Underperformers and Overperformers of Innistrad: Crimson Vow Limited

Mischievous Catgeist Art by Denman Rooke
Mischievous Catgeist Art by Denman Rooke

The vampire wedding we’ve all been waiting for is finally here and it’s time to sit back and reflect on what we’ve learned in the first few days of the new set! While years of experience have given us a good idea of how cards are going to play out, we really have to see how they play in their new environment to get a true grasp on them.

Here are the cards that have over and underperformed their expectations in VOW, or as I like to say, now it’s time to see how wrong we all were during preview season. Ratings have also been updated on our Limited Tier List:

Underpeformers

Bloodsworn Squire

2.5 to 1.5

Bloodsworn Squire’s ability sounded good on paper, but holding up two mana is a pretty heavy cost for an ability that both costs you a card and is easily played around. That leaves you playing with a Hill Giant without any extra value attached, which is comically behind the curve in 2021.

Even if you do manage to flip it to Bloodsworn Knight then your creature is suddenly vulnerable to incidental graveyard hate. On top of all that, the best removal spell in the format gives -X/-X which completely invalidates indestructible. I could keep going, but in general, don’t play this card unless something has gone horribly wrong in your draft.

Curse of Hospitality

3.5 to 2

I can see why people thought a continuous card advantage enchantment looked good for aggressive decks. The problem is that this is the textbook definition of a win more card that does absolutely nothing if you are behind. If you’re ahead on board then any other synergistic three drop would most likely get the job done just as well, if not better than Curse of Hospitality.

Even if it somehow comes together and you are getting damage in with curse out, you end up getting cards off of your opponents deck. Off-color land and cards that don’t synergize with your plan are going to be worse than random cards from your own deck. I appreciate the attempt at hospitality, but will leave this curse for someone else.

Estwald Shieldbasher

2.5 to 2

Estwald Shieldbasher seemed like it was going to be a key part of the Selesnya training deck. Unfortunately the cards just haven’t lined up right for that deck and while this is a solid card on it’s own, it’s having trouble finding a proper home in Crimson Vow.

The biggest downfall of this card is that it dies to three different, heavily played, one mana removal spells. In a format currently defined by using all of your mana every turn, the tempo hit from losing your four drop to a one mana spell is usually too big to come back from.

Investigator’s Journal

3 to 2

I was skeptical of Investigator's Journal going into the format, but a lot of people thought that colorless card draw would have a home in Crimson Vow without all of the incidental card advantage of Organ Hoarder and decay tokens. The main problem is that Blood tokens are flowing like water and straight card advantage doesn’t mean much when everyone can just filter their extra lands away like it’s nothing.

Laid to Rest

3 to 2

Laid to Rest looked like a repeatable source of both card advantage and life for the Selesnya humans deck. Unfortunately it’s just another victim of that deck not lining up well with the rest of the format. Even if you do manage to gather all the cards for that deck, taking turn four off to play a do-nothing is a sure fire way to lose the game.

Mischievous Catgeist

3 to 2

Mischievous Catgeist has run into the problem that limited decks are too efficient these days. Every deck is going to have something to deal with this early so you are rarely going to be able to slip in for damage and get a free card. Being a two mana 1/1 in a world full of bigger creatures and cards your opponent actively wants to trade off makes for a sad kitty.

The only real opportunity for this is when the cat comes back and manages to land on an evasive creature. The main drawback being that it becomes an instant removal target and since you usually had to trade the cat off for nothing, sets you up to get blown out. Typically with auras like this you wait until you have an opening so you at least draw even on cards, but in this case you might end up losing it to incidental graveyard hate. 

Mulch

2.5 to 1.5

Poor Mulch showed up one set too late. In Midnight Hunt this would have been a true powerhouse dumping piles of value into your graveyard while making sure you kept hitting your land drops.

Unfortunately Crimson Vow doesn’t have flashback and the disturb is limited to auras. Outside of a few random cards like Bramble Wurm you aren’t getting much value out of self mill. The only time to really play this is if you have one of the expensive bombs of the set like Hullbreaker Horror that you need to hit the land drops for.

Overperformers

Biolume Egg

3 to 3.5

Most people thought Biolume Egg was a good card, but it has played out significantly better than expected so far. Obviously you should only play this in decks with a sacrifice outlet, but any deck that can hatch this should be grabbing it early.

The scry from dropping egg on turn three lets you set yourself up to have the perfect turn to exploit it. The four toughness is almost impossible to attack through in the early game and it just feels so good when your exploit throws in a 4/4 for free.

The exploit deck is heavily dependent on synergy and can feel downright unfair when you get all the pieces. Strangely enough, Dimir underperforming is actually beneficial to building this deck as you are much more likely to get everything you need to go off.

