Murders At Karlov Manor: An MTG Commander Set Review

Bennie Smith pays tribute to Sheldon Menery with an extensive review of Murders at Karlov Manor for Commander with his Top 5 MTG cards of each color and much more.

Judith, Carnage Connoisseur
Judith, Carnage Connoisseur, illustrated by Jodie Muir

It’s the time in the release cycle that we have the most fun – the fun of discovery.

Sheldon Menery

Murders at Karlov Manor has been fully previewed, and in less than a week, we get our hands on the first of the cards we crack in our Prerelease kits and prize packs. As Sheldon so memorably put in the opener to his Wilds of Eldraine set review for Commander, it is truly a fun time of discovery.

Some of these cards from the new set will be as exciting as we expect them to be; some will be much less so. Best are the cards that come out of nowhere and play so much better than we imagine. Even if Limited Magic isn’t really your cup of tea, Prereleases are awesome because you’ll be playing with cards you might not otherwise be inclined to try, and you just might discover they’re a lot of fun in action.

Today, I’m bringing you a set review for the main set, Murders at Karlov Manor; the cards from the Commander decks, I’ll hit on in the near future.  I’ll offer my opinion on the Top 5 cards in each color and a few Honorable Mentions, as well as my favorite common and uncommon (not already on the Top 5 list).  I’ll also rate the color based on the quality of the cards and the density of very good ones.  Buckle up. Let’s roll!


Honorable Mention

Call a Surprise Witness Case File Auditor Case of the Gateway Express Doorkeeper Thrull Make Your Move Wojek Investigator

Favorite Common

Novice Inspector

Favorite Uncommon

Krovod Haunch

Top 5

5. Case of the Uneaten Feast

Case of the Uneaten Feast

Enchantment – Case is a new card subtype debuting in Murders at Karlov Manor. Cases play a lot like the Enchantment – Class cards, such as Bard Class, from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, but instead of three levels, there are just two. First, you have an effect the card immediately gives you, and then there’s an effect you can unlock once you’ve “solved” the case. The middle section details what you need to do to unlock the full power of the card.

What’s really cool about Case of the Uneaten Feast is that it’s functionally Ajani’s Welcome for decks that care about extra lifegain, but once it’s solved, you can cash it in to redeploy one or more creatures from your graveyard. This is a great way to rebuild after a battlefield sweeper. Plus, there are tons of ways to recur cheap enchantments from the graveyard to grind value to your heart’s content.

4. Tenth District Hero

Tenth District Hero

Flavor fans will enjoy the next step in the journey of Mileva. From her beginning as Tenth District Guard in Guilds of Ravnica, to Tenth District Veteran in Ravnica Allegiance, to Battlefield Promotion and Tenth District Legionnaire in War of the Spark, Vorthos players have been waiting to see what’s next in Meliva’s journey.

Tenth District Hero actually captures her evolution to a Detective and finally to a named legendary creature – Mileva, the Stalwart. While technically you can’t use her as your commander, few would deny letting you use her as your commander during a Rule 0 conversation. While it’s always a bit risky to invest mana into leveling up a creature card in Commander, in this case, unlocking the legend gives all your other creatures indestructible, which can certainly be worth the journey.

3. Unyielding Gatekeeper

Unyielding Gatekeeper

Modal spells are always great in multiplayer because you never know what the game state is going to be from game to game and turn to turn. Even if you do not focus on face-down cards, having a few like this in your deck can yield a lot of benefit. Unyielding Gatekeeper turning face up lets you either blink a nonland permanent you control to save it from pinpoint removal (or reuse its enters-the-battlefield ability), or you can exile an opponent’s nonland permanent and give its controller a 2/2 creature token instead.

2. Assemble the Players

Assemble the Players

If this gives you Sylvan Library vibes, you’re not alone. To be honest, I’m a little shocked this isn’t in a Commander release, as Studio X continues to shore up white’s card draw deficiencies in multiplayer, but I’m guessing this played fine in Constructed formats, and so here we are. There are some awesome creatures with power two or less you’d love to cast from the top of your library – Esper Sentinel, Solemn Simulacrum, Dockside Extortionist, Beast Whisperer, and Spark Double, just to name a few.

1. Delney, Streetwise Lookout

Delney, Streetwise Lookout

And here’s a card that goes right beside Assemble the Players in your deck, if not outright leads from the command zone. If you’ve been wanting to lead an army of small white creatures, here’s your rock star. In addition to the cards I mentioned for #2 above, you can leverage cards like Mentor of the Meek; Sram, Senior Edificer; and Karmic Guide.

Grade: B

White’s got some exciting rares and mythics, along with some decent commons and uncommons. Solid offerings for Commander fans.


