Hello and welcome! I’ve been enjoying the experimentation stage of the early Crimson Vow format and hope to aid my fellow brewers! In this article, I’ll give the insights I’ve gathered/the impressions I have of some chase rares and mythics, which could be some of the best Crimson Vow Standard cards.
My focus will be on the upsides and downsides of each card, and the potential homes they’re best suited for. I’ll also give some examples of the kind of meta the cards would shine in, if I don’t think they’re overperforming already. Enjoy!
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
As a staple in older formats for as long as she’s been around, Thalia is no stranger to seeing a lot of play. First strike on a respectable body makes her a decent threat, but how much play she sees will really depend on how good this ability is against the meta’s top decks.
Thalia is the best in the business when it comes to hating on heavy instant and sorcery decks. Her power is that even removing her comes at a big tempo cost. Well, unless that removal costs precisely one mana (and then it’s still even). That’s best case scenario — your opponents may well die before they can cast their sweepers and more expensive spells. Izzet Turns was a dominant deck at the end of the last format, and Thalia is annoying for them. She’s also good against random control decks and planeswalker decks, of which there are many of both.
Thalia is a natural fit for any Mono White main deck, but will also see plenty of sideboard/occasional main deck play in other White beatdown decks. Luminarch Aspirant is a great pairing with her, turning her body into a much more deadly threat. The important thing is to have a fast clock alongside her, since her tax effect does less and less as the game goes on.
Voice of the Blessed
Voice of the Blessed is almost certainly the best Ajani’s Pridemate we’ve ever seen. If lifegain and cleric decks are good, then they’ll certainly want it. It’s a little hard to cast sometimes, since Standard’s fixing isn’t amazing, but well worth stretching the mana a little or just being mono color.
That second ability is a really exciting advantage over its predecessors, since it’s pretty easy to reach and makes your creature a must-answer. They can’t just sit back and chump block anymore. Ten counters are mostly flavor text because they’ll either be dead or have answered it by then, but could be relevant in the occasional game.
Ever since Heliod rotated (expect to see Voice alongside him in Historic!), Mono White Aggro has built in a more aggressive than lifegain fashion. Still, it wouldn’t take much for the Book of Exalted Deeds and Faceless Havencombo to make a big comeback. This is a huge Cleric payoff, and I expect it to go in every deck that makes use of that tribe.
For now, the best non-Cleric lifegain shell seems to be in Selesnya alongside Prosperous Innkeeper and Lunarch Veteran.
Here’s a quick sample list I built:
It should crush plenty of best-of-one games as is, and could be a meta staple with some tuning!
At first glance, this card might look like a bulk rare, but it’s anything but. Seven mana is a ton for any Constructed format, but Flash means that you can hold it up alongside instants. It’ll also will dodge sorcery-speed removal. You want 7 mana cards to take over the game, and this one certainly delivers on that front.
While Control hosers/mirror breakers are a dime a dozen these days, this one will also crush the midrange matchups! Those decks will have a really hard time staying on board against this ability, since it will often allow you to bounce 2+ things per turn while they’re getting hit by a 7/8.
Imagine having your 5 mana planeswalker bounced, recasting it, it gets bounced again by a card draw spell (and it doesn’t even get an activation), and you just have to pass the turn! Oftentimes you can also ambush their best creature when it enters play, because they’re not outsizing this body.
Here, this is a huge haymaker. Being uncounterable is fantastic. The Horror dodges most of the removal in the format anyway, but you can take it a step further. If you play it on 8+ mana and have an instant alongside it, you can use its ability to bounce itself and then just recast it. Remember that you have the time to do that against Control matchups! They can’t kill it, they can’t race it outside some crazy Alrund’s Epiphany chains, and this ability means they can’t ignore it. You can just bounce their counterspells and planeswalkers over and over, and the only danger is really in flooding out. It can even save your other stuff/recur your enter the battlefield effects.
Against Other Decks
Being a 7 drop, it’s obviously not very good against aggro unless you’re a ramp deck. Still, it should come down fast enough to stop Mono Green Stompy ocasionally, especially since it’ll take out a Froghemoth or Old-Growth Troll as soon as it does. Standard aggro decks often straddle the midrange line, so it’ll probably be a fine maindeck card as a 1-2 of.
The Horror is great against any deck with lots of expensive spells. Hence, it’s likely to dominate against Izzet Turns and be a great mirror-breaker. Alrund’s Epiphany is a 6 mana spell, and you can keep bouncing it, and there’s really not much they can do about that — you can’t usually counter triggered abilities! You don’t have to tap out for it on your turn, and they can’t really interact against it.
