Top 5 Most Overrated and Underrated Cards (with Decks) in Innistrad: Crimson Vow
Hello everyone! Now that spoiler season is over, we get to transition into the best time to be a Magic player, the brewing phase! To brew effectively, you need to have a really strong grasp of card evaluations which is a really difficult skill to cultivate as you can only get it by seeing thousands of designs and knowing how well they performed over all.
I’m by no means an expert, but I love throwing my hat into the arena to give my dissenting opinions on cards the community seems to be pretty polarized on (see how my last predictions squared up). With that, here’s what I believe to be the top 5 cards that most players are too high on and the top 5 that they’re sleeping on!
Overrated: Sorin the Mirthless
Just because he’s easy on the eyes doesn’t mean he’s a great card! Jokes aside, I’ve been seeing a lot of praise for this card that feels unwarranted, however I can’t blame people for assuming this card is very good. The plus ability is card advantage, the minus helps to protect itself, and the ultimate is very powerful/game winning. This seems to be the formula for a great planeswalker so why is it overrated?
Sorin does do all those things, but none of them well. The plus 1 being a Dark Confidant trigger is cool, but that damage can add up extremely quickly. This isn’t an eternal format where you can build your deck to cap out at a few 3 mana spells, you’re going to need to still play a good curve and it wouldn’t be that unreasonable to lose 5+ life over the course of a few turns using the plus ability.
The minus ability does help defend, but a 2/3 Flying Lifelinker is a pretty pitiful blocker in a world of Old-Growth Troll and Esika's Chariot. Sure it’s fine against Monowhite, but even then a Brutal Cathar then renders Sorin moot. Finally, Sorin’s ultimate…. Is actually pretty good, no real complaints here. Overall, I think Sorin just isn’t a strong enough 4 drop compared to it’s counterparts and the abilities too low impact to make a splash in Standard.
Underrated: Chandra, Dressed to Kill
This is one of the fun cases where the community is mostly right on this card, but just not enough right. Pretty much all discourse around this card is that it’s a good card, but that’s not true. It isn’t a good card, it’s an insane card. The deck building restrictions to play Chandra are definitely a bit high as it forces you to more or less be in Monored (or very heavy red), but the payoff is definitely worth it.
Two relevant and powerful plus abilities on a 3 mana walker with a decent starting loyalty? Gives me a bit of Oko, Thief of Crowns vibes, but I wouldn’t be crazy enough to say Chandra is even close to Oko’s power level. Nevertheless, 3 mana Planeswalkers are such a dangerous force as they can come down before the opponent has any meaningful board state so when their abilities are good, they can be extremely dominant forces in Standard. This is compounded on that not only does Chandra’s plus abilities make her inherently harder to kill, but the first one adds mana to help cast spells to defend her and the second is to help find cards to defend her. She’s going to be a massive headache for any deck on the other side of the table and I don’t think many realize just how good she is yet.
Overrated: Dollhouse of Horrors
Let’s get this out of the way, is this card sweet? Absolutely. This is not a card I expected to come out from Crimson Vow, but I’m definitely all for it in terms of flavor. However, is this card an analog to God-Pharaoh's Gift? I think in design only.
Both Dollhouse and Gift are going for somewhat similar game plans, fill the yard with creatures that like to be brought back and value the opponent out to death. However, there’s a lot of problems with Dollhouse that Gift didn’t have. Both cards are very mana intensive, but Gift was predominately cheated in either by Gate to the Afterlife or Refurbish, it’s pretty rare you were looking to actually hard cast it. Sure Gift is 7 mana versus 5 mana for Dollhouse, but Dollhouse is functionally 6 mana considering you need 1 mana to have it do anything as well.
Second, Gift was so powerful because it made everything a base 4/4. What this allowed was playing small creatures with reasonable abilities like Minister of Inquiries or Champion of Wits to fill out your early game so they can come back as big beaters in the mid to late game. Dollhouse incentivizes you to play big splashy creatures as they’re going to have the best effects, but then they come back really small so you can’t even take full advantage of playing those clunky cards.
Third, Gift was good the turn it came down, Dollhouse is going to need multiple turns to make a threatening board in most scenarios as the creatures are going to start as 1/1s.
Lastly, the bar for late game cards is pretty high in a format with Goldspan Dragon and Alrund's Epiphany, two cards Dollhouse can’t touch in power level. Dollhouse is definitely a cool design and maybe can do some work with Koma, Cosmos Serpent or Hullbreaker Horror, but it seems like a long shot to me.
Underrated: Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr
Honestly, there isn’t much to say beyond Katilda is a really strong tribal payoff and much better than many of the other tribal payoffs I’ve seen in this set. This is like a Heedless One, but way, way better as it’s a mana cheaper, flies, has lifelink, random protection, and can come back to give one of your Spirits all of her abilities! Spirits was looking a little lackluster before, but this is the exact type of card they needed to put them back on the map. Between this and all the good, cheap Spirits in Standard, I’m surprised to see little discussion around her, but I’m excited to give her a go!
