At long last, the spoiler season for Murders at Karlov Manor has begun, and there’s a ton to see! Wizards of the Coast’s early year offerings have been home runs consecutively for the past few years. Both Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty and Phyrexia: All Will Be One were fantastic MTG sets. It’s only natural to expect Murders at Karlov Manor to follow suit.
While we’ve already seen a few of MTG’s newest cards thanks to the First Look that occurred a few months back, a whole slew of new spoilers were released today to commemorate the start of a new spoiler season! Commander and constructed players alike should get excited for what Standard’s newest set has to offer!
Do note that some new mechanics were also unveiled today, and while we will explain them quickly in this article where they pop up, a much more detailed explanation of all the new mechanics Murders at Karlov Manor has to offer can be found here.
Let’s take a look at some of the most powerful spoilers introduced today!
Kaya, Spirits’ Justice
As of Wilds of Eldraine, each Standard release appears to be receiving only one Planeswalker, and Murders at Karlov Manor’s Planeswalker is Kaya, Spirits’ Justice.
Kaya’s static ability is a doozy, and really enhances the quality of her activated abilities. Long story short, if you move a creature to exile from your grave, you can have a token you control become a copy of it until the next end step. It also gains Flying.
This means that Kaya’s +2 effect can now dump a gigantic creature into your grave, exile it, and turn a token into a temporary copy of it! Surveil Two also offers card selection, allowing you to make your draws as powerful as possible.
If you don’t have tokens for Kaya to turn into copies of stuff, Kaya can create Flying Spirits on her own with her +1 ability. Otherwise, Kaya can function as removal with her -2 ability, but since the effect is symmetrical, this will not be useful in every strategy. This ability does scale in Commander, allowing you to exile a target creature for each other player.
All in all, Kaya looks really powerful. This could easily create a new combo-esque archetype in Standard, or even Pioneer that involves abusing Kaya’s activated ability to temporarily cheat an overstatted body into play.
Etrata, Deadly Fugitive
Etrata, Deadly Fugitive looks particularly powerful, but understanding exactly what it’s trying to accomplish can be somewhat difficult since it interacts with a ton of new keywords.
Firstly, yes, face-down creatures are coming back in Murders at Karlov Manor! Morph, as we’ve traditionally seen it, however, is not. We instead have a new Disguise mechanic that functions very similarly to Morph, but is a little bit better.
Think of Disguise like Morph but with an added benefit. You still get to pay three mana of any color to cast the card as a face-down 2/2 creature, but that creature also gets Ward 2! This makes removing the face-down creature with spells or abilities a lot more difficult. Otherwise, just like Morph, you can flip the card in question by paying its Disguise cost.
Etrata basically gives face-down creatures an alternate flip cost of four mana, with a black and blue mana included. In the strange cases where you cannot turn the card up for whatever reason, you can instead exile the card and cast it for free. This makes a lot more sense when you know what Cloak does.
Otherwise, Etrata has another ability that cares about Assassins connecting with the opponent. Cloak functions similarly to Manifest, but with the same changes between Morph and Disguise applied. You can read more about that here.
Aurelia’s Vindicator looks absolutely bonkers. This new Disguise creature can literally do everything! The card becomes a bigger blowout the more mana you invest into it. I would expect Aurelia’s Vindicator to be a powerful Commander card, see Standard play, maybe see Pioneer play, and will likely be an incredible Limited bomb!
Aurelia’s Vindicator is so much better than it reads at first glance. A four mana flier with Lifelink and Ward 2 is already incredibly difficult to beat in Limited, and can easily stabilize a Standard game against faster archetypes. The card’s Disguise ability, however, is absolutely absurd.
Aurelia’s Vindicator functions as both a temporary board wipe and card advantage. Its ability to exile creatures in play and in graveyards can both clean up a board state and help recur a ton of value to your hand after it leaves the battlefield. With enough mana, you could even do both at the same time. Even if you only have four mana, this creature without its Disguise cost is perfectly acceptable.
Between being a powerful body, a way to stabilize a board on impact, and a way to generate card advantage, Aurelia’s Vindicator looks like a slam dunk!
Massacre Girl, Known Killer
I did not have Wither returning to Standard on my Murders at Karlov Manor bingo card. With a Storm Scale rating of 7, Wither makes combat in Limited really messy. That said, Wizards of the Coast has been bringing back mechanics like this as one-offs more frequently in recent times.
Think of Wither like Infect that doesn’t deal Poison damage to opponents. basically, the damage your creatures deal to opposing creatures will be permanent – represented in the form of -1/-1 counters. These will not go away at the end step.
