Wednesday 24 November 2021

Innistrad Crimson Vow Conclusions and Additions


Crimson Vow is one of the lowest power level sets we have had in a long while. This is clear from the low numbers of cards I am adding and testing but also from the lower ratings I gave the cards on average. This is no bad thing at all however. I had been getting a littler exasperated at the rate of power creep and general silliness we have seen since MH1/Throne of Eldrain sets. For where we are now Crimson Vow feels like a good power level going forwards. I want a couple of obviously good cube cards per set with a handful of things worth testing and that is what Vow delivers. I liked the high numbers of one drop cards we got in Midnight Hunt and was hoping for more of the same but I am perfectly happy with the outcome as it stands. Crimson Vow isn't even a low powered set, it is just surrounded by goliaths. Five years ago the power level of Vow would have made waves! 

The power level and complexity of the commons impressed me again and makes me think that the booster draft and sealed for the set will be really good and fun. There are so any commons I did a double take upon finding out they were not uncommon. Blood is a huge part of this. I loved clues at first sight and immediately wanted for both treasure and food to be done in the same sort of way, and fairly quickly got my wish. These aspects have all added loads to cube and magic in general. I didn't expect another token resource thing like this at all, let alone so soon, or so cool. Blood hits the nail on the head for power level and utility. I hope to see more of it over the years. 

The focus of the good new additions come in black and red - shock - the vampire colours. I have not seen the cream of the crop from a set be so lop sided in colours before. Neither of those colours really need the help presently in cube. I was quite happy seeing white and green get a lot of cool new stuff recently. Overall it shouldn't change that much in the actual cube beyond black having more consistent access to early hand disruption. Much as there is a lot of movement in the cube these days thanks to all this power creep it is fairly focused and tends to be new cards replacing slightly less new cards rather than the old stuff moving along. In some ways it is good as cube remains fresh without changing loads but at the same time it is frustrating not getting to spend that long with new and interesting cards before they are outdated. Equally some old cards are tedious and I would love for them to be somehow made unworthy! This latter aspect is actually well underway with cards like Armageddon not actually performing well at all anymore just down to how the game has developed. This is all a bit of an aside and doesn't directly relate to Crimson Vow... likely as I don't have all that much more to say on the matter.  I like the set, aesthetically and mechanically, but it is a fairly low consequence set. Cleave is a mechanic that doesn't bother me but I have heard a lot of bad press about and I do fully sympathize with those who dislike it and will strive to avoid it. Cleave may be the worst thing about the set because of this. As ever, my wish list and where they are headed;

*cards from Commander product

To Add 

Dread Fugue

Sorin the Mirthless

Concealing Curtains

Henrika Domnathi

Chandra, Dressed to Kill

Cemetery Gatekeeper

Reckless Impulse 

To Test with high hopes

Volatile Arsonist

Mischievous Cat 

Overcharged Amalgam

Spectral Arcanist*

Voldaren Bloodcaster

Wedding Announcement

Undead Butler

Ulvenwald Oddity

Ascendant Packleader 

Stensia Uprising

Voltaic Visionary

Welcoming Vampire 

Cemetery Illuminator 

To Test with low hopes

Olivia, Crimson Bride

Dorothea, Vengeful Victim

Fell Stinger

By Invitation Only

Toreas, Fist of the Angels

Cemetery Protector 

Cemetery Prowler 

Dollhouse of Horrors 

Inspired Ideas 

Thirst for Discovery 

Glorious Sunrise 

Mirrorhall Mimic

Faithbound Judge

Wash Away

Hopeful Initiate 

Avabruck Caretaker 

Jacob Hauken, Inspector

Cobbled Lancer

Edgar, Charmed Groom

Ethereal Investigator*

For the constructed reserves

Voldaren Estate

Dig Up

Voldaren Epicure 

Demonic Bargain

Dominating Vampire

Vampire's Vengeance 

Falkenrath Forebear 

Geistlight Snare

Witness the Future

Voice of the Blessed

Hallowed Haunting

Archghoul of Thraben 

Scattered Thoughts 

Headless Rider 

Wandering Mind

Dreamshackle Geist

Stormchaser Drake 

Eruth, Tormented Prophet

Kessig Flamebreather 

Cartographer's Survey 

Fleeting Spirit 

Bloodtithe Harvester 

Ill-Tempered Loner

Lantern of the Lost

End the Festivities 

Blood Fountain 

Millicent, Restless Revenant*

Storm of Souls*

Disorder in the Court*

Shadowgrange Archfiend*

Monday 22 November 2021

Innistrad Crimson Vow Commander Review


0 - unplayable in 40 card singleton

1 - effectively unplayable

2 - has low tier constructed decks it might go in

3 - has mid tier constructed decks it does go in

4 - pretty powerful stuff with several potential homes, able to perform well in lower powered cubes

