Hey folks! I hope you enjoyed part one of look at the best Crimson Vow Commander cards. Part two will cover all the cards from the Commander portion of the set, which means the new cards in the preconstructed decks as well as the new card that show up only in Set and Collector Boosters. I’ll be presenting them in order of collector number just so I don’t get confused, so hopefully that’s not too jarring. One exception, though: I’ll put partnered Commanders together because they’re really one unit existentially. That should only cause two little hiccups, so don’t worry too much about it.
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.
If you’re looking to go wide with Spirit tokens, let Millicent do the work. You’ll want to play tons of nontoken Spirits, but make sure you keep them low on the curve so Millicent can come down early. I’m thinking a lot of the Spirits that see 60-card Constructed play will be good, so if you used to cast cards like Spectral Sailor, Mausoleum Wanderer and Selfless Spirit in tournaments, you’re ready for Millicent. Throw in a Bygone Bishop to help refill your hand as well as plenty of Spirit lords like Supreme Phantom and you’re in business already.
Strefan, Maurer Progenitor
I like using Blood to summon more Vampires, both thematically and mechanically. I’m not sure if Strefan is better in an Anje deck or vice versa, but the two definitely pair well together. You’ll want to keep your hand nice and full, so make sure to include some of the stronger black card draw spells like Night’s Whisper and Read the Bones so that Strefan has cards to sneak into play. What should you sneak in, though? High-cost Vampires with serious effects like Necropolis Regent, Butcher of Malakir and Patron of the Vein all come to mind, and there’s more where those came from.
Donal, Herald of Wings
This could be an exciting commander for flying tribal, with cards like Cloudfin Raptor and Faerie Miscreant really benefiting from the copy while Cloud of Faeries becomes pretty silly. That said, it’s not too hard to imagine the power of this in a Spirits deck – a pair of Drogskol Captains is the classic example, but if you step outside the Spirit mold, there are so many cantripping flyers it’ll make your head spin. Evoke Mulldrifter with this in play to draw four (no, you don’t get to keep the 1/1 Spirit Mulldrifter, because the spell gets copied, not the creature, and it copies the choice to evoke). As with so many powerful triggers recently, this is a once-per-turn deal, so be ready with some flash nonsense.
Timothar, Baron of Bats
First off, I love the flavor – you didn’t kill that Vampire, they turned into a Bat and flew away! Timothar’s ward ability gives him a little boost in the resilience department, which is nice as I think he’s a pretty powerful supportive creature for someone like Anje, Maid of Dishonor. After all, Anje wants Vampires entering the battlefield, so if they turn into Bat tokens and then sneak back onto the battlefield later, that’s more blood for you!
Since most Azorius Spirit decks want to go wide with lots of tokens, it’s not hard to imagine attacking the whole table or at least having spare tokens to send at two opponents while shoving the larger part of your forces at a single priority target – a solid +3/+3 to the team sounds like a great deal for just four mana. It also makes an interesting piece for Boros or Jeskai Spirits decks that want to rely on damage-based wraths like Blasphemous Act.
Okay, hear me out – is it time for Wrath tribal? Probably not, but imagine this as your main creature generation engine. Sounds kind of terrible, but also entertaining, but also definitely terrible. That said, if you know you’ll be up against a sacrifice deck or just want to find ways to benefit from the death and destruction you plan to bring about, this is a fun option, if a bit unimpressive on power level.
Priest of the Blessed Graf
If you’re the only nongreen player, a three mana creature that pumps out two or three tokens a turn is no slouch. Depending so heavily upon the unkindness of strangers makes me a little wary of the card in general, but I do like these catch-up cards conceptually.
Rhoda, Geist Avenger/Timin, Youthful Geist
There’s some weird nonsense to be done here with Faces of the Past, changelings and a sacrifice outlet for sure. Throwing an Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor into the mix sounds like a fun (and vexing) option, and if you’re really into causing psychic damage to your playgroup, try Sands of Time.
