Welcome honored guests! Let me take your coats, come in, come in. Ah, I wasn’t aware we’d be having Human guests! How quaint! Ladies, please leave your arrows and swords at the door. And you sir, are you a Zombie? Well I suppose all kinds are invited to witness such an important union.
Okay, no! I’m putting my foot down! There’s no way Lady Voldaren invited a flying brain. You’re in the multicolored cards for Crimson Vow? You can’t expect me to believe that. Oh, yeah I see, right at the bottom. My apologies. Please enjoy your evening, and do be mindful of the chandeliers.
Anje, Maid of Dishonor
Is it hot in here or is it just Anje? This dapper Vampire is sure to get your opponent’s heart racing, in more ways than one. A 4/5 for four mana is a strong statline already, and we’re just getting started. When she comes in she makes a Blood token, meaning you can cycle away any irrelevant cards clogging up your hand. If you have other Vampires, you can even do this multiple times. Her last ability isn’t the best sacrifice outlet around, but it does let you whittle away those last pesky points of your opponent’s life total and trigger things like Cordial Vampire or Blood Artist. In a Vampire deck Anje is an absolute powerhouse, and her solid stats make her worth considering in Midrange and Aristocrats decks as well. My only issue here is that the marriage in this set isn’t between Anje and I.
A Rakdos Vampire with an above-rate body that makes a Blood token when it comes into play. Wait, didn’t we just cover that? Bloodtithe Harvester isn’t quite on the level of Anje, but it still has a lot to offer. A 3/2 presents a serious clock for your opponent, and doesn’t trade with a 1/1 Goblin your opponent might have lying around. As with Anje, this Blood token can help smooth out your draws later on. The last ability will usually only give -2/-2 since in a 100 card singleton deck you’re unlikely to draw additional Blood producers, but every now and then you’ll be able to pick off a pesky Seasoned Hallowblade or Elite Spellbinder. This will easily fit into Vampires lists, and purely based on its stats it’s appealing for Aggro.
Dorothea, Vengeful Victim
Geist of Saint Traft? Hmm, it’s not quite that strong. More like a ghost of a Geist of Saint Traft. The front face of the card is really annoying, as you’re able to trade with the majority of creatures and then recast the flip side from the graveyard for extra value. The back half of the card is reasonably costed, and pairs very well with evasive or hard to kill creatures such as Suspicious Stowaway or Adanto Vanguard. Blue and white just happen to have an abundance of these kinds of creatures, so you’ll often have the option to start swinging in with the Aura active immediately after Dorothea dies. Against Control decks this card won’t be quite as effective, as trading the front side with a creature is usually going to be better than dealing four damage one time. Still, this is a nice pick for Tempo and Midrange decks, as well as being a boost to Aura decks.
Edgar, Charmed Groom
Grandpa Edgar is looking spry for his age, with on-rate stats, an anthem effect for fellow Vampires, and an ability that will keep him in the land of the unliving for many years to come. Vampire Tribal was already playing Thirsting Bloodlord, and Edgar is a huge upgrade. In addition to buffing your bloodthirsty brood, should he die he’ll keep giving you value by pumping out 1/1s. And if your opponent doesn’t find a way to deal with the coffin in three turns, gramps will just pop back out again looking good as new. Outside of Vampire decks he’s a bit too slow in comparison to other recursive threats, so expect him to keep close company with his batty brethren.
Eruth, Tormented Prophet
Act now! Eruth is offering a buy-one-get-one-free deal on all card draw (additional terms and conditions may apply). The stats are fine, a 2/4 is a solid defensive body that will be able to eat up most two drops your opponent throws at it. Getting access to twice as many cards to play every time you draw is absurd, but it has an equally harsh downside. Because the cards have to be played on the same turn that they’re drawn, reactive cards like counterspells become significantly weaker, as most of the time you won’t want to cast them on your own turn. For that reason this card’s applications are somewhat narrow. The best places I can think of for Eruth are proactive decks that include lots of cheap spells and cards like Young Pyromancer, or density-based Combo decks such as Eggs and certain Storm builds, which can afford to accidentally exile a combo piece now and then.
Halana and Alena, Partners
My gay little heart is still recovering from Anje’s artwork, and now I have to review these two? These “gal pals” have an underwhelming statline, coupled with an overwhelming ability. The closest points of comparison here are Luminarch Aspirant and Reckless Stormseeker. Both of those cards are strong, and Halana and Alena’s ability combines the best parts of both: granting haste like the Stormseeker and using +1/+1 counters similar to the Aspirant. If you can give the couple a power boost with something like either of the cards I just mentioned, they’ll be able to completely take over a game. Slapping down three or more counters each turn will let even a pitiful turn five Llanowar Elves become a 4/4 with haste. However, Halana and Alena have two significant downsides. The first is that they can’t buff themselves, and second is their stats compared to their mana value. This card will always feel bad following up a Wrath of God. Still, such a powerful ability warrants testing. I’ll be trying to make my favorite pair of lesbian Rangers work in Naya Humans, and Gruul or Naya Midrange could also give them a try.
