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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Dec 02 2021 1:43pm
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INNISTRAD: CRIMSON VOW

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 The one-two of the Innistrad sets is now complete, with Innistrad: Crimson Vow returning us to the same Gothic plane visited in September. The two sets are very similar (after all, they're meant to be drafted together next January in Innistrad Double Feature) and share some of the same mechanics and tribal composition. The cluster of tribes are even larger in Crimson Vow, which has a focus on Vampires, but also unexpectedly on Spirits, while Zombies and Werewolves are still important presences. The Human-related tribes, especially Warlock, have fewer new additions this time, but Human itself is a big as ever, an effect of Innistrad's specific faction structure, with all Werewolves also having the subtype pre-transformation.

 

 Among the small tribes that advance their ranks are Egg, Scorpion, and Slug. Of the 45 new creatures that are double-faced, 14 are Werewolves, 13 are Spirits, 7 are Vampires, 6 are Humans, then also a Beast, a Construct, an Egg, a Wall, and a Zombie. Innistrad being Innistrad, most of the "normal" creature types are accompanied by Horror, Spirit, or Zombie, to signify they're horribly twisted versions of the regular thing, or deceased ones.

 Anyway, let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the main focus is on all the Constructed applications (though Limited is occasionally touched upon), the tribes are presented alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 272 (+10 duplicated basic lands)
  • New cards: 253
  • New creatures: 160
  • Reprinted cards: 19
  • Reprinted creatures: 3 (Doomed Dissenter, Snarling Wolf, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben)
  • New Legendary creatures: 16
  • New Snow creatures: 0
  • New artifact creatures: 2
  • New enchantment creatures: 0
  • New double-faced creatures: 45
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 2
  • Creature types affected: 50
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Human (+51), Vampire (+29), Spirit (+23), Zombie (+21), Soldier (+15), Werewolf (+14), Horror (+10), Cleric (+8), Wolf (+8)

Advisor: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 61, online: 52

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Advisor type hasn't appeared on Innistrad since the original set, where famously took the form of esteemed Werewolf civil servant Mayor of Avabruck (the Jekyll & Hyde topdown homage, Civilized Scholar, was also an Advisor, although less appropriately so. The last one was the other, more obscure rare, Elder of Laurels, which must have seen negative play).

 Now we get a mythic legendary one, Jacob Hauken, Inpector. Despite the suggestive name, Jacob doesn't investigate. He's instead basically a Merfolk Looter, except, at first sight, worse, because the pitched cards don't even end up in the graveyard. What makes him mythic-grade, though, is that those cards can be accessed later, once we're willing to dump six mana into Jacob to transform him into a legendary enchantment that grants us his Insight – meaning we can now play one of the exiled cards per turn without paying its mana cost. And we also keep exiling more fuel for the Insight automatically, still at the rate of one extra card every turn. Once it gets going, it's certainly a terrific card advantage and tempo engine, but it banks on a 0/2 creature surviving until we can pay six mana for its advanced services. At least the payment is part the activation's resolution – we only pay once we're certain the opponents didn't kill Jacob in response, so we never run the risk of wasting an entire late turn trying to make a very shockable creature do its thing. Still, the whole package feels a bit too slow and casual to have competitive applications.


Angel: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 199, online: 198

 Related Tribes: Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Innistrad Angels are just a shadow of what they were back when Avacyn was the main resident source of divinity. Angelic Quartermaster is pretty good in Limited, but that's pretty much the full extent of her functions. Also, apparently angelic classes are here to stay. The association with Soldier is an entirely new one for the tribe, and it doesn't even work with party.


Archer: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 89, online: 84

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Nothing too exciting is happening in the world of Innistrad's Archers. Apprentice Sharpshooter is a reasonably-costed, defensive reach creature with training, which is the new ability that works in sort of an opposite way from mentor: the ability bearer is the one that grows, but it has to attack alongside a creature with greater power (it's a trainee in need of a trainer). This creates a certain tension with a 1/4 reach, which is meant to stay back and block, but if we allow the Sharpshooter to leave its post to perform a quick sortie behind enemy lines, it essentially becomes "build your own Mammoth Spider".

 Sawblade Slinger has two extremely situational ETB triggers, "destroy an artifact" and "fight a Zombie". Even when you put them together as modal options, they don't make it that much more appealing, because the versatility is still questionable as a sideboard piece, let alone in the main deck. It's just too awkward and expensive, and the low toughness will cause the fight to be a trade in most cases. In Limited it's okay, but not even that attractive for an uncommon. Plus, I'm sure a sawblade is a deadly threat for more than just manufacts and walking corpses. Like, Plants and Treefolk should fear it more, shouldn't they?


Assassin: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 62, online: 59

 Related Tribes: Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The idea of an Assassin that waits for its victim to be alone in order to strike is certainly flavorful. Too bad the execution here is far from impressive. Stars have to align properly so that Skulking Killer will actually be able to finalize its intended hit; most often than not, a four-drop will be faced by more than one creature on the other side, or by something that doesn't just die from a -2/-2 malus. In those cases, what we're left with is a tremendously overcosted vanilla 4/2 beater. We can appreciate the attempt to introduce new variations on the tired "destroy something that was dealt damage this turn", but at least that wording bears results more frequently than this undercooked skulking.


Bat: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 23, online: 21

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Bats don't have much of a history where lifegaining is concerned (Ghastly Gloomhunter is the most clear-cut way to achieve that goal within the tribe), but if we can pair Courier Bat with a reliable enabler, it becomes a nice two-for-one, giving us a two-powered flyer and a recursion spell for just three mana. It's not terrible for a common, though of course it's still too conditional to carve itself any kind of niche outside of Limited.


Bear: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 30, online: 24

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The first ever monoblack Bear (the second black one after Grizzly Ghoul from Midnight Hunt) is, quite naturally a Zombie. It's also a very good pick in Limited, providing a deathtoucher, graveyard hate, and some lifegain synergy.


Beast: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 437, online: 427

 Related Tribes: Plant

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Beast, as one would expect, is home to a couple of the most powerful green creatures in the set. Ulvenwald Oddity (which also reminds us how the time of Emrakul's madness from Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon has left some traces on the plane) is a straightforward miniature Questing Beast: lose all the fancy abilities, you'll just have a four-drop 4/4 that attacks right away and can't be easily chumped. But there's still some extra text, a sort of monstrosity cost that makes the Oddity larger and the rest of our team more likely to overwhelm the opponent. It's a big of a win more, given the overall cost of the operation, but it's a cool late-game option to have available on our midrange beater.

 The mythic Cultivator Colossus is harder to evaluate. On its own, it's just a large seven-mana trampler, using the land-based body size we're seeing a lot of recently (cfr. Beanstalk Giant, Ashaya, Soul of the Wild, Druid Class, Wrenn and Seven). This beef factor alone doesn't justify its mythic status, nor the current high value on the secondary market, where it's by far the most expensive card in Crimson Vow. After all, that's just Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer, which was never considered a powerhouse. It's all in that last bit of text describing an unassuming ability that lets us drop a land from our hand onto the battlefield and draw a card, then repeat this process ad nauseam. It only happens as a trigger when the Colossus itself is entering the battlefield, so it's unlikely to do much if we didn't build the deck around it – the moment we hit seven mana, we can't really expect to also have spare lands in hand, and in order to keep drawing cards from the top we'd need a very high land density to begin with. But if we do it right, it can potentially lead to a storm-like blowout. Here's an example of the awe-inspiring shenanigans a Colossus deck can accomplish in Standard, if built correctly. Now just imagine what it could do in larger formats, especially Commander.


