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Drifter’s Innistrad Crimson Vow Draft Tier List and Format Analysis

In this article you’ll find a complete Crimson Vow Draft Tier List with every card in the set graded, based on my impression of how strong a card (high a pick) it will be in the upcoming format. Before we start, let’s take a look at the grades I’ll be using.

This is the ninth set in a row I’m rating, check out the Midnight Hunt tier list here!

I will be updating this Crimson Vow Draft tier list regularly as the set develops, so it’ll remain useful throughout its lifespan. This’ll take form through quick grade changes I make on the fly, alongside the occasional big written update.

Legend

Who is rating?

Format analysis

  • S: Ridiculous bomb, swings the game dramatically. The harder to answer, the better the bomb — the best of this tier is virtually unbeatable.
  • A: Bomb or one of the best cards in your deck, pulls you strongly into its color. The best of this tier will generate incredible value even if answered.
  • B: Great playable: happy to pick early, pulls you into its color or archetype. 
  • C+: Good playable that rarely gets cut, or great in the right deck. 
  • C: Fine playable, sometimes gets cut, or good in the right deck.
  • C-: Mediocre playable or decent filler, gets cut around half the time. 
  • D: Medium to bad filler, gets cut a lot.
  • F: Cards that are unplayable in the vast majority of decks.

Grades in this Crimson Vow Draft Tier List are based on maindeck power level.

Every grade can have a subgrade within it, but the differences are most pronounced in the C Category, so they have their own description. Beyond that, a B+ means it’s almost an A, but not quite. There are no subgrades for F or S tier cards.

Two color gold cards should be taken lower early on. You won’t be able to play them unless you’re specifically in those colors. Colorless cards should be taken about a grade higher early on, because they can go in any deck and staying open is a big advantage. So, don’t commit to colors before you have good reason to.

Crimson Vow Draft Tier List

Who is Rating?

Midnight Hunt Draft Tier List Drifter

Hi I’m Drifter!

I recently migrated the website from MTG Arena Zone, where I worked as a Limited reviewer and content creator; you can find all of my many articles here. On and off, I’ve played Magic for about ten years, and the Limited formats have been my passion throughout. I’ve drafted more sets than I can count, on every platform and through wildly different eras. On Arena, I draft infinitely, having profited more than 50k gems, and have made top 100 mythic many times.

Over years of practice and great effort, I’ve developed a solid approach and mindset to drafting. A style which means that I almost always draft good decks in any format and end up with a win rate in the 70%s and above. This is my version of drafting the hard way, which is the strategy most Limited pros use themselves and is considered the best approach in a vacuum, i.e., almost always useful regardless of format specifics.

I have a real passion for strategy writing. I try to include lots of general advice in everything I write and teach, so that my audience can apply it to many different situations. This way they learn the thinking behind it, so that it remains useful for their entire magic career. You’ll see plenty of that in this article!

I feature the techniques I use in my writing and in each session of the Limited coaching service I provide, and have many testimonials from students collected over years. Click here or scroll down for more info!

If you like my work, you can find it all posted on my Twitter as it comes out. Or consider booking a coaching session and learning from me first-hand!

Format Analysis

Factors Behind My Ratings for Crimson Vow Draft Tier List

General

  • I am a big proponent of speculating on cards. I find that modern Limited formats have so many playables that cards at C or C- are pretty replaceable and get cut a lot. If a card has a high and fairly achievable ceiling, I will almost always take it over medium playables (but not strong cards) early in the draft. Hence, I tend to rate cards with high ceilings a little higher. At the same time, I’m still heavily factoring in the likelihood of how good they end up.
  • I often take a while to settle into my colors, usually in the first few picks of pack 2 or later. Until then, I try to pick the most powerful cards and read signals, so I find the open lane. This is all a key part of drafting the hard way, which I talk about in the “who is rating?” section.
  • I value consistency highly. For any decent player, you can win a lot with a good enough deck — you don’t need the best of the best. Gunning for that standard if it’s not open will lead you to decks that don’t function well, because you didn’t quite get there. That way, it’s easy to find yourself with a pile of cards that don’t work together unless you draw really well. I talk about consistency in the synergies later in this article.
  • Draft is a 90% midrange format, and I rate as such (explanation here). If a card is only very good in a dedicated control or aggressive deck, I will dock it a grade or two.

