Innistrad: Crimson Vow Set Review — Green

(Cultivator Colossus | Art by Antonio José Manzanedo)

Love is in the Air

Oh good, you made it! For a moment, I was worried you didn't receive a Wedding Invitation and thought you might miss the wedding entirely! It seems the bride and groom invited a whole cast of characters, including quite a few of those forest dwellers we don't usually see much of.

Oh wow, it looks like they even invited some Werewolves! They must really want to show off all their pomp and circumstance to invite their mortal enemies...and that large plant thing with an entire cemetery on it's back.

So, grab your glass and get it filled with that aged freshly eviscerated Type AB Tempranillo from the Blood Fountain over there, and allow me do the introductions!


Avabruck Caretaker // Hollowhenge Huntsmaster

Woof, are we starting off with a renowned guest.

It may start as a 4/4 for six mana, but playing this in the first main phase and buffing another creature with two +1/+1 counters right away means we're still getting six power, and still effectively 'on rate'. Having both Human and Werewolf (Humanwolf?) subtypes is also welcome for tribal synergies.

What's crucial here is that hexproof. While the recent Mechanical Color Pie 2021 update still lists blue as 'primary' for hexproof and green as 'secondary,' it's worth noting that there've been a lot of green cards in the last year that give stuff hexproof (Guardian Augmenter, Saryth, the Viper's Fang, Snakeskin Veil, etc.), followed by some neat white cards as well.

If this gets a chance to flip, either through the Nightbound/Daybound mechanic or forcibly through something like Tovolar, Dire Overlord, you get a Privileged Position on a 6/6 body, with the upside that it itself has hexproof. As if that wasn't enough, it also pumps your entire board permanently with +1/+1 counters. This makes it extremely difficult to deal with; opponents will have to spam several spells to try and get that sun back up and shining as soon as possible, and even then, the front face still has natural hexproof too. What an incredible sticky finisher.

Great as all that is, outside of a dedicated deck like Tovolar, Dire Overlord (which, of course, already knows it wants to play this magnificent Werewolf in the 99), it'd be difficult to ensure this thing stays Nightbound. I think you have to consider whether the front side of Avabruck Caretaker is worth it alone (possibly in a +1/+1 counters build) and treat the back half more like gravy if it does happen to flip. Or, possibly pair it with Rule of Law effects to ensure people can't cast more than one spell, and give that Rule of Law hexproof so it's difficult to get out from under it. Finally, maybe consider it for a Clone deck, since clones (and token copies of cards from effects like Cackling Counterpart) can't transform and would forever stay a copy of the back half of this card.

Cemetery Prowler

Aside from disturbing the dead... and some necrophagy... this looks like a good pupper boy in every other sense! A 3/4 with vigilance for three mana is already off to a good start, and that really is just the start.

This Prowler reminds me a lot of Deathgorge Scavenger but pushed a quite a bit further. A lot further. Instead of just buffing itself or gaining you life, it actively reduces spell costs for each of the card types exiled, effectively ramping you as you grave-hate your opponents or selectively sculpt your own graveyard. Triggering on ETB and combat is what makes this so good, as you can immediately reap some benefits without having to wait until combat next turn, and when you do go to combat next turn, you get to do it again!

While hitting Dryad Arbor won't do as much as it would with Cemetery Protector, it's still pretty dang good to reduce the cost of every creature you cast in the future. You can definitely pull double duty by exiling something like Eidolon of Blossoms, which would make creatures and enchantments cost less mana. Hitting split cards, like Destined // Lead, is also not a bad idea, since, according to 709.4c: "A split card has each card type specified on either of its halves and each ability in the text box of each half", meaning it's both an instant and a sorcery, reducing the cost of both card types!

I can see some particularly good synergies for this pupper alongside Nylea, Keen Eyed, Umori, the Collector, or even just slotting into Animar, Soul of Elements decks for creature-based strategies, and in Sythis, Harvest's Hand decks for reducing your enchantment costs and furthering your ability to chain enchantments together. Overall, fantastic card.

Cultivator Colossus

Cue your audible chuckles when encountering some big, silly, green mythic designed with all the subtlety of and nuance of a Wagyu burger topped with foie gras on a brioche bun and covered in gold leaf. That's to say, this thing is kind of overkill.

Aside from being a nonlegendary Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer, this monstrosity has a pretty powerful enter-the-battlefield trigger, and high-mana-value creatures with powerful ETB effects are often juicy targets for Reanimates or Animate Deads. Whether it's worth reanimating early compared to other classic reanimator targets out there is a tough question, but I do think even with one or two lands in hand, resolving this effect to get two lands into play, draw two cards, and ending with an evasive beater that will simply grow over time, is a pretty good deal.