Here’s a card that would be much better if there weren’t already a serious competitor taking up its space: Goldspan Dragon. The Dragon occupies the same point on the curve and has a more powerful ability that requires less building around, better evasion, and arguably more support in the form of Magda, Brazen Outlaw and Prosperous Innkeeper.
Still, I expect the Arsonist to see plenty of play, just in different decks that better take advantage of it.
The primary home is in these decks, since it’s a lot more impactful (much more so than Goldspan Dragon!) if you already have night when it enters. You immediately get to kill a much more serious threat, and then it’s representing 7 haste damage by itself!
Werewolf decks also have the usual ways to buff it and synergy with it, which makes the front half much more impactful.
Hence, a lot of this creature’s power is dependent on how good Werewolf decks are, and they did just pick up some great tools like Avabruck Caretaker and Tovolar, Dire Overlord.
My main problem with them though is that it’s hard to flip to Night and continue to maintain serious pressure. You don’t want to take time off passing the turn in aggro decks, and I don’t expect the few direct enablers like Unnatural Moonrise and The Celestus to be what you want. Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope does help here, but is a slight nombo with Arsonist since you can’t make use of the haste if you play it on their turn.
Many of the Werewolf front halves aren’t as exciting as other playable creatures for the same cost in Standard, it’s sad to say.
The main problem in other decks is that you often can’t flip this on turn 5. You need something to make it day beforehand to then make it night. The cycle doesn’t begin until a Daybound card is played, and then you need to pass the turn to make it Night. I don’t think there’ll be a lot of crossover with the other playable Werewolves, and what tempo decks with lots of instants want to be doing. Potentially an Izzet deck comes along that plays Suspicious Stowaway, Reckless Stormseeker and Arsonist, but it’s a little speculative. The many Werewolves make it harder to hold up instants.
Mostly, the front half has to be good enough, and there are two ways for it to be better than Goldspan Dragon:
a) if there are lots of high value x/1s in the format to kill, or
b) your deck just isn’t making good use of Goldspan Dragon. For example, it’s a low curve aggro deck that prefers that extra point of power, and then the back half later on. This kind of deck can’t use the mana from the Treasures, and stuff like Shatterskull Smashing might not be enough. Arsonist is sort of like adding late game to that kind of deck, since its back half does so much.
It’s pretty easy for most decks to make use of Goldspan Dragon’s insane mana generation, but there will be some that prefer a bigger beater with some upside.
Chandra, Dressed to Kill
Chandra is a pretty powerful utility option, since she combines ramp with great card advantage, while still putting on a clock. She comes down earlier than most planeswalkers in Standard and starts on a respectable 4 loyalty. Both abilities being +s makes her quite hard to kill, especially on the play.
Chandra is a lot more powerful on turn 3 when you immediately play a 1 drop alongside her. The ability to do that can lead to some absurd early pressure. Her second ability is also much more exciting when you have lots of cheap cards. Against decks that don’t pressure her, you may well be able to reach that gamewinning ultimate, especially since they might well be more prepared for creatures than planeswalkers.
The main issue with Chandra is that the second ability has a pretty big miss chance, since you can’t play lands off her. So you do need to either be Mono Red or have many Gold cards in your 2-color deck. Otherwise, your % to hit will just be too low.
Hence, all of these factors mean Mono Red Aggro/Burn are likely to be her main homes. Here, she fills the Experimental Frenzy role of ensuring you never run out of gas and forcing your opponents to interact from a different angle. I think the second ability is powerful enough in these decks to make up for the fact that they won’t always have enough to cast with the first. Being able to ramp out a turn 4 Volatile Arsonist or Goldspan Dragon is a really big game when it comes up, anyway.
Other options could be in Mono Red Midrange, Rakdos Vampires or Boros Burn. Of course, you’ll want to have almost all Red and Gold cards. I expect Chandra to see plenty of sideboard play too, since she’s a bit weak to fast decks and really strong against slow decks.
Sorin, the Mirthless
At first glance, Sorin strikes me as very underpowered when you compare it to something like Lolth, Spider Queen. The problem I see is that most 4 mana plays are just better, and this card doesn’t interact well against them.
A 2/3 Flying Lifelink is an okay way to protect itself, but the token doesn’t really brawl with Midrange or Aggro creatures by turn 4. They’ll often just outsize you with their Luminarch Aspirant, attack you with their Esika’s Chariot, or kill the Vampire and clear Sorin easily. The lack of deathtouch compared to Nighthawk Scavenger really hurts.
