Innistrad: Crimson Vow Set Review - Blue
(Necroduality | Art by Billy Christian)
[C]leave it to Me!
Hi there! I’m Jeremy Rowe, AKA J Ro, the Unsummoned Skull, a former Judge, Tournament Organizer, and Pro Tour competitor. I’m also a current teacher, college professor, streamer, community leader, and content creator, and now I'm one of EDHREC's newest writers, excited to discuss the hottest hits from the latest set!
As you can probably tell by my pseudonym, my favorite card in the game is Unsummon, the quintessential blue spell. Innistrad: Crimson Vow may have red in its name, but I'm here to bat for all the new blue cards this set has to offer. Let's review the new blue additions to EDH!
This card has already been dubbed “Zombie Doubling Season” and "Zombie Parallel Lives", and it's a legitimately powerful card indeed. To me, the key to the card’s power is that it triggers when Zombies enter the battlefield, not just when they're cast. Reflections of Littjara has already shown us that doubling up creatures you cast is very cool and powerful, but Necroduality takes it one step further for Zombie decks. If your creatures enter the battlefield in other ways, such as blinking or reanimating them, you still get copies, and that's very good.
In particular, good ol' Gary the Gray Merchant of Asphodel seems downright incredible to copy. If you really want to get funky, pair it up with Maskwood Nexus and copy every dang creature you cast, even if you're not in a dedicated Zombie deck! Heck, some reanimation spells like Rise from the Grave even turn the creature into a Zombie on the way back from the 'yard! Most Zombie tribal decks already know they want this, to double up all their Undead Warchiefs and Diregraf Captain, not to mention to get twice as many bodies on the field when they cast Zombie Apocalypse. Some Zombie tribal decks may not always want it, like The Scarab God, who makes tokens that wouldn't get duplicated, but this card has a dedicated home for sure, and it's spicy enough that even non-Zombie decks may try to pull off a few awesome tricks with it.
Jacob Hauken, Inspector
As a commander, Jacob’s front half draws some comparisons to Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, another double-faced two-mana 0/2 that loots through cards. The difference, of course, is that Jace flips into a planeswalker, and Jacob flips into an enchantment. That front half is decent enough to build around - who doesn't love a looter, after all - but the back half is where the big game is. The enchantment lets us access the cards Jacob looted away earlier, and functions as a pseudo-Phyrexian Arena in blue. We can only play one of those cards per turn, but we don't have to pays its mana cost! Pair it up with Paradox Haze or Sphinx of the Second Sun to access even more cards later on! Or, if you want to be extra nasty, cast free Beacon of Tomorrows and Time Stretches every turn.
Jacob is a great card advantage machine to build around in mono-blue, but he's probably fated to be a bit better as a commander than he is in the 99. Perhaps a deck like Nassari, Dean of Expression will like to cast all those cards from exile, but as a card in the 99, the timing is tough, the cost is high, and by that point, the payoff is pretty minimal.
As an additional note, here we have a card named Jacob in a set with Werewolves, but Jacob himself is not a Werewolf, which just seems like an insult to Twilight fans.
A 2/3 flier for three mana with a relevant creature type seems decently powerful! Both Spirit tribal and flying tribal strategies have gained significant traction recently, and this looks great for both of them.
The 'Cemetery' cycle from this set, which all exile cards from graveyard when they enter and attack, all seem pretty strong, especially this here Illuminator. Grave hate that also provides you with more opportunities for card advantage? Incredible. It even has a once-per-turn restriction, so it's not falling into the combo territory like Elsha of the Infinite + Sensei's Divining Top + Foundry Inspector, which means it's likely to show up as an actual, genuine, honest-to-goodness Spirit that just keeps a Muldrotha, the Gravetide player on their toes. Look for this in flying decks like Kangee, Sky Warden and Spirit decks like the new Millicent, Restless Revenant.
I love me a good Unsummon effect, and the only thing sweeter than an Unsummon is an Evacuation! This allows each player to keep a nonland permanent, so it’s not as devastating as a Devastation Tide, but it's coupled with card draw, conveniently timed after the cards have been bounced. As a result, opponents with more developed boards will draw you more cards!
Evacuation effects are powerful not just because they wipe the board but also because they wipe the board in a way that pressures opponents to make use of their limited hand size. No, it doesn’t get rid of everything like a Damnation would, but it forces players to redeploy everything, which gives their opponents time to find answers or forces their owner to discard them in the cleanup phase, or even to be wheeled away for good with a Windfall. This spell isn't an instant like Evacuation, but even Flood of Tears shows up in over 11,000 decks, so I think this one's got a shot of surprising players with its awesome potential.
