Innistrad: Crimson Vow Limited Set Review: Black

Demonic Bargain Art by Sam Guay
Demonic Bargain Art by Sam Guay

Hey everyone! Today I’m back with black, so let’s see if it’s the best color of the format like it was in Midnight Hunt!

Aim for the Head

Rating: 2.5/5

I love me a Mind Rot, especially when it exiles in a format full of Disturb. Exiling a zombie should also come up often enough, which will make this a decent card to main deck and a premium board card.

Archghoul of Thraben 

Rating: 2/5

I just don’t see most black decks having enough zombies to make up for the mediocre 3/2 body on this. It’s nice that at the very least you get a Surveil off of this and other zombies when they die, but this is usually just going to be a 3/2 for three, which haven’t been playable in awhile.

Bleed Dry

Rating: 3.5/5

This is a very good removal spell that no black deck is ever going to cut. It exiling is a nice little boost now that’s for sure!

Blood Fountain

Rating: 2/5

I love me a Morbid Plunder, and this is the Wishing Well version of it. A lot of creature heavy decks will be interested in one of these, especially if they have multiple ways to get value off of the Blood token. It’s a shame that these effects seem to have gotten worse over the years because creatures are so good and applying pressure and because of that you often don’t have the time to spend a turn activating this.

Bloodcrazed Socialite

Rating: 2.5/5

This a decent four drop that will especially shine in an aggressive deck that’s producing a lot of Blood tokens. This isn’t spectacular, but I’m sure that a lot of decks will happily play this.

Bloodsworn Squire

Rating: 2.5/5

This is worse than it looks, even though giving itself Indestructible is powerful and the backside is so flashy. Having four creatures in the yard is asking a lot, and this is a little expensive to activate when it isn’t flipped, so while I would often play this I wouldn’t recommend taking it early.

Bloodvial Purveyor

Rating: 4.5/5

This is enormous, and if your opponent doesn’t have removal for it then they’re not going to last long. This is definitely one of the better rares in the set for Limited!

Catapult Fodder

Rating: 3/5

I love this design and think that it’s surprisingly powerful. A 1/5 will hold down the fort long enough for you to flip this, and once you do you’ll be able to fling your high toughness creatures and quickly end the game. I can only imagine how brutal it will be when you fling an Unhallowed Phalanx!

Cemetery Desecrator

Rating: 4.5/5

This is a huge Flametongue Kavu on it’s way in and out of play, which is always going to be an all-star in any limited format.

Concealing Curtains

Rating: 3.5/5

This blocks nicely early on, and then turns into a solid creature with a Vendilion Clique ability tacked on, which is good at answering your opponents bombs and key removal. This is great and a must-include in any black deck. 

Courier Bat

Rating: 3/5

Now this is an incredibly powerful card in the right deck. A Flying Gravedigger for three mana is insanely ahead of the curve, and even when you don’t trigger it you’re still left with a Wind Drake. I love this card and plan to take it highly and build around it.

Demonic Bargain 

Rating: 0/5

Exiling thirteen cards is surprisingly costly in limited because you risk hitting key removal spells and your bombs. Even the best case scenario of exiling some garbage and finding your best card isn’t great because you had to waste three mana in order to do it, which will often lead to you falling too far behind. Please just don’t cast this; the fail case is way too high and even when it works it’s not very good. Demonic Tutor is probably one of the most underrated effects in Magic when it’s not being played in a combo deck.

Desperate Farmer

Rating: 2.5/5

Assuming you can consistently flip this, you’re getting a solid deal. The front side is anemic, but I like this enough that I think that it’ll perform well in a lot of the creature heavy black decks that have a bunch of Exploit. This kind of just seems like a better Thraben Sentry to me, which I’m all for.

Diregraf Scavenger

Rating: 2/5

Decent four drops are way too common in limited, so while these are decent stats, it’s nothing particularly special. Still, I know that I’ll be playing with and against this a lot, so don’t feel bad about including it in your decks.

