Crimson Vow is upon us, and I hope you’ve sorted a wedding gift for the happy couple. If you’re looking for the lowdown on the best Commander cards from the set, then go no further — I’ve got you covered. For our Midnight Hunt review, head here.
Today, I’ll be breaking down what’s hot from the set. I won’t be going over what’s not, and it’s likely I’ll skip over any super niche cards that don’t impact your collection enough. You want the best? Here’s the best.
I wrote the other week about how great the white cards in the set are, and so we’ll start as we mean to go on — with an absolute belter.
By Invitation Only is one of the best wraths we’ve seen in a while. It’s modal, it will always benefit you the most, and it rewards tokens. It gets around hexproof and indestructible. Only Sigarda, Host of Herons can stop this — and she needs no invitation. She’s on all the lists.
Cemetery Protector is part of a graveyard hate cycle. These new cards are more than welcome, given running a main deck Rest in Peace often feels like overkill. The white card in the cycle offers continual value through the game, and in a lot of cases, it reads “landfall — make a token,” which is pretty sweet.
What a spicy card Faithbound Judge is. Once you disturb it, it’ll provide an alternate win condition, making one opponent lose the game once it hits three counters on your upkeep. You can of course speed this up with proliferate effects, which you’d be mad not to run with this card. It won’t go in every deck, but it’ll be easier to execute than Angel of Destiny if you build it right.
Heliod, God of the Sun has long been an underrated token producer in Enchantress, along with Daxos the Returned. Hallowed Haunting offers similar value, and you won’t even have to put mana into it. It’s a nice win con for the more pillowfort-oriented Enchantress builds. It’ll do some work in Bant or UW Auras, too, which sees a lot of support this set.
I’m hopeful for Hopeful Initiate, especially in a dedicated +1/+1 counters build. Repeatable removal is nice, as we’ve seen in cards like Steelbane Hydra and Aura Shards. This card has the advantage of coming in for just one mana, but it does need to accrue a little value. You’ll be able to activate it just in time to end an early Smothering Tithe or Greater Good, which is absolutely great and good.
Speaking of Enchantress, Katilda is pretty cool. I’d be hesitant to run her in the zone, but in the 99? Absolutely worth a slot. Critical mass-style power and toughness is always better with good keywords, and flying and lifelink are two of the best here. Every card like this I see makes me want to rebuild Geist of Saint Traft…
I went over these two gems in my aforementioned article on Crimson Vow’s white cards, but I’ll cover again what makes them so great. Savior of Ollenbock has two separate abilities, which means you can permanently exile something by sacrificing or otherwise getting it to leave play before the first ability resolves. You can also instantly reanimate a creature using the same trick. I really like it, and I can’t wait to play it in Aurelia, the Warleader — double combats, double the fun!
Sigarda’s Summons is the top end finisher that non-green white decks always want more of. Flying is every bit as good as trample (at least the majority of the time), and increasing creatures’ base stats to 4/4 means those counters do even more work.
Ajani’s Pridemate got one hell of a glow-up this set. Voice of the Blessed is a seriously powerful creature; combined with the likes of Trelasarra from AFR, I start to question if I’ll ever play an Ajani’s Pridemate ever again. This is a shoe-in for lifegain decks that run Soul Warden or adjacent cards for regular triggers.
White also gets some card draw this set. Wedding Announcement is definitely balanced for Standard, offering a couple of cards before transforming into an anthem. If you can reliably reset it, then it isn’t bad, but it’s not nearly as interesting as Welcoming Vampire. Mentor of the Week, am I right? It’ll only trigger once each turn, but that won’t stop it triggering on other people’s turns, too. Besides, the ability doesn’t cost any mana, and that it’s on a 2/3 flying body. I’ll take a playset, please.
On to blue, and we have Cemetery Illuminator leading the procession. I’ll take the opportunity to clarify here that when these cards refer to type, they don’t mean supertypes, like Legendary. Exiling an artifact creature, however, will get you both on your list of benefits. The Spirit is a respectable body and one I think will see play in tribal decks for sure. Graveyard hate is just good in modern day EDH — you can never get enough of it when it’s incidental like this.