If Sorin lives a turn, you can get some pretty solid card advantage, especially if you hit lands where there’s no downside, so he does seem like a good card against slower decks that aren’t pressuring him. The problem is that almost every deck in Standard has pressure. I suspect most of the time you play Sorin, they can just ignore the token and kill him very easily.
If you play him and + him, then he at least doesn’t quite die to Goldspan Dragon and might draw you a couple of cards, though the life cost can be pretty concerning over time.
Where Sorin could see play
I think Sorin is mostly a card for the Mono Black Snow archetype, which is playing lots of planeswalkers and ways to protect them, through efficient removal and blockers. Sorin curves out into Lolth and is decent with Blood on the Snow. The token has the potential to gain a lot of life over the course of a slow game where the ground is locked up. I don’t think Sorin is super exciting in that deck, but it doesn’t have amazing 4 drop options, and he is much better when ramped to with treasures.
Sadly, I don’t really see Sorin as a good maindeck card for the Vampires deck. There are tons of good 4 drops for that deck, from Edgar, Charmed Groom to Anje, Maid of Dishonor, and I think those cards fit the plan better. Still, he could be a fine sideboard card after your opponents bring in efficient creature removal.
The main thing is that you have to be protecting Sorin really well, and be the sort of deck that can afford to fall behind on board. If the meta is very slow, and you’re playing a bunch of Control mirrors, that certainly benefits him a lot. Right now, that’s really not the case.
Sorin is also kind of a joke against some Control decks like Izzet Turns, which don’t really care about him and can go way over the top.
Edgar, Charmed Groom
Edgar strikes me as a deceptively powerful card. He’s a bit durdly when you first play him, since a 4 mana 4/4 isn’t nearly good enough to see play. Often he won’t stop the things you want immediately. That’s not really where he shines, though — the upside of Edgar is that he’s very difficult to remove, and interacts very well with sweepers.
I see Edgar’s main home as being in Black/White midrange decks, which are already playing him. Here, he’s a useful roadblock that forces them to overextend into your sweepers — a 4/4 is big enough that many decks can’t just ignore it.
Once you use The Meathook Massacre or Blood on the Snow, Edgar just comes back in a few turns and gives you value until then. The Vampires he produces in the interim get buffed by his ability, so it’s very scary when he does flip back.
Having instant speed ways to sacrifice helps Edgar a lot, since then he isn’t vulnerable to exile removal and he just comes back anyway. The B/W Midrange decks that play him run Deadly Dispute and sometimes Skullport Merchant for this purpose.
Unlike most legendaries, Edgar is even decent if you draw multiple copies, since you get to transform him immediately and start churning out 2/2 lifelink Vampire tokens.
Right now, I don’t think Edgar belongs in Standard Vampires because I think Vampires have to be Black/Red. That’s where all their payoffs are, but they could print more Vampires in later sets. It’s also possible that enough creatures in a different deck are incidentally Vampires for him to fit the bill — the anthem effect could certainly be good elsewhere.
In Historic Vampires, which is Black/White, Edgar will probably see a lot of play.
Halana and Alena, Partners
This is kind of the perfect card for Gruul beatdown decks. It’s a snowballing must-answer threat that has huge immediate impact. Your 3-drop becomes dramatically better and hits much harder, and two counters will make any other creature a threat in just one or two turns.
The combination of first strike and reach can hold back some attackers for free, like Elite Spellbinder and Falkenrath Forebear. Buffing this card up can be nice too, so that it puts even more counters on things, say with Reckless Stormseeker or something.
Bonus: Concealing Curtains
I’m including Concealing Curtains, because I think it’s very underplayed right now for how good it is. It’s a solid early blocker then provides very relevant disruption on turn 3, taking their best card and leaving them with a random card from their deck, and giving you a bunch of free information.
It’s actually quite efficient a turn 3 play, since you get to attack immediately. Most likely, you weren’t using the 1 mana on turn 1 for anything otherwise.
Curtains strikes me as a solid 1-drop play in Black control decks, since it’s a real roadblock for aggressive decks to get through, and still reasonable in slower matchups. It is a bit weak to instant speed removal against the latter, though, so it could just be a sideboard option.
One issue is that decks like Izzet Turns are foretelling cards before you can use this effect, but often it’s more important to clear the way for your game plan than to take the Alrund’s Epiphany early anyway.
Thanks for Reading!
That’s all our analysis for today on the chase rares and mythics in Crimson Vow Standard. To follow my future content, follow me on Twitter.
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