Magic’s newest expansion has us returning to Innistrad just in time for Halloween. Innistrad: Crimson Vow is the second of two expansions set in the horror-themed plane, and this second set sees the two main vampire lineages uniting in the most consequential wedding in the history of the plane to thwart the besieged humans’ attempt to reset the balance of day and night and plunge the world into the Eternal Night. A new set means new cards to examine, and in this article we’ll talk about the monocolored cards and what they mean for the game in different formats and how they’ll play.
BPhilipYork: This is like a brutal Wrath of God replacement since it blows out invulnerable things, and regenerating things and things with totem armor, and will also gives you a bunch of triggers off something like Mayhem Devil, but also lets you choose, so it gives you tremendous flexibility. There might be a rare scenario where killing 13 creatures wouldn’t be a total boardwipe for someone, but I can’t remember too many games where someone has more than 13 creatures but not functionally infinite creatures.
FromTheShire: I’m super down for paying an extra mana for sacrificing instead of destroying. The reason Merciless Eviction is great is because it gets around the ways things are typically protected, and this is very similar. If you’re a go wide deck you can even turn this into a one sided wrath, or possibly just save your best creature or two in a typical game.
TheChirurgeon: This is such a weird WoG effect with upsides for players going super wide with tokens. I love it, even if it’s rare that I want to play 5-cost WoG effects. The sacrifice rider is pretty good, though.
BPhilipYork: Potentially really strong token generator. Also can be used defensively to block a reanimation attempt or someone generating mana – Dryad Arbor is probably the most logical target, or maybe Urza’s Saga. I’m assuming WotC will want to come out with some kind of super-changeling at some point that is all card types.
FromTheShire: Two relevant creature types, instant speed targeted graveyard hate, and allows you to pump out a bunch of tokens if you choose wisely. Very solid.
BPhilipYork: Not a commander card.
FromTheShire: This card seems like extremely solid removal in Standard, with upside against the Vampire decks that we’re likely to see given the strength of the new cards they’re getting. Being Banisher Priest without a body is actually a positive in a lot of cases, especially against Rakdos decks that don’t really have good enchantment removal.
TheChirurgeon: Seems like decent limited removal with a fun upside against Vampire-heavy decks.
BPhilipYork: These are weird abilities that you might be able to make something out of, “Discard a card:” is in and of itself a potentially powerful ability, since you can do it again in response to itself, and forcing discards is part of how decks like Gitrog work, so for example with with Brallin, Sky-shark Raider this is a win condition, since you can force a discard and if he has curiosity you’ll get a draw, all before the spirit actually exiles, and then you can do it again. GG.
FromTheShire: Can be very hard to deal with with its aggressive power, ability to gain first strike, and ability to dodge removal at will. Can definitely see this in a Spirits shell, or in the mono white aggro decks already floating around.
BPhilipYork: There definitely are things you could do with this, and Daxos, the Returned has a very similar sort of mechanic, which could lead to double spirit tokens each with X/X equal to your enchantments (practically, if not technically) which is good, and you could of course run Anointed Procession. However, outside of specific spirit/enchantment decks, I don’t see a ton of use for this.
FromTheShire: This only goes in a few very specific enchantment heavy decks but in those decks I like it. If you’re ramping with enchantments and loading up with Auras you can get to 7 fairly quickly which gets you two great abilities, and then you start pumping out ever larger tokens.
FromTheShire: Not a bad piece of protection for one of your key creatures, and lifelink can absolutely save your bacon from time to time.
TheChirurgeon: This is meant to combo with Training creatures – in limited at least – and the sac effect is pretty good. The problem is that getting +1/+1 counters from Training is tougher than I’d like, though since that trigger happens when you declare attackers, you can potentially go “live” with the ability to sacrifice this to save a creature the first time it attacks and gains a counter.
BPhilipYork: Too slow in practical terms to generate much value for commander, but neat, anyway. Theoretically, you could be using with flicker effects, in that case it would do a lot more, so if for example, you ran this in Brago you’d get to recur a creature every round because you’d keep removing the counters.
FromTheShire: Remember how I mentioned Banisher Priest up above and how good it has been in Standard? This is a repeatable version that can also return creatures from your graveyard to play, or temporarily deal with a problematic creature in an opponents graveyard. When you’re the beatdown sometimes you just need to get a blocker out of the way for one turn, and I think this is going to see a ton of play.
