Analyzing The New Cards From Innistrad: Crimson Vow Commander Precons

From saucy Spirits to vexatious Vampires, Sheldon Menery reviews the newest MTG cards from the Innistrad: Crimson Vow Commander releases.

Storm of Souls, illustrated by Liiga Smilshkalne

You’ve been to the reception of the wedding of the millennium. Now it’s time to head for the after-party.  Innistrad: Crimson Vow Commander adds 30 new cards to the format’s arsenals and we’re going to talk about every single one of them and their impacts on the format.  I’ll also add in the eight Commander cards that are available in Innistrad: Crimson Vow set boosters for a next-level feast of cards that you’ll be stuffing into your decks in no time.

I’ll be discussing the cards individually, as opposed to the decks they come from as a whole.  I want to fit them (and the bonus eight) into the bigger Commander biosphere and start thinking about what kind of decks they either go into or can be built around.  Or just point out how cool they are.


Breathkeeper Seraph

Soulbond is an ability that I hope designers keep using.  I love it on this card, giving it and other creature the ability to come back from a battlefield sweeper.  If that other card happens to be Adarkar Valkyrie, so much the better. 

Drogskol Reinforcements

If you’re all in on the Spirits, then you’ll absolutely want Drogskol Reinforcements on your side.  Getting a triple Anthem turns the tribe from kind of quiet to kind of deadly.  The damage prevention suggests going into red to open up cards like Powerstone Minefield and all the damage-based battlefield sweepers. 

Haunted Library

Even if you’re not killing them, creatures your opponents control are going to die.  When it happens coincidentally with your own, Haunted Library will give you a bit of a boost in recovering the battlefield state. 

Priest of the Blessed Graf

Exploring more of the white “catch up” idea, Priest of the Blessed Graf is likely to keep on giving you Spirits in white decks that don’t have green in them.  I’d certainly consider it in a non-tribal deck, like something Orzhov with sacrifice outlets for the tokens. 

Rhoda, Geist Avenger

Rhoda’s partner-with, Timin, Youthful Geist, is blue, which is naturally going to lead you to Opposition and lots of tapping.  That, of course, leads us to Daring Thief and Arbiter of the Ideal for a neat start on an unusual deck.  The card is a little unfortunately named for me, since I’m old enough to remember the show RhodaMakes me think that Timin should have just be named Joe. 

Storm of Souls

We definitely want to rein in the power of white reanimation on this scale, so Storm the Souls is a nice, flavorful choice.  What’s a nice later-turn follow-up is Sudden Disappearance, which will reset the power and toughness to its original. 

Sudden Salvation

Sudden Salvation offers up some political possibilities in bringing back creatures to block, getting a relevant enters-the-battlefield trigger, or just helping someone back into a game.  You’re then rewarded for your kindness with cards.  If you want to use it for your own stuff, Faith’s Reward is a better choice. 

Wedding Ring

There’s been a great deal of chatter over Wedding Ring since its preview.  It’s a beautiful design and will justifiably see a good amount of play.  I do beg you, however, to not be creepy when you play it.  Really, just don’t. 


Breath of the Sleepless

I’ll have to see Breath of the Sleepless in action.  I suspect that at the power level of the unmodified or lightly modified precon it might have some legs.  That said, there are way more Spirits in Magic than one thinks (546, plus 50 more with changeling), so it might be worth the exploration.

Donal, Herald of Wings

Seems like Donal is nice in a Sphinx deck.  There are 66 Sphinxes in Magic, only twelve of them legendary (and only one of them Consecrated).  Many of them have good triggered abilities, like Sphinx of Uthuun (or if you’re playing rougher, Magister Sphinx), so they’re worth copying even if they’re not quite battle-worthy. 

Ethereal Investigator

I’m a fan of the design here, especially in a color that knows how to blink creatures.  It’s not splashy, just solid.  The extra little value out of sacrificing a Clue on your turn or multiples on someone else’s is fine, but we know it’s all about the card draw. 

Haunting Imitation

There will be some fun in spinning the wheel for creatures.  Because they’ll only be 1/1s, you’ll probably be rooting for utility creatures like Oracle of Mul Daya, Seedborn Muse, or the sure-to-make-them-salty Opposition Agent

Imperious Mindbreaker

Millmeoplasm deck, here we come!  Pairing with Consuming Aberration or Lord of Extinction is going to get those decks milled in very short order.  Another nice use of the soulbond mechanic. 