Format-specific

  • The format is slow, but still somewhat faster than Midnight Hunt. Many of the best decks will be some form of midrange beatdown. Having an efficient early game is important, both with and against them.
  • Graveyard value is king. Every color has some good ways to make use of the graveyard, and there isn’t as much maindeckable graveyard hate as Midnight Hunt had.
  • Blood tokens are great, since they counteract flood. They also allow you to have more situational cards in your deck to pitch to them. Still, you need to play cards that have good effects anyway and treat Blood tokens as an excellent add-on. E.g. I’m not very high on Lacerate Flesh because Blood tokens are all it does well.
  • Slow decks with access to blood tokens should consider playing 18 lands, especially in paper and best-of-three, where there’s no hand-smoothing.
  • There are tons of good high end available/ways to use your mana late, which makes all of them worse and not as worth prioritizing. Focus on getting the efficient early game first, and let the high end come to you later. All expensive cards have taken a bit of a ratings hit from that, unless they’re especially good.

Colors

  • I’ve concluded that Red has the weakest quality commons by quite a lot. Red is still a solid support color, and I will go into it when it’s more open than other options. However, I will tiebreak against it some amount in early picks.
  • Removal is weaker and scarcer than in most recent sets. Removal will be much more important than in Midnight Hunt, because there are many auras and buffs, and Disturb auras aren’t nearly as good against it as Disturb creatures. Hence, efficient unconditional removal is a very high pick.
  • Because there aren’t that many ways to sacrifice, enchantment-based removal is much better in this set than Midnight Hunt.
  • There is quite good fixing in Green, but not tons of strong splashes. Other colors have it harder, but splashing is still doable with Evolving Wilds and some uncommons like Foreboding Statue.

Speed of Format

Crimson Vow Draft Tier List Format Speed

Many cards change their rating dramatically based on how fast a format is, so I had to make a firm evaluation of speed to rate properly.

The format is still slow, but I expect it to be a little faster than Midnight Hunt.

a) Disturb favors slower decks

The Disturb halves are usually overcosted and inefficient, and usually the best time to cast them is when you’re out of other stuff. However, this iteration of Disturb auras aren’t as slow as disturb creatures — auras cause immediate impact and damage. They can also enable your attacks in the mid-game.

b) Cleave favors slower decks.

Games have to go long for you to have the mana and opportunity to cast Cleave spells.

In theory, a fine strategy for faster decks would be to just have cards with good cheap Cleave front halves, a low curve, and benefit from the free late game options. However, Cleave in Crimson Vow generally sacrifices some strength on the cheaper mode for balance reasons, and is on slower value-oriented cards. So that won’t be easy unless you happen to open specific uncommons and such.

c) Blood tokens are better in faster decks

Blood Token MTG

Lands become useless much more quickly in those decks, and they have a higher density of cheap cards that might not be useful in late game situations. Since you can rummage those cards away with Blood tokens, fast decks don’t run out of gas as quickly. That’s usually a much bigger problem for them than for slower decks.

d) The set doesn’t have many powerful 1 and 2 drops, but more than Midnight Hunt

Especially those with evasion: there are a few and all at uncommon. It also has more snowball potential through effects like the Training mechanic. These are cards that when you start winning put you further and further ahead; hence, a staple of aggressive decks.

e) The set has a lot of lifegain, which is a tremendous foil to fast decks

The number of common lifelink creatures is exceptionally high. There’s less good removal for them, and Disturb auraing them up will sometimes beat fast decks/pull slower decks back into the game single-handedly.

f) There are many cards that are value-based and inefficient

The format in general doesn’t feel fast as a result — you’ll be scrounging for playables in fast decks more than slower.

Common quality skews away from the decks you would consider traditionally fast – werewolves and vampires. I think Red has the weakest common quality by a good deal, while Black has the strongest. Perhaps that will even out to a decent Vampires deck, but I’m more skeptical of it than the other Black decks.

Building around Speed

I would go in assuming games will go long, but that early game is still very important, especially in the early best-of-one queues. I would be taking efficient cards higher than high-value cards early. There are just so many more ways to get value than efficiency. Having a great early game not only lets you be the aggressor, but stops you being beaten down. All decks can benefit from it, not just fast ones.

I would be drafting more in a beatdown midrange rather than aggressive manner. I think that will work out a lot better. For example, being green stompy will be a solid strategy, since there isn’t efficient removal to punish you and Green’s common quality is decent. I expect Black Green midrange to be a very good and potentially fast deck.

Here’s my guide to building aggressive/fast decks in Draft (not the same thing!) where I delve into this topic much more.