TheChirurgeon: It took me three reads to really understand what this card does. You don’t really need to train too many times with him to get value – once will get you there – and having a starting power of 1 means it won’t take a lot to turn him on.
BPhilipYork: If your deck has a fast way to spread out +1/+1 counters on everything this could be a pretty brutal finisher, and there’s definitely ways to go infinite with this like Bishop of Wings, but that’s kind of a stretch. But if you’re aching for some mono-white sacrifice shenanigans this could be a big card.
FromTheShire: I like this a lot in something like Selesnya tokens decks since there is frequently a lot of overlap with counters matters themes in them. Absolutely want to drop it and swing in for lethal though, this is too expensive to expect for it to sit out for multiple turns giving you value.
BPhilipYork: I could see this getting really big really fast. Generating a ton of lifegain events is usually not that difficult, so in that sense it could be pretty big pretty fast.
BPhilipYork: In white terms this is “good” card draw.
FromTheShire: I’m down for it. Well costed flying body in a strong tribe that also draws cards? Absolutely.
BPhilipYork: The ability to see the top of your library is a useful one on its own, and functionally combining card draw, though only once each turn, is definitely usable, especially as blue is probably the color best at library order manipulation. I think given that it exiles when it first enters it’s a playable beater, especially in conjunction with things like Coastal Piracy, could generate a lot of card draw. This is probably most likely to see play in a sort of mid-high range of decks though.
FromTheShire: Repeatable graveyard hate that gives you free information and also nets you card advantage by letting you cast off of the top of your library, all on a solid rate body in a good tribe? Outstanding.
BPhilipYork: This seems like a nice reset if you have some way to leverage the situation, but the most obvious situation would be to just have more lands, and so this seems most likely to see play in some kind of Simic or Simic + lands deck.
FromTheShire: This seems okay, but there’s a bunch of similar mass blue bounce spells that don’t see a ton of play already because Cyclonic Rift exists. Plus it lets your opponents keep their most problematic permanent… I’m hard pressed to see myself ever running this.
BPhilipYork: An okay way to irritate someone by tapping down their commander, but other than that I don’t see it’s likely to see any play, even inside of spirit tribal decks.
FromTheShire: I actually think Spirit tribal decks will really like this, it’s a good body that can lock down the biggest threat in a Voltron deck for multiple turns unless they can find protection.
BPhilipYork: A potentially cheaper mana leak is okay, but the times it will be cheaper don’t seem that common, and it’s not a flat counter, so I can’t see it as being played much.
FromTheShire: This is one that I’m curious to see if it gets there in Standard with a Spirit deck. In general Commander play, we have a million better counters. Art is dope though.
BPhilipYork: This guy is awesome, I think evasive zombie attack in Dimir is an awesome deck archetype. The ability to sacrifice zombies to make more zombies has a ton of potential upsides and fits together with other Gisa and Geralf cards really well.
FromTheShire: This one is a little weird but I still like it. The flying is outstanding, making your tokens tall rather than wide like Ghoulcaller Gisa is eh. I’m sure you can make an interesting deck with this as the commander, but more often I’m running this in the 99 of a zombie deck.
BPhilipYork: This is a win con. This is like a straight upgrade to Tidespout Tyrant in like 4 ways. Flash. Uncounterable. Can exile spells. Cheaper. Better stat block. Most poly-tyrant lists are already replacing poly tyrant with this. The other nice thing is this gives you some backup if someone uses Praetors Grasp or something. You have 2 functionally identical creatures, decks that rely on polymorphing into a specific creature are really vulnerable to that creature being exiled or otherwise dealt with and they effectively lose their win-con. This gives these decks redundancy.
FromTheShire: Yeah this card is a beating. On top of what was mentioned, the fact that you can get around your opponent making their spell uncounterable by simply bouncing it back to their hand can be brutal.
BPhilipYork: This is a huge card in two ways. First, sometimes you actually want to reduce your max hand size, this is a trick for Brallin, Sky-Shark Rider with Curiosity to make it easier to create an end of turn loop. Second, sometimes you just need to draw cards, even if it has consequences. This is also overridden by cards like Thought Talisman which removes your maximum hand size. And 5 to draw 3 isn’t bad.