Geralf, Visionary Stitcher
Geralf is an interesting antithesis to his sister, Gisa, Glorious Resurrector. While Gisa sacrifices creatures to make many Zombies, Geralf focuses more on creating one gigantic masterpiece, and then watching his creation take to the sky!
Geralf, Visionary Stitcher himself is in a bit of a weird spot, however. He doesn't seem best suited to being his own commander; perhaps you might want to turn a random Charix, the Raging Isle into a large flying Zombie, but that's a big task to pursue when his ability seems so much better suited to helping out go-wide Zombie decks by giving them evasion. Zombie players who've gotten the chance to play with Hordewing Skaab have seen how dangerous a flying horde can be, and Geralf's ability to turn one of your random non-Zombie helpers (such as, say, Gisa and Geralf) into a bigger badder beater is pretty delightful.
The only question is, with all the new toys Zombie decks have gotten over the past two sets, plus all the toys they already had to begin with, what are you going to cut to make room for Geralf among all this Zombie goodness!?
Large creatures rising from the tides at flash speed to improve all the other cards in your deck can cause major swings in momentum. This card dominates boards in a uniquely blue way, controlling both the cards on the field and the cards on the stack. Basically, every spell you cast is a Venser, Shaper Savant. Tidespout Tyrant is the clear connection, which increases the density of these effects you can play, and also just gives blue decks another excellent finisher. When even your Opts come with a free Unsubstantiate, you know you're in a good spot.
Sea monster decks like Runo Stromkirk love that this is a Kraken. The new Umbris, Fear Manifest likes that this is a Horror. Nymris, Oona's Trickster loves that it has flash. Lier, Disciple of the Drowned likes that this doesn't technically counter the spells, just bounces them. Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign likes that it's an odd mana cost. Combo decks like that you can cast Basalt Monolith, bouncing Sol Ring back to hand, then tap the Monolith for mana to cast Sol Ring, which bounces the Monolith back to hand, and repeat for infinite mana. Heck, Animar, Soul of Elements decks can use this as another Cloudstone Curio if they want to! The only thing this card can't do is hit lands (which is a good thing) and can't bounce your own spells on the stack back to your hand, but again, that's probably a good thing. This is a heckin' powerful control finisher.
This sorcery was, admittedly, an inspired idea. Three mana for three cards is a solid value, and reducing hand size isn’t a big deal for decks that need to power through their deck to find particular cards anyways. I personally recommend eliminating your hand size limit altogether with Thought Vessel and Reliquary Tower. It's also worth noting that plenty of strategies actually want to discard cards to hand size, especially Reanimator strategies. This is a funny spell that needs extra support to work optimally, but the times you do encounter it, it'll be for a good reason.
Stapling removal onto a creature adds flexibility and power to any card. Here we have a relevant creature type, a relevant combat ability, and a relevant sacrifice ability. It's obvious that Zombie decks are eyeing this guy, especially Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver, who has tons of tokens to create and dispose of. Perhaps a blue-inclusive Aristocrats deck wants a counterspell that procs death triggers. Muldrotha, the Gravetide can repeatedly use it to protect herself, though only on her own turn. Yarok, the Desecrated doubles the enter-the-battlefield trigger and gives you the chance to Exploit twice. Chulane, Teller of Tales would prefer to have a creature trigger over a Disallow too, I think. Heck, if you play Orvar the All-Form, you might even earn yourself a continual supply of counterspells by targeting this thing over and over with your instants!
A connection can be drawn between Patchwork Crawler and Necrotic Ooze, and it's pretty clear Necrotic Ooze is the winner there. Since this card not only gains activated abilities but also gives itself +1/+1 counters, I think the best spot for this thing will actually end up being Experiment Kraj, which gains all activated abilities of creature cards with +1/+1 counters, so anything the Crawler has, Kraj gets!
A four-mana Clone would have been good enough for Gyruda Doom of Depths Companion decks, but this one comes with even more upside! It can also flip into a Followed Footsteps-style Aura! This might end up being a mostly Spirit-tribal-specific Clone variant, but I'd also recommend giving it a shot in Volo, Guide to Monsters, who likes copy effects a lot and doesn't seem to have another super-popular Spirit card in his data that would compete with this Mimic.