Doomed Dissenter

Rating: 2.5/5

I love this card, and I’m especially happy to see it back in a format with Exploit. This is a solid enabler that also buys you a lot of time in the early game, which makes it a two drop that I’m quite fond of.

Dread Fugue 

Rating: 1.5/5

This is usually going to just be a Coercion, but that affect is often going to be a solid board option. Most of the cards that you’re interested in taking cost more than two mana, not to mention that the odds of missing are way too high if you cast this on turn one, so I’d avoid main decking this and only bring it in when you face a crazy bomb.

Dreadfeast Demon 

Rating: 4.5/5

It’s hard for seven drops to be all-stars considering how fast modern day limited is, but I think that Dreadfeast Demon more than makes up for it’s clunkiness with it’s powerful effect. This will quickly turn your entire board into unbeatable demons, and unless your opponent has instant speed removal for this, then it’ll duplicate the first time and leave them with no way to answer both copies of it. Don’t pass this and hope that you have a Valorous Stance or something at the ready if your opponent casts it!

Dying to Serve

Rating: 0/5

You’re rarely going to be able to trigger this, and even when you can it’ll need to trigger two-three times before it’s worth it. Please steer clear of this nonsense.

Edgar’s Awakening

Rating: 1.5/5

Zombify with some weird Madness cost is interesting, but for the most part not too powerful. If you have a bunch of discard outlets that can benefit from this, then I say go for it but otherwise I would avoid situational, clunky spells like this.

Falkenrath Forebear

Rating: 3.5/5

This is near impossible to answer profitably with removal unless you exile it. It beats down, fuels itself, and seems like a major headache to have to deal with. So many cards make Blood tokens, so even if this dies before connecting you’ll still probably be able to bring it back!

Fell Stinger 

Rating: 3.5/5

A 3/2 Deathtouch for three is already solid, but this is way better than that because it lets you turn a useless creature into some serious value later in the game. Plus if you’re land screwed and need to get out of it as soon as possible, then just use this as a Blood Pact! Also keep in mind that this has the added benefit of being able to deal the last two points of damage to an unsuspecting opponent.

Gift of Fangs

Rating: 3/5

Heck yeah, Bonds of Faith for Vampires is so cool! This is obviously a great early removal spell since it’ll kill most small things like Dead Weight normally does, and then in the late game you can put this on some flying vampire and try to go the distance with it.

Gluttonous Guest 

Rating: 3/5

Blood tokens are an interesting design, but honestly don’t seem all that powerful to me unless you combine them with payoffs like this. Looting is fine in limited, but because of how much faster and less forgiving modern formats are, it’s common to not have enough time to be spending mana on something that does not affect the board.

Still, a three mana 1/4 that gains a few life and gives you a late game loot is going to be pretty decent, especially in the slow and more controlling sort of decks. Black’s game plan seems to favor cards like Gluttonous Guest being part of it.

Graf Reaver

Rating: 0/5

The Exploit ability is awful in Limited and the body on this is also atrocious. Losing one every turn is a huge downside, especially if this gets hit with a Pacifism type of effect. Please never play this even though it is a flashy rare.

Grisly Ritual

Rating: 2.5/5

The black removal in this set is looking solid like it was in Midnight Hunt. You get a lot of value out of this, and in conjunction with all the Blood hungry Vampires I really like this even though it is a little clunky.

Groom’s Finery 

Rating: 1.5/5

A really expensive Bone Splitter is just not going to cut it. The flavor here is sweet, but I wouldn’t consider touching this unless I had a couple Bride’s Gown and a very aggressive Orzhov deck to combo with this.

Headless Rider

Rating: 4/5

Combat seems impossible once this is in play considering the abundance of zombies in the set. Your opponent better have some exile removal otherwise I don’t see how they would efficiently answer this.

Henrika Domnathi

Rating: 4.5/5

What a sweet name and sweet card. Obviously this is a bomb that’ll get you a ton of value and then flip into a huge threat that should easily end the game.

