Last updated on March 23, 2023

Ledger Shredder - Illustration by Mila Pesic

Ledger Shredder | Illustration by Mila Pesic

MTG usually needs mechanics that smooth the game, either providing more opportunities for you to play the lands when you need to or to find that spell you need, the mana you need, etc. Mechanics like cycling and kicker usually provide this along with “looting” and “rummaging.”

Connive also serves this purpose in Streets of New Capenna. Today we’ll see how the mechanic works, rank the best connive cards, and check out a sample Commander deck built around the mechanic. Let’s dive in!

How Does Connive Work?

Toluz, Clever Conductor - Illustration by Donato Giancola

Toluz, Clever Conductor | Illustration by Donato Giancola

Connive is a creature ability that says “When a creature connives, the creature’s controller draws a card and then discards a card.” If a nonland card was discarded this way, put a +1/+1 counter on the creature that connived.

Although most connive cards have “connive 1,” some designs let you connive X. For example, Raffine, Scheming Seer’s controller draws X cards and discards X cards, putting a +1/+1 counter on Raffine for each nonland card discarded this way. All actions are mandatory; you have to draw a card and then discard.

The History of Connive in MTG

Merfolk Looter

Connive is the mechanic for the Obscura () faction in New Capenna. The concept of drawing and discard, which a lot of players refer to as “looting” after Merfolk Looter’s activated ability, isn’t new and most sets make use of this, especially in blue.

Connive is a little bit different because it’s a set mechanic and there’s an upside in discarding nonland cards, thanks to the +1/+1 counter. Although the mechanic isn’t evergreen, looting is something that blue already does a lot, and it’s possible that we see “connive” worded as it is in other sets moving forward. My only doubt is the name for the mechanic since it’s strongly related to the set’s theme.

What if You Kill a Creature in Response to Connive?

When a creature connives the trigger goes on the stack and it can be responded to. The draw and discard effect still take place if the creature is killed in response.

If a nonland card is discarded, the +1/+1 counter isn’t put anywhere because it can only go on the creature that connived. So if your creature connives and is killed in response, your decision of which card to discard becomes easier because discarding a land usually has the most upside overall.

What if the Creature Isn’t Around to See a “When This Connives…” Ability?

Psychic Pickpocket

Since the connive trigger goes to the stack, there’s no problem if a creature doesn’t see the “when this connives…” ability. For example, Psychic Pickpocket connives when it enters the battlefield. The ‘’when it connives” still triggers even if the creature isn’t around anymore. So the creature doesn’t need to be around. The only thing is that the +1/+1 counter can’t go anywhere else.

Is Connive Good?

Looting (drawing and discarding) is usually a solid mechanic. Although it isn’t card advantage per se, it is card selection because you see more options (usually referred to as card filtering). And it can become real card advantage if you discard cards with graveyard mechanics like flashback or unearth, or even big creatures in a reanimator deck.

The way connive is worded makes it a better loot ability. Conniving once is probably not a great deal, but it shines in decks that care about cards in the graveyard and when paired with cards that let you connive a lot, like Ledger Shredder and Raffine, Scheming Seer.

Gallery and List of ConniveCards

Best Connive Cards

Mask of the Schemer

Mask of the Schemer

Mask of the Schemer can make a creature big very quickly as well as dump a lot of cards in the graveyard. EDH graveyard-centric decks should give this card a spin. It’s good to attach it to fliers since the equipment doesn’t grant evasion.

Lethal Scheme

Lethal Scheme

Four mana to destroy a creature is okay, but not great. But add that your creature can help cast Lethal Scheme by convoking and you get a free kill spell, four loot triggers, +1/+1 counters, and anything in between at best. It’s an excellent way to shake a combat in defense.

Body Launderer

Body Launderer

Body Launderer is already a 2-for-1 and a 3/3 deathtouch in a deck filled with rogues, returning cards like Soaring Thought-Thief to the battlefield when it dies. Conniving a couple times fills the graveyard and creates a bigger body.

Illuminator Virtuoso

Illuminator Virtuoso

Illuminator Virtuoso can be a great piece for heroic and magecraft decks. A creature that already has double strike coupled with some cheap auras and combat tricks can grow quickly and deliver a killing blow. Standard already has cards like Leonin Lightscribe and Clever Lumimancer. One more buddy to Killian, Ink Duelist decks if you want to go that route.

Change of Plans

Change of Plans

Change of Plans is excellent when used as a mega combat trick or in response to a board wipe. Your creatures will connive and some of them will be protected from removal, board wipes, or even an unfavorable combat. It can get even better in a Simic () deck with +1/+1 counters theme.

Ledger Shredder

Ledger Shredder

Besides being a good blocker as a 1/3 flier for two and even better with +1/+1 counters, Ledger Shredder works with your spells and your opponents’ spells. Are you an aggro player playing multiple creatures a turn? Shredder gets bigger. Playing a spellslinger Izzet () deck? Ditto.

Obscura Interceptor

Obscura Interceptor

The sum of abilities on Obscura Interceptor makes it an interesting proposal. A 3/1 with flash and lifelink for four goes well in Esper () control decks as pseudo-removal, lifegain, or a flash threat to pressure your opponents. Add in the connive effect which is a pseudo-Remand and the fact that it can become a 4/2 lifelink and you have a real contender. It’s also not that different from Venser, Shaper Savant, but with three colors instead of one.