Bird: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 297, online: 283

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: A few Birds designed a Limited complements, as it's their wont. Cruel Witness is a Phantom Monster that provides some useful surveil once in a while. Heron of Hope is a new take on Angel of Vitality. Screaming Swarm is a recursive curve-topper with some versatile milling potential, to be used either as a win condition against the opponent or as a strategy if we care to fill our won graveyard. None of these has Constructed applications, but they're all very playable. And those Horror Birds look properly nightmarish (although, of course, in current Standard, nothing beats the sheer horror of seeing those damn crows from Alrund's Epiphany swarm up on the other side of the battlefield).


Cat: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 230, online: 220

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: After almost two full Standard cycles of neither-living-nor-dead Schrödinger's Cats, now they're plain ghosts. There's a cute little story that's told in the two faces of this new monoblue kitty, though the front's saboteur ability is hard to properly exploit on a 1/1 with no evasion. The Curiosity on the back is generally more useful, as it can be placed on the kind of creature the original Aura or Curious Obsession would end up on. And it can be disturbed right from the graveyard, which leads to a solid self-milling synergy.


Cleric: +8

  

   

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 New Tribal Total: 498, online: 471

 Related Tribes: Human, Spirit, Vampire, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Innistrad is a plane characterized by a fervent religious activity, and the package of new Clerics from Crimson Vow reflects the many faces the tribe takes around these parts. The flashiest is Runo Stromkirk, the Vampire high priest of a cult that believes in the advent of a Cthulhu-like deity that lies asleep at the bottom of the sea. The rise of Krothuss is exactly what Runo tries to accomplish on our battlefield too. It requires a good setup, because we have to make sure our eccentric blue-black Vampire (the only one with those colors in all Innistrad sets) will see a six-drop creature on the top of the library. He can also put it there himself if it was in the graveyard, but one way or the other, we must provide one for his ritual to result in the arrival of the Kraken Horror that's lurking on his back. Once Krothuss is in the building, he'll copy another attacking creature every time he attacks, which is pretty nuts considering he can easily attack unopposed, since he flies. Krothuss also has a marked preference for the marine megafauna, so it all seems to amount to a wonderfully casual multi-tribal deck, probably one that comes equipped with a command zone.

 Other rare Clerics include yet another Ajani's Pridemate upgrade in Voice of the Blessed, which grows an increasingly powerful set of abilities the more we grow its body with +1/+1 counters, positioning itself as one of the most surefire effective finishers in a lifegain deck. Also noteworthy is the white-green go-wide enabler Torens, Fist of the Angels, which creates training tokens with relevant subtypes, in sort of a reverse Monastery Mentor way (meaning enabled by creatures rather than noncreatures). Overall, it's a a strong effect that's however unlikely to find a home in a Spirit build specifically, while the uncommon Archghoul of Thraben is even more strictly a card for Zombie decks only.

 Even the lower-tier Clerics look generally well-designed in the set. Markov Purifier's card-drawing trigger is probably too costly for Constructed, and not too easy to self-actualize with its own lifelink, but it's still an engine that Limited can count on. The one-drop Traveling Minister is more efficient than it looks, confidently attaching its power to any evasive creature at hand while triggering all "gaining life matters" abilities turn after turn, for no additional cost. Ollenbock Escort is a "rescuer" that only really works in +1/+1 counter lists, but it has a very high cost/reward ratio in the right build. As for Unholy Officiant...  okay, no, that's just bad. There had to be at least one of those. It's a pity that the very priest that officiates Olivia's wedding hasn't been graced with a better card. I guess that ceremony really was a meaningless charade.


Construct: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 136, online: 135

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Foreboding Statue (which I'm not exactly sure what's meant to represent in the lore; ancient artifacts buried in the sand of some beach don't feel very Innistrad) is an okay three-mana accelerator and fixer for Limited. It's more fragile than something like Honored Heirloom, but it eventually turns into a large beater that still supplies mana. On the other hand, Blood Servitor is just too basic. There are so many ways to create Blood tokens in the set, and they specifically tie into the colors that actually need them. So, while ensuring any color have some access to them is commendable, a vanilla three-drop 2/2 is just not going to ever make the cut in Limited (of course the chances for this to even be considered in Constructed are squarely zero). Besides, the flavor seems off. "Help yourselves to the help" would be darkly funny only if the help were living beings that Olivia allows her guests to "drink". If they're just robots filled with blood, that's like saying, "Help yourselves to the glasses".


Crab: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 30, online: 29

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: A solid big Crab, second in power only to Scuttlegator. It's not as noteworthy as Charix, but it's playable as a curve-topper in Limited. Ward makes it hard to kill (an idea they should return to more often for creatures with a carapace), and we can reasonably expect it will be able to connect unopposed, eventually.


Demon: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 128, online: 123

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This guys is one of the set's most explosive bombs for Limited. Not as unbeatable as Avabruck Caretaker, as the opponent can just instant-kill it, and it needs at least another creature on the battlefield to be able to reverse the course of a losing battle. In usual circumstances, though, Dreadfast Demon will make a copy of itself at end of turn, and not long afterwards our entire team will be entirely composed of 6/6 flyers, which should be enough to close the game in one or two swings. It might prove a bit too casual for Constructed, albeit a reanimation plan could stil bear fruit if timed well, guaranteeing a sort of inevitability by immediately upgrading some random mana dork into another copy of the self-replicating Demon.


Devil: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 37, online: 36

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Devil is a creature type that has been served well by Innistrad sets, receiving all-time great members like Hellrider, Vexing Devil, and Bedlam Reveler. So this recent double feature ended up being a bit disappointing for the tribe, with only a couple of forgettable commons in Midnight Hunt, and now this uncommon that tries and fails to make itself playable. Even in Limited, a 3/3 haste for fiive is not gonna cut it, and the double prowess boost is fine, but it would clearly be exploited better on an early drop. As it is, Frenzied Devils just drops too late in the game to matter anymore.


Dragon: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 247, online: 244

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: We're smack in the middle of a great era for midrange Dragons. Manaform Hellkite joins a recent, glorious line that started with Leyline Tyrant in Zendikar Rising, then continued throughout all of 2021 with Goldspan Dragon, Immersturm Predator, Galazeth Prismari, and Moonveil Regent. Izzet Dragons quickly established itself as a major archetype in Standard, while a Rakdos Dragons build featuring the Predator also came to be at some point, replacing Rakdos Midrange. In fact, the scene has become so crowded now, that Manaform Hellkite is struggling to find room, despite being perfect as a centerpiece of a deck that runs a good amount of noncreature spells to turn into further aggression. Casting Alrund's Epiphany with the Hellkite around generates seven points of evasive combat damage that very turn – eat crow, crows! However, it's sort of ironic that all of these magnificent Dragons ultimately have to take second seat to a rival that's not even born yet: Smoldering Egg is just too efficient for words within an Izzet Spells setup, and accomplishes much of what Manaform Hellkite does, for half the investment.


Drake: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 92, online: 91

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Crimson Vow regales us with two playable Drakes for Limited – which is always the tribe's designated playground, anyway. Skywarp Skaab has good odds of replacing itself, but its cost and clause just make us realize once more how busted Organ Hoarder was in Midnight Hunt Limited. Also, it's a five-drop flyer that's all butt and little power, which is kind of awkward. Stormchaser Drake is an excellent curve-filler that's meant to draw cards by becoming the receptacle for disturb Auras in white-blue. We can't bank on such scenario occurring too often, though, and it's even less likely in any type of Constructed environment.


Druid: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 231, online: 227

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The blueprint for Reclusive Taxidermist has to be the old Werebear. Both are two-drop mana dorks with negligible board presence that turn into a 4/4 later in the game (I'm not exactly sure what's supposed to be that makes the Taxidermist bigger. The satisfaction of having finished building a project?). Threshold is probably easier to achieve than four creatures in the graveyard, barring a dedicated self-mill strategy using cards like Old Stickfingers. On the plus side, the Taxidermist can block one-powered assailants in its basic state, which the Werebear cannot; more importantly, it adds mana of any color, not just green. Overall, an okay mana creature on turn two, although the competition on that spot is incredibly steep.


