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Magic’s Innistrad: Crimson Vow will be a party for the ageless

The second in a back-to-back series of horror-themed sets

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Magic: The Gathering concludes a spooky double feature on Thursday with its second set of cards from the plane of Innistrad, now live in Magic: The Gathering Arena. Innistrad: Crimson Vow is the sequel to Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, and will be available at retail in November. Here’s your first look at what’s in store, with commentary by product architect Mike Turian and world building and narrative design manager Meris Mullaley.

Mullaley says that Crimson Vow should be a lot of fun for fans of Magic’s deep lore. When Midnight Hunt was released in October, Wizards set the table with five pieces of longform fiction written by K. Arsenault Rivera. They’re still available online if you’d like to get up to speed with the narrative, or just need a dose of meaty pulp fiction in your life. In brief, the humans of the realm went all-in for the annual Harvestide ritual, hoping to restore the balance of day and night. That was interrupted by a deadly werewolf attack. As a result, the land has been thrown into endless night — the perfect setting for hungry vampires to come out and play.

The centerpiece of this particular set, Mullaley says, is Olivia Voldaren’s wedding. The vampire is eager to consolidate her power in Innistrad, uniting two of the plane’s most powerful families. Her groom? None other than Innistrad’s first and most powerful vampire, Edgar Markov. That means it’s up to the Gatewatch (or at least what’s left of it, following the death of Gideon Jura) to crash the party and free the human population.

Image: Wizards of the Coast
Image: Wizards of the Coast

Turian says that players should expect more than 30 vampire cards in the main set. Accompanying them will be blood tokens, which will be generated by certain cards and actions and consumed to make some vampires more powerful.

A returning mechanic for this new set is called disturb. It’s function has been tweaked from past incarnations, Turian says. For instance, on Dorothea, Vengeful Victim it allows players to convert a creature into an enchantment. Expect additional clever uses of the mechanic that leverage these kinds of double-sided cards throughout the set.

The exploit mechanic also returns with Innistrad: Crimson Vow. It was first introduced with Dragons of Tarkir in 2015.
Image: Wizards of the Coast

A new mechanic for this set is called training. It allows creatures to grow more powerful by fighting alongside other more powerful creatures.

Image: Wizards of the Coast
Image: Wizards of the Coast

One early example shared with the press is called Savior of Ollenbock, a human soldier creature shown wielding twin chakram. Once they’ve been all charged up, hopefully their death will help splash some additional chaos on the battlefield by bringing a few exiled creatures back into play.

Finally, cleave ups the cost of a card in order to “literally cleave the words out” Turian says, making those spells more powerful. Cards, like Dig Up, that include that mechanic, could become a must-have asset in many different formats.

Image: Wizards of the Coast
Image: Wizards of the Coast

Fans of the Commander format should be on the lookout for the red/black Vampiric Bloodline preconstructed deck, featuring Strefan, Maurer Progenitor on the cover. You’ll find lots of the hungry undead inside. Meanwhile, Millicent, Restless Revenant leads the Spirit Squadron preconstructed deck, bringing lots of ghosts and spirits to the party.

Image: Wizards of the Coast

Set and Collector Boosters will include some Commander-focused cards. Of particular note, Turian says, is Wedding Ring. It’s an artifact that creates a duplicate of itself on your opponent, allowing you to draw cards and gain life whenever they would.

It’s one of those great Magic cards that feels like a troll when used, but is actually both thematically appropriate and mechanically interesting.

Innistrad: Crimson Vow arrives for digital formats on Nov. 11 and at retail, as physical cards, on Nov. 19. The range of products will include Draft, Set, Collector, and Theme Boosters as well as a full-fledged Bundle and a Gift Bundle, plus the two Commander decks listed above. You can pre-order cards at your friendly local game store and online.

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