Tribal Update Report: Innistrad Crimson Vow (and Crimson Vow Commander)


The Tentacled One
And we’re back for another Innistrad set. This time around, everyone on Innistrad is crashing the wedding of Olivia Voldaran and Edgar Markov for some reason. This being an Innistrad set, we get some emphasis on the five primary tribes of that plane: vampires, werewolves, spirits, humans, and zombies. This time around, the vampires get a new mechanic themed around a new type of artifact token, called “Blood.” The humans get a new “Training” mechanic and the zombies get to reuse the “Exploit” mechanic from Dragons of Tarkir. Werewolves and spirits keep the same mechanics they used in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. There’s also a new mechanic for spells called “Cleave” and it seems mechanically interesting, but aesthetically deplorable. Brought to you by the same maniacs that designed “Aftermath.”

Vampire Tribal was already extremely strong. Will this new set push it over the edge? Let’s find out…

New tribes

New additions to existing tribes
Advisor: One new card. It’s a bit fancy and strikes me as too slow to matter much, but could be relevant.

Angel: Two new cards. Too slow for my liking.

Archer: Two new cards. Marginal interest.

Assassin: One new card. Draft chaff.

Bat: One new card. Mediocre, but maybe worth testing anyway.

Bear: One new card. Too expensive.

Beast: Two new cards. Both are excellent.

Bird: Three new cards. No discernible improvement for the tribe.

Cat: One new card. It looks strong enough, but blue is a weak color for this tribe.

Cleric: Nine new cards. One of them could be great value in a lifegain deck, but the rest don’t seem to be worth it.

Construct: Two new cards. Not bad, but probably not good enough for the tribe.

Crab: One new card. Draft chaff.

Demon: Two new cards. Both are interesting options for some explosive plays that Demon Tribal might conceivably try to make.

Devil: One new card. The potential power of this thing is impressive, but it doesn’t seem like a good fit for Devil Tribal.

Dragon: One new card. Strange obligatory red dragon for the set.

Drake: Two new cards. Probably no impact, but worth some consideration, perhaps.

Druid: One new card. Outclassed by existing stuff.

Egg: One new card. This one is weird to think about, but I’m tentatively concluding that it’s not great.

Elemental: Two new cards. Not worth it.

Frog: One new card. Tribal synergy, albeit a bit of a strange one.

Fungus: One new card. Decent.

Horror: Fifteen new cards. Oh good, because Horror Tribal really needed their own Tidespout Tyrant.

Horse: Two new cards. This tribe is so bad that I have no idea. Maybe use these?

Human: Fifty-seven new cards. Humans gonna human. Or something.

Insect: One new card. It’s a bit expensive.

Knight: Six new cards. A few of these look pretty good, but might just not make the cut.

Kraken: Three new cards. These guys give Kraken Tribal a substantial boost.

Nightmare: One new card. Tribal synergy. Worth throwing in if your Nightmare Tribal deck is partially blue.

Noble: Five new cards. As usual, the tribe has no cohesive identity and everything here is better off under the banner of another tribe (all of the nobles in this set are also vampires and have Vampire Tribal synergies).

Peasant: Five new cards. We just might finally be getting enough peasants that we could try to do something with this tribe. Probably not, but maybe.

Plant: One new card. No particular benefit to the tribe, but the card itself is so bonkers that I’d run it anyway.

Ranger: Three new cards. These things are all over the place. No real benefit here.

Rogue: Four new cards. Nothing of particular interest to the tribe, although the pair of partnered rogues would be cute for EDH.

Scorpion: Two new cards. They’re OK, and possibly upgrades to older cards that this tribe would have used. But more small Deathtouch creatures won’t really do much for Scorpion Tribal.

Serpent: One new card. It’s not great, but it improves the curve of what was already a very deficient tribe.

Shaman: Two new cards. A bit too awkward in how their abilities function for them to shine in Shaman Tribal.

Skeleton: One new card. It has a typo in its flavor text.

Slug: One new card. We see our first ever Slug Tribal synergy. Too bad the tribe is still essentially useless.

Soldier: Twenty new cards. Maybe something in here is worth consideration, but nothing jumps out at me as special. Most of the synergies here are either for other tribes or for mechanics that don’t likely fit into Soldier Tribal. Some strong cards, but nothing that trumps existing Soldier Tribal staples.

Spider: Two new cards. Both seem good and neither seems like much of a Spider Tribal card. But there’s a potent combo engine here and that gives me pause.

Spirit: Thirty new cards. Plenty of good stuff here, along with a heavy enchantment theme that probably doesn’t mesh with a competitive Spirit Tribal deck. Still, some of these spirits look pretty strong.