FromTheShire: Very cool for a deck that wants to abuse the empty handed clause. In general play this is just going to be a Rhystic Study in your list instead.
TheChirurgeon: This is really neat, and what I love about the card is that it immediately made me wonder how many times you could cast it for its lower cost without regretting it. Obviously if you’re down to do-or-die situations toward the end of the game dropping 3 cards for 3 mana is fine but generally I suspect you’re not going to want to cast it more than once for 3 mana.
BPhilipYork: Just awesome fun zombie beats card. Other than that, mostly meh, though there are obviously some loops you can generate with something like this, you’d also have to turn everything into a zombie.
FromTheShire: Oh you mean with Xenograft? Because hell yeah, I’m 100% doing that and it’s going to be an absolute blast. Stoked to see blue get their own token doubler enchantment, and given that I have several Zombie decks I’m not even a little mad that it’s locked to the creature type.
BPhilipYork: This is an awesome card. A flash flying 3/3 that can counter spells or activated abilities or triggered abilities is really. I like that an effort is being made to give medium beaters interesting abilities to enable other deck types.
FromTheShire: What a house. Voidmage Husher has gotten one hell of a glow up, and this is a fantastic use for all of the Decayed tokens Zombie decks are making. Plus the art is rad as fuck.
TheChirurgeon: This thing is such a beast.
BPhilipYork: So that real hotness here is to exile Asmodeus the Archfiend, which means you can pay BBB to draw 7, which is a pretty powerful ability. This isn’t the only way to do this, so it’s nice to have some redundancy there. The cost of all this is a bit high, but for 7 cards that’s probably worth it. There are also other worthwhile activated abilities to grab, so I can definitely see this seeing play.
BPhilipYork: Probably too expensive at 6 for what it does, especially lacking the zombie sub-type, though there is a new Dimir commander horror that cares about horrors, so possibly playable in Umbris, Fear Manifest, which is going to be a slow deck in any case.
FromTheShire: Really like this for mill decks as it gives you yet another layer of needed redundancy. It’s not a ton but you’re already basically building a deck by a thousand cuts deck so…
BPhilipYork: Yeah so uh put this card in your deck if it has blue. Just straight up countering commanders for U is uh, pretty great. And you can still hard counter for 3, which is totally reasonable. And playing from top of library and exile is really common in commander, so uh, yes, this is a good card, put it in your deck.
FromTheShire: Agreed, absolute staple instantly. Things get cast from places other than their owner’s hands constantly, even leaving aside Commanders. Spending one mana to waste someone’s entire turn casting their 6 drop commander is bruuuuutal.
BPhilipYork: This is great, amazing triggered ability, milling is valuable for reanimating purposes, low cost, zombie, really ticks all the boxes for zombie decks. Tremendous synergy with the new decayed zombie tokens.
FromTheShire: In Midnight Hunt, we kind of realized that decayed tokens were like…ok but not really that good. With this set, we have multiple ways to really leverage those tokens and I expect to see the value tick up noticeably. Really like this card in any Zombie deck.
BPhilipYork: This card is certainly playable if you can turn the downside into an upside. For example, if you have a Disciple of the Vault, suddenly saccing those blood tokens will let you cause life loss to your opponents. Pincher Station, likewise will be generating a ton of counters for you. ou could also use this with Wedding Ring, to get the draws, or with Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer. Obviously, you could also just lock down artifacts with Karn, the Great Creator or other effects like that.
FromTheShire: I’m generally not a big fan of giving my opponents things, but this isn’t that bad. In constructed this is a beating as well, I’m windmill slamming a 4 mana 5/6 flying trample no matter what else it says on the card. If they can’t keep up with sacrificing the tokens this just closes the game out even faster.
BPhilipYork: This is a neat thematic effect, but in general the cost is just too high for a 4/4 that will generally kill something unless you need it to do something really neat since it’s removing flat counters rather than any kind of particular counters, you could use this with something of yours where you want to remove counters, like a saga.
FromTheShire: This might be worth it in non-commander formats as an evasive threat which can kills problematic creatures or planeswalkers. It’s pretty expensive unless the format is on the slow side though.