Building around Format Mechanics/Synergies

Note: These are conclusions drawn from commons and uncommons. You shouldn’t plan for specific rares/mythics until after you’ve picked them — it’s too unlikely you’ll see them. If there are many rares that do the same thing, I might mention that, but otherwise assume I’m not factoring them in much.

This is a high synergy set, where you’re generally going to be in a two color-pair with a central theme or gameplan that you’re trying to enact.

The primary way I determine how powerful synergies are is through the mutual relationship between payoffs and enablers. If an archetype has a wealth of strong payoffs and mostly weak enablers, it:

  1. Hurts those payoffs and makes them much less consistent and;
  2. makes sense to take the good enablers much higher than the good payoffs, because they’re rarer and more valuable.

Let’s go through some archetypes with this in mind:

I won’t go through every single one, and I won’t give you an overview of them — check out our Crimson Vow Draft Guide for that.

Instead, my focus will be on determining how good the synergies are and how easy to build/draft around them. Some of the most important factors in rating each specific card, and very important information for your first few drafts.

a) Sacrifice/exploit (primarily U/B)

Fell Stinger Crimson Vow Draft Tier List

So here, you want stuff that’s good to sacrifice and Exploit/other payoffs that have a strong effect when sacrificed or when things die. I’m looking for Diver Skaab, not Mindleech Ghoul.

There aren’t tons of good exploit payoffs, and while lots of random creatures can act as an enabler, there aren’t many that you get for free or give you the value back. That leads me to believe that exploit will be inconsistent outside of Blue-Black. It’ll be hard to get enough good enablers and payoffs if you’re only seeing them from one color.

You can still can get enablers in your other color or settle for weaker ones. There’s some stuff that’s good to sacrifice in White, for example, or you can use cheap Disturb cards with weak front halves since that doesn’t cost you a full card. I’m pretty high on Wretched Throng in this archetype (and think that’s a bit of a sleeper card in general).

Adjustments to Crimson Vow Draft Tier List Grades

If you’re drafting this deck, you want to skew my grades in the direction of whatever you don’t have. With a couple of good Exploit payoffs, you want to take fodder higher. If you already have plenty of fodder and especially stuff that’s not very exciting by itself, like Persistent Specimen and Doomed Dissenter, you need to take payoffs very highly.

I would lean towards prioritizing the good payoffs early on, since they’re rarer and people will be taking the good ones like Fell Stinger highly even outside this deck. I will want to speculate on those early a lot, even if I’m not settled into Blue/Black yet, since you can make do with worse enablers. You don’t need to be going hard into the archetype for the good payoffs to work.

This is a mechanic that will require some building around, but most decks won’t go really hard on it. It has to be really open to get enough payoffs to justify that, and Blue/Black are strong colors and those are good cards that will be taken early. In most cases, consider it more a package than the overall theme of your deck.

If you get enough for the dedicated archetype, those will be some of the strongest decks, but I would recommend not chasing that dream unless the cards are already falling into your lap. Most decks that try that will end up worse because of it.

b) Lifegain (primarily B/W)

Lifegain seems heavily supported and easy to enable, because the enablers are common and good by themselves, so they’re high early picks. You’ll often end up with several naturally, and then the payoffs start to look much more exciting. Cards like Courier Bat and Restless Bloodseeker are solid without much effort.

I expect B/W to be one of the strongest color pairs, especially in best-of-one where it’ll counter all the fast decks.

There aren’t enough good payoffs that I think dedicated lifegain will usually be the way to go. Especially, since the good payoffs tend to just be good cards other people will take. Most lifegain decks will just be good card piles, with whatever payoffs they have enough for, and perhaps enabling other synergies as well.

Some cards like Traveling Minister and Gluttonous Guest are medium by themselves, but very strong when you have some payoffs. This is a huge boon to the archetype because it means there won’t be tons of competition for those cards, and you can just get them late.

Prioritize early the strong payoffs and the enablers that are good by themselves. If you can just have a package made up of solid cards within another deck, be happy with that. Most B/W decks won’t need to be hard lifegain.

c) Training (primarily G/W)

Gryff Rider Crimson Vow Draft Tier List

Training cards at common/uncommon.

There aren’t loads, but there are some good ones. I don’t see Training as something you necessarily need to build around very much. You just have creatures with decent power stats, and it will happen naturally. This is a beatdown mechanic — you want to start early and go hard, so you want to be looking for efficient creatures and have a Stompy midrange strategy.