Egg: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 8

 Related Tribes: Serpent

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Egg is going places lately, due in part to the fact that the subtype naturally lends itself well to double-faced cards representing the "before" and "after" of the hatching. Biolume Egg is not even close to Smoldering Egg, which is simply one of the most powerful cards in 2021 Standard. For one, a three-mana 0/4 defender is hugely less efficient than a two-mana one. But at least we get scry 2 for our troubles, and the transformation is easily done, provided we already prepared for it. In fact, this aquatic Egg is more on the build-around side of things, as the means to sacrifice a creature aren't going to exist on their own unless we put them there, as opposed to just casting spells to wake up the Dragon incubating inside Smoldering Egg. The reward is also less exciting, just a ground-based 4/4, with the off-chance of be unblockable if we're willing to get rid of two Islands (which is probably gonna happen only once, to ensure lethal). But it's an uncommon Egg, it's at the very least on par with Roc Egg and Dragon Egg – sure we could "hatch" those by just chumping or sweeping the board, whereas Biolume Egg does't allow for that (it'd just die, without triggering the transformation), but it's more likely we have to account for a way to sacrifice them, too.


Elemental: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 491, online: 484

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Midnight Hunt contained no Elementals, as the subtype has never been particularly associated with Innistrad (only 12 of them had previously appeared in sets based on the plane). Now we have these two in Crimson Vow, and honestly they could be native of any place in the Multiverse. They also basically do the same thing, which is dealing some damage as a death trigger. Magma Pummeler is more appealing, because it can be scaled according to the available resources, and it takes one less mana to replicate Pyre Spawn's three-damage trigger. Both are playable in Limited to some extent, but they're not very high picks. Even in decks that might want to run it as a top-end, the Spawn is usually cut in favor of better common six-drops, like Flourishing Hunter.


Frog: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 32, online: 31

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: I don't know what the deal is with Innistrad and legendary Frogs, but The Gitrog Monster has just gotten itself a brother from another mother. Grolnok, the Omnivore marks the second time the tribe gets a rare this year, after Froghemoth from Forgotten Realms, and the occurrence is made even more impressive by the fact that only five of those exist to begin with. In the right deck, which is a self-mill brew, this viscid newcomer is an amazing avantage engine, turning all milling into cards we can play. Of course it's imperative for our big Frog to survive on the battlefield, since it's the only way to activate the exiled cards' croak counters, which don't do anything on their own. That's a reason why attacking with Grolnok to trigger the self-mill is hardly advisable; much better to have external ways to move permanents from the library to the graveyard. Other attacking Frogs can accomplish this task, so of course Grolnok wouldn't mind a tribal setup. But considering the tribe's average card quality, it's a build we brew and run at our own risk.


Fungus: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 48, online: 47

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Not much to say about this Fungus. It's just a decent value creature for Limited. It does't replace itself right away, but it does, eventually, and three power means it has a fair chance of trading up. This entry follows the more sophisticated Deathbonnet Sprout from Midnight Hunt, but aside from that, the tribe only had one Innistrad-based member before, the forgettable Moldgraf Scavenger from Shadows over Innistrad.

 Did you know Fungi and Saproling tokens haven't gone together since Dominaria? Even worse, in order to find the next association before the theme from that set, we have to go back to Sporemound in Magic 2014. It's time to delve into that fertile humus again.


Horror: +10

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 230

 Related Tribes: Bird, Crab, Insect, Kraken, Slug, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Horror should be considered the banner tribe of Innistrad, what with its top-down theme being embodied in that very word. No surprise to find three new rares and one mythic for the unsettling tribe, the latter being Toxrill, the Corrosive, which might be more noteworthy as a Slug (I already noticed in the past how Horror is frequently used as an attribute of another tribe, denoting its most disquieting members). The very first legendary iteration of the shell-less gastropods is an impressive seven-drop that's just bound to obliterate the opposing boards in very little time. At the end of the first end step in which Toxrill is around, all one-toughness creatures are already gone, and by the first opponent's end step, the slime counters will have taken care of those that were originally 2/2s, before getting slugged (there's a nice interaction with the slime counters from Midnight Hunt's Sludge Monster as well). As if that wasn't enough, all creatures that die of slime give us a 1/1 Slug token that we can eat as an escargot, setting us back two mana but up one card. In spite of its cost, Toxrill is a great curve-topper that provides some value even if it's dispateched quickly, provided it's not just dispatched immediately.

 Even more impressive is Hullbreaker Horror, which hasn't taken long to become the new go-to finisher for control decks in Standard. It's another seven-mana monstrosity, this time related with Kraken (so it pairs well with Runo Stromkirk, among other things). Unconterable and flash have historically been well-received abilities to have on this kind of card (e.g. Pearl Lake Ancient, Chromium, the Mutable), as has any way to protect our finisher, perhaps by returning it to hand to escape death (Lochmere Serpent). What pushes the Hullbreaker over the top of even its illustrious predecessors is that all of its gainful components (big body, sudden drop, immunity to countermagic, being somewhat hard to kill) are combined with the phenomenal infinity bounce of Commander favorite Tidespout Tyrant. Sure the old Djinn can also bounce lands, but it's more expensive, lacks all the other described traits of our new favorite Kraken, and doesn't interact with the stack. That's indeed a very interesting new take on that ability, following Divide by Zero's example, which incidentally allows for a Hullbreaker to be able to stop another copy of itself from hitting the battlefield. In general, though, we just want to graft an Into the Roil onto each spell we subsequently cast, out-tempoing the opponent with gusto, and occasionally performing the mentioned rescue of our own Hullbreaker, provided we have an instant to cast in response to danger.

 Of the two remaining rare Horrors from Crimson Vow, both of which are Zombies, Patchwork Crawler is a bit underwhelming, as it mostly plays like a bad Scavenging Ooze. Acquiring all the activated abilities of the devoured creatures might create some combo, but even in that case, the setup seems quite clunky. On the other hand, Overcharged Amalgam is a new take on the counterspell creature, a design that gave us beloved classics like Spellstutter Sprite and Frilled Mystic. For the Mystic's mana value, the Amalgam is a 3/3 flyer, and it can also counter activated abilities and triggered abilities. The catch is that it only does so via exploit, so we need an external resource to sacrifice, otherwise the countermagig will have to eat the Amalgam itself, turning it into a more expensive Voidslime. Fail case, though, it's just a 3/3 ambusher with an evasive body, so it's unlikely to ever be an useless card.

 Last, the uncommon Wandering Mind is the Izzet signpost for Limited, a solid three-drop that gives us a two-powered flyer and dig for one of the noncreature spells that are at the core of the archetype, and of Izzet's worldview in general. Weird flying brain is kind of Constructed-playable as well.


Horse: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 38, online: 33

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: This dignified blue Horse has had an unfortunate incident involving a lance (pretty sure its rider didn't had too much fun, either). Luckily, a stitcher zombified the proud steed, which can now sport an excellent body/cost ratio – if at the price of exiling a creature from our graveyard as additional cost, which shatters the dream of a very aggressive start in blue. To be fair, it's not even too hard to set it up on turn one via something like Street Wraith, but the kind of deck that runs that kind of card is not probably much interested in casting an early 3/3. Still, the redraw from the graveyard makes the Cobbled Lancer a well-rounded card, if one that might have a hard time finding a proper home.

 By the way, "dead horse" is apparently a recurring theme in Crimson Vow. Innistrad is not a friendly place for equines.