Treefolk: Two new cards. This is the second set in a row with goodies for a long-neglected tribe. Wow.

Vampire: Thirty-seven new cards. I didn’t think that Vampire Tribal would manage to pull off the same problem that Werewolf Tribal did in the previous set, but here we are. The new vampires are largely built around “Blood” tokens, and those have no synergy with vampires from earlier sets. So if you rely on these new vampires, you’re incentivized to mostly just run them and to eschew old vampires. Obviously vampires in prior sets have far more depth and overall power. However, there’s a lot to work with here and not all of it is what Mark Rosewater would call “parasitic.” So Vampire Tribal probably really does benefit, although I think the tribal synergies (we’ll come to those) might overshadow actual new members in this set.

Wall: One new card. Nah.

Warlock: Five new cards. Mostly white. WotC continues to bewilder me with their intentions for this tribe.

Warrior: Four new cards. No impact.

Werewolf: Fourteen new cards. Werewolf Tribal continues to slowly improve.

Wizard: Eight new cards. Some nice synergies for other tribes, including an impressive Zombie Tribal synergy. Not much help for Wizard Tribal itself.

Wolf: Nine new cards. Some nice choices here, despite the “Wolf or Werewolf” weirdness.

Wurm: One new card. Draft chaff.

Zombie: Twenty-one new cards. While the brand new options might not quite beat the offerings from the previous set, they’re still quite good.

New tribal synergies to look out for
Geistlight Snare: Spirit Tribal synergy that might be worth it in a deck with enough enchantments.
Geralf, Visionary Stitcher: Awesome Zombie Tribal synergy.
Gift of Fangs: Decent for a Vampire Tribal deck.
Glass-Cast Heart: Vampire Tribal synergy that isn’t bad in general and becomes really useful if you can optimize the whole Blood token thing.
Hallowed Haunting: Spirit Tribal synergy for a heavy enchantment-themed deck.
Howling Moon: A nice synergy for the good old “Wolf or Werewolf” Tribal.
Laid to Rest: Human Tribal synergy.
Markov Retribution: Combat setup for an aggressive Vampire Tribal deck.
Necroduality: More Zombie Tribal!
Olivia’s Wrath: An asymmetrical board-wipe spell for Vampire Tribal.
Supernatural Rescue: Spirit Tribal utility.
Vampires’ Vengeance: Guess which tribe this is a synergy for.
Voldaran Estate: Definitely a staple in any Vampire Tribal deck that uses Blood tokens.
Wedding Invitation: Minor Vampire Tribal synergy that might be worth it in some decks.

Overall set analysis
With the thematic and mechanical connections that this set has to Innistrad Midnight Hunt, it’s worthwhile to take stock of how this pair of sets holds up and what it does for the game. These are pretty good sets and a few of the cards will become new staples in different formats for different reasons. When it comes to Tribal formats, the emphasis on werewolves for the first set and on vampires for the second set seemed evident enough. In hindsight, it’s not surprising, but what really happened here is that Zombie Tribal became the clear winner. The lore from these sets tells a different story, of the struggle for dominance internally among the werewolves and vampires of Innistrad, of the desperation of the humans across the land, of their dealings with angels and demons. But when it comes to the power of the cards and what they do for their tribes, the story is of a world overrun by zombies.

Winners and losers for this set? Tier adjustments?
Winners include…
  • Beasts
  • Clerics
  • Demons
  • Frogs
  • Horrors
  • Humans
  • Krakens
  • Spirits
  • Treefolk
  • Vampires
  • Werewolves
  • Wolves
  • Zombies
No tier adjustment recommendations for now.

Ban list update recommendations
Nothing for now.

The Tier 1 tribes are all so strong that trying to theorycraft which ones are truly the best in general isn’t really feasible. This probably also applies to most, if not all, of Tier 2. If we don’t spell out the particular details of a competitive environment and test the tribes within that environment, the variables are all too much. The situation is too volatile. Speculating anyway, I have thought for a while that Zombie Tribal was lagging behind some of the other Tier 1 tribes in its capabilities. CPA Tribal Games participants might recall that in our old games we only banned three tribes. While goblins and elves are obviously strong, zombies felt a bit out-of-place in that category. My designation of “Tier 1” in these reports was an attempt to rebalance this by isolating the fastest tribes that have the deepest options for explosive power and tribe-based engines.

These new Innistrad sets feel like a return to form in some ways. Zombies are starting to get the sorts of tools that help them catch up to elves, goblins, and humans.