Top 5 Most Overrated and Underrated Cards (with Decks) in Innistrad: Crimson Vow

Wandering Mind Art by Simon Dominic
Wandering Mind Art by Simon Dominic

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

Crimson Vow Monored Aggro
by DoggertQBones
Standard
Aggro
best of 1
12 mythic
37 rare
8 uncommon
3 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Instants (7)
4
Play with Fire
$1.16
3
Frost Bite
$0.75
Lands (23)
4
Faceless Haven
$29.96
60 Cards
$288.72

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

Crimson Vow Sultai Turbo Reanimator
by DoggertQBones
Standard
Combo
best of 1
2 mythic
32 rare
18 uncommon
8 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (18)
Instants (8)
4
Divide by Zero
$1.00
Sorceries (10)
4
Mulch
$1.00
Lands (24)
2
Forest
$0.50
1
Island
$0.25
1
Swamp
$0.25
4
Darkbore Pathway
$31.96
2
Shipwreck Marsh
$23.98
2
Deathcap Glade
$17.98
60 Cards
$291.6
Sideboard
2 Cards
$2.04

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

Crimson Vow Simic Spells
by DoggertQBones
Standard
Aggro
best of 1
0 mythic
24 rare
20 uncommon
16 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (16)
Instants (20)
4
Snakeskin Veil
$5.16
4
Charge Through
$1.00
1
Wild Shape
$0.25
4
Decisive Denial
$1.00
Sorceries (4)
4
Blizzard Brawl
$1.00
Lands (20)
60 Cards
$85.12

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.

Overrated: Abrade

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

Crimson Vow Izzet Turns
by DoggertQBones
Standard
Control
best of 1
4 mythic
25 rare
24 uncommon
7 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (4)
4
Wandering Mind
$1.00
Instants (24)
3
Fading Hope
$0.75
1
Dragon’s Fire
$0.25
1
Demon Bolt
$0.25
3
Divide by Zero
$0.75
1
Prismari Command
$13.99
Sorceries (10)
Lands (22)
5
Island
$1.25
5
Mountain
$1.25
2
Field of Ruin
$0.50
60 Cards
$181.26
Sideboard
2 Cards
$2.04

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?


End Step

With the release of Innistrad: Crimson Vow, we are relaunching our YouTube channel! We plan to post videos of varying topics to accompany our articles – from improving your competitive play, deck guides, and much more. Be sure to check out our latest video below and please support us by subscribing to the channel!

Do you think there are any cards I missed or misevaluated? Let me know in the comments! Thank you for reading!

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on Twitch and Discord.

15 Responses

  1. ratkorga says:

    It’s obviously a bit jank, but after your previous article where you mentioned Oswald Fiddlebender, I have to admit that my first thought when Dollhouse was revealed was some sort of Oswald Fiddlebender/Myriad Construct/Dollhouse of Horrors silliness. Myriad Construct can at least in theory make a bunch of constructs to up the power level of Dollhouse a little bit. I just wish Fiddlebender wasn’t white, when most of the best mill cards and payoffs for this strat are in green and blue…

    Glad to see other people are as excited about Chandra as I am, though. I’ve been thinking a lot about potential shells for Chandra. Mono-red is of course a great choice but I’ve been thinking a lot about a more burn-focused Boros shell, dipping white for Showdown of the Skalds/Rem Karolus/Sacred Fire plus some of white’s good sideboard options. This is one of the decks I’ve been most excited to try once everything goes live:

    4x Chandra, Dressed to Kill

    4x Falkenrath Pit Fighter
    3x Bloodthirsty Adversary
    3x Reckless Stormseeker
    4x Rem Karolus, Stalwart Slayer
    2x Manaform Hellkite

    2x Spikefield Hazard
    4x Abrade
    4x Play with Fire
    4x Sacred Fire

    2x Shatterskull Smashing

    4x Showdown of the Skalds

    7x Mountain
    3x Plains
    4x Needleverge Pathway
    4x Sundown Path
    2x Den of the Bugbear

  2. Zafarion says:

    Sure Sorin is not powerful enough to make him eternal formats playable, but I think he is better than most standard legal planeswalkers (think about Nahiri, Tyvar, Zariel.. oll on the cmc4 curve and making only 1/1 tokens). Of course he’s not good in all situations – as any balanced card – maybe you want to side him out vs mono green and other aggros, but I think it’s solid when facing control oriented decks. It’s great that his tokens can block the annoying epifany tokens and gainning life.