5 - powerful stuff that is either just too narrow or has too many superior alternatives

6 - fringe cube worthy

7 - cube worthy

8 - cube staple

9 - unpowered cube bomb

10 - powered cube bomb 

Strefan, Maurer Progenitor 1

Not totally unplayable but incredibly low powered. Body is small for the cost and the effects are all slow to take place. I am sure I can just cast the things in hand before this can cheat them in. Haste would have made this drastically superior and even then I wouldn't be playing it many places outside of tribal or blood decks. 

Wedding Ring 0

A very silly but fun card in multiplayer, a bit too symmetrical for 1v1 play. 

Millicent, Restless Revenant 2

This is very powerful but a little all in. You need a certain number of things in play to make the cost reasonable and to ensure triggers are had right away ideally too. While this does have some mass removal protection it doesn't stop you getting stranded with this dead in hand. You somewhat need to develop hard to deploy this and if you get blown out before Millicent can be played you are unlikely to ever get there. The more you have cards like Spectral Procession powering out tokens for little card investments the lower the risk of this card is. Sadly that also reduces the payoff of this card as well but I am generally OK with that, the card doesn't lack for power. It is fine at 4 mana if you never have another non-token spirit. It is good at three and silly good at two mana. Add a dash of non-token spirits into the mix and it jumps in power plenty quick enough. Tribal only card but one well worth taking note of. 

Hollowhenge Overlord 2

I do like the flash here a lot but the six mana 4/4 and 2/2 token fall a long way shy of the Grave Titan level we like on our six mana stats cards. While this can snowball out of control it is slow to do so. You need to be playing other wolves to speed the whole thing up and give this an appropriate power level. As such a tribal only card but pretty close to being a stand alone. 

Spectral Arcanist 6

Snapcaster Mage meets Dreadhorde Arcanist. The norm for this card is going to be a four mana 3/2 flyer that casts a one mana burn spell or cantrip. The mana efficiency is better than with Snapcaster Mage as is the relevance of the body making it more of a two for one. The flash and target range however do make Snappy a much more reliable and much more versatile tool. Given that you rarely had enough one drops to make Dreadhorde Arcanist good enough I am not holding out loads of hope for this. It is certainly not impossible that the spirit count in cube extends the effective CMC range enough to make this playable. You also need less in the way of targets for this than Arcanist as you are only expecting to trigger it once, you at least hope to hit multiple times with Arcanist. Further to that, the opponent has less time to react greatly increasing your odds on getting to cast a spell again with Spectral compared to Dreadhorde. All told this seems better than Dreadhorde Arcanist in cube despite still being a fair way off Snappy. Worth a test at the very least. 

Occult Epiphany 4

Midnight Haunting meets Secure the Wastes meets Careful Study. This does a lot but it is all sorts of awkward. It is an X spell that is hard to scale up. It is a card quality spell than forces you in certain directions to make the card have enough value. It is a mashup of card quality and support effects on top of board presence and tempo ones. All are good but they do not typically overlap in the game plan of an archetype. How many decks that I am running Midnight Haunting in do I also want a Careful Study? Doesn't feel like a lot, even if we up the power level to reflect them being on the same card I still don't feel like my Faithful Mending and Lingering Souls decks are going to be commonplace. I am drawn to this card for being versatile and option rich and direct but ultimately I think it is a bit of an awkward mess. At four mana and making 3 tokens I think it is very impressive but at most other costs and outcomes I am underwhelmed or unconvinced of the frequency it can be pulled off. Mostly I think this is going to be played at three mana and make about 1.8 tokens and be fine at best. 

Haunting Imitation 1

Build around combo card you could slap in some kind of Erratic Explosion build or slant there of. Too narrow and low power for use elsewhere. Slow and easily disrupted so hardly a good combo tool either. 

Sudden Salvation 1

Too limited and reactionary. Reactive cards, especially protective ones that are time critical, really really want to be low cost and this is not. This also lacks the scaling of cards like Second Sunrise that allows it to do well in combo.

Storm of Souls 5

This should be very easy to win with. You can just get two card combos and win with those or you can get a pile of stuff and Craterhoof your way to victory. A card not lacking in power. Great when built around and probably not all that bad if just thrown into decks. Where this falls down is on consistency grounds. It is easily disrupted and can simply be a do nothing if you somehow fail to fill up your bin with enough stuff to make this worth casting. 