For some more vanilla options, Thoughtweft Gambit will turn this into a commander damage death machine pretty quickly, and of course, Verity Circle belongs in the mix as well. The Rhoda/Timin deck looks like it cares a lot more about Rhoda in general, and I think these work better in the command zone than in your main deck.
Storm of Souls
This reminds me of Rally the Ancestors despite not being instant, mostly because it makes me want to return a pile of value creatures to the battlefield only to re-sacrifice them. After all, if their stat lines are going to be neutralized by this spell, we should be gaining value on an alternate axis, right?
Bringing back army-in-a-can cards like Cloudgoat Ranger and Geist-Honored Monk alongside Mulldrifter, Phyrexian Rager, Ravenous Chupacabra and other ETB all-stars sounds like a great idea to me, and I can’t imagine decks that use Sefris, Tormod or other commanders that send creatures to and from the graveyard regularly complaining about this (yes, you’ll have to partner Tormod with someone who brings the white color identity).
I’m not super concerned about the card draw clause here from a power level perspective, but it does encourage you to have more fun with this card, which I appreciate. You can bring back some low-power things opponents control after a wrath to draw some cards while getting back your best creature simultaneously, thus making sure you’re well ahead on the value equation and the board presence calculation. Alternatively, just use this as a mega-Brought Back, though I think Brought Back is the better proposition if that’s what you’re after generally.
Breath of the Sleepless
Remember all those once per turn triggers? Yeah, get ready to subvert them with Breath of the Sleepless. Not only does it bring in some of Innistrad’s classic geist trickery in the tapping (hi, Rhoda!), it also adds some extra dimension to cards like Karmic Guide, Dungeon Geists and even Mausoleum Wanderer.
All those movies and TV shows about ghosts investigating their own deaths have now been condensed into card form! Okay, maybe there aren’t as many of these as I’m vaguely claiming, but this card seems great.
I like abilities that care about the number of opponents you have from a thematic standpoint, since this marks these cards as “largely for Commander” while still allowing them to do things in other multiplayer formats. The Investigator incentivizes you to crack a Clue on your own turn for an extra Spirit, which is fun. This could end up in Lonis decks or other Clue-focused lists, but more aggressively focused Spirit decks might pass on this.
The “return to hand” clause is nice, but let’s think about power level for a second here. Unless you’ve convinced your opponents to stack their libraries with creatures at the top via some other effect (a cleverly timed Scheming Symmetry, perhaps?) you’re likely only able to control your own library.
The most important thing to do, then, is to put a creature with powerful ETB effects or a solid static ability on top of your deck and hope your opponents’ decks bear fruit as well. If we assume most decks have about 25 creatures, you’re not looking at great odds here. That said, if you do the work to manipulate libraries, this card becomes a really fun story as soon as it resolves.
If you’re playing a deck full of disturb/flashback/otherwise graveyard relevant cards, you can turn what appears to be negative cards on its face into something much more powerful. That said, you’re going to max out realistically somewhere around three or four Spirits per cast, so hopefully you have some additional triggers set up on drawing and/or discarding cards – Rielle seems like a fun option, with Lazotep Chancellor lining up somewhere in the back to say “Hey, remember me?”
Spooky Snapcaster that costs two more mana and has no flash has one serious upside: the spell is free. With Breath of the Sleepless on the battlefield, this starts to make Torrential Gearhulk look like the Spectral Arcanist we have at home. It’s not that hard to make a ton of Spirit tokens, especially with all the new tools in Innistrad: Crimson Vow and its commander offshoot, so recasting something with mana value five or less doesn’t seem like that much of a reach.
Slamming this down and then just moving to right click → attack all with no fear whatsoever seems like the base case for this card. As long as you have enough Vampires on the battlefield to make something interesting happen with the deathtouch, the lifelink should make the attack fairly free even if you end up leaving yourself totally wide open. And if your Vampires do happen to die, well, you can spend quite a bit of that life drawing a totally new hand. Six mana is a lot, of course, but as high drops for Vampire decks go, this is among the best.