Consuming Tide seeks to break parity on the traditional blue board wipe, something I’m absolutely here for. Casting this when behind is going to feel great, but you’ll need a Reliquary Tower or similar to really see the most benefit (unless you’re in Reanimator). If you have Rhystic Study and ways to keep a lot of cards in hand, it gets significantly less good, though.
Geralf is sweet. Flying Zombies? Terrifying — and powerful. This slots into Varina and Wilhelt builds for sure, but it could just be a great commander in its own right. Blue has a lot of cheap, high toughness creatures to gum up the ground with.
Is this what happens when Hullbreacher gets banned? Well, Hullbreaker Horror is definitely Hull-broken. This is a closer for sure, and if it comes out early via the yard? I wouldn’t like to be facing this down. Being able to bounce spells back to opponents’ hands is as good as making this thing hexproof as you’re going to get, provided you have enough instants in your deck. It can also serve to slow other players down while you try and win. Combined with the Tidespout Tyrant mode, it’ll ensure you reach the endgame.
Jacob Hauken, Inspector is a really cool design. I love a blue commander that does something a little different, which is why I built Cosima, God of the Voyage. It might seem pricey to flip Jacob, but when you immediately have access to the exiled card from activating the transformation, it’s not as much of a cost as you might think.
Blue gets some of the best transform cards in this set. Mirrorhall Mimic is your standard four-mana Clone on the front, but it gives you extra value from the yard. We all love playing Vizier of Many Faces for the chance to go again, but this Spirit offers something a little different. It’ll make token copies of an enchanted creature each upkeep instead. It’s closer to Mechanized Production, and I’d be tempted to run it in quite a few builds that have copyable creatures.
Zombies got hooked up in Midnight Hunt, and it’s the same in Crimson Vow. Did they need Necroduality? Absolutely not. Will I play it? Of course. It’s a great roleplayer in virtually any Zombie deck, and I like the idea of it freeing up a copy of Anointed Procession for my other decks. Doubling up on Vile Entomber or Noxious Ghoul is gonna feel great.
Not all Zombies are created equally, though. Some are less tribal-oriented and more focused on value. Overcharged Amalgam and Patchwork Crawler are both cards that interest me a lot, but that don’t have obvious homes. The former is a value piece, while the latter feels like it needs the right shell, such as Mairsil, the Pretender. It’s pretty good with AFR’s Asmodeus the Archfiend.
Rounding things out, we have some very serviceable card draw. I like Dark Bargain in Reanimator decks, and I like some of the other surveil adjacent options, too. Scattered Thoughts is good for four mana, and there are a bunch of decks that’ll happily play it. Thirst for Discovery, meanwhile, is perhaps the easiest Thirst to quench, provided you’re not adding too much caffeine to your mana base.
For further proof that not all Zombies are created equal, let’s look at another pair as we move into black. Archghoul of Thraben is our favorite here, offering a lot to any tribal Zombie deck. Card selection on Zombie death — including tokens — is really good for three mana. Cemetery Desecrator, on the other hand, fits into fewer decks. I actually like this card more in decks that can blink it than in pure Zombie tribal, where six-drops basically need to win the game.
Headless Rider wins the prize for “most frustrating use of a card name back in old-Magic.” Headless Horseman is not quite playable, sadly. Headless Rider, on the other hand, is. The toughest part of brewing with Zombies these days is narrowing down your 100 cards; there are just so many playables. I like this in both Wilhelt and Varina for different reasons.
Henrika Domnathi is fabulous. She’s the mother of all Vampire Nighthawks, offering a repeatable mana sink to buff keyworded Vampires on her back side. Plus, her front offers a low-fat Demonic Pact. Both modes are relevant before she flips; I can see getting some virtual card advantage from opponents knowing the sacrifice mode could be chosen when you next get a turn.
Sorin the Mirthless gets the prize for the sexiest Vampire art in the set, and he’s here to give you card draw or tokens. He’s very unlikely to ultimate, but the first two modes are always good to have in Commander.