Honorable Mention

Agency Outfitter Case of the Filched Falcon Case of the Ransacked Lab Forensic Researcher Lost in the Maze Proft's Eidetic Memory

Favorite Common

Out Cold

Favorite Uncommon


Top 5

5. Reenact the Crime

Reenact the Crime

While four blue mana is a lot to hold up for reactive spells, Reenact the Crime is exactly the sort of card that Commander lets shine. What’s awesome about this is its flexibility, hitting any nonland card put into the graveyard. It could be a destroyed creature, artifact, enchantment, or even planeswalker; a just-cast instant or sorcery spell; or a card milled, or looted, or perhaps put directly into the graveyard with Entomb for reanimation shenanigans. I expect epic stories revolving around this card in the years to come.

4. Cryptic Coat

Cryptic Coat

This is just too weird and cool not to make my list. First, it’s an Equipment with no equip cost, which is always hilarious. Basically, for three mana, you get a 3/2 facedown creature with ward 2 that can’t be blocked. If the creature dies, you still have Cryptic Cloak on the battlefield, and you can pay two mana to bounce it back to your hand and do it all over again.

If you need a late-game mana sink, Cryptic Coat can generate a small army for you, including one creature that can’t be blocked. That’s not to mention if any of the cloaked cards are creatures, you can turn them face up for their mana costs. Equipment decks, artifact decks, and face-down creatures decks will love this, but I expect it will prove good in other decks too.

3. Coveted Falcon

Coveted Falcon

Look out, world, there’s a new toy for Zedruu the Greathearted fans! Coveted Falcon makes me think of Auras and enchantments that have static effects and don’t matter who controls them, like Imprisoned in the Moon or Dictate of Kruphix. You also can use it offensively with cards like Illusions of Grandeur.

Even outside of that, I expect Coveted Falcon will do some cool things when you consider you could use it in response to a battlefield sweeper and give an opponent a bunch of permanents that will be destroyed anyway. Lastly, it’s a great way to get back a permanent stolen from you by a Control Magic effect.

2. Forensic Gadgeteer

Forensic Gadgeteer

There are a ton of Commander decks that care about artifacts, and Forensic Gadgeteer will slot perfectly in a bunch of them. It generates extra artifacts and shaves a mana off your artifacts’ activated abilities. Great card is great!

1. Conspiracy Unraveler

Conspiracy Unraveler

Conspiracy Unraveler will lead to some epic turns in Commander. Letting you cast spells for zero mana by spending some other resource instead is a recipe for breaking cards in half. Sure, this is a seven-mana creature, but it can easily be put into the graveyard and reanimated for cheap. Blue also has a ton of ways to self-mill, so you’ll have plenty of cards to collect evidence with. Keep in mind that split cards like Commit // Memory count both sides as its total mana value to help fuel collect evidence. I’m just imagining a deck where you cast Traumatize on yourself and go off from there.

Grade: A

Blue is a little light on good commons for Commander, but I can’t argue with the really cool and powerful cards at other rarities that Commander fans will love.


Honorable Mention

Case of the Stashed Skeleton Homicide Investigator Hunted Bonebrute Outrageous Robbery

Favorite Common

Slice from the Shadows

Favorite Uncommon

Persuasive Interrogators

Top 5

5. Illicit Masquerade

Illicit Masquerade

A mass reanimation spell you can cast at instant speed?  Sign me up! Whether this is a way to grind value in the late-game after a few battlefield sweepers or some sort of reanimation strategy fueled by self-sacrificing creatures, there are a lot of ways to have fun with this card.

4. Vein Ripper

Vein Ripper

Let’s be real here: Blood Artist is a wimpy card in Commander.  Sure, its triggers can add up over time with enough sacrificing, but it’s still just a two-mana 0/1 squishy creature. For three times the mana, you get twice the trigger and a huge 6/5 flying Vampire Assassin with a ward ability that actually triggers its other ability.

3. Case of the Gorgon’s Kiss

Case of the Gorgon's Kiss

I really like this Case for just one black mana. You can easily hold it in your hand until you’re attacking with several creatures that get blocked, and then drop it to kill off the biggest threat. Even if combat alone doesn’t let you solve it, there are plenty of ways to destroy more creatures or sacrifice your own, and then the Case turns into a 4/4 Gorgon creature with deathtouch and lifelink. If you’ve got enchantment strategies that include black, I think this will do a lot more work than you might expect.

2. Barbed Servitor

Barbed Servitor

Okay, Brash Taunter and its precursor Stuffy Doll are some of my favorite Magic cards ever, and now we’ve got a new one in black. While Brash Taunter and Stuffy Doll are more defensive in nature, Barbed Servitor is here to attack, since most of the time it’ll be suspected and thus can’t block. Since it will also have menace, opponents face a tough choice: double block it and lose life equal to the total damage dealt to it; or don’t block it and let you draw a card. Pair this up with fight spells or mass damage cards like Blasphemous Act.

