Innistrad: Crimson Vow Commander Set Review

What’s a wedding without the Godfather? Sheldon Menery reviews the latest MTG set for Commander and highlights his top cards from Innistrad: Crimson Vow.

Sigarda’s Summons, illustrated by Nestor Ossandon Leal

It’s the wedding of a(n) (un)lifetime and you’re invited.  Just be careful to make sure you’re on the guest list and not the menu.  Innistrad: Crimson Vow brings us to the nuptials of Olivia Voldaren and Edgar Markov with expected mayhem and unexpectedly fiery wedding crashers. 

What follows is a review for the Innistrad: Crimson Vow main set for Commander.  I’ll be taking a look at the cards by the color as a whole and picking a Top Five for each along with some honorable mentions.  Remember that we’re only looking at things through the Commander lens, so cards there might be cards that are house in other formats but not so spicy in our format and vice versa.  I’ll also be looking at them in terms of Commander’s more casual target demographic as opposed to the high-powered end of the format. 


The white cards seem really spicy for Limited with a good deal of depth in the commons and uncommons.  For Commander, however, there’s not so much in the same spots.  When we get to the rares, however, there’s a bit of sauce. 

Honorable Mention:

Wedding Announcement Faithbound Judge Welcoming Vampire

Cemetery Protector Voice of the Blessed

5. Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr

Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr Katilda's Rising Dawn

Mechanically, I’m a fan of the creatures that disturb into enchantments, even though Katilda is one of the few that makes any Top 5 lists.  You’ll be playing her in an enchantment-heavy deck that makes Spirits, so her power and toughness are going to be strong most of the time.  Flying and lifelink will make her dangerous.  There’s plenty of play here for her to be the commander of a mono-white deck.

4. Savior of Ollenbock

Savior of Ollenbock

I really like the play of Savior of Ollenbock.  It’ll need a little setup to get going, but it’s going to reanimate enough of our things to be worth it.  The big thing is that the trigger which puts the cards back onto the battlefield is a leaves-the-battlefield trigger, not a dies one.

3. Hallowed Haunting

Hallowed Haunting

Enchantress and decks led by Daxos the Returned are going to love Hallowed Haunting.  Once created, the Spirits aren’t dependent on your enchantments—save for those tokens that Daxos creates, which share the tribe.  Hallowed Haunting is the kind of card that will take a deck that’s doing okay in a game and send it into overdrive.

2. By Invitation Only

By Invitation Only

We’re in an era in which we need creative battlefield sweepers, and By Invitation Only is one of them.  It’s great for decks that go wide, especially if they’re battling against ones that go high.  Getting rid of your Plant tokens or whatever else you’ve created a bunch of in order to have opponents sacrifice their larger creatures is all upside.

1. Sigarda’s Summons

Sigarda's Summons

There are so many things that give +1/+1 counters to creatures that you’re going to find value for Sigarda’s Summons across many decks.  One activation of Katilda, Dawnhart Prime will do the trick; suddenly your small creatures are very large.  The aforementioned Plant tokens from Avenger of Zendikar suddenly take to the air and start doing some smashing.  You’re going to find no end of fun to have with Sigarda’s Summons. 


Once again, and as expected, we see the best cards at rare and mythic rare, although we get a couple of uncommons on the honorable mention list.  What blue shows us is that Zombies are viable with a strong blue leaning, but we really still need a heavy commitment to black. 

Honorable Mention:

Jacob Hauken, Inspector Patchwork Crawler Screaming Swarm

Wash Away Biolume Egg

5. Mirrorhall Mimic

Mirrorhall Mimic Ghastly Mimicry

Build-your-own Progenitor Mimic that doesn’t die to a Wrath of God is okay by me.  At its most basic, it’s a Clone (that’s also a Spirit).  Then, when it inevitably dies, you get to copy something different, which is likely better than what you copied since it’s later in the game.  Goodness all around.