    • DoggertQBones says:

      You’re definitely right than he’s better than the other walkers at the same part of the curve, but all of those planeswalkers have also seen no play and I unfortunately think Sorin will follow suit. Best of the bunch doesn’t help when you’re outclassed by non-planeswalker cards on 4.

      • Sblak says:

        I agree that Sorin the Mirthless is no Imperious Bloodlord, but he will still will see play in two decks. First in any Standard vampire deck for tribal synergy. While a 2/3 flying lifelinker isn’t great, if it ETBs as a 3/4 creature instead because of Vampire socialite, then he becomes a real threat. It would also make Sorin’s +1 much more forgiving because it gains 50% more life from the token’s 3 instead of 2 damage. Also, vampires as a tribe generally include life gain, negating his life loss downside. I think we are still not quite there for vampire tribal after the VOW spoilers, but it’s pretty close. Just like nuclear fusion, one step away. One strong 1 drop in a future set and aggro Rakdos vampires are viable and Sorin will have his home.

        I also think Sorin will see play in any control decks that play black. There are just not very many viable planeswalkers in Standard right now. He is cheaper than Lolth and ticks up with his +1. The only other option is Professor Onyx or Mordenkainen, and both have mana values too high. So I think at least 1 of Sorin is playable for the token blocker that gains life and stall, a +1 that draws even with a penalty, it always draws land for free, and he has a very threatening ultimate. I don’t think he is great (would need to be 3 cost and have no life loss on his draw to see play in older formats), but I think he is a strong enough PW for control decks to include.

  3. Albel says:

    I am so glad not to be the only one to feel stormchaser drake is going to rock. I had to read the ability twice to make sure I did not misread it…

    I actually saw it in a more azorius magecraft or azorius tempo shell. Paired up with a lot of cheap spells, delver of secrets and the likes. Decent top end besides mavinda In magecraft shells, to keep spells flowing.

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Oh that’s definitely a great direction to take it too and Delver seems like a nice fit as well! I love Mavinda and was sad to not play her, but the downside of losing Green is losing removal and Snakeskin so hard to say which is better.

      • ratkorga says:

        For payoffs for this kind of deck other than Mavinda, thoughts on Orvar the All-Form? Duplicating your Magecraft goons is pretty fun and can get out of hand fast, though 3U is a bit expensive on a deck that usually prefers to play multiple 1- or 2-cost spells. I also really like Winterthorn Blessing in Simic Magecraft shells, and it seems even better with Stormchaser Drake – give it a +1/+1 counter, lock something down and draw a card, then do it again thanks to the fairly cheap flashback.

        • Zaxecivobunny says:

          A person after my own heart. I’ve got an Orvar Stormchaser brew on the way… but… I have no real expectation of it being good! I have spent so many hours trying to get Orvar to work in different decks and my winrate has always been atrocious. Fun, though!

        • DoggertQBones says:

          I think orvar is unfortunately too weak for a 4 drop but winterthorn blessing is definitely an interesting idea!

    • Draugdur says:

      I absolutely loved the Drake design the moment I saw it! And yes, I also thought about an Azorius tempo/prowess shell: 4x each of Lumimancer, Delver, the Leonin super-prowess dude and the Drake, plus a boatload of 1-mana pump and protection spells, 16-18 lands, and boom! It’s probably not going to be good xD but it’s definitely going to be fun! And possibly also good for grinding rank and gold on Arena: with this kind of deck, you either win T3 or T4, or you scoop.

      Mavinda as top-end is an interesting take. Not so sold on Orvar, I also think a 4-mana spell is too expensive for this deck, at least the way I imagine it to be.

  4. damianvc31 says:

    Completely agreed with the extra turn spell, it’s not a very good card.
    I like Sorin as sideboard against Control, since it splits himself into 2 reasonable threats, one that hits for 2 in the air and the other that draw cards. Moreso in Vampires for the extra tribal synergy. Maybe it’s not fantastic, but I think it’s good enough to see play.

  5. Draugdur says:

    Some very interesting takes! I didn’t really think about Abrade TBH, I think you’re right though. Hullbreaker Horror is definitely something noone should sleep on, the card is really powerful!

    As concerns the “duel of the planeswalkers” (:-P), my money’s still on Sorin and not Chandra though. As much as I normally like playing it, I don’t see a mono-red deck coming together if mono-white and mono-green remain in the meta, not with the additional cards these decks got.