The main season of Innistrad: Crimson Vow has come and gone. Soon, players will revisit the spookiest plane in the multiverse with a limited-time Quick Draft event on MTG Arena.
Crimson Vow Quick Draft will be available from July 8 through July 22, 2022, on the digital client.
Though this set was released less than a year ago, many have tried to forget its Limited environment. Crimson Vow is the definition of a "prince" format as it is dominated by rares and mythics that are nearly impossible to beat.
Fortunately, we learned a lot about how to navigate the format and find success even if you don't find a bomb in your packs.
This guide should serve as a helpful refresher for those wanting to dive into a Crimson Vow Quick Draft later this month.
We'll break down the mechanics, synergies, bombs, and best cards to pick. You'll also find a breakdown of all ten Draft archetypes and a grade for each one.
Crimson Vow Mechanics
With its connection to Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, Crimson Vow is packed with mechanics. Seriously, there is a ton of text to consider on these cards. Even the lowliest of commons feature mechanics from the set that make them better in certain situations.
When building your deck, you'll have no shortage of mechanics to prioritize. Likewise, each color has access to a variety of mechanics, allowing for some unique pairings and decks.
Let's take a look at the mechanics from Crimson Vow!
Humans from the set (specifically those in Green and White) feature training. This puts an emphasis on attacking and grants your creature a +1/+1 when a creature with greater power is attacking alongside it. This can quickly get out of hand if you're playing on curve and swinging aggressively.
That said, Training can be quite unpredictable as it depends on the makeup of your hand and how reliably you can play your cards.
Of all the mechanics in Crimson Vow, blood tokens are one of the most impactful. In a 40-card deck and a format where games tend to be long and grindy, being able to sift through your library is huge. Later in the game, you can also dump extra lands from your hand to draw a new card.
Meanwhile, blood tokens can be used to power up your vampire creatures and certain instants/sorceries.
Many argue that blood tokens are the most important mechanic in the set. If you're drafting, be sure to consider whether you can fit them in.
One of the set's more challenging mechanics to navigate is Exploit. It is featured on some zombie cards in Dimir colors. It allows you to sacrifice a creature in return for some effect, such as countering a spell or drawing extra cards.
This can serve as a sacrifice outlet for cards you want to die. It also gives you a way to get extra value from early creatures once they're no longer useful.
Keep in mind you can even sacrifice a creature to its own Exploit ability if you're in a pinch.
Highlighted by the set's werewolves, Daybound/Nightbound is shared by Midnight Hunt. For Crimson Vow, it only appears on red and green cards.
It affects the entire board and once the mechanic is triggered it is tracked for the rest of the game. If you're heavy into the Gruul Werewolves archetype, Daybound/Nightbound is huge. For the rest of the draft archetypes, it isn't super impactful.
Also returning from Midnight Hunt, Disturb is one of the set's more powerful mechanics for Limited. Featured only on blue and white cards, it lets you play the back half of a card from your graveyard.
Disturb cards include creatures, auras, and enchantments that tend to be expensive for their effect. That said, they are free card advantage in Limited and can be extremely impactful in the late game. Most of these cards are tempo-leaning and favor an aggressive curve, which is something to keep in mind when drafting an Azorius deck.
Cleave isn't super impactful for Limited, but it is still worth noting. Essentially, it lets you play a spell with a better version of its original effect if you can sink extra mana into it. Usually, the Cleave cost also includes a second color.
Cleave spells help smooth out your curve by giving you cards that have an effect early but aren't dead late. Outside of that, they aren't overly impactful in Limited.
Crimson Vow Archetypes
Crimson Vow features support for all ten ally and enemy color pairs. Arguably, the pairs with the most access to Blood tokens are your best bets. They help you mitigate one of the biggest problems in Limited---flooding.
That said, each of the archetypes is viable in this format. Bombs help even things up by trumping what would otherwise be hard-to-beat decks. For instance, an otherwise weak Simic deck running Avabruck Caretaker can win the game on the back of that card alone.
It's time to dive in and take a brief look at each Crimson Vow Draft archetype.
Azorius (UW): Disturb / Spirits
If you're a tempo fan, this archetype is for you. Crimson Vow Azorius decks want to win with evasive fliers and pesky creatures that keep coming back from the graveyard in their Disturb form.
This certainly isn't the strongest archetype in terms of individual card power. However, it has a lot of synergies that can let you take over the game.
