Last updated on January 6, 2023
Voldaren Epicure | Illustration by Martina Fackova
Editor’s note: Our Ultimate Guide to Innistrad: Crimson Vow Draft is here! Be sure to check out that article if you want a full expert breakdown after playing hundreds of matches.
Hello everyone and welcome to my review of Magic’s latest set: Innistrad: Crimson Vow. The support we received for the Midnight Hunt review was phenomenal, so we thought we’d try it all again.
In this article, I’ll be reviewing every card from Crimson Vow in the context of limited (i.e. sealed deck and booster draft), along with a rating out of 10. These reviews are based entirely on my initial impressions of the cards and as the format goes on, it’s entirely possible that I get some wrong. Without getting to play the set, it’s hard to make a guess at how fast the format is, which archetypes will perform the best, and so on. My reviews will be based largely on how the cards would likely perform in a vacuum.
I am going to provide each card with a rating out of 10 to show just how good I think the card is, along with a description of why I think that. The system I’ll be using is as follows:
- 10: The absolute best of the best. 10s will make a meaningful impact on any game regardless of when you play them and will be extremely tough to beat. Cards like Tovolar’s Huntmaster or Wrenn and Seven.
- 8-9: Extremely good cards, usually game-winning bombs and the most efficient removal spells, though not quite good enough to be a 10/10. Cards like Skaab Wrangler or Morbid Opportunist
- 6-7: Important role-players. These are typically going to be the best uncommons that really drive you towards playing a particular color, such as build-arounds and good removal. Cards like Infernal Grasp or Diregraf Horde
- 3-5: The average limited card. Most commons and uncommons will end up in this range and most of your limited decks will be made up mostly of these. Cards like Burn the Accursed or Shadowbeast Sighting
- 1-2: These cards are generally pretty bad and ideally you won’t play any of them, but they can be good in the right scenario. Cards like Cathar’s Call or Delver of Secrets
- 0: Absolutely awful cards. Virtually unplayable in every scenario and you should never put these cards in your deck. Cards like Curse of Shaken Faith or Curse of Silence
Right then. To start off the review, let’s talk about all of the new and returning mechanics that you’ll see in Crimson Vow and then we’ll jump straight into the cards themselves.
The Set’s Mechanics
Blood tokens are a brand new type of artifact token, similar to the Clue, Food, and Treasure tokens that we’ve seen in the past. Blood tokens can be sacrificed by paying one mana in order to discard a card and then draw a card. These are great, much like investigating was good in previous sets.
They mostly seem to be added onto cards to give a little bit of extra value and there are a lot of cards in the set that synergize with these tokens. There are effects that benefit you for discarding cards, for sacrificing the Blood tokens, or even effects that will let you use them for other purposes. This is the key mechanic of the set and I expect it to be a strong one.
Cleave is a new alternate casting cost for instants and sorceries. Cleave spells will have a portion of their rules text encompassed within [square brackets], and by casting the spell of the cleave cost, you simply ignore the bracketed text. Essentially, the basic spell has an effect with some restrictions and the cleave cost will remove those restrictions.
This is also going to be great for the most part. Cleave spells are basically modal spells and giving you more options and ways to play your cards has historically been a good thing.
The werewolf mechanic from Midnight Hunt returns and likely because it’s pretty perfect as-is. This time round, we will only be seeing it on double-faced werewolves and not on random creatures like we saw in Midnight Hunt.
This isn’t so much a mechanic as a fact of how all werewolves operate. Like in Midnight Hunt, it seems it will be quite easy to switch from day to night and vice-versa if you really want to. Many of the werewolves become most powerful at night, giving you a big incentive to keep it night as much as possible.
Disturb is also back from Midnight Hunt, though this time working very differently. In Midnight Hunt, this was the spirit mechanic and it is again in Crimson Vow. Every disturb creature was a human on the front side and the reverse was a spirit. However this time, each disturb creature is a spirit on the front side and the reverse is an aura spell that grants the stats and/or abilities of the spirit side to whatever you’re enchanting.
This is an interesting take on the mechanic, one that feels like a cross between scavenge and bestow. A sad fact of limited is that about 95% of all auras just suck. However, getting an aura for free after your creature dies sounds like a pretty good deal. This feels like it will be worse than how disturb played out before, but it should still be very strong.
There’s also some enchantment bonuses to be found in the set, so the incentives to use the mechanic are definitely there.
Returning from Dragons of Tarkir, exploit is an interesting mechanic that keys off sacrificing creatures. When an exploit creature enters the battlefield, you may “exploit”, which requires you to sacrifice a creature. Then if you did, you get a bonus of some kind.
This is the zombie mechanic this time round and if the set is built at all similarly to Midnight Hunt, we’re likely to have plenty of sacrificial lambs/zombies to pay these costs. A fun thing to note about exploit is that it also works if you sacrifice the exploit creature itself, so they all essentially function as sorceries that apply their effects, much like how evoke worked.
If the set can indeed provide you with a lot of fodder to sacrifice, then this is the perfect home for this mechanic.
This is another brand-new mechanic that will be supporting the green/white humans tribe in this set. A creature with training gets a +1/+1 counter whenever it attacks alongside a creature with greater power. Further to this, there appears to be a general +1/+1 counter theme to draw upon. This is very similar to mentor from Guilds of Ravnica and that mechanic played out pretty well.
Except this time you can be benefitted from having several small training creatures and then one big creature to train them all at the same time. This definitely looks powerful and it should encourage you to build your deck around it to utilize it the best.
We last saw Adamant Will back in Dominaria, where it was a fine trick but nothing too exciting. It is just a simple combat trick that can also stop some removal spells, so it’s a nice card when you need a card like that, but it’s not likely to overperform.
This is a nice little curve-topper that should work very nicely with the set. Last set I sang the praises of Gavony Silversmith and this card is very similar. It can’t buff itself with one of the counters, so you need two creatures out to make full use of it, but much like coven in Midnight Hunt, you can distribute these counters to your advantage to trigger training. If you’re lagging behind on board and this doesn’t have any creatures to buff or only one, then it looks quite below par. But still, a sizable flier for five mana isn’t the worst. My guess is that you’ll actively want to pick up the first copy of this for your aggressive white decks, which makes it an easy 6 for me.
Arm the Cathars
This looks kind of absurd to me. Three mana to dish out +6/+6 of stats to your creatures as well as vigilance makes this a pretty decent deal. On top of that, you can enable training for even more stats. Plus, if this effect is helping you push through damage with creatures that couldn’t otherwise attack through blockers, then this represents a huge amount of damage and unfavorable chump blocks from your opponent. That being said, it needs a very specific situation for this to happen (though it is ridiculous in that situation) and your deck can’t realistically fit too many noncreature, nonremoval spells in it. You don’t need three creatures out to cast it, but when you only have one creature out it’s a spell you wouldn’t want anywhere near your main deck in the first place. I think I like this, but on balance it probably ends up being just average.
Like its counterpart Groom’s Finery, this is just not good enough on its own. Even when you do have both, the likelihood of getting them at the same time is pretty low. There is something to be said for how this could help you enable training, but I think there will be more efficient ways for you to do that. It’s a funny combo, but not one that will be worth going after. That being said, I will try it at least once, just for a laugh.
By Invitation Only
This is such a cool design for a sweeper and one that looks great for limited. The floor on this card is that you can simply call 13 and have you and your opponent each sacrifice 13 creatures, which ought to be more than what you have, making this simply a five-mana Day of Judgment. But then if you happen to have more creatures than your opponent, you can simply call whatever number that will force your opponent to sacrifice all of their creatures and you get to keep a couple of your strongest. As you’re a white deck, you’ll probably be able to facilitate this very easily. A simple sweeper that has the functionality to leave some of your creatures alive and potentially even trigger sacrifice synergies is enough of an upside to make me excited for it.
This is a curious mythic rare that has a lot of flexibility. A 3/4 flash for four mana is a nice deal and getting to ambush an attacker gives you incredible card advantage immediately. On top of that, being able to snipe a creature out of the graveyard (maybe even one with disturb) and then get free tokens when you untap and cast more creatures? And of course you have the ability to exile whatever you want, making this an extremely flexible and potentially very powerful card.
Circle of Confinement
This is a really nice, cheap removal spell that I’ll probably want in all my white decks. It doesn’t have the same downside as Sigarda’s Imprisonment (read on to find out more) as it doesn’t leave the creature in play to be bounced or sacrificed to exploit. The added bonus of gaining life is very unlikely to come up given how most limited decks won’t have additional copies of the creature you exile, that’s really just there to help the card in Standard. This isn’t as good as Borrowed Time, as it can’t exile big creatures, but this will still be a very effective card for disrupting early curves and aggressive decks.
This looks incredibly mediocre at first glance. A two-mana 1/3 with no upside is a terrible card, so really what we’re asking is do we want the ability to gain 2 life whenever we cast an enchantment spell? It’s a nice ability, but my guess is no. We do have a life gain theme in black and white, but unless you can reliably trigger this several times in a game, I just don’t think it will be worth it.
Distracting Geist / Clever Distraction
I’m a big fan of this kind of effect in limited, the Master of Diversion effect if you will. All aggro decks usually care about is finding ways to attack past blockers and tapping them down is a very good way for white to do that. Getting two shots at the same effect thanks to disturb is extremely powerful and I can see this being a very high pick once you know you’re aggro.
Drogskol Infantry / Drogskol Armaments
A Glory Seeker that can be flashed back as a +2/+2 aura sounds very good to me. You always need to prioritize picking up two-drops and those that have some relevance in the late game are the best ones to grab.
With training in the format, I’m paying close attention to any aggressive creatures with power three or greater. This one looks like it fills that role very nicely. For just one extra mana, you can guarantee it doesn’t die in combat, but it will trigger training. I like it in that specific context, but I wouldn’t touch it in a deck that wasn’t trying to beat down each turn.
Faithbound Judge / Sinner’s Judgment
I play Swords of Revealing Light! (for any possible old-school Yu-Gi-Oh fans out there)
This is an interesting one where on one hand I don’t want my creature to not attack but a 4/4 wall is extremely hard for any opponent to attack into. Even without flash, this reminds me a lot of Plumeveil, a card that was very tough to get around. Once we move past this, getting to be an attacker after three turns is great and if it dies or you discard it, becoming a three-turn clock similar to Approach of the Second Sun is just incredible. This is a very slow and controlling card in a format where white is trying to be extremely aggressive, so my main fear is that this may not find a great home. But if it does, it’s a very powerful mythic.
I generally have a soft spot for cards like this. White doesn’t get much good removal and I tend towards playing slower decks anyway. You’re not going to want this much in an aggro deck as you care a lot more about removing blockers, not attackers. But when you want to be slowing the game down to your pace, this is right up your alley. The cleave mode is going to come up every now and again, but it’s not what we care about here. Odds are if a creature is worth killing, it will probably attack you at some point.
When looking at training, I figured you wouldn’t need to do much to sell me on a vanilla 3/1 for two mana in this set and this is a lot stronger than that. Each of these two abilities essentially give you ways to protect Fleeting Spirit in combat and make it more capable of attacking into your opponent’s board. Threat of activation is key here, as you only need to have three cards in your graveyard to make your opponent unlikely to block or even attack into this untapped creature. Generally, I think this will just be a solid two-drop in your aggressive decks. 3-power creatures will be at a premium in this set to make sure you can trigger training and having it on a two-drop is really where you want to be.
Looks like a nice, solid creature to me. A 2/1 flier for three is a bit below-rate, but it won’t be very difficult to make this grow to a 3/2 or a 4/3 and at that point it’s very powerful.
Cards in the past like Pegasus Courser ended up being incredibly powerful for their ability to jump big attackers over enemy blockers. While Gryffwing Cavalry is doing that poorly (because you have to spend mana on it), it is a much more powerful threat by itself. A 2/2 training can grow to a substantial size in just a couple of combats and it even helps that happen by giving your trainer flying. With this in the equation, you can prioritize killing flying blockers on the opponent’s side and just take to the skies, which is very powerful in any aggro deck.
This is a really difficult one to evaluate. First of all, we can discount the first effect as you’re extremely unlikely to be controlling seven enchantments. If you’re all-in on the disturb plan and think you’ll be casting several enchantments every game, then this does look like an effective win condition. You need to be making about three or more Spirit tokens with this card for it to be worth the slot in your deck, so if you’re not likely to achieve that then leave this in the sideboard and move on.
Heron of Hope
Everything looks pretty nice and fair on this card. We’ve seen a lot of 2/3 fliers with a bit of upside for four mana in recent years and they’ve all been solidly average. I doubt this will be any different. In black/white specifically, this could represent a lot of extra life and gaining three life when it hits them with lifelink does synergize with some other cards in the set. Yeah, all around solid card, can’t complain about that.
I’m not sure I ever want to be casting a 3/3 flier for five mana; it’s just a bit too small for my liking. But the activated ability can be quite potent. Either you play this and trade off or find a way to mill or discard it and you have a nice, free benefit of getting a pair of 1/1 fliers later. Requiring an enchantment to use it feels like quite a heavy restriction, but only requiring one should be fine. If you had literally no enchantments or disturb creatures in your deck, I would never include this. But with just a couple around it looks like this could definitely do some work.
This is little more than just a one-drop with training, but that sounds pretty good to me. The ability to destroy artifacts and enchantments will come up from time to time, but even if we never use it, this looks aggressive enough to be exciting. My only issue is that when you draw it late game, attacking as a 2/3 is probably not good enough to get through blockers. The card is exceptional if you draw it early but will often not be good enough in the late game, but that still adds up to a fine aggressive creature to me.