Occult Epiphany

I can only imagine myself playing Occult Epiphany in an Esper deck.  Discarding stuff in Azorius for 1/1s doesn’t seem like it holds the same kind of value that it would when you add the best reanimation color.  Then it’s about what cards hit the graveyard and the creatures are an afterthought.

Spectral Arcanist

Note that Spectral Arcanist doesn’t target.  This means that you choose the card on resolution of the triggered ability.  Once you’ve chosen it, the other players don’t have time to remove it from the graveyard.  Sometimes it might mean not getting your first choice, since they’ll take it if they have some graveyard hate, but you’ll still get something, assuming the condition can be met. 

Timin, Youthful Geist

While Timin is going to shine best when partnered with Rhoda, he can get there in a low-creature environment—or in a deck in which you’re playing Dismiss into Dream (which is fortunately blue). 


Crossway Troublemakers

Trigger the George Takei meme.  Vampires are a saucy tribe already and weapons like Crossway Troublemakers make them even deadlier.  With all that lifelink running around, you’re not going to mind paying two life for a card if someone wipes out your battlefield. 

Doom Weaver

Another card for your Ishkanah Spider tribal, Doom Weaver itself isn’t going to draw so many cards when it dies, but you have lots of options for what you pair it with.  It’s also only the second card in Magic to have a 1/8 power and toughess, after Coldsnap’s Wall of Shards—which is underrated and which you might consider giving a shot. 

Glass-Cast Heart

Glass-Cast Heart is the other shoe dropping from the main set’s stuff that creates Blood tokens.  It’s kept in check by the fact that you only create one token regardless of however many Vampires you attack with, but building with this in mind means you’ll get there.  You might not do so as often as you will with Treasures and Revel in Riches, but it also does other stuff. 

Kamber, the Plunderer

Well here’s something to go with Glass-Cast Heart and pump up the Blood token count.  You might not even need to put her into a Vampire deck to get some decent mileage out of her and her partner Laurine, the Diversion—but we’ll talk shortly about the two of them together.

Olivia's Wrath

I’m still not sure how I feel about tribal-specific battlefield sweepers.  I lean towards the positive since they get us away from generic ones.  The downside is that they can lead to homogenization of tribal builds.  All that said, if Olivia is going to be angry, it’s good to have her on your side. 

Predators' Hour

Giving your team menace might end more games than all the cards you get to cast.  It certainly changes the combat math.  Predators’ Hour is quietly strong and I suspect that it’ll outperform expectations. 

Shadowgrange Archfiend

Having an 8/4 on Turn 3 might be strong if you can manage it, but you’ll get way more value in waiting for at least one opponent to have something large.  Even paying the full seven mana is strong when you’re getting a beefy creature and taking out one from everyone.  Pair with Reaper from the Abyss as part of a healthy creature removal suite.

Timothar, Baron of Bats

I’m a fan of the design of the card, since it goes somewhere we haven’t been before.  You’re not guaranteed to get the exiled card back, since the token has to deal combat damage.  I suspect, however, that there are going to be plenty of cases when you have much scarier things to block.  The ward of discarding a card is a two-edged sword in Commander.  There are plenty of circumstances in which an opponent is going to want to have a particular thing in their graveyard and we’ve just given them the tool to do it.


Arterial Alchemy

I keep staring at the card wondering if there’s a way to really make Arterial Alchemy crazy.  The name obviously suggests Vampire stuff, but I’m thinking about Boros and Bruenor BattlehammerBalan, Wandering Knight goes well with it too. 

Imposing Grandeur

Providing incentives for players to play higher-mana-cost commanders is just fine with me.  The fly in that ointment is a high-mana-cost commander like Edgar Markov that people don’t need to cast.  Still, there’s more upside to seeing a wide range of cards coming out of the command zone and Imposing Grandeur will lead to a little of that happening.

Laurine, the Diversion

I’m excited to already having a new card for my Goad is GOAT deck.  Goad is a cool mechanic in the format, creating compelling and unusual combat situations.  The pairing of Laurine and Kamber goes along with Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant and associated cards, because you know opponents’ creatures are dying.  The amount of lifegain over the course of the game they’ll provide is not to be underestimated.  The pairing might even lead to a little more rewickering of the deck to take advantage of Laurine’s ability to sacrifice creatures. 