1. Massacre Girl, Known Killer

Massacre Girl, Known Killer

Massacre Girl is back and is just as awesome as her first incarnation. Card draw stapled to your commander can be tiresome if too easy, but I think Massacre Girl, Known Killer asks you to jump through enough hoops to make it fun. It’s sad that The Meathook Massacre is still so expensive, but you can easily pick up cards like Essence Pulse and Profane Command to refuel your hand. In addition, giving all your creatures wither makes them troublesome to block, and worrisome to attack into.

Grade: B

Black is light on good commons for Commander, but there are plenty of nifty cards at the other rarities to dig into.


Honorable Mention

Anzrag's Rampage Concealed Weapon Convenient Target Red Herring (MKM)

Favorite Common

Goblin Maskmaker

Favorite Uncommon

Expose the Culprit

Top 5

5. Krenko’s Buzzcrusher

Krenko's Buzzcrusher

This is the sort of “mass land destruction” that’s perfectly fine for a Commander game. At least one person in the pod will have a problematic land that needs destroying – especially after the cards from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan that transform into sweet lands – but they all will get to fetch up a basic land from their library and put it on the battlefield in compensation. Keep in mind you can choose one of your own nonbasic lands too if you need some color fixing or, better yet, you have a way to replay lands from your graveyard. You can even use it politically if an opponent is struggling with fixing their mana. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned yet that it’s a 4/4 artifact creature with flying and trample, all in all a solid value for four mana.

4. Fugitive Codebreaker

Fugitive Codebreaker

Fugitive Codebreaker packs a ton of options into a two-mana card. First, having prowess and haste on a creature has a ton of aggro pedigree, and as a Goblin, it can slot right in a Goblin deck. Next, its disguise ability can refuel your hand late-game, which is useful for aggressive strategies, but it’s even better in a spellslinger strategy that aims to cast a bunch of instant and sorcery spells in a big turn.

3. Crime Novelist

Crime Novelist

You’ve probably already heard how Crime Novelist combines with Animation Module and a sacrifice outlet like Goblin Bombardment or Ashnod’s Altar to generate a ton of triggers (if you haven’t, you can check it out on Commander Spellbook). Even without the combo potential, the card generates value just from sacrificing artifacts, like Clues or – even better – Treasures. In addition, it’s another good Goblin!

2. Krenko, Baron of Tin Street

Krenko, Baron of Tin Street

Speaking of good Goblins and artifacts, here’s another version of Krenko. While it doesn’t hold a candle to the original Krenko, Mob Boss in terms of pure Goblin tomfoolery, if you want to make a Goblin deck with a strong artifact theme (and there are a bunch of Goblins that care about artifacts), Baron of Tin Street is excellent for that.

1. Incinerator of the Guilty

Incinerator of the Guilty

Everyone loves a good Dragon, and this is very, very good. A 6/6 with flying and trample is likely to deal combat damage to an opponent when it attacks, and then its triggered ability is likely to incinerate most of that player’s creatures and planeswalkers. You’ll want to give this haste right away, since it’ll have a big target on its back, but red has a ton of ways to do just that.

Grade: B

A little light on choices here, but the cards that did make the list are sweet.  Goblin fans looking for a little finesse over brute force will be ecstatic!


Honorable Mention

Analyze the Pollen Case of the Locked Hothouse Flourishing Bloom-Kin Hide in Plain Sight Undergrowth Recon

Favorite Common

Airtight Alibi

Favorite Uncommon

Aftermath Analyst

Top 5

5. Axebane Ferox

Axebane Ferox

I really like haste in Commander, and I think Axebane Ferox might play better than it looks. If you want to build that way, green can really keep people’s graveyards clean, which will make the ward ability pretty tough to punch through. In particular, deathtouch decks will love this new burly friend!

4. Pick Your Poison

Pick Your Poison (MKM)

The combination of flexibility and cheap mana value makes Pick Your Poison an instant all-star for Commander, especially for decks at higher power levels.

3. Slime Against Humanity

Slime Against Humanity

Green has finally joined the “a deck can have any number of cards named X” club, and Slime Against Humanity is a wild one! Maybe you’re just looking to round out your Ooze typal deck with a handful of this card. I love that even if someone exiles your graveyard, any exiled copies of Slime still count for growing more Oozes. You may even want to go nuts with mass exile cards like Mirror of Fate. I can’t wait to see what people cook up with this Slime!