Katilda, Dawnheart Martyr / Katilda’s Rising Dawn
It’s not unreasonable to assume that in the right deck Katilda will consistently be a 2/2 or 3/3 and at that point they’re big enough to win races by themselves thanks to flying and lifelink. Then once dealt with, the aura side makes it so that any of your other creatures are also capable of winning a race by themselves. This is a lot of potential stats and a lot of lifelink from just one card that makes me think it’ll just be incredibly tough to beat.
Kindly Ancestor / Ancestor’s Embrace
A 2/3 lifelinker is fairly average these days, though definitely not nothing. The disturb side being an aura and only grants lifelink is a bit uninspiring, but a nice bonus nonetheless. This just looks like a good, average common creature and not much more.
Rating: 5/10 (8/10 in red/white)
Removal spells like this have had a rough time in the past as you can’t guarantee that you’ll have creatures in play when you draw it and you also can’t guarantee that even if you do have creatures that you’ll have enough to kill a creature on the board. But if you’re a red/white deck then you don’t have to worry about that anymore, with the flexibility of just having a lifelinking Blaze effect. I really like this card and especially when you have access to red, which makes me think you might want to prioritize picking up a free red source to help you out.
We’ve seen some variants of this card before, like Ember Beast and Wojek Bodyguard, but they’re usually in red. This time we have a white one that doesn’t have a restriction on blocking, which is pretty nice. Aggressive decks in this format want to be attacking with multiple creatures anyway to facilitate training, so the downside here is very minimal. Three power is also very important as most of the training creatures are at one or two power, so we will really want to pick up as many creatures with three or more power for our decks. Untapping itself or a better creature to have your defences up on the following turn is a really nice bonus, which I think makes this a high pick when you know you want to be aggressive.
Tappers are very strong, especially when they only require one mana to tap something down. But when they’re also five-drops, that’s not really something you want. They’re always pretty cheap, so I’m trying to think of any similar cards and the closest I can think of is Ostiary Thrull from way back in Guildpact. That was a fine but pretty mediocre card if I remember correctly. I don’t think you’ll be wanting this in most decks, but in a slow control deck, you could do worse.
I will pretty much always advise you against playing auras, but ones that affect the board immediately or replace themselves are worth having a look at. Creating a 1/1 flying Spirit token is not worth the two mana you’re spending, but it’s definitely enough of an advantage to tack onto a weak aura to make it playable. It also means that the enchanted creature gets a +1/+1 buff immediately, which might let you force an attack through that same turn. There’s enough happening here that I’m interested, as well as enough enchantment synergies in the set that I’m sure we’ll be taking this regularly enough.
Sadly, this is not quite a Selfless Savior, but it is very close. Only being able to protect some of your creatures I feel will hold this back more than you’d want, but if you have a bunch of training creatures then you’re likely to have a lot of creatures for it. This is basically a bad card that starts to go way up in value the more likely you are to have a +1/+1 counter somewhere on the board. But even then, if you don’t have a counter on your best creature, it’s still not that great.
Panicked Bystander / Cackling Culprit
As a two-drop with fine stats and a very relevant upside, this will be wanted by every white deck. But where it will shine is naturally in black/white, where it should become a trivial matter to transform it and really get the value train going. Considering you will have only invested two mana into it, Cackling Culprit is an absurdly efficient creature and a pretty decent enabler plus payoff for being in the life gain deck.
This should be a 2/3 by the time it attacks for the first time and that’s a great deal for two mana. Having a pseudo-modular ability for after it dies is a pretty huge buff. I’m honestly surprised by how good this looks, it seems like the perfect two drop for any white aggressive deck in this format and I can’t sing its praises enough. I’m really tempted to bump up it’s grade and I wouldn’t be surprised if I did by the end of the format.
I have a tendency to really overrate cards like this. I just think “isn’t this just a white Shock”? The problem is that it doesn’t kill blockers until after they block. White tends to be very aggressive and it certainly looks to be in this set. You want your removal spells to be able to get rid of blockers so you can attack past them. If they have to block before you use this then they’ve already soaked up the damage and done their job. If you have a slow deck, then this is nice, cheap interaction. It also works fine against training, as you can respond to the trigger while they’re still small.
Radiant Grace / Radiant Restraints
I just don’t like auras that give buffs and do nothing else. The curse side is not very impressive and not worth playing this out. It is at least a cheap card, so you won’t be investing much into playing it, but even for what you’ve paid I don’t think it’s worth it.
You don’t need to do much to sell me on playing a 3-mana cantrip-ing creature. It’s only conditional, but a condition that really should be easy to satisfy. It does hit a fair bit harder than its Midnight Hunt predecessor Search Party Captain, so I think you should take this highly and your human-based aggro decks will be very happy about it.
Well, we have our Disenchant for the set. It’s a simple sideboard card and likely nothing more than that.
Savior of Ollenbock
Banisher Priest is already very good. This is a new take on it where you have the downside of needing to attack to get the trigger, but the upside of being able to exile something every time you attack, which is pretty nasty. It also has a really cool alternate mode that lets you exile creatures from your graveyard and put them straight into play when the Savior dies.
On top of all that, you even have the ability to do some Fiend Hunter-style shenanigans where you bounce, flicker, or sacrifice it in response to the exile trigger and your opponent will never get their creature back. This card is going to be great and has the potential to dominate the board.
The only factor stopping me from rating it higher than an 8 is that it won’t do any of that without support, so there are a few situations where it just doesn’t do anything.
Candletrap ended up being really bad in Midnight Hunt, despite looking good at first. The reason behind that was the huge amount of sacrifice effects and the card Geistwave which are both extremely hostile towards Pacifism effects. The existence of exploit in blue and black and a good bounce spell at common makes me think that we won’t want this yet again. A three-mana Pacifism with a small upside is still a fine card and one that I would slam in most limited formats. But I have a feeling by the end of this format we won’t have bothered to play this card at all.
Training creatures are generally going to have about 1 or 2 base power, in order to make sure they trigger frequently. As this card will often just be buffing those creatures, then we basically have a six-mana enchantment that gives all of your training creatures about +2/+2 and flying. Is that worth it? I think it probably is. The fact that it immediately impacts your ability to attack makes this feel a lot like a white Overrun, which aggro decks usually want. It is conditional, but I think you’re likely to have enough training creatures and random +1/+1 counters floating around that this will be wanted. Your training creatures don’t even need counters on them to work with this, as they will receive the bonus as soon as they get a counter when they attack. This really seems good to me, but costing six mana and not affecting the board by itself feels like big enough downsides that it could underperform.
This is a really weird card with some odd wording. One of the big downsides of auras is that your opponent can kill the target in response and the aura won’t resolve. But in this case, the tap ability on this card is a “When you cast this spell” trigger, meaning it will go on the stack when you cast it and will resolve entirely separately from the aura itself. Given how the spirits decks will play out, I can definitely see this working well. You can flash this in to tap down blockers before you untap or to stop big creatures from attacking you and get an aura out of the deal for all of your enchantment synergies. It’s a bit overcosted for my liking, so it doesn’t get a particularly high grade, but it does tick a few boxes that you might be looking for.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia’s return is a great thing for both Standard and Pioneer, but for limited, she’s not really much more than a Youthful Knight. That being said of course, Youthful Knight is quite a strong limited card, especially when we actively want two-drops. Beware that her ‘hatebear’ effect is symmetrical, so you probably don’t want her if your deck is spell-heavy. Your white decks are likely to be packed with creatures anyway, but this is definitely something worth noting. Don’t be swayed by her rarity symbol or legendary status, she’s only just a bit above average, though sometimes that really is what you want.
I’ll be honest with you, this looks a bit crap to me. But the more I think about it, the more I realise that this is a roleplayer that fits into a bunch of different decks. It’s repeatable life gain for the black/white decks, it can help an attacker attack through big toughness creatures and it can even help make a creature big enough to trigger training. I think this might be a lot better than it looks, so I’m giving it a decent grade to start us off.
Twinblade Geist / Twinblade Invocation
1/1 double strike creatures are usually quite weak but have a lot of potential if you support them with counters, equipments and so on. Then being able to flash back as a double-striking aura onto an already decent creature sounds like a really good upside. Neither Fencing Ace nor Battle Mastery are quite good enough to be played on their own, the combination of both of them seems really powerful.
We’ve had a stream of great one-drop creatures in recent sets but this looks like a total miss to me. Unlike most one-drops, it’s not very good on turn one, which is very odd. If you draw it late then you can make it grow into a legitimate threat, but at five mana per activation it’ll take a heck of a long time before it’s good enough to rumble. I doubt you’ll ever want this really, but it could surprise me.
First printed back in Fate Reforged, Valorous Stance is one of my favorite removal spells in limited (I played a lot of white in that format). Flexibility is such a huge benefit in Magic and with this card you’re lucky enough to have a cheap spell with two very good modes to choose from. This has got to be one of the best non-rares in white, if not the very best one.
The thing I find interesting about this card is how we’re on our seventh Innistrad set and we’ve never seen a card called Vampire Slayer before. What on earth? Well, this is simple enough to grade. It’s a Glory Seeker with deathtouch against specifically vampires, which seems like a good deal and one I’d be happy to fill the two-drop slot in any white deck.
Voice of the Blessed
Double white is a pretty annoying mana cost, but that’s where the downsides end. This is just Ajani’s Pridemate with some major upsides, so if we can gain life once or twice this is a really good card. If we can gain life consistently each turn, the card drifts into obscene territory. There is a lifegain archetype in the set, but I would even play it in a deck that didn’t have much of a focus on it, assuming I had just a couple of lifelinkers or other incidental ways to gain life. I think this is likely to have an impact of some sort in constructed as well as pleasing a ton of casual players, so this is just a big hit all round.
Wedding Announcement / Wedding Festivity
We start here with a three-mana enchantment that creates a 1/1 token every turn. Ok, great, I like that. If we want to draw a card instead of get a token, we can do so by attacking with two creatures. Also great. After three goes of this, we transform this into a Glorious Anthem. Yeah, that’s also a great effect, so I’m liking everything about this. It’s pure upside, doing things that white actively wants to be doing and all for just three mana.
It seems we’ve come a long way since Mentor of the Meek. If we’re willing to only trigger it once per turn, we can buff it a bunch, with flying, an extra point of toughness and removing the cost for the ability. If this stays in play drawing you extra cards each turn, then I doubt you’ll be losing any time soon…
Like I alluded to a lot in my Midnight Hunt review, I love cool bounce spells. They’re so flexible and versatile that I’ll look to play pretty much any that you give me. Having a split card that’s either Rescue or Disperse is really nice, so I will take this, play it and be very happy with it.
Binding Geist / Spectral Binding
Don’t sleep on how effective Binding Geist can be on its own. We saw this same ability on Vedalken Mesmerist and it ended up being far less embarrassing than it first looked. You can fairly effectively shrink blocking creatures to influence what is likely to block and trade with this as a 3/1, then disturb it for a mini Sensory Deprivation. That’s a play pattern that tempo-based blue decks in this format will like, if there is one available to draft.
Biolume Egg / Biolume Serpent
Very clearly designed as an enabler for the exploit deck, this is going to do a lot of things. Scry 2, then sit back and annoy the opponent as a blocker until you find a way to exploit it and get a 4/4 out of the deal. If you don’t intend to sacrifice much then you can leave this out, but in any deck that can exploit it you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.
There is a lot going on with this card, so let’s break it down bit by bit. First of all, a 2/3 flier for three mana is a good start. You can exile a card in a graveyard when it enters or attacks, that’s a very relevant hate ability against a lot of decks, so that’s also nice. Now the extra bit, we can cast a spell off the top of our deck if it is the same type as one of the cards we’ve exiled. That means we really want to be exiling a creature with this first as most of our spells are going to be creatures. But if this stays in play a few turns, picking off cards from the graveyard, it’s not a stretch to imagine this drawing you a couple of cards. You can’t play any lands with it, so don’t bother going for those if there are spells available to exile. This looks like a lot of good value going on, but all of the little restrictions make me think it doesn’t deserve a higher grade than I’ve given it.
Chill of the Grave
We’ve seen this card a lot of times before in various forms and in spell-based decks, like what blue/red is doing in this set, it always performs quite nicely. Freezing a creature for a turn while cycling is definitely good enough to help you stall in a control deck or any deck that cares about casting instants. The cost reduction isn’t relevant here as I’d happily pay the full whack for it, but when it comes up it’s a welcome bonus to have.
This is a curious card that reminds me of the blue zombie mechanic back in original Innistrad. Back then, cards like Stitched Drake and Makeshift Mauler proved themselves to be worthy inclusions in most decks and I think this one will be the same. Costing one mana doesn’t seem relevant since you won’t be able to play this on turn one, but costing one doesn’t only matter on the first turn. In a self-mill deck, you could easily cast a Mulch on turn two and follow up on turn three with a two-drop plus this, which is a huge tempo swing in your favor. On top of that, if you happen to mill it or it just trades off, you can cash it in for a card out of the graveyard, which is just awesome. I love this card and I love self-mill decks, so this is exactly where I want to be.
I’m just not a fan of any effect that lets your opponent decide how good it will be for you. In any circumstance, you’re just not getting rid of their best permanent with this, so unless you have a removal spell ready and waiting to pick it off, you’re not getting a great deal. If you play it in a situation where you get to draw a card then that does sweeten the deal a bit. Getting to bounce tokens is also good, so I can see this being a card that not every blue deck wants to play, but it will always be a strong sideboard option against decks that are capable of swarming the board.