As a quick cautionary tale, it should be noted that you cannot use something like a bounce land (e.g., Simic Growth Chamber) to repeatedly draw cards off of this effect. The Colossus lets you 'repeat' the process of dropping lands and drawing cards as part of its own ETB trigger and resolution. In essence, you have to finish the Colossus ETB before you can then resolve the bounce land trigger.

However, Cultivator Colossus busts wide open with something like Abundance, and similarly synergizes with options like Scouting Trek or Sprouting Vines.

Abundance in particular is noteworthy, as you can name 'land' for each draw replacement from Abundance, and subsequently get every single land out of your deck and onto the battlefield. If that wasn't enough, on the final 'repeat' you can name 'land' once more, but since there are no more lands in your library, you can effectively organize the rest of your entire library however you choose since Abundance specifies you can put them back to the bottom 'in any order.' As for Scouting Trek, let's just hope Cultivator Colossus doesn't get countered after you've put every basic on top of your library!

The issue is, where does this card belong specifically?

It's easy to be impressed by its potential, but I do think it fits best in a deck with a high land count, decks that draw copious amounts of cards, or both. It sits in that spot of rewarding you for running high land counts in your deck while also giving you a particular outlet in case of getting flooded, which often can happen when your land count creeps into the 50+ category. Commanders like Sasay, Orochi Ascendant, Borborygmos Enraged, Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar and Grothama, All Devouring all come to mind, as they either emphasize large land counts, getting lands into your hand, or large hand sizes, all of which can help fuel Cultivator Colossus's trigger to essentially exchange that batch of lands in your hand for new cards and ramping you... and getting a big evasive creature to boot.

At the end of the day, it's a Timmy card through and through, and I'm excited to see exactly where it falls in different metas and circles in due time. I'm definitely scared to see things like Rishkar's Expertise resolve with one of these on the board.


Ascendant Packleader

Finally, a one-drop Wolf that isn't at common rarity for all the lupine lovers out there! Vampires have long had the upper hand in one-drop aggressors, and while Ascendant Packleader may not make as big a splash in EDH as other formats, I'm happy for its existence all the same.

Outside of dedicated Wolf/Werewolf decks, I suppose I could see Packleader finding a home in decks like Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma, which repeatedly emphasizes using specific power thresholds as a means of mana reduction or payoff, but Wolf tribal is really where this guy wants to play.

Dig Up

Alright, I know, for our format's purposes, this is technically a green-black card and not a mono-green card, but I couldn't help covering it here. It has similarities to Traverse the Ulvenwald or Reclaim the Wastes, but the Cleave cost is what sets it apart, allowing you to tutor for any card directly to hand. The way I see it, this helps early game, to get your gameplan rolling and ensure you don't miss land drops, and late game, to be used as a Diabolic tutor when you have more mana to spare. Diabolic Tutor shows up in 45,000 decks, usually in mono-black, but not exclusively in mono-black. Is this card revolutionary? Not necessarily. Is it still good? Yes.

Glorious Sunrise

Holy moly modal, this thing is everything but the kitchen sink, and then a fresh salad on the side.

Triggering on combat means you can play this on your first main phase and immediately get something in return, which is great, since so many enchantments usually require a full turn cycle before they get rolling. Let's not ignore the fact that this also stacks with multiple combats! I'm looking specifically at how that mana-making ability would work with Aggravated Assault, which may not go infinite, as you're bottlenecked by red mana, but will still permit some explosive turns.

That said, I think this card may get edged out when making final cuts. It does a bit of everything, almost like Trading Post, but many might just equate it to a 'worse' The Great Henge, and while they're not wrong to do so, I would caution that maybe an uber-pushed card like The Great Henge shouldn't be our litmus test for evaluating every card.

I can see this making home in decks like Estrid the Masked, where you want to emphasize enchantments, can likely make use of all modes, and specifically take advantage of the mana generation option with cards like Utopia Sprawl and Estrid's untap abilities.

Hamlet Vanguard

I'm digging the Logan-esque vibes of this guy, who's also donning double shields, like Gorm, the Great.

This will almost exclusively find a home in Human tribal decks, so that it enters with large batches of +1/+1 counters. Ward is a welcome addition, but other than that, he will likely just be a big beater (or, more likely, blocker) with an annoying removal tax. Consider combining with Kyler, Sigardian Emissary and Slippery Bogbonder to move all those counters onto Kyler and go to town with all the huge buffs.

Hiveheart Shaman

Intriguing, and fairly effective! This card can help pull lands out of your library, so long as you're playing numerous basic land types. If it attacks and fetches even getting two lands, Explosive Vegetation shows that's a good rate for four mana, and 5 toughness sure helps in combat.