 


Human: +51

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 2741, online: 2553

 Related Tribes: Advisor, Archer, Cleric, Druid, Knight, Peasant, Ranger, Rogue, Shaman, Soldier, Warlock, Warrior, Werewolf, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: The Humans still have an enormous presence in Crimson Vow, if not as much as they had in Midnight Hunt, which counted a whopping 77 of them, partially due to Warlocks and Werewolves being at the center of the story. But even with Olivia's wedding moving the attention to Vampires, we still get several "Humans matter" cards, key among them being Hamlet Vanguard (whereas Dawnhart Disciple and Resistance Squad are merely designed as fuel for the relative Limited archetype). The Vanguard offers a big, resilient body, but has two minor flaws. One is the fact that green is not the color Human lists typically build themselves around, even though Five-Color Humans have become a popular archetype in Modern and Pioneer, due to the critical mass of tribal lands. More importantly, the Vanguard is just an okay three-drop, more evidently shining in later turns, when it can collect a large amount of +1/+1 counters. It's not unreasonable to imagine a curve that gives us a 5/5 Vanguard on three, but it's undeniably a terrible topdeck after a board sweep.

 Some excellent sources of Human tokens are Cemetery Prowler and Torens, Fist of the Angels, which reward us for just playing our cards, a la Monastery Mentor. Cloaked Cadet has also great potential. Taken at face value, it requires a specific action to take place around the Humans; cards like Luminarch Aspirant makes it almost effortless to enable it that way, but it's through training putting counters on itself that the Cadet becomes self-sufficient. It might still be slightly too expensive, but drawing multiple cards is not a cheap endeavor

 Crimson Vow also features the unusual classless Human in Innocent Traveler. It's a very flavorful card that tells a compelling, resonant story between its two faces, but at the end of the day, it's just a four-drop 3/3 flyer. It's as unlikely that the opponent will bother sacrifice something to prevent the transformation (if they do, it's probably because it's advantageous for them, so the Traveler will be unwillingly helping their plan), as it is that a random Human on the other side will increase the Malicious Invader's power. By the way, it's nice that the Human on the front transforms into a Human-punishing creature. And, ontologically, it was a Vampire all along, wasn't it? Ah, these creature types and their deceits.


Insect: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 179, online: 175

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: This is little more than Rhizome Lurcher, I'm afraid. Nothing wrong with it, but not something that a Constructed deck will ever care about too strongly.


Knight: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 339, online: 326

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The two Gryff-mounted monowhite Knights (riding the characteristic swan-headed Hippogriffs that are only found on Innistrad) are useful flyers for Limited. Particularly, Gryffwing Cavalry, since giving flying to another attacker is always relevant in the format. On the contrary, the other two Knights are both a little bit off. Sigardian Paladin is the signpost for the green-white archetype in Limited, which is Human tribal, but it cares for +1/+1 counters specifically, and that's not a primary theme in the set. And the red rare, Kessig Wolfrider, earns its status by being a one-drop with great value in the late-game, but it's kind of awkard in both regards. A 1/2 menacer is not particularly effective early on – sure, it'll probably connect on turn two on the play, but after that, it becomes pretty easy to block favorably. And the 3/2 Wolf is clearly a large token to create, but it requires tapping, three mana, and three cards from our graveyard. And it's still unlikely to be something we could or even would want to do on turn three. All in all, not the smoothest of rares.


Kraken: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 22

 Related Tribes: Horror, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Kraken is the more relevant creature type for Hullbreaker Horror, just because there are more cards that care about sea monsters as a group (among others, Quest for Ula's Temple, Whelming Wave, and Serpent of Yawning Depths) than there are that mention Horror in their rule text (Sludge Monster kind of does, but the only one that's actively interested in us having other Horrors in play is a transformed Thing in the Ice; although we're also going to see Umbris, Fear Manifest in the upcoming evaluation article for the Crimson Vow Commander decks). Regardless, Hullbreaker is perfectly at home in any deck that can manage its casting cost in some way. It's just that good.

 Rot-Tide Gargantua is not bad itself for a common Kraken in an unprecedented all-black outfit (one of only three black Krakens overall), but strictly reserved for Limited play, where it can punish an opponent that's only running good creatures, while exploiting some of our fodder and leaving us with a sizeable five-drop beater.


Noble: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 49, online: 48

 Related Tribes: Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Behold! The Bride and Groom! Crimson Vow is in large part the chronicle of the Vampire Wedding of the Century, the ceremony that was meant to tie the knot between the scheming Olivia Voldaren and the ancient Edgar Markov, who apparently fell for Olivia's maneuverings and agreed to marry her. Spoiler alert: everyone and their wolf attended the wedding, chaos and battle ensued.

 The two cards that represent the vampiric protagonists of the story (or the protagonist and her 7,000-year-old puppet) carry the Noble subtype, as the leaders of their respective houses. They're appropriately powerful, but also kind of straightforward. Olivia, Crimson Bride is a six-mana play who attacks right away in the air, for a not impressive amount of damage (even Falkenrath Aristocrat can do better for a much smaller investment), but with the twist of resurrecting/vampirizing any other creature in our graveyard to walk Olivia down the aisle, or something. This essentially makes her into a high-profile, repeatable reanimation spell, with the immediate attack of the returned creature as a highlight, but the downside of needing to continuously keep a legendary Vampire on the battlefield in order to keep the targets around. This clause could be circumvented by simply running more of the right kind of legendaries in the deck, some of which could make good reanimation targets in their own right. Olivia leans a bit towards the casual side, but she's certainly great in Commander, and the ability of cheating into play any kind of Angel, Demon, Eldrazi and whatnot has a competitive potential that shouldn't be underestimated.

 As for Edgar, Charmed Groom, he's even more straightforwardly a midrange Vampire lord. He boosts other Vampires, and the only way to get rid of him is through exiling effect or by destroying his Coffin (which is a splendid instance of vampirc flavor, by the way). In his dormant state, Edgar will summon up to three lifelinking Vampire tokens to enhance afterwards, making him a good fit for a go-wide Vampire strategy, although one that might be slightly slower than it would be ideal. And given the current tempestuous relationship with his grandson Sorin, it's pretty cool that Edgar perfectly comboes with Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord – use the minus to drop Grandpa on turn three and have Sorin hide behind him; then sacrifice him to get rid of something, and start building a small army of wellwishers that came to pay their respects, or whatever those white and black Vampires are supposed to be.


Peasant: +5

 

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 18

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Another batch of Peasants, which are plentiful on Innistrad. In fact, at the present time, the majority of tribe (11 out of 18 members) is Innistrad-based, with Eldraine as their second favorite point of origin. The only exceptions are Stoic Farmer, who's clearly from Kaldheim, and Underworld Hermit, who seems to be from Theros. There's not a real reason for this preference; both Eldraine and Innistrad have a setting that suits the presence of commoners, but other worlds certainly have their share of farmers and villagers, and we can be sure that, in due time, we're gonna see more and more of those.

 As for this group specifically, it contains the first legendary Peasant, Old Rutstein, a well-costed, flavorful self-mill engine, producing value in a "always a good deal" way that reminds of cards like Waste Not. It's not a kind of card that immediately inspires a build-around, or else one that's strong enough to warrant a place in any deck of the right colors, but it's also solidly designed, with the additional option of being able to sit in a command zone.

 The rest of the bunch is very good for Limited, all relatively high picks with aggressive costs. Three of them transform into larger, more useful versions of themselves, using three different occurrences as a trigger: the death of another creature for Desperate Farmer; discarding a card for Ragged Recluse; and gaining life for Panicked Bystander. They're also telling a trio of evocative dark stories about a poverty-stricken farmer who turns to darkness; a murderer who hides in plain sight; and a reclusive witch who preys on her unaware guests. Even more flavorful, but this time heartwarming, is Rural Recruit depicting a brave farmer lady reporting for duty in some makeshift militia alongside her prized pig. She even learns how to fight better from him!