2. Chalk Outline

Chalk Outline

When I first saw Chalk Outline, I was excited about its grindy, fair value pared with cards that come back from your graveyard like Reassembling Skeleton. For two black mana, you get your Skeleton, a 2/2 Detective token, and a Clue token! But then I saw people talk about busting this in half with Ovalchase Daredevil and a discard outlet like Lotleth Troll. Either way, get ready for a wild ride with this enchantment!

1. Archdruid’s Charm

Archdruid's Charm

Green’s version of Archmage’s Charm is outstanding, and I love it when cards like this reward monocolor decks. Each choice is worth playing in many green Commander decks, but having all three stapled on a modal spell is exceptional. Don’t overlook the fact that the first choice has two modes itself, and the second choice has two effects.

Grade: A

Green choices here are solid up and down the rarities.


Honorable Mention

The Pride of Hull Clade Alquist Proft, Master Sleuth Break Out Buried in the Garden Curious Cadaver Detective's Satchel Drag the Canal Ezrim, Agency Chief Gleaming Geardrake Tin Street Gossip Tolsimir, Midnight's Light Yarus, Roar of the Old Gods Cease

Favorite Common

Granite Witness

Favorite Uncommon

Insidious Roots

Top 5

5. Doppelgang


Yes, Doppelgang is expensive, but if you can’t build a deck that can fuel X for three or more in Simic, then you aren’t trying hard enough. This is the sort of payoff card that makes all that ramping worth the trouble, and it will pay off in spectacular ways. Note you can target any permanent, whether it belongs to you or one of your opponents. That includes lands, if you want to ramp even harder.

4. Leyline of the Guildpact

Leyline of the Guildpact

Coolness of design gets this noticed, especially when you take a look at the mana cost being hybrid mana from each of the green Guilds. Having all your lands count as every basic type makes it incredible at fixing your colors. Making each nonland permanent you control all colors… I’m not entirely sure what people are going to do with that, but I have no doubt it will be silly, glorious fun.

3. Etrata, Deadly Fugitive

Etrata, Deadly Fugitive

Etrata, Deadly Fugitive is a cool design that obviously plays well with the disguise and cloak mechanics from Murders at Karlov Manor, but you can also go in different directions too.  You can build an Assassin typal deck, or you can dip into some of the Cyberman cards from Doctor Who Commander, like Cybership and Death in Heaven.

2. Judith, Carnage Connoisseur

Judith, Carnage Connoisseur

Burn spells in Commander often have a problem dealing with gigantic creatures, but Judith solves that problem by giving burn spells deathtouch, with lifelink being fantastic upside. If you’ve never had the chance to cast Blasphemous Act with Firesong and Sunspeaker to gain a ton of life, you’re in for a real treat.  And in Rakdos, you’ve got lots of options to turn that lifegain into more resources.

1. Anzrag, the Quake-Mole

Anzrag, the Quake-Mole

I’ve long considered myself a Golgari mage at heart, but the legendary creature designs in the Gruul colors have lit me on fire in recent years, and Anzrag, the Quake-Mole joins that club. I love smashing life totals in Commander, and this one fits the bill. Opponents can’t just throw a 1/1 chump blocker in the way and be done with it; Anzrag keeps coming back until it dies or smashes face. Building around Anzrag as your commander will be sick.

Grade: A

The mythics, rares and uncommons are deep! It’s interesting to note that all the commons are creatures with the disguise mechanic.

Artifact, Land, Colorless

Honorable Mention

Magnetic Snuffler Branch of Vitu-Ghazi Case of the Shattered Pact

Favorite Common

Escape Tunnel

Favorite Uncommon

Scene of the Crime

Top 5 10

1-10. Surveil Lands

Commercial District Elegant Parlor Hedge Maze Lush Portico Meticulous Archive Raucous Theater Shadowy Backstreet Thundering Falls Undercity Sewers Underground Mortuary

I’ll cheat here and put all ten surveil lands as my top picks here. Surveil is usually a better mechanic than scry, and the scrylands are already decent for Commander. The fact that these also have two basic land types makes them incredible for the format, and I can’t wait to nab a playset of each for deckbuilding.

Grade: C

Because Ravnica sets are multicolor-heavy, there were not a lot of colorless cards to choose from. I do really appreciate getting a Clue land with Scene of the Crime, and the upgraded Evolving Wilds with Escape Tunnel will do a ton of great work in decks that recur lands from the graveyard.

This set has a ton of really fun cards, and nicely fills out strategies tied to its themes.  What cards did I miss that would be on your Top 5 lists from Murders at Karlov Manor?

Talk to Me

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and start conversations about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  You can also find my LinkTree on my profile page there with links to all my content.

I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl, and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.  You can also find the lists for my paper decks over on Archidekt if you want to dig into how I put together my own decks and brews. 

And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

Visit my Decklist Database to see my decklists and the articles where they appeared!