Cradle of Safety
Art: 10/10 (Wow! So adorable!)
We had this exact card back in Theros Beyond Death as Starlit Mantle and it ended up being pretty good there. Theros of course had a much stronger enchantment focus than here, but there is enough of that to make this playable and the effect in a vacuum is certainly useful in some scenarios. But oh that artwork is so cute. Love it!
You really don’t have to do much to sell me on a 3/3 flier for four mana. Getting to surveil 1 on casting a noncreature spell is a significant upside, so I’m definitely in for this. I’d be happy to play it as Phantom Monster in a lot of decks too, so this should just be good.
Diver Skaab looks to me as close to a Nekrataal as blue will ever get. Vedalken Dismisser is the only card we’ve ever seen (at least, according to the best of my ability to use scryfall) that does anything like this and that card was incredible. Needing to exploit a creature is certainly a big cost, but I’m assuming your blue/black decks, for example, will have plenty of fodder to offer up and other colors may do too. Plus, leaving behind a 3/5 means that unlike Vedalken Dismisser, Diver Skaab will be an imposing threat on the board after it’s done its thing.
Versions of this card, the big blue monster that can become unblockable by paying a lot of mana, have appeared a bunch in the last few sets. They’ve all been pretty dismal and I don’t think this one is any different. It’s definitely big and a bit tricky to kill, but hardly impossible to get rid of, so trying to rely on this to win a game isn’t going to work out so well for you.
You don’t have to do much to sell me on a 3/1 flier for three mana, let alone one that taps or locks down a creature every turn for no extra mana investment. I think the most likely mode of this ability will be to tap down a blocker every turn to make your combat step easier, much like a Master of Diversion would. But being a big flier and having the flexibility to keep a creature that attacked you locked down through your opponent’s turn pushes this well over the edge. I can see this being a very high pick and a reason to plant your flag in blue.
Fear of Death
This really deserves a higher grade, but as we saw with Locked in the Cemetery last set, aura removal spells are just bad in a set that’s full of bounce and sacrifice effects. This should do a fine job against aggro decks that are lacking in those effects and getting to mill two cards on entering is a nice upside in case something goes wrong later.
If you have to pay three mana for this, then it’s fine. Nothing exciting, but really not too dissimilar from Convolute. But if this ever costs two or even one, then we have a real card on our hands. Mana Leak is an exceptional card but one that does get worse as the game goes on. If you can’t make this cheaper very early, then it seems mediocre and cuttable.
Geralf, Visionary Stitcher
Geralf is a weird mix of different abilities but it adds up to one very annoying legend. First of all, a 1/4 that makes all of your zombies fly is good on its own and it should have a relevant impact on the board. Then we get to the sacrifice ability, which doesn’t look great on its own, but it has no timing restrictions on it, letting you use it at instant speed when your creature is about to die. That’s incredibly powerful, meaning that unless your opponent kills Geralf first, they won’t be able to effectively deal with any of your creatures. In fact in many ways, Geralf will end up improving them after he stitches them up. Geralf might not be obviously great and I definitely didn’t think much of him at first, but the threats he represents are where his value lies.
Gutter Skulker / Gutter Shortcut
Being unblockable seems like a really powerful ability, and it definitely is, but it only ever comes on otherwise weak creatures, so it never looks too good. This time is no exception. The aura you get for disturbing it is a little more interesting as you get to choose where it goes, but even then I’m not sure if this will end up helping as much as you might think. I could see certain combos being worthwhile, like going along with a certain spirit kitty that we’ll get to a bit later, but I’m not going to want this in an average blue deck.
WotC really isn’t kidding around with this guy. Just look at it, it’s friggin huge! 7/8 flash is going to ambush and kill everything that doesn’t fly in this set and being able to cast a free Unsubstantiate whenever you cast any spell is just incredible. This will dominate any board it’s played onto and as long as you can keep up the flow of spells, it will be very hard for your opponent to get out of the situation. You can even hold up instants to bounce their removal spells when they try to kill it. Just awesome and well worth the seven mana.
A five mana sorcery that draws three cards is a good rate if the format wants a card like that, but that’s not guaranteed to be the case. Having the ability to cast it for three in the late game, giving you more mana to spend on what you draw, is a really nice option. I think many people will fall into the trap of reading this card and imagining how bad it would be to cast it on turn three and discard a load of cards to hand size, but I just think you have to discount that mode when looking at this card. If I have no hand, nine mana and this is my draw for the turn, casting it for three and having six left to work with is great, plus I won’t be hitting my new hand size limit any time soon anyway. This looks really good to me, though the format might end up not wanting it.
Jacob Hauken, Inspector / Hauken’s Insight
Everyone seems to be calling Jacob the new Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and they’re not far off. The similarities are indeed striking. To start off, Jacob is just a 0/2 Merfolk Looter, which is a good card in its own right. Then, if you get to a point where you can afford to spend six mana transforming him, the enchantment side is absolutely brutal. You don’t even need to worry about deciding between transforming him and casting a spell for the turn as you’ll be able to cast one for free. If you have a six-drop creature for example, just activate Jacob and if his ability resolves, exile the six-drop to him, pay six to transform him and then cast the six-drop for free. Once you get to Hauken’s Insight, you’re just drawing an extra card every turn and getting a discount on mana. There’s a lot to like here and if you can keep him alive long enough then he will take over a game eventually.
Lantern Bearer / Lantern’s Lift
The problem with one-mana 1/1 fliers is that while they’re great on turn one, they suck on turn seven. Lantern Bearer still kinda sucks on turn seven, but the extra functionality of perhaps dying or being discarded and being an aura that can give your big ground creature flying is a big upside. Auras that grant flying can be quite powerful in limited, as flying is frequently one of the most relevant abilities in the game. So don’t sleep on this one, you may regret it if you do.
I do love a Repulse effect, and even at four mana this thing is very playable. Getting a cost reduction some of the time is a nice touch, but generally we’ll be using this in a similar way to Into the Roil or Blink of an Eye in recent sets. Bounce spells like this often pull their weight and if blue is anywhere near as good as it was in the last set, this will be a high pick for sure.
Mirrorhall Mimic / Ghastly Mimicry
A Clone is always going to be the best creature on the battlefield the turn you play it and that’s just the base rate on this card. When you get to disturb it, churning out token copies of the best creature on the board each turn is something that your opponent is obliged to deal with or they will lose pretty quickly. I don’t need to say much more about this, it’s just very good.
Mischievous Catgeist / Catlike Curiosity
He’s so cute! I think I audibly squeed when I first saw this artwork. Is that a word? Probably not, but I love this card! A simple Ophidian on the front and Curiosity on the back. Both cards are very reasonable and although a 1/1 isn’t going to get in for damage very often, there are things we can do to help that happen and when it’s done its thing we can enchant it to something else and have them take over. This also seems like a card that would be good to discard first and put the aura straight onto a flying creature or something similar.
The parallel I’ve seen everyone using for this is Reflections of Littjara, which was a fine rare back in Kaldheim, though it did underperform a little. Here we have pretty much the same card but it only works with zombies. You need a lot of zombies to make this worthwhile, so I wouldn’t run it in anything but a pure blue/black zombies build. Though if you get it to go off it’ll dominate the board very quickly. Unlike Reflections, this one works with reanimation effects and flickering, which could be a very reasonable advantage. All in all, this looks like an incredibly fun card that I think will lead to some funny decks and board states. It should be quite good, but this is also one that is hard to gauge, as a faster format will not let you tap out on turn four for a card that doesn’t do anything until your next turn.
I absolutely love this card. A key lesson of this set appears to be that modal spells are extremely powerful. Overcharged Amalgam has several modes and they’re all pretty decent. Firstly, it can just be a 3/3 vanilla flash flier for four mana, which is often going to be able to ambush an attacker to give you a free kill. Secondly, you have a four-mana Disallow if you just have it exploit itself. And finally, if you have a throwaway creature to sacrifice, you get the best of both worlds in the form of a big, flying Mystic Snake. I really love cards like this, so I’m excited to draft this one myself and I think it will prove to be very strong indeed.
I’ll admit, this one has me a bit stumped. After all, you might have no creatures in your graveyard for a while, making this a blue Squire, but if you can fuel it well enough, you have a weak and slower Scavenging Ooze? I guess that’s ok, but investing say fourteen mana into this to make it a respectable 5/6 and then having it die to Hero’s Downfall has got to feel bad. It will probably go up in value if there are any abilities to consume, but that doesn’t seem like an upside that’s good enough to make up for how slow it is otherwise. Despite being a zombie, this feels like a card you’ll want in a blue/green self-mill deck rather than a zombie tribal deck. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but it just looks like a plant for constructed as opposed to a great limited card.
An exploit creature that’s able to put a decent-sized creature on the board while providing you with card advantage is definitely high on my list of priorities. This is one where I won’t want to ever have it exploit itself or choose to not exploit, so I can only recommend it in decks that want to sacrifice a bad creature for value, but in those decks it should be good. Especially if it picks up a good removal spell for you.
This looks like a nice solid draw spell for blue. In most decks this is just a common Memory Deluge without the flashback, which is nice to have. In decks that care about the graveyard, like in blue/white spirits or blue/green self-mill, it also helps to fill your graveyard as a nice little bonus. It won’t be setting the world on fire any time soon, but cards like this have traditionally performed well.
When first looking at this card, I thought the mill ability was a downside, but it turns out you can use it to mill yourself too! Air Elemental would get a 6/10 for me, so if you increase its cost then you’d better get something worthwhile in return. The ability to mill yourself is fine, but somewhat irrelevant so late in the game, but being able to return this from your graveyard to your library is the real highlight here. Much like we saw with Bookwurm back in Strixhaven, you can trade this off for removal or other creatures time and time again and just keep buying it back. This looks like a great late game win condition for a control deck or a self-mill deck and should be a high priority once you’re in one of those decks.
We really have come a long way since the days of Merfolk Looter or even Reckless Scholar. But still, this is a reasonably-sized blocker that can sometimes get you a bit of value. The problem is that when looting, you don’t really want to discard creatures, you’d really rather discard lands. Unless you have a very specific reason to be doing this, you’re just not going to want to discard to this a lot.
Blue doesn’t typically need combat tricks, so this just isn’t going to make the cut in most of your decks. If you are a really aggressive deck then it might work, but even then you can probably find a much better trick in your other color and stay away from this one.
There’s a lot to like about this card. Having two creatures in the bin to exile to this doesn’t seem like too much to get together. If you can satisfy that, then you get a 2/5 flier plus a card for five mana, which sounds like a good deal to me. This will excel in self-mill, but should pull its weight in any other deck you put it in.
Soulcipher Board / Cipherbound Spirit
I don’t like the front side of this as I don’t think we’re going to have enough time to worry about activating the ability to look at the top of our deck and not gain card advantage in any way. However, the spirit side is very powerful, so I’m more interested in running this out on two mana and then scamming it right into the reverse side. We can do that by sacrificing, discarding or milling creatures with other effects, at which point we’ve spent just two mana to get a three-power flier that can draw us cards every turn and that sounds like a very solid deal to me.
Casting an enchantment spell to let this attack sounds like a big ask, but I’ve tended to be impressed with 3/3 defenders for two mana out of blue decks. This is going to be too hard for your opponent to attack into, which is exactly the sort of roadblock you want in a control deck. Even if this never attacks, it’s enough of a pain that your opponent will have to deal with in some way, so if you’re a deck that wants that kind of card, you can’t go wrong with this.
Exploiting a creature to get an Opt is something I can get behind for sure. Being a 3/2 for three in a pinch isn’t a bad plan B, but the ideal curve of playing a two drop fodder creature into this on turn three looks great. Exactly how you want to start out games with these zombie decks.
We certainly have come a long way since Welkin Tern haven’t we? A 2/1 flier for two mana is an absurd rate and one that any blue deck is likely to want. The upside of drawing a card as a ‘heroic’ trigger seems unlikely to happen, but in a deck with plenty of disturb spells lying around, you’ll have lots of free auras to put on creatures and this is the perfect home for them. I would want this in any blue deck but in blue/white it seems like something you’d want to prioritize in a draft and you may also be able to find some other combos in other colors.
Making its fourth appearance in a standard set (and dating all the way back to the original graveyard-matters block Odyssey), Syncopate has always proven itself to be a nice, solid counterspell. If you leave it open on turn two, you can usually Force Spike a two drop as a strong tempo play and yet when you draw it later in the game, it’s not going to be dead given the amount of mana you should have access to. Exiling its targets is also of value in a set focused around the graveyard, so this is a good quality reprint and a welcome card in all of my blue decks.
It’s a little weird to have a blue card making a blood token, but it is thematic, so I guess we can let that slide. Creating a blood token should be enough of an upside to play an Essence Scatter at three mana, so take this for your control decks and you should be happy.
Thirst for Discovery
Well this is a turn up for the books. Continuing the ‘supercycle’ that began with the classic Thirst for Knowledge all the way back in Mirrodin, Thirst for Discovery is probably the best one yet as far as limited goes. Discarding a basic land is not only the type of card you’re going to have the most of, but also the one that you’re the most likely to want to discard anyway. We saw how powerful Compulsive Research was back in the original Ravnica block and every time it got reprinted, including in Strixhaven. This card is going to be incredible in basically any blue deck, though I’m hesitant to grade it higher than a 6 as recent limited sets have been quite hostile to draw spells. I could easily see this grade tracking up the slower the format ends up being.