There’s a reason Cemetery Gatekeeper is limited to one trigger — taxing each spell a player casts for two damage is too much for a two-mana beater. It is, however, an excellent roleplayer in a Vampire tribal build. It’ll punish the many Izzet decks rocking around these days.
Chandra, Dressed to Kill has one of my favorite pieces of art in the set, and I’d love to get a showcase version just for that. More than that, though, Chandra gives us value in the same way Birgi, God of Storytelling does. You get card advantage or mana, and eventually the payoff becomes additional burn damage. Even if you never ultimate her, you’ll be happy with the consistency she lends.
Speaking of Harnfel, Horn of Bounty, Change of Fortune is here to help us get value from all the things we’ve discarded this turn. The floor of this card is already pretty good for four mana, but when you factor in wheel effects and Underworld Breach, it gets pretty good pretty quick. I like it in decks that want to discard with Mask of Memory and other effects, too.
There’s some really interesting card draw in this set, and Curse of Hospitality is one that is sure to elicit groans. Let’s face it — nobody likes having their cards exiled in multiples, and even less when someone else can cast them. The problem is that this is an incredibly inviting card draw card for creature beatdown decks. It’s a way to get value from attacking, a way to push damage through, and a way to punish the value/combo player at the table. I like it a lot, even if I’m not going to like it when it’s put on me.
If you love playing with the likes of Jared Carthalion, Brash Taunter, and Arcbond, then get a load of this new Werewolf. If you can successfully redirect this damage, you’re onto a winner. Once Ill-Tempered Loner flips into Howlpack Avenger, it just takes a Blasphemous Act to really put the pressure on. Yeesh.
Kessig Flamebreather is worth pointing out because it combines Reckless Fireweaver’s tougher booty with Firebrand Archer’s wider net of triggers, resulting in a less fragile Archer. The Shaman typing is relevant here, also; Harmonic Prodigy would allow it to trigger twice.
Manaform Hellkite makes me want to brew with Rionya at the helm. Those decks already love to cantrip through a turn to help make extra tokens, and Manaform Hellkite is a way to get redundancy on that strategy. It’s also just solid in a Spellslinger build, especially big-mana-oriented ones like Strixhaven’s Zaffai, Thunder Conductor.
If you caught my last article, I covered all of the hot new cards for brewing Tovolar, Dire Overlord. Both Tovolar and Tolsimir benefit from the green cards in Crimson Vow, and I go in depth about them in that piece.
In short, these are all extremely pushed Wolf and Werewolf cards. They have great stats for their costs, unique and powerful abilities, and repeatable value. There’s not a lot that needs to be said about them beyond that; you’ll want to strongly consider these cards for Werewolf or Wolf tribal decks.
Donato Giancola’s Cartographer is one of my — and many others’ — favorite pieces of Magic artwork. Giancola calls back to this piece with Cartographer’s Survey, and if you look closely, you can see the original art on one of the pieces of parchment. As far as how the card works, I like this a lot for lands-matter decks in Commander. You can easily find two cards in seven, if you’re running north of 40 lands, and getting access to powerful roleplayers like Cabal Coffers or Dark Depths for the same cost as an Explosive Vegetation is an attractive prospect. Provided you run enough lands, I can see this being a viable pick.
Next up, some Human-based card draw. Cloaked Cadet feels white, especially given the “once per turn” restriction, but we have him in green instead. Most Humans decks that care about life and counters are at least GW, anyways, so it kinda doesn’t matter what colors these are. Laid to Rest is nice, and some easy value for those builds.
Cultivator Colossus is the big green mythic of the set, and yes, it does combo with Abundance. You can absolutely replace your draw with digging for a land, and repeat until all of your lands are in play. It’s easiest to win this way with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, but getting that much mana is a win in and of itself. Take note that you can’t just use a bounce land to go infinite; all aspects of the Colossus’s ETB ability will resolve at once, so if you have a bounce land trigger on the stack, it won’t resolve until you finish putting lands in and drawing cards.
