Welcome back to the Epic Experiment! I’ve been away from Three Kings Loot for a while. I’ve been working on another article that I will roll out at some point down the road, but it has required a little more research and thinking about how to formulate my argument before I’m satisfied.

In the meantime, we have started to see cards from Crimson Vow get spoiled and I wanted to offer my initial take on their ability to be played in Commander. Let’s dive straight in and see what new goodies we have to play with.

Manaform Hellkite

I wanted to start with this dragon because in the early going, this seems to be the most powerful card on rate. We get yet another 4 mana dragon to join the ranks of Goldspan Dragon and Moonveil Regent, making it a very reasonable card. However, the text box is where the magic happens. The text box says:

Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, create a X/X red Dragon Illusion creature token with flying and haste, where X is the amount of mana spent to cast that spell. Exile that token at the beginning of the next end step.

The text reads like Shark Typhoon, but on a creature which is significantly easier to recur, creates hasty flying dragons, and triggers on any noncreature spell. This is a big game for red decks because now you can get tokens off any artifact, removal spell, planeswalker, enchantment… basically anything. This card will be a force to be reckoned with in the near future, so if you can find a copy early, you may want to hold on for dear life.

Olivia, Crimson Bride

I know many players were excited to see yet another version of Olivia. Let us start with the raw stats. A 3/4 with flying and haste for 6 mana is hardly exhilarating, so the text box had better be good.

When Olivia attacks you get to bring a creature from your graveyard (and only your graveyard) back to the battlefield, tapped and attacking and you can keep it until you no longer control a legendary Vampire. I will admit, this sort of reanimation ability is very powerful and can lead to some very powerful plays.

However, there is a tension here with Olivia. In order to maximize her ability, you are being incentivized to play a number of legendary vampires in a sort of Rakdos Legendary Vampires matters sort of way. However, you also want to stack your deck full of big scary things to reanimate. If you lean heavily into legendary vampires, you may find that you don’t have enough good targets to make Olivia’s ability truly meaningful. If you lean too far into aiming for big reanimation targets, you may find it hard to keep a legendary vampire on the field long enough to make it matter. Either way, there is an interesting dynamic that will certainly be explored by players in the months to come.

Sorin the Mirthless

Ah yes. What visit to Innistrad would be complete without a visit from our favourite planeswalker vampire? This time around, Sorin looks like a troublesome high school student who wants to borrow a car, rather than a powerful planeswalker set to command the battlefield – but I digress.

4 mana for a 4 loyalty walker seems reasonable. The +1 is a Dark Confidant like ability, but thank goodness it is a “may” ability.  The danger with Dark Confidant in many casual decks is that the mana value of many decks is too high and Dark Confidant deals piles of damage to you. Sorin, with his “may” ability, means that if you reveal an Ulamog or some other giant monster that you can decline the card and avoid seeing your life totally crushed. The -2 is fine, but in Commander, I highly expect you won’t be using that frequently.  The -7 is flavourful for the plane, but really, as far as ultimates go, this is kind of lackluster. I really don’t see this getting adopted by many decks because Sorin doesn’t synergize with vampires, has a very medium to bad -2 and -7 ability, and a +1 that can be meaningful but is a double edged sword.  I think the total package is going to leave many players wanting more and cutting Sorin in favour of other versions of himself… or just better vampires.

Toxrill, the Corrosive

Oh my.  This is something different.  7 mana 7/7 is our baseline… so I guess that is a pass, but we all know that 7 mana Commanders are a tough pill to swallow. However, this slime token synergy is potent and will slowly eat away at the board. It even has a way to build your board and to draw you extra cards, meaning Toxrill has almost everything you would want to play.

Here’s why I’m not sure that this card is actually that powerful.  How many turns does this have to remain on the battlefield for it to be of any merit to you? I don’t think a single rotation of the table will do the trick, so are you optimistic that your opponents are going to allow you to keep your giant monster for two or more turns? Yeah… me neither.  This is a lightning rod for a removal spell and all three players will be gunning to take this out. You might be able to convince me to play this in the ninety-nine of a Dimir deck, but I’m not holding out much hope that this will be widely adopted as a U/B Commander.

Anje, Maid of Dishonor

I read this Commander the first time through and was a little disappointed. However, the more I read it, the more interesting it became. Anje is a vampire, but she is a vampire that cares about an aristocrat style deck and that is intriguing. A cursory review of EDHrec.com paints a picture where there aren’t that many unique B/R aristocrat style decks and Anje is certainly different.

The biggest attribute here is that we get yet another token we can sacrifice in the form of Blood Tokens. While this doesn’t seem overly powerful, there are all sorts of benefits that can be gleaned from sacrificing our own permanents… and Anje doesn’t even make you sacrifice a creature. Anje allows you to play aristocrats by sacrificing artifacts! That is an interesting space for players to explore and to see what players can dream up. I am pretty interested to see where Anje goes from here because I think she has more potential than many.

Geralf, Visionary Stitcher

I will keep this one brief.I don’t think Geralf becomes the lead singer of his very own deck. No, I think the real appeal here is the fact that he gives zombies (and I stress, zombies, not token zombies) flying. Wilhelt decks and all of the other U/B decks are going to make blocking essentially impossible… meaning your opponents are going to cry.

Halana and Alena, Partners

This is a fun new card that gives R/G decks an honest +1/+1 counter theme that has previously really been missing. This pair is just like Ezuri, Claw of Progress and will be a nice snowball Commander. I use the term snowball because if you can manage to keep Halana and Alena on the battlefield and start the “snowball” of putting +1/+1 counters on things, then our opponents will quickly fall behind.

The issue is, as with anything, Halana and Alena can be removed, thus negating the strategy. I realize that “it dies to removal” shouldn’t be a consideration but does need to figure into the decision to play Halana and Alena. You are going to cast them early and often because just like Toxrill, they are a lightning rod and thus will die early and often.

Well, that is going to wrap our preliminary look at Crimson Vow. There are still plenty more cards that are going to keep coming out in the days to come so stay tuned. If you enjoyed my thoughts or have something you would like to see explored in more detail, please check out our decks and much more each week on our podcast on iTunes, Google Podcast, Spotify, Amazon, and anywhere else you find better podcasts. Just look for the name The Epic Experiment Podcast! We’d love to have you join us!