Murders at Karlov Manor is impacting the MTG scene fast and hard. Leyline of the Guildpact, one of the most volatile-looking cards during prerelease season, has already found an unexpected home in Domain Zoo in Modern. Combine this card with Scion of Draco, and you have an unstoppable force!
Having an even more of an impact than Leyline of the Guildpact are the Surveil Lands. These lands can be Fetched, and allow the player some card selection if they don’t need their land untapped. In decks that don’t commonly need to curve out, like Crashing Footfalls, these Surveil effects can help streamline your draws, making them powerful. Alternatively, the new Surveil lands can also fuel graveyard synergies.
Unsurprisingly, many MTG cards from Murders at Karlov Manor aren’t having an immediate multiformat impact. After all, only a few days have passed since the digital release of the set. There is one card, however, that many people are identifying as a potential sleeper that may have been missed in Karlov Manor’s prerelease season. The card already has players comparing it to a terrible force that ruled the Legacy format once upon a time.
While we already shouted out Cryptic Coat as being a potential sleeper, now everyone is talking about it.
As we’ve said before, Cryptic Coat is one of those MTG cards that is good in a sneaky way. The card doesn’t seem to do a ton at first glance, but the combination of abilities it provides ends up providing a lot more value than it seems on the surface.
Cryptic Coat essentially works like an equipment with Living Weapon. When this card enters the battlefield, you Cloak the top card of your library and attach this card to it.
As a reminder, Cloak is a sort of second coming of the Manifest mechanic – meaning that you take a card from a designated place and place it on the battlefield face down. That card is a 2/2 creature with Ward 2. If the Cloaked card is a creature, you can flip it for its mana value as a special action.
Besides Cloaking and attaching itself to a card on entry, Cryptic Coat even gives your Cloaked card a small buff. Giving it an extra power and making it unblockable may be innocent at first glance, but it makes this card eerily similar to a monstrous threat from the past…
True-Name Nemesis’s time has come and gone in Legacy, but this card absolutely warped the format for many years. Gaining Protection from a player of your choice makes it incredibly difficult for opponents to interact with True-Name Nemesis. They cannot block it, deal damage to it, or target it with any effects whatsoever. The only way that they can really deal with it is removal that doesn’t target, like board wipes.
Many players are beginning to liken Cryptic Coat to this disastrous Merfolk. Just like True-Name Nemesis, Cryptic Coat comes down for three mana, cannot be blocked, and is very difficult to target thanks to Ward 2. Cryptic Coat isn’t necessarily as great of a blocker as True-Name Nemesis was, but there’s more about this insane artifact that we haven’t even talked about yet.
Anyone who played with Aetherling back when it was in Standard hated it. The card may have a massive mana value of six, but it was almost impossible to deal with. Like True-Name Nemesis and Cryptic Coat, Aetherling was unblockable.
Perhaps the most egregious ability this Shapeshifter possessed, however, was the ability to protect itself by bouncing itself to its owner’s hand. Anytime your opponent tried to deal with Aetherling, no matter what that method is, you have the opportunity to simply protect it and save it. Since this effect only costs one mana, you can likely repeat it multiple times if your opponent tries to remove it in response to its own effect. How frustrating!
Cryptic Coat, for reasons that I do not understand, also possesses this ability. For two mana, you can return the equipment back to your hand. This makes trying to deal with Cryptic Coat an absolute nightmare, as your opponent can simply return it and cast it a second time, Cloaking another card from their library to use.
This means that killing the Ward 2 Cloaked card does not stop Cryptic Coat. They can simply return it to their hand and keep using it. Alternatively, they don’t even need to wait for the Cloaked card to die. If they have nothing else to do with their mana, they can simply take Cryptic Coat back into their hand off the equipped creature and Cloak another card.
So, Cryptic Coat can now also function as a threat that dodges any form of removal, cannot be blocked by bigger threats, can block and return to play, and can even end up turning into card advantage. Remember, Cloaked creatures can still flip and become a threat all on their own.
Is this the end of the upsides to Cryptic Coat? Nope.
It’s Tutorable Too!
I mentioned at the beginning that Cryptic Coat functions a lot like an artifact with Living Weapon. Even though Living Weapon artifacts historically have some disgusting mana values, they have remained competitive for quite some time, and it’s all thanks to Stoneforge Mystic.
This card does a lot to help MTG equipment become competitive. Because equipment need to be both cast and equipped, the cost of playing them is rather high. Living Weapon can bypass the equipment cost issue by simply being a creature itself, and Stoneforge Mystic helps make these equipment cards both more consistent and affordable.
When Stoneforge Mystic enters the battlefield, you get to search for an equipment card. While that may still be something like Colossus Hammer or Kaldra Compleat, you can also search for Cryptic Coat.
Kaldra Compleat is certainly the scariest of the cards mentioned here in conjunction with Stoneforge Mystic’s ability to cheat it into play. If you do not believe your Mystic is going to survive the turn, however, you may want to find Cryptic Coat instead, as it has a much smaller chance of getting stranded in your hand.
So, not only does Cryptic Coat do a fantastic True-Name Nemesis impression, it’s also card advantage, very difficult to truly deal with, and is tutorable with Stoneforge Mystic. What an incredible MTG card.
What’s Stopping it?
If Cryptic Coat is this impressive, what’s stopping it from just taking over a format? Why did the crazy Cloaking garment even become a sleeper in the first place?
The best way to answer this question is to simply state that, at least in Modern, it does not have an obvious home in one of the best decks right now. Stoneforge Mystic sees play in Hammertime, but that deck is not considered to be too powerful at the moment. If Cryptic Coat was revealed during a time when Stoneforge Mystic was considered more competitive, people would have lost their minds.
Even though we discussed Cryptic Coat through a Modern lens via Stoneforge Mystic, consider this your reminder that this card is Standard legal. Even if it doesn’t quite find a foothold in Modern, and it might, Cryptic Coat looks fantastic in formats like Standard and Pioneer.