Priest of the Blessed Graf 1

I am not a huge fan of this more lands mechanic in 1v1 play as it is so polar. With fewer lands this is pretty strong, with more it is unplayable. On the play, against a mana screw, or a deck than can operate on 3 land, this has every chance of being rubbish and so don't play it. 

Haunted Library 1

The mana cost on this trigger makes it fairly useless. I don't like relying on my opponent and their deck for my stuff to work either. 

Ethereal Investigator 5

Improbable Alliance on a 2/3 flying Thraben Inspector for the princely sum of 4 mana. At three mana this card would have been amazing. At four I am not sure it quite packs the punch needed. If you can get at least two tokens then the card is impressive but that is going to take a couple of turns to do, and likely some mana invested in non-tempo things such as cracking clues. I do like this card, it is the right sort of thing for cube but I fear getting value from it with tokens is going to be tough and cost you in a variety of ways. The card is fine and I want it to be good but it is certainly no Whirler Rogue. It may not even be a Murmuring Mystic or Master of Winds. Fairly well rounded with a useful body, an inherent two for one, and ongoing threat and value with the token production. Just a little bit lacking in power and punch for a four drop. Worth a test but probably not worth getting any sort of hopes up about. 

Disorder in the Court 3

A flicker effect with decent value and scaling potential. You can use this equally to retrigger your EtB effects, protect your dorks against removal, clear away the opponents blockers, or just kill off their tokens. This is more powerful at higher values of X as with most X spells however thanks to the clues this should at least be fine for any value. Low values will certainly have the highest instance of coming up. A bit situational and gold for my liking but something I might consider in a flicker list. 

Donal, Herald of Wings 2

Next level narrow. Much as the power level is pretty high here I am not even sure I would play this in a deck full of flying creatures. I think I would need them to all be things like Muldrifer and Cloudkin Seer to properly tempt me. The floor of Donal just being a Hill Giant is a turn off. No flying himself also hurts his potency in a deck trying to work with flyers. He has an awkwardly low floor and beyond that tends to the win more. 

Shadowgrange Archfiend 4

Well now this is actually pretty impressive. This is one of the most powerful madness cards to date and gives the mechanic a much needed push. This is massive for the cost and a reliable two for one. It is unplayable without the discard support and as such too narrow for drafting cubes. Nice and interesting for the world of constructed however. 

Predator's Hour 0

Needs too many dorks in play to be good. If you are connecting with more than a couple of dorks you are winning. If not this is dead to rubbish. Don't play situational cards that are win more. 

Scion of Opulence 2

Cool tribal card that works with blood and aristocrat sac style decks. Too narrow elsewhere. 

Glass-Cast Heart 3

A reasonable little token producer with a big old pile of upsides. Free blood tokens is great. Sacing 13 of them is unlikley to come up but is a thing you can work towards and threaten. I like this but still cannot really see it outside of a tribal deck. 

Sinister Waltz 1

Cards like this just don't do well in cube. You can just play cheaper and quicker cards to recur stuff if you are bothering to set up such things. If not then you can play more reliable sources of value and tempo at the higher costs. Not a card I expect to play with in 1v1 magic. 

Friday 19 November 2021

Innistrad: Crimson Vow Preliminary Review Part X


0 - unplayable in 40 card singleton

1 - effectively unplayable

2 - has low tier constructed decks it might go in

3 - has mid tier constructed decks it does go in

4 - pretty powerful stuff with several potential homes, able to perform well in lower powered cubes

5 - powerful stuff that is either just too narrow or has too many superior alternatives

6 - fringe cube worthy

7 - cube worthy

8 - cube staple

9 - unpowered cube bomb

10 - powered cube bomb 

Hullbreaker Horror 2

Flash and uncounterable do help make those 7 drops more tempting but this still isn't going to be worth it for cube. Games are just done before this is doing too much. It lacks the immediate impact that a card above five mana needs to get a look in for cube. Sure, the triggers are great but they are things that only fire when you do stuff after your 7 drop. Seven drops shouldn't have much of an "after" phase and so this is a pass. Great for booster draft, EDH, and likely even standard but not for other places. 

Lantern of the Lost 4

Very much the same sort of ballpark as Relic of Progenitus and Soul-Guide Lantern. These cards are great utility yard disruption that get a lot of sideboard play. The cards are all strong but they also suck a bit more if you want to also make use of your bin which a lot of decks do. Really all this does is lower the value of the existing similar cards in rotisserie drafts! Solid but not offering much new or anything of a significant power difference. It will see play, grats. 