BPhilipYork: Another awesome tutor for black. There’s a number of ways to turn this downside into an upside.
FromTheShire: Extremely solid tutor.
TheChirurgeon: Obviously the math changes for Commander, but most of the time you’re looking for a card that’s a four-of in games with this your odds of pulling out all four in the first 13 cards are going to be between 2 and 5 percent (the odds go up depending on how many cards you have left). Those are pretty good odds, and I like this card a lot.
BPhilipYork: I think this card is hilarious. It’s not good but it’s fun. For big dumb swingy decks, totally a fun way to play with a bunch of demons, and you’ll be swinging for 12, 24, then 48 in no time.
FromTheShire: Helloooooo Shadowborn Apostle decks. Love it and how fast it can snowball.
BPhilipYork: Zombies are typically about mill, not discard, and being able to discard on each turn and draw isn’t really consistent enough. On the other hand, blood tokens will let you discard and draw consistently, so if it’s just as a piece for a vampire blood token deck, then it’s certainly playable for that purpose.
FromTheShire: We already have some very similar cards that don’t see play because they just don’t do enough, even without being limited to once per turn. I think this is supposed to tempt you in decks making lots of blood tokens but I’m not convinced it’s worth it there either.
TheChirurgeon: I like this a OK in limited since there are so many ways to discard cards, but it’s not a particularly fast way to get creatures on the table – you don’t get anything the turn you cast it unless you can also discard something, which isn’t great.
BPhilipYork: If you can generate enough blood tokens in various ways then this is playable in a blood token deck, especially since you can use it as a discard then reanimate it.
FromTheShire: Not very exciting for Commander but for Standard this has real potential.
BPhilipYork: This is a really strong card for zombie decks, especially those that generate tokens and need a use for those bodies. 3/2 deathtouch for 3 that exploits for a draw two is really solid.
FromTheShire: Yet another way to use those tokens, this time for a very aggressive body that also has deathtouch and draws you 2 cards. Hell yes.
BPhilipYork: I feel nostalgic seeing these kind of “deal damage during upkeep”, it’s been a few years since Juzam Djin was printed. Most commander games don’t have sufficient Planeswalkers around, and it’s usually sufficient easy to just swing at them, for this destroy ability to be that relevant for commander, but I’m sure it has tremendous appeal in 4-of one on one formats.
FromTheShire: Continuing our theme…. yet another way to use our tokens. Love it.
BPhilipYork: Yeah this is really good. Really really strong. Tremendously strong for zombie decks. Just gross token generation.
FromTheShire: Really good way to pay off sacrifice shenanigans or to recover from board wipes. Straightforward but powerful.
BPhilipYork: Forcing discard effectively like this is pretty good, especially if you manage to work in things like Gravepact you could be doing a lot of damage via exploiting something like this, and presumably you’d be reanimating it over and over for card advantage.
FromTheShire: Hitting each opponent is pretty rad and you’re definitely running this in the same Meren of Clan Nel Toth type decks that abuse Fleshbag Marauder and the like. A strong way to keep limiting their resources, and since it exiles you’re not filling their graveyard accidentally.
BPhilipYork: Really really strong card in multiple ways. You could easily be making a deck where everything slots in at 3 mana value or higher. Would be kind of hilarious in a Keruga, the Macrosage deck.
FromTheShire: Another banger. Sweeps the board of almost certainly everything early and definitely everything if you draw it late. One of the problems with control decks wrathing on 4 mana is that sometimes you’re just dead by the time you get the chance, being able to fire this off a turn earlier is huge.
TheChirurgeon: This is pretty great – the rider is something you’ll absolutely want sometimes, and the effect scales in a way that’s very helpful. This is always going to be a great way to clear the board of tokens in limited games.
BPhilipYork: This seems really bland and flavorless and boring and generic for a planeswalker. Planeswalkers are supposed to be exciting, I guess he’s pouting, so I dunno. I prefer my vampires more wrathful than pouty. Unless it’s an energy vampire, that’s a whole other thing.
FromTheShire: Solid but predictable. The tokens are better than most as well.
