Hello, and welcome back to my Crimson Vow financial set review. If you missed the first part, where I reviewed potential heavy hitters like Manaform Hellkite and Sorin the Mirthless, check it out in the link below. I think you might be surprised about which cards I think will be new format staples, and which I expect to become complete busts.
Now that the entirety of Crimson Vow is out there for all to see, my opinion about the set has…pretty much stayed the same. I know, I know, it would be more interesting if I got to tell you that this was secretly the most powerful set released in years, or the worst set that WotC has released since Dragon's Maze, but neither is likely to be true. Crimson Vow is very much in line with recent sets, containing a few very exciting mythic rares, a handful of obvious staples, and a whole slew of cards that ooze potential. Just today, we'll be covering a card that I believe to be a future Commander stalwart, one of the most powerful draw spells ever printed, and a blue mythic that might see play as far back as Legacy.
Don't forget — these days, many key staples are never cheaper than they are on release weekend. That means you need to figure out which cards you want to pick up over the next week or so. Otherwise, you might miss the best buying window for cards that will define multiple formats over the next two years. Which cards might those be? Let's get to the review and find out together!
Three mana planeswalkers are worth considering in all formats, and Kaya, Geist Hunter is no exception. Her plus-one doesn't seem super relevant in constructed play, but her minus-two can certainly do work in the right deck. I'm not sure there's anything in Standard or even Modern that would be a super exciting turn two play to curve into Kaya, but she can certainly do some heavy lifting later in the game.
The problem, of course, is that Kaya, Geist Hunter basically does nothing if you don't have anything on the battlefield that works well with her. She's not great if you're behind, and does nothing to protect herself or stabilize a tough situation. In this way, she's more like a potentially repeatable spell than most planeswalkers, which makes her road to playability fairly narrow. I can definitely see it happening, but it's far from a safe bet.
In Commander, however, Kaya, Geist Hunter is quite good. Doubling your tokens is absurdly powerful, even if it only goes off once or twice. Orzhov doesn't have access to too many cards like this, so Kaya is a must-play in the decks that want to run her. That should keep demand fairly high over the long haul.
Financially, Kaya seems like a fine but unspectacular release weekend buy. You'll definitely win out if she makes a play in Standard, but my guess is that she ends up stabilizing in the $5 to $10 range fairly early and staying there for a while. That's fine if you want a personal copy or two, but you can safely ignore her otherwise.
Cultivator Colossus reminds me of Nyxbloom Ancient — Commander-focused green cards that somehow act as a late-game threat and high-end ramp for your ramp deck. The Ancient is better at ramping, and the Colossus is better at smashing, but they should both have some pretty strong demand in the format. "Lands Matter" decks are especially going to want the Colossus, and that's one of the most pervasive strategies in the format.
Nyxbloom Ancient currently sells for about $16, and it was never cheaper than the $10 or $11 it sold for on release weekend:
I expect Cultivator Colossus to follow a pretty similar trajectory. This is a solid one to snap up early, since Commander demand will remain high for years to come. It's not a huge spec opportunity, but it's a perfect card to snag at a discount if you play Commander.
I haven't seen a ton of hype for Faithbound Judge, but it's exactly the sort of card that decks like Azorius Control always need. Early game, it's a powerful flying blocker. Midgame, it can attack while still holding back. Late game, bring it back from the graveyard, and presto — a win condition. It's only really dead when it turns on opposing creature removal in a control mirror.
Beyond that, I don't think Faithbound Judge will see much play. It's a touch slow for Modern, and Commander players don't seem to be very interested. To that end, its future price will likely depend on whether or not it is adopted in Azorius Control and how that deck will fare in the new Standard meta. It's firmly in the second tier right now, but Faithbound Judge could spike if it moves up in the ranks. I'm probably not going to snag any copies right away myself, but it's well worth considering if you're a Standard control player.
Avabruck Caretaker would have been the most powerful creature ever printed at several points during Magic's history, but here we are in 2021 asking ourselves if it'll see any Standard play at all. There are a lot of green six-drops we're ramping into right now, and very few of them see play. Ramp isn't even really in the format at the moment, and both Gruul Werewolves and Mono-Green Aggro have far lower curves. Even the decks that do ramp tend to shoot for Alrund's Epiphany at the high end. Avabruck Caretaker might see play in some future iteration of Standard, but there doesn't seem to be much room for it in the current metagame.
Avabruck Caretaker seems a little stronger in Commander, where flipping her into Hollowhenge Huntmaster on your turn is going to be game over some amount of the time. Giving your whole team Hexproof is excellent, and getting two counters on each of your creatures is absurd in a go-wide deck. Folks are definitely going to try to make Avabruck Caretaker work in that format.
Financially, I think Avabruck Caretaker is fiddly enough that it'll end up on a lower value tier than, say, Cultivator Colossus. I think it can maintain a $5 or $6 price tag over the long haul, but I don't think it's a future $20 card unless it shows up in one of the competitive metagames. Feel free to snag it on opening weekend if the price is right, but I'll be saving my speculation money for other targets.
Necroduality is quite powerful under the right circumstances. Reflections of Littjara is a solid Commander card as it is, and Necroduality is both cheaper and more flexible in dedicated Zombies decks. I can't imagine too many Zombies decks in Commander aren't running this card, and it will have demand from all of those players regardless.
As for Standard, that's a bit more of a stretch. Panharmonicon saw a tiny bit of play back in its day, and Necroduality is certainly a lot narrower. There aren't a ton of Zombies near the top tables in the format at the moment, and it's not like Necroduality has the versatility to show up anywhere else. My guess is that this ends up being a fairly cheap mythic that sees a price surge next time WotC visits Innistrad and all the Zombies cards spike in response. I'll be waiting a while to pick up my copies.
There isn't another card in Crimson Vow with a possible range of outcomes as wide as Jacob Hauken, Inspector. I've heard some players I trust calling it unplayable in the current Standard, while others are extolling its virtue as far back as Modern and Legacy. It's possible that we're looking at a new control staple and eternal darling…or an unplayable bulk mythic. I honestly don't know.
Here's what I do know. Looting is always underrated, even if you don't have the ability to fill your graveyard with goodies. Also, any card that smooths your draws on turn two and becomes a must-kill for your opponent later in the game has my seal of approval. I doubt we'll be seeing Jacob Hauken show up alongside Scroll Rack in Legacy, but I can easily imagine this becoming a powerful control piece in the new Standard metagame.
So yeah. Jacob Hauken, Inspector is a risk. There's a very real chance this card doesn't pay off at all, and you'll be left holding the bag on a future bulk mythic. If you like the card and you like to gamble, though? I'm kind of into the idea of snagging this one right now. There's $40+ upside here if your bet pays off.
Henrika Domnathi certainly has a lot of different abilities, including the always-underrated "each player sacrifices a creature." The fact that she flips into a formidable win condition doesn't hurt her chances of seeing play, either. If there's room in the format for a black midrange deck, I'd expect Henrika Domnathi to garner serious consideration.
My issue with Henrika is that she's a four-mana 1/3. You can turn her into an upgraded Vampire Nighthawk pretty quickly if you want, but then you no longer get access to the card draw or creature removal. I think I'd rather have Rankle, Master of Pranks in most situations, and that card only saw sporadic play — albeit in a higher-powered environment.
My best guess is that Henrika falls just short of becoming a new Standard staple, though it certainly has a shot if the metagame breaks right. The odds aren't good enough for me to recommend buying in now, but I'm definitely going to keep my eyes on it as the set hits Arena and we get to see how the format develops. There doesn't seem to be enough Commander interest to backstop the price if it busts in Constructed, so I'd rather save my money for more interesting bets.
If there were an easy way to cheat creatures into play in the current Standard environment (and no, I don't count Howlpack Piper — more on that card later), Cemetery Desecrator would have a shot. The fact that it kills an opposing creature coming and going while also providing a reasonable on-board threat would make Cemetery Desecrator a powerhouse in the early game.
Unfortunately, there are at least a dozen more powerful things to do at the six-mana mark in the current Standard. I don't see anyone running this card outside of some sort of Zombie Reanimator shell, which doesn't seem to be viable at the moment. It's going to be a windmill slam in draft, of course, but I expect it to be a bulk mythic in constructed.