Glorious Sunrise is a fun enchantment, and one that offers many flavors of value. It’s never going to be bad, as it’ll give you what you’re missing. I like this in low to the ground GW decks especially.
Rounding out green, we have two transform cards that can share abilities and buffs with the team. Teamwide vigilance in green is hard to come by, and so Gnarled Grovestrider seems playable just for that, even disregarding the bonus counters. I do question what vigilance offers when you can just overrun instead, though.
Ulvenwald Oddity is likewise an oddity. While it’s cheaper on the front than the likes of Thunderfoot Baloth, paying the seven later in the game feels a little pricey. At the same time, it does have a place. RG decks with a lot of mana generation love haste, and getting both trample and haste for the team works a treat for that kind of build. I might try it in Wulfgar, honestly.
Oh, how I wish Winged Portent was mono-blue! As it stands, it would be a little out of pie for blue alone to draw in this way. It’s still a cracking draw spell, though, and there are plenty of decks for it.
Toxrill is perhaps the most exciting commander in the set for me, especially as it combos in a way with Sludge Monster from the last set. In just two turns, that’s a board wipe! And in the meantime, those creatures are base 2/2 with no abilities. Outside of that specific synergy, Toxrill is still very good. You’ll most often make Slugs by casting removal spells, making this hit somewhere between Toshiro Umezawa and Massacre Girl when it comes to deckbuilding — there aren’t enough good Slugs for Tribal Slugs.
Next up, the wedding party. Anje is a sweet commander that rewards you for amassing a critical mass of Blood tokens. With the right combination of cards and an Ashnod’s Altar, you can get into a pretty good position pretty quickly. Olivia is our other Rakdos option, and she feels similar to Chainer, giving haste to reanimated bodies. Provided you run plenty of legendary Vampires — because darling, only the best are invited to the wedding — you can probably keep them in play longer than you think.
Edgar, on the other hand, offers a hard-to-remove lord effect for your Orzhov Vampire deck. He’s a solid if not spectacular option in the command zone, but probably fits better in the 99 of Elenda, the Dusk Rose or even the original Edgar Markov.
Runo Stromkirk on the other hand is a way more exciting build-around. Dimir has often struggled with identities outside of Mill and Reanimator, and Runo offers a welcome twist on the average UB deck, with a flavorful quest to bring a Lovecraftian horror into play. The reward? Copies of your world-ending beasts.
Crimson Vow is a set all about card draw, it seems, and both Izzet and Simic get some fresh designs centered around value in the command zone. I have my own thoughts on how prevalent value in the zone should be, but that’s neither here nor there. If you love value, you’ll play these cards. Eruth sets you down a specific path, and is arguably more of a combo draw engine than a reliable one. Grolnok, on the other hand, is the Gitrog Monster’s less tainted cousin. In a way, it balances having a graveyard as an extra hand by limiting what you’ll be able to play from the yard. I like the design, and it’ll be easy to break with the right brewing.
Orzhov gets some draw, too, with Markov Purifier giving you the second Dawn of Hope you’ve always wanted. It can fuel itself with life, and it’s certainly more than playable. Vampire decks have a lot of options for card draw, and this one helps to balance out some of the ones that ask you to pay life.
The last two gold cards I want to mention are Kaya, Geist Hunter and Old Rutstein. Kaya might seem like an unassuming three-mana walker, but her -2 is a head-turner. In a deck like Thalisse, Reverent Medium, this is a one-shot token doubler, which is an effect many token decks are chomping at the bit to get more of.
Old Rutstein might well be the owner of Magic 2012’s Druidic Satchel, or maybe he just “procured” it along with his other provisions and sundries. He looks like the type. I like Rutstein as a “foot off the gas” commander, and lord knows we need more of those. He offers you some repeatable value without drowning you in it.
Artifacts and Lands
Dollhouse of Horrors is the best kind of Innistrad card. It’s creepy, unsettling, referential, and has a cool graveyard mechanic. This has a home in plenty of builds, not least Osgir, the Reconstructor. If you can populate or otherwise copy the token? You’re onto something.
