophony.

Flawless Forgery

Flawless Forgery is the first of three casualty cards printed in Anhelo, the Painter’s EDH precon. All three of these cards are very powerful in Commander relative to the other cards with casualty and may see play outside of decks specifically built around the mechanic.

Forgery depends heavily on your opponents decks and shines against splashy spellslinger commanders like Hinata, Dawn-Crowned, Zaffai, Thunder Conductor, etc. Consider substituting this out for a less situational card if you know your pod is mostly creature decks.

Make Disappear

A cheap counterspell aimed at Limited play, Make Disappear is basically Quench with some nice upside making it harder to play around. This shouldn’t see play in non-40 card formats because it’s outclassed by more efficient counterspells like Mana Leak.

Rooftop Nuisance

Rooftop Nuisance is another casualty card aimed at Limited play, this time in the form of a sorcery Creeping Chill that can be copied. I’ve liked one or two of these in my Maestros decks alongside Corrupt Court Official, Unlucky Witness, and Expendable Lackey for convenient copying.

Black

Cut of the Profits

Cut of the Profits is clunky. The last thing I usually want to do after casting a sizable Damnable Pact on myself is immediately cast it again, but this gives you that option. You trade the ability to target your opponent compared to Pact (to kill them with damage or force them to deck out if they’re low on cards) for the option to copy it.

I think this card is basically 100% overkill and would look to other ways to draw cards in Limited, Standard, and EDH.

Dig Up the Body

Dig Up the Body is a neat Soul Salvage variant that lets you sacrifice something as a cost and immediately get it back. The rate here is a bit overcosted so I wouldn’t expect to play this outside of Limited, but I’ve liked one copy of it in most of my Maestros decks there.

Grisly Sigil

Grisly Sigil is one of the most efficient casualty cards. It’s “deal 4 damage to target creature, you gain 4 life” when copied. This is a great rate for one mana, and having to pay an additional cost isn’t a problem with the right fodder cards.

I’m frequently impressed by this in Limited (particularly with blitz cards) and expect to see it in Standard sideboards. Especially if there’s ever a viable burn deck to hate on.

Illicit Shipment

It’s up for debate whether Illicit Shipment is clunkier than Cut of the Profits since both are amazingly slow. This is an overcosted Diabolic Tutor that lets you sacrifice a 3+ power creature for a double tutor. I expect this only to see play in EDH where it’s still clunky but capable of grabbing 2-card “I win” combos like Splinter Twin and Deceiver Exarch.

But finding 3-power creatures to sacrifice is a major issue for this card. Most other casualty cards only want one or two power, and Anhelo, the Painter decks are built around this fact.

Join the Maestros

Join the Maestros is purely for Limited and easily the weakest casualty card for that as well. The rate here is just not impressive at casualty 2, though this would’ve been much better in Draft and Sealed if it was casualty 1.

Xander's Pact

Xander’s Pact is a risky, high-variance card that’s capable of crazy plays in EDH. It punishes your opponents for scrying good cards to the top of their library, but could also potentially just brick if you flip a couple lands from each opponent.

Casting this with Anhelo out could give you up to nine cards to cast for free, but the life payments required might be a problem! I’d never cut this from Anhelo, but I recognize that it’s much more aimed at “sweet EDH” than “competitive EDH.”

Red

Audacious Swap

Audacious Swap is a strong Chaos Warp variant. Chaos Warp is one of the most played cards in EDH, and this is very similar but costs one more mana and offers you the option to copy it.

Library manipulation is essential for trying to flip expensive permanents into play if you want to target your own cards for value. This is mostly a flexible removal spell that can solve serious problems, and sometimes unexpectedly introduce new ones.

Light 'Em Up

Overcosted removal aimed in Limited, Light ‘Em Up has ranged from great to mediocre depending on the deck I’ve had it in. Casualty 2 makes this play poorly with Expendable Lackey and Corrupt Court Official, so my best decks with this usually play it with blitz creatures like Mayhem Patrol and Plasma Jockey. You won’t play this in Standard or EDH since you have better options for removal.

Rob the Archives

Rob the Archives is potentially a 2-mana draw four (!), but it has severe timing restrictions since the cards are only available this turn. I haven’t liked this in Limited from playing with it since it’s only good very late into the game (you can’t really use this to find lands early, unlike A Little Chat). I’d still prefer A Little Chat in Commander since impulsive draw plays poorly with reactive cards like counterspells that I might want in my Anhelo, the Painter deck.

