Welcome back to part three of my look into the best Commander cards in Crimson Vow. If you missed my last parts, you can find all the links below!
As a reminder, my focus is on social Commander rather than competitive EDH. These days, I’ve been leaning more toward a desire to play three 40-minute games in lieu of one two-hour slog, but I’ll be talking about cards from the wider social perspective. My goal when playing Commander is for everyone to have fun but also for me to have a good shot at winning the game – or at least doing the thing my deck set out to do – so if that’s your mindset as well, these reviews will probably resonate with you. I won’t be reviewing reprints, so you can just assume I feel the same way about Thalia, Guardian of Thraben as I did before we found out it was in this set. I also don’t review every card – if I feel they’re not worth mentioning, I don’t give them a write-up, but we all know there’s a deck out there for every card. When you inevitably disagree with a review (or think I skipped something good), please feel free to tweet at @RagingLevine with your thoughts!
Oh, and one more thing – if I don’t mention a card that has one of the set’s core mechanics, then I probably don’t think much of it outside of a deck that’s laser-focused on that mechanic over all else.
For just one mana, this is a decent early game play that grows later in the game. Without trample and given the restrictions, though, this doesn’t really stack up to threats like Managorger Hydra.
This is a solid high-end card for Werewolf decks, of course, but +1/+1 counter decks can consider this hard-to-kill enabler that adds a decent number of counters each turn as a solid inclusion as well. If you do happen to transform it into Hollowhenge Huntmaster, which may honestly be worth taking a turn off to do, the payoff is absolutely ridiculous. I’m excited to play against this every match or two during the prerelease because that’s just how reality seems to shape itself.
I’m mostly mentioning this because of the graveyard ability – it’s not an amazing card, but I’m sure some budget life gain decks could be interested something like this. That said, Pelakka Wurm is already pretty cheap.
After a conversation with a friend of mine, I’ve been thinking more about Commander decks that don’t involve any shuffling whatsoever. If you’re looking for the Explosive Vegetation of that universe, well, this is honestly it. Assuming your 99-card deck has 38 lands and you somehow draw and cast only this for free in some sort of math vacuum, you have an 83.5 percent chance of hitting at least two lands and a 97.2 percent chance of hitting at least one. This works very specifically because it doesn’t ask for basic lands – any land will do, which is kind of a big deal here.
Getting the exile trigger when it attacks means it should be fairly trivial to get most of your cards discounted by one, and when you combine the graveyard hate with the deal on mana, this is a decent midrange creature for decks that want generically good cards. It’s not flashy, but discounts usually play better than they look, right?
Ooh, sneaky! I like getting cards from putting counters down, and since the Human and +1/+1 themes seem to intersect so much these days, this could be great in Kyler, Katilda or Leinore decks. Since you only get one trigger per turn, combine this Metal Gear Solid 3 boss with instant-speed counter-adders like Mikaeus, the Lunarch or flash creatures and instant-speed token generators to trigger cards like Juniper Order Ranger.
A reflection of Crawling Sensation that triggers on creatures instead of lands? Definitely interesting, particularly in decks featuring Grist, the Hunger Tide or otherwise wanting to mill creatures with something like Syr Konrad. It also triggers when your nontoken creatures die, so if you’re sacrificing something like Reassembling Skeleton on multiple players’ turns, this could easily net you three tokens per turn cycle.
Is… is this really necessary? While it doesn’t actually go infinite with a bounceland (since the trigger is one continuous unit of doing stuff and doesn’t stop to let other things resolve, to put it simply) it does play well with cards that put lands into your hand, like Land Tax or various kinds of Moonfolk. Following up a Nylea’s Intervention with this sounds pretty darn powerful too. The thing is, though, it’s just not that hard to make this card good.
This card is cute, but I don’t see spending that much mana on a Demonic Tutor as a good value proposition, even if it has a second mode. After all, that second mode isn’t great either.
I’m kind of underwhelmed by this one. All of the effects seem fairly mediocre for five mana, and even when you consider the idea that you get to pick your poison each turn, I’m still not that impressed with the deal. Three life? Some extra mana? An effect that leans much closer to Primal Rage than Overrun? Unless I get one of those crazy Shark Tank deals like 51 percent of the company for twenty bucks, I’m out on this one.
It’s not too hard to imagine this as a turn three 5/5, which starts me thinking about Humans as a fast-moving aggressive deck that, while not quite on par with something like Elves, could easily benefit from a Gaea’s Cradle and take over a table really quickly. Imagine turn one Champion of the Parish, turn two Thalia, turn three Hamlet Vanguard – that’s a board to worry about.
Hey, it’s domain! You can get some Rampant Growths out of the attack trigger, with the end result being “5G: Make a 6/6 Insect.” That seems pretty fun, but it might be easier just to play some Triomes and then activate this. Six mana is a lot, meaning you won’t be casting too much else each turn, but that means you can focus on the on-board threat generation and hold back some goodies in case this gets killed.