TheChirurgeon: Sorin, checking his phone during the ceremony
BPhilipYork: This is a great card for a commander if your opponents don’t do anything for like 5 rounds, then let you hard cast it, then sit there and let it murder all your creatures with -1/-1 counters. As something to reanimate it’s not necessarily bad, especially as it’s each end step rather than just yours. If you get rolling with it you’ll almost assuredly win the game.
FromTheShire: Fuuuuuuuuuuck yes. Each end step means you can actually kill stuff with this, it’s big, it’s gross, it draws you cards, it plays well with -1/-1 counters which you rarely see outside of Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons decks…. Absolutely building this deck.
FromTheShire: Really like this in self mill decks, it stocks your graveyard then informs you when dinner is served.
TheChirurgeon: He puts cards in my graveyard, then politely replaces himself when he dies, helping keep my hand full of gas in limited. The perfect butler.
BPhilipYork: This can be a brutal group slug card. Best card to exile still Dryad Arbor. It’s a good way of shutting down decks that spam spells over and over, like artifacts or instants, but it can also slow down creature decks quite a bit.
FromTheShire: Now we’re talking. Aggressive mana value, first strike, can stack up some serious damage for your opponent just for playing the game. Love it.
BPhilipYork: I think the most likely use for this is to just exile the top for pseudo draw, particularly in mono-red or maybe for a Prosper, Tome-Bound deck, and in that instance it’s playable, or in a Chandra deck where you have ways to rapidly uptick her to get the emblem.
FromTheShire: Seems like it might see play in mono red aggro but for commander I’m not interested.
TheChirurgeon: I don’t have strong opinions on this mechanically, just that if you’re going to use this name, her art should have a dress that looks amazing. Which the alternate versions do and this one doesn’t.
BPhilipYork: This is potentially a really strong card for red, slots nicely into decks like Brallin, Sky-Shark Ridder where you want to be discarding and drawing.
FromTheShire: In a dedicated Wheel deck like The Locust God, this can get to be absolutely bonkers if it’s the second or third wheel you cast in the turn. Still fine at the base rate as well.
BPhilipYork: Aside from the creepy art, which is kind of neat, it doesn’t seem particularly notable, and is pretty pricy for the effect.
TheChirurgeon: I like that you can use this to attack with a Training creature, put this effect on the stack, then the training trigger, give them the +1/+1 counter, then turn them into a 4/3. That’s good times. I still probably wouldn’t draft this, though.
BPhilipYork: This is a pretty interesting card, with some weird group huggy effects, but also a lot of potential upside for beaters, and could generate a lot of exile triggers and effective card draw. It also really lets you paint a target on someone’s back that is problematic, so that can be quite helpful in a 4-player game.
FromTheShire: A great addition for the Curse deck, this both offers some serious incentive for attacking the cursed player, and makes it much more likely that you will connect.
BPhilipYork: This is really strong. Really good, a vampire and a 3/3 and grab something, obviously you probably would want to attack with it and then sac it for value to really add insult to injury, and then sac the dominating vampire and then reanimate it for maximum fun.
FromTheShire: There’s a long history of this effect being playable, and that’s before it was stapled on to a big name tribe.
BPhilipYork: I remember when Savannah Lions was considered broken because it was a vanilla 2/1 for 1 mana. This is a 1/2 with menace and the ability to generate token creatures for value, all for 1 mana. Creatures have become so pushed in design. Which is fun. This probably isn’t going to be too relevant, though if you want to exile from your grave for some reason could be quite useful, say Syr Konrad.
FromTheShire: I think this not actually being typed as a Wolf or Werewolf really holds it back. Those decks want to be aggressive and I’m not sure how often you’ll make it to making tokens, or that they’ll be enough if you do.
BPhilipYork: Yes, this was the teased card. Could be fairly scary, especially in things like Grixis turn ender decks (Obeka, Brute Chronologist) or just if you want to use thing like Impact Tremors and Warstorm Surge and such like. And of course, obviously, you get a bunch of X/X beater dragons, and plenty of cards care about dragons and care about illusions, so there’s a lot going on here that’s fun.
FromTheShire: Pretty cool, especially with a bunch of extra combat step spells. Even on base rate this comes down early and generates solid value over time.