Plant: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 56, online: 52

 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The majestic Cultivator Colossus is a vegetable variety of Beast. Interestingly enough, all three mythic Plants in existence have come from Innistrad sets, with Tree of Redemption in the original Innistrad and its follow-up Tree of Perdition in Eldritch Moon. Wrenn did indeed say that the best and most durable trees in the Multiverse are found in the Ulvenwald.


Ranger: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 35

 Related Tribes: Human, Werewolf

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The Rangers of Innistrad give us a flashing Werewolf and a "Humans matter" card engine at uncommon. But most importantly, they give us the union of an Archer and a Scout, as Halana and Alena, Partners celebrates the love story and work relationship between two women who were previously mechanically partners as Halana, Kessig Ranger and Alena, Kessig Trapper), and now share the intimacy of a single card. We could remark on the slightly disappointing ambiguity of both the epithet and the combat pose in relation to their romantic status, but it's better to focus on the fact that their merged card is, at least, quite powerful. It's essentially an advanced version of Reckless Stormseeker for just one extra mana. It's a great Gruul commander, and expresses nicely the idea that Halana and Alena roam the Ulvenwald with the goal of helping others. And they do, by giving them haste and +1/+1 counters. Also, first strike and reach were their individual keywords, and now they share those, too. It's fitting for a set about a marriage, isn't it?


Rogue: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 332, online: 315

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: A four-powered four-drop with haste that makes one of our early drops also four-powered seems good, but it might not be good enough for a red aggressive deck. After all, one can just drop a Dragon at that point in the curve. I'd like to envision scenarios where this is actually a better play than just casting Moonveil Regent or Manaform Hellkite, but the fact alone that Creepy Puppeteer is currently sold as a one-cent rare kind of establishes that a consensus has already been reached. Also, that artwork is not creepy at all. It's like a Cirque du Soleil performer who dances on stage with a puppet portraying an anime version of herself. Kind of sexy, actually.


Scorpion: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 12, online: 10

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Two very playable Scorpions. Toxic Scorpion is not exactly an improvement over Sedge Scorpion, because the ETB trigger giving an attacker deathtouch for a turn is not worth the extra mana, but it's still solid. And Fell Stinger is, hands down, the best member of the tribe (it's their first uncommon!), an exploit creature with a threatening body, drawing us a whopping two cards against a single unit of fodder – all for three mana, so, worst case scenario, it's a black Divination. Not bad for a tiny tribe that has to contend with dreadful stuff like Dross Scorpion.


Serpent: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 42, online: 41

 Related Tribes: Egg

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: On top of being a winsome member of the Egg tribe, Biolume Egg is also the cheapest of Serpents, befitting its larval stage. Only two other Serpents could be played as a three-drop, the scalable Lightning Serpent and Verazol, the Split Current. Its sacrifice trigger also combos with Koma, Cosmos Serpent (and Marjhan for that matter, though I doubt that interaction will come up often in an actual game of Magic).


Shaman: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 437, online: 432

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: We don't meet a lot of Shamans in this visit to Innistrad. Well, same as Midnight Hunt, actually, and this time at least we have a rare, Hiveheart Shaman, which subscribes to the time-honored practice of being a four-drop that tutors a land onto the battlefield, a la Solemn Simulacrum. This guy doesn't do it as an ETB trigger, though, as the ability instead requires an attack, and also only works for basic lands of a type that we don't already have in play. So it's a more complicated affair, if repeatable up to four times. Granted, a 3/5 body is well-equipped to attack safely, the land enters the battlefield untapped, which means it's pure ramp, and there's a mana sink that for six mana makes Insect tokens of a size that could go up to an impressive 6/6. It seems to naturally call for a combo with effects that give all our lands all basic types, like Prismatic Omen or Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, even if in this case we'd miss the land fetching. It also looks like quite evidently a Commander card.

 The other Shaman is the negligible Izzet Spells-oriented common Kessig Flamebreather. Since when do a beekeeper and a street performer qualify as Shamans, anyway?


Skeleton: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 61, online: 58

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: A new self-reanimating Skeleton. Clearly it's not Gutterbones, but it's better than Sanitarium Skeleton, which has one more toughness but returns to hand rather than directly to the battlefield. And we all know that these little guys are meant as sacrifice fodder, anyway, so a 1/1 body works just fine. In that regard, Reassembling Skeleton is still superior to Persistent Specimen, because two mana to cast, two mana to return is a more profitable rate than one and three; but it's also the difference between a common and an uncommon, of course.


Slug: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 8, online: 7

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Toxrill pulverizes the record for Slugs, marking the first time they get a mythic as well as the first time they get a legendary. Before its inception, the most powerful Slug was still their only rare, Molder Slug – and that's from 18 years ago! Innistrad was home to another monoblack Slug before, Morkrut Necropod. It was a 7/7 just like Toxrill, but for the rest, it was pretty terrible.


Soldier: +15

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 738, online: 678

 Related Tribes: Angel, Human, Spirit, Vampire, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The quantity of new Soldiers in Crimson Vow is superior to the already considerable number of additions the tribe had gotten in Midnight Hunt. The quality has improved, too, since now they count three new mythics among their ranks, which amount to one fifth of all the mythic Soldiers that existed before this set (not counting Rick, Steadfast Leader, whose rarity is just symbolic).

 And we're talking strong, Constructed-playable monowhite mythics, even, all implementing sophisticated mechanics. Cemetery Protector is part of the Cemetery cycle, Crimson Vow's answer to Midnight Hunt's Adversary cycle. This time, instead of a multikicker mana sink on ETB, the creatures of the cycle exile a card from a graveyard and then provide value based on which type of card they exiled. Once again, white gets, if not the most powerful member of the cycle, arguably the most playable one. The Protector is already an useful 3/4 flash ambusher, which could easily double as removal; and then ensures a steady flow of extremely valuable 1/1 Human tokens, likely as a casting trigger attached to following creatures or, even better, as a sort of landfall trigger – especially simple to achieve in formats that contain fetches.

 Savior of Ollenbock is a trainer with a double application. At first glance, it might seem the training take on a white O-Ring-like exiler, the same way Brutal Cathar can potentially end up getting rid of multiple opposing creatures, with the caveat of giving them all back once it dies. But that's not even the Savior's best use, since, on closer inspection, its wording features the same "exile from graveyard" option of Angel of Serenity. With a dramatic twist: the exile creatures return directly to the battlefield! That's some major reanimator shenanigans that white rarely get anymore. Now, if our graveyard is already set with a juicy target, we can even suicide-attack the Savior to enable training, and it'll result in the resurrection of some heavy hitter. Granted, the opponent will see it coming and might just take the initially modest damage from the Savior. But its body will keep growing, the exiling will add up, and who knows, maybe we have a way to sacrifice it ourselves.

 Last of this trio, Faithbound Judge is an aggressive three-drop with a big body, flying and vigilance, but it'll be just a blocker a la Plumeveil during its first three turns. On top of that, the back face can be disturbed as a Curse for seven mana, and it's just a three-turn clock to victory. Possibly too slow for competitive Constructed, but a surefire bomb in Limited.

 As for the rest of the rarities, Odric, Blood-Cursed, which reveals the vampirized destiny of the former Lunarch Marshall, is honestly a poorly designed card that will be just a 3/3 for three in most situations, and doesn't even seem particularly good in Commander. Bloodsword Squire and Estwald Shieldbasher are beater with an indestructible-on-demand clause, but too clunky or expensive to work in Constructed the way Adanto Vanguard or Seasoned Hallowblade used to. Resistance Squad is a solid self-replacing three-drop, though mostly only practical in Limited.

