Pauper was still recovering from the release of Modern Horizons 2 and the format warping impact of the now banned Chatterstorm and the still legal Bridges when Midnight Hunt hit the scene. That set provided Ardent Elementalist – one of the best “fair” Pauper cards in recent memory. Crimson Vow does not pack nearly as much power into the common slot but it makes up for that in providing a bounty of role players. Regardless, today I’ll be taking a look at the best Crimson Vow commons for Pauper in this set review.
Sets of this stripe are always difficult to evaluate when it comes to Pauper. The format has plenty of cards that would be too good to print at common today and as a result, completely invalidate newer options. Because of this, a lot of cards have to overcome a ton of inertia to even be considered for play.
A great example of cards in this vein are Drogskol Infantry and Kindly Ancestor. There are two Ethereal Armor strategies in the format – Bogles and Heroic. Both of these decks try to build one large threat wearing plenty of Auras and go to town on a life total. These decks tend to be soft to cards like Chainer’s Edict and here, the disturb options seem perfect. They are bodies that can stick around to eat an Edict only to be turned into more power later. The biggest strike against these is Cartouche of Solidarity as it does the same job but at a significantly lower mana investment. These kinds might very well see play but I would not expect them to show up in the format immediately.
White gets a few more cards in this camp. Fierce Retribution is quite a spell and could fit into some Tron decks that lean on Plains. For defensive builds running Rhystic Circle, Retribution can provide a decent early game answer that is not entirely dead late. Piercing Light is one of the best combat Shocks in Pauper but might just not do enough. If aggressive decks like Stompy return to the metagame then it is possible that some white decks would want this spell. That being said, unless the deck is paired with blue or green there are likely better removal options. Sanctify suffers two fold: first, if you want to hit an artifact these days, it’s better to exile and second, Invoke the Divine might just be better if you want to tack life gain on to your Disenchant.
The last white card I want to talk about is Parish-Blade Trainee. Pauper is rapidly approaching a critical mass of cards that care about +1/+1 counters and can move them around. While Hardened Scales is a bridge too far, there are plenty of cards that can proliferate. It’s only a matter of time before a fringe Travel Preparation deck pops up and loads a bunch of power onto a Vault Skirge or Ornithopter.
Blue does not fare much better, but Lantern Bearer is exciting. A 1/1 flyer is good at enabling Ninja of the Deep Hours and this maintains utility later. While it likely gets squeezed out by not being a Faerie for Spellstutter Sprite, the ability to send your Ninja to the skies and have it beat Kor Skyfisher in combat is a big deal. If the metagame ever slows down to the point where Skyfisher is seeing heavy play again then I envision Lantern Bearer and Lantern’s Lift to get some consideration.
The other blue cards all come with caveats. Stitched Assistant could see play if a deck ever wants a sacrifice outlet that also generates a bit of value; Syphon Essence could see play if Blood matters; Wretched Throng could see play if a blue Aristocrat deck takes off. But these are larger asks than what we saw with Lantern Bearer.
Speaking of Blood, Blood Fountain might just be the best card in the set for Pauper. A one mana artifact that brings along another artifact, it goes a long way towards powering out a Myr Enforcer and feeding Atog. It also comes with two built-in sacrifice triggers for Disciple of the Vault and even lets you get back creatures that your opponents might have foolishly spent resources to kill. Even outside of a dedicated Affinity deck, Blood Fountain continues the trend of putting a spin on Urborg Uprising and providing just a little bit more value. Even when Affinity gets taken down a notch I expect this card to see play in various black midrange decks.
Persistent Specimen is the first reliable Nether Shadow – that is, a creature that can consistently bring itself back from the graveyard – in Pauper. While the format lacks a Goblin Bombardment it does have access to Makeshift Munitions, making this the world’s slowest gatling gun. Persistent Specimen is a solid addition to the format and is going to be fueling all manner of Thoughtpicker Witch brews for years to come, but until there’s a way to break it with Ashnod’s Altar, it’s mostly going to be a novel, if welcome, addition.
A deck that has picked up steam as of late is Black Burn. Using cards like Tyrant’s Choice and Fruit of Tizerus, it wants to use worse Lightning Bolts to get the job done. Vampire’s Kiss provides the strategy with some fresh blood. The addition of two Blood tokens means that this deck can now cash in late lands. While not enough to make this deck a top tier contender it does make it more viable.
After that, black has a number of cards that are more or less upgrades or sidegrades of existing cards. Gift of Fangs is an improvement on Dead Weight in decks that want to remove threats or improve their Vampires; Pointed Discussion gives us a set-themed Read the Bones without the scry but with the option to trade in a card later; Undying Malice improves upon Undying Evil by bringing back the creature even if it has a +1/+1 counter, but has it return tapped.
Red has been getting the goods recently. Ardent Elementalist and Festival Crasher gave the color some nice toys last time around and Crimson Vow is giving another gift in Reckless Impulse. A Divination using red’s impulsive draw, Reckless Impulse is a legitimate card draw spell that can help clear lands off the top of your deck. While Burn and Red Deck Wins are probably going to ignore this one, red midrange decks have been picking up steam and this will find a home there. Not every build wants to run the combination of Cleansing Wildfire and indestructible lands on two. Reckless Impulse lets these decks accrue a bit of card advantage without having to have a specific land on their board. The fact that it is also cheaper off of Nightscape Familiar means those strategies have picked up a shiny new toy to be sure.
Ancestral Anger is a card that could see play in Kiln Fiend decks as a way to filter through cards and punch through with trample and it might replace Crash Through in those builds; End the Festivities is yet another take on Blazing Volley; Kessig Flamebreather is the tougher cousin of Firebrand Archer but gives spell-based “storm” decks another spout to help end the game.
Green starts things off with Massive Might. There is a heavy competition in the pump spell space but Might grants trample – something staples like Vines of Vastwood and Hunger of the Howlpack are not able to do. Massive Might is not likely to supplant these in Stompy since that deck hinges on Rancor. Where it can find a home, however, is in Infect, which needs as much evasion as it can get, and in hypothetical green-red Kiln Fiend decks. While not a sure thing, Massive Might has all the pieces to potentially make an impact.
There are also two artifacts of note. Honored Heirloom continues the trend of stapling some value to a three-mana rock. The Heirloom is a tad too expensive on its ability to eat a card in the graveyard to matter regularly, but it could be a nice metagame call if the stars align. Wedding Invitation, however, is scary. An artifact that replaces itself while also making it impossible to block a creature is exactly what Affinity wants. While an Atog might not be a Vampire, the lifelink won’t matter if you crack through for lethal.
Crimson Vow is not knocking down any doors, but it gives Pauper another set of tools to improve existing options. While some decks may emerge from the scrum, we are more likely to see decks iterate and improve on what already exists. What are your favorite commons from the set? Which ones do you expect to break out?