Overrated: Graf Reaver
I do like Graf Reaver and think it’s an ok card, but the response around this has felt super overblown. Zombies didn’t really need another 2 drop, but it’s definitely nice to have. Sure, exploiting to kill a Planeswalker is pretty sweet and a 3/3 body is nice, but this card just seems like the epitome of ok. Compare this to Werewolf Pack Leader, personally I think Graf Reaver is hilariously outclassed in this comparison.
There is the argument you can only play Werewolf Pack Leader in 1-2 decks but that’s kind of the same with Graf Reaver anyway. I think many people underestimate the 1 life loss per upkeep with this card which is what really turns me off to it. Having an upkeep ping makes multiples of these pretty bad, pretty fast and if they’re ever outclassed on board you have to make the awful decision of either keep taking damage or chump attacking into the opponent. I think Reaver will find it’s place in Zombies and maybe a Sacrifice shell where the exploit ability doesn’t hurt too badly, but I think you’re looking at a 1-2 of at best.
Underrated: Hullbreaker Horror
I’ve seen it time and time again, players really like sleeping on uncounterable threats, but a lot of the time, they turn out to be pretty good in the right circumstances. Hullbreaker Horror isn’t exactly in that camp as I don’t think it needs the right circumstances to be great, it just is. Uncounterable threats are already great in general, but having Flash on top of that is an absolute beating for any deck.
Even though Divide by Zero exists and can still be annoying against uncounterable spells, if you force them to keep up mana to use it on their end step, it’s hardly a blowout on your end. Furthermore, the ability to protect itself if you cast a spell or to bounce opposing spells and permanents just makes this such a beating of a card to face down that takes very little work to make excellent. I said it in my Control article that this is going to be the card that revitalizes the archetype and I still feel that’s true.
Overrated: Alchemist’s Gambit
Extra turn spells have been the talk of the town since Alrund's Epiphany has been a dominant force in Standard since it’s release. A lot of players are getting sick of extra turn spells, then Wizards goes and prints another one! Now Turns can play 8 extra turn spells, right? Well yeah, but I doubt they’d want to. Alchemist's Gambit is not Alrund's Epiphany, it’s Chance for Glory.
Chance for Glory was functionally unplayable in it’s time in Standard and while Gambit is definitely better, it’s not even remotely as good as Epiphany is. Not getting the bodies makes all the difference and Turns can only afford to play so many clunky cards before their deck becomes too full. I can see a world where maybe Turns plays 1 copy of this, but I’m not even sure that would be correct. I think it’s safe to assume that this isn’t going to have the impact players believe it will and will much more likely fade into obscurity or be a part of a silly Historic deck with this, Chance for Glory, and Stifle.
Underrated: Stormchaser Drake
Now we’re getting to the real spicy takes! This card is going to need a lot of support to get going, but I think the payoff is well worth it and I’ve seen very little conversation surrounding this card. Cantripping every time you target it is very strong, and for a 2 mana 2/1 Flying body, it’s not even that bad on it’s own. Considering we already have Spellcraft decks in Standard that play a lot of spells that target creatures, adding this into the mix seems like an easy slam dunk and I’d be surprised if the popularity of that style of deck doesn’t rise as a result. It may not have the right support or environment yet, but I would definitely watch out for this card.
Now hold on a second, we’re smack talking Abrade now? You better believe I am! I like Abrade, it’s a great card that’s quite versatile, however it isn’t an effect that Standard needed right now in any capacity. We’re up to the eyeballs with cheap red removal effects between Frost Bite, Dragon's Fire, Cathartic Pyre, Roil Eruption, Burning Hands, etc.
I’m sure you’re thinking though, what about Esika's Chariot? Isn’t Abrade here to save us from the Catillac menace? In theory yes, in reality no. Abrade doesn’t stop Chariot anymore than Burning Hands did realistically. Sure it’s decent since it takes out Chariot at any point and it’s definitely better than Cathartic Pyre, but don’t be fooled into thinking Chariot is bad now. It’s still the meanest value engine on the block and a way to kill the Chariot half is definitely not going to stop it.
Underrated: Wandering Mind
I can hardly fault anyone for not talking about this card as it really flew under the radar during spoiler season like Expressive Iteration did in Strixhaven. I don’t think Wandering Mind is anywhere near as good as Iteration, but it’s definitely much more powerful than your average uncommon. To put it into perspective, Cloudkin Seer was not that far off from a Standard playable rate, but a Cloudkin Seer that can dig SIX cards deep to find a non-creature spell is pretty nasty.
Furthermore, a 2/1 Flying body, although not incredible, is still a reasonably solid blocker or can threaten Planeswalkers if that becomes relevant again. I’m not saying that any current deck would want it, but if there was ever a viable Izzet deck in Standard that would like a mid game way to find a spells then I can definitely see this being a slam dunk. What’re the odds of that happening though, right?
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Do you think there are any cards I missed or misevaluated? Let me know in the comments! Thank you for reading!