Gee, another card that wants us to attack with our Vampires. What a surprise! Between this and the new Anje, getting up to a lucky 13 Blood doesn’t seem terribly hard (though remember both triggers are fairly restrictive), but keeping this around as a token generator for a while first could be reasonable as well. Strefan should be excited about this as well, as you’re rewarded for going wide with attacks by both Strefan and the Heart, but that requires a much more delicate balance between Vampires large and small, whereas Anje just wants to flood the board.
Kamber, the Plunderer/Laurine, the Diversion
In the universe where, instead of Ask/Guess culture, we (for some awful reason) discuss Plunderer/Diversion culture, I am 100 percent a Diversion, though I no longer have hair on my head that can be dyed fun colors. Alas. I’ve toyed with building a goad deck before, using cards like Karazikar, but I think Kamber and Laurine might actually get me to do it. It might be too similar to my Juri deck, but that’s just how things go.
Regardless of all this meta-discussion, I think Kamber does a good job of fueling Laurine’s goad ability once you get things going, but you’ll probably want alternative token generators to go along with Kamber. Goblins could be an answer here, but I think some combination of Treasure and Food sounds right. Revel in Riches allows you to keep goading away, and a well-placed Xorn couldn’t hurt, right? Also, this partnered pair is starting to turn my “please don’t print Academy Manufactor II: Blood Edition” opinion around a little…
With all the subtlety floating around, here’s a blunt instrument! Vampire Wrath is going to end a lot of games for Edgar and Anje decks that just fill the board. I’m quite happy to see tribal decks get some serious design energy put into them, especially ones that will help introduce new players to Commander via current set releases, but this might end up being a scourge that deletes fun courtesy of otherwise lower-powered Vampire lists.
More fuel for the “play other peoples’ cards” fire! Menace adds a lot here, as it allows you to get through much more easily. This card looks like a lot of fun even before it’s combined with redundant pieces like Rogue Class, and I think a Rogues deck could have a lot of fun with this one with their existing ability to sneak on through augmented by menace.
Okay, this is one of the weird ones. Madness 2B and eight life? I suppose you’re going to gain a decent amount of that back, and there aren’t exactly a ton of Crackling Doom-style effects around, making this a coveted-if-niche effect. I think temporary reanimation effects like Makeshift Mannequin are going to be some of the more fun ways to get extra value out of this effect without having to go through with all the “paying a fifth of your life total” of the madness, but at the same time, Anje Falkenrath is not going to complain about this.
Turn all of your Blood tokens into … Bloodsplitters (do newer players know about Bonesplitter? Probably not). The fact that this throws a couple of Blood swords onto the battlefield when it comes in makes it palatable from a value perspective, and Anje, Maid of Dishonor reads a lot different when every Vampire shows up armed to the pointy teeth. Between this and other Blood generators, you get to sort of build your own Bloodforged Battle-Axe, and we know that card has done some silly things.
As long as you’re breaking parity either on current cards in hand or commander mana value, this card seems exciting, though most commanders these days cost enough that this will put a serious amount of cards into opponents’ hands. That said, if you play against a lot of people with small partner commanders, this could be fun, but the power level at five mana just isn’t quite there for me on its own.
Hey, it’s another six mana Vampire! I don’t know if Vampires needed their own Thorn Mammoth, especially not one that generates so much Blood, but throwing this into a deck with Glass-Cast Heart and other ways to generate Vampire tokens at instant speed is a recipe for repeat removal. And it’s definitely not a shame about the Blood.
Interesting to see the “without mana abilities” clause – that’s new and will require some work on the part of new players to understand sometimes, but I think it’s going to be pretty cool from a design perspective. You can’t just blow up all the Signets on the battlefield because you want to slow down resource generation, but all of the utility artifacts are fair game! I can’t wait to turn this into a bat with Timothar and then bring it back to destroy the artifacts yet again. Yikes.
