Cemetery Prowler Is Howling With Combo Potential In Innistrad: Crimson Vow Standard

Is Cemetery Prowler more than just a good green aggro MTG creature? Bryan Gottlieb makes the case for the Innistrad: Crimson Vow preview as a secret combo enabler.

Cemetery Prowler
Cemetery Prowler, illustrated by Daarken

Cemetery Prowler doesn’t jump off the page as a very “me” card.

Cemetery Prowler

It’s just facially good. Decent rate at 3/4 for three. An underrated keyword in vigilance. Somewhat disruptive enters-the-battlefield ability. Good creature type. A little bit of cost reduction for your top-end threats. Look, here’s a totally reasonable deck featuring good cards.

See what I mean? Cemetery Prowler curving into Volatile Arsonist is almost certainly being slept on right now, and that makes some sense given that Volatile Arsonist will always be outshined by Goldspan Dragon. However, as soon as you add some tribal payoffs to the mix, Volatile Arsonist becomes a battlefield-dominating nightmare, especially since we’ve got the tools to play many of our turns at night.

Possibly even more impactful to the Werewolf tribe is the addition of an honest-to-goodness one-drop. Ascendant Packleader seems like the missing sauce for several green decks given how incentivized they are to work their way up the curve for Esika’s Chariot. This will play bigger than a 2/1 in many situations, and the truth is that any old 2/1 Wolf probably would have satisfied us. Having a one-drop that demands an early answer makes it more likely that our Cemetery Prowlers are able to get the discount for creatures working as soon as they enter the battlefield. That bodes well for Volatile Arsonist’s chances of coming down on Turn 4.

While undeniably powerful, this all feels very pedestrian and not like one of the decks I’d typically invest preview season effort into. There must be some reason I gathered you all here today, right?

Spells you cast cost 1 less to cast for each card type they share with cards exiled with Cemetery Prowler.

While I suspect this will mostly be used to ramp you into larger Werewolves like Volatile Arsonist or allow explosive double-spell turns, I’m more interested in what we can do when we remove those pesky colored mana costs from the equation. That’s right. It’s artifact cost reduction, potentially leading to free spells. That’s a historically breakable pairing. Now we’re finally talking some Bryan-esque nonsense.

Temper your excitement though. I expect the best home for Cemetery Prowler right now is something resembling our first list. “Curve out, disrupt just enough, draw some cards, and play textbook Magic” is hard to get away from in a format defined by expensive game-ending sorceries. It would take a legitimately broken approach to challenge that just by goldfishing or gaining value. If you look at the artifacts (and especially the artifact creatures) legal in Standard right now, it’s truly slim pickings.

That’s fine though. I’m very happy to do some work thinking about what a “broken” Cemetery Prowler deck looks like now, just in case we get a wealth of good colorless options in the future. After all, we do have The Brothers’ War on the horizon, and we know how Urza and Mishra feel about artifacts. Presently, here’s where I am.

Cemetery Prowler may not actually be creating a combo here, but it’s sure making our existing one much smoother. Artifact cost reduction allows this deck to actually start to accumulate value on a turn-to-turn basis by freeing up mana for the powerful activated abilities present here. If you aren’t aware, Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset plus Lithoform Engine plus a mana-generating creature equals infinite life.

Mostly, I wouldn’t worry too much about this. It’s a nice thing to threaten, but the addition of Cemetery Prowler to this shell is finally allowing a deck like this to move towards the multifaceted type of gameplan I love out of my combo decks.

Cemetery Prowler is great on both offense and defense, and it plus Esika’s Chariot will present a completely reasonable clock in many situations. Add in Malevolent Hermit and a bit more countermagic in sideboard games, and maybe this deck actually has the opportunity to kill Alrund’s Epiphany decks before it gets massively outscaled. This is a huge step forward for this type of shell, because you can just outvalue any deck that can’t go over the top of you.

Obviously, the core of this deck is a mana/combo engine centered on Teferi, but that simply doesn’t work if you aren’t also capable of big turns ahead of schedule. That can include keeping up disruption before such a thing should be possible. You don’t have a lot of your own instants to exile, but Cemetery Prowler works on both players’ cards. If you’re able to reduce the cost of your artifacts and your instants, it’s truly impressive how much gameplan advancement you can achieve while keeping your shields up.

I don’t think this is the end of the road for Cemetery Prowler’s combo potential. Something that I was really hoping would be viable is Cemetery Prowler; a deck full of zero-, one-, and two-mana artifact creatures; and Rite of Harmony. Let me save you the Scryfall search on that one — the artifact creatures simply don’t exist at this stage of Standard. Give the format a little be more time to fill out though, and maybe we can find a very silly way to draw our deck, especially if we get an artifact that can produce some mana as part of combo turn. That seems like the type of thing that Play Design knows to keep a tight lid on, but I’ll have my eyes peeled.

“But Bryan, why would I play this over an already existing and very good Mono-Green Aggro❄ deck?”

First off… shhhhhhhhh. Second off, there’s some legitimately good stuff going on here. We’ve still got a reasonable clock pressuring our opponents, but we’re picking up a load of staying power with eight very large creature-lands. By using Jack-o’-Lantern to smooth out our mana despite the wealth of colorless lands, we’re able to leverage Cemetery Prowler to cast our Forsaken Monuments on Turn 4. That’s a game-changing effect and should chain quickly into huge attacks from our creature-lands and easily castable Mascot Exhibitions.

Jack-o'-Lantern Wandering Archaic

Jack-o’-Lantern also facilitates an extremely unexpected splash of Negate and Disdainful Stroke in the sideboard. I’m not going to pretend like Izzet Epiphany doesn’t exist, and all but the most savage attacking decks probably need to splash blue for the necessary disruption.

Speaking of disruption, we’ve also got Wandering Archaic. Simply, Izzet Epiphany must answer this card before they go off. Sure, they can bounce it, but your clock should create pressure that makes that move difficult. When buffed by Forsaken Monument, Wandering Archaic even represents a scary clock. That’s enough of a reason for me to explore this deck a bit, and if it challenges Izzet Epiphany to a substantial degree, it almost certainly has chiseled out some space in the metagame for itself.

Like I said, Cemetery Prowler doesn’t have to do anything flashy to make an impact on Standard. It just does so on its face. However, as the card pool expands, Cemetery Prowler has the potential to be much more than just a solid Wolf. A card with a high floor and an unfathomably powerful ceiling is one to pay attention to from the start, and make sure you’re checking back in on throughout its lifespan.

For Cemetery Prowler, it’s just a matter of time until it shines.