This interaction makes Massacre Girl, Known Killer’s secondary effect a lot better. Since Wither will reduce the stats of a creature, creatures that die to Wither damage will trigger Massacre Girl. That said, only your creatures gain Wither, so creatures that die from instants, sorceries, or abilities will not trigger Massacre Girl unless their stats are truly under the required threshold. All in all, this is an interesting application of an old mechanic that will likely find a home in some Commander strategies.
Krenko, Baron of Tin Street
Krenko’s newest iteration is incredibly powerful but offers a somewhat narrow effect. In order to make Krenko work at its best, you need both Goblins and artifacts. Krenko can turn your artifacts into universal buffs for your Goblin army, but can also create Goblin tokens whenever an artifact is put into a graveyard from the battlefield.
One particularly important note here is that Krenko doesn’t care who controls that artifact. This means that Krenko will trigger on opposing players’ Treasure Tokens, for example. As long as you have the mana to pay, you can amass an army of Goblins in the blink of an eye.
This also means Krenko will trigger on Clue tokens. Tokens will hit the graveyard temporarily before ceasing to exist, so go nuts with all the Investigate synergies that Krenko has to offer! Otherwise, adding cards like Experimental Synthesizer to your Goblin Commander decks can really make Krenko tick!
A new Uncommon for Treasure Strategies!
Interestingly, Krenko is not the only Goblin in Murders at Karlov Manor who cares about artifacts. Crime Novelist also becomes a powerhouse in artifact synergy decks in Commander. Not only will Crime Novelist grow quickly, but it also adds mana to spend!
This card is absolutely absurd when used in conjunction with Krenko, Baron of Tin Street. One weakness of this uncommon is that you are required to use your mana immediately or lose it. If you don’t have cards to cast, Crime Novelist can instead offset the mana cost to use Krenko’s triggered ability. In a Treasure deck that sacrifices a ton of artifacts quickly, Krenko can become an army in a can alongside Crime Novelist.
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Warleader’s Call needs some help to be worth playing. Sure, a lot of go-wide strategies in Commander will be interested in this. Maybe the new Raining Cats & Dogs deck can use this card with strong efficiency. If you can create a lot of bodies quickly, Warleader’s Call is certainly a step above other Anthem effects – as long as you can play it.
One card that sets Warleader’s Call into overdrive is Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. This God can amp up Warleader’s Call’s pinging effect into overdrive, dealing four damage instead of one for each creature entering the battlefield under your control! That said, only focused strategies that can make the most of this effect are going to want it. In a void, the card is not impressive.
Trostani, Three Whispers
Three mana 4/4’s with upside are always going to see experimentation – at least in the Standard format. The mana value of Trostani, Three Whispers is a bit restrictive, but its activated abilities are interesting for the right strategy.
Having the ability to grant any creature these keywords can make combat a nightmare for your opponent. Deathtouch makes it difficult to chump block damage, Vigilance protects you from the crackback, and Double Strike means that Trostani can come in for eight damage when left unchecked. While the card is arguably not that exciting, it is certainly efficient and should prove to be quite powerful in Limited at the very least.
Tolsimir, Midnight’s Light
Tolsimir makes a reappearance after its successful iteration in War of the Spark. Both variations of these cards have their own upsides, and what you’re trying to accomplish by playing it will likely dictate which one you want.
This variant of Tolsimir is a much more powerful threat. Representing 8/7 worth of stats for five mana, Tolsimir definitely offers an intriguing set of bodies. If given time, Tolsimir can also act as removal, forcing your opponents to block the 5/5 Wolf it creates with a creature of your choice. In Wolf Typal Commander decks, this seems like a homerun, as you can immediately put this effect to use.
Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves, on the other hand, does a much better job acting as immediate removal. The stats this card offers are a lot less impressive than Tolsimir’s newest variant, but Voja, Friend to Elves, will immediately fight an opposing creature and gain you some life.
Obviously, both Tolsimir’s work brilliantly in tandem, but I believe that the previous Tolsimir will continue to be more impactful in older constructed formats thanks to its immediate value. Regardless, both copies of this card are incredibly abusable in the right circumstances (namely Blink).
Kellan, Inquisitive Prodigy
Kellan, Inquisitive Prodigy offers Simic strategies a good amount of value. Functioning as a weaker Explore and a slightly stronger Trygon Predator, Kellan is quite flexible, should be strong enough to see play in semi-casual Commander decks, and can function as both ramp and sideboard-worthy hate in the Standard format. I doubt this card will make big waves, but it is a perfectly reasonable card packed with value.