BPhilipYork: This is one of the better blood token generators, though it costs 6, so I think it’d see a lot more play standard. Still, in commander, this is tremendous control potential linked to a way to win the game, though it would take multiple pieces. There’s also plenty of ways to cheat out vampires, and I think this is one worth getting out in Mardu or Rakdos decks.
FromTheShire: I’m torn on this one. The effect is powerful and menace certainly helps but it’s expensive and doesn’t fly. Probably playable in commander for the potential but you have a very good selection of Vampires to choose from at this point.
FromTheShire: Even in Standard, this ain’t exactly Assemble the Legion.
BPhilipYork: This is a fun way to clear out the board for tribal decks, but so many commanders have 3 toughness now, this means you’ll generally only kill off all the utility creatures with something like this.
FromTheShire: Very powerful card for the Standard deck to have access to.
BPhilipYork: Compare this to Savanah Lions which was “broken” for a long time.
FromTheShire: It starts out aggressively costed and only grows from there, and we’re already expecting big things from the Wolf/Werewolf decks.
TheChirurgeon: Ooooh this is really nice. A 1-mana 2/1 with lots of upside? I’m actually kind of shocked it’s only rare.
BPhilipYork: It’s kind of weird this is a green card, it feels very out of place in green, but nonetheless cost reduction is almost always really powerful and can be exploited in various ways. Doing so with green seems difficult, most of the spell spamming decks involve blue or red, but Temur exists and so that’s a thing.
FromTheShire: Very good on base rate with vigilance, and when this is making your creatures 2-3 mana cheaper your opponent is going to be real aggravated.
BPhilipYork: You could definitely purposefully return all your lands to hand in various ways once this is cast or on the field, though it gets tricky you want to have 1 land at least on the board. Nonetheless, with a Lotus Cobra and Trade Routes and you could draw out your whole deck with this.
BPhilipYork: I like the idea of a flexible enchantment where you get to make meaningful choices each turn, you get the option of ramp, or draw, or buff and trample all of which are quite good, and also if you are bad at magic you can choose to gain life. At 5 cost though it’s a lot, though it’s a potentially kind of innocuous finisher type card that you can cast earlier and then use it for it’s trample later on.
FromTheShire: The flexibility is nice but I think more often than not none of these modes do enough for what you’re paying. For something like a mono green stompy list in Standard I could see one or two on the top end to stabilize, grind some value, and then close out the game.
BPhilipYork: This is potentially just a huge beater with ward 2 for only 3 mana, but it’s forced to be in a go-wide deck.
FromTheShire: Kind of unfortunate that this doesn’t grow as the game goes on or have any kind of evasion.
BPhilipYork: There are some goofy ways you could potentially abuse something like this, but at 4 mana to cast you’re not going to consistently hit it very early, and you’d really want to combine that with a way to return lands to your hand so you can keep land fetching each turn. Still even netting 2 or 3 lands with this would be huge, and then once you’ve ramped you can start making huge insect creatures.
FromTheShire: Another weird one, fairly expensive for the ramp that you really want, and then you’re spending your whole turn to make a big token. Pass for me.
BPhilipYork: This definitely seems playable, especially as it disincentives your opponents from ending the night, and ought to consistently generate a lot of tokens.
FromTheShire: Howling Moon sits at a kind of crowded spot on your curve, but the pump is nice and works well with Ranger Class, and with all of the mono white second spell decks and control decks floating around the second ability can certainly prove useful.
FromTheShire: I had to call this one out mostly on flavor text and art, but surprise trample on a Voltron commander is pretty great also.
BPhilipYork: It feels weird to me they didn’t give this training since that’s like the set mechanic, though obviously this makes it stronger, and it’ll just keep getting bigger each turn.
FromTheShire: Very nice piece for the Werewolf deck. It’s cheap enough that you’re not mad if your opponent has to point removal at it, and if left unchecked it can grow into a serious problem that also gains you a bunch of life when they deal with it.
FromTheShire: Solid mana dork in the era beyond Elvish Mystic that works well with the graveyard themes in the set.
Next Time: The Set’s Multicolor and Colorless Cards
That wraps up our look at the monocolor cards of Crimson Vow. We’ll be back later this week, looking at the multicolor, colorless, and double-faced cards before moving on to the set’s Commander decks. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.