3 New Graveyard Based Decks with Innistrad: Crimson Vow
Hello everyone! Spoiler season is still running strong and more super sweet cards keep getting revealed which is always a brewer’s paradise! With that, I was disappointed with the first Innistrad set that there was little emphasis on graveyard strategies despite them printing some cards to insinuate there would be. In the original Innistrad block, cards like Mulch and Unburial Rites were format defining cards that made a powerful and very fun deck in Abzan Rites. We had our Unburial Rites surrogate in Diregraf Rebirth, but really no way to fuel the graveyard which made the strategy seem bunk.
However, Crimson Vow has not only released a bunch of graveyard matters cards, but they reprinted Mulch itself! This is an exciting time for those who like playing graveyard decks as with Vow’s release, they’re looking quite powerful. With all this in mind, I have 3 new decks utilizing Crimson Vow cards to help abuse one of Magic’s most powerful resources in the game!
1. GOLGARI GRAVEYARD AGGRO
Considering I love both aggro decks and graveyard decks, it’s no surprise I would combine the two! There was already a good amount of support for this style of deck prior to Crimson Vow, as the shell of Deathbonnet Sprout and Willow Geist, self mill with Egon, God of Death, and recursive creatures with Skyclave Shade and Ebondeath, Dracolich did already exist. The issue with the archetype is that it lacked enough self mill options as 8 wasn’t much (I saw lists with Witherbloom Command that did help out there), and it wanted an additional payoff ideally. Well good thing we got those in spades now!
The first substantial improvement to the deck is the addition of Mulch. Digging 4 cards deep and potentially drawing multiple cards off of the deal is such a powerful effect for this deck and there’s really no losing scenario here. In the old Abzan Rites deck, if you whiffed off of Mulch that could be really painful since you were a deck pretty reliant on hitting your land drops. This deck however is lower to the ground so our whiff would likely be hitting multiple creatures which fuels our synergies anyway! It’s far from ideal, but the fact that this card can never truly be bad (barring it hits only other sorceries or Esika's Chariot exclusively, but that would be very rare) makes it a great inclusion.
Now onto the payoffs. The first really nice payoff we get is Reclusive Taxidermist. Magic boomers probably recognize this familiar face as it’s a functional Werebear reprint (and a slightly better one at that!). This allows us to play fewer lands as it’s a mana accelerant, and in the mid to late game it has a very relevant body for attacking. If these were the only two cards this strategy got, I would already be pretty happy, but of course we get one more goodie!
Cemetery Prowler is the final payoff for this strategy and he is rough for the opponents. A 3/4 vigilance for 3 is already a solid stat line, but considering you can exile a creature and this becomes a semi-permanent cost reduction spell for all your creatures afterwards? That’s insane. This works obscenely well with Skyclave Shade and Ebondeath, Dracolich in particular as they’ll be so easy to get back now and you can even tag something like Mulch or Esika's Chariot if you end up with multiple.
Overall, this strategy is looking extremely exciting for new Standard, and with Black, you’ll have access to a great sideboard. Before I continue, I did want to show a slightly alternative version of this strategy as well.
This goes up the curve a little more, but you get access to Wrenn and Seven who’s not only insane with Esika's Chariot, but also is a powerful self mill engine for the deck! Truth be told, I don’t know which version of this deck is better, but I wanted to give you both options.
2. GOLGARI GRAVEYARD MIDRANGE
Now I know Blood on the Snow Midrange is nothing new, and although Golgari wasn’t generally the color combination, that’s technically not new either. What is new though, is how this deck is going to play out despite only adding two new cards to it’s ranks.
Once again, Mulch is going to be the linchpin of the graveyard synergies for this deck. Unlike the previous deck, Mulch is more focused on hitting the lands as we are trying to cast expensive spells, but the milling is definitely going to be relevant as well. An issue I had with Golgari Control back in Standard 2022 is that the Blood on the Snow wasn’t always consistently bringing back something. To combat this, I had to play a higher density of threats, even when I didn’t necessarily want to (you can see what I’m referring to in the article below).
However, Mulch helps to solve that issue in a big way. Not only will it help you find lands, it’ll help you find threats to put into the graveyard, whether it’s Wrenn and Seven (who also helps to put threats in the graveyard), Lolth, Spider Queen, Tovolar's Huntmaster], or Burning-Rune Demon! The best part about this strategy as well is we can mix and match the threats we want depending on the matchups or the metagame.
For example, two new cards that could be great fits are Toxrill, the Corrosive and Cemetery Desecrator. Toxrill is great as it will absolutely demolish creature strategies given a turn or two (especially Monowhite) and Cemetery Desecrator is a versatile card that can kill creatures, planeswalkers, or even reset sagas if you’re so inclined! This flexibility is going to help Mulch really shine and you can consistently find the pieces you’re looking for. What do we do if we want more consistency though?
The second new card added to the deck is one that’s really flown under the radar, Dig Up. This list plays two so far, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is supposed to be a 4 of! Lay of the Land effects have always had an interesting history in Magic as they can range from pretty bad like Lay of the Land itself to absurd with Attune with Aether or Traverse the Ulvenwald. I don’t think Dig Up is going to be as strong as the latter two, but it’s certainly close. The ability to have a split Lay of the Land and Diabolic Tutor is quite powerful in a deck that’s already looking to play bullet one ofs. This deck is going to need the right metagame to truly shine, but it seems excellent when it hits that right spot.
3. SULTAI MIDRANGE REANIMATOR
It’s time to try and put my money where my mouth is! In my Top 5 Unplayed Standard cards article I slated Diregraf Rebirth as the top card that was looking to broken. If you want to read more about this, check out the link below.
I will say that building Reanimator decks is hard. You have to balance threats, reanimation, interaction, and any other incidentals you’re going to need. I’ll be the first to say that this build is likely not the ideal form of this deck, but it’s somewhere to start.
First of all for improvements, I think this deck needs to be Sultai as Koma, Cosmos Serpent is definitely the best payoff and with that the mana wasn’t the best before. However, with Dreamroot Cascade and Deathcap Glade, your mana is much cleaner now and making these 3 color decks significantly more tenable.
Like all the previous decks, Mulch is the glue that’s going to hold this together. We’re looking to both mill over our threats plus hit lands which makes it the perfect card for this strategy as it was back in the Abzan Rites days.
The new card that’s really interesting for this strategy is Old Rutstein, Magic’s first Legendary Peasant! So this is a pretty innocuous card, but if you can make every effect on it good, it seems like a powerful early game option. For this deck it does pretty much everything we want it to which is super sweet. First, it mills every turn which is going to help fuel our graveyard for reanimation targets, however, every hit has a good effect. Hit a land? Make a Treasure token to help accelerate us into our threats. A creature? Free chump blocker. Neither? A way to loot to help find our pieces or discard a threat we drew. Since this is Legendary we don’t want too many of these and they also get worse as the game goes on, but playing 2 seems like an excellent addition.
Like the previous deck, you can customize your threats package as much as you want. The only threat I know you want for sure is Koma, Cosmos Serpent as it’s just the biggest, baddest creature in Standard right now, but the rest is up to you. If you wanted to make a version that played more threats, I would consider playing something like Thirst for Discovery or Scattered Thoughts as a means to help fuel the graveyard a bit. Both seem quite good, just not what we’re looking for in this exact version of the deck.
Is there a deck here you’re most excited to play? Let me know in the comments! Thank you for reading!