This card is most useful in four- or five-color decks with multiple basic land types to fetch out, though if you're playing Triomes or other dual-typed lands, it may hit a wall much quicker than you want it to. Curiously, this is also good in a deck chock-full of Wastes, since they are technically basic lands, but they lack any specific basic land typing, which means they will never share a basic land type with any land you control. To be honest though, I don't know how many mono-green decks really emphasize having a ton of Wastes, especially just to synergize with a one-off card like this.

The mana-sink ability isn't terrible either, especially for creepy crawler decks that want Insects (looking at you, Blex, Vexing Pest), but overall, this card is likely to do best in a four- or five-color deck, especially one that wants to end up with a place to put a lot of extra mana.

Hollowhenge Overlord

What a welcome addition to Wolf and Werewolf tribal lists! Flashing this into play on the end step right before your turn means you can reap the reward of that upkeep trigger without much room for interference. In essence, I see it almost as a Second Harvest effect that costs a tad more, but since it's on a 4/4 Wolf body, that means you're already getting at least one 2/2 token just from this card alone, which makes it a minimum of 6 power for six mana.

However, you do have to be careful. How often will you have an already-developed board state and want to hold up six mana? It will happen from time to time, but six mana can be a big ask. Wolf tribal doesn't mind, of course, and if you're playing Maskwood Nexus, things get really funny. I would love to see this in a blue-green 'draw-go' deck or a Clone deck (perhaps Esix, Fractal Bloom?) that uses cards like Followed Footsteps and Paradox Haze

Howling Moon

Once again we have an enchantment that triggers on combat, allowing you to reap benefits right away instead of waiting an entire turn cycle, and once again, it works great with extra combat steps!

I doubt this card finds a home outside of Wolf or Werewolf tribal decks, but it does provide an interesting contingency against the Daybound/Nightbound mechanic. One of the biggest impediments faced by Werewolf tribal decks is opponents simply sequencing two spells to turn all of your Nightbound friends back to their Human selves. While Howling Moon doesn't prevent this from happening, it does give you a consolation prize whenever that scenario occurs, and that prize comes in the form of more bodies. If each opponent plays multiple spells a turn, you may not be able to keep things Nightbound, but you will grow your board, slowly but surely.

Howlpack Piper // Wildsong Howler

Howlpack Piper provides some much-needed glue for Werewolf and Wolf tribal decks. An uncounterable Elvish Piper, it comes with a bit more of a cost restriction, but also some hilarious repeatability. This card can enable some great, explosive turns, churning out all matter of Canid critters from your hand.

As if that wasn't enough, the back half acts as form of card advantage, without any creature type restriction. The Howler half can actually dig for cards that you can later cheat in with Howlpack Piper once night shifts to day. While I think this will make its forever home in other Wolf and Werewolf tribal decks (hello, Tovolar, Dire Overlord), I can still totally see this card cropping up in other creature-centric decks, like Mayael the Anima, as a means of cheating out big creatures or digging deeper for more.

Thundering Mightmare

A fantastic pun with pretty sweet art to boot. As part of the Set Booster/Crimson Vow: Commander cycle of Soulbond creatures, this particular iteration effectively turns itself and another creature into a Taurean Mauler. Two total +1/+1 counters across two creatures every time a spell is cast ain't bad, especially if your deck is designed to take advantage of +1/+1 counters with things like Hardened Scales or Doubling Season. Mowu, Loyal Companion is eager to play with this new friend, and Pir, Imaginative Rascal + Toothy, Imaginary Friend have some ideas about what to do with all those counters, too. This gets bug-nutty alongside a commander like Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, and I'm particularly excited to see this with Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, since those counters will stick around!

While some may find merely buffing your creatures underwhelming, especially at your opponent's behest, I'd like to suggest that Persist works pretty well here, as +1/+1 counters negate the -1/-1 counters from Persist, and the Soulbond enter-the-battlefield trigger can pair up with the Persist creature again when it comes back into play. Pairing this with something like Glen Elendra Archmage is actually pretty controlling, so in the right shell, this actually makes creatures pretty sticky!

Ulvenwald Oddity // Ulvenwald Behemoth

Ah, right. According to Mark Rosewater's recent Mechanical Color Pie 2021 article (Oct. 18, 2021), green is now secondary in haste effects, a step up from where it was in prior years. As such, ol' Concordant Crossroads, Surrak the Hunt Caller, and Finale of Devastation may not be the only green haste-enablers any more. I think, in years time, we will have plenty more options to consider, with Ulvenwald Oddity being the first out the gates.

The front half is already a good rate as a 4/4 for four, and it's only one keyword shy of a full combat-effect charcuterie board. The trick is jumping through that seven-mana activated ability hoop, which not only doubles its stats but grants all your other creatures +1/+1, trample, and haste. Seven mana may be a put-off for some, but green's ramp potential is just silly, and even with a few Llanowar Elves and a Cultivate or two, I don't this is all that difficult to activate. If you play this card early and it sits around too long, it may draw ire and removal, but if you've got 11 mana (and Finale of Devastation proves green players are good at that sort of thing), you could ostensibly cast this and activate it in one fell swoop, to get the jump on your enemies.

