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Magic: The Gathering’s latest card set, MTG Crimson Vow, is out now for digital and table top. As lots of people have been playing with the new set, we thought we’d try and attain some top developer tips. So, we spoke to Mike Turian, Principle Game Designer at Wizards of the Coast. We asked him all about the new set, tactics, tips and hints at what’s to come.

Top tips for playing Crimson Vow

MTG Crimson Vow is centered around vampires. Its new mechanics, such as blood tokens, training and Cleave, can all be used in interesting ways. Turian told us the easiest tip for playing the new set is to experiment with these new mechanics early. He explained once a meta has been established, combos and set types are already “settled.” “This kind of [early] experimentation may help [players] find strategies and combos other players are sleeping on.” Turian encourages players to “test the Blood mechanic out wherever possible.” The Blood mechanic is new to MTG here and enables players to sacrifice vampire cards to draw a new card.

Turian says there are “great payoffs for blood tokens and the card filtering will be very helpful to ensure card quality over your opponents.” For those players who like to construct their decks carefully, Turian told us there are “very powerful Legendary creatures which should make a splash in both Standard as well as Commander.” He said any legendary card from the Crimson vow set is “very good.”

Legendary Vampire card from the new Crimson Vow set. | Provided by Wizards of the Coast

MTG’s previous set, Midnight Hunt, focused on werewolves. Vampires and werewolves are often on either side of the playing field. We wanted to know if there are any good combos for playing Crimson Vow with Midnight Hunt, or even previous sets. Turian said any Black/Red players will benefit from the vampires. But, he also said a “less obvious” exploit is “giving Blue/Black Zombies a boost.” He told us the “the new exploit cards will pair very well with the decayed Zombie tokens of Midnight Hunt.” He recommended “[playing] around with that combo.”

New mechanics affecting the gameplay

The three new mechanics mentioned above — blood tokens, training, Cleave — are likely to the change the gameplay of MTG. Turian explained “blood [tokens are] really the focus mechanic of Crimson Vow.” He said he’s “hopeful there’ll be a deck that utilises Blood tokens or perhaps goes all-in on the mechanic.” Turian predicted this mechanic will work well with “self-sufficient cards such as Falkenrath Forebear or Voldaren Bloodcaster.” He told us these cards are good individually and “don’t necessarily need support.” Turian hopes cards like these, and combos utilizing these cards, will be seen in Standard.

Training is a new mechanic allowing Human players to gain a +1/+1 counter whenever a creature attacks with a creature of greater power. Turian said this is a mechanic that will be used a lot. “Star cards like Savior of Ollenbock will really shine when their Training ability is triggered multiple times across a game.”

Mythic card, Savior of Ollenbock. | Provided by Wizards of the Coast

Cleave is an interesting mechanic that alters the function of cards. Using Cleave, players can omit words from a card’s description. This makes players think about gameplay and be more tactical. Turian said this mechanic “by nature, [is] flexible.” He foresees Cleave cards being used most of all as “competitive players highly value flexibility.”

Returning mechanics

There are some returning mechanics too, such as Exploit, Disturb and Daybound/Nightbound. Exploit is a mechanic that allows players to sacrifice a creature when a creature enters the battlefield. Exploit was originally seen in the Dragons of Tarkir set, and recently showcased in Modern Horizon. Turian doesn’t believe this mechanic alone will have a dedicated deck. Instead, Turian told us this mechanic will likely shine on individual cards. “My personal picks to look out for would be Fell Stinger and Overcharged Amalgam.” Turian also said to watch out for “aggressive White/Green deck[s] in Standard.”

Disturb was only recently released with Midnight Night. However, it receives a slight upgrade in MTG Crimson Vow. Creatures with Disturb, in Crimson Vow, has a backside effect that is a Magic type. Daybound/Nightbound was introduced in Midnight Hunt, and will mostly stay with werewolf cards. Turian doesn’t believe these two mechanics will impact competitive play in a large way. He did say, however, that could change with upcoming Crimson Vow cards.

Best Crimson Vow card: Sorin the Mirthless

Turian told us his favourite card in the MTG Crimson Vow set is Sorin the Mirthless. He said “[Everything] from the art, to the mechanics, to all of the fun versions of Sorin [we] made” are the reasons why he loves this card. Turian further builds on his love for this adding “Sorin with his middle ability makes a 2/3 Lifelink, Flying Vampire! Long time Magic players will recognize this as a call back to Vampire Nighthawk which was created in another set [I] had the pleasure of working on.” Other reasons Turian gives for loving this card include the various versions of Sorin, including “a version by famous video game artist, Ayami Kojima, as well as the Count Dracula version.” He told us “Sorin really captures the spirit of Crimson Vow.”

Sorin the Mirthless Planeswalker card. | Provided by Wizards of the Coast

What’s next for MTG?

MTG is one of the longest-standing trading card games of all time. With no sign of stopping, we wanted to know what’s next for this card game titan. Turian told us “Magic has been up to lots of amazing content,” and he hinted at new things coming, saying he’s really excited for the newly announced sets too. Turian has been working on the recently announced Unfinity set, as well as Dominaira United and Lord of the Rings. Dominaira United and Unfinity were talked about during the Magic showcase earlier this year. Unfinity will be released during the second quarter of 2022, while Dominaira United will follow in the third quarter of next year. The Lord of the Rings set was also announced during the showcase, and will be released in 2023.