Howling Moon 1

Too low power without your opponent triggering it and they can avoid doing that pretty easily. Seems like a no go card, can't even see this being good in tribal. 

Odric, Blood-Cursed 1

Eek, this does laughably little. For a rare gold legend with history you would expect rather more. The floor is Trained Armadon and the ceiling is, well, basically still the Armadon... Obviously I am doing blood tokens down but you need more than just a couple of blood to make a bad card good. 

Welcoming Vampire 7

Mentor of the Meek gets a much needed, and significant face lift. Flying, a toughness, and the mana cost on the trigger removed all for the very low cost of being limited to one proc per turn. Bygone Bishop is the other comparison here and likely a better one as Bishop is better than Mentor. Bygone Bishop was a little slow for cube and Mentor was just a bit crap. Welcoming Vampire promises a bit more expedience in doing its thing and a bit more power but it is still a slow card needing support. It might be cube worthy but it is closer than you might think. The white decks that can support this sort of thing prefer their value sources to not die to mass removal along with their chances of winning. If I am playing a three mana dork in white aggro I want it to be much punchier and more threatening than this. 

Kaya, Geist Hunter 2

Impressively weak looking walker. Both the +1 and the -2 do nothing by themselves, no value, protection, nothing. The +1 not only needs stuff in play but ideally wants it to include tokens else there is no permanent value. The deathtouch aspect is offensive only and situational on top of that. Really really weak +1. The -2 needs quite specific effects to be happening alongside it and often isn't all that impressive if it does fire. Best use by a long old way is doubling up on Lingering Souls, a card that doesn't much need the help to shine. The ultimate doesn't seem worth discussing what with the rest of the card being so rubbish. I might play her in a deck built around good tokens, if I am getting a 4/4 angel or a construct with the -2 I am reasonably happy, if it is just a couple of 1/1s then it isn't making up for the times it is blank. This is narrow, situational, and not even all that powerful should you clear those hurdles. 

Witche's Web 1

Combat trick and basically a removal spell for fliers. Still a bit narrow and a bit pricy for those roles but getting closer to a playable card as far as fight style flier removal goes. 

Voldaren Epicure 5

Well this supports everything! It provides spectacle, it is stuff to sac, it is a discard outlet, a vampire, a one drop. The power is pretty low but it is a lot of stuff on a very cheap card. This will see play and in a range of places. A little bit narrow and hard to max out in draft but a great support card for plenty of different builds. Insolent Neonate is the closest card to this and while it is better for madness stuff it has less going on in other areas than Epicure while also being a less playable card on average. Epicure is going to be fine in most places.

Reckless Impulse 8

Wow. This is a subtle little gem. This is basically the red Night's Whisper. Effectively draw two for two mana is amazing. You don't often want to flop this out on turn two, or that early in the game at all but it isn't a disaster if you need to. A hand full of three drops and no lands? Then you are playing this on turn two to ensure you hit that third land on time. Obviously the ideal situation is to play it when you have the land drops and mana spare to cast any combination of things in your deck. That means needing five lands in play and one in hand and a land drop available to you if you have nothing higher than a four drop in your list. That way if you hit double 4 drop you can play one this turn and one next turn, the same for double land. This risk of hitting two top end cards is going to be fairly low and not something you need to worry about all that often. The bigger issue is playing this in reactive decks. Being forced into playing cards within a time frame often wastes them. Luckily red is fairly proactive and as such I cannot see me leaving this out of many base red decks. The cheaper and more aggressive they are the more consistently I will play Reckless Impulse. I like this more than Light up the Stage even though the average mana cost for Impulse is going to be a tiny bit higher. I value the convenience of being able to play Impulse whenever I like for a good rate more than I value the ability to get an exceptional rate sometimes. High floor is preferable to high ceiling in general and doubly so with support and setup cards. Impulse is more playable than Light up the Stage in both deck construction and in game and that makes it a much better choice for cube inclusion. 

Flame-Blessed Bolt 4

If Unholy Heat were not a thing this might be quite the handy little removal spell. It has certainly ended any play Magma Spray was going to get! There is increasing amounts of room in cubes for burn that doesn't go face but I think the more versatile options carry more weight. I still feel as if I would prefer to play Pillar of Flame over Bolt if I really wanted more exile utility in red.

