Innistrad: Crimson Vow Mechanics

Posted in Feature on October 28, 2021

By Matt Tabak

Senior editor. Game designer. Writer. Bon vivant. Matt wears many hats inside Magic R&D, but they're hard to see as he's so tall.

The mechanics of Innistrad: Crimson Vow remind me a lot of the upcoming vampire wedding that's got everyone talking: something old, something new, something borrowed, something drenched in blood. Ain't love grand? Let's see what's getting ready to walk down the aisle and into game stores soon.

Training

Surviving this world of terror isn't easy for the humans—they have to stay sharp. The new training ability represents this focus. Training is a triggered ability that makes creatures stronger when attacking.

Apprentice Sharpshooter

Whenever a creature with training attacks alongside a creature of greater power, put a +1/+1 counter on the creature with training. The powers of the attacking creatures are checked only at the moment they attack. Once the training ability triggers, it doesn't matter what happens to the other creature, nor does it matter what happens to the power of either creature. As long as the creature with training is still on the battlefield as the training ability resolves, it will get the +1/+1 counter, even if its power is now equal to or greater than the other creature, it's no longer attacking, or even if the other creature is no longer on the battlefield.

Gryff Rider

Having more trainers doesn't cause training to trigger additional times. Apprentice Sharpshooter could attack alongside one creature with greater power or fifty creatures with greater power, and training will trigger only once either way. But if you have the choice, go with the fifty.

Cleave

The life of a Magic editor is a glamorous one, and the new keyword cleave gives you a taste of that life and the unbelievable bliss of chopping words from cards.

Dig UpAlt Dig Up

Cleave shows up on instant and sorcery cards, and it offers you an alternative cost. When casting a card with cleave, you can cast it for its mana cost as normal. If you do, the spell's effect is processed as normal. That is, every single word of its rules text is followed, just like you'd expect.

But if you opt to pay the cleave cost rather than the mana cost, you can ignore all the words in brackets. This will change some key aspect of the effect. For example, if you cast Dig Up for {G}, the spell reads "Search your library for a basic land card, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle." If you cast it for {1}{B}{B}{G}, you treat it as if it said, "Search your library for a card, put it into your hand, then shuffle."

No matter how you cast a card that has cleave, the resulting spell's color and mana value are both based on the spell's mana cost. Specifically, Dig Up is a green spell with mana value 1, even if you choose to cast it for its cleave cost. As it always has, Innistrad offers you plenty of opportunities to cleave your troubles behind.

Blood tokens

Innistrad: Crimson Vow introduces a new predefined token: Blood tokens. Blood tokens are colorless artifact tokens with "{1}, {T}, Discard a card, Sacrifice this artifact: Draw a card."

Blood token

Blood tokens are simple, versatile tokens that offer you a way to trade in cards in the late game for chances to draw something more useful. Maybe your hand is stocked with extra land cards or early drops that no longer have the impact you're looking for. Maybe you have ways to leverage controlling extra artifacts. And some cards offer benefits beyond the inherent ability of a Blood token.

Gluttonous GuestShowcase Gluttonous Guest

Blood. It's not just for dinner anymore. Although to be clear, for a lot of us, it's still very much for dinner.

Daybound & Nightbound

The sun hasn't quite set on the day and night mechanic introduced in the last set. Or . . . maybe it has set? The metaphor kind of breaks down there. Anyway, it's back! This Werewolf mechanic shows up on transforming double-faced cards, and it all revolves around day and night, two designations that the game itself can have.

Weary Prisoner
Wrathful Jailbreaker

If you need a quick refresher, the game starts out as neither day nor night. In most games, it will become day first. The most common way that will happen is if a permanent with daybound appears on the battlefield. Once it's day or night, the game will be exactly one of those designations, day or night, going back and forth until the game ends. It can never return to being neither.

As long as it's day, each double-faced card with daybound and nightbound will enter the battlefield with its daybound face up. As long as it's night, each will enter with its nightbound face up.

There are two ways for the game's day/night designation to change. If it's day as a turn begins and the previous turn's active player didn't cast a spell last turn, it becomes night. Similarly, if it's night as a turn begins and the previous turn's active player cast two more spells last turn, it becomes day.

To help everyone keep track of day and night, many Innistrad: Crimson Vow boosters have this helper card that also reminds you of these rules.

Day
Night

The other way the designation can change is some cards have effects that just say it becomes day or night. As it becomes day, all double-faced cards with nightbound transform to their daybound faces. As it becomes night, all double-faced cards with daybound transform to their nightbound faces.

For more information on all transforming double-faced cards, including day and night, please see the Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Release Notes, or if you're the patient type, the Innistrad: Crimson Vow Release Notes are coming soon.

Disturb

Disturb returns after its debut appearance in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. This keyword ability allows you to cast cards from your graveyard transformed. Whereas the disturb cards in the last set were creatures on both sides (specifically, non-Spirits on the front and Spirits on the back), the ones in this set are Spirit creatures on the front and Auras on the back.

Drogskol Infantry
Drogskol Armaments

Unlike most transforming double-faced cards, with disturb cards, you're casting the back face. Rather than paying the mana cost of the back face, which it doesn't have, you pay the disturb cost listed on the front. As you're casting the Aura spell, you choose a target as part of the process of casting the spell.

The back faces of cards with disturb have an ability that exiles them instead if they would be put into a graveyard from anywhere. Effectively, this means from the stack or the battlefield, the two zones where they can be back face up. So, if the Aura spell is countered, to exile it goes. If it would go to the graveyard once on the battlefield, it's exiled instead.

Exploit

The final returning mechanic is exploit, a triggered ability that at once seems not of this world and yet feels right at home. The spotlight may be on the Vampires, the Werewolves may still be transforming the narrative, and the Humans may still be fighting, but the Zombies are still very much here, and they're hungry.

Rot-Tide Gargantua

When a creature with exploit enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice a creature. And that's exploit. Thanks for coming, everyone! See you on Kamigawa!

Ah, yes. I suppose there is a bit more. Many creatures with exploit have an additional ability that gives you some benefit when that creature exploits a creature, meaning when you sacrifice a creature to that creature's exploit ability.

A few things to keep in mind: Exploit will allow you to sacrifice only one creature. You don't have to sacrifice a creature, but if you do, you choose which one as the exploit ability resolves. You can sacrifice the creature with exploit to its own ability. If that creature has an ability that triggers "when [this creature] exploits a creature," sacrificing itself to its own exploit ability will cause that ability to trigger. And finally, the creature with exploit needs to still be on the battlefield as you sacrifice the creature in order for that "when [this creature] exploits a creature" ability to trigger. If it's not on the battlefield as its exploit ability resolves, you can still sacrifice a creature, but you better have another good reason, because that last ability won't trigger.

Places, Everyone!

The most momentous wedding in Innistrad's history is almost here. Will you be in attendance? A member of the wedding party, perhaps? One of the guests? Caterer? Catering? I'm sure you wouldn't miss it for your life. Have fun at the Prerelease, at home, or wherever you plan to enjoy it.

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