Innistrad: Crimson Vow Set Review - White
(Kindly Ancestor | Art by Justyna Gil)
A Nice Day for a White Wedding
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to review the white cards for Innistrad: Crimson Vow. As a color, white has long been considered to be on the poorer side of "for richer or poorer" when it comes to Commander, so whenever a new set drops, many of us are looking for some powerful new cards to have and to cherish until power creep do us part. I think we're all itching to get to the reception, so let's skip the ceremony and see what gets left at the altar.
Mythics and Rares
By Invitation Only
This feels like it should have been a black card, what with all the sacrificing, but instead we get a very interesting new tool in white's mass removal arsenal. While white already has ways to get around indestructible with Hallowed Burial and Descend upon the Sinful, this is a great option for token decks (such as Thalisse, Reverent Medium or Alela, Artful Provocateur) that have extra creatures to give up. It takes the right deck, but manipulating board wipes to be one-sided is pretty wonderful!
Outside of token decks, this card is fine, and costed similarly to other such board wipe effects. Sacrificing 13 creatures is usually going to be enough to clear the board, but at that point you're better off with a traditional Wrath, where you can keep your creatures with something like Make a Stand or Avacyn, Angel of Hope.
This card has the potential to swarm the board with tokens, and the fact that it functions as instant graveyard hate is icing on the cake. Be on the lookout for cards with multiple types, like Dryad Arbor, or any artifact creature or enchantment creature, to maximize the value. Panharmonicon is another way to catch more cards types and is likely to synergize with a deck that wants to cast a lot of creatures.
Speaking of which, Cemetery Reaper, is going to so some serious work in God-Eternal Oketra decks. Oketra's Monument shows up in a whopping 86% of GE Oketra decks, and it sounds pretty awesome to create even more tokens whenever you cast Whitemane Lion six times a turn. Outside of that, Human tribal commanders like Jirina Kudro, Kyler, Sigardian Emissary, Katilda, Dawnhart Prime and Sigarda, Heron's Grace are all happy to get more bodies on the field, so the Protector definitely has a home in the format.
Faithbound Judge // Sinner's Judgement
If Faithbound Judge is played on curve, it would be able to attack around the same time that a Serra Angel would. That isn't going to cut it in most Commander games. The other half is a very slow kill condition on a single opponent. Three turns isn't an eternity to wait, but it's not quick, either, and you're likely to earn a lot of ire during the wait. Even using Proliferate effects, you can only shave a single turn off of the wait time. It would be fun to knock out several opponents this way, but since the enchantment exiles itself, you'd probably have to rely on cards like Pull from Eternity to try.
I think this card has a home in Arcades the Strategist, which can make use of both sides of the card most easily. The front half has defender, but obtains the potential to attack right away with Arcades. Arcades players can therefore focus their attacks on one player while using the Sinner's Judgement effect of this card to deal with another player, all while defendd themselves with a huge wall of creatures as the clock ticks down.
If you've been looking for another effect like Sigil of the Empty Throne for your Enchantress deck, you're in luck! Getting seven enchantments on the field at once can be a big task, but once you get there, Hallowed Haunting gives flying and vigilance to each of your creatures, not just the tokens. This can turn your Setessan Champion into quite a threat! Sythis, Harvest's Hand would be happy to have more options for win conditions, and Tuvasa, the Sunlit is likely interested in the evasion and defense.
While Hallowed Haunting creates Spirits, I don't see Spirit tribal decks running enough enchantments to warrant using this card. If you look at the Spirit Tribal theme page for Ranar, the Ever-Watchful you'll see that it's only running 6 enchantments on average, and even the newly-printed Millicent, Restless Revenant is looking for nontoken Spirits to deal combat damage for her triggered ability to work. This card could be a win condition for enchantment-heavy Kykar, Wind's Fury decks as a way to get even more mana out of that commander, but it'll likely remain mostly within the Enchantress theme, and since Sigil of the Empty Throne appears in over 15,000 decks, that's pretty admirable company to keep.