4. Geralf, Visionary Stitcher

Geralf, Visionary Stitcher

Cards don’t have to be busted in order to be noteworthy.  What Geralf does is pretty straightforward, although it’s doing it in blue as opposed to black.  Those flying Zombies that you’re going to sacrifice are eventually coming back anyway, since you’re likely playing Geralf as support in your Gisa and Geralf deck.  Big fan of the feel of this card.

3. Overcharged Amalgam

Overcharged Amalgam

At the worst, you can sacrifice Overcharged Amalgam to its own exploit trigger.  You’re likely not going to have to since it’s a Zombie and it’ll have plenty of friends (who are making a return trip to the battlefield in the near future).  The card fills void in some Zombie decks that don’t want to rely on too many spells.

2. Consuming Tide

Consuming Tide

A nicely-costed battlefield sweeper, which is important.  The other players are going to keep their best permanent on the battlefield.  Since you’re playing blue, you have other bounce tricks; the low cost of Consuming Tide lets you cast them on the same turn.  The card draw is just kind of extra delicious gravy.

1. Hullbreaker Horror

Hullbreaker Horror

Sure, the mana cost is prohibitive, but it’s a healthier version of Tidespout Tyrant.  It slots into your sea monster decks, flashes in for combat tricks, and then provides a little soft locking of board states.  Then, of course, it bashes face.  It’s a Timmy card at heart with a touch of Spike thrown in, which is probably why I love it.


Black gets us more deeply into the activities, events, and guests at the wedding.  I haven’t read any of the accompanying fiction, but it really seems like poor Sorin thought that he was the one that would catch Olivia’s eye. 

Honorable Mention:

Path of Peril Headless Rider Falkenrath Forebear

Catapult Fodder Bloodsworn Squire

5. Henrika Domnathi

Henrika Domnathi Henrika, Infernal Seer

A great take on transforming a card, Henrika Domnathi is flexible enough that you can really get some mileage out her.  The beginning of combat trigger doesn’t require her to attack, which is excellent.  Ideally, you’ll get to use all three modes, but sometimes you just need her to become Henrika, Infernal Seer as soon as possible.

4. Sorin the Mirthless

Sorin the Mirthless

All three modes of Sorin the Emo are good.  The -7 ability isn’t so scary as to make people do backflips to get rid of him, but you’ll need a little protection to get there.  The +1 is strong, even in Commander decks with a relatively high average mana cost.  Even if you don’t use the -2 ability, you’ll otherwise have plenty of lifelink and life drain to go around.

3. Dreadfeast Demon

Dreadfeast Demon

Demons have come a long way since Lord of the Pit and I’m here for it.  Play Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder or other appropriate fodder-creators, and you’re going to have a Demon fleet in no time.

2. Cemetery Desecrator

Cemetery Desecrator

We need more Aether Snap (Hex Parasite?) action happening and Cemetery Desecrator is a step in that direction.  It gives you some graveyard hate, which is already good enough.  Then you get the flexibility to wipe out a planeswalker, eat lots of counters off of something (maybe don’t sleep on removing age counters from your own permanent with cumulative upkeep), or wreck a creature.  All in all, very strong, especially considering it’s a Zombie.

1. Toxrill, the Corrosive

Toxrill, the Corrosive

I’m loving that my top cards are all big, expensive creatures.  Harkens me back to the earliest days of the format, when giant monsters ruled the land.  Toxrill staying around is going to start wiping your opponents’ battlefields pretty quickly.  Note that it triggers at the beginning of each end step, so you’ll get value out of it right away.  Play Toxrill with some proliferate action; you’ll be the only one with creatures in very short order.


Although the top three cards in red are quite good, the rest of the color is lackluster save for filling out some of your Werewolf and Vampire decks.  You’ll have to sift through a good deal of ore in order to find the gems. 

Honorable Mention:

Alchemist's Gambit Cemetery Gatekeeper Volatile Arsonist

Dominating Vampire Magma Pummeler

5. Change of Fortune

Change of Fortune

On the surface, it’s sort of a normal “discard your hand/draw that many” effect.  What you want is to draw into Change of Fortune off a Wheel or something similar, maybe with some madness in between.  Then you’ll really fill your hand.