Scion of Opulence
And here we have my favorite of all the Vampires because it mentions Treasure tokens. The fact that this gives you both mana (in Treasure form) and access to more cards is pretty ridiculous, and if you’re playing cards like Kamber or Olivia’s Attendants to get more Blood, well, it shouldn’t be hard to keep the pseudo-draw ability flowing.
Disorder in the Court
Aside from being hilarious, this is an amazing boon for a blink deck, albeit one that does bring the creatures back tapped. The Clues are absolutely not an afterthought, as they represent quite a lot of card advantage! You can also use this to mire your opponent’s board in bureaucracy for a bit and reap the rewards via Clues and tapping them out. The flexibility of this card is what helps it squeak by, since the cost to make it work is going to be pretty high mana-wise most of the time.
Another card that favors fun over function, Sinister Waltz is not the best way to pull off double-reanimation in terms of power level. That said, when the die roll goes in your favor, it does make the victory that much sweeter, doesn’t it? I’m sure there are a few three-card piles where you can guarantee victory somehow, but since this card seems to want you to have fun via randomness, I’ll leave that exercise to the reader.
Soulbond is back! Well, I suppose Innistrad is the place for that, since that’s its plane of origin. If the Seraph dies and it’s paired, you get to bring it back and then decide whether you want to pair it with something else, which is a fun way to reset its bond. Waiting until your next upkeep means fewer sacrifice-related shenanigans, so pair this with something you want to stay in play. Something like… your commander, perhaps.
I like the concept of kind of soulbonding with another player and sharing draws and life gain, especially when you know they’ll draw more cards on their turn than you will on yours, but I also don’t look forward to some bad faith interactions that will be generated by this card in games where players don’t know each other well. Don’t use this card’s greater context as an excuse to be a jackass, folks, and if you see that behavior, call it out if you’re able (that’s my general advice for jackassery of this nature).
Whoa, toughness-based mill! Obviously something like Phenax lets us just tap things for a commensurate amount of mill, but I’d be very much amused if I could pair this with Charix. Of course, just attacking with this and another 1/4 paired with it mills everyone for eight, which sounds a lot better with Bruvac in play. This won’t survive combat in the mid-to-late game, though, at least not without help. Slagwurm Armor, anyone?
I look forward to just pairing this with an unending stream of Ball Lightning-style creatures and turning three mana into six cards (or similar) over and over again. Obviously that’s a lot of work and involves this six mana 1/8, but this card looks like a lot of fun, so, worth it! Now where’s my copy of Lightning Skelemental?
I’m so glad the copies don’t have soulbond. If you have a creature that just wants to enter the battlefield every combat, this is a great way to make that happen. Combat Celebrant lets you go wild, of course, but there’s plenty of fair fun to be had with this card.
Hey, remember Runebound Wolf? Yeah, Hollowhenge Overlord has just joined the team. Flash this in before your turn, create a ton of Wolves, and deal tons of damage. Of course, you can just attack with the Wolves too, and with something like Arlinn, Voice of the Pack around to pump up the Wolves as they enter along with, ideally, something to give them haste, you’ll be crushing life totals in no time.
I love the idea of pairing this with something like Fathom Mage or Scurry Oak, and obviously this makes a great friend for Simic Ascendancy. Imagine combining it with Herd Baloth – any time an opponent casts a spell, you get a 4/4 and both creatures grow! You can really frustrate opponents with Sharktocrab too.
Umbris, Fear Manifest
I love the flavor of this card – the longer the game goes, the more cards go missing from your library, which is evoking kind of an otherworldly madness here. As the walls start to close in, the fear increases! There’s a surprising number of Nightmares and Horrors around, with cards like Ravenous Chupacabra, Doom Whisperer and Chasm Skulker leading the pack, so it shouldn’t be too hard to terrify opponents into death by library.
Okay, that’s it! Next week we’ll get into some precon power-ups, but for now, that’s all from me!
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.