Welcome to my review of the best Crimson Vow Commander cards! Not even two months between Standard-legal sets? Crazy. That said, as a Commander player, I don’t mind more cards, so bring on Innistrad: Crimson Vow! As far as ratings go, I don’t use numbers or grades, and I used to use a subjective set of categories. That said, after many years of using those categories, I’ve started to find that they don’t really serve the purpose I hoped. That means I’ll be setting those categories aside for this review and seeing how that goes – I’d love to hear what you think about that.
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.
We’re starting out hot with a really interesting modular wrath! Sacrifice dodges indestructibility and regeneration, but this can’t go wide enough to delete a whole token army. That said, if you’re the owner of the token army, you can be a little more selective about what you keep than if you cast something like Hour of Revelation or Austere Command while still probably wiping everyone else’s boards. You can also go off pretty hard with Mayhem Devil, It That Betrays or Tergrid, God of Fright, so there’s some fun combo potential.
It’s a shame that putting lands into play doesn’t trigger the second ability or it would go great in a Selesnya Landfall deck – since it’s only playing lands, it’s certainly a little weaker. That said, in a creature-heavy go-wide token deck, this could be okay if you exile a creature. It’s nice to be able to flash this in as a response to reanimation, but I’m not over the moon about this one.
The front side is a little bit of a deal on rate once it gets enough judgment counters, but not enough of a deal to be super excited about. The back side, though, is really amusing. It’s not particularly powerful, but it does put a three-turn Sword of Damacles over a player. Want to create a weird standoff? Cast Fractured Identity on this (don’t actually do that if you want to win the game). That said, creating copies of Sinner’s Judgment to put on all your opponents with cards like Clever Impersonator or Copy Enchantment could be fun.
Seven enchantments is a high bar to reach, and I don’t think the payoff is necessarily commensurate with the work you need to do. That said, if you’re looking for a friend to go with Sigil of the Empty Throne as a way to create a board in Enchantress-style lists, this feels a little worse than Archon of Sun’s Grace but potentially better than Ajani’s Chosen.
This isn’t quite Nullmage Shepherd for +1/+1 counter decks since the ability does cost mana to activate, but it’s still a useful way to throw a utility effect into your deck without compromising creature count too much or adding creatures that don’t work with your theme. The fact that this has training and can grow along with your board and thus power its own ability is a huge boon, and having the Human type lets it fit into another niche of +1/+1 counter decks as well.
Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr
This was our preview card here at CFB, and I had the privilege of writing our preview article about it! Check that out for an extended take. Here’s the short version: I think this could be a cool, if not super powerful, commander for a mono-White Spirits/Enchantments dual-theme list, but I think it probably shines best in UW or RW Spirit decks as a member of the 99.
Decks that want to generate tokens and gain life could be interested in this. If you’re playing cards like Dawn of Hope and Well of Lost Dreams in the same deck list, Lantern Flare can be the connection point between the two, leveraging your token generators in a way that lets you use your life gain payoffs. It’s particularly good with payoffs that care about the amount of life you gain! You do need to have red in your commander’s color identity for this, though.
Savior of Ollenbock
You can use the Savior’s training trigger to temporarily clear the way of blockers or frustrating utility creatures, but I like the idea of loading it up with creatures from your own graveyard. Since the last ability triggers when the Savior leaves the battlefield, you can bounce or blink it to unleash a horde of your previously dead creatures to play. That said, since it has to attack and successfully train to exile things, it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to make this work, and there are definitely easier ways to get creatures back from the dead. I think this’ll be much better in Standard.
Six mana is a lot, and while I do appreciate the theming, from an optimization standpoint I’m more interested in something like Eldrazi Monument most of the time. That said, if you’re playing a lot of small tokens that get counters from something like Avenger of Zendikar, setting base power and toughness looks a lot like giving your team +3/+3. I think this is a fun card to play if you like to stick close to themes and something you’ll cut if you’re trying to make your engine run a little better. Don’t forget these are both totally okay ways to play (and they’re not the only two ways either!).
Voice of the Blessed
If you’re on the Soul Warden train, this is a great payoff. This will grow really fast if you’re getting plenty of individual life gain triggers, and a 12/12 flying, vigilant, indestructible creature that just costs two mana is exactly the kind of high-ceiling investment that type of deck is looking for. After all, you need room for powerful payoffs like Archangel of Thune and Nykthos Paragon at the top end, so this lives with Serra Ascendant on the low end of the curve.
This is a cute little draw effect for decks that can reliably attack with multiple creatures a turn. Two isn’t a high bar to clear, and if you don’t clear it, you get a token to help you get there soon. Once it transforms, though, it turns into an anthem, and I actually don’t think that’s quite as helpful – those are plentiful in this format.
While this doesn’t have the repeat draw potential of Mentor of the Meek, you can really go off with effects like Verdant Force or Keeper of the Accord that trigger on opponents’ turns, and you don’t have to spend mana to get your cards out of this. Realistically, many decks that can generate lots of 1/1 or 2/2 tokens will probably try running both. White card draw is really getting a lot better, isn’t it?
Exiling an instant right off the bat seems like the best play, since that way you can actually use this ability on other players’ turns. You can get into some real shenanigans with Sensei’s Divining Top or Soothsaying, floating niche counterspells near the top of your library and bringing them to the top when they become relevant while still drawing action each turn. That said, this has an edge over the white piece of the cycle since it also exiles something on each attack, making it a powerful graveyard hate tool and letting you access tons of card types from the top of your library. Lands aren’t eligible to come off the top, though, thanks to the word “cast.”
