Hello and welcome, friend! Murders at Karlov Manor Draft Guide is here to unravel the secrets of the newest draft format. However, we won’t focus on the typical murder mystery question: “Who did it?” Instead, we’ll try to answer: “How to do it?” Winning the whole draft, that is. Be it by reaching seven wins on Arena, or going 3-0 at your FNM, this article can help you with that.
If you’ve been our loyal reader, you know what to expect. If not, here’s a quick overview. First, you’re going to learn about the mechanics. Not just how they work, but also how they affect the format as a whole. Next up, the best commons, followed by the archetype overview. Finally, we wrap things up with the power rankings and some additional tips.
UPDATE (February 16, 2024): After playing with the cards for 30 drafts, this draft guide received a major update, particularly in the power rankings section.
As always, there is a lot to talk about, so we better get right to it.
Table of Contents
Murders at Karlov Manor Mechanics
You’ll encounter multiple mechanics in Murders at Karlov Manor draft. Some are very present, with their own dedicated archetypes, while others appear on fewer cards. In total, there are five major mechanics:
- investigate & clues
- collect evidence
In the following sections, you’ll learn how they work, and how they play out in this specific format.
Investigate & Clues
If a card instructs you to investigate, that means that you create a Clue token. That’s a predefined artifact token, with an activated ability, which allows you to pay two mana and sacrifice it to draw a card.
This mechanic appears on multiple cards in all colors, but most often in blue.
Above you see Cold Case Cracker. When it dies, you investigate, which means you create a Clue. You can sacrifice it and pay two mana in order to draw a card.
So, this is a sort of delayed card draw, that you need to spend some a couple of mana on. While, investigating is not quite as good as drawing a card, it does come pretty close. Especially, since there are additional synergies with Clues. (For example, with cards like Curious Cadaver and Furtive Courier.)
As a rule of thumb, a single instance of investigate is worth around 0.75 card. In general, all cards with investigate are quite strong. The presence of this mechanic gives you something to do with your mana, so you really don’t want to miss your land drops. Furthermore, regular card draw spells are now worse, since card advantage is tacked onto many creatures and spells.
Disguise is a mechanic that can appear on permanents, but is mostly found on creatures. If a card has disguise, it means you can pay three mana, and cast it face down as a 2/2 colorless creature with ward 2. At any time you have priority, you can pay its disguise cost and turn it face up. This action doesn’t use the stack.
This is one of the most complex mechanics in Murders at Karlov Manor draft. Thus, you might want to read more about disguise rules. Cards with disguise appear in all colors.
Disguises cards are always versatile, as they give you essentially two options on how to cast them. Either for their regular cost, or for three mana as 2/2 that can be turned face up later. This offers a lot of advantage to a skilled player, as there are many important decisions to make.
Effects of Disguise
This mechanic has a significant effect on the format. First, with many disguise creatures in the format, you can expect more 2/2 creatures than you would in a regular format. Thus, 3 toughness on a cheap creature is a big deal, as it can successfully rumble with face-down creatures.
Disguise allows you to play higher cost creatures, while also having early plays. Similarly to investigate and Clues, it is a fair mana sink (something to spend mana on in the late game). Such mechanics encourage you to play more lands than usual.
Bluffing also becomes more prevalent with disguise. You don’t know which cards your opponent is hiding face down. If you memorize all cards with disguise, you’ll be able to make better decisions in combat.
Even if you don’t, at least keep in mind the five mana rule. It’s safe to block an opposing disguised creature with your own 2/2, if the opponent has less than five mana available. Even if they flip it, your creatures will either trade, or both will survive. They can’t just eat your creature without theirs dying. Of course, when five mana is available, everything is possible. Proceed with caution.
Finally, don’t forget that if you plan on targeting your opponent’s face-down creature, you need two extra mana to get around ward protection.
Cloak is a mechanic that we didn’t mention at the beginning. Why? Because there are only five cards with cloak, one of which is uncommon, the other ones are rares and mythics. Nevertheless, it still worth knowing what the mechanic does.
If a card instructs you to cloak a card, it means you put it on the battlefield as a 2/2 colorless creature with ward 2. You can turn it face up for its mana cost, if it’s a creature card. (If it has disguise on its own, you can also pay that cost.)
Given that there are not that many cards with cloak, this mechanic won’t have a special effect on the format.
Case is a new enchantment subtype. While these cards look similar to sagas, their effects are completely different. When you play a case, you get its first ability. The second line of text, which starts with “To solve” is a condition. At the beginning of your end step, is your case wasn’t solved yet, it checks whether the condition has been met. If it has, the case becomes solved and you unlock the bottom ability.
That’s the basic gist of cases. For more in-depth information, you can read further about MTG case rules.