Cloud Elemental always used to be a fine card back in the day and putting into a relevant creature type in this set is bound to be an upside. Not blocking on the ground could prove to be a liability in some matchups, so if you’re running it then don’t be afraid to cut it as the matchup dictates, but it is a solid creature to fill out your curve and is definitely better in aggressive spirit decks.
This is really just a Cancel that you can get a two-mana discount on if you’re countering a disturb spell out of the graveyard. There are a small handful of other ways you’ll be casting spells out of other zones, but that’s the basic gist of it. How good is Cancel? It’s just fine. The value of it goes up if the format is really slow, but it’s not usually something that you’ll prioritize.
Given the similar effect and the alliterative naming convention going on here, I have to assume this is a throwback to Guilds of Ravnica’s Murmuring Mystic. Back in GRN, Murmuring Mystic was an absolute house and the set’s most obvious choice for mythic uncommon. This version is substantially worse, as only having two toughness makes it a lot more vulnerable. Triggering only once per turn doesn’t matter too much, but could also be relevant at times. Either way, I’m expecting big things from this card and I hope I’ll be able to build plenty of decks with it.
It’s easy when looking at a card like this to fall into the trap of imagining the best case scenario of casting it when you have a bunch of creatures and you draw a whole hand. I see you, and I raise you a scenario where you have no creatures. If you’re a deck with a ton of fliers, casting this for three mana is ok, but if it’s only drawing two or fewer cards for you then it’s just not worth it. If you’re cleaving it in a blue/green deck, then you really have to be drawing four or more cards to be worthwhile. I honestly want to just call this a 0 and move on, but the upside is very high if you can draw a whole hand with just one card, so I’ll give it a slightly better grade. I think you really have to build around it though, with token makers and the like. The good news is there is a fair bit of that in blue and green, so it should be ok.
Witness the Future
Three mana isn’t really what we want to spend on an Impulse without some other benefit to make it worth it. Shuffling back four cards from our graveyard is nice, especially in a control or self-mill deck, but I don’t think this is ever going to be a high priority. I’m thinking back to how Clear the Mind and Devious Cover-Up became control win conditions in their respective formats and thinking this could do a similar thing. The potential is definitely there, but I think you need the right deck to make use of the full effect or you just have an overcosted cantrip.
I love cards like this and seeing if you can collect enough of them to make it work. I once managed to pick up seven copies of Goblin Gathering in a Ravnica Allegiance draft and it was really sweet. Unlike that card though, you only really need two of these to make it worthwhile. If you only have one, I wouldn’t bother running it. Your deck probably doesn’t want a vanilla 2/1. But once you have the second copy, you have quite a strong card at your disposal. Three or more and we’re in ridiculous territory. This is a great card to trade off, sacrifice to exploit and so on, so if I got one for free in a draft I would definitely prioritize the second copy quite highly. If I pass any early on, I would note that in case I see one later on and can hope to wheel more copies.
Aim for the Head
You should have gone for the head!Thanos, from Avengers: Infinity War
You don’t need to upgrade Mind Rot all that much to make a playable card, but lucky us, we get two upsides! Exiling the cards is huge in a set so heavily based on using the graveyard and having the option of being a removal spell in some matchups is just incredible. I think you will want to start this in your main deck a lot more often than other similar cards.
Archghoul of Thraben
There is a lot to like about Archghoul of Thraben. For starters, its effect will trigger off of itself dying as well as other zombies. And if you don’t hit a zombie off the top of your deck, you can always ditch what you find, making it at least a surveil effect. A 3/2 creature that lets you surveil 1 whenever a creature dies would be a pretty strong card all round, so even making this tribal specific keeps my interest. Combined with the amount that zombie decks will want to be sacrificing in this format, I think this is going to be very strong.
WotC copywriters must really be feeling the pain of using up the name Exsanguinate 11 years before this set came to print. -13/-13 is more than enough to kill anything in the set, so this really just reads as four mana to exile target creature, which is an exceptional piece of removal and likely the best black common.
Buying back two creatures from the graveyard is a powerful effect, even if a total of five mana is a little too much to pay. There’s a lot to be said about getting a blood token along the way though, so I think this will definitely be worth playing.
We’ve seen a lot of mediocre, menacing Hill Giants and this one is no different. It’s a fine curve-filler, but at four mana it’s a little too expensive to ever be a high priority. Though if you have a lot of blood tokens then a 5/5 menace is a nice clock, so it wouldn’t be unwelcome in your deck.
Bloodsworn Squire / Bloodsworn Knight
A 3/3 for four mana is really below where you want to be, but a built-in method to protect it is useful. However, it does require both mana and a discard, making it hardly something you want to do all the time just to protect a 3/3. If you can get it to transform, then the only bonus you get is that it’s now a bit bigger and laughably vulnerable to graveyard hate? I really don’t like this card but I can see a world where it beats all hell out of me and I’ll regret ever suggesting it was bad.
Giving your opponent a free blood token whenever they cast a spell is not such an unreasonable downside that would put me off the absurdly efficient rate on this guy. This is just a huge amount of stats for a four-drop, with enough toughness that it’s not very likely to die to fight spells or burn spells. Dropping this early will dominate the board, while punishing your opponent for not cracking their blood tokens quickly. Just not much to fault here, it’s great, has a very relevant typing and will probably win you games by itself.
Catapult Fodder / Catapult Captain
Three mana is such a low amount to invest in this and given how it shouldn’t be too difficult to transform, this is just a 2/6 for three most of the time, which is already awesome. A 2/6 blocks incredibly well and has great synergy in the toughness-matters deck, but the ability it gains to lob your creatures at the opponent’s face is a very dangerous one. Once your opponent falls low enough, they will lose in just one or two hits of this. If you have an Unhallowed Phalanx waiting for them then it’s even worse. I’m really liking what I see out of the toughness-matters theme and it might just end up being my favorite deck to draft.
Black’s entry in the ‘cemetery’ creature cycle isn’t messing around. A hulking 4/4 menace Nekrataal is just bonkers and then killing something else on its way to the graveyard just pushes it way over the top. This is extremely close to being a 10, if it wasn’t for the fact that you need to exile cards in graveyards as a cost for the trigger. By the time you get to six mana to cast this, the graveyards definitely should have cards in your graveyard, as should your opponent. But you probably can’t guarantee that you have a card with a high enough mana value to snipe the creature you really want to. If your opponent is sitting behind a 6/6 creature, this doesn’t do a whole lot unless you have a six-drop to exile from either graveyard. You may have to settle for killing a smaller creature of theirs and dealing with the 6/6 some other way. It’s only a small knock on the card, because most of the time this is going to be an absurd threat that will pull you back from a losing position as well as breaking up a stalled board.
Concealing Curtains / Revealing Eye
Ever wanted to know what would happen if Ecstatic Awakener had a baby with Thought-Knot Seer? Well, this apparently. This is basically just a four-drop, but one that can be cast on turn one and be attacking by turn three. I think this is much more relevant for constructed, but here in limited it still punches well above its weight class while stripping the opponent’s hand of its best card in the process.
Wind Drake, meet Gravedigger. I’m sure you’ll be the best of friends. Having this as a common payoff for the life gain deck feels really pushed and makes me want to move towards that deck. I am a big fan of Gravedigger effects in limited, I just can’t resist the value. What really impresses me about this card is that if I pick this early in the hopes of being in life gain and I don’t get there, instead of the card being a wasted pick, I just have a black Wind Drake, which would be good enough to make it into a lot of black decks. If you’re in the life gain deck, this easily gets bumped to a 6 or a 7 and you should definitely move it towards the top of your pick order. And don’t forget how powerful the classic Gravedigger loop can be, where you keep using one to get back the other.
Even if this was Demonic Tutor, it wouldn’t be all that good. We even literally had Demonic Tutor in Strixhaven and it wasn’t good unless you had a bomb rare you could go and get. Tutor effects are only ever as good as what you’re searching with them and given that exiling your top thirteen cards could very easily exile your best option, you can’t even guarantee getting the thing you want. This is just awful; you should simply never put this in your deck.
Desperate Farmer / Depraved Harvester
Having another creature you control die seems fairly easy, especially with the sacrifice theme in blue and black, so what we’re looking at here is a 4/3 lifelinker for three mana. Having lifelink on both sides makes it very attractive to the black/white deck too. That is pretty incredible, but we won’t actually be able to transform it all of the time, so it may have to sit in waiting for a while before it pays us off.
A four-mana deathtouch creature that gains you a bit of life is a very nice card for control decks. You’re probably not going to want this in an aggro deck, though hitting the opponent for two is nice when you do need to play it.
Fantastic. I had a feeling this exact card would get a reprint in this set and here it is. Once you’re in the exploit deck, this is the exact kind of sacrificial fodder that you want. You will want as many as you can get your hands on so you can turn on all of your exploit triggers.
I doubt I’ll ever want to be casting this for one mana in limited. On turn one, there’s a decent chance you’ll hit something, but unless that chance is north of about 80%, I don’t like those odds. The real question is, how much do we want to play Coercion? The answer is simple though, we don’t. We’ve seen many variations on Coercion in recent years and they all fall under the same category. They’re fringe playables out of the sideboard and nothing more. I doubt this one will be much different.
If you cast Dreadfeast Demon without any other creatures in play it’s only a 6/6 vanilla flier. Given that the upside is that this is virtually unbeatable, though, I’d say we have a pretty good limited bomb on our hands. The obvious comparison here is to Pack Rat, one of the most absurdly broken limited bombs of all time.
Assuming you have any creature on the board and you cast Dreadfeast Demon, your opponent only has until the end of your turn to kill it or you will create a copy, and the game will be as good as over.
I can’t quite rate it a 10 given its huge mana cost and sacrifice requirements, which are things that Pack Rat was never worried about.
Dying to Serve
This is a quintessential ‘build-around’ draft card, where it is literally a 0 unless you make sure to build around it. But if you do, the payoff is huge. Discard isn’t a huge theme in this set, but blood tokens are and cracking one to rummage will trigger this. If you can create lots of tokens and make sure to crack only one each turn, then this card will quickly dominate the ground. Drake Haven was a busted build-around back in Amonkhet and while this is significantly weaker in the set, I can see it fulfilling a similar role if you’re willing to put in the investment.
Rise from the Grave is a fine, but somewhat below average limited card. What I’m really interested in here is the madness-esque discard mode. Black has access to a lot of blood tokens and discarding this to one of them to draw a card and Raise Dead a creature sounds like a really appealing deal to me. I think I would actively want this in any deck that could create lots of blood tokens, pushing it up into the 6 or 7 range. But in an average black deck that can sometimes discard it and every now and again can Reanimate a creature straight up, this looks like it can pull its weight.
Creatures that have a built-in ability to reanimate themselves from the graveyard are always worth a more in-depth look. As a 3/1 flier for three mana, it’s a very efficient threat and creating a blood token on hitting the opponent is a really nice upside, especially as it helps to fuel its own reanimation ability. Not being able to block is a big hit though, meaning that its value goes way down if you’re a slow or controlling deck. Assuming you’re a low-curve aggro deck, this card is absolutely phenomenal and should be a perfect fit. But I could definitely see not running it if you end up in a super slow deck, I just don’t know how likely you are to be doing that. It’s also really nice to sacrifice to exploit, so that’s something else to bear in mind. Get up to two blood tokens, hit your opponent, sac it off to an exploit trigger and then bring it back.
Any creature that has the ability to provide you with card advantage while impacting the board is great. The worst it’ll ever be is a vanilla 3/2 deathtouch or a Sign in Blood for three mana, both of which seem like strong options. Then, if we have some fodder to sac off, then getting both at the same time is an incredible deal. This should just be a very strong uncommon and not just for the exploit decks.
Gift of Fangs
I know some people will look at a +2/+2 bonus and think it’s a good thing, but here it really is a downside. I would never play a +2/+2 aura in a draft deck unless something really weird was going on, but Dead Weight is a very playable card. You can definitely strap this onto one of your Vampires in a pinch, but only if you’re close to finishing the game because doing so early and giving your opponent a free two-for-one blowout is a surefire way to lose a game on the spot.
This seems like a very simple and medium filler common. Vampires won’t mind this at all, but this does look more like a nice crossover card for the life gain and toughness-matters themes, though not one that’s ever likely to be a high priority.
Let’s be real, we’re not exploiting this in around 98% of games due to a lack of Planeswalkers for us to kill. But if we’re not doing that, we still have a two-mana 3/3 with a small downside, which is something we definitely want in an aggro deck. In a control deck it is a nicely-sized blocker, but draining you for one life each turn could end up being a liability in the long run.
Six mana for a sorcery speed removal spell is just too much, even if you do get the benefit of a pair of blood tokens. I hope this performs a bit better than my grade suggests, but generally a six mana removal spell will always trade down on mana, putting you at a disadvantage when you cast it. It’s good enough to get a 3 since killing anything outright is never a terrible thing. If this is good in the format, then the format’s going to be a fun one, so that’s something to look forward to.
Unless you have the exact card Bride’s Gown, all this does is provide +2/+0 for an equip cost of two, which is not something you really want. If you do get the wedding dress to go with it, then it’s a fun combo, but even then the likelihood of getting them both out at the same time is not that high. I generally just don’t want to bother with this, but it does look funny so I’m sure I’ll try it out at least once.
Headless Rider is a really nice payoff for your zombie decks. A 3/1 that dies into a 2/2 token is pretty nice on its own, but triggering off all of your other zombies dying in an archetype that wants to actively sacrifice its creatures seems crazy good. Better yet, this synergizes so well with exploit, allowing you to have a creature exploit itself when entering the battlefield and still leaving behind a 2/2 token.
