Murders at Karlov Manor Set Review - cEDH

Jake FitzSimons • January 31, 2024

Delney, Streetwise Lookout by Darren Tan

White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts & Lands | Allied Colors & Shards | Enemy Colors & Wedges | cEDH | Reprints | Budget/Pauper

G'day, fellow fedora wearers detectives, Jake FitzSimons here to review the best cEDH cards from Murders at Karlov Manor. We'll be looking at a possible Yuriko enabler, a versatile trigger doubler, a white card advantage engine, the best modal card printed since Jeska's Will, and a Simic commander that delves into brand new territory for the color combination: card advantage and +1/+1 counters. Wow! 


Delney, Streetwise Lookout

Delney, Streetwise Lookout looks like the best cEDH card in Murders at Karlov Manor, and if isn't, it's certainly the most interesting. Going from top to bottom, the first ability speaks for itself. If your deck cares about creatures connecting and you're worried about big blockers, Delney is going to put in work. Of course, making creatures harder to block profitably isn't worth spending three mana on, but doubling triggered abilities? It's a steal. 

Here is a non-exhaustive list of cEDH playables that Delney double dips on:

Bringing back two cards with Eternal Witness, making two Treasures with Lotho, untapping twice on entry and connection with Derevi, getting twice as many Treasures with Dockside, getting a double ping with Bowmasters, asking your opponent if they "pay the two?" with an Esper Sentinel and drawing twice if they don't, not to mention dozens of other uses that I don't have the room for here, Delney, Streetwise Lookout is a card that makes good cards better. A "win-more" effect usually isn't what we're looking for in cEDH, but Delney strikes me as a card that will generate insurmountable advantage and create win opportunities that weren't there to begin with. 

The only caveat I'd add to my glowing review of Delney is that to really make them shine, you'll want a commander with a trigger you can double. By themselves they don't actually do anything, so having a card in the command zone that gets something out of Delney will make a big difference. Think Malcolm, Derevi, and of course Tymna the Weaver.

Doorkeeper Thrull

Doorkeeper Thrull joins a growing list of white hatebears that turn off enter-the-battlefield effects, and may well be the best we've ever seen. The Thrull is preceded by Torpor Orb, Hushbringer, Tocatli Honor Guard, Strict Proctor, and Hushwing Gryff, the latter being its closest cousin. In a format ruled by powerful enter-the-battlefield abilities, Doorkeeper Thrull has the power to shut off crucial tools that your opponents will rely on for advantage, removal, and outright win conditions. Yet therein lies the problem, and the reason the aforementioned Torpor effects don't see a lot of play: there's a good chance you'll be turning off a lot of your own powerful cards. 

Granted, Doorkeeper Thrull is close to a strict improvement on Hushwing Gryff given it has a lower mana cost while retaining flash, but the number of decks interested in such an effect are far and few between. The other advantage Doorkeeper Thrull has over its predecessors is turning off artifact enter-the-battlefield effects, though unfortunately there aren't a lot of those in cEDH. Making Chrome Mox useless is cute, and shutting off Isochron Scepter would have been a much bigger deal if it was 2020, and that combo was still a format staple. The best thing it does in the artifact space is turning off the untap effect from Grinding Station. Still, that's all upside so there's not much to complain about. If you're in the market for this effect, this is the best of the bunch. 

Trouble in Pairs

"White card pretending to be Kraum" is something we've seen before, and I have a history of over-valuing it. I preordered Mangara, the Diplomat, I picked up a copy of Smuggler's Share, and I took both cards out of my white cEDH decks almost as quickly as I'd put them in, so it's at the risk of being burned a third time that I come to the conclusion Trouble in Pairs is actually white's best card advantage engine since Esper Sentinel

First thing's first, it's expensive at four mana, and the double white pip doesn't really help. You usually want your four-drops to have an immediate impact, something that can't be said for Trouble in Pairs, but once you do have it out, you stand to draw a lot of cards. The least likely draw condition is the double attack trigger. Opponents can play around it very easily by attacking anyone else, and even a Tymna deck looking to maximize draws only needs to attack and connect with a single creature. The second most likely is the two-card trigger. A cEDH deck that only plays a single card per turn is either a stax list designed to play under Rule of Law or a deck struggling to keep up with the rest of the table.