Each color gets two case cards, one rare and one uncommon. White gets an additional uncommon case, plus there’s also a colorless one.
If you want to use cases to their fullest, you’ll want to build your deck around them, at least somewhat. With Case of the Gateway Express, for example, you’ll want to include lots of creatures in your deck.
However, you mostly want to evaluate based on how good their immediate effect is. You might not be able to solve it, so you shouldn’t overvalue its last ability. If its first effect is already strong, then the whole case is certainly useful.
Collect evidence is a new type of cost, which always comes with an associated number. In order to collect evidence 6, you need to exile cards with total mana value 6 or more from your graveyard.
Cards with this cost appear in all colors, but are most heavily featured in blue and green.
There are some self-mill effects (these put cards from your library into your graveyard) in the set. These can help you get the most out of this mechanic. Even so, it’s not a great idea to go all-in on collecting evidence.
You simply won’t end up with so many cards in your graveyard to just keep collecting evidence over and over again. Instead, it’s probably better to play cards that are good even if you don’t collect evidence. When the situation comes up where you are able to pay the additional cost, that’s even better. However, you shouldn’t assume you’ll always be able to do so.
The final mechanic is suspect. If a creature becomes suspected, it means it has menace (it can’t be blocked by two or more creatures) and it can’t block. There are also some cards that care whether a creature is suspected or not.
There are cards in every color that care about suspect, but most of them are in red and black.
Suspect works best within an aggressive deck. When you’re an aggressor, you won’t care if your creature can’t block, but you’ll value the addition of menace. On top of that, some cards, such as Reasonable Doubt allow you to suspect opponent’s creatures. This removes a blocker, which can help you immensely.
On the other hand, if your deck is slower, you probably won’t value suspect effects very highly.
And with that, we’re wrapping our mechanics overview. Now, we’re going to discover which commons will you be most happy picking.
Best Commons for Murders at Karlov Manor Draft
You’ll find top three commons, as well as some honorable mentions for each of the five colors. Note that there are also strong multicolor commons, but we’ll talk about those in the archetype section. For now, let’s see which mono-colored cards will be the bread and butter of most of your decks.
1. Novice Inspector
Thraben Inspector is back with a new name. Although it would’ve been funny for Wizards to be like: “Well, there is a Thraben Street in Ravnica, we’ve just never mentioned it before.”
Jokes aside, this is a premium common. For one mana you get a 1/2 and a Clue, so you will eventually get your card back. As mentioned, the Clue token can also be used for all sorts of other synergies.
You’re getting an amazing deal with Novice Inspector. It’s great on turn 1 and great in any of the later turns, as it allows you to play multiple spells in a turn. (Which is a great way to get ahead in a game of Magic.)
2. Makeshift Binding
A white common removal spell is always useful, but varies in how good it is from set to set. Binding exiles the creature, which is much preferred to various Pacifism effects we’ve seen lately. Your opponent can’t sacrifice the creature for value or use its abilities, nor can they bounce it back to their hand.
On top of that, the two life points matter a lot. Sure, cards that just gain you life are typically quite bad. However, when it comes to incidental life gain on cards that are already strong, it pushes them over the top into that excellent category.
Thus, you won’t mind spending a high pick on Makeshift Binding.
3. Inside Source
For fine mana, 3/3 worth of stats is a good deal. In most cases, it’s better to receive those stats over two bodies. So, this card would be good enough even if it just a 1/1 that makes a 2/2 Detective. Especially, since there are Detective synergies in the set.
One of them is even included here, which makes it even better. For three mana you can give a significant boost to one of your Detectives. All of this makes Inside Source into a great common, that you won’t mind playing multiples of.
Combat trick plus a Clue is a strong combination. If you can time Auspicious Arrival properly, you’ll be really happy with its effect.
On the Job is an effect that have seen many times before. Now it gets a significant upgrade from investigate, and from the fact that there’s plenty of ways to put multiple creatures in play.
Marketwatch Phantom is a good, aggressive two drop. Its condition will be met fairly often, which allows Phantom to chip in for a couple of damage. This does add up quickly.
1. Cold Case Cracker
A 3/3 flyer for four mana usually needs just a slight boost to become good. The biggest thing this card has going for it is the Clue it leaves behind when it dies. While, that’s significantly worse than investigating with and enter-the-battlefield effect, it’s still quite strong.
On top of that, a 3/3 can hold back many 2/2 face-down creatures, before their controller reaches five mana. Finally, it’s also a Detective. As mentioned before, that’s certainly an upside.
2. Projektor Inspector
It’s surprisingly easy to trigger Inspector multiple times without even trying to build around Detectives. It’ll give you a nice way to filter through cards you don’t need. Even on curve it’s not the worst play, but if the game goes long, you can get a lot of advantage from its ability.