Henrika Domnathi / Henrika, Infernal Seer
I keep reading Henrika and I just can’t see anything wrong with her. She’s just going to be obscene on any board you play her. The most likely line of play will probably be to play her on four and draw a card with her trigger. Then next turn, when she can attack, have her transform into the legendary Vampire Nighthawk and just start going to town. You can even throw in that sacrifice trigger in certain situations to have her act as removal. And all of this only costs you four mana? I am very much in.
Murder has always been a stellar limited card and this is the exact same card (we’re probably never even playing against a planeswalker anyway). I don’t think I need to say much about this. Removal is very good in limited and this is the cheapest you’ll ever get an unconditional removal spell for, ergo this is going to be one of the best uncommons in the whole set.
Innocent Traveler / Malicious Invader
Your opponent should probably not be sacrificing any creatures to this because it will eventually transform anyway. Much like Vengeful Strangler in the last set, it might feel tempting to sacrifice creatures to keep this card from doing what you want it to do, but without a continuous supply of free creatures, it will inevitably not work out. Once it transforms, you’ll get to start beating down with a 3/3 or even sometimes 5/3 flier, which is pretty good for just a four mana investment.
This is rarely going to be much more than a Walking Corpse, but that’s still something you don’t mind playing in a lot of decks. Occasionally sniping a card out of their hand is a nice bonus, but it will generally be too hard to do that as a natural part of your curve without losing your board position..
Another great black removal spell and one that fits so perfectly in this set. It looks like there are a lot of aggressive decks in the set and gaining life while killing a creature is huge against them. Getting the cost reduction against humans is a very big deal too, not to mention how good this is going to be in the life gain deck too. Kaladesh was a pretty aggressive set and Essence Extraction was absurd there. I don’t see this being any less relevant here.
Path of Peril
Six mana for a board sweeper is a bit much, especially for one that costs two colors, but having the fail safe of sweeping away a bunch of small creatures against aggro decks makes this a very nice card all round. If I was black/white I would just main it, but without access to the white mana for it, I would probably leave it in my sideboard until I’m paired against a great aggro deck.
Reassembling Skeleton is back! It has some numbers shifted round, but it’s the same basic card. Great for sacrificing to exploit, persistently chump blocking big attackers and great to discard or mill. Looks like a perfect fit for a bunch of different decks.
Tacking on a blood token to a card that’s already drawing you cards means this is less like Divination and actually more like Sift, but with the advantage of splitting the cost. I like this as is and if you can do something more interesting with that blood token then it’s even better.
Ragged Recluse / Odious Witch
With blood tokens lying around, it shouldn’t be too difficult to discard a card and have this transform. Once it does, a 3/3 that drains on attacking is pretty nice and it fits very nicely into the life gain deck and any deck that uses blood tokens, so this looks like a nice little common all-rounder.
Restless Bloodseeker / Bloodsoaked Reveler
Getting a free blood token every turn for doing something I was probably wanting to do anyway is really nice. Once you get to transform this, it triggers its own ability while being capable of draining out the opponent bit by bit. All of this is pretty good for just a two mana investment, so in the lifegain deck this seems like an excellent pay off.
Casting a Diabolic Edict as your exploit trigger is not a bad effect by any means. Five mana is quite a lot to spend but if you have some weak sacrifice fodder hanging around then trading off your worst creature for theirs is going to be a good trade-off. There are some scenarios and matchups where this card won’t function the way you want it to, so it can just be boarded out, but it looks quite powerful enough of the time to have a home in your decks.
I really want to like this card, so it pains me to give it a low grade. Variants on Nekrataal or Flametongue Kavu are textbook examples of good limited cards, but I think this is just far too restrictive. Your opponent has to have only one creature in play and it can only have two toughness at most. And if your opponent has more than one creature out it’s just worse than a Cobblebrute. There are also quite a few cards that generate tokens, making it even less likely that this will be on. I think this is just a hard miss and we should move on without looking back.
Sorin the Mirthless
We’ve had so many weird planeswalkers over the last few years that Sorin is a breath of fresh air for me. Such a classic and simple design: plus to draw a card, minus to make a creature and ultimate to ‘win’ the game. Nice. Sorin’s numbers all seem to line up perfectly here. With four loyalty to start, he can immediately create his Vampire Nighthawk token (it doesn’t have deathtouch, but the comparison is close enough) and in a pinch he can go to 0 to create another one next turn. These tokens are absurdly powerful and will do a great job of winning races for you and blocking for Sorin. They also gain you life to offset the life you may end up losing to activate Sorin’s +1 ability. The worst Sorin can ever be is a 2/3 lifelinking flier that also gained you a bit of life (unlikely given that you have a blocker to dissuade an attack made against him) or traded for a card. The best it can be is absolutely dominant and game breaking, so to me that looks like one of the best cards in the set.
Toxrill, the Corrosive
We were promised our first legendary slug and oh my do we have a legendary slug. Toxrill just dominates the board, constantly shrinking your opponent’s creatures each turn and then if it kills any it spews out creatures of your own. And then you can turn those creatures into extra cards if you want to. Toxrill is even a 7/7 which is hard to get around at the best of times. This is a must-kill as it just won’t be possible to mount any kind of comeback against as it shrinks your team again and again as long as it remains in play. I can’t quite call this a 10 as seven mana is a really restrictive cost and one that ideally needs a bit of acceleration or card draw to reliably get to. But for that much mana you can’t do much worse than this absolute beast of a card.
This is an innocuous little card that doesn’t do a great deal, but has a really nice home in the zombie decks themselves. In these decks, you need to find creatures that will give you a nice benefit when you sacrifice them to an exploit ability. One that gets you back a different creature from the graveyard is absolutely good enough. On top of that, milling you right out of the gate is perfect for setting it up and for enabling other cards in your deck. Once I know I need sacrifice fodder, this is probably going to be at the top of my list.
We have seen this card in an Innistrad set before, with Undying Evil back in Dark Ascension. It was good then, but these days you really want a card like this to help your creature trade up before dying, like Supernatural Stamina does. This does have some applications, but the fact that it won’t help you win any fights is a bit limiting. Still, if you can make a trade and perhaps reuse an enters the battlefield trigger, then this doesn’t seem like the worst way of doing that.
I mean, come on! Look at it, it’s so awesome! Thirteen toughness! No? Not buying it? Fine, I’ll rate it properly.
“Real” rating: 3/10
Toughness-matters is not a theme we see very often. The last time I remember seeing it was back in Khans of Tarkir, where I loved picking up early Kin-Tree Invocations and making a huge creature with it. I would have loved a creature like this back then, but the folks at WotC were only adventurous enough to give us Rotting Mastodon, a card I did pick more often than you think. If you have a good toughness-matters deck, then I think this card will be great and you’ll actively want to pick it up. But elsewhere it’s probably just crap. A big wall that doesn’t do much else is just not where you want to be, especially when it costs five mana and can’t even block on the turn after you play it.
I don’t like this card, but I have to assume that getting two blood tokens for two mana is worth a whole card. The life drain is irrelevant here, so the question is whether or not we can make use of these tokens. If we can, then I don’t see why this wouldn’t be good. But without any uses for them my guess is that this is just garbage.
Voldaren Bloodcaster / Bloodbat Summoner
I was already on board with just a 2/1 flier for two mana, but one that can transform into an absolutely ridiculous bomb is something I want to build around. She can’t make blood tokens very easily by herself, so I think you do need to actively support her to make her work. But if you do, the payoff is incredible, getting to turn a blood token into a 2/2 flying bat every turn will overwhelm your opponent in no time at all.
This has got to be one of the best payoffs for sitting on your bood tokens for as long as possible. The first time this attacks it buffs up to a 5/5 and draws you a card. If it lives any longer then it gets out of hand really quickly, which is the kind of card I really like. While your deck won’t be able to play too many five drops, this is the one you want if you can make a bunch of blood tokens and having it available to draw later makes me really want to keep them around if I possibly can.
Abrade is a really nice reprint from back in Hour of Devastation and it gets a really unexpected downshift in rarity for this set. By now, if you don’t know that two-mana burn spells that can deal three damage are good, then let me tell you they are definitely good. By now, this is a fairly standard card that we see in almost every set, it’s always good and this is likely to be the best red common.
Rating: 0/10 (2/10 in blue-red)
This card is really cool, but not remotely playable in limited unless you plan on cleaving it. Even then, seven mana for a Time Warp is not really good enough most of the time. In a nonblue deck, expecting the three-mana mode of this to be worth using simply will not pay you off. You need a scenario where you will win the game next turn, and you weren’t going to win the following turn anyway. You also need to do so without your opponent disrupting you in any way or you literally lose on the spot. Sure, you can construct that niche scenario sometimes, but the card is unplayable at every other time of the game. I just wouldn’t bother with this at all, but if you’re blue and can cast it for seven mana, then it’s not the worst, just not quite good enough to pique my attention.
Alluring Suitor / Deadly Dancer
In most decks, it shouldn’t be too hard to find another creature to attack with. If we were to assume that was always transformed because of how easy that should be to do, what we’re looking at is a 3/3 trample for three that adds mana when it attacks, that adds up to a pretty strong card. I really want to leave the dream of playing this on three, then on turn four attacking with this and a two drop and just dropping a six mana creature postcombat. Hopefully it will happen at least once.
I did get a little excited when I saw the name ‘Ancestral’, but this is a lot more disappointing than I was hoping for. That isn’t a very fair way to judge the card, comparing it to one of the best cards of all time, but it was my first thought. This is a fine card with a very tiny effect but it does draw a card for just one mana. Without a blue cantrip like Consider in this format, the spells deck could really want a card like this. Giving trample to a prowess-esque creature could also be a huge deal. However, I don’t think a lot of other decks will care about this.
Ballista Watcher / Ballista Wielder
Oh how the mighty pingers have fallen. ‘Pinger’ creatures, like Viashino Fangtail were once commonplace in limited sets and were pretty good at what they did. This one is so watered down and yet, you know what? Probably still really good. It can ping the opponent to slowly win in a board stall, finish off creatures postcombat, straight up kill 1/1s and more. There’s even a common scorpion in green that can give it deathtouch, so I’m looking forward to that. At night, the werewolf side starts pinging multiple times each turn for some real carnage and also helps get your attackers through for damage. I love this card and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.
We’ve probably all seen the odd Belligerent Guest at a wedding and this one is pretty much a textbook example of a reasonable three-drop creature that uses one of the set’s mechanics. Nice, solid card, nothing bad about it at all.
This is a nice, aggressive creature that does something a bit different with blood tokens. It needs blood tokens to be doing something worthwhile, but a three mana 3/3 that can’t block isn’t the worst in an aggro deck regardless. Only triggering once per turn is a pretty big downside, as there will be plenty of board states where it simply can’t attack past your opponent’s board. If it’s not attacking then it’s clearly not doing anything else, so sometimes you will play this and it’ll just be disappointing. But it does enough to pay attention to and I would pick this up if I had a blood-heavy aggro deck.
Blood Petal Celebrant
A two-drop 2/1 with first strike on attacking is something I’d happily play in any aggro deck and getting a bonus on top of that is just gravy. Or blood, you know, whichever you’re in to.
It’s our token Threaten effect with a bonus on it and this should be a great home for this effect. Naturally, whenever we see an effect like this, what we really want to do is do something to the creature we steal so that it doesn’t go back to the opponent, like sacrificing it. With blue and black having access to sacrifice outlets, it’s certainly possible to put that together, but I don’t think it will happen as often as you would like…
At first glance, this looks so bad for a mythic rare. But then you start to work out how it’s going to end up playing out. Imagine pitching a land to one of your blood tokens early on and casting this on turn three or four, exiling that land. This is just going to deal 6-10 damage to your opponent. What are they supposed to do? Not play lands? The same could be said for exiling a creature, because your opponent won’t be winning a game without casting one. This is primarily made for constructed, but I think it threatens enough damage by itself to equal a good card and is just a Youthful Knight before you even get to the upsides.
Chandra, Dressed to Kill
Chandra is back! She is certainly ready for the party that will be happening over in Standard, but she doesn’t look all that impressive for limited. She can come down early and ramp you to five on turn four which is really nice. Her second ability could draw you cards but in your average limited deck, probably about a quarter of your deck is going to be red cards, so missing on 75% of your deck is not great.
Above all else, she doesn’t do anything to affect the board by herself, which is a huge liability in limited. If you play her then you can’t use her abilities to guarantee her survival through to the next turn; you’re reliant on the board you already have to keep getting advantage from her. Like I say, she certainly has some constructed applications but she’s pretty uninspiring here.
Change of Fortune
Oh no, just no. Yeah, you can get some nice value of this if you crack a few blood tokens and then cast this, or something like that. You can discard your hand to effects on the board then redraw it, but that still puts you down on cards. This is a weird plant for some kind of combo deck in constructed or Commander, don’t bother with it here.
Before we even get to the triggered ability, a 4/3 haste for four mana is pretty good already. The trigger isn’t a big deal, but it does combo very nicely with training. You can stack this under the training trigger so that the creature is still small enough to get the counter, then it gets buffed with the bonuses of its counters applied on top of this effect. I’d want this in any red deck, but it really will excel in a white-red aggro deck where you can make great use of this interaction.
Curse of Hospitality
This card had me mulling it over for a good while before figuring out just what it’s doing. It is worded for multiplayer games, so let’s reword it a little for the one-on-one games we’ll be playing. You enchant it on your opponent, all of your creatures have trample (assuming you’re not attacking their planeswalker) and when any of your creatures hits your opponent, you get to ‘draw’ a card from the top of their deck. Well that sounds pretty good to me.