Bloodtithe Harvester

3.5 to 4

Coming into Crimson Vow, Bloodtithe Harvester looked like it was going to be a great signpost uncommon. Instead it’s the best uncommon in the entire set. In fact, it has the fifth highest games in hand win rate of everything, including rares and mythics. That is just straight bananas.

Why is it so good? An above rate two drop creature that brings some value with it is going to be good no matter what. That extra value has been playing out much better than expected with a blood token feeling like you got about half a card thrown in for free.

On top of all that, after you’ve smacked in a couple times you can usually just sacrifice your two drop to kill off their biggest creature while still having all that delicious blood ready to go.

Diregraf Scavenger

2 to 3

Diregraf Scavenger looked like a card that would occasionally make the cut because it is one mana too expensive for it’s stats or that it required a creature in the yard to get value. I can personally vouch that I’ve played five of these in one deck and it felt great.

This card does so much more than it looks like. Being able to snipe cards out of your opponents yard is valuable whether they are playing disturb creatures or recursion. As we’ve seen with vampire spawn in AFR, a drain two is nothing to sneeze at. 

That leaves a ⅔ deathtouch that plays well on the board invalidating 2/2s or trading up for a better creature.

Edgar’s Awakening

1.5 to 2.5

Edgar's Awakening looked like your typical five mana Zombify effect which is exactly what it is except for the existence of blood tokens. Being able to sacrifice a blood, pitch this to draw a card, and pay the “madness” cost to return the creature you wanted to hand anyway is a powerful ability.

Even just playing it for it’s base cost isn’t a bad fail case in a format full of bombs and comes into play effect creatures. Get the coffee because I’m ready for this awakening to be a part of any black deck that can produce blood tokens.

Falkenrath Celebrants

2.5 to 3

Falkenrath Celebrants was expected to be your run of the mill five drop with one or two as a curve topper. One of the things that makes this stand out from the rest of the vampire party is that it dodges both Abrade and Flame-Blessed Bolt. Having menace on a 4/4 usually leads to your opponent making bad double blocks that get blown out by those same spells.

The other great thing about Celebrants is that they come with party favors, two incidental blood tokens, making sure that the next couple lands you draw get filtered straight into gas to keep the celebration going all night.

Snarling Wolf

1 to 2.5

Snarling Wolf is a prime example of why treating each set as its own entity is so important. Everyone (including me) bemoaned this reprint wondering why Wizards would put this in VOW after it failed so hard in MID.

Even looking at it in the context of Crimson Vow, you would think that with three one mana removal spells that deal with this, it would be just as bad. This is a case of green red aggro being much more supported than it was in MID. It allows early pressure and even if they do answer it, they aren’t answering your other quick threats.

Syphon Essence

1.5 to 2.5

Another case of us not learning our lesson about properly grading a set’s mechanics. It seems like we just went through this with Flip the Switch when everyone thought Devious Cover-Up was going to be better. History just repeated itself with Syphon Essence and Syncopate as getting free value with your counter was once again underrated.

The drawback of only being able to hit creatures or planeswalkers doesn’t matter as much as you would think in a format full of bombs, efficient creatures, and inefficient removal.

Traveling Minister

2 to 3

We really need to break the habit of assuming all one drops are bad in limited. Traveling Minister is the ultimate team player who does so many little things to carry you to victory.

A free life every turn may not seem like a big deal, but the more efficient the format, the more that incidental lifegain matters. With powerful lifegain triggers like Markov Purifier or Restless Bloodseeker around, it quickly becomes a lot more than incidental.

It even plays great with training, giving you that extra trigger to pump your squad. I’ve seen these going around way too late and I’d recommend not slamming your door when this Traveling Minister comes knocking.

Thanks for reading, and hopefully this helps you adjust your expectations when drafting Crimson Vow.

Now get out there, crack those packs, and party like the suns never going to come up!

j2sjosh

Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

2 Responses

  1. Zafarion says:

    When I saw Snarling Wolf rated 1 in the previous article I remembered how good this creature was in MID.

  2. Draugdur says:

    “We really need to break the habit of assuming all one drops are bad in limited.”

    Please don’t! This way I can grab some easy wins at the beginning of the format before everyone and their dog figure it out and I start raking 0-3’s 🙂

    But joking aside, yeah, you’re absolutely right, I don’t know where that comes from but it’s completely nuts. Back in the day when I still used to read LSVs ratings I was always on the lookout for the “criminally underrated 1-drop” because there was at least one in any set.

    That said, I’m not that sold on the minister…not the card itself, it’s good, but so far I’m pretty disappointed at white in general. Maybe it’s just a fluke, but I’ve had terrible results with it so far (in BW even, which is probably still the best white deck).