And of course, the double draw trigger. In a world full of Mystic Remora, Rhystic Study, The One Ring, and Esper Sentinel, most decks have a high enough density of card advantage engines that they'll continue to draw (meaning you'll continue to draw) long after you find the time and mana to play Trouble in Pairs. In case you haven't heard, we're currently living through "midrange hell" and I'm of a mind that if you can't beat 'em, you may as well join 'em. Here's hoping Trouble in Pairs makes that a possibility. 

Finally, Trouble in Pairs shuts down extra turn spells. It might be the least significant aspect of the card, though additional turns are probably more common in cEDH than you realize. The most obvious is Tivit, Seller of Secrets who revolves around the Time Sieve infinite turn combo, but you'll find Final Fortune and its slower cousins Warrior's Oath and Last Chance in dozens of decks. Everything from the mono-red Godo, Bandit Warlord to the Grixis Rogsi to five-color Najeela, the Blade-Blossom find room for these high risk extra turn cards, and Trouble in Pairs will nullify them asymmetrically.


Final-Word Phantom

A charming reference to the greatest detective show of all time, Columbo. The ability to play cards at instant speed has always been coveted in cEDH, and as the recent rise of Borne Upon a Wind has shown, cEDH players aren't above dedicating a card slot to making that happen. The only trouble is that Final-Word Phantom doesn't provide unbounded flash, it restricts the instant-speed plays to opposing end steps. One of Borne's greatest strengths is allowing the caster to win over the top of another player's win condition, something that Final-Word Phantom just can't do. It also lacks the cantrip that Borne Upon a Wind boasts, meaning it can easily be a dead card that does nothing special. Still, in a deck that cares about flyers and holding up interaction, Final-Word Phantom could do some work.   

Maybe it makes me a hypocrite because I find A Killer Among Us to be such a lazy and uninspired reference to Amogus Among Us, but if you'll permit me to take off my cEDH fedora and put on my Vorthos fedora, this is my favorite card from Murders at Karlov Manor. Okay, back to cEDH. 

Forensic Gadgeteer

We did it, we broke Basalt Monolith.

Obvious and obnoxious joke aside, Forensic Gadgeteer is the latest in a long line of cards that can generate infinite colorless mana with Basalt Monolith, but that may not have any major cEDH applications given that Zirda, the Dawnwaker and Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy already do the exact same thing. Where it'll really shine is in the non-polymorph Urza, Lord High Artificer decks.

Being an artifact-centric deck, Urza will have no trouble triggering Forensic Gadgeteer regularly, and the payoff is enormous. Not only will the Gadgeteer reward you with a Clue for every artifact you play, those Clues will only cost a single mana to activate, sacrifice, and draw a card thanks to Urza's ability to turn any artifact into a mana rock, effectively meaning that the Clues will be able to pay for themselves without any additional effort. It's easy to forget that Clues don't actually need to be tapped to be activated. Basically, Forensic Gadgeteer and Urza, Lord High Artificer together will turn every artifact in your deck into a cantrip. 


Case of the Stashed Skeleton

You know what I'd like solved? The case of the terrible card that some cEDH players get excited about it. I'll have to look in the mirror to solve that one, but the next thing I'd look at would be the Case of the Stashed Skeleton. We already have Diabolic Tutor, a four-mana tutor that nobody plays outside of K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth, so I can't see Case of the Stashed Skeleton having much impact. But Jake, isn't this what everyone said about Wishclaw Talisman when they compared it to Grim Tutor on release? Aren't you forgetting that four mana over two turns is better than four mana upfront? No, I don't think I am. 

Wishclaw Talisman requires far fewer hoops to jump through than Case of the Stashed Skeleton. If needs be, you can activate it the same turn you play it, making it significantly faster than the Stashed Skeleton. Remember that Cases aren't solved on the completion of their condition, they're solved in the end step of that same turn. This means that even if you're able to play the Case and kill the Skeleton in the same turn, you won't have access to your tutor until the next turn. That seems awfully slow to me. It also hinges on the ability to either use the Skeleton (I suppose a 2/1 with menace is passable in Tymna the Weaver?) or sacrifice it on demand. 

The one place I could see a scintilla of use for Case of the Stashed Skeleton is in Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, as the Dragon can ditch the Skeleton easily for a card draw, not to mention draw again when the Case is solved. Ultimately I think Case of the Stashed