3. Crimestopper Sprite
Playing Sprite on turn three will typically enable a safe attack with your two drop. The turn afterward, you can start attacking with your 2/2 flyer, and the damage starts piling quickly. In the late game, you might even be able to collect evidence, which will lock down a creature for a while longer.
This is a great tempo play, and will see a lot of play in many blue decks. Typically, you’ll want to be more on the aggressive side, to take full advantage of Crimstopper Sprite, though.
Cheap bounce spells (cards that return a creature or permanent to hand) are always useful. Unauthorized Exit one has multiple things going for it:
- It can return any permanent, not just a creature.
- Surveil 1 is a meaningful addition. (In the late game it’s close to drawing half a card.)
- You can use it to bounce your own stuff. (Save it from removal, reuse enter-the-battlefield effects.)
On top of that, it shines when you bounce an expensive creature, such as one that was just turned face up from disguise.
Cards that lock down two blockers (or attackers) for quite a while, typically aren’t that great. While you do get ahead on tempo, you are down a card. That’s not the case with Out Cold, as it comes with an attached Clue token. This significantly improves the card. Now you don’t just gain some temporary board advantage, but you also get your card back. Thus, a traditionally situational card becomes useful in practically every scenario.
Cards that give you multiple options are good, and Bubble Smuggler does just that. You can use it to affect the board on turn 2. A disguise creature is a reasonable play on turn 3. If you manage to flip it, you get a 6/5 out of the deal, which is massive.
1. Extract a Confession
Next up, another removal spell, that quite over-performed. Early on, your opponent will typically control one or two creatures, mostly of the same quality. It’s perfectly fine to just fire up this removal spell and get rid of them. Particularly, if their only creature is a disguised one. You don’t need to pay ward costs in that case.
However, in the late game, if you aren’t playing too many collect evidence cards, it won’t be hard to get its full effect. Removing their biggest creature is often exactly what you want to do, and for two mana that’s a great deal. A black deck can easily support a couple of these.
It wouldn’t be a murder mystery set without, well — Murder. This reprint makes a lot of sense flavor-wise, and will certainly be a high pick for all black decks. Three mana to deal with any creature at instant speed is just that powerful.
One thing you need to keep in mind is the two black mana in the cost. You typically want to play at least 10 black sources in order to reliably cast Murder on time. This is not a card that you can just splash in your deck.
3. Alley Assailant
This is an interesting card to evaluate, and it’s entirely possible that it moves down in our rankings as we learn more about the Karlov Manor draft. However, it does offer you a lot of versatility, which is always good.
You can play it for three mana, either as a tapped 3/3 or untapped 2/2 with ward two. In the late game, you can pay its disguise cost for a 6 life point swing. That is a lot! Nevertheless, some cards from the honorable mentions might take its place in the future, depending on how the format plays out.
Toxin Analysis is the prime suspect of moving higher in the rankings. It just does so much for a single mana. You can use it on a small creature to take out a bigger one, or you can use it on a large creature for a big life swing. On top of that, you get a Clue. Plus, you can use it on an opponent’s creature in a pinch, if you just need the Clue.
Card like Unscrupulous Agent are usually quite strong. Particularly, when there’s a lot of stuff that you can spend your mana on, as even discarding lands isn’t without a downside. In this format, disguise costs fit the bill, so Agent will probably be good.
The “can’t be countered” line on Slice from the Shadows is actually surprisingly relevant in the world of disguise creatures. It means that you can destroy a face-down creature without paying for ward costs. So, for three mana you’ll be able to deal with any face-down creature, which is pretty neat. While Slice can be a bit clunky sometimes, you can use it as a pseudo combat trick.
1. Person of Interest
For four mana you’re getting two creatures. One is a 2/2 Detective, the other one is a 2/2 with menace that can’t block. That’s two relevant bodies in one card, which is always great. You really can’t mess with this card. Pick it, and play it when you have four mana available. It’s always going to be very good.
A cheap and efficient removal spell for smaller creatures — Shock is very useful in Murders at Karlov Manor draft. It kills 41.6% of all creatures in the format, and that’s without accounting for bigger creatures that will be played face-down. While the disguise creature make it cost two more, it’s still a fine deal to pay three mana to kill them.
Two mana for three damage to a creature at instant speed is simply a good card in practically every draft format. Galvanize comes with a relevant bonus, which makes it even better. If you’ve drawn two or more cards in a turn, it’ll deal five damage, dealing cleanly with even more creatures.
Even if you have zero ways or triggering that 5-damage clause, you should still pick and play as many Galvanizes as you can get your hands on. Without a boost, it already kills 62.7% of all creatures. Once you’ve drawn two or more cards, the percentage gets bumped up to 93.7%.