Turning all of your creatures into essentially Nightveil Specters should be good and giving them trample helps them get damage through blockers which is even better. It doesn’t even limit the trigger to once per turn like a lot of other similar effects. I’m starting to really like this card, but bear in mind it doesn’t add to the board by itself and so it will sometimes be a liability.
It’s worth pointing out straight away that this can target itself, so the base rate on this is that it’s a three mana 4/2 haste on the turn you play it. It looks pretty aggressive which is exactly what white/red wants to be doing. It goes very nicely with training and the creatures that need another creature to attack alongside them. I think you’ll play this in white-red a fair bit but its value in the other color combinations seems skeptical.
We don’t see Threaten creatures all that often, so this is a little difficult to figure out. Clearly this needs to be in a vampire-heavy deck so that it plays out closer to Zealous Conscripts than Enthralling Victor. Even outside of a vampire deck, it’s a 3/3 for three which is definitely not the worst and it does count itself, so you can just steal a one-drop or a token against any deck. If you’re heavy on vampires, this starts bumping up to a 6 or a 7 and of course it’s also great if you have an exploit trigger to pair with it.
End the Festivities
There aren’t enough one-toughness creatures in limited to warrant playing this in your main deck. But it can be a powerful sideboard option, so bear that in mind.
Like I’ve said many times before, five-drops are not a premium and a lot of decks don’t even want them in the first place. You can probably do better than a 4/4 menace and I don’t think two blood tokens is likely to make up for that.
Fearful Villager / Fearsome Werewolf
Why is this just strictly worse than Shady Traveler? I don’t get it. Well, this is a mediocre filler common much like its black counterpart from Midnight Hunt. It will certainly make some of your decks but it’s not something I’m excited to use.
Magma Spray is back and this time exiling creatures is very relevant. There are a lot of aggressive decks and a lot of cards that want to go to the graveyard, so this is bound to be as good as it ever has been.
If I’m being honest, this just looks poorly designed. At five mana, you probably can’t cast it and a noncreature spell in the same turn. But it is a 3/3 haste, something that is unlikely to be able to attack without the threat of being a 5/5 or a 7/7. It just looks clunky, but it’s definitely going to do work in the right scenario. Like I say, you’re not terribly likely to be using the haste unless the board is empty and you topdeck it, but the following turn is your opponent ever blocking this when you have a couple of cards in hand and open mana? My guess is that spells decks can do better than this for five mana, but if you run it then it should hit hard enough to be worth it.
Of course this is an easy flavor hit. Of course you need two creatures to crew it, it’s the wedding car. In our experiences playing with vehicles in the past, the vehicles with high crew costs tend to be quite weak and having to tap two creatures means this is typically like a Crew 4 or Crew 5 ability. If this was literally just Crew 4, it would be bad and it wouldn’t make my deck. A 5/5 trample is definitely strong, but when having to crew it every turn it just isn’t good enough.
If you’re a red aggro deck, then there’s a reasonable chance this is active. It’s not a huge buff, but definitely a significant one. This is basically just a mediocre two-drop with minor upside if you’re in red-green. You definitely need two-drops in your decks, so this is never going to be that bad, but it’s pretty weak beyond that.
Ill-Tempered Loner / Howlpack Avenger
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a card with this ability on it but I don’t think we’ve ever seen a card that can do what Howlpack Avenger does. This is one hell of a beating. At night, your combats are just impossible for your opponent to win. They can’t block or Howlpack Avenger will trigger and do a ton of damage, most likely wiping out their other creatures or just dealing a ton to their face. And yet during the day the base rate is just a Spitemare? I’ll take that any day.
Into the Night
Making it night is really not that difficult in limited, so we don’t need to do that with a spell. Are we happy casting a four mana card that lets us discard some cards and draw new ones? It’s certainly possible, after all we wouldn’t mind playing Tormenting Voice and this does let trade off a bunch of lands for new cards, but I think this is too expensive to be exciting and unless you’re in a very specific deck you probably don’t want this.
We’ve seen plenty of versions of this kind of effect in the past and they’ve all been fine. This does of course feel right at home in the blue/red spells deck but is unlikely to be included in anything else. But hey, in that deck it blocks reasonably well and provides an inevitable clock for just doing your thing, so it will do some work.
A 1/2 menace for one is a weird stat line that makes you think it won’t be good in aggro, but like a flier it should be able to get in a bit of damage unimpeded if you play it early. It can then sit back and churn out 3/2 tokens each turn to win a long game. This has all the hallmarks of a great limited one-drop. It’s good on turn one, it’s good on turn seven, it’s just a lot of good things in one card.
Five mana for only four damage is really not where we want our burn spells to land. We can get blood tokens out of it, but only if we punch down and kill something small, which is not what we want to spend our five mana burn spell doing. This is basically just bad but if you are short on removal it can make the cut and if you pick up some late in the draft then they won’t even cost you any picks.
Lambholt Raconteur / Lambholt Ravager
The stats on both sides of this creature are not good enough to play in any deck that doesn’t care about the damage trigger, so we only really want this in the blue/red spells deck. There, it seems perfectly fine, though certainly not a high priority to pick up over the spells themselves.
Look how fluffy! I do like my good bois fluffy… This is basically just a vanilla creature and you can activate its first strike to make it easier to get in damage, but without the possibility of threat of activation I think this will fall into the ‘below average’ category.
It took me ages to figure this one out but I think the easiest way to think about it is as a Pitchburn Devils that can scale up. You should be casting it for at least X=2, at which point you get a four mana 2/2 that shocks something when it dies in combat, which is very reasonable. Any higher and the possibilities and play patterns begin to increase. I don’t know what deck actively wants it as it has no synergy with red’s archetypes, it’s just a strong card in its own right.
And it looks like we have our token mythic dragon of the set, another 4/4 for four just like the last one. This doesn’t look too exciting, but a 4/4 flier for four would already be graded at about a 7, so it can’t be too bad. Getting an X/X dragon with haste that is exiled at the end of the turn whenever you cast a noncreature spell is a long-winded way of essentially saying ‘deal X damage to the opponent’, which is mostly how this will play out. That’s very good and I don’t think you’ll ever pass this, but it’s not game breaking or going to help you come back from behind. It’s just a good mythic, and you should play it.
Modal removal spells are just great, giving you a way to kill annoying creatures while having an option for you when you don’t need to do that. Sadly, the removal mode is a little too restrictive, so you probably can’t just run this in every red deck. In vampires this is great and probably just a high pick, it just seems like it will be next to useless elsewhere, even if you have one or two vampires available.
The ability to create blood tokens whenever this thing deals damage is just absurd. That means when you attack and connect, you’ll get six blood tokens. When you block, you’ll create six blood tokens. When you use their ability to ping creatures, you’ll get a blood token each time. Add that on to a six mana 6/6 with menace and I think you have a pretty crazy card. Attack or block with his just once and you should have everything you need to find a way out of whatever situation you may find yourself in. I think this is a lot of powerful abilities that add up to a pretty overwhelming card, so even though six mana is a little high for decks, I just want this every time.
Like I’ve said a few times, five-drops are replaceable and not really at a premium. The same is very true of six drops. Pyre Spawn is definitely strong and can very easily trade for two creatures, but not every deck will want a six-drop and once you have one you won’t need this.
Red getting effectively a two-mana Divination is certainly interesting. The fact that you get until the end of your next turn to play out the cards means this should be reasonable for you at any point in the game. You can play lands from it, so I would make sure to cast it before my land drop for the turn in case you hit two lands and want to play both of them. That one turn delay on the effect also means that this is pretty effective at any point in the game, so I think this looks like a premium common.
You can ignore the last sentence on this, it’s mostly irrelevant in evaluating the card. All we care about is that we can deal five damage to any creature or planeswalker at instant speed and for just three mana. I am 100% on board with that.
You’ve gotta love a two-drop with late game relevance. Without other wolves and werewolves, this is hardly setting the world alight with its one damage per turn clock, but even throwing in a couple more makes this a very significant amount of damage and a very real, must-answer threat. Great early, great late, solid creature in general.
This looks like a solid build-around for the blood decks. A 3/3 isn’t all that big compared to similar cards like this in the past, so there will be times later in the game where you can animate this easily but still not get an attack in. Still, animating it is free and it does give you a blood token right off the bat, so this should do some work for you.
I’m a sucker for token generators. Getting just a 1/1 token every turn doesn’t sound like much, but after a while they will really add up. Hitting 13 permanents shouldn’t be too difficult either, as it counts lands, itself and the tokens it makes, so getting to dome your opponent for seven is a very nice upside, or just straight up killing a creature.
This is our sixth time seeing Sure Strike and it has proven itself time and time again to be a gold standard for combat tricks. Great on offense, great on defense. It’s still no substitute for a good removal spell, but it still ends up being better than most other tricks.
Out of a pure vampires deck this card is absurd, sweeping away boards of aggro creatures while not touching yours. Fiery Cannonade was reasonable back in Ixalan and this set looks to have a lot more small creatures and tokens to kill and this one even gives you a blood token. Of course there are limitations as you won’t be able to kill your opponent’s vampires. I would likely start this in my main deck but be very aware of boarding it out in the right matchups.
During the day, as a 4/4 menace haste this is pretty powerful already. It’s going to be hard to block, will be great to trigger training and very aggressive for the white-red theme. One damage however isn’t enough to do a lot to the board. At night however, it’s absolutely dumb. With all of the above good stuff but having a much more relevant damage creature and a little boost of stats. It’s not the most imaginative of cards but it hits hard and that’s what we want to see out of our mythics.
A one-drop that makes a blood token on entering is essentially like a mini Keldon Raider, a good card in its own right. However, being just a 1/1 at all points in the game makes this pretty below average. The blood token at least means that drawing this late or early doesn’t make much of a difference, but I don’t think this is premium. If you have a lot of blood token synergies then it definitely starts to get more interesting.
Voltaic Visionary / Volt-Charged Berserker
This is a very weird one with a lot going on. Firstly, a 3/1 for two is perfectly fine and it could always attack or trade off early if you need it to. But later, we can take two damage to essentially draw a card and once we play that card, we get a 4/3 attacker instead. Taking two damage is a pretty significant cost if we have to do it over and over again, so I really would hope that if we use that ability we hit something we can play straight away. If everything comes together, it looks like there’s enough going on, but they won’t be sparking much joy for us any time soon.
Weary Prisoner / Wrathful Jailbreaker
A near identical reprint of Hanweir Watchkeep, this card can make a reasonable impact on the board, but paying four mana for a creature that sometimes can’t attack at all is not going to work for us very often.
We start off green with a nice little roleplayer that should be a good training creature while also crossing over nicely into the toughness-matters deck. As a 1/4, sharpshooter will be able to attack into a lot of boards without fear of retaliation in order to get its training done, so it won’t be long before this is just better than Giant Spider and that’s a good spot to be in. There are also a fair few small fliers hovering around this set, so having access to a reach creature may end up being what green decks need to survive.
Back when I started playing Magic, Elite Vanguard had just been printed for the first time and I remember one of my first lessons being that one mana for a 2/1 is a really premium stat line. Twelve years on, that hasn’t really changed. This card is great to play on turn one and can happily trade for a two or three mana creature and when you draw it later in the game, it’s likely to be a 3/2 or bigger and will trade up for even better creatures. This has a much better home waiting for it in constructed, but it’s a very fine one drop here too.
Avabruck Caretaker / Hollowhenge Huntmaster
Getting two +1/+1 counters completely for free every turn is pretty absurd, even if it comes on a rather expensive creature. At night, this is just flat out unstoppable. Dropping counters on your whole team for free as well as being completely immune to removal spells. If you can keep it night for a while, this will not take very long to take over a game. This is extremely close to a 10, but a six mana 4/4 is really a bit too small to warrant that in my opinion.
Of all the cards to put in both of the sets, why this one? In Midnight Hunt, I figured it might be a fine card but it ended up as totally useless. This time around, it might be a little better, especially as it helps buff a creature to enable training, but it’s still incredibly mediocre. I don’t think you should try to use this, but you might have a deck that could benefit from it.
Seven mana is really hard to get to in limited, so if you play seven-drops they really need to help make up for the fact that you’ve probably made a few concessions to get there. Gaining five life is perfect for that. Bumping your life total while throwing down a 7/6 that can block anything should be the perfect roadblock to help stabilize you and get you back into a game. Then if it dies you can gain another five life to keep you alive even longer. This looks like a great win condition for a ramp deck and one that I would look to take highly.
This has some interesting applications for constructed, but in limited it’s just going to be a worse Explosive Vegetation. This is definitely not a card for every deck, but it looks good for certain decks that would like to ramp up into big things like the Bramble Wurm we just went past.
Three mana for a 3/4 vigilance is an absurdly good rate, exactly what you’d want out of a mythic. Hating on the graveyard is very nice and as you will be most likely exiling creatures with this ability, getting a cost reduction on your own creatures is also great. The card isn’t game breaking, but gets a high grade for the simple fact of having so many upsides and nothing bad to say about it.
2/4 is not a great set of stats to see on a five-drop, but a creature that draws you a card every time you train is something to watch out for. Having training itself helps feed that and should mean that you’re drawing a card quite frequently. Sadly, this will be a bad card to draw in certain situations as it requires other cards to support it before it does anything of note, but it should pay you off enough in other situations to make up for that.