Multicolored

Ob Nixilis, the Adversary

For sure one of the splashiest cards in Streets of New Capenna, Ob Nixilis, the Adversary is also one of the best. This is the sole card with casualty that isn’t an instant or sorcery, and also the only one with “casualty X.”

Ob Nixilis is busted in Limited, solid in Standard so far, and also might have potential to see play in Eternal formats (though that still remains to be seen). The card struggles against fliers but excels against small ground creatures and control decks where it protects with Devils and puts the game out of reach with terrifyingly fast lifedrain.

Anhelo, the Painter

The single most mentioned card in this article, Anhelo, the Painter is a sweet precon commander that encourages you to build a deck around casualty! Anhelo makes great use of certain casualty cards on top of other powerful instants and sorceries in Grixis ().

Best Casualty Cards

For Standard

Ob Nixilis, the Adversary

The only casualty card that’s seen widespread play in Standard so far is Ob Nixilis, the Adversary.

I think A Little Chat, Grisly Sigil, and maybe Rob the Archives could get there on rate, but the rest of the cards seem too clunky or underpowered to do much. But A Little Chat is mostly outclassed by Deadly Dispute and Village Rites for now.

It’s worth noting some great Maestros support cards available to you if you want to build around casualty in Standard. The best ones are Maestros Diabolist and Maestros Ascendancy.

The Diabolist is an efficient creature that blocks well, pressures control decks, and creates card advantage. Being limited to one Devil at a time is easily circumvented by sacrificing it to pay casualty costs!

Ascendancy provides incredible card advantage in a deck that can keep the fodder flowing. But it’s problematic to build around in that it requires that you provide both fodder and instants/sorceries (plus it slots for two to three copies of it in your deck). The easiest way to build a deck around Ascendancy is to include cards like Hunt for Specimens and Burn Down the House that double as both fodder and spells for the Ascendancy itself.

For Commander

I like A Little Chat, Flawless Forgery, Xander’s Pact, Audacious Swap, and might consider playing Grisly Sigil, Illicit Shipment, and Ob Nixilis, the Adversary in EDH. “Each opponent” on +1 is nice, but protecting planeswalkers in EDH can be rough. The rest of the cards either lack power or are just outclassed by similar spells.

Decklist: Maestros Control in Standard BO1

Maestros Ascendancy - Illustration by Jodie Muir

Maestros Ascendancy | Illustration by Jodie Muir

This is a deck I threw together to try to build around some of the cards I mentioned. I couldn’t include too many casualty cards (just three Grisly Sigils) but I still built around casualty-adjacent cards like Maestros Ascendancy and Maestros Diabolist. The deck aims to get to value with removal and sacrifice early and win later with Professor Onyx (double drains with casualty cards!) or Maestros Ascendancy.

I went with a fair mix of spot removal and tried to include as many efficient Maestros cards as possible. Corpse Appraiser in particular seemed like a must-include value creature. The cheap spot removal also helps reliably set up Corpse Appraiser, which is the easiest way to reliably find this list’s win conditions. Burn Down the House does triple duty here as a powerful sweeper, great fodder source, and payoff with Ascendancy!

The sideboard has seven lessons for BO1 and some obviously useful sideboard cards for BO3. It’s a rushed together sideboard, though, so feel free to mess with it if you experiment with this. Having more noncreature options to fight control decks seems very important since the game 1 configuration here is jam packed with removal spells that need replacing in certain matchups. I’ve chosen Duress and Negate for this, but there are other options in Standard as well that could be considered.

Wrap Up

Rob the Archives - Illustration by Steve Argyle

Rob the Archives | Illustration by Steve Argyle

Casualty is a fun mechanic to play with for me, and it was a pretty clever design by WotC as a way to fuse common identities of Rakdos () (sacrifice), Dimir () (control), and Izzet () (instants/sorceries matter) into one mechanic/gameplay mold.

That said, I wish some of the rares with casualty were a bit less underpowered since the mechanic lacks a lot of splashy, pushed-for Constructed cards besides Ob Nixilis, the Adversary. I would’ve been thrilled to see something like Ral’s Outburst with casualty 2, because that was a card that just needed a slight push to be good in Standard.

I hope you enjoyed this Little Chat about the casualty mechanic, and I wish you the best of luck in your magical adventures. Even if I’m unsure about the mechanic’s future in Constructed formats, it’s been my favorite mechanic from Streets of New Capenna limited so far. What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments down below or over in the Draftsim Discord.

Until next time, may your payoff spells always be worth the additional cost(s)!

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