Combining tempo creatures with counterspells and white's decent removal suite can certainly be a recipe for success. Keep in mind that you may have trouble in the late game if your graveyard is targeted and Disturb cards can't have an impact since you have extremely limited access to Blood tokens.
Selesnya (GW): Training / Humans
Of all the archetypes, Selesnya is most affected by variance in this format. If you curve out over the first three to four turns and dodge removal, it typically wins the game. If you stumble, good luck recovering in time.
This archetype relies on sticking key creatures in succession and growing them quickly to end the game. It has a lot of trouble grinding since your smaller creatures, which are important early, are actively bad later in the game.
One of the biggest issues is the lack of access to the set's best bombs. So, if you want to play Selesnya, try to build a deck that goes all-in on the aggro plan and try to finish the game ASAP.
Grade: D (but as high as B depending on your build and matchup)
Rakdos (BR): Blood Tokens / Vampires
Featuring the hallmark creature type of Crimson Vow, Rakdos revolves around Blood tokens and vampires. It's nice to see a deviation from the typical sacrifice archetype here. You can take this deck several directions in true midrange form.
Early creatures, including the very powerful Bloodtithe Harvester at uncommon, let you push the pace. Later in the game, you can dig for your bombs and filter extra lands with your blood tokens. You also have access to some of the best removal in the format since you're in both red and black.
Dimir (UB): Zombies / Exploit
In theory, this Dimir archetype looks quite strong. However, finding the right balance of sacrifice fodder, payoffs, and removal is difficult. In many ways, these decks tend to beat themselves by not having the right pieces available at the right time.
It's also quite vulnerable to removal as you're already clearing the board by sacrificing your creatures. If your opponent can take out a key piece or two, you'll be left without much to do.
Still, the zombie synergies here are strong. If you lean away from the Exploit theme and more into the zombie / go-wide tokens strategy, your chances are better. Overrunning your opponent with zombie tokens and generating value along the way is your best bet.
Plus, you can always win with a Dreadfast Demon.
Gruul (GR): Werewolves
Unlike the Gruul werewolves build in Midnight Hunt (aka the werewolf set) that was garbage, the archetype is fairly strong here. That's because Crimson Vow actually has better werewolves than its predecessor.
Playing with synergies is huge for this deck as it lets you drop big creatures ahead of schedule. Wolfkin Outcast is a great example as a 5/4 body on its Daybound side for just four mana if you control a wolf or werewolf. Packsong Pup both grows each turn and gains you life when it dies.
You get access to plenty of removal from red. However, green cards like Wolf Strike also tend to overperform.
This is a consistently strong archetype if you can play on curve and keep the board clear for your small- to medium-sized creatures.
Orzhov (BW): Lifegain
Lifegain tends to be more impactful in Limited than other formats. This has helped Orzhov gain stock in the Crimson Vow Limited meta. There are plenty of ways to gain life in the format, with huge payoffs for doing so.
You get access to plenty of removal in both black and white. Meanwhile, you can also utilize some Disturb cards in white for extra value.
This is definitely a slower archetype. However, you can snowball games out of control and slowly pick away at your opponent's life total while keeping yours out of reach.
Boros (RW): Aggro
Boros offers an aggressive alternative to Selesnya that doesn't rely nearly as much on synergy. It is also less popular in this format as many people tend to run Rakdos or Gruul over it.
You do get access to a lot of good cards just by being in white and red, so if you find yourself drafting cards like Valorous Stance, Rending Flame, Voltaic Visionary, and Daybreak Combatants, this isn't a bad spot.
Still, I wouldn't force the archetype personally. It has a very difficult time catching up after stumbling and closing out after turn five or six is nigh impossible.
Simic (UG): Self-Mill
This is the slowest archetype in Crimson Vow Limited and it's not close. You'll need several turns to fill your graveyard and start building synergies before you come anywhere close to winning.
Simic also happens to be one of the weakest archetypes in the format. If you can build a solid core around Vilespawn Spider, Moldgraf Millipede, and Reclusive Taxidermist early, you have a chance.
This archetype requires a ton of creatures as well. If you can do so, it turns on your payoffs. However, it also doesn't leave much room for removal or counterspells to deal with your opponent's board. This often leads to games where you're goldfishing to try and win while your opponent's strategy runs wild.
Golgari (BG): Midrange / Toughness
This is one of the most deceiving archetypes. Its main theme of "big butts" is actually not that good. However, there are plenty of serviceable midrange cards here that keep you afloat. Having access to plenty of green smoothing cards, like Weaver of Blossoms and Reclusive Taxidermist helps with consistency.