If you’re having trouble getting your Werewolves past countermagic, this is a great solution. Plus, if you just activate this a few times to put Werewolves into play, you can have a great turn and still not cast anything, allowing you to flip day to night and access the more powerful sides of your creatures. Plus, when this turns into Wildsong Howler, you get to (probably) draw a creature card!
Laid to Rest
The life gain is nice, but the big get here is the card draw – protecting your Human-focused deck from wrath effects is important, and you won’t always have something like Heroic Intervention in your hand to protect your board. It also works if you’re looking to play at a lower power level than decks with lots of straight-up wrath protection.
I’m just here to talk about how there’s a big snail in the art of this card. Guess I’ll have to ask Iris Compiet about prints or sketches. What a cute snail.
I love this take on Werebear, but outside of a Druid deck, I’m not sure there’s much reason to play this.
Three mana for two cards from my graveyard? Sure, they both have to be permanents, but this feels like a pretty good deal to me. Cards like Restock and Seeds of Renewal cost quite a bit more, so I’ll probably try this out in permanent-heavy decks and see what kind of value I can get.
The front side has okay stats, but if you can turn it into the Behemoth… oh dear. I’ve been clear on my feelings on +1/+1 and trample by themselves, but when you add in haste and, you know, an 8/8 trample haste creature, things change pretty darn fast, don’t they? If your group or wallet aren’t interested in Craterhoof Behemoth, this oddity might become the new normal.
Given that this will usually cost 3G in a Werewolf deck (and where else would you play it, really?) this is a solid deal, and when you get to night, the card draw ability lets you attack with impunity and worry a lot less about mass removal. Isn’t that what every aggressive deck wants?
This limited signpost uncommon is a nice backup plan for Doran decks and other toughness-focused desk that probably include a lot of Treefolk. Speaking of Treefolk, it’s nice to be able to grab this with Treefolk Harbinger. It’s nice that this only applies to creatures you control that actually want it, but the fact that it doesn’t apply to opposing creatures is actually kind of a bummer.
Anje, Maid of Dishonor
Hey, here’s our Blood commander! Clearly intended to be a Vampire commander as well, Anje lets you sneak in Blood tokens on opponents’ turns too as long as you can make Vampires. Being able to drain opponents with your Blood is great, but you can stretch the Blood further with cards like Disciple of the Vault, Marionette Master and Reckless Fireweaver.
A decent low-cost Vampire to add to Anje – not much more to say about this one.
Dorothea, Vengeful Victim
It’s a Geist of Saint Traft token that turns into a Geist of Saint Traft Aura! That’s pretty cool, but I’m not sure this wants to be your commander. I think it’s a fun card to play in a Spirit deck, at least, especially since the tokens it makes are actually Spirits rather than the original Geist’s Angels.
Edgar, Charmed Groom
This looks like an Orzhov Vampires commander or just a piece of the puzzle in Mardu. It’s not that interesting on the front side, just being a lord, but when it dies, it sits around, generates a couple of tokens, and threatens to come back some day in the far, far future. Overall, a fun and flavorful card, but it’s unlikely to get into too many decks that are looking for a high power level.
Eruth, Tormented Prophet
Do you like to just take one big turn? This seems like a really fun storm commander that just lets you go off really hard with cantrips. You can lean in with lots of cheap draw and then dodge Eruth’s ability with cards like Pore Over the Pages and Peer Through Depths that seek out cards without actually drawing them. Cards like Grafted Skullcap and Curse of Obsession give you another possible direction of “forget this hand of cards, let me just blast off.” Fair warning to my friends: I’m building this and I’m not sorry about what you’re about to discard to my Burning Inquiry.
Grolnok, the Omnivore
Not counting Grolnok, there are (at the time of this writing) 22 Commander-legal Frogs in Simic, and that doesn’t count changelings. Sure, most of them are pretty terrible, but some of them are Spore Frog and Froghemoth! You don’t actually need too many Frogs to make Grolnok work – just some self-mill cards and a dream. You can’t play non-permanent spells using Grolnok, but Tome Scouring yourself still sounds a lot like Ancestral Recall here, doesn’t it?
Halana and Alena, Partners
I think it would be fun, thematically, to play this in a deck using Halana and Alena from CMR as partner commanders, but realistically this is a pretty fun Commander. I’d include Bloodsworn Steward and Guardian Augmenter alongside cheap power-pumping Equipment like Commander’s Plate, Hero’s Blade and probably even Embercleave to do two things: first, make Halana and Alena a commander damage threat, and second, power up other creatures as backup win cons. Combine with Xenagos, God of Revels for lots of doubling fun!