Kaya, Geist Hunter
I’m not sure how you can call yourself a Geist Hunter when you create Spirit tokens, but I’m not going to argue with a woman wielding a crossbow. The latest version of Kaya is looking to put Basri Ket out of a job. Both are three mana planeswalker cards with a +1 ability that puts a counter on a creature, a -2 that creates tokens, and a -6 that will often end the game. Kaya’s +1 synergizes a bit better with decks looking to make lots of small creatures, as giving deathtouch means that any of your small creatures will trade if they get blocked, allowing you to punch through large blockers. The main reason Basri has fallen out of favor is that he has no ability to defend himself, and while it isn’t reliable, Kaya does have a way to do this with her -2. Doubling all your tokens for a turn is a powerful effect in the right deck, even if you’re doing it with Raise the Alarm rather than Starnheim Unleashed. If you can take enough advantage of that, Kaya can hide behind your wall of tokens. She’s a bit niche, however, since her abilities need a dedicated Tokens theme to do any heavy lifting. In those lists you can expect her to thrive, but elsewhere you’ll have better options.
He got turned into a Vampire, and all he got were these lousy Blood tokens. The tokens are nice, but how many of them do you need to get to feel good about playing a vanilla 3/3 for three mana? It’s hard to say exactly, but it’s well below the amount you’ll usually expect from Odric. If that’s not bad enough, we also lack the density of Blood token generators to make any synergies worthwhile. For these reasons I expect our newly exsanguinated friend will be staying in his coffin.
We’ve had Old Gnawbone, Old Stickfingers and now Old Rutstein. This has been an amazing year for Old ____ Tribal, and I’m excited to see what we have coming up for it in Kamigawa. Rutstein is at his best in a Golgari deck with a focus on graveyard synergies. In those decks he usually mills lands or creatures, so you can expect to generate Treasure and Insect tokens most of the time, which are usually preferable to Blood tokens due to their more immediate impact. However, this card’s weakness is that it fills your graveyard very slowly, only milling a single card each turn. His stats also leave a bit to be desired, as a 1/4 is only a speed bump for Aggro rather than a genuine threat. This coupled with the unreliable nature of his token production means he probably won’t make the cut in all but the most dedicated graveyard decks.
Olivia, Crimson Bride
Not to be outdone by her Maid of Dishonor, Olivia has gone all out with her wedding dress. The spiked shoulders and metal corset remind her guests of her fearsome and ruthless nature, while the low neckline and flowing skirt ensure she’ll be the center of attention. Still, I’m not sure the color scheme quite does it for me, as the deep violet gown clashes somewhat with the blood red fabric around her shoulders. Ultimately, it’s all a bit too much I think, and I’d say the exact same thing about the card itself. Her immediate impact is huge thanks to haste, but six mana is very expensive. She may have a home in a Reanimator deck, where she does double duty as a reanimation target and a reanimation spell. Outside of this niche though, I doubt she’ll see any play.
Mono-White decks hate him: local Vampire figures out this one weird statline that blocks Elite Spellbinder for days. I know what I said earlier about three mana 1/4s, but flying means it blocks profitably against a myriad of annoying blue and white fliers. The rest of this card’s text, along with the entire back half, is unfortunately not going to be very relevant in most decks. Playing more than one or two six drops is pretty uncommon, especially in creature heavy decks.
The only exception here is Reanimator. These decks are already trying to dig through their deck, throw expensive creatures in their graveyard, and cheat them into play. In this deck, flipping Runo becomes much easier, and not just because of your quantity of expensive creatures. Since you already are usually trying to discard your hefty reanimation targets, Runo’s second ability can then put one on top of your deck to set up his transformation next turn. The flip side, in addition to just having way above-rate stats, can then make copies of any dinguses you happen to get into play. Agent of Treachery anyone? This is really the only place I imagine he’ll pull his weight, since other decks shouldn’t go that deep on six drops.
Sacrificing creatures and replacing them with 2/2 Zombies? I have a feeling I know a deck that will be able to Exploit this ability. I’m of course talking about Zombie Tribal! This creature’s ability works well with a variety of graveyard-loving ghouls, from Shambling Ghast to Dread Wanderer. And if you happen to draw one of the other Zombies from this set with an Exploit ability, such as Graf Reaver or Overcharged Amalgam, then that’s a horrific amount of value. It only triggers off of exploiting non-tokens, so you won’t be able to get away with upgrading any Decayed Zombie tokens you might have. For this reason, in most other decks I wouldn’t expect to see this shambling around. It’s a bit too narrow in what it does, especially since blue isn’t usually a color decks like Aristocrats want to play.
Torens, Fist of the Angels
Torens might be a bit small, but he packs one hell of a punch! Training is a powerful mechanic, especially in Selesnya, which will be able to reliably and repeatedly train creatures with big green idiots like Questing Beast or Elder Gargaroth. Torens is similar to a Young Pyromancer for creature decks. When you first play him he’s vulnerable, easily dying to something like a Shock. However, he quickly gets out of hand, pumping out 1/1 Humans that also have Training every time you play a creature. The vulnerability here is well worth the upside. You can expect to see this crop up in just about any Green-White Aggro or Midrange deck, and he’s even more potent in Human Tribal.
She was already hot and then they put her in a suit… Oh! Sorry, I’m not sure where my mind was just then. We’re talking about some Izzet uncommon? This card will naturally draw comparisons to Augur of Bolas. While it is a bit more expensive, I think its other advantages make it much better. First off, Wandering Mind is a genuine threat, attacking with two power in the air, while Augur of Bolas’ body is just a minor inconvenience for attackers. It also gives you more options, not to mention it’s far less likely to whiff. Not only does it look at twice as many cards, it can also get any noncreature, nonland spell, including planeswalkers like Narset, Parter of Veils. An evasive threat that cantrips and provides solid card selection is worth considering, especially in Combo or Control decks looking to sculpt their hand and have blockers to protect themselves.
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Long before Elle tapped her first plains, a teacher made the mistake of telling her she could write. Now you must bear witness to the consequences.