Meanwhile, there's lots of value with cards like Spore Crawler and lots of removal from black. This is also the best archetype for splashing. With a solid core and the most fixing options (and removal to keep you alive), you can slip in a bomb or two if you open it late. Golgari also doesn't rely on a ton of synergies, meaning you can splash with some flexibility.
You'll need tight play to find the most success. However, skilled pilots can certainly win a lot of games with this archetype.
Izzet (UR): Spellcasting
Izzet features its classic spellcasting identity in Crimson Vow. However, the cards here give it a unique feel. You'll need to pair your spells with some slept-on creatures to build a decent deck.
Fortunately, blue gets passed up on a lot in Crimson Vow. This leaves creatures like Mischievous Catgeist, Biolume Egg, and Cruel Witness open in many drafts. Meanwhile, Wandering Mind and Whispering Wizard at uncommon is huge for this archetype. If you can find a Kessig Flamebreather or two, this helps stabilize your board early and ping your opponent throughout the game.
This is a pretty unexciting deck to play since it clearly wasn't the focus for Crimson Vow. Still, if you get an open lane you can build a decent deck.
Crimson Vow Draft Strategy
There has been plenty of hate online for the Crimson Vow Limited environment. Part of that is due to the swingy nature of the set's bombs. Cards like Dreadfast Demon are incredibly hard to beat without immediate removal. Likewise, cards like Wedding Announcement can take over the game and are difficult to answer cleanly.
While bombs and payoffs are certainly a big part of the format, you can still find success without them. Synergistic, well-built decks will win plenty of games. They might just struggle to close if your opponent drops a bomb.
Let's look at how these swingy cards impact the format and how to navigate them.
Crimson Vow Limited Bombs
In a format like Crimson Vow, your decisions should be guided by the best cards. Rather than digging deep for synergies with a common or uncommon, don't overthink things and take the Avabruck Caretaker with your first pick.
A few of the best bombs in the format include:
Sorin the Mirthless
Toxrill, the Corrosive
Halana and Alena, Partners
Notice that a large number of those cards are black. Considering that many of Crimson Vow's best removal and value creature spells are also black, this is something worth paying attention to when drafting.
How to Deal with Crimson Vow Draft Bombs
While one of the cards mentioned above living will almost certainly end the game, Crimson Vow offers several ways to interact.
The set has plenty of playable counterspells. The likes of Syncopate, Wash Away, and Geistlight snare can stop a problematic bomb from resolving. Of course, this only helps if you're playing blue.
A blue-white tempo list with early, evasive creatures and counters to back them up can certainly find success.
Meanwhile, the creatures (outside of Avabruck Caretaker due to hexproof) above can be dealt with using removal. There is no shortage of it.
When drafting, prioritize cards like Bleed Dry, Hero's Downfall, Fierce Retribution, and Valorous Stance. These are clean answers to some of the set's most problematic bombs.
Of course, you can also try to race. Most of the truly unbeatable cards (like Toxrill, Dreadfast, and Hullbreaker) come with a hefty mana cost. If you can build a deck that wins before turn seven, you don't have to worry about facing them in the first place.
Speed is Key
Unlike some draft formats, there aren't several grindy archetypes in this format. Simic Mill is essentially the only deck that wants the game to go long. Other archetypes are hoping to keep the game moving and drop a bomb to take over.
Crimson Vow isn't the most aggressive format, but it is certainly up there.
That said, you should look to always have at least a two-drop if not a decent one-drop. It's easy to fall behind and difficult to catch up without a bomb like Dreadfast Demon or Hullbreaker Horror.
Mana Fixing / Splashing
Unlike Streets of New Capenna, you won't want to push your manabase too far in Crimson Vow Limited. There isn't a ton of fixing, especially outside of green. This makes greedy decks a risky choice. You'll likely want to stick with two colors.
Evolving Wilds is always nice. Meanwhile, Honored Heirloom is this set's three-mana rock. Foreboding Statue is the same but brings the potential of flipping into a creature later in the game.
Generally, splashing is still okay. Try to keep splashes to only one colored pip. However, if you're solidly into a color pair and open one of the bombs noted above, it's probably worth the risk of splashing for it.
What's your favorite Crimson Vow Draft archetype? Got a sneaky combo or hack you want to share? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!
Bolt the Bird features unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Our content is not approved/endorsed by Wizards of the Coast. Images and portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC