Welcome to the first part of my Crimson Vow Financial Set Review! I'll admit, I'm not quite used to writing a Standard-legal set review in early November. This is usually when Magic throws out a Commander product or an Un-set or something else that might work as a fun little stocking stuffer.
That said, I'm honestly pretty stoked that we're not leaving Innistrad yet. I thought Midnight Hunt was great, and I think Crimson Vow will be another solid inclusion to the years-long Innistrad saga. WotC doesn't nail every environment they set out to replicate in Magic, but they are so, so good at getting this particular type of gothic horror exactly right.
Financially, though, we're in uncharted territory. The Magic market usually bottoms out in late December, but we've never had a Standard set released during the holiday season. It's possible that Crimson Vow's competitive singles will hit with a dull thud, overwhelmed by seasonal trends, but it's also possible that the holiday bear market has more to do with the lack of a Standard set release for several months than with anything else. So — will the Magic calendar win out, or will the Gregorian calendar prove too formidable an opponent? I'm not sure, but I suspect we'll know a lot more about future holiday season set releases after we see what happens with Crimson Vow.
For now, I'm going to treat Crimson Vow like any other Standard legal set. Commander demand is what matters most from a finance perspective, followed by eternal play, with Standard interest taking up the rear. Cards that see play in all three formats, or at least two out of the three, are going to be the best early pickups.
That said, the past month has proven that Standard demand is at its highest point since March of 2020. Cards like Memory Deluge, Alrund's Epiphany, Esika's Chariot, and Ranger Class have spiked pretty hard, almost entirely due to Standard demand. While I do think that the best buys in Crimson Vow are going to be multi-format staples, especially Commander favorites, I'm happy to report that I'm thinking more about competitive Standard than I have in a long, long timeI've got to be honest: it feels good to be back.
With that in mind, let's get to the cards! Which mythic and chase rares are catching my eye? Let's start with a planeswalker that reminds me of one of my all-time favorite competitive staples.
Hello there, Sorin! It looks like you took Dark Confidant lessons while you were away. Sorin the Mirthless doesn't seem all that exciting at first glance, and its ultimate isn't ever going to do much, but this particular Sorin contains the two elements that I always look for in a planeswalker: an ability to draw cards, and an ability to protect itself. In this case, Sorin's -2 doesn't just protect itself — it protects against you losing all of your life total to card drawing. This is exactly where I like to be in Standard.
The only problem is…Standard isn't really there right now. Midrange is hard to consider when you have to face down a pile of green beaters or an endless supply of extra turns in the current environment. Sorin the Mirthless isn't good enough for eternal play, either, nor is it exciting anyone in Commander. That's a tough spot to be in. I think the price is fine if you're a believer that Sorin will find a home in Standard immediately, but I'm going to hold off for now. To me, this is the sort of card that will end up being readily available for $4 or $5 at some point before spiking to $18 next summer when the metagame shifts.
WotC really has mastered the art of printing good-but-not-great planeswalkers recently. Chandra, Dressed to Kill seems pretty powerful in, like, a mono-red burn deck facing off against control, but that's about it. If you can land this card on turn three, you can ramp, burn, speed up your kills, and present a slow-if-inevitable clock. That's pretty powerful, and I expect she'll show up as a 2-of or 3-of in the sideboard of a very aggressive mono-red deck. That's enough to keep her value above bulk, certainly.
Other than that, Chandra, Dressed to Kill doesn't impress me at all. The fact that she only costs three mana is certainly nice, and most three-mana planeswalkers do see play somewhere, but Chandra doesn't protect herself at all, and her card draw ability is incredibly conditional. The fact that you can't play lands off the top is really rough, and the color requirement limits her to mono-red brews regardless. I also haven't seen any excitement over Chandra in the eternal formats, or in Commander at all.
To me, this is the exact kind of card I stay away from during the pre-order period. Even if Chandra does end up outperforming expectations, her upside is severely limited by a lack of Commander demand, as well as the fact that you can only play her in a mono-colored brew. I'm staying away.