Kaya, Geist Hunter
Appreciators of the BW Tokens archetype will love this incarnation of Kaya. Tokens love to have deathtouch when they attack, so the +1 fits right in, and if you’re generating a new token army, the -2 obviously gets you where you’re going as a backup Anointed Procession. Finally, the -6 doesn’t necessarily win the game on the spot, but it does create a formidable force that opponents will be pretty much required to deal with.
Another Limited signpost uncommon that, in Commander, will feature as a low-power life gain payoff. It’s no Dawn of Hope, and it only triggers on your own turn, but it’s not totally terrible, and at least it has lifelink itself.
Callbacks are sweet, so Odric caring about all of these different abilities is exciting, but the small number of Blood payoffs makes it hard for me to imagine building around this. Great, I have lots of Blood to go with my wacky creatures. Now what?
This is fun, but attaching a Druidic Satchel effect to my Commander means I’m paying three mana and a card for an occasional small effect. I don’t think this card does enough to merit building around on its mechanical merits, but it’s a fun and interesting effect to play around with in a lower-power environment.
Olivia, Crimson Bride
Returning other legendary Vampires with Olivia seems like a great redundancy scheme, and I think building a deck that dumps a chunk of cards into the graveyard, powers out Olivia with some mana rocks, and then tries to go to town with some big reanimation targets sounds like a ton of fun. As a reminder, the list of legendary Vampires legal in this color combination is decently deep (25 besides Olivia) and includes some heavy hitters like The Haunt of Hightower, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and the surprisingly on-theme Drana, the Last Bloodchief. Of course, there’s also Irini Sengir.
I’m a sucker for any commander that creates a good home for Quest for Ula’s Temple, and it’s not too hard to get an appropriate creature on top of your library – you have options ranging from Vampiric Tutor to Liliana Vess that let you search your library and, of course, just Brainstorm effects to put one from your hand into the right place. Attacking with Krothuss and copying Stormtide Leviathan, Inkwell Leviathan or, hilariously, Junk Winder a couple of times sounds pretty fun to me.
Torens, Fist of the Angels
I love the idea of flooding the board with 1/1 training tokens as long as I don’t think too hard about the bookkeeping. Torens encourages you to play high-power creatures that let your trainees grow and maximize their potential, so cards like Yorvo that grow with your tokens are pretty good. Kyler loves seeing all these Humans come into play, which makes Kyler decks a great home for Torens, but Torens can run the show himself with the support of creatures like Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, Champion of Lambholt and of course, Mentor of the Meek.
If you’re trying to do Simic self-mill shenanigans, this is a decently-powered payoff for creature-heavy lists. It’s not game-breaking, but it contributes to your continuous milling and threatens to swarm opponents, which may make it worth including.
Dollhouse of Horrors
Well, this is a weird card. That said, if you’re looking to reanimate creatures for their abilities, ETB or otherwise, this is a solid way to do so, and turning them into Constructs lets them synergize with each other and other artifacts. I think there’s fun to be had dumping creatures into your yard, bringing them back with this, and then untapping the Dollhouse and reusing it a bunch thanks to its low-costed activation. Feldon might like this, though I might want to throw Pull from Eternity onto Isochron Scepter to reuse some of the creatures. Is it finally time to start doing Mirror of Fate stuff? Of course, I’ll have to find ways to reuse the Mirror, like creating token copies while it’s on the board or reusing it with Osgir.
A decent three-cost rock that also hates out graveyards in a pinch. Fun!
This is a really cool card draw tool that can fit into many decks. You can throw it in a token-heavy deck and ensure that there will be plenty of suspects, or you can rely on opponents – either way, it seems solid. It’s even a Clue and might therefore fit into Clue-based decks as well.
Lantern of the Lost
Hey, it’s another Relic of Progenitus, but it nabs a card on the way in instead of having the tap ability. If you don’t need to tick away at graveyards with the tap ability, this might actually be better than Relic a lot of the time. I’ll be trying it in Relic’s place and seeing if the swap matters.
Enemy Slowland Cycle
I’m glad to see this cycle complete, as these lands are fantastic for Commander.
If you can get the Blood ability down to being free, which Edgar Markov can do in a heartbeat (heh), this seems like a sweet piece of the Blood puzzle that also fixes your mana. Even the new Anje wants this in her two-color paradigm. It’s not overly powerful, but it is a nice way to augment the Blood theme.
That’s all for the cards that appear in the main set – I’ll be back very, very soon with a review of all the cards from the Commander part of the set, including new cards in the decks as well as the cards that show up only in Set and Collector Boosters.
Eric Levine, also known as RagingLevine, is an accomplished Magic Judge, having head judged many Grand Prix events as well as the Mythic Championship. He's been writing about Commander since 2012 and enjoys building casual, fun decks to play with friends after long days at tournaments.