I like this most in something like Nikya of the Old Ways which often has oodles of mana at its disposal but relies upon creatures to fulfill grandiose spell-like effects. The mono-green Storm deck Aeve, Progenitor Ooze is also used to creating tons of mana in a single turn, and this could be another way to make that One Big Turn lethal right away.

Uncommons and Commons

There's a whole host of far less popular guests at this rarity level, so I'll introduce them to you quickly!

  • Cartographer's Survey: While not 'guaranteed', the fact this can put any land onto the battlefield, not just basics, is a big upside. Let's assume 1) you have one commander (i.e., a 99-possible card library), 2) have drawn your opening seven, and 3) are on turn four, having drawn only one card per turn and played four lands. This would have a success of:
    • 80% for a 36-land deck,
    • 81.7% for a 37-land deck,
    • 83.3% for a 38-land deck, etc.
      I think those odds are pretty good, not to mention this can find a home in four or five-color decks to help with mana fixing.
  • Cloaked Cadet: Five mana for a 2/4 may be a bit up there, but providing incremental card draw for Human tribal lists is interesting. I can actually see this being a nice little engine in the right circumstances, possibly triggering a couple times on each round of the table. 
  • Crawling Infestation: While slow and not all that impactful, I appreciate that this is a shoutout to the previous Crawling Sensation, simply trading the 'land' for 'creature' stipulation.

  • Dormant Grove: Granting mass vigilance isn't something seen a lot in mono-green, but even that only happens if you can flip this thing over. Overall, a bit slow, with a not-huge payoff.
  • Infestation Expert: Again, slow but I like that it has a mini-Grave Titan effect. Most of all, I like the flavor and art.
  • Laid to Rest: This card is sweet. A Human-specific Fecundity is great, especially since it doesn't have a nontoken stipulation. With new support like Kyler, Sigardian Emissary and Katilda, Dawnhart Prime, creating Humans with +1/+1 counters isn't all that difficult, so you're likely to pad your life total while also refilling your hand. I'm particularly curious to see this pop off with Saffi Eriksdotter, who's constantly popping in and out of the graveyard.

  • Nature's Embrace: A fine card with flexibility, though my money is on the mana more often than the buff. Auras that enchant lands are often undervalued.
  • Packsong Pup: What a cute pupper, with a nice, early, and aggressive cost that can grow with time as you develop more top-end threats. Wolf tribal exclusive, but look how adorable it is!
  • Reclusive Taxidermist: Seems right at home with Seton, Krosan Protector!
  • Retrieve: Just a dandy piece of recursion, adding another target on top of Nature's Spiral for one additional mana. Not flashy, but I think it's fine. 
  • Sawblade Slinger: A parasitic fight mechanic isn't ideal, and I think Manglehorn is preferable for the artifact destruction.

  • Spiked Ripsaw: I'm fond of this. While I find green Equipment silly as a premise, I'll admit this is a particularly flavorful design, effectively granting a modest Giant Growth and the ability to sacrifice lands. I don't think Titania, Protector of Argoth actually needs this, but maybe Yedora, Grave Gardener decks will want to get its creature cards back to the graveyard to recur later.
  • Wolfkin Outcast: You're not playing this outside of Werewolf or Wolf tribal lists, naturally. Day/night can be inconsistent, but Tovolar, Dire Overlord is decent and making sure it's nighttime when your opponents try to wipe the board, and this is good insurance if that happens. Outside of Tovolar forcing the day/night change, though, I'm not sure if other Wolf decks will be able to guarantee that insurance for themselves.
  • Weaver of Blossoms: Redundancy is good! Scorned Villager has a new friend. Well, a lot of new friends - a whole bunch of the green cards in this set have been very Werewolf-friendly!

A Toast to Our Fanged Friends

That wraps up our introduction of all the green guests invited to the party. My, does it seem like this set wedding for Vampires sure has a lot of Wolf and Werewolf guests....

What do you think? Are you impressed by all the pomp and circumstance? Are you going to spend some time socializing with that ominous Cultivator Colossus? Do tell!

Trent has been playing Magic since the early 2000s, when instead of exercising in a summer sports camp, he was trying to resolve a Krosan Skyscraper on the sidewalk (it always ate a removal). He saved up his allowance to buy an Akroma Angel of Wrath on eBay, only to find out it was a fraudulent post, forever dashing his hopes of ever getting a big creature to stick. He’s since “grown up” and, when he’s not working on his dissertation in Archaeology, spends too much time thinking how to put Cipher in every one of his decks and digging for obscure cards (see photo).

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