If I had to place a bet on the chase mythic of Crimson Vow, it would undoubtedly be Manaform Hellkite. In most competitive environments I'd be pretty lukewarm on a card like this, but Manaform Hellkite just so happens to combo perfectly with Alrund's Epiphany, the best and most annoying card in Standard. It's certainly possible that I'm overestimating this interaction, or that Alrund's Epiphany will get banned or hated out of the format in the coming weeks, but it seems likely that everyone with Epiphany decks will need 3 or 4 copies of Manaform Hellkite, causing the price to spike pretty hard.
Beyond that, Manaform Hellkite is truly awesome in Commander. It's a powerful, versatile card that can slot into all sorts of decks and is generating a lot of community excitement. Manaform Hellkite is also a Dragon, and as we all know, the best mythic Dragons tend to end up in the $18 to $20 range simply due to Commander demand. That's a pretty high built-in floor.
So yeah, if you want to buy one of the high-end cards in this set early on, Manaform Dragon is my pick. Of all the cards I've seen so far, this one seems the most likely to peak in the $35 to $40 range shortly after release. I can't truly recommend pre-ordering anything in the $15 to $20 range since it's so risky compared to simply buying established cards, but I have a good feeling about this one.
I'm usually pretty low on six-mana creatures, at least when it comes to Standard. This is especially true when none of the card's colors are green. Olivia, Crimson Bride might have the goods anyway, though. Haste is what makes all the difference here, since she can win a game out of nowhere pretty quickly. She also might slot right into the existing Golgari or Mono-Black Blood on the Snow decks, which could be persuaded to splash red for a finisher this good. At the very least, I've heard some murmurs from the competitive community about this plan.
As for Commander, Olivia is good but not great. She's certainly going to see play, but she's not going to enable a brand-new archetype like we got with the legendary Werewolves in the last set. Existing Rakdos and Mardu Reanimator decks will definitely give Olivia a shot, but we're talking about a solid card here, not a game-changer.
Overall, Olivia, Crimson Bride has the look of a mid-tier mythic rare. I don't expect her to be one of the set's main chase cards, nor do I think she'll end up anywhere near the bulk bin. Feel free to buy in now if you want a copy, or hold off if you're okay waiting.
Savior of Ollenbock is really testing me.
I hate hoop-jumping cards. Hate them. If you draw this at the wrong part of the game, or in an unfavorable position, then this is just a 1/2 with no abilities for 1WW. That isn't just an unplayable card — it's one of the worst cards of all time. I'm just picturing myself laughing like mad when I draw two of these in a row, knowing that my goose is cooked.
But if you can get even one quixotic attack in with Savior of Ollenbock, you can exile a creature from your graveyard and then return it to the battlefield when the Savior dies. Or, if you happen to draw this card near the start of the game when you can get a couple of solid attacks in, you can put them in a position where they either have to kill it or lose very, very quickly. It's slow, and it's poor when you're behind, but the upside here is massive.
At the end of the day, I always bet against these cards in competitive play, and I'm right at least 85% of the time. There are just so many good cards out there that don't require you to do this much work. This card is definitely not going to see play in Commander or eternal, so the failure state here is pretty high. I'm staying away, but you should know that I'm really tempted to go the other way on this one. If Savior of Ollenbock ends up being a powerhouse, I won't be all that shocked.
Volatile Arsonist is another midrange card that needs to find a home. It's not quite as good as previous rockstar mythics like Inferno Titan or even Goldspan Dragon, which is likely to fight it for space in the current environment, but that doesn't mean it isn't good. Haste is great, menace is better than you think, and the fact that it can ping things on attack is going to matter. Yes, I'd feel better if Volatile Arsonist had a more reliable form of evasion, but I'm still bullish on this card's chances of doing something in Standard at some point.
As with most of the other cards we've covered so far, Volatile Arsonist isn't generating a lot of excitement in Commander or any of the eternal formats. Since those are still the main drivers of value, I'm out on this one for now. My recommendation? Wait for it to show up in at least one top tier Standard deck before you buy in.
I haven't seen too many people excited about Cemetery Protector yet. It certainly looks like the sort of card that can take over a game in an Azorius Control shell, but four mana is a lot for such a vulnerable creature that doesn't really do anything unless you can start to assemble your engine. Even then, your reward is a bunch of 1/1 Human creatures without evasion or any abilities.