Many amongst you will have seen this card and quipped that it’s white card draw. In a way, it kinda is. It echoes Endless Atlas and Tome of Legends as ways to get cheap repeatable draw into decks that otherwise struggle to draw cards. If you go wide enough with tokens, then this thing can fuel itself. I particularly love the satisfying mechanics in “cracking the case”; once there are no suspects left, you’ve solved it.
Voldaren Estate is the land worth mentioning, and it’s a good one. It’s a color fixer for Vampire decks, and it’s also free card advantage when you have a wide enough board; it can in fact tap to make a Blood token if you have five Vampires in play. You’ll always play this in Vampires, and in Tribal Tribal!
The land cycle is back this set, and it’s perfect for Commander players. There’s not much I can say that I didn’t say last time, so grab what you need of these to upgrade your decks.
I won’t be going too in-depth on the Commander deck cards for two reasons. First, we’ll be reviewing them and offering upgrade guides for both decks next week here at Card Kingdom. Second, a lot of the cards are tribal-oriented, so they might not be as universally useful. Here’s the highlights.
Wedding Ring is a really interesting piece of card draw in white. While the chosen opponent will of course share in your spoils, you’re getting the better deal, as they’re likely to be paying your dowry with all of their extra card draw. You can race the lifegain if you’re in a lifegain deck for sure.
I keep calling this card Donald, and I probably will forever. What attracts me to this one is its application in flying strategies in EDH in a wider sense. I run a Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate “hate-birds” deck, and this is a slam dunk, giving me bonus Hushbringers or Strict Proctors.
If, for whatever reason, the precon doesn’t float your boat (maybe you have an Edgar Markov deck already), then you’ll still want to grab a copy of Olivia’s Wrath. It’s a solid one-sided wrath, and a great way to close games. It’s also a pretty sweet card for Tribal Tribal changeling builds.
We’ve had Gonti, yes.
Predators’ Hour is a one-time effect that gives all of your creatures the ability to “Gonti” off the top card of an opponent’s library when they deal combat damage. What makes this so great is that those cards are available all game, for any color of mana, and they’re face down. Slap on menace and you got yourself one hell of a Magic card.
You mean to tell me I can be rewarded for playing more expensive commanders? Yes please. I’ll be testing this in my Aurelia Reanimator deck for sure. I don’t love that it can’t force other decks to discard — the discard part of wheels is great counterplay against decks sandbagging against you — but I’ll take it. Probably beats out Reforge the Soul in a lot of decks.
They keep printing cards for Rionya, don’t they? Mirage Phalanx is a lot of fun, and it doesn’t even need to be in a dedicated Tokens build to give you value. Of course, if you do add it to a deck that’s already got the support? You’re off to the races.
Finally, as we reach the end of the evening, join me in a Sinister Waltz. I’d be lying if this card didn’t pique my interest for my Chainer, Nightmare Adept deck. It’s a good rate, honestly. Five mana for two creatures? Not bad at all. Losing one of them might be rough, so make sure your bin is stocked. That way, you don’t have to risk shuffling your Anger or Kroxa back into your library.
Crimson Vow is a hell of a set for Commander, and I haven’t even covered the spicier tribal cards in the precons; be sure to keep your eye out for those in our precon upgrade guides next week. There’s a bunch of more niche stuff you might be interested in, but this article is all about helping you skim off the gold to add to your collection. So, while I can be hype about Edgar’s Awakening for my Chainer deck, or Ancient Lumberknot for Doran, the Siege Tower, they’re a little too niche for a review like this. And as for Wash Away… don’t believe the hype. It’ll feel good to counter a commander for one mana the first time, but why are you playing Cancel, otherwise? Just play Disallow or You Find the Villains’ Lair instead.
What will you be adding to your decks? Let me know on Twitter.
Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up. As a member of the Commander Advisory Group, Kristen lives and breathes Commander. When she’s not playing Magic, she works as a freelance writer and editor in the UK.