The second half of Magic: The Gathering’s latest return to the plane of Innistrad looms on the moonlit horizon, and it promises to be a wedding to die for. Innistrad: Crimson Vow, tells the story of Olivia Voldaren’s wedding in the wake of a failed ritual to save the world from eternal night. The set bring several new mechanics - and some returning ones - along with an alternate art treatment inspired by literature’s best known blood sucker.
Crimson Vow releases digitally on November 11th with tabletop following on November 19th, and publishers Wizards of the Coast has dropped a bunch of information about what to expect from the trading card game’s latest batch. Matt Tabac discussed the mechanics that will appear in the set, beginning with the new Training keyword.
Cards with Training are typically low in power but can beef up substantially if they have a companion to show them the ropes in battle. When that creature attacks in concert with another boasting a higher power, Training triggers and grants it a +1/+1 counter. This means smaller creatures can scale with time, if they stay alive into the later stages of the match, and it incentivises an aggressive strategy that’s already seen plenty of support in both White and Green mana types.
Cleave will show up on instant and sorcery cards in Crimson Vow, toying with the structure of the rules text to change the effect. Some key phrases will appear in brackets, such as Dig Up’s text: “"Search your library for a [basic land] card, [reveal it], put it into your hand, then shuffle." Players can cast it as normal and resolve the full text, or they can pay the more expensive Cleave cost, and excise those bracketed words. This provides a more powerful effect, gains them more resources or denies the opponent vital information - all likely worth the extra mana if it can be spared.
It wouldn’t be a contemporary Magic: The Gathering set if it didn’t introduce a new kind of token, and Crimson Vow’s cup runneths over in a typical, sanguine nature. Blood tokens allow a player to draw a card by paying a colourless mana, tapping and sacrificing the blood token and discarding a card from their hand. This sounds expensive, but Innistrad includes plenty of methods to interact with the graveyard. Some spoiled vampire cards provide benefits when the controlling player sacrifices Blood tokens, easing that cost and likely stoking the minds of deckbuilders everywhere.
Daybound and Nightbound, as well as Disturb, return from Midnight Hunt and deepen the pool of spirits, werewolves and other creepy crawlies making use of those mechanics, but the last keyword hails all the way from 2015’s Dragons of Tarkir. Exploit will feature heavily on zombies, who show up hungry and immediately begin devouring creatures on their controller’s side of the board. Luckily, there’s an upside: if that player choose to sacrifice something to the Exploit creature’s hungry maw, they earn the printed benefit - often in the form of punishing their unwitting opponent.
Midnight Hunt featured some beautiful black-and-white treatments for lands and set cards, and that trend continues into its partner set. But given its focus on the Plane’s many vampire families, it makes sense that Bram’s Stoker’s Dracula earns a serious homage. From renowned monster hunter Abraham Van Helsing to the neck fiend himself and his creepy castle abode, 18 cards will feature alternate art that extends through the frame.
Unfortunately, Magic: The Gathering continues the confusing trend of spreading these treatments across a number of products and promotions that are difficult to track and near impossible for the average player to remember. From the article on Wizards’ website: “Seventeen of the eighteen will be in single-card Box Topper boosters and Collector Boosters. The eighteenth Dracula series card, Castle Dracula (Voldaren Estate), is the Buy-a-Box promotional card.”
Casual players likely won’t know what a box topper booster is or why it matters, but the logic might be that they aren’t the intended audience for collectible series. Of course, nearly all of these Dracula treatment cards can be pulled from the more expensive Collectors boosters. Wizards of the Coast has traditionally used them for the special art, foils and other signature looks, offering players a better chance at snagging their prize at an increased cost (or pushing more into the “just buy singles” camp).
Crimson Vow hits Magic Arena and MTG Online November 11th and will arrive in paper at local game stores and online marketplaces one week later, on November 19th. As with previous sets, players can collect them through a number of booster pack types, and a pair of Commander preconstructed decks will accompany the release around the same time.