That said, cards like this have been underestimated before. Token generators tend to find a home in Commander, even if they're not at the top tier or that particular subgroup. Standard might not be as slow and grindy as it used to be, but draw-go engines like Cemetery Protector have certainly made their presence felt in the past. I'm not personally going to buy any copies of Cemetery Protector right now, but it might be worth snagging if it hits bulk mythic status in a couple of weeks.
The "cast" trigger keeps Hallowed Haunting from immediately becoming a degenerate creature generation engine in some sort of Modern Flicker shell, and I suspect there will be too many hoops to jump through for this card to see any competitive play. I could be wrong, though. Sigil of the Empty Throne had a day in the sun, and that card actually still sees some play in Historic. Hallowed Haunting is one mana cheaper, but it's meaningfully worse until you can trigger it four or five times. It beckons, "come combo with me!", and it remains to be seen if anyone can find a way to do that with any sort of reliability and effectiveness.
In Commander, Hallowed Haunting slots right into most Enchantress-style decks. Sigil of the Empty Throne sees a decent amount of play in Commander, and it's only a bulk rare because it has been reprinted several times. Hallowed Haunting seems like the kind of card that will maintain a persistent amount of long-term value due to casual demand before spiking in a couple of years when someone goes 7-0 with a Hallowed Haunting combo deck that doesn't really end up panning out. I'm certainly going to make sure I have a set before the end of 2021 regardless.
I'm not sure if Toxrill, the Corrosive will be good in Commander — it's a seven-mana card in non-ramp colors that will be an immediate target for removal — but I sure do believe that folks are going to try. The Toxrill thread on the Commander subreddit is already quite large, with most people acknowledging that this card will probably just hit the battlefield and die. They want to try anyway, though, and I can't blame them. It's a unique Dimir commander with excellent flavor and incredible upside if you can find a way to stick it. Good? No. Popular? Yes.
There's an outside chance that Toxrill goes all The Gitrog Monster on us, but my guess is that it ends up being one of the cheaper mythics. The foils and exciting variants should hold a little more value due to Commander demand, though, so that's where I'd invest if you want to buy in early. Long term, those foils will start to creep up in price if Toxrill remains a popular casual card.
Dig Up is an incredibly powerful card, and I'll be shocked if it doesn't end up being one of Crimson Vow's signature spells. Early game, it smooths your mana for very little cost. Late game, it's a Diabolic Tutor. Yes, these two cards are rarely worth playing on their own, but the modality is what makes Dig Up shine. This card is most similar to Traverse the Ulvenwald, which was a Standard Staple in its day and a Commander staple now. It's possible that Dig Up won't end up being quite so powerful, since it does cost four mana (two black) to get the better mode, but it also has a shot at seeing more play simply because it's a lot less conditional.
Financially, I'm seeing Dig Up starting out in the $2 to $3 range. That's a bargain. Worst case, you spend about $10 on a playset of an awesome new tutor that doesn't turn out to be more than a Standard and Commander role-player. Best case, you've just picked up a playset of one of the most powerful new utility cards in the format for next to nothing. I'm in for a set.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben has been reprinted a few times now, most recently in a Secret Lair that brought her price down from $20 to about $8. It jumped back up to $15 again before dropping back toward $8, and this high-profile reprint will finish the job. If you're curious about the price history of this card, here it is — from inception through today:
At any rate, I don't see this card being worth more than $5 or $6 for a while, even if it sees a lot of play in the current Standard environment. There are just going to be so, so, SO many new copies of Thalia hitting the marketplace. Supply should be more than enough to meet demand.
That said, we're talking about one of the best white cards ever printed. Thalia is amazing, and she's perfectly suited for our current Standard environment, with its Mono-White Aggro decks fighting against big, splashy spells. $5 or $6 seems about right for me, so you can pay a slight premium to snag your copies now or wait if you'd prefer.
Most of the sets these days seem to have some sort of interesting tribal colorless land, and Voldaren Estate is on the better end of them. It's certainly worth running in Commander if you're playing with more than a few Vampires, and it likely makes the cut in Standard Vampire Tribal if that deck materializes, too. These cards rarely spike too much until the set is well out of print, though, so you can be patient if you want in. I bet you'll be able to snag this for a buck or less at some point early in the new year.