Another aggressively-costed evasive creature with a relevant creature type, Dreamshackle Geist only triggers on your turn, but has offensive and defensive ramifications. Players tend not to leave up a ton of blockers with flying or reach, so being able to tap down one of those few blockers can enable your team to swing past even a huge Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar is pretty rad. This effect even happens the very turn Geist comes down, providing immediate benefit. Plus, freezing a creature and preventing it from untapping can be used defensively to make sure you can swing without fear of repercussion, or just to reduce the number of attackers, swinging combat way in your favor. The new Azorius pair Rhoda, Geist Avenger + Timin, Youthful Geist are probably most interested in this guy. Well, in this geist.
Since this card has a green pip in its Cleave cost, it's technically a blue and green card for the purposes of Commander color identity. Every Azorius flying deck out there is... pretty dang sad about that.
Still, some low-to-the-ground Simic/Quandrix decks might see the opportunity to add another Collective Unconscious to their deck? An Elf tribal deck, for instance? Best place is probably Siani, Eye of the Storm with a green Partner, or a Bird tribal Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, which can also run Beck//Call!
Uncommons and Commons
This is a dirty, dirty card for both casual and competitive Commander. Even without Cleave turning the spell into a Cancel, the ability to counter a spell that was cast from anywhere other than the owner’s hand means it can counter a commander for a single blue mana. As if there wasn’t enough reason to fear the blue player! A single open Island can threaten to counter an entire strategy, blanking the entire turn when someone tapped out to cast their six-mana commander. (In fact, it probably blanks multiple turns, since the commander probably can’t be re-cast too quickly.)
It's easy to point to a Pongify, which can also scupper a commander for one mana, but Wash Away's extra flexibility to counter any type of spell in general is what really makes it stand out, especially since it does so while also cheaply countering commanders, spells off Cascade, spells from the graveyard, spells coming off of Suspend, and a bunch of other crazy places. This is another dagger in the back of high-mana-value commanders, so ramp that The Ur-Dragon as fast as you can, folks!
We've seen previous versions of this type of effect, but Scattered Thoughts is one of the better ones. A four-mana instant that provides card advantage and selection? This isn't just similar to cards like Behold the Multiverse, it's similar to Fact or Fiction! It's even more of a boon to decks that like to use the graveyard, such as Reanimator, Storm, and Spellslinger decks, which essentially turn this card into a four-mana draw four! This is a really good common, don't overlook it.
Thirst for Discovery
Similar effects to Thirst for Discovery have seen play, such as Thirst for Knowledge and Thirst for Meaning. Discovery, on the other hand, slakes the thirst in a big way, as it requires the discarding of a basic land, which is usually preferable to discarding an artifact or enchantment (barring, of course, artifact-reanimation synergies). It's kind of like an instant-speed Compulsive Research, and that card still shows up in over 4,000 decks! I think this may be the best version of this effect, and is certainly worth a spot in any one- or two-color blue deck.
Cards with unbounded abilities are always bound to be powerful: Young Pyromancer, Murmuring Mystic, Monastery Mentor and the like are strong “army in a can” cards with incidental advantages that build up and make formidable armies on land and in the air.
Unfortunately, Whispering Wizard's ability is quite bounded, as it can only trigger once per turn. As a result, it is hindered in its general usefulness, but maybe some Wizard tribal decks or flash-matters decks can trigger this card on multiple players' turns to eke out some decent value.
The creature half of this card is decent, though most creatures with this effect tend to have other beneficial qualities (such as Sea-Dasher Octopus having Mutate, or Shadowmage Infiltrator's natural evasion). Unlike previous versions of this effect, there's actually a solid reason to want this card to hit the graveyard (not that anyone would want to harm such an adorable kitty). For example, Niv Mizzet, the Firemind decks are always looking for more Curiosity effects, and this is one they can discard with a Windfall or some other wheel spell, then cast again right from the yard whenever they need it!
Again, I’m a sucker for a good Unsummon, and this is a fine variant. Repulse does this for one less mana, and Into the Roil can hit any permanent for roughly the same cost. If you're like me and want more bouncy cantrips anyway, for the purposes of filling up the hand of a budget Niv-Mizzet deck, or activating a Kefnet, the Mindful, then Lunar Rejection shall not be a rejection after all! Bonus points if you use it on a Changeling!
Parallel Lives? More Like Parallel Spines!
Thanks for checking out this Innistrad guide on my favorite color! For having a red color in its name, Crimson Vow has some great blue cards on offer. When I'm deciding which cards to pre-order, I often look to the commons and uncommons first, and I was delighted to see that this set has spice hidden at each rarity! Whether you buy singles or go for the luck of pack opening, you're sure to find terrific value here.
Blue is much more than counters and lock pieces, and this set gives the color copious new tools for interaction, so feel free to interact below and let me know what you think of all these blue cards!