Hero’s Downfall

Rating: 4/5

You just can’t beat a murder with upside when it comes to Limited. I love reprinting this at uncommon and it even has great flavor. Talking about the downfall of Odric in the flavor text is really cool!

Innocent Traveler

Rating: 2.5/5

Sweet flavor and an overall decent card right here. I’d prefer a Phantom Monster since your opponent does have a lot of options with this card and ways to make it not flip, which can be awkward. However, the backside is powerful and will often be triggered, which makes me like this creepy traveler and not seeing myself cutting it often.

Mindleech Ghoul 

Rating: 2/5

How good Exploit is is going to depend almost entirely on how well your deck can abuse it as well as what type of deck your opponent has. Most of the time this is just going to be a two mana 2/2, but it is nice that in the late game when this gets outclassed you can try to snag your opponents last powerful spell that they’ve been sandbagging.

Keep in mind that the existence of this card is going to encourage players to hold a land or two in their hand in order to protect their important spells from being discarded when they’re playing against a black deck.

Parasitic Grasp

Rating: 3.5/5

An Essence Drain that’s sometimes only two mana is a fantastic removal spell and way to keep up. Obviously you should always be playing this.

Path of Peril

Rating: 3.5/5

This grade is assuming that you can cast it for its Cleave cost. Six mana is unfortunately a lot for a wrath, but it’s nice that this can still be used early on to handle an opponent’s quick start or answer a horde of tokens. I’d definitely plan to board this unless you’re Orzhov or a really slow, creature-light black deck.

Persistent Specimen

Rating: 2/5

I honestly love Sanitarium Skeleton, and in my opinion, this is a better version of it. I love how well that this combos with Exploit, and I can imagine that most of the black decks of the format will be interested in a copy or two of this.

Pointed Discussion

Rating: 1/5

I really hate Divinations that lose you life. This gives you a Blood token, which is nice and all, but I would play pretty much any creature over this in my three drop slot.

Ragged Recluse

Rating: 3/5

This depends entirely on how many discard outlets you have, but that shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish with all the Blood tokens in the format. If you do have enough ways to flip this, then it’s a potent threat that can easily swing a race. I foresee this flipping often and early on, which makes me think that it’s going to be a stellar two drop.

Rot-Tide Gargantua 

Rating: 2/5

I love Predatory Nightstalker so much, but I doubt that this gargantua will be able to live up to the legacy of that limited all-star. Having to Exploit to get the edict makes it so you’re not getting a two-for-one out of this, which means that you’re paying for a big body that’s weak to removal. Five drops that are soft to removal and don’t have a relevant impact on the board are rarely worth playing unfortunately.

Think about Diregraf Horde for Midnight Hunt and why it was so good. It fueled all your Decay synergies like Siege Zombie, shut down the opponent’s graveyard synergies, and also was excellent against spot removal. Rot-Tide is none of those, so while I wouldn’t be embarrassed to play this, I would rarely be seeking it out.

Restless Bloodseeker

Rating: 3.5/5

This will make so much Blood, and then it flips pretty easily in most black decks. This is powerful once it does flip seeing how it drains for relatively cheap and continues making more Blood token. This and Gluttonous Guest seem like a match made in heaven!

Skulking Killer 

Rating: 3.5/5

Now this seems like a really fun card to try to get to work. When it does, it’s going to be insanely good like versions of this from the past (Bleeding Edge is the first one that comes to mind for me). Worst case scenario, this is still a four mana 4/2 when you really need to make a play, which is pretty bad but is also not embarrassing. Not to mention that if you play this and clear the board then you shouldn’t have too much of an issue with starting to connect with this Giant Cockroach!

Sorin the Mirthless 

Rating: 4.5/5

As expected, Sorin is a stone cold killer in limited. It draws cards, protects itself with powerful fliers, and kills the opponent when it ultimates. This is good on every board state and I would never pass this at any point during a draft.