 There are also some solid common Soldiers that shouldn't see any play outside of Limited, but at least are very functional there. Well, except for Vampire Slayer. That's just filler.

   

 Last but not least, it's worth mentioning that Thalia returned to Standard with three new artworks that add to her already quite large numbers of different versions.

  


Spider: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 62, online: 61

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Vilespawn Spider is a self-mill enabler, the signpost for the blue-green archetype in Limited (which is actually the least effective of the Limited archetypes in Crimson Vow). Its stats are good enough as a two-drop 2/3 with reach, comparing favorably to all the existing two-drop Spiders, although they've been all monogreen commons so far. The thing is, though, the sacrifice ability alone doesn't justify the mandatory upkeep milling, especially considering the tokens aren't Spiders, so they don't interact with Ishkanah, Grafwidow, for instance. But in a dedicated self-mill list, it could still be okay.


Spirit: +23

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 534, online: 527

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Soldier, Warlock, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, Spirits take center stage in Crimson Vow, whereas there were only seven of them in Midnight Hunt. Some of them are the result of the casualties that occurred the previous part of the story, which is what happened, for example, to the head witch Katilda, manslaughtered by Olivia during the Harvesttide Festival, but whose ghost lingered in the guise of Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr. In this newly ethereal manifestation, her protection switched from Werewolves to Vampires and her tribal purview from Humans to Spirits – plus enchantments, which are what Spirits turn into when disturbed. In fact, a mechanical reason for the higher number of Spirits in this set is the simple fact that in Midnight Hunt they were often hidden on the back face of other subtypes, representing their after-life stage. Now a good number of them are Spirit on the front and Auras on the back, as their life force persists further, haunting items or places. Katilda's Aura transfers all her abilities to a new recipient, and that includes her protection, but also flying, lifelink, and a body boost equal to the number of Spirits and enchantments we control, so that's basically a mix between On Serra's Wings and All That Glitters. For five mana, as a post-mortem follow-up of a three-drop with the same potential hitting power, is nothing to sneeze at, though it's not necessarily something a Constructed Spirit deck will ever find room for.

 Same goes for another angry departed, Dorothea, Vengeful Victim. She's essentially the embodiment of the token from old Innistrad classic Geist of Saint Traft; after she has attacked or blocked once in that shape, she can grant the Saint Traft ability to whatever we like, though chances are it won't be a hexproof creature necessarily, this time (it would be funny to put it on the Saint himself, now accompanied by both an Angel and another martyred soul!).

 

 We saw the spiritual Soldier Faithbound Judge (which should have fitted the flavor more as an Advisor, maybe?) is an aggressive three-drop blocker that, in due time, works up enough righteous fury to take action as an attacke, then as the ultimate judge of the opponent's sins. It's mythich-worthy in its effects, but in all likelihood too slow for Constructed. Another strong one, in theory, is Mirrorhall Mimic, which is a strictly better Clone which can be disturbed back from the graveyard as an Aura that gives a creature Progenitor Mimic's self-replication. Definitely an instant staple in Commander.

  

 The double-faced Spirits work very well in Limited, and their signpost, Brine Comber is sort of an "Auras matter" card in this regard, filling the battlefield with little flyers that ask to be enchanted by their expired brethren (Crimson Vow sort of creates a distinction between "dead" and "deader"). Lantern Bearer and Drogskol Infantry are an excellent one-drop and two-drop, respectively: good to get on the board, and willing to be sacrificed for value and come back as non-irrelevant Auras.

 

 The same goes for the uncommons: Twinblade Geist, giving double strike; Gutter Skulker, making something unblockable if it's attacking alone. On their original stats, they're okay; but when placed on bigger threats, they easily make them game-winning in Limited.

 

 But the relevant Spirits in Crimson Vow are just too many to keep count. We haven't even mentioned the mythic Cemetery Illuminator, part of the namesake cycle, which can Future Sight a type of cards. Dreamshackle Geist is, for all intents and purposes, a cheaper, more versatile take on Dungeon Geists with the same hitting power. Voice of the Blessed gives Spirits a high-profile lifegain payoff. And Fleeting Spirit is an aggressive two-drop that's hard to kill and, sometimes, to block, in the white weenie tradition of cards like Seasoned Hallowblade – Spirit decks tend to prioritize flyers, but a ground-based version that still gets all the benefits of the creature type is conceivable.

 The new, Aura-friendly version of disturb opens the door for several "enchantments matter" cards of variable success. That includes the mythic enchantment Hallowed Haunting, which is a contender to replace Sigil of the Empty Throne in the builds where that was the win condition.

   

 And some of the double-faced Spirits just tell a nice story through their transformation, like this touching grandmother/granddaughter bond through time and space, over warm clothing.


Treefolk: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 83, online: 81

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This is the black-green Limited signpost, which ties into the high toughness theme of that color pair. The Treefolk tribe had already famously delved into that element with an all-time favorite like Doran, the Siege Tower – and by just typically favoring toughness over power. Ancient Lumberknot is more expensive than Doran, and its body is smaller. But it doesn't require white (which doesn't otherwise offer much to Treefolk), and circumvents the awkwardnes of reducing the power of those creatures that happen to not be wired appropriately, like, say, Eternal Witness. The fact that it doesn't affect the opponents might be a downside, though, because it was funny to turn Ball Lightning into a 1/1. Overall, decent redundancy for a deck with that strategy, but second banana to both Doran and Assault Formation.


Vampire: +29

  

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 313, online: 309

 Related Tribes: Assassin, Cleric, Noble, Soldier, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: As expected, Vampire is the set's main non-Human creature type. In order to make sense of this enormous amount of new arrival, let's group them by inherent characteristics.

 First the legendaries. There are five of them, including the newly-wed, Olivia, Crimson Bride and Edgar, Charmed Groom. We already analyzed them as Nobles; suffice to say, Edgar is a good midrange addition for an Orzhov Vampire list; Olivia is more of a high-profile reanimation trick, but could be a curve-topper in a more overbearing tribal build. The odd vamp out Runo Stromkirk, the only blue member of his tribe in all of Innistrad, is a combo card for Timmy/Tammy Kraken lists or some such. On the other hand, Anje, Maid of Dishonor (cringe on the Addams Family-like inversion) wants very much to be surrounded by Vampires, to exploit the Blood tokens production either as re-draws, or just to drain the opponents to death. These four represent the main vampiric bloodlines on Innistrad: the influential Voldarens, the ancestral Markovs, the coastal Stromkirks, and the bloodthirsty Falkenraths. Henrika Domnathi is the leader of a minor bloodline that deals with Demons (Henrika herself is rumored to have been the lover of Griselbrand, no less). Her card is an advanced version of Vampire Nighthawk: for one extra mana, we can choose to have Henrika replace itself and/or perform a Fleshbag Marauder trigger, before turning into a larger Nighthawk with a team-pumping activation. It's a high-value card that fits most midrange black decks.

 Next, we have the major wedding-flavored Vampires. Olivia's Attendants is a large menacer that creates whole rivers of Blood tokens upon connection and is also able to ping any target every three mana we sink into it. The ping also creates Blood, by the way. It's a flashy curve-topper that might or might not have a home anywhere outside of Limited, but sure could make many Timmys and Tammys happy. Easier to play than the bridesmaids is the flower girl, Voldaren Bloodcaster, a two-drop flyer that generates Blood tokens over time, and eventually starts turning them into Bats. Even more appealing is the usher, Welcoming Vampire, which ensures a steady flow of fresh cards in every aggro list, and especially in those that are able to routinely create small tokens.

