Innistrad: Crimson Vow First Impressions: Modern

First Impressions week for Innistrad: Crimson Vow wraps up with Modern. Can any cards from the latest MTG set break through in the big format?

Wash Away, illustrated by Brian Valeza

Welcome back to Innistrad: Crimson Vow First Impressions week!

All week long, various members of the SCG Staff will share their thoughts on the Top 5 Innistrad: Crimson Vow cards in each format. On Monday, we showed our love for Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in Standard. On Wednesday, we sang the praises of Voice of the Blessed in Historic. Today, we’ll close things out with Magic’s most dynamic format — Modern!

To add a little fun to the mix, a scoring system has been put in place so that we can get an idea of what card ranked in what place in the aggregate to close out each article. The scoring system is as follows:

  • 1st — 5 points
  • 2nd — 4 points
  • 3rd — 3 points
  • 4th — 2 points
  • 5th — 1 point

Today we kick things off with the host of Dominaria’s Judgment, Dom Harvey!

Dom Harvey

  1. Blood Fountain
  2. Path of Peril
  3. Ancestral Anger
  4. Lantern of the Lost
  5. Graf Reaver

Blood Fountain Path of Peril Ancestral Anger Lantern of the Lost Graf Reaver

Innistrad: Crimson Vow is a set of role-players, not game-changers. Lantern of the Lost making the list is a perfect illustration of that — it’s not the first version of its effect or conclusively better than Soul-Guide Lantern and Relic of Progenitus, but it’s a useful addition to that roster if you need graveyard hate that meets specific requirements.

Blood Fountain lacks these easy comparisons but may have the most potential of any card in the set. A card pool with mechanics from metalcraft and affinity to improvise is crying out for a one-drop that makes multiple artifacts, and you can find uses for the Blood token as well as Blood Fountain’s actual text later.

Path of Peril may be the elusive three-mana sweeper that you often want in Modern. Bontu’s Last Reckoning showed up as an emergency brake for linear decks like Ad Nauseam but you weren’t happy about it. Path of Peril is ideally suited for a format where the fast creature decks have compressed curves forced upon them by Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Culling Ritual never lived up to the hype, but the difference between three and four mana is gigantic when you want that effect.

Mono-Red Prowess hasn’t been seen in a while, but Crash Through was a staple of that deck and Ancestral Anger is a substantial upgrade there. Hands with several copies of Ancestral Anger can lead to wins out of nowhere that no other single card or combination of cards in the deck could enable.

Graf Reaver is a strong, cheap answer to planeswalkers in a format where Wrenn and Six and Teferi, Time Raveler are everywhere. Note that exploit doesn’t work if the source is removed in response — Solitude or Lightning Bolt can save Graf Reaver’s target — but the synergy with Lurrus and the acceptable fail rate of a 3/3 attacker makes up for that. 

Shaheen Soorani

  1. Blood Fountain
  2. Hullbreaker Horror
  3. Cultivator Colossus
  4. Wash Away
  5. Cemetery Gatekeeper

Blood Fountain Hullbreaker Horror Cultivator Colossus Wash Away Cemetery Gatekeeper

Innistrad: Crimson Vow feels like a slam dunk so far. There are many cards that will automatically see play in Standard, with new archetypes likely created. On top of that, the mana fixing it brings to Historic and Pioneer is going to continue to help build up those formats. In the Modern world, its impact is not that cut and dry. Modern is continuing to speed and power up, making it unlikely that new sets cause a disturbance to the metagame. My Top 5 list for Modern is full of sweet cards that may end up not seeing play due to the format’s high bar for inclusion.

This list has many zingers, with the most boring option coming in at #5. Cemetery Gatekeeper is a Mono-Red Aggro possibility that will jump into the Ankh of Mishra role to punish opponents for making their land drops. Its downfall is its fragile stats, being susceptible to Wrenn and Six, as well as every removal spell in the world. Where it may shine is as a sideboard card, coming in to punish decks that are light on removal and play a heavy land strategy. With those big mana decks still out there, Cemetery Gatekeeper may have a role in the Modern metagame.

The rest of the list has more distinctive designs, starting with a beautiful one-mana counterspell. Wash Away has some strong application against the foretell mechanic in Standard, but that role expands in Modern. Cascade produces some must-answer spells and Wash Away does it unconditionally. At worst, Wash Away turns into the powerful Cancel and prevents a spell from resolving the honest way. As we saw with Mystical Dispute, blue disruption with a cheaper mode attached has a role in competitive play.