Case of the Ransacked Lab
Case of the Ransacked Lab may look like a Saga, but it’s actually an entirely new enchantment! Case enchantments represent mysteries that appear during the investigation of Karlov Manor’s murders, and must be solved to reveal their full potential.
That said, even before you manage to solve the case, Case of the Ransacked Lab already offers a reduction in the casting cost of your instants and sorceries. Should you manage to meet the requirement to solve the case, your Case enchantment offers another benefit! In this case (no pun intended), all of your instants and sorceries turn into cantrips which, frankly, is absolutely absurd. This card will definitely see Commander play in spellslinger strategies.
Teysa, Opulent Oligarch
Teysa looks incredible in Commander! We have so much to say about this card that it requires its own article. If you want some ideas about how to abuse this card in Commander, you can find that here.
Kylox, Visionary Investor
Kylox combines a mediocre body, with some impressive keywords and a narrow, but powerful ability. Sadly, the very high mana value of seven likely relegates this card to the Commander format, but there could be some unique strategies that pair a bunch of smaller creatures with a way to cheat this card into play, generating a ton of value. Maybe this card sees play alongside Kaya, Spirits’ Justice? All things considered, however, outside of a token strategy trying to cheat this in, Kylox is likely going to see Commander play and stop there.
Judith, Carnage Connoisseur
Judith offers a rather unique ability that allows you to grant your instants and sorceries Deathtouch and Lifelink. This turns cards like Lightning Strike into ‘destroy target creature. You gain three life.
Judith’s second option is much more interesting, allowing you to create 2/2 Red Imps that Shock when they die. This is an incredibly powerful ability for spellslinger strategies, which does make its mana value worth it.
Five mana for a card that does not generate immediate value is a big ask for competitive formats, but making this card cheaper would likely break it. That said, we know from the popularity of cards like Young Pyromancer and Chrome Host Seedshark that these effects can be incredibly powerful when used properly.
Agrus Kos, Exemplar of Justice
Agrus Kos showcases another new mechanic – Suspect! In a nutshell, a Suspected creature can no longer block and gains Menace, making it more difficult to block. That said, Suspected creatures interact with some abilities differently. Agrus Kos, for example, can exile Suspected creatures!
This is a rather unique effect that is difficult to evaluate. If given time, Agrus Kos can become a nuisance in aggressive strategies, preventing creatures from blocking before exiling them. That said, the effect is quite slow, and the rest of this creature just offers average stats. This card doesn’t appear to be too exciting, but if Suspect plays a big role in the days to come, it could be stronger than it looks.
If you want a better explanation of Suspect, take a look here.
Axebane Ferox introduces another new mechanic: Collecting Evidence! This creature seems good enough to see play in aggressive strategies considering its unique new Ward cost.
Collect Evidence asks players to exile cards with a total mana value of the indicated number or higher. For example, Collect Evidence 4 requires the player in question to exile cards that total a mana value of four or greater.
In some spots, this can make Axebane Ferox rather difficult to remove. Haste and Deathtouch also make this card difficult to block, and allows it to strike fast.
Izoni, Center of the Web
Now that we’ve explained Collecting Evidence, Izoni, Center of the Web becomes a lot easier to understand. As long as you have the graveyard fodder to trigger this card’s ability, Izoni can create a ton of Spider tokens. Izoni is also capable of repurposing these tokens, alongside other tokens, like Clues, into card draw, card selection, and lifegain. Surveil even allows you to fuel Collecting Evidence, creating even more tokens.
Izoni is certainly worth its mana value of six. While that may make it less interesting for competitive play, Izoni looks a big pain in Limited, essentially creating three bodies on entry, and threatening to create more.
It may be just an uncommon, but Long Goodbye offers a unique effect that is worth talking about. This two-mana instant can destroy a creature or Planeswalker with a mana value three or less. There are already some other cards capable of doing this, but Long Goodbye can’t be countered! This allows the card to be uniquely powerful removal against control and tempo strategies trying to keep control of the board by utilizing counterspells to deal with your threats while protecting their own.
While we’ve taken a look at some of the more interesting cards spoiled today, this wasn’t everything to see. You can find the rest of the cards we looked at today, including some additional examples of new mechanics, below.
If you want to take a closer look at all the new mechanics that Murders at Karlov Manor has to offer, we covered them in more detail here. Otherwise, Teysa, Opulent Oligarch looks rather interesting in the Commander format! We talked about that more here.
If you are interested in buying a box of Murders at Karlov Manor for yourself, we happen to be giving one away! Read all about the new Play Booster while entering our giveaway here!
You can find the release dates for Murders at Karlov Manor here.
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