4. Curse of Hospitality

Curse of Hospitality

There’s plenty of play in this card, since there’s an argument for cursing yourself in order to get free cards.  For the most part, I’m still going to enchant an opponent and let them do what they will.  Trample kills people, which means they can be dead before the trigger(s) resolve(s).

3. Olivia’s Attendants

Olivia's Attendants

Someone chump blocks Olivia’s Attendants? You get six Blood tokens (although since it has menace, that’s going to be a little more difficult to get someone to do).  They don’t block? Six tokens.  That’s some pretty nice fuel for your Krark-Clan Ironworks.

2. Ill-Tempered Loner

Ill-Tempered Loner Howlpack Avenger

Werewolf or not, I’d play this Boros Reckoner variant on its front-face merits.  When it’s nighttime, watch out.  One Blasphemous Act and we’re done.  It’ll certainly go into my Tovolar, Dire Overlord Innistrad Plane Constructed deck.  It might even make it into You Did This to Yourself, since I have lots of turns in which I don’t cast spells.

1. Chandra, Dressed to Kill

Chandra, Dressed to Kill

It’s not just the outfit that has me on this Chandra, although it certainly didn’t hurt; the art is stunning.  She’s inexpensive, so dropping her early can lead to that emblem happening.  Once it does, you really are just going to burn everything with fire.  Even if you don’t, her other abilities are +1s anyway, so you’re always moving in that direction. 


Green is pretty saucy all the way through, from the best cards to the tribal fillers to just random stuff.  It probably has the most useful of the poorly named cleave mechanic cards, in Dig Up.  Cleave just isn’t evocative enough for the mechanic; slice might be better, since you’re slicing out text.

Honorable Mention:

Dig Up Wolfkin Outcast Infestation Expert

Dormant Grove Cartographer's Survey

5. Laid to Rest

Laid to Rest

You know who’s a Human? Saffi Eriksdotter.  There are plenty of creatures even outside of tribal builds that’ll make Laid to Rest worth it.  You don’t need to be playing Katilda, Dawnhart Prime or Sigarda, Champion of Light in order to get value out of Laid to Rest, but they’re both good starts.

4. Glorious Sunrise

Glorious Sunrise

In games in which we see Glorious Sunrise, I suspect we’ll most often see the first two modes used.  The first is battle mode, because trample lowers life totals; the second is build mode, in which you want to cast stuff, perhaps after a battlefield sweeper.  The third will sometimes get used in a dire situation in which you’re dead if you don’t draw something.  Possibly it gets used when you don’t have any profitable attacks and don’t have anything you want to cast.  If the final mode ever gets used, someone will have to let me know.

3. Ulvenwald Oddity

Ulvenwald Oddity Ulvenwald Behemoth

It looks like Werewolves aren’t all that transform on Innistrad.  A 4/4 with trample and haste for four mana is already fine.  The (admittedly expensive) ability to give all your creatures +1/+1, trample, and haste puts it into the stratosphere.  The combination of the latter two can be especially lethal.

2. Cemetery Prowler

Cemetery Prowler

Graveyard hate is getting serious these days and it’s taking new forms, like the creatures in this set that can eat stuff when they attack.  Cemetery Prowler making your spells cheaper is an excellent bonus.  On an early turn, you’ll probably find a fetchland or library-digging card from the blue mage.  Later, you’ll take out the big creatures someone will inevitably want to reanimate.  Cemetery Prowler is good beats, especially since in order to prowl, it has to first go through the Cemetery Gates.

1. Cultivator Colossus

Cultivator Colossus

More big monsters making the top spot.  I seriously can’t wait to play stuff from this set.  I love Pelakka Wurm, but at the 4GGG cost, Cultivator Colossus is my new BFF.  The fact that it puts any land onto the battlefield, not just a basic, is a little bonkers.  Add Amulet of Vigor and Kodma of the East Tree for serious hilarity. 