We got the allied color cycle of these lands in Midnight Hunt, so it's no surprise that the enemy-colored cycle is here in Crimson Vow. The Midnight Hunt lands overperformed expectations (well, not mine — I was pretty high on them), and all five are worth a couple of bucks more now than they were on release day. Check this chart for Shipwreck Marsh:
The same thing is likely to happen this time around. These lands are good, and you're probably going to want them in your collection. Snag them on release day if you've got the cash, because they're about as stable as Standard legal non-mythic rare can be.
Five mana mass removal spells aren't that special or impressive these days, but By Invitation Only is still pretty unique. It's a powerful tool for go-wide decks against brews that put more of their eggs in a handful of baskets, and in many cases it's pretty close to a one-sided wrath. I'll be picking it up for all of my go-wide Commander decks, and I think it'll see a little Standard play too. Like most of these non-mythic staples, I think it's worth snagging at current retail. You're going to want a copy or four at some point, and you can buy in now for less than $10 per set. Seems good to me.
Oh, hey, a new staple for Wheel of Fortune decks in Commander. Change of Fortune isn't just a Wheel in its own right, it can draw you an absurd number of cards if it's your second Wheel effect of the turn. Cards like this almost always end up being worth at least $5, and I don't think Change of Fortune will break that trend. I'm gonna snag my set now, and you might want to do the same.
Geralf, Visionary Stitcher isn't the most impressive card out there, but it has a couple of things going for it. First, "Zombies you control have flying" is an absurd line of text that makes this a must-play in any Dimir Zombies list in Commander for the rest of time. Second, the fact that Geralf's activated ability triggers off of toughness makes this a must-play in all those "Defenders Matter" decks like Arcades, the Strategist. This is enough long-term demand to keep Geralf out of the bulk bin and give it some solid long-term potential.
If you want a Geralf-related spec, check out Tree of Perdition. That card already sees a surprising amount of play in Commander, and it works perfectly with Geralf. I wouldn't be surprised if it gains $5 or $6 over the coming weeks.
I love Overcharged Amalgam! A 3/3 with flash and flying is already a pretty solid beater, and this can counter so many things. Remember: you can always have Overcharged Amalgam exploit itself if all you really need is a four-mana counterspell, but the goal is obviously to either sacrifice some fodder or put something in your graveyard that can be easily reanimated. Remember: this is a Zombie, so there's a lot on the table when it comes to recursion nonsense. Exploit also works with flicker effects, so you can potentially lock your opponent down pretty well in a Bant shell, too. I'd be shocked if Overcharged Amalgam doesn't see competitive play somewhere.
Overcharged Amalgam also has a place in Commander. I doubt it'll end up being an expensive staple or anything, but it's definitely the sort of low-key staple that will see play in all sorts of decks and maintain some value because of it. I don't envision a super high ceiling for this card based on casual play alone, but if it also ends up in a couple of top tier Standard decks? Overcharged Amalgam could really be something. I'm in for a set or two.
I'm not sure how often Torens will be attacking himself, but gosh, this is a powerful token generator in casual formats. It would be absolutely absurd without the "cast" clause, but even as written, I expect Torens to do quite a bit of work in Selesnya go-wide Commander brews. All of these tokens are going to be swinging in as 2/2 Humans, and whichever ones survive are probably going to be attacking as 3/3s the following turn. You don't need to do much to make that happen, and I expect Torens to be a staple at Commander tables in my community for years to come.
Financially, Torens seems like a solid buy for anyone who wants a copy. It is clearly going to end up being one of the top Commander cards in the set, and "tokens matter" cards tend to hold their value well. I don't think it'll spike to absurd heights or anything, but if you want a copy or two? Go snag 'em. You probably won't ever be upset that you did.
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Last week's newsletter was a dive into a weird scandal that happened with a gorgeous piece of the Power 9 at one of the major grading houses. Did a grading employee really damage one of the rarest cards ever printed? Should you stop sending your cards there? Should you even be grading Magic cards at all right now? You don't want to miss this one!