Red certainly doesn’t lack removal this time around. Suspicious Detonation is yet another one. You really want to have some ways to enable it in your deck, before it becomes good. Four damage is quite a lot, as it 85.2% of creatures in the format have 4 or less toughness.
You know how disguise creature can’t make a blowout for less than five mana? Well, at five mana Offender at Large can make for a large blowout. It’s certainly going to be one of the cards that’s really hard to play around.
If you manage to eat an opponent’s Clue with Gearbane Orangutan, you’re going to be quite happy. Even if you eat one of your own, it might be worth it to get a 4/4 on the board for three mana.
1. Loxodon Eavesdropper
Figuring which green common to rank first was quite problematic. All of them seem similar in power level, but in the end, we decided to go with the elephant.
3/3 is below the rate for a four mana creature. However, the Clue changes that significantly, and the second ability helps too. Being able to attack as a 4/4 is a real deal.
2. Bite Down on Crime
While Bite Down on Crime is a bit pricier than usual, it makes up for it with a higher power boost. You’ll be able to take out practically any opposing threat, if you have even a moderately sized creature in play. On top of that, the cost reduction might also come in handy in the late game, where it allows you to play multiple spells in a single turn.
3. Nervous Gardener
This card seems unassuming, but is actually a fine 2-for-1. For four total mana spent, you get a 2/2 and a basic land. Of course, if you need to deploy a two drop on your second turn, this also gets the job done.
It helps with splashing, and plays well with face-down synergies. The card isn’t broken or anything, but just makes sure that you’re able to hit your land drops and play an actual game of Magic.
In a format, where there’s a lot to do with your mana, cards like Tunnel Tipster really shine. It’s just a 1/1, but if you manage to play it early, it wouldn’t be too surprising for it to grow into a 3/3 or larger. At that point, it becomes a relevant board presence.
Combat tricks, such as Fanatical Strength often play out much better than one would’ve thought. Early on, it allows you to attack with a face-down creature in another one. If they block, not only did you get ahead on tempo, but you also pushed some damage through. Occasionally, it’ll also just win you a game, when the opponent decided to chump block.
Vengeful Creeper is your usual big green common creature, but with an important twist, allowing you to play it earlier. When you manage to actually destroy a relevant artifact or enchantment, you’re going to feel like you got away with something. Don’t forget, you can remove a Clue, if your opponent can’t pay two mana.
Rubblebelt Maverick is a one drop that just does a lot for its cost. Surveil 2 sets up your future draws nicely, as well as benefits your collect evidence cards. The +1/+1 counter might you to make an attack that you wouldn’t be able to make otherwise.
Topiary Panther is a nice, versatile inclusion. It can either grab you a land early, or just be a big threat later in the game.
Murders at Karlov Manor Draft Archetypes
So, you know which commons are the best, at least in the mono-colored group. Now, it’s time to take a look at the ten 2-color archetypes that you can draft in Karlov Manor. Each one receives some multicolor goodies.
Green-White: Go-Wide Disguise
The first archetype is green-white, which features a known theme (go-wide) with a twist (disguise). The go-wide theme can actually be assembled with just white cards.
White Go-Wide Package
What is go-wide theme? That is a plan which consists of adding plenty of creatures to the board, then capitalizing on them with mass pump spells.
Playing cards that put multiple creatures in play is key. At common, there are two great options — Inside Source and Dog Walker. Wait, how is the latter a mono white card? Well, you just need to play it face down first. That’s already what you want to do with it most of the time.
Once you control a bunch of creatures, you’ll want to buff them with On the Job, and put the opponent in a bad spot. These three cards are all commons, so that’s a pretty easy and reliable plan to assemble. Once you move to uncommon rarity you get more support this strategy with cards like Karlov Watchdog, Fuss // Bother and Case of the Gateway Express.
Since all of these cards are white, you can apply this strategy to all white archetypes. Even their main themes work nicely with going wide.
Green for example, plays with disguise theme, but benefits from going wide. Both Greenbelt Radical and Crowd-Control Warden are strong disguise creatures that are better when you control multiple creatures.
Furthermore, Sumala Sentry and Tunnel Tipster are both amazing two drops for this deck. If you manage to get such cards in multiples, you’re going to want more disguise creatures too. Thankfully, most of them are very playable.
So, when you’re playing green-white, you want to deploy lots of creatures, and take advantage of mass pump spells and disguise synergies.
Red-White: Go-Wide Aggro
To no big surprise, red-white is one of the most aggressive archetypes in Murders at Karlov Manor draft. While the official theme seems to be attacking with 3 or more creatures, there are just four non-rare cards that specifically do that:
All of these are quite strong, but it might seem that there aren’t that many payoffs. However, you need to keep in mind that the whole go-wide theme from before also applies here. With so many creatures in play, it’s going to be easy to put so many attackers in play. With red, you also unlock Person of Interest, an ideal common for the go wide strategy.