Toxrill, the Corrosive 

Rating: 4.5/5

Now this doesn’t seem remotely beatable if it lives for a turn. It’s huge, continually Contagion Engine’s your opponent’s creatures, and also makes a horde of slugs. The sacrifice effect honestly doesn’t really matter, so don’t even bother trying to splash it’s effect if you’re not blue. Take this, play it, and get a little taste of what it was like to Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite your opponent in 2011.

Undead Butler 

Rating: 2.5/5

I like that this fuels graveyard synergies while also being a fantastic creature to Exploit. Keep in mind that Novice Occultist-like creatures like these are going to be especially good in Crimson Vow.

Undying Malice

Rating: 2.5/5

Now this is my kind of combat trick. It’s incredibly situational and most likely a little worse than Supernatural Stamina since it’s difficult to have everything go right and have your creature trade after casting this. I love how this retriggers ETB’s, protects from removal, and is amazing with Exploit. I usually don’t love situational combat tricks, but I’m a big fan of this in creature heavy decks and as a potent board card.

Unhallowed Phalanx

Rating: 0.5/5

Now this is a killer design lemme tell you! So much toughness that your opponent doesn’t even stand a chance (please never play this)!

Vampire’s Kiss

Rating: 0.5/5

Red alert, this card is a trap! You need your spells to impact the board or provide some sort of value, which this does not. Blood Tithe is not a good Limited card, even when you try to attach a couple low-value Blood tokens to it.

Voldaren Bloodcaster

Rating: 4.5/5

The body alone is great here, and this is awesome at fueling itself and working towards flipping it. Once this does flip, your opponent maybe has a turn or two before they’ll be overrun with bats, which makes this a bomb rare in my book.

Wedding Security

Rating: 3/5

This is a very powerful Blood payoff that’s going to quickly end the game. Assuming you have ample Blood producers, then I would happily play as many copies of this as I could get my hands on.

Top Three Commons

  1. Bleed Dry
  2. Gift of Fangs
  3. Courier Bat

Top Three Uncommons

  1. Hero's Downfall
  2. Parasitic Grasp
  3. Skulking Killer

Black looks solid, but far from as good as it was in Midnight Hunt where it had three premier removal spells at common. Solid removal and some powerful creatures with good ETB’s makes me think that this is still going to be one of the better colors in the set.

Thanks for reading!

Chris Kvartek

While Chris Kvartek technically kicked off his career in 2012, he burst onto the scene in 2019 like few before him. With an early season Top Finish at Mythic Championship II and narrow miss for his second at Mythic Championship IV, Kvartek earned invitations to two more Mythic Championships through online qualifiers. He secured his second Top Finish of the season at Mythic Championship VII, and now this rising star must prove he can stay among the elite of professional Magic.

3 Responses

  1. MTG_Punisher says:

    Hi Chris,

    I really like your articles and thank you for your review. I agree with most cards but have two annotations.

    First is Ragged Recluse where you miss a good discard outlet in a set full of blood tokens.

    The second is Skulking Killer which is in my opinion more a dream than a Flametongue Kavu. Even if it hits the board turn 4 and the opponent has only 1 creature, this must have toughness 2 or less to let the Killer work sucessfully.

    I am sure I will be punished for this several times by my opponents killing my Skulking Killer that missed his job the turn before 😉

    • Chris Kvartek says:

      Two great points! You’re 100% right about Skulking killer. I didn’t equate blood tokens as an enabler for it, but now its wayyyyy better. Ill edit the article and put it up to a 3! Skulking killer can be awkward because of removal, but I still really like how you can sandbag creatures early on and then play it turn four to catch up. I really appreciate the feedback!

      • Micoyan says:

        Hi Chris, two questions:
        1) Did you equate blood tokens as an enabler for “Dying to Serve” when you evaluated it as 0/5, or it’s the same case as with Ragged Recluse?
        2) How could Skulling killer be awkward because of removal? Main problem with it is that opponent must have the only creature for ETB to trigger, I’m not sure I understand how removal affects that.