Enabling this mechanic is mostly about getting your Training creatures through. Evasive training cards like Gryff Rider are premium. Cards like Sheltering Boughs are actually quite good here, since the toughness buff doesn’t stop creatures from Training, but does enable their attacks.

d) Mill (primarily U/G, sometimes G/B)

Mulch Crimson Vow Draft Tier List

The mill archetype is where you get value from milling cards, e.g., with Mulch and then getting value from the graveyard with stuff like Blood Fountain, Moldgraf Millipede, or the Blue Disturb cards. Some cards have direct effects in the graveyard too, e.g., Bramble Wurm.

I expect this archetype to be more cool than good, since it requires you to put a lot of medium cards into your deck. You also have to draw them in the right order. Most of the payoffs and enablers aren’t that good by themselves. This means, you either have to be going quite hard or just be playing them for other reasons. For example, you can play Mulch just because you have two Blood Fountains/are a slow deck that wants to make land drops, and then some of the Mill payoffs look a little better.

This is a set with really a lot of graveyard value, and some of the mill uncommons/rares are very good. I’d be a lot more excited to draft this deck if I happened to open some strong ones early and was pushed into it, rather than going out of my way.

e) Werewolves and Vampires (R/G and R/B respectively)

Packsong Pup Crimson Vow Draft Tier List

Werewolves and Vampires are pretty obvious to draft: “have werewolves and vampires in your deck, and certain cards pay you off for that”. I think most of the interest in drafting them is in building a good beatdown deck.

Day and Night is much less important in Crimson Vow, and that’s a boon to Werewolves. White/Blue decks no longer have the payoffs to be interested in flipping back to Day, and there aren’t flashback spells to give them extra spell casts for free. Werewolves also tend to have much better front sides. That was their big weakness in Midnight Hunt, where it had to be night for them to be any good.

As such, I expect Werewolves to be much better now, but sadly Red’s common quality isn’t great. I suspect you mostly want to be a Green Stompy deck and then have Red as a support color.

Lack of removal

Another thing that hampers fast decks in this set is that removal is weaker and scarcer. Black, for example, only has one good unconditional removal spell at common in Bleed Dry — the rest are either very expensive or only give -2/-2. There are some good tricks, and I suspect you will have to rely on those more than usual in Werewolves.

In Vampires, you have access to both the primary removal colors. That’s a big advantage of being in that color pair. The Vampire cards aren’t that great, but you don’t need them to be if you can kill all your opponent’s stuff/apply enough early pressure. I see that as the much more dedicated aggressive deck, rather than a beatdown deck.

f) Disturb/Humans (U/W primarily)

I expect Disturb to just be a good-stuff deck for the most part, perhaps with some synergy packages from other colors. Disturb cards are just good by themselves, and there are some payoffs of varying quality for having them. However, you don’t really need them. This is naturally reflected in the Crimson Vow Draft Tier List.

I expect U/W to be a midrange beatdown/value deck. You have lots of creatures and buffs for them, and want good buff targets, such as Twinblade Geist (one of the best uncommons in the set period) and fliers. There are some Humans synergies, but it’s not something you really want to go out of your way for, since Humans are plentiful and the payoffs are minor.

Disturb payoffs are few, and kind of win-more. If you’re Disturbing a bunch of creatures in the late game, you should be winning anyway because you’ve had the time and space to get that far along, and just got a bunch of 2 for 1s.

Disturb cards being auras means that you want to have more creatures and fewer cards that only work when you have creatures in this deck. Otherwise, you get some really clunky situations. You might have a bunch of tricks in hand and Disturb cards in your graveyard. You can’t do anything because you only had a couple of creatures, and they died.

This is a common situation against Black and Red, but less so other colors in a set where removal isn’t very plentiful.

For the rest of the archetypes/more analysis, check our site’s Crimson Vow Draft guide!

Thanks for Reading!

See you when I do my big update to the Crimson Vow Draft Tier List in a couple of weeks. I talked about some other factors like the theory behind sideboarding in the Midnight Hunt Draft Tier List.

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If you want to organize a draft at home, you might want to get a Crimson Vow Draft Booster Box.

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2 thoughts on “Drifter’s Innistrad Crimson Vow Draft Tier List and Format Analysis”

    • I included some colour pair analysis near the bottom of the article. I would say that Black/White is very strong and Red/Green has been surprisingly good in my first few days of the format, but it feels very balanced so far and it’ll take time to hash out the meta. I’d suggest just drafting whatever’s open, letting the good cards you see early lead you, and reading signals (something I talk about a bit early in the analysis section).

      Reply

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