Compared to green-white, this deck focuses less on disguise creatures, but just wants to commit cheap and efficient attackers to the board. There won’t be a lot of room for nonsense with this deck. You want at least 16 cards that make creatures, if not more. The rest of the deck is rounded with combat tricks (including mass pump spells) and removal. Keep your curve low, and your opponents will have a hard time keeping up.
Our next archetype is slightly less aggressive on average. However, when the things line up, you can also assemble a powerful start, and beat down your opponent. Blue-white is the only tribal deck this time around, and focuses on an unusual group — Detectives. There are 18 of them in these colors, without counting rares.
So, you will have no shortage of Detectives, but what about payoffs? Is there enough of them, and are they worth building around? Let’s take a look at seven payoffs, roughly ordered from best to worst:
- Private Eye is amazing, as it buffs all of your Detectives.
- Another spectacular card for the deck is Case of the Pilfered Proof. It’s strong, even if you don’t manage to solve it.
- Perimeter Enforcer, just needs a single buff to become spectacular. With many Detectives in the deck, that shouldn’t be too hard.
- While it’s colorless, Thinking Cap only truly shines in this shell.
- Burden of Proof is a fine removal spell, which doubles as a permanent pump spell in this archetype.
- An already useful card, Inside Source can be even more utilized inside this deck.
- Projektor Inspector makes sure that you don’t run out of things to do.
How hard you want to build around this theme depends on how many copies of the first three cards (Eye, Case, Enforcer), you’ve managed to pick up. The more you got, the more Detectives should you try to include in your deck.
Of course, that won’t always be possible. Sometimes you’ll only get one payoff, so you don’t want to pursue this theme. Nevertheless, you’ll typically end up with some Detectives anyway, as most of them are quite playable on their own. Thus, you can take your incidental synergies when they appear.
Keep in mind, that there’s no need to go all-in on Detectives. You can just play good cards in these two colors, such as Granite Witness, incorporate some go-wide synergies, and you’ll do just fine.
Black-White: Small Disguise
Black-white comes with an unusual theme. There are six non-rare cards that care about creatures with 2 or less power coming into play.
By far the best one is Wispdrinker Vampire. It has good stats, and drains your opponent whenever a creature with 2 or less power comes into play. What if you already deployed your small creatures? Well, give them deathtouch and lifelink. Sure, that costs seven mana, but the effect is insanely powerful.
The other payoffs are less powerful but still quite useful
- Marketwatch Phantom can be an undercosted flyer.
- Neighborhood Guardian can give some quick buffs.
- Slimy Dualleech makes annoying attackers.
- Haazda Vigilante improves your small creatures.
- Snarling Gorehound sets up your future draw steps.
Nothing here seems spectacular, but those small advantages add up over the course of a long game. Especially, if you pair these with the benefits of the white go-wide strategies.
One problem such a deck could encounter is not having enough big creatures. Well, disguise creatures easily fix this. When they come into play, they are small 2/2s, but you can flip them into bigger ones come late game. That’s certainly a nice synergy.
Okay, so we’ve checked all the white decks, now it’s time for something quite different. Blue-black was officially named Clue control, but there really aren’t that many Clue synergies that you want to pursue.
Sure, you’ll play some investigate cards, but that’s mostly because they are good on their own, and not because they play well with Curious Cadaver. This means that most of the time, this will be your typical control deck.
When playing blue-black, you want to prolong the game. While you might be chipping in with a flyer for a few points of damage, for the most part, your plan is surviving to the late game. In the late game, you’ll hopefully out-value your opponent with various card advantage spells, including Clues.
Faerie Snoop is a great card for this deck. It’s a reasonable blocker, but it can also get you some card advantage. Furthermore, you’re the only deck that doesn’t need to splash for Coerced to Kill, one of the best uncommons we’ve seen in recent sets.
Additionally, you want to play lots of removal and potentially even counterspells. The latter play nicely with Clues. If your opponent plays something relevant, you counter it. If they don’t, you didn’t waste your open mana, as you can crack a Clue.
You might assemble some incidental synergies, but you really don’t need to go out of your way to enable them. Hopefully, the control plan is good enough on its own.
Blue-Red: Artifact Sacrifice
In Murders at Karlov Manor draft, red-blue won’t care about instant and sorceries. Instead, it’s got a really cool theme — artifact sacrifice.
There are two gold uncommons, that both depict how the deck will play out. Gleaming Geardrake investigates when it comes into play. That’s already great, but wait, there’s more. Whenever you sacrifice an artifact (like the Clue it created), it gets a +1/+1 counter. That’s a spectacular deal for two mana.