  

 Other Blood-related cards include the Rakdos signpost Bloodtithe Harvester, which is essentially removal on legs, and the self-recursive beater Falkenrath Forebear. In general, the Blood tokens have been a successfully implemented mechanic, even without secondary ways to exploit them – they're pretty great at just mitigating potential flood in the late game by replacing excess lands or cards that have lost meaning (e.g. early ramp, conditional counterspells, etc.). It's almost a pity they're so flavorfully linked to Vampires, because one wouldn't mind to see them appear in sets that don't focus on the undead side of things as much.

   

 Some new rares and mythics aren't especially concerned with the wedding or the Blood. The aggressively costed finisher Bloodvial Purveyor does give Blood tokens to the opponent, but then it also grows bigger if they didn't get rid of them before its next attack. Cemetery Gatekeeper, the Vampire member of the Cemetery cycle, is a very playable two-drop first-striker that symmetrically punishes the players who cast cards of the type it exiled on ETB; so a neat aggro enhancer along the lines of Eidolon of the Great Revel, and which is bound to see play in the RDW style of builds. The tribal Zealous Conscripts, Dominating Vampire, could also have a place in red aggressive strategies, but it's unlikely to ever be an outstanding turn-three play, as it would also need a free sacrifice outlet to really shine – a curve that proceeds from Viscera Seer on turn one to, say, Cordial Vampire on two and then Dominating Vampire on three is probably too much to ask for in a consistent manner, let alone the fact that it requires access to double black and double red by turn three.

  

 Back to the wedding. There are some minor Vampires work in the staff for the event. The solid two-drop for Limited Blood Petal Celebrant is assisting the official Bloodcaster (the Voldarens really mastered the art of coalescing blood in the form of flowers, a practice that has dubious applications in everyday situations). As the flavor text explains, the lifegain synergist Markov Purifier is spreading blood-incense in the air, while the forgettable Unholy Officiant is the priest of the ceremony. Wedding Security is actually one of the best midrange payoffs for Blood tokens, turning each of them into a straight-up card draw and a +1/+1 counter, if at the rate of one per attack. The flavor is also on point: the security detail was given permission to eat the intruders at will.

   

 More festive Vampires! Some of them just dance...

 

 ...or generally have a good party time.

    

 These five right above are actually the backbone of the black-red Vampire archetype in Crimson Vow Limited, and generally terrific commons in those colors. The dreamy Alluring Suitor is also well-designed, easy to transform and, when he does, he gives us the mana to activate the boost he shares with his dancing partner. Markov Waltzer plays in the same flavor vein, but white-red is not as popular as black-red where Limited Vampires are concerned. Also, the fact that he doesn't necessarily have to be one of the two creatures that get waltz-enhanced is a flavor fail.

 An while all of this convivial debauchery goes down at the Voldaren Estate (which is a useful new land for Vampire decks, by the way), this no-nonsense Vampire gal spins a whole knightly tale for herself, far from the frivolities of the wedding.


Wall: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 138, online: 117

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Wall is such an ancient creature type that most anything already happened with it, including a monoblack one-drop – although to find another rare Wall in a premier set we have to go back to Wall of Reverence in Conflux, twelve years ago. And Concealing Curtains is actually the first Wall that transforms, which is both a nice piece of flavor ("what's behind the curtains?") and a mechanically sound implementation. You can drop a sturdy defender early on, and then turn it into a reasonably costed 3/4 menacer plus information plus the chance to force a redraw on some problematic spell. Tremendous design, one of the most accomplished in the entire set.


Warlock: +4

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 56

 Related Tribes: Human, Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Warlocks have kind of been defeated in Midnight Hunt (their ritual at the Harvesttide Festival was interrupted by Tovolar, then derailed by Olivia. It took Sorin and the Gatewatch's combined efforts to reverse the Eternal Night later). Katilda's dead and has returned as a ghost, but at least her card is an efficient tribal beater that recurs as a powerful Aura (which, interestingly, doesn't even particularly need the tribal setup to be functional), even if none of those things has anything to do with the Warlock subtype. Dawnhart Geist is also the remnant of a witch that met her demise during the botched ritual, but now is just a meaningless "enchantments matter" card that has no right to be an uncommon. Dawnhart Disciple is an okay "bear" in Limited, but not very popular.

 All in all, the most relevant new Warlock is the one-drop trainer Hopeful Initiate. Just an effective turn-one play for white weenie, often able to collect a couple +1/+1 counters along the way. The extra ability that kills enchantments and artifacts is good to have available in a pinch, albeit it's mostly just gravy.


Warrior: +4

  

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 New Tribal Total: 829, online: 810

 Related Tribes: Human, Spirit, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Some decent new Warriors in the "Humans matter" beater Hamlet Vanguard and the cheap double striker that turns into an Aura, Twinblade Geist. The black rare, Graf Reaver, is only good if we're in a planeswalker-heavy environment  – something that current Standard is definitely not, and elsewhere there are infinitely more versatile sideboard options to choose from. And if we ignore the exploit ability, then it's just a 3/3 with a more punishing downside than its cost reduction warrants.


Werewolf: +14

 

 

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 New Tribal Total: 76, online: 75

 Related Tribes: Human, Ranger, Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Here's the Werewolf conundrum of this Innistrad Double Feature: the lycanthropes were supposed to be the central monsters of Midnight Hunt, but that Limited environment was weirdly designed to be punishing for them (what with Silver Bolt being a widely played common and Olivia's Midnight Ambush the best removal in the format). In Crimson Vow, where Rakdos Vampires is, appropriately, the dominant archetype, Gruul Werewolves still fares much better than in the previous set – this time it's actually one of the top Limited decks, thanks in no small measure to its strong commons and uncommons. One of those is the signpost Child of the Pack. This cute Little Red Riding Hood reference is able to stop early attackers, while sinking mana into her ability to create a 2/2 Wolf helps giving us a way to spend our mana while switching day to night. And when we the darkness finally comes, the Child transforms into an imposing  trampler that boosts every other creature in our team, both lupine and otherwise. Similar, if less cutesy, is Wolfkin Outcast, which drops as a four-mana 5/4, and later obtains the chance to replace himself as well as any fallen comrade. Oakshade Stalker is not as good as those two, because his toughness is low and never improves, while the back face comes with no extra perks, but flash has always a positive interaction with the day/night cycle.

  

 And the Crimson pack is populated by very solid commons to boot, like the four-drop Hookhand Mariner, which turns into a non-chumpable 6/4; the red menacer Fearful Villager; and the accelerator Weaver of Blossoms. All cards that have no bearing on a Constructed deck based on Werewolves, yet give life to their Limited archetype.

  

 At the other side of the coin, the rares and mythics don't necessarily help a Werewolf build the way Reckless Stormseeker and Tovolar, Dire Overlord did in Midnight Hunt. The high-profile Werewolves in Crimson Vow take more quirky routes, like Howlpack Piper being the tribe's Elvish Piper. By all means, it's still a terrific card, with a transformation trigger that goes seek more fuel to cheat into play with the front face's activation. But at the end of the day, it's a very killable, if uncounterable, four-drop 2/2, easy to disrupt before it could parachute a lupine commando onto the battlefield.

 Also terrific: the hexproof on Avabruck Caretaker. This serene Victorian lady is just untouchable by spot removal on both faces, and the back is extending her protection on everyone and everything under our control, turning into a formidable Privileged Position on legs. And if that wasn't beneficial enough, she also distributes gifts of double +1/+1 counters to one or, why not, all of our creatures. This card is a true nightmare in Limited, and is starting to see play as a curve-topper in green aggro, but an argument could be made that the more interactive Tovolar's Huntmaster is still the best six-drop for pure Werewolf brews.

 And speaking of interactive, Volatile Arsonist hits hard on turn five, unleashing a salvo of pings towards up to three different targets – a damage output that its night version straight-up doubles. Not as game-changing for the tribe as the previous three-drops from Midnight Hunt, or even Werewolf Pack Leader from Forgotten Realms, but once again, it's enjoying a broader success in Standard as a big play for aggressive Gruul decks.