Here we have a powerful, repeatable removal tool for +1/+1 counter decks. Removing two counters from among your creatures is easy to pay, whether you're going wide or tall. At one mana, this fits anywhere on your curve and doesn't even require a tap to activate, so it can be utilized the turn you play it. Karlov of the Ghost Council and Breena, the Demagogue can easily get the required number of counters, while Marath, Will of the Wild and Ghave, Guru of Spores are happy to have another way utilize their counters (though of course, the more tuned versions may not have need of this effect if they're focusing on infinite combos). For best results, pair with a Cathars' Crusade to eternally knock out troublesome enemy artifacts and enchantments for as long as you need!
Katilda Dawnhart Martyr // Katilda's Rising Dawn
Another finisher for Enchantress decks! Ethereal Armor is played in 10,563 decks, while All that Glitters is played in 15,961, and if I dare say so, Katilda has quite a bit over both of those cards. Flying gives a better chance for a direct hit, and lifelink will keep you in the game longer. Enchantress decks are certainly more interesting in casting the back half, to enchant their commanders to deal commander damage, but even as a creature, Katilda is still a problem that needs to be dealt with. Best of all, barring exile removal, she's a problem that needs to be deal with twice.
Tuvasa, the Sunlit and Uril, the Miststalker would likely be happy to have a creature they can sacrifice to an edict effect, especially if it can later return as an Aura in the future. Sythis, Harvest's Hand could certainly use another way to put opponents on a clock. Kykar, Wind's Fury decks that lean on enchantments and/or Spirits can make Katilda massive, and Kykar's sacrifice ability will make certain you can use her as an Aura when you need it. In the event you play against a Vampire tribal or even a Changeling tribal deck, that 'protection from Vampires' may even come in handy, too!
Somehow, this card is worse when you pay its Cleave cost. Both red and white have more reliable removal than this. If you really want this effect, I'd recommend that instead you use Kabira Takedown, since it can also be a land.
Savior Of Ollenbock
It may not look like it, but this is actually a powerful modal card. First of all, it acts like a Fiend Hunter whenever it trains, so you can use it as repeatable removal as long as you attack with other bigger creatures. Second, this effect can also hit a creature in the graveyard, and since it all comes back to the battlefield when the Savior leaves (not dies, but when it leaves the battlefield) you can also use this as a reanimator effect. This goes great in decks that utilize blink effects, and would make an excellent reanimator engine with Brago, King Eternal or Livio, Oathsworn Sentinel. Cards like Sun Titan and Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle will even be able to recur the Savior itself, since it's a three-mana card. It even has low power for things like Recruiter of the Guard and Alesha Who Smiles at Death! This is easily my favorite card in the set, don't overlook it.
An excellent top-end finisher for +1/+1 counter decks that like to go wide. This card pairs well with any card that puts +1/+1 counters on multiple creatures, like Felidar Retreat, and Loyal Guardian. Often just having a lot of fliers is enough to win a game. Aside from combat, there are some neat tricks you can do when turning creatures into Angels. If you can cause creatures to enter the battlefield with counters on them, they will enter as Angels, triggering Righteous Valkyrie and Seraph Sanctuary to gain you life. Bishop of Wings is especially fun with this card - if you can get counters on the Spirits it creates with something like Cathar's Crusade, then they will make another Spirit when they die, which becomes an Angel! Just add your favorite free sacrifice outlet and you're off to the races! Commanders that deal in +1/+1 counters like Shalai, Voice of Plenty, Mikaeus, the Lunarch, and Katilda, Dawnhart Prime should be looking for a spot to play this card.