The second one is Detective’s Satchel, which investigate twice, then sticks around and makes 1/1 flying Thopters. Of course, only if you’ve sacrificed an artifact this turn. Also an excellent card.
Are those two cards the only payoffs? Far from it. You’ll also be able to sacrifice artifacts with Reckless Detective and Benthic Criminologists. The neat thing here is that they both draw you a card. So, if you’re sacrificing a Clue, you essentially save two mana in the process.
Furthermore, Harried Dronesmith makes a Thopter each turn, that gets sacrificed at your end step. Of course, you could sacrifice it before that with, say Cornered Crook, which gets a very powerful effect when you do so.
Red-blue certainly looks like a powerful archetype. Its payoffs are good, and you’re building around an already strong mechanic — investigate.
Blue-Green: Collect Evidence
Blue-green always looks like it’s doing something fun, but it’s rarely end up being a winning strategy. While this time around, the archetype is built around collect evidence, the archetype actually isn’t that bad.
Both Evidence Examiner and Surveillance Monitor use evidence similarly. They allow you to collect evidence, and whenever you do so they pay you off. Both cards are among better collect evidence payoffs.
however, you do need to do some work in order to trigger them multiple times, and really go off. You need self-mill, with cards such as Aftermath Analyst[c] and [c]Rubblebelt Maverick. Of course, you can just play regular Magic and fill your graveyard by casting spells and with creatures dying.
Don’t think that you need to go all-in on this theme. Just can just play good green and blue cards, use combat trick as removal, and you’ll do fine. Collect evidence cards can be used as cherry on the top, and not the whole thing.
Black-Green: Graveyard Midrange
Black-green also does some graveyard shenanigans. However, you now got access to black removal spells, which somewhat changes things.
Four cards in this color combination reward you when creatures leave your graveyard. Three of them are the enchantments you saw above: Soul Enervation, Insidious Roots, and Chalk Outline. All of these can reward you quite nicely for doing the thing. The fourth one is Rot Farm Mortipede, which gets amazing stats.
The big question is how often can we trigger this. If you only get a single instance, apart from Soul Enervation, the cards aren’t particularly good. You need at least 2 triggers, to make the other cards playable, but you really want 3+ to make them excellent.
Enabling the Theme
So, how can you make creatures leave your graveyard? First, you need to get creatures into your graveyard. While you can do so by self-mill, a better idea is to just play cheap creatures and trade them with your opponent’s.
Now when creatures get into your graveyard, they also need to leave. Of course, you can use the collect evidence cards that we’ve mentioned previously. Black also gives you Extract a Confession (quite strong if you can enable it) and Polygraph Orb (a bit clunky, but repeatable).
Additionally, you can also use stuff like Leering Onlooker, Macabre Reconstruction, and It Doesn’t Add Up. There is some friction between the two tactics, as you don’t want to exile a powerful creature with collect evidence, in the case you want to bring it back with one of the black spells.
Once again, it might be a better idea to just play a normal, midrange deck with simply good cards like Kraul Whipcracker and Rakish Scoundrel. These don’t need any synergies, but are just strong on their own. Whereas something like Chalk Outline is going to be horrible when you don’t enable it.
Black-Red: Suspect Aggro
Here’s an archetype that’t doesn’t mess around with various synergies. Instead, red-black is an aggressive deck, that utilizes the suspect mechanic.
There are quite some cards that allow you to suspect your creatures, such as Convenient Target and Frantic Scapegoat. For the most part, that’s already a payoff within itself, as your creature becomes harder to block. Nevertheless, some other cards provide you with additional payoffs.
For example, Deadly Complication is already an amazing removal spell, but can also put a +1/+1 counter on one of your suspected creature. Speaking of removal, Rune-Brand Juggler turns your suspected creatures into removal spells. On the other hand, Agency Coroner transforms them into card advantage. Finally, Clandestine Meddler provides some surveilling, which can certainly be useful.
The most important thing to keep in mind here is that you want to be aggressive. Sure, some cards give you the option of suspecting a creature. If you’re behind, you’ll probably opt out, in order to keep more blockers. However, you’re really leaving some value on the table when you do so. Thus, draft an aggressive deck.
Sooner or later, your opponent will be forced to double block. That’s when you can get them with a well-timed combat trick. One particularly useful one can be Toxin Analysis, which allows you to take out both blockers. (Provided your creature’s power is at least two.)
With this deck, you’ll put out some serious clock on your opponents.
Red-Green: Big Disguise
The last archetype for today is red-green, which is known for its big creatures. This time around, you’ll be disguising them. Your opponents will wonder what’s under that colorless 2/2. Is it a large or a big creature? If you have five mana available, you’ll probably be able to blow them up.