In a set that’s really about the who’s who of wedding guests, the multicolored cards are where the major action is in Innistrad: Crimson Vow.  You’ll see that reflected in some really good cards being relegated to merely honorable mentions. For multicolor, we’re doing a Top 6 because it’s a wedding; you have to make more room for all the guests.

Honorable Mention:

Eruth, Tormented Prophet Odric, Blood-Cursed

Dorothea, Vengeful Victim Kaya, Geist Hunter

6. Grolnok, the Omnivore

Grolnok, the Omnivore

No, we’re not retrofitting Grolnok to have partner with The Gitrog Monster, as cute as that might be.  Grolnok has its own adventures to go on.  You’ll probably want it as the commander instead of in the 99 since that’ll always give you access to the stuff in exile.  It’s the croak counters that matter, regardless whether or not Grolnok has left the battlefield and returned.

5. Torens, Fist of the Angels

Torens, Fist of the Angels

You had me at Fist of the Angels.  Whether Torens is leading the deck or supporting other Human tribal efforts, you’re casting creature spells.  What’s really neat about all your creatures having training is that everyone just gets bigger every combat.  It’s like Cathars’ Crusade without all the bookkee…oh, never mind.

4. Old Rutstein

Old Rutstein

I want to say more about this card than just scream I’m jamming it into Old Stickfingers!!! but that also somehow seems like enough.  I can see Old Rutstein at the helm of a compelling dredge or reanimator deck.  Also, don’t forget your World Shaper.

3. Olivia, Crimson Bride

Olivia, Crimson Bride

This card does what I want, bringing my creatures back from the grave to live and battle again.  With a few zero- or low-cost sacrifice outlets, like Goblin Bombardment or Altar of Dementia, we can make sure that the creatures don’t get exiled on the off-chance we don’t have some version of Olivia on the battlefield.

2. Edgar, Charmed Groom

Edgar, Charmed Groom Edgar Markov's Coffin

This card is so full of theme that it almost hurts.  Again, untransformed it’s a fine Vampire lord at a reasonable cost.  Then we get into the “Edgar must sleep” part, create some mini-Vampires, and he’ll eventually wake up.  Beautifully creative design.

1. Halana and Alena, Partners

Halana and Alena, Partners

The first sentence is good; the second makes it great.  It’s a little tougher to build up counters on something when you’re making the new things hasty, but Halana and Alena want to spread the love.  They can’t target themselves, but there are plenty of good ways to make them larger.  And not for nothing, representation matters. 

Artifacts and Lands

There are so few total of both of these, we’ll head straight into the Top 3 after making special mention of the cycle of slowlands:  Deathcap Glade, Dreamroot Cascade, Shattered Sanctum, Stormcarved Coast, and Sundown Pass.  And those sweet full-art creepy basics.

3. Honored Heirloom

Honored Heirloom

Dear friends in Studio X:  Yes and thank you.  Please continue to make three-mana rocks that do other stuff.  Sincerely, a bunch of Commander players.

2. Foreboding Statue

Foreboding Statue Forsaken Thresher

Previous statement is reiterated.  I wonder if this one might have come from Adventures in the Forgotte Realms design.  Everyone in an adventuring party knows not to mess with the statue.  Another great design, regardless of when it happened.

1. Wedding Invitation

Wedding Invitation

I’m a fan of cheap artifacts that draw a card when they enter the battlefield and can cheaply sacrifice themselves.  They go in my Glissa, the Traitor deck.  You don’t need Glissa to get some mileage out of this Wedding Invitation, though.  “Can’t be blocked” is some powerful stuff, especially when commanders are involved.

I have to be honest, I’ve been over Vampires as a tribe for a while now.  I get that they’re extremely popular, but I feel like they’ve been too easy for designers to fall back on.  All that Vampire ennui has gone right out the stained-glass window with Innistrad: Crimson Vow.  Even if I go back to Vampires boring me at some point in the near future, for now I’m all-in on being ready to play with the friends and enemies of Olivia and Edgar. 

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