Cemetery Illuminator might be powerful enough to see play in some sort of Mono-Blue Tempo or dedicated Spirits deck, but I haven't seen anyone talking about that possibility yet. In a vacuum, however, the card seems underpowered. A 2/3 flier for 1UU isn't exactly ahead of the curve, and the card draw engine looks incredibly fiddly to me. There's potential here if the metagame breaks the right way, but how many times have I said that about cards that I don't expect to do much? Future bulk mythic.
Cemetery Prowler will surge in price if it ends up slotting into Mono-Green Aggro, the current best deck in Standard, but I haven't seen too many people making that call. That deck has so many good three-drops to choose from, and I don't know if Cemetery Prowler is good enough to make any of them obsolete. If it's even a marginal upgrade, however, look out for this card's price tag. It will spike.
Otherwise, Cemetery Prowler could act as a kind of pseudo-ramp card in some sort of Temur or Simic brew. Speeding up your Epiphany by a turn while also developing your board presence seems solid to me. I think I'd rather have a more reliable mana generator most of the time, but if you really need to block a wave of three-powered creatures as you attempt to ramp and stabilize? Cemetery Prowler does a good job.
I still think the downsides outweigh the upsides on Cemetery Prowler, but it's one of my favorite cards in the cycle and it definitely has a shot to break out and become an expensive mythic. I'm probably not taking the gamble myself, but if you play a lot of green in Standard already, you might want to snag your set just in case.
Eidolon of the Great Revel is one of the best Mono-Red Aggro cards ever printed, and Cemetery Gatekeeper clearly goes to the same school. It's not quite as powerful, admittedly, but it's probably going to be at least decent against opposing aggro decks in Standard. More importantly, Cemetery Gatekeeper definitely has promise in any format where your opponent is likely to play a fetchland on turn one.
Financially, my problem with Cemetery Gatekeeper is that I feel like I've already been through this particular cycle with Harsh Mentor. That card was supposed to break Modern in half when Amonkhet was released, and I was definitely on board that particular hype train. What happened there? Well, I think this chart tells the story better than I can:
So yeah, I'm a little gun-shy on Cemetery Gatekeeper. I think it's a better card than Harsh Mentor, but it's not as good as Eidolon of the Great Revel, and it may or may not see any competitive play. In this case, I'd rather wait for folks to actually test this card out before I buy in. I'll miss the price floor if it does end up paying off, but I'll be protected against a total collapse, too. In some cases, hedging your bets feels like the right play to me.
Howlpack Piper // Wildsong Howler
Howlpack Piper is an interesting card. It's most similar to Elvish Piper, but with a bit more oomph and a Werewolf twist. Elvish Piper has nearly always been a trap in competitive play, but it's a solid Commander card that has been fairly valuable for a while. I can see why Howlpack Piper is starting out as one of the most expensive non-mythic rares in the set.
Is Howlpack Piper good, though? I'm not sure. I'll probably run it for redundancy in any deck where I really want an Elvish Piper, but all of the Werewolf stuff feels at odds with the Piper stuff. It's probably a bit too slow for Standard Werewolves or Mono-Green Aggro, though it might see some play in the Commander version of that deck. At this point, I'm ready to call it a solid playable, but I don't think I'd go much farther than that. I'd be intrigued in the $2 to $3 range, but it's currently selling for more than twice that. I'm staying away until the price comes down.
Edgar, Charmed Groom is just a little too hyped for me to be interested right now. It's certainly hard to deal with once it enters the battlefield, but Standard isn't exactly full of grindy decks in Orzhov colors right now. I suppose something might pop up in the new metagame, but that's a pretty hefty bet to make on one of the most expensive non-mythics in the set right now. Add in the fact that Edgar is okay but not great in Commander, and you've got a card that I'll be looking to pick up once it bottoms out in a month or two. I might change my tune if Edgar proves himself in early testing, but I'm staying away from now. There are several cheaper cards that look like much safer bets to me at the moment.
I don't think Eruth, Tormented Prophet is well positioned for competitive play, but I expect the card to be tremendously popular in Commander. It isn't up on EDHREC quite yet, but I suspect it'll be near the top of the list when it eventually pops up. It's a powerful commander on its own as well as a powerful utility card that all sorts of Izzet mages are going to be using to their advantage (and your chagrin) for years to come.