This deck is going to be quite mana hungry. Playing disguised creatures and then flipping them isn’t cheap. However, when you manage to stick something like Riftburst Hellion, it’s going to dominate the battlefield.
Thankfully, there are cards that can help you get ahead on mana. Tunnel Ripster is a cheap one that synergies with your theme. Tin Street Gossip provides an even bigger boost, and has fine stats on its own. Furthermore, Nervous Gardener can make sure you keep hitting your land drops.
Which disguise creature will you be casting with all that mana? Well, there’s no shortage of them. Besides the previously mentioned Hellion, you could also use Culvert Ambusher, Bolrac-Clan Basher, and Vengeful Creeper. Each of them can come in handy in different scenarios.
This deck certainly looks like a fun midrange deck for anyone who likes big creatures.
Murders at Karlov Manor Draft Guide: Power Rankings
Now you know what each archetype is trying to do. Thus, it is time for the power rankings. Note that in any particular draft, this could differ widely, depending on what cards are being opened, and what’s passed to you.
White is extremely strong this time around, with powerful cards across all rarities, and particularly deep at common. Red and green, followed by blue are slightly weaker, but not by much. Black is perhaps the weakest, but far from unplayable.
So, while there are some differences between the colors, there’s no need to avoid a particular color, if good cards of that color are being passed to you.
Best Archetypes in Murders at Karlov Manor Draft
- Red-White: Go-Wide Aggro
- Blue-White: Detectives
- Green-White: Go-Wide Disguise
- Black-White: Small Disguise
- Blue-Red: Artifact Sacrifice
- Blue-Green: Collect Evidence
- Black-Red: Suspect Aggro
- Red-Green: Big Disguise
- Black-Green: Graveyard Midrange
- Blue-Black: Control
As you can see, the top four decks all play white, the best color. You can pair anything with it, and end up with a pretty good deck. What follows is a group of decks that are all relatively close in power level. Each of those can certainly win games, although that’s perhaps the hardest to do with blue-black.
Still, you can play any of the ten archetypes, the rankings should mostly be used as a tiebreaker when you’re deciding between cards of similar power level during the draft.
Additional Tips for Karlov Manor Draft
In this final section, we’re going to touch on some final tips before we wrap up. As always, if there’s something that isn’t entirely clear to you, you can leave a comment at the end of the article, and we’ll get back to you.
First up, we need to talk about the introduction of Play boosters, as this is the first set using them. What changes with these boosters?
- There are 13 playable cards per booster instead of the usual 14.
- A number of common cards varies from 6 to 9. Previously that number was higher, as each booster included 9–10 commons.
- Now, each booster can contain 1–4 rares or mythic. On average, you can expect 1.48 rares per booster. This is a meaningful increase, where previously the odds of multiple rares were quite lower.
- A booster might contain a card that’s not in the main set. That was not possible with Draft boosters.
As you can see, these are some quite relevant changes. There are fewer commons, but that shouldn’t be too noticeable, as Wizards simply included fewer “useless” commons.
What might come up are more rares. You’ll need to be prepared to face more powerful cards in your drafts. It’s hard to say whether that’s good or a bad change. While losing against the best rares can be frustrating, most of them do offer some counterplay. Plus, you’ll also get to pick more rares.
Card that Aren’t in the Set
Each Play booster has a 12.5% chance of containing a card that’s not from the main set. Further rarity breakdown is as follows:
- 1.56% for a Special Guests card
- 1.56% for a rare/mythic From the List
- 9.38% for a common/uncommon from the List
The best piece of advice about these is that you should either check them now, or take some time during the draft / game play and thoroughly examine them. You don’t want to make a game-losing mistake because you didn’t read the card.
With all of this added variety, the experienced players will be the ones to benefit from this change. If you’re able to evaluate cards on the fly, and alter your strategy when an opponent presents an unusual card, you’re going to do just fine. If not, well, then you just need to practice some more.
It’s too early to be sure about the format speed. However, one of the key mechanics in the set is disguise. This involves paying three mana for a 2/2 creature. Wizards wants their feature mechanics to be playable. In order for disguise to be good, the format must not be too fast. That’s why it would seem that Murders at Karlov Manor draft will be a bit slower than some previous sets.
Of course, there’s red-white and red-black, both very aggressive archetypes. You’ll need to account for those, and be ready to face quick and aggressive decks. However, against other decks, the games could very well go longer. It’s going to be interesting to see how the format develops.
Lands & Mana Bases
One often neglected aspect in Limited are mana bases. However, that’s an incredibly important part of deckbuilding and drafting, as it affects how consistently are you able to cast your spells.
How Many Lands to Play in Karlov Manor Draft?