Like Crawling Sensation in Shadows Over Innistrad, this should be a perfectly solid build-around for the self-mill deck. It even works with other colors as it will simply give you a 1/1 token when a nontoken creature you control dies on your turn. There are a lot of restrictions on the card, but ultimately a pretty big payoff.
There are a lot of fliers and enchantments in this set, but they’re all pretty well concentrated into the same color pair, so this shouldn’t be anything more than a great sideboard card.
It does what now? I am reading that effect right aren’t I? This card is just insane. Seven mana is a lot (that’s becoming a running theme across a lot of the good rares and mythics in this set) but oh my do you get paid off for it. If you don’t have any lands in hand then you’re getting a 7/7 trample at the very least, which is sometimes enough.
But if you have lands in hand, you get to essentially trade them all in for spells while putting them onto the battlefield. That should set you up for winning the game in short order, while also making this even more absurdly big. If I had some excess lands and knew drawing this was a possibility, I’d probably stockpile a few lands too, just to draw into extra cards later. Maybe I’m biased towards massive green fatties, but this just looks amazing and is probably my favorite card in the set.
You are going to want two-drops in basically every deck, which is enough of a reason to take it already. In the right deck, it’s going to be able to attack as a 3/3 on most turns and sometimes a 4/4 or a 5/5, which is a lot of good potential in a two-drop.
It’s always really embarrassing when your best play is to Diabolic Tutor for a land and hit your land drop, so at least with this one you get a big discount on doing that. I don’t think this is good at all. Like I mentioned with Demonic Bargain, tutors are just bad in limited and having this also be a Lay of the Land isn’t exactly a good enough bonus to play the card. There’s a chance I’m wrong on this one and a split card of two unplayable cards is actually a bit playable, but with this being rare I doubt it will come up often enough to matter.
Dormant Grove / Gnarled Grovestrider
Getting a +1/+1 counter for free every turn is a very powerful effect, but this is still an enchantment with the potential to be doing nothing at all with no creatures out. Still, with the right setup it shouldn’t be too hard to get transformed, at which point it’s a very defensible creature and one that’s especially good in the toughness-matters theme.
We’ve had a lot of six-drops that gain us life in recent sets like Ravenous Lindwurm and Hill Giant Herdgorger and they’ve all been really solid. This one isn’t guaranteed to gain any life, but has the potential of gaining a fair bit more, like thirteen if we have an Unhallowed Phalanx in play. The likelihood of having any creature in play to trigger this is pretty high and in the toughness-matters deck this card looks disgusting.
This is a very weird card and one that’s very hard to evaluate. Ultimately, I think the best thing this is doing is the first ability, giving you a mini-Overrun every turn. Overrun itself can completely swing the game, so it sounds to me like getting a smaller effect of it every turn should be great. If that’s not good at the time then drawing cards or gaining life as a backup is pretty good.
First of all, it has to be noted that this is a build-around. The rating is predicated on this being played in a deck that can support it. In a humans deck this card has so much potential to be busted and that’s where its rating comes from. It’s not inconceivable to imagine this coming down in the late game and being a 7/7 or even bigger for just three mana and that’s absurd. Of course this is offset by times when you draw it early and don’t have any other plays or you draw it late and have no creatures out. But I think that’s a risk worth taking considering how big the upside is.
I’m really not sure why we have a domain card here. I’m looking around and I can’t see any big reasons to go beyond the usual two colors. It’s almost as though this card was a late inclusion that was stolen from an upcoming gold set. Four mana for a 3/5 is not embarrassing, but given that you need to attack with it to get its first ability off, you’re not guaranteed to be able to do that. The second ability is what we’re here for, paying six mana total to make what will likely be a 3/3 token. I can’t see any cards that would lead me to believe that playing more than two colors is recommended, but this is a pretty sizable payoff for that. The ability to make a 6/6 every turn is very powerful and if all we need to make that work is run one of each other basic land and hope to hit them by attacking with this then maybe that’s worth it. I’m really not sold on this one, but the upside is definitely there if you want to go and try to make it work, but be very wary of how bad it is to include other basic lands in your deck just to enable one card.
Hookhand Mariner / Riphook Raider
Four mana 4/4 creatures are already a good rate, so getting the nightbound upside is great here. We usually get one of these each set and this one is no exception to the rule, it should just be a very strong common.
This is a neat design that should be a reasonable build-around for your wolf/werewolf decks. The first ability pressures the opponent significantly while the second ability punishes them for trying to switch the day/night cycle back to day. Of course don’t bother with this if you’re not specifically in a wolf/werewolf deck as it can just be ignored in any other deck. But in the right deck it looks like it has a lot of potential.
Howlpack Piper / Wildsong Howler
Elvish Piper is back and while it never used to be that good in limited, this version looks to be very different. Transforming to the nightbound side lets you draw a creature, which I think is the real goal here. If this creature can replace itself just once then it’s worth the effort. There are also a lot of big creatures in this set that might be worth cheating out with the daybound side, so there’s a lot to like about this package.
Infestation Expert / Infested Werewolf
The nightbound side is basically a miniature, green Grave Titan, something that is obviously going to be great for us. But even the daybound side is good enough, being a 3/4 and a 1/1 straight away before creating more on attacking. Get just a few free tokens out of this and you’ll be running away with the game.
Laid to Rest
On first reading this card looks like it’s doing a lot of things that you might like. But human decks in this format are going to be aggressive, so why would we bother spending four mana on a card that doesn’t impact the board, make our combat steps better or remove an opposing creature? After careful consideration, I just think this is garbage and you should stay away from it. Though I’d love to be wrong because I do enjoy drawing cards.
It’s been a while since even Giant Growth was all that good. Green has a couple of combat tricks in this set and it turns out the difference between one and two mana when you’re trying to win a combat is not that big. So while this is certainly not unplayable, the other trick we’ll get to later is much better and I wouldn’t want to be prioritizing this at any point in a draft.
It’s a millipede. Get it? Because it mills you?
The millipede does a lot of work for your self-mill decks. I don’t think it’s too unreasonable to just expect this to be around a 7/7 that also mills you for three cards which is a pretty solid rate. Unlike cards like Eccentric Farmer, it won’t be gaining you free card advantage and it is a bit expensive to cast, but it should do enough for you to be worth playing and there is potential for it to be absolutely monstrous.
Here we go, now we’re talking. As far as mill deck payoffs go, [cardMulch[/card] is a classic and one that should serve you very well. Given the composition of most limited decks, hitting one or two lands with this is very likely and regardless of how many you hit, filling your graveyard is something you actively want to be doing. Keep your eye on this one for constructed as the last time it was in Standard it appeared in quite a few decks and I expect it to be just as good this time round.
Using this as a ramp spell is fine, but not exciting and using it as an aura to buff a creature sounds horrible. This is another card with two options except they’re both dubious at best and I don’t think the combination of them is going to excite us any time soon.
Oakshade Stalker / Moonlit Ambusher
Having a split card of a 3/3 for three or a 3/3 flash for five is honestly pretty good. I’m not a fan of how the nightbound side has no extra toughness, but this hits really hard and the option to ambush your opponent’s creature is always nice to have. Flash also plays very well with the day/night cycle, letting you pass the turn with mana up to change to night and then this is actually a 6/3 flash for five mana.
Truly the goodest of bois, this puppers isn’t too difficult to start growing into a very relevant threat on the board. It reminds me a lot of Nessian Hornbeetle, a card that proved to be very powerful in Theros Beyond Death. While it’s slow to get going, after a while it gets to ridiculous levels and even gains you a bunch of it dies.
Mana dorks don’t have to do a lot to impress me in most limited sets. Being a 4/4 in the late game when you no longer need it is a huge upside though, one akin to good old Werebear. This should be a priority pick for green decks and tapping for any color even helps you if you need to splash. What is there to not love about this card?
I doubt you’ll want to run this in anything other than a self-mill deck, but it looks like it has a nice home there. This will usually buy you back a creature and a land, though if you have any other types of cards to grab then it goes way up in value. Getting a creature and a land when milling yourself is more than enough to make this card reasonable, especially if you get back one of the ridiculous big creatures that green has available.
Creatures that split their stats across two bodies always end up being strong and this is a really sweet way of doing it. A training creature that gives you a token big enough to train it for two turns is a really nice combo, meaning this will often be a 2/2 and a 3/1 for just four mana right away and that’s an incredibly good deal.
It’s hard to see where this will land, as there are plenty of decks where this is just a vanilla creature. But having a vanilla 4/3 for four isn’t exactly the worst and you have the upside of being a straight up Nekrataal against zombie decks. I would generally main deck this but it is cuttable, but once you know you’re going to get great value from this, it needs to come right in.
Once again, auras are bad. This one does draw a card to replace itself so yeah, it doesn’t have all the same drawbacks. But your opponent can still bounce or kill your target in response and you don’t get anything out of this and the upside doesn’t in any way make up for the risk of playing it. I would just avoid this wherever possible, but if you absolutely had to play it it’s not the worst and it does help contribute some good stats in the toughness-matters deck.
Another little reprint from Midnight Hunt, the wolf didn’t have a great support cast around it before and ended up underperforming. I still think it’s a solid one-drop for decks that want to be aggressive and with relevant typing to boot. Still, it’s only a 3/3 at best so it won’t be missed.
+3/+3 on an equipment is extremely powerful; enough of a bonus to turn any innocuous creature into a very problematic threat. Only costing three mana to equip each time is just enough to keep us interested and not so much that reequipping it feels like a waste of mana. The ability to gain trample I don’t think will be used very often, but it is at least a nice bonus to have. Plate Armor ended up being one of the best cards in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms drafts and while this is slightly worse, the power level is still there.
Yes, we can mill ourselves and yes, this might get a bunch of lands out in one go. But that’s a lot of hoops to jump through with not enough of a payoff to bother trying. This is for constructed and Commander and nothing more.
There’s nothing wrong with a 3/2 that will cantrip when it dies, but not having any relevant creature types might be a bit of a letdown. I hope to never play this as just looking at it is triggering my trypophobia and I want it to go away now.
Like I’ve said a lot already, you’re going to want two-drops so that is in itself a reason to pick this up. Being a 2/4 on your turn is a bit weird as the turn you really want extra toughness on is the turn you’re blocking on. Nevertheless, the toughness boost does help you to attack past the other two drops, so it’s not entirely irrelevant, this just isn’t very effective when you draw it late and that’s a big downside for two-drop creatures.
I really like having access to cheap deathtouch creatures in limited. The ability to trade off with big creatures or at the very least dissuade them from attacking you is an effect I’m very interested in having. The enters the battlefield trigger will also help you push a creature through a board stall which is a nice bonus if you draw this late and there are even some nice creatures to combo with in this set.
Ulvenwald Oddity / Ulvenwald Behemoth
A 4/4 haste trample for four mana is already a really great set of stats. Green has access to training cards which play really well with big haste creatures which really just adds to things we can do with this. Get up to seven mana and transform this and it just can’t be stopped. An 8/8 is too big to be taken down with most damage-based removal spells and providing a +1/+1 bonus to your team only makes the situation worse. This is just a lot of good things on a single card with no actual downsides, I’m sure I don’t have to sell you any further on it.
Weaver of Blossoms / Blossom-Clad Werewolf
A three-drop mana dork is a bit below what we want but still perfectly fine, but if you manage to get to night and gain the ability to ramp out even bigger threats then this is a very real card. Still not much more than average, but fine anyway.
This is the combat trick I mentioned earlier. +3/+3 is much more likely to save your creature in combat than +2/+2 is and the added bonus on untapping the creature and giving it reach means you’re also able to ambush attackers on your opponent’s turn. If your green deck wants a combat trick of any kind, this is the one I’d look to pick up.
Right away, this is just an instant-speed Rabid Bite for three mana, which is perfectly serviceable and exactly what you want in a green removal spell. The bonus of getting +2/+0 at night helps you kill a wider range of creatures while also getting through more damage. You can even use this as a combat trick of sorts to take out two creatures. Say for example you have a 4/4 and your opponent has two 6/6 creatures. You can attack, let them block and then use this to kill the one they didn’t block while your creature trades with the first one.
Wolfkin Outcast / Wedding Crasher
If this will consistently cost two less to cast, then it’s awesome. At six mana however, it leaves a little to be desired. Even at night you only have a 6/5 that draws a card when it dies, which is fairly strong but not a lot to be paying six mana for. If you are in wolves/werewolves then this looks great but outside of that I wouldn’t bother.
If you’re designing a toughness-matters theme in a set then you’re definitely going to want some variant on Doran, the Siege Tower to help it along. Already being a 4/4 by itself makes this good on its own and then if you’re in black/green anyway, you’ll probably have a few creatures buffed by it and then if you’re fully playing toughness-matters cards then it really pops off. I hope I get to attack with at least one 13/13 Unhallowed Phalanx in this format.
Anje, Maid of Dishonor
Anje starts off as a good rate for a four-drop but also gives you a way to convert excess blood tokens into a massive clock. Sit on a few blood tokens instead of rummaging them away and all of a sudden your opponent might be in danger of taking lethal damage. Not only that but you can just throw away all your creatures if it means your opponent will be dying from it. Anje looks like she’ll be one of the best curve-toppers around for your vampire/blood decks and one I do not want to sit across the table from.
In a vacuum, this card is a two-mana 3/2 that can sacrifice itself to give -2/-2 to a creature. That’s already exceptional, but when you get more blood tokens in play it has the capability to kill any creature in the set. Having summoning sickness on the ability is the only downside I can find on the card, but other than that this is an efficient threat that can turn itself into a removal spell and that’s a lot of things that you want out of a limited card.