Financially, Eruth is worth picking up in showcase or extended art foil once the Collector Boosters drop. Like all popular Commander cards, the top end variants for Eruth should hold their value quite well. Even the regular version should hold its value well, though, so snagging a copy or two now is totally fine.
Graf Reaver sure looks like a future staple to me. A two-mana 3/3 with a relevant creature type is already incredibly solid, and Graf Reaver can double as elite removal as well. Remember: creatures can exploit themselves, so this thing can either enable your graveyard nonsense or just kill an opposing planeswalker while allowing you to keep the pressure on. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Graf Reaver sees play in Pioneer, Historic, and perhaps even Modern. It's that good.
As with most of these sub-$5 rares, feel free to snag Graf Reaver if you think you'll have a use for it. The price is already pretty low, and it should be even lower on release weekend. Worst case, you're out a couple bucks. Best case, you've got a set of a new staple on your hands. I feel pretty confident that this one will play off, so I'll be grabbing a set for personal use.
Ward 2 is so much better than it looks, and I'd definitely play Hamlet Vanguard in an aggressive or midrange Humans brew. My only question is: why play Selesnya Humans or something over the current Mono-Green Aggro decks in Standard? My guess is that they'd play out in similar ways, only with Mono-Green coming out on top. A future might arrive when Humans (and Hamlet Vanguard) are elite staples in the Standard metagame, but I don't expect that to happen right away. Until that day comes, Hamlet Vanguard's price tag should remain nice and low.
I have to believe that Inspired Idea will see play somewhere. Drawback or not, this is a three-mana draw three. That's an amazing rate, even at sorcery speed. I imagine it'll either see play in a reanimation deck that likes the drawback, an aggressive deck that doesn't care, or some sort of combo deck that just needs to dig for cards quickly. Regardless, this looks like a future staple that's worth snagging while it's cheap.
Oh, hey, it's a Tidespout Tyrant variant! Tidespout Tyrant was one of my favorite casual cards back in old Dissension days, and it still sees quite a bit of play in Commander. Hullbreaker Horror will certainly see quite a bit of play in that format as well, though it's too expensive to make the leap to any of the more competitive formats.
Commander cards tend to hold their value well and provide the most long-term financial opportunity, so I'm excited about Hullbreaker Horror. I'll probably snag a few on release weekend as a hedge and then plan to buy a whole lot more if they end up bottoming out near the bulk rare range at some point this winter. Either way, I'll be leaving 2021 with several copies of this card.
Will Zombie Aggro be a deck in the new Standard environment? If so, Headless Rider will almost certainly be a four-of in that particular deck. If not, I don't think it'll see much competitive play. It's certainly broken with Gravecrawler in all formats where that's legal (including Commander), but it's far from the only card to combo well with that pesky critter. So yeah — if you want a copy or four for personal use, feel free to snag them. Otherwise, you can safely ignore Headless Rider. It doesn't have enough upside to make me excited as a spec.
It's possible that Patchwork Crawler combines with something silly and takes over Modern or something, but I'm betting against it. You have to spend five mana and get the right creature into your graveyard before anything happens, which just seems like a lot to ask — especially since you then have to either win outright or protect a 1/2 Zombie Horror. I haven't seen much interest in Commander, either, though I expect it'll see some fringe play there.
At any rate, there's some upside here, but I'm not buying the hype. Future bulk rare.
Voice of the Blessed is a more powerful but slightly more restrictive Ajani's Pridemate. This is a good thing. Ajani's Pridemate is a deceptively powerful card that has seen Standard, Pioneer, Historic, and even fringe Modern play. It's also a must-play in most lifegain-based Commander decks. It isn't worth much now, but it has been above bulk in the past simply due to how much demand there is for cards like this. That bodes well for Voice of the Blessed's financial future.
At around $10 per playset, I see no reason not to snag four copies of Voice of the Blessed once the set is released. Best case scenario, it's an instant Standard (or even Eternal!) staple that surges to $10. Worst case, it's a solid long-term hold that will see play in Commander. I'm definitely in for a set.
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