Markov Enforcer

Enforcer indeed! By itself, Markov Enforcer will keep opponents’ battlefields clear.  You’ll get Blood tokens when it kills something in a fight or if it gets chump blocked.  It’s another strong addition to your Vampire tribal build. 

Midnight Arsonist

Midnight Arsonist will burn down Blood tokens but wants those shiny Treasures to stay around.  It’s an obvious tribal card that you might get away playing with just a sub-theme instead.  I’m just wondering about the flavor justification behind burning down the whole building but leaving the Treasures alone.

Mirage Phalanx

Creating copies of creatures for free is extremely strong, even if when you do it might be limited to combat.  You’re a red deck, so you wanted to attack anyway.  Mirage Phalanx and whatever you have paired with it don’t lose soulbond, so you’re going to get the triggers on subsequent turns, too.  You’ll want to consider a sacrifice outlets for those tokens, like Goblin Bombardment or Greater Good

Scion of Opulence

Speaking of winning via Revel in Riches, Scion of Opulence just dares someone to wipe out your team.  Battlefield sweepers happen in Commander.  It’s good to have cards that help you in one fashion or another rebuild after they do.  A fistful of Treasures qualifies.


Hollowhenge Overlord

The Werewolf deck, led by Tovolar, Dire Overlord, can already really pop off.  Doubling up on the raw number of creatures you have starts to make it kind of silly.  Giving it flash means that it can show up at end of turn of the player on your right so that it hasn’t been exposed to removal for very long or that it can just come into a tricky combat.  It might be a little of a “win more” card, but I’m willing to take it for its paces.

Thundering Mightmare

Maybe the least exciting of the soulbond creatures, Thundering Mightmare is still decently spicy.  Pair it with Woodfall Primus or another creature that’s persisted back onto the battlefield, getting rid of the -1/-1 counter the next time an opponent casts a spell.  Let it add counters to Ghave, Guru of Spores or Spike Feeder.  There are lots of possibilities for Thundering Nightmare to be a fine support card. 


Disorder in the Court

A nice follow-up on a later turn to Storm of Souls, Disorder in the Court is also going to save your creatures from a battlefield sweeper since they don’t come back until the next end step.  Creating a bunch of Clue tokens is a nice benefit, but hardly the point.  If you’re feeling generous and want more Clues, you can also exile other players’ creatures in response to that Wrath of God.  You’re in blue and white, so you’re likely going to have some nice enters-the-battlefield triggers as well.  This will definitely see play. 

Millicent, Restless Revenant

The commander you were looking for to lead that that Spirit deck, Millicent is pretty straightforward in creating value.  As I mentioned earlier, the number of Spirits available to you, even restricted to two colors, means you’ll have some options in how to craft the deck. 

Sinister Waltz

I knew that something cool would happen just by the most excellent card name. Getting only two of three big monsters back is still fine in my book. What’s interesting here is that if someone removes one of the three, you just get the other two. 

Strefan, Maurer Progenitor

Not only have Vampires gotten saucy with Blood tokens, now they’ve gotten downright aggressive.  Paying two tokens is pretty trivial and will save you lots of mana.  I’m a fan of how his trigger to create Blood tokens is at the end step, so you get benefits right away, needing only one activation of Leechridden Swamp or a trigger from Palace Siege (set to Dragons) to get you there.  I currently have Rakdos, Lord of Riots leading my Vampire deck; there’s a strong possibility I replace him with Strefan.

Umbris, Fear Manifest

Umbris is going to be a one-shot killer as a commander.  You don’t need too many of its triggers in order for it to be huge.  One Bojuka Bog might just be enough.  Oblivion Sower is a fine addition to the deck that Umbris leads, too.  If someone else has cast Rest in Peace, it’ll get super-sized.  I’m happy to see a non-Vampire from this set be so good. 

The cards from Innistrad:  Crimson Vow Commander continue the design trend of making strong, compelling cards that aren’t just generically good.  While some of them might send you down specific paths, most are wide-open enough for you to get creative in their uses.  Every one of these new cards designed for Commander is going to see play, but none of them are so overwhelmingly good as to be format-warping—which is exactly where we want the design space to be.  Fine job by lead designer Corey and team.  Now it’s time to get building!

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