The last three are longshots on paper but could be revolutionary if they land.  At the #2 and #3 spot, I put some giant monsters that have tremendous upside if they hit the battlefield. Both can be reanimator targets in very different decks, with Cultivator Colossus requiring a deck full of land to go off and Hullbreaker Horror being the more traditional option. Hullbreaker Horror will prioritize one-mana spells castable at instant speed to protect it on the turn it hits the battlefield. I see myself playing this as a mirror breaker in Azorius Control, as it’s nearly impossible to defeat if the deck contains some minor protections against Solitude for it.

If these two creatures turn out to be a flop, we always have our goofy number one spot to fall back on. Blood Fountain produces two artifacts upon resolution, making it the frontrunner for the Modern format. I instantly thought of my sweet Urza, Lord High Artificer concoctions, versions of which we have seen on the fringe lately. Whir of Invention is still the go-to tutor spell to turn on the Thopter Foundry / Sword of the Meek combo, which Blood Fountain can easily assist with. Even if that build does not pan out, one mana for two artifacts falls directly in the Modern deckbuilding wheelhouse.

Ari Lax

  1. Hullbreaker Horror
  2. Wash Away
  3. Cartographer’s Survey
  4. Voice of the Blessed
  5. Ancestral Anger

Hullbreaker Horror Wash Away Cartographer's Survey Voice of the Blessed Ancestral Anger

Innistrad: Crimson Vow isn’t quite Innistrad: Midnight Hunt in terms of Modern prospects. That set pushed graveyard-enabling cantrips, which are really clear Modern hits. Innistrad: Crimson Vow puts power into weirder stuff, and every possible Modern addition is a bit more speculative.

My first bet is on one of my favorite decks: Esper Reanimator. Hullbreaker Horror is probably a bit behind Archon of Cruelty as a primary reanimation target, but it fits the Persist criteria as a solid backup. I can imagine wanting to Remand your opponent into oblivion with its triggers over some of the other options, and against control decks it’s totally valid to cast this card and leave up an instant to bounce itself as protection.

Wash Away is the safest pick here. It isn’t as assured as Flusterstorm against Temur Crashcade or Living End, but it’s as efficient and is flexible if those decks transition to backup plans of just casting creatures against you.

Cartographer’s Survey is pretty awesome for the various Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle decks in the format. The math works out that if you haven’t found a Valakut by the time you cast Cartographer’s Survey, you’re about a coin flip to find one, and the rest of the time you still ramp towards a Scapeshift or Primeval Titan. I can see it as a powerful two-of or as a full-on four-of plan, cutting these nonsense Wishes people are trying to do things with.

Voice of the Blessed… well… Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Ajani’s Pridemate are both Modern-playable cards. Just one of those obvious things where I’m not excited by the card’s ceiling but it clearly has a home in a lower-tier strategy.

The last card on this list is certainly a long shot, but we aren’t that far off Crash Through seeing regular Modern play. Ancestral Anger is a way more powerful prowess enabler with a pretty high upside on multiples in the same game. Prowess isn’t quite as good as it was before the one-mana removal spells added in Modern Horizons 2, but Ancestral Anger certainly helps boost it back towards the playable tier of the format.

And now, without further ado, the SCG Staff’s Top 5 Innistrad: Crimson Vow cards for Modern are…

T-5. Cartographer’s Survey and Cultivator Colossus — 3 points

Cartographer's Survey Cultivator Colossus

T-4. Path of Peril and Ancestral Anger — 4 points

Path of Peril Ancestral Anger

3. Wash Away — 6 points

Wash Away

2. Hullbreaker Horror — 9 points

Hullbreaker Horror

1. Blood Fountain — 10 points

Blood Fountain

We hope you enjoyed our first impressions on Innistrad: Crimson Vow’s impact on Standard, Historic, and Modern. Be sure to keep your eyes our for our Innistrad: Crimson Vow Exit Interviews right before Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty preview season so you can see how well (or not well!) the SCG Staff did with their initial thoughts on Magic’s newest set.

Until then, grab that net and catch that beautiful butterfly, pal. It’s Innistrad: Crimson Vow time!