Voice of the Blessed
They did it. They made a better Ajani's Pridemate. If you have one of the 7,255 decks that run Pridemate (and aren't doing some kind of theme brew) you are going to want this. Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn, Karlov of the Ghost Council, Daxos, Blessed by the Sun, Kambal, Consul of Allocation, and Linden, the Steadfast Queen all tend to make use of lots of incremental lifegain effects, which means this card will power up to lethal in next to no time. This card may even earn a home in +1/+1 counter decks that want to go tall, since putting all your counters onto this card (with, say, a Reyhan, Last of the Abzan) will give you a huge, indestructible, evasive, vigilant beater. At the end of the day, a Path to Exile or a bounce spell will undo the work it took to get there, but lifegain decks are always happy to get another method of weaponizing all their lifegain in a new, exciting way.
While it's nice to see white getting more draw effects, I think most decks that marry this to their strategy are going to file for divorce in a few months. The counters are added to this card whether you get to draw a card or not, so a well-timed removal spell can block you from getting those cards. The tokens are a hollow consolation prize, and instead of going to the graveyard, where you could get it back, this card just transforms into an anthem that will prevent you from abusing your tokens with a Skullclamp. Mono-white decks looking to make large numbers of creatures to attack with, like Darien, King of Kjeldor, might find a home for this card, and Haktos, the Unscarred is happy to see it turn into an anthem, I suppose, but at the end of the day, decks in other color pairings will have better card draw options to reach for.
Another attempt at giving white card draw, and it's better than the card above. This card is very evocative of Mentor of the Meek, except the mana requirement is replaced by a once-per-turn limit.
If your deck wants the Mentor, then it wants this as well. This card has a home in the format, but it's far from the 'answer' to white's card draw woes. To maximize this effect, you need to be making creatures every turn, not just your own, which likely means making tokens, or some type of Whitemane Lion effect. Thing is, those decks tend to make use of anthems, which can potentially lock you out of drawing cards from this Vampire.
If you want to add this to your token deck, take a cue from Partner decks with Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa and use cards like Mirror Entity or Leonin Sun-Standard to pump your creatures at the last minute. Aside from Sidar Kondo, I can see this card showing up in Edgar Markov decks, since it's a Vampire, and Edgar makes tons of small tokens very consistently. Among mono-white commanders, Heliod, God of the Sun and Darien King of Kjeldor are great at making small creatures on other players' turns, and God-Eternal Oketra loves a Whitemane Lion, which pairs very nicely with our new Vampire friend.
Uncommons and Commons
Arm the Cathars
This looks like a Limited card, but I think it has a home in Feather, the Redeemed decks as a way to trigger several of the creatures with the Heroic ability that tend to show up in those decks, such as Anax and Cymede, while still providing a boost to the commander.
As white gets more reanimation effects, such as Late to Dinner, it may be worthwhile to start looking at free discard outlets like this one. Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle decks can use this to discard creatures to recur, for example, and Ranar, the Ever-Watchful can discard unwanted cards in order to exile this creature and make a Spirit token as needed.
Heron of Hope
Angel of Vitality sees play in 5,598 decks, to help them get a boost to their lifegain. While the Heron costs four mana, the ability to grant itself lifelink is just one more way to trigger permanents that care about lifegain. Not a huge mover and shaker, but a cute one.
It's no secret that double strike is one of the better keyword abilities in commander. While the Geist can be cast from the graveyard as an Aura, I think most enchantment-focused decks would be better off looking at a regular ol' Battle Mastery. I think this card would actually shine more in Equipment decks like Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist or Bruenor Battlehammer. At two mana, this comes down early and wears Equipment like Mask of Memory and Sword of Fire and Ice quite well. Then, if it ends up in the graveyard, it can be recast to pass double strike onto the next creature you want to suit up!
I Now Pronounce You Sleeve and Card
That brings us to the end of this review. It it seems like Enchantress and +1/+1 counters are the strategies that caught the bouquet this time around. Which cards from this set are going into your white decks? Were there any hidden gems I missed? (If you're wondering about Wedding Ring, remember that Crimson Vow Commander-exclusive cards will be handled in a different review!) Get in the comments and speak now, or forever hold your peace!