Brine Comber / Brinebound Gift
Three mana for two 1/1s is already great, but with both sides of this triggering off of auras being cast, it really should be the perfect build-around for this blue-white spirits deck. Even without that, a total of five mana across casting both sides to get a 1/1 and two 1/1 fliers is a pretty good rate, so don’t be worried about playing this without other auras.
Child of the Pack / Savage Packmate
A four drop that makes 2/2 tokens for four mana is a little below rate but one that can get out of hand quickly. Spending mana to make a token means you probably won’t be casting a spell, which will let you transform into the nightbound side where you get a 5/5 trample for your trouble. The numbers on this look a little high, but at least having five toughness on both sides means this should be difficult for your opponent to deal with no matter what.
Dorothea, Vengeful Victim / Dorothea’s Retribution
Dorothea doesn’t survive long on board, but interestingly will survive long enough to block and trade, making her a pretty decent wall. Once doing that, the aura will help you pressure your opponent nicely. Playing Dorothea with the intention of attacking with her will probably not go well. She gets in a lot of damage, but board presence is a lot more important in winning a game of limited.
Edgar, Charmed Groom / Edgar Markov’s Coffin
Edgar simply cannot die, very fitting for a vampire. You can exile him, but that’s the only way you could possibly get rid of him. Any creature that dies but sticks around to keep creating value is going to be a real problem for any limited deck. As a 4/4 for four, Edgar is an efficient threat in his own right. Then, when you trade him off and he goes into his coffin, you make a lifelinking vampire every turn until he transforms back, buffs the tokens for a bit and repeats the process. If your opponent doesn’t have any exile-based removal then this process should be more than enough to facilitate a win. In addition, none of this requires any mana input, letting you cast all your own spells at the same time.
Eruth, Tormented Prophet
Eruth reads very similarly to a creature that basically says that you get to draw two cards per turn. However, she has quite a few downsides. You’re forced into playing those cards on the turn you draw them or they’re gone. She’s really bad with other draw spells as they will double up but you’ll need to play the cards in the same turn or lose them. If you draw instants like combat tricks or counterspells then your opponent can play around them, but again, they only have to for one turn. There is an advantage to playing Eruth and in an aggressive deck she could play out very nicely. As long as you’re being proactive rather than reactive, her ability will be very effective. But beyond that she looks like more of a hindrance than an advantage.
Grolnok, the Omnivore
Grolnok looks like a big payoff for your self-mill decks. Being able to play the lands, creatures and other permanents that you mill is a pretty huge payoff and assuming it can attack, you’ll get to mill cards too. Given the croak counter wording, if Grolnok, the Omnivore dies but you bring it back somehow, you’ll still have access to the cards it exiled the last time, which is always nice. I think the 3/3 stat line is a bit of a let down for a four mana legend and it won’t be able to attack very often, but the real advantage doesn’t come from it attacking anyway.
Halana and Alena, Partners
Halana and Alena are legends that only ever had flavor text on cards before their first printings in Commander Legends and in their first standard set printing they are not messing around. Getting two +1/+1 counters for free every turn is ridiculous and the longer they stay in play, the more you’ll start to run away with it. Granting haste means that you can just throw out a new attacking threat every turn and it will end up permanently buffed to boot. If you ever manage to buff Halana and Alena themselves then you’re just not playing fair anymore. Ok, so they can’t buff themselves, but that’s of course a good thing or they would be unstoppable. Luminarch Aspirant could buff itself and was one of the best rares in Zendikar Rising. Halana and Alena, Partners may not be able to, but their effect on the board is so much more impactful than Aspirant was, so I have to assume they will be at least somewhere close to that power level.
Kaya, Geist Hunter
It’s sad to have to give a planeswalker a 0, but Kaya doesn’t do anything unless you are a tokens deck. She could threaten her ultimate ability but she has to be in play for three whole turns without being attacked for that to work and she doesn’t help you in the meantime. She can give your team deathtouch for a turn, but deathtouch on attacking is far worse than on blocking, so that’s not worth it. If there were more tokens in this set then her stock would go up, but she’s just not worth playing if you only have a couple of token generators at most and that’s all you’re ever likely to have. In this set in particular, I can’t think of an instance where I’d play her, so she just has to be 0. Sorry, Kaya.
The best thing that an archetypal pay off card can do is probably draw you a card when you do the thing. Not only does Markov Purifier do the thing (because of lifelink) but it gives you a way to draw a card having done the thing. Can’t get much better than that for a signpost uncommon.
Markov Waltzer reminds me a lot of Skyknight Legionnaire, as a haste flier can usually be very helpful in pressing your advantage. Red-white decks in this format really want to be beating down aggressively and this does exactly that. Markov Waltzer can buff itself with its ability which is very useful and the extra +1/+0 can help another creature trigger training or attack into blockers it would have otherwise not been able to get through. Nothing too special here, but a very solid card with a good rate on attacking.
I’m pretty disappointed by Odric. I guess when so much of his text is taken up by listing all the keywords he works with you don’t have much room left for anything good. Since he doesn’t have any keywords himself, there are situations where he’s just a vanilla 3/3 and that’s just not acceptable for a rare. Even when he works, how many blood tokens are we likely to be making? One or two probably, at which point he still just looks like a medium uncommon. If you end up making a lot more, then great, but I don’t know how likely that is to happen. It’s not that Odric, Blood-Cursed is inherently bad, but I doubt I’ll ever be that excited to pick him up.
A Horned Turtle that mills us for a card each turn would already be a card we’d be interested in playing, but giving us a good token no matter what we mill is great. We’re most commonly going to get a Treasure or a 1/1 Insect, both of which we would actively want. And Old Rutstein is a 1/4 to fit with black and green’s toughness-matters theme. This card looks fairly simple, but effective.
Olivia, Crimson Bride
Olivia has a lot going for her with this version. Reanimating a creature for free when she attacks is well worth the six mana you have to pay to cast her, and with haste she will do that immediately. Losing the creatures you reanimate when she dies is a pretty sizable downside, but hopefully the amount of pressure she applies will be enough to make sure that won’t happen very often. She does cost six though, something that not every black/red deck is prepared to cast. Fun ruling for you, if she happens to reanimate one of the other legendary vampires in the set, it’ll survive even after Olivia, Crimson Bride is gone. She is ever so close to being worthy of a 10/10, but costing six, being multicolored and not keeping the creatures around indefinitely are some pretty big strikes against her. Olivia will just have to settle for being only a good mythic in her own set instead of the best.
Runo Stromkirk / Krothuss, Lord of the Deep
Runo Stromkirk is going to be one of my favorite cards in the set for outside of limited, but here I really don’t know. On one hand, it is great that his first trigger sets off the second, but how many six-drops are we really going to play in a deck? As a 1/4 flier that gets you back a creature for next turn, Runo Stromkirk is a fine playable and if you do ever get to transform him, then awesome. I just don’t see how often that will happen in an average limited deck.
Humans have one hell of a strong trainer in this set to go along with all of the creatures needing training. 4/4 with lifelink and trample is really powerful and even granting lifelink and trample to your creatures once they’ve been trained is nice. Green-white training is going to be an aggressive deck and with this at the top of your curve I don’t see how you’ll ever lose to another aggro deck. Lifelink is extremely powerful at winning races after all.
This is the first and only exploit payoff we’ve ever seen and it is very welcome. You won’t always want to exploit nontoken creatures, but with a Skull Skaab in play you won’t feel too bad about it. Having just one of these makes me want to pick up all of the Doomed Dissenters I can find. This is a perfect signpost uncommon for the archetype and I can’t wait to get it going myself.
Torens, Fist of the Angels
Creating a free token whenever you cast a creature spell is just ridiculous, not to mention that Torens, Fist of the Angels has training as well as all of the tokens. He can train them all himself or the whole team can be trained by just one other creature. Given how many tokens he can generate by himself, you don’t even need to be attacking for him to make an impact. You can just keep churning out creatures and then one big attack can end the game. I think I might be overrating Torens a little bit, but I can’t see any real downsides and you must kill him on site if you expect to win a game.
Huge 2-drop? Check. Mill a card every turn? Check. Can turn itself into an army of tokens? Check. Ok, everything seems to be in order. Where do I sign?
Cards like this are always a little bit weird as a deck based around instants and sorceries really wants more instants and sorceries, not creatures. But digging down six cards to find any noncreature spell is probably good enough to guarantee a hit the vast majority of the time. As long as this can consistently be a 2/1 flier that draws a spell when it enters then I’m probably happy with it.
I’ve been struggling to figure out exactly how much value I should place on blood tokens when reviewing this set, but I’m pretty confident that tacking a single blood token onto a Gray Ogre is not enough to make me want to play a Gray Ogre.
One of the lessons I learned fairly early on in limited is just how powerful giving -1/-0 to all of my opponent’s creatures is. Cards like Haunter of Nightveil and Azorius Skyguard look quite weak and expensive but ended up being all-stars of their respective formats. Boarded Window is a much cheaper version of that effect and it only applies to creatures attacking you, so I’m struggling to figure out just how much that affects its value. For now I’m going to guess it’s good, as it is an extremely powerful effect in the right scenarios. But not working on your opponent’s blockers and giving your opponent an out to remove it for free might just be enough of a downside to make this bad. We’ll have to play it out and see.
Two to equip for a very minimal upside is not where I want my equipments to be. This is just weak and ineffectual and I don’t want to spend my mana on it.
Dollhouse of Horrors
As long as you have enough creatures to feed to the dollhouse, creating what is effectively a ‘Karnstruct’ token (see Urza’s Saga or Karn, Scion of Urza) each turn with potentially some extra abilities seems like something that will take over a game very quickly. If it’s as good as I’m thinking, then it’s possible this will be the best first pick in the whole set, as being colorless puts it head and shoulders above the other busted rares in the set. You just can’t go wrong with an artifact that can make a strong token every turn, just remember to lure more creatures into it.
Foreboding Statue / Forsaken Thresher
This reminds me a lot of Cryptolith Fragment or some of the keyrunes from Return to Ravnica. Mana rocks aren’t all that good unless you can make some extra use out of them. This one starting out as a small creature and eventually becoming a 5/5 is something I’d be interested in playing. There seem to be quite a few expensive spells in this set so perhaps ramp spells will be worth running.
We have our usual mana rock for the set, though these are rarely that good. Having the ability to exile cards from graveyards is certainly relevant, but compared to the advantage that a card like Dungeon Map could give us, it’s just probably not good enough. Some decks will be happy with this, but most won’t need it.
This is one of the biggest flavor wins I’ve seen in quite some time. Draw up your list of suspects and whittle them down one by one, drawing a card each time. I love it. In reality, I like this card quite a bit. It reminds me a lot of Mazemind Tome, a card which saw a lot of pay and was really good in limited if I remember correctly. This is after all a colorless way to draw lots of extra cards over the course of a game, something that many limited decks will want to do. Not all decks will be able to afford to spend their time and mana doing this, so I don’t think it’s an automatic include everywhere, but it should be exceptionally good when you do play it.
Lantern of the Lost
Cards like this always look really bad in limited, but I’m happy to give this one a chance. A lot of decks will be using the graveyard in some way and if you happen to have this against a deck that doesn’t, then at least it cycles for just two mana total. The cost of putting this in your deck is very low, so I’ll probably play this more often than not. It also will trigger the blue/red noncreature spell theme, which is a nice plus.
Olivia’s invite isn’t doing a lot of big things, but it’s doing a couple of little things that you might want in certain decks. It’s a noncreature spell that cantrips for the blue-red deck. It gives you a guaranteed source of life gain for the black-white decks and it can push through some unblockable damage in a vampires deck. This will never be a high priority for anyone, but it does do some nice things in those situations so I could see playing it every now and then.
The ‘Slow’ Land Cycle
Finishing off the cycle from Midnight Hunt, these lands are pretty much no different from any other lands. We would like dual lands in our decks but don’t need them in a set with mostly monocolored cards. So if we get them then they’re great, but they’re never worth taking over premium cards.
Same deal as the slow lands; you’ll never cut an Evolving Wilds from your deck but equally you probably shouldn’t prioritize it in your draft unless you plan on splashing.
You probably don’t need a tribal pain land to make the mana in your deck work, at least I don’t advise that you try to play a full three-color vampire deck. However, there are a few good vampires in other colors than black-red so this could help with your splash. The main thing I’m interested in is the ability to create blood tokens. I’m basically reading that ability as ‘Six, discard a card, tap: Draw a card’ which is certainly an ability I’d run, even if it is a bit overcosted. Not every deck will be able to afford an otherwise colorless utility land, but it’s definitely a real card and one I’d usually be happy to make work.
There We Go
Honeymoon Hearse | Illustration by Raoul Vitale
I hope you enjoyed my full review for this set and I hope you were able to learn something… Midnight Hunt was a pretty sweet set all around, so I have high hopes for this one too. What’s your favorite card in the set?
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My next article is a review of what I believe will be the top cards from the set for constructed. Stay tuned for it! If you want more Crimson Vow limited, my fellow writer Bryan Hohns has published his initial thoughts on the draft and sealed formats, here. Or if you’re looking ahead at Kamigawa maybe a Limited set review is more up your alley.Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates:
Very helpful review! Solid insight on a few of these that I’ll now look at differently.
Thank you, glad to hear it!
Thanks for the review! This led me to pick up Infestation Expert in a draft yesterday, which really helped me out. I think Dormant Grove is undervalued here, though. That card was the MVP of the draft for me. If you have it on the board with a few weak creatures, you can get tons of free counters from it without ever transforming it.