On the one hand, this breaks the symmetry of most mass bounce effects by getting you some card draw as long as others have more nonland permanents plus cards currently in hand than you. That said, it still has the inherent problem non-Upheaval mass bounce effects always have, which is that you’ve spent mana on it on the turn where you also need to replay a bunch of stuff, whereas opponents have complete latitude to replay things. You also want to have the best permanent on the table when you cast this, making it even more niche.
I’d certainly include this in a Spirits list, since it’s a relevant creature at a good rate that approximates a Dungeon Geists for an already-tapped creature. I would be hard-pressed to get it into too many other decks, though.
Geralf, Visionary Stitcher
The line “Zombies you control have flying” justifies this for Zombie decks by itself, and at three mana it’s a great deal for something that gets your wide-ranging horde into the air past most blockers. Sacrificing creatures to make similarly-sized tokens doesn’t seem bad in a Zombie deck either, since you have so much recursion and it protects your board position from point removal a little bit. Geralf is likely to be a bit of a lightning rod himself though, so backing him up with non-Zombie-specific reanimation/recursion effects as well as Hordewing Skaab for redundancy is likely a good idea.
While it lacks some of the ruthless nature of Tidespout Tyrant since it can’t bounce lands, having flash and being uncounterable makes this a great top-end threat for decks that want to cantrip their faces off. The mode that bounces spells you don’t control turns cards like Consider into one-mana Remands, allowing spellslinger decks to lock down the game state even more effectively than they already can. Is this Lier’s new best friend?
Jacob Hauken, Inspector
It’s fragile, costly to transform and locks you out of previously exiled cards if you have to replay it later. Don’t get me wrong – it’s certainly a fun card – but if you play this as your commander, it’ll be hard to have too much fun since people will have lots of opportunities to disrupt you. That said, I’d try it out in a Vega, the Watcher deck just for fun!
I’m always down for a Clone that keeps a relevant creature type attached – these cards give an extra dimension to blue-based tribal decks. The fact that, for just 3UU, it disturbs into a Followed Footsteps (which, incidentally, costs exactly 3UU) that also gives you Spirit-flavored tokens is not just icing on the cake. In fact, it may be precisely the reason to play this card! Throwing the Mimicry onto a Drogskol Captain could be fun, as could creating an army of Windborn Muses, but often it’ll be even better to put this on a powerful opposing creature and bring copies of it into the Spirit realm.
A Reflections of Littjara for Zombie decks that costs one less? No, this is more than that. Reflections copies spells you cast, while Necroduality triggers on nontoken Zombies entering the battlefield. This opens up possibilities for infinite and non-infinite shenanigans alike. We’ve already heard folks talk about Bladewing the Risen – play it, create a copy, legend rule the original away and use the copy to reanimate the original, allowing you to go off with ETB triggers, dies triggers or sac outlets of many types (plus reanimating all the Dragons in your yard, but at that point, who cares?). In non-infinite news, there’s plenty of fun to be had with Boneyard Scourge, Dread Wanderer, Prized Amalgam and more.
Sweet Zombie Disallow! Exploiting a token (especially a decayed token) seems like a meager price to pay for a 3/3 flyer that comes with a powerful piece of countermagic attached, and reanimating this at instant speed in response to a troublesome ability or spell sounds like boatloads of fun. Boats full of Zombies? That’s probably a thing, right?
Do you like going off with Necrotic Ooze but find it way too easy? Make your life harder with Patchwork Crawler! I know that sounds sarcastic, but it’s serious – many playgroups and players have a lot more fun when infinite combos exist but are harder to pull off. If you’re the type of person who puts combos in their deck to end games but also keeps them clunky on purpose, this could be the card for you.
This may seem like a largely worse Archaeomancer, but the fact that it’s a Zombie that comes back off a Patriarch’s Bidding/Haunting Voyage/Zombie Apocalypse and then brings that spell back for you a la Eternal Witness is pretty significant for Zombie tribal decks.
This might have niche applications with Undead Alchemist or other weird creature-based mill strategies, or you could use it to mill yourself in a Varina, Lich Queen deck to fill your graveyard for token-making nonsense.
Thirst for Discovery
While this is more restrictive than Compulsive Research on its discard clause, it is an instant, which is a big deal (and the reason it fits into the Thirst mold). I’ve already heard people talking about Patron of the Moon decks as a great fit for this card, and realistically any blue-based deck that runs a high concentration of basics is likely to appreciate this spell.
When you absolutely, positively, definitely need another spellslinger payoff despite the fact that this one only triggers once per turn. The fact that it makes flying creatures probably makes it strong enough to be worth including in mono-blue or other more restrictive lists.
Wow – imagine if this card just didn’t have cleave! It’s a shame this requires the green color identity thanks to the cleave cost, but decks on the Beck // Call train like Derevi – and yes, Chulane – could certainly benefit from including this card. It might be time to put Kangee into the 99 of my Bird deck and reintroduce green by putting Derevi back at the helm, but of course, that risks people treating me like I’m playing a normal Derevi deck. I really wish I could just throw this into an Inniaz deck, but alas, that is not to be.
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.