End the Festivities 2

This isn't playable by itself but it could be a solid sideboard card or a cheeky support card to pair with some scaling effects like Torbran. The cost of End is so low with such a wide range of targets simultaneously hit that is scales better than basically any other damage spell in magic. A bit spray and pray but not a card to ignore. 

Ancestral Anger 2

Give a dork +1/+0 and trample at sorcery speed is too low impact to be worth the risk. If you have no targets you can't cycle this and that makes it super dodgy. It would be fantastic otherwise being a bit of free damage and utility while supporting all those spells matter cards. Mostly this is something for Feather the Redeemed decks. 

Persistent Specimen 1

Just a bit rubbish. You want the recursion to be cheap not the main casting cost and so this is not close to competing with Reassembling Skeleton, which itself is pretty tame in the world of cube. 

Undying Malice 2

Functional reprints of useful one drops are always the most welcome of such cards. These effects got a lot better with the MH2 evoke dorks but they are still pretty narrow as far as cubes go. 

Vampire's Kiss 2

Cool support card but not doing enough to be worth including in many places. You have to really want a lot of what this card offers and I can't see that many decks needing multiple aspects of what this does for you. 

Gift of Fangs 3

Cool art makes me want to use this! Dead Weight isn't cube worthy but it is absolutely playable and really quite good when you get synergies going with it. This is better and has more synergies so it will get some use but remains a long way off being good enough for most cubes. 

Blood Fountain 6

This is a kind of black take on Witching Well. The card is very slow but it offers a lot of value and a lot of synergy support. Two artifacts for one mana is impressive. So much so that some affinity style deck may play it as a kind of Ritual with upside. 

Selhoff Entomber 2

I am just never trading the ability to loot lands and other non-creatures for 2 toughness extra on my Looter. I might play this in a tribal deck as an extra body with some utility but I am never playing in place of a proper Looter in any sort of non-tribal deck.


Fear of Death 1

Not very powerful but having a couple of different synergies on the go will occasionally line up and get this some action! 

Cradle of Safety 1

Low cost is the most important thing with dork protection cards and this being two mana pretty much rules it out even with some ongoing benefits and aura synergies. 

Alchemist's Retrieval 2

Lovely simple design. Sadly the bounce that does well in cube is bounce with upsides and/or high ceilings. This is just an option on two different low key modes. 

Traveling Minister 4

Broadly just an upgrade on Soulmender. I will have this front and centre in an aggressive lifegain deck and probably still have it in the list in most other decks built around lifegain. It is not likely however to be making it into any decks without use for the life, there are just better one drops at doing the buffing side of things. 

Piercing Light 2

Slap a scry on a one drop that isn't bad and you jump quite a lot in power. A few years ago I think this would have had a real chance but removal got pretty nuts recently and so I don't see this getting there. Too many of those pesky utility creatures now have more than 2 toughness as well making life extra awkward for these one mana removal spells. Ideally I want my removal to deal with a Ragavan before it hits me, a Dragon's Rage Channeler once it has delirium, and an Ignoble Hierarch that isn't attacking and this poor card only gets one of those three new MH2 generated problems...

Parish-Blade Trainee 1

Looks cool and well suited to a counters deck but I suspect we are well past this kind of thing cutting it in synergy decks. This needs to attack with a buddy and grow and then die before it is impressive and that is all far too slow and low power. 

Nurturing Presence 1

Powerful effect but needing of a target and always that risk of eating a two for one. Indeed, the token, while nice, is not worth a card or two mana, and so it is not just instant speed removal getting that two for one feeling but any removal at all on the enchanted dork. Obviously if not removed this can get pretty big and take down a game but that doesn't make it good. 

Heron-Blessed Geist 1

This is not ruined by the need of an enchantment to "flashback" as much as it is by the useless front end. I quite like this as a very poor Lingering Souls in a deck that is full of discard outlets and enchantments but then what deck is that? And presumably some such thing is heavy combo or synergy and has little use of some random flying tokens...

Ragged Recluse // Odious Witch 2

Even in a deck chock full of discard I am not sure I can get behind this. In a synergy deck the bar for a good ceiling is rather higher than with a normal deck. A two mana 3/3 wtih a drain on attack trigger isn't even all that impressive without having to flip to it! It certainly wouldn't be a bomb and might not even see enough play to remain in cube! As such I don't see this getting much love. Not powerful enough for the synergies but certainly not powerful enough without.

Binding Geist // Spectral Binding 1

The front end is just a bit too fragile, especially with no fliying. The back end is nice but not nice enough to play in a deck that cannot always bypass the front side. Impressive looking card for a common, this has a real uncommon feel to it.