Toluz, Clever Conductor

Toluz, Clever Conductor

Toluz, Clever Conductor has a nice cost flexibility being playable in builds from Dimir (), Azorius (), Esper, or even mono blue in Limited or Standard, and of course an Esper commander in EDH.

Toluz points to a heavy discard strategy with mechanics like loot, connive, cycling, channel, and the like. Cards from the Amonkhet block that say “whenever you cycle or discard a card” should be at home with this commander.

Kamiz, Obscura Oculus

Kamiz, Obscura Oculus

Kamiz, Obscura Oculus is a combat-oriented commander in Jeskai () that combines two interesting things. Blue and black have lots of evasive creatures with the saboteur ability and white adds double strike, which effectively doubles the saboteur abilities.

And giving double strike to an infect creature can get kills out of nowhere. It doesn’t need haste to affect the battlefield immediately since Kamiz’ ability isn’t applied to it.

Obscura Confluence

Obscura Confluence

Confluences are usually very strong, combining flexibility and card advantage with a lot of modes. Obscura Confluence can make a creature connive, create a Raise Dead effect, or offer a removal effect.

The connive effect happens before Raise so it’s possible to connive, discard a creature card, and then retrieve it. A solid card advantage and filtering effect in a grindy deck.

Raffine, Scheming Seer

Raffine, Scheming Seer

Raffine, Scheming Seer is cheap and a 1/4 flier with ward 1 defends itself well. A good way to build it is as an Orzhov () tokens strategy since its ability cares about the number of creatures attacking. From there you can use the blue mana to filter through your deck because you’re going to draw and discard lots of cards.

There’s also some flexibility if you want to build a deck with “whenever you draw or discard a card” triggers or reanimation because Esper colors offer a lot of tools in this department. Why not go all offensive with flying tribal and +1/+1 counters since most of these tokens can be fliers?

Decklist: Connive in Commander

Raffine, Scheming Seer - Illustration by Johannes Voss

Raffine, Scheming Seer | Illustration by Johannes Voss

Commander (1)

Raffine, Scheming Seer

Planeswalkers (2)

Kaito Shizuki
Jace, Wielder of Mysteries

Creatures (27)

Chasm Skulker
Noxious Gearhulk
Champion of Wits
Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar
Shadowmage Infiltrator
Looter il-Kor
Solemn Simulacrum
Psychosis Crawler
Nadir Kraken
Consecrated Sphinx
Dream Trawler
Sun Titan
Sharuum the Hegemon
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Baleful Strix
Bone Miser
Archfiend of Ifnir
The Scarab God
Containment Construct
Body Launderer
Toluz, Clever Conductor
Obscura Interceptor
Ledger Shredder
Kamiz, Obscura Oculus
Curator of Mysteries

Instants (13)

Swords to Plowshares
Teferi’s Protection
Lethal Scheme
Path to Exile
Esper Charm
Obscura Confluence
Change of Plans
Obscura Charm
Anguished Unmaking
Void Rend
Dihada’s Ploy
Arcane Denial
Dovin’s Veto

Sorceries (11)

Emeria’s Call
Council’s Judgment
Living Death
Dread Return
Unburial Rites
Toxic Deluge
Lingering Souls
Stitch Together

Enchantments (4)

Drake Haven
Animate Dead
Teferi’s Ageless Insight
Whip of Erebos

Artifacts (9)

Azorius Signet
Dimir Signet
Arcane Signet
Orzhov Signet
Fellwar Stone
Sol Ring
Talisman of Progress
Talisman of Dominance
Mind Stone

Lands (35)

Island x4
Plains x4
Swamp x4
Fabled Passage
Command Tower
Raffine’s Tower
Hallowed Fountain
Watery Grave
Godless Shrine
Arcane Sanctum
Drowned Catacomb
Isolated Chapel
Glacial Fortress
Dimir Aqueduct
Shipwreck Marsh
Shattered Sanctum
Deserted Beach
Clearwater Pathway
Brightclimb Pathway
Evolving Wilds
Terramorphic Expanse
Field of Ruin
Celestial Colonnade
Creeping Tar Pit
Hive of the Eye Tyrant

Raffine, Scheming Seer is a great Esper commander. This connive deck features reanimation and discard matters. The Esper colors can be used to slot the best connive cards, and there’s also an Esper mana base and some other cards from the Esper shard that work with the theme of the deck. And why not put some powerful sphinxes since Raffine is also a sphinx?

This deck has a lot of discard going on from the looters and spells and connive creatures. Some big reanimation targets were included as well as some reanimate spells. Cards like Archfiend of Ifnir and Drake Haven capitalize on the discard, while Chasm Skulker capitalizes on the draw. Your commander can fill up the graveyard and spells like Living Death, The Scarab God, and Unburial Rites can reanimate them.

Wrap Up

Lethal Scheme - Illustration by Tuan Duong Chu

Lethal Scheme | Illustration by Tuan Duong Chu

Connive is a fun mechanic, just like looting is. We’ll always see mechanics like this in Limited that allows us to get rid of excess lands or uncastable spells, and we’ll usually interact with the graveyard in some manner. I expect connive to return in some form sooner or later because it’s a skill-testing mechanic as well as a good Limited mechanic to prevent the non-games where you draw the wrong part of your deck.

Connive was created to bridge the gap between two different archetypes in Limited involving graveyard matters, counters, and synergies with other mechanics. There are definitely cards with the mechanic that will see play across various formats, so get used to conniving.

What are your impressions about New Capenna and the connive mechanic? Let me know in the comments below or over in Draftsim’s Discord.

See you later, and don’t forget your loot!

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