That’s the big question. Traditional choice is 17 lands, and you really can’t go too wrong with that number. However, this set contains both Clue tokens, and disguise creatures, both of which give you something to do with your mana. With such effects, you really don’t want to miss your land drops, so playing 18 lands might be a good idea. Reaching five mana so you can flip your disguised creatures can be crucial.
Branch of Vitu-Ghazi can be a perfect 18th land, as it can also serve as a creature or a weird ramp spell in a pinch.
This time around, there are no 2-color fixing lands at common or uncommon. You’ve got the rare cycle with Meticulus Archive and nine other lands. These are all useful, but you won’t see them all that often.
Splashing, Disguise & Hybrid Mana
Some lands are available, so can you splash in this format? It looks like this will be quite possible. (What is splashing?) You can easily use one or two of the previously mentioned lands, add an Island, and you can play Alquist Proft, Master Sleuth in your green-white deck. Effects like Gravestone Strider can also help you with splashing.
Splashing for disguise cards is particularly easy. Even when you don’t have access to splashed colors, you can play the card face-down as a 2/2. Thus, you can easily splash Aurelia’s Vindicator in any deck, even if your only white source is a single Plains. (Sure, you’d prefer more, but you get the gist.)
One last thing to keep in mind are the hybrid mana symbols. They appear on split cards, and disguise multicolor commons. Don’t let the hybrid costs deceive you. A split card such as Fuss//Bother can be used in 9 out of 10 archetypes. The only one that can’t use it is black-green. Of course, some archetype will only be able to use one half of the card, but it still might be worth it, depending on its effect.
As far as disguise hybrid creatures go, they can be played in more decks than it looks at first sight. For example, while Gadget Technician is at its best in red-blue, it can be used in any red or blue deck. That doesn’t mean you should necessarily put it in your red-green deck, but just keep in mind that this options is available to you.
You might encounter some unusual scenarios in Murders at Karlov Manor draft. Here are just some of them:
- When split cards aren’t on the stack, they have a converted mana cost of both halves combined. So, Flotsam // Jetsam has a converted mana cost of 8. This can be particularly useful for paying collect evidence costs.
- If you equip Rope on a creature with menace, that creature can’t be blocked. Might be relevant in this set, as it’s easy to control a creature with menace due to suspect.
- Coerced to Kill might seem like a weird card, but is actually one of the strongest uncommons in recent sets. It’s probably worth splashing if you’re playing either blue or black.
- There are five spells like Long Goodbye that target opponent’s creatures and use the text “Can’t be countered.” If you target a creature with ward, the ward trigger will go on the stack. However, you want to decline the payment, as your spell can’t be countered, which includes ward effects.
- A Killer Among Us looks like a meme card, but it’s actually pretty good. You get three bodies, and potentially 6/6 worth of stats. That’s a good deal, and there’s nothing sus about it.
- You can expect combat tricks to be a bit better, as they give you a way to remove a face-down creature without paying the ward cost. (Of course, if your opponent doesn’t engage it in combat, that won’t work).
If there’s something that came up during your games, feel free to let us know in the comments below.
While, it’s not a particularly interesting interaction, when an opponent plays a wrath and destroys all of your creatures, you might still be able to play around them. Of course, you first need to know which wraths are present in the format.
In black, you’ve got Deadly Cover-Up, which destroys all creatures for five mana. There’s some additional text, but it mostly won’t matter in draft. The second wrath is white and one mana cheaper. However, No Witnesses does leave behind a Clue token.
So, if your opponent is playing black or white, and suddenly stops committing creatures to the board, while making weird blocks, alarm bells should start ringing. It might be a good idea to hold some creatures in your hand, so you can recoup post wrath.
Oh, and there’s also Incinerator of the Guilty in red. However, you’ll see this big Dragon coming, and if you can’t deal with it quickly, there’s not much you can do.
Karlov Manor Draft Tier List
We can’t really talk about every card in the set here, as the article is already quite long. That’s why you should also check our Murders at Karlov Manor Draft Tier List. In it, you’ll find a grade for each and every card you can open during your draft.
Yes, that includes cards from The List and Special Guests too.
Explore Karlov Manor Further!
And that’s a wrap for our Murders at Karlov Manor Draft Guide. Hopefully, you enjoyed the article, and you’ll be able to transform this information into plenty of wins.
While the first major update was already made, more might follow in the following weeks in order to keep it even more accurate. If you don’t want to miss it, make sure to follow us on Facebook or Instagram. We post there whenever, there’s a cool new article or an important update.
If you’re planning on organizing a draft with your friends, you’re going to need some Play boosters. You can purchase them on Amazon.
For further reading about Karlov Manor, you can check the following articles:
Until next time, have fun playing Magic, and may you win a lot of Murders at Karlov Manor drafts!