 The last of the four rares, Ill-Tempered Loner isn't even a card that can be just added willy-nilly to a Werewolf list. It requires a special setup, being a version of the kind of damage-returning creatures a la Boros Reckoner and Brash Taunter. These are typically combo pieces for fun, casual brews (here's an example).

 More specialized Werewolves: Infestation Expert is a token maker, but in order to repeat its trigger it's required to attack, which isn't always safely feasible. Ballista Watcher is an expensive pinger. Finally, Lambholt Racounteur is a source of damage to the dome, probably meant to complement the blue-red style of "spells matter" list as a midrange, more flexible version of Kessig Flamebreather. It actually works in any red list in Limited, so it's probably the most accomplished creature in this section. Also "raconteur" is a wonderful word.

  


Wizard: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 861, online: 842

 Related Tribes: Human, Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Even within such a small selection of Wizards, we manage to get three new rares. For some reason, Voldaren Bloodcaster counts as one – evidently, turning blood into flowers and flowers into Bats requires some magic skills. Regardless, she doesn't do much for Wizard lists. Neither does the much-awaited return of the eccentric Geralf Cecani, now calling himself Geralf, Visionary Stitcher. Innistrad's resident Dr. Frankenstein has apparently learned how to make Zombies fly, and is eager to turn any creature into such a floating corpse, using an activated ability that actually reminds of his sister's first solo incarnation, Ghoulcaller Gisa (he also succeeded in replicating her effigy in a more faithful way than Grimgrin, Corpse-Born). Geralf doesn't actually need to be played in a Zombie shell, since he makes his own Zombies, but he sure provides more benefits if we put him in the position to immediately enable evasive attacks from any pre-existing Zombie.

 The more Wizard-like of these Wizards, at least mechanically, is Eruth, Tormented Prophet. She simply doubles all card draw we perform, at the price of turning it into impulsive draw, instead. It's as powerful as it is dangerous, since we can't turn it off. On top of that, she's relatively cheap and has a resilient butt.

 The uncommon Wizards have some appeal in Limited. Whispering Wizard makes flyers via spellslinging. Voltaic Visionary has a complex design in which we get an impulsive draw after taking damage, but if we manage to play the exiled card (which includes dropping lands), the Visionary becomes a 4/3 – not a bad deal for two mana. Unlike Foreboding Statue, the transformation doesn't untap the Visionary, but that's hardly relevant since she can't block anyway. Also not extremely relevant is her initial three points of power, given that her toughness is too low to attack into anything, and we want to activate her tap ability asap in any case, which we can only do that at sorcery speed. Kind of a weird design.


Wolf: +8

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 72, online: 68

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Wolves have definitely improved since Midnight Hunt. There are more of them, and the average rarity is higher. Primal Adversary has a counterpart in Cemetery Prowler (in both cases, the monocolored cycle used a Wolf over a Werewolf, to avoid including a double-faced card). The Prowler is a solid 3/4 vigilance for three mana, and the graveyard exile trigger is repeatable and translates into mana discount. Not a must-play chase mythic, but rewarding enough. And then the tribe gets an excellent one-two (if we also count the Prowler, then it's a brand new one-two-three curve) with Ascendant Packleader as an aggressive Savannah Lions-like one-drop, and the adorable Packsong Pup as an ever-growing tribal-based two-drop that also eventually gains us life. The Packleader is already seeing play in generic Stompy lists, because the extra rule text essentially says it enters as a 3/2 in the mid-game, and it's not unreasonable to envision it as a 4/3 later. For one mana, it's an impressive bargain.

 The other two-drop Wolves are all commonly sighted in Limited, with Hungry Ridgewolf and Sporeback Wolf as decent curve fillers, and Runebound Wolf as a tribal way to close a stalled game without attacking. A Wolf is also Flourishing Hunter, the set's common green lifegaining curve-topper, along the lines of recent favorites like Honey Mammoth, Ravenous Lindwurm and Hill Giant Herdgorger. Unlike its predecessor, the Hunter doesn't gain life on its own; the silver lining is that it can get up to 13 life if we happen to have Unhallowed Phalanx around.

 The set also contains a couple of non-Wolf cards that make Wolves, but neither of them is efficient enough to really matter.

 


Wurm: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 94, online: 89

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Bramble Wurm is clearly following in the gigantic footsteps (longitudinal-muscle-locomotion-steps?) of Pelakka Wurm. Both are seven-drop seven-powered tramplers that gain us a large amount of life – Bramble Wurm up to 10, but that requires further mana expenditure post-mortem. The newcomer is also more easily splashable and has reach; but it loses one toughness and, more crucially, misses on the card draw. Overall, Pelakka is still the superior Wurm, but Bramble is the best curve-topper in Crimson Vow Limited, where it's the most threatening creature at uncommon (the only larger monsters in the set are Toxrill, the Corrosive and Hullbreaker Horror, which appear at higher rarities).


Zombie: +21

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 523, online: 516

 Related Tribes: Bear, Cleric, Drake, Horror, Horse, Kraken, Scorpion, Soldier, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Zombie tribe also put together quite the showing for Crimson Vow (despite not being invited to the wedding). They lost the undying keyword from Midnight Hunt and acquired the returning exploit mechanic, which doesn't actually appear in a ton of cards, but all of them are Zombies. Most notably, Overcharged Amalgam used it to mimic a Mystic Snake deal, but with activated and triggered abilities also covered. And the Limited signpost Skull Skaab is the main payoff for exploiting, giving a 2/2 non-decaying Zombie token as a reward. Other highlights of the exploit team include Diver Skaab doing an Aether Gust routine; Repository Skaab regrowing an instant or sorcery; as well as Stitched Assistant and Fell Stinger just drawing cards. The self-tutoring Wretched Throng is the exploit enabler of choice, alongside the reprinted Doomed Dissenter and some of the cheaper disturb creatures.

    

 A couple rare Zombies, namely Graf Reaver and Patchwork Crawler, aren't very good, if not in very narrow situations. The mythic Cemetery Desecrator is excellent top-end removal, reminiscent of something like Noxious Gearhulk. The three-drops Headless Rider and Archghoul of Thraben have similar tribal-centered death triggers, the former creating 2/2 tokens, the latter digging for more Zombies. Notably, the Archghoul cares for the death of Zombie tokens too, while the Rider does not. Also, you're not really "headless" if you have a halo of several heads circling your neck.

 Black shares with green a "high toughness matters" subtheme, chiefly embodied by Catapult Fodder; once transformed into Catapult Captain, this peculiar Zombie can hurl big-butt creatures directly at the opponent's life total. It's especially effective with Unhallowed Phalanx, which sort of exists uniquely to enable such a combo. They're also all meant to work with Ancient Lumberknot.

 

 Crimson Vow likes its zombified animals, if we are to judge from the Horse of Cobbled Lancer, the Bear of Diregraf Scavenger, the Scorpion of Fell Stinger, and the lobster-like Kraken of Rot-Tide Gargantua.

 Among the non-Zombie cards that help or care for Zombies, we find Geralf, Visionary Sticher giving them the unexpected gift of flight (the specifics of that process are still unclear); Necroduality Doubling Season-ing them; and the flavorful Chill of the Grave just becoming much more efficient in their presence.

  

 But let's end by circling back to Olivia and Edgar's wedding. Apparently, the staff for such an exclusive event included the more shambling variety of the children of the night, too; at least if we have to believe Undead Butler and the terrible dad pun of Dying to Serve. They're not very good cards, but they certainly have a lot of flavor.

 


SUMMARY

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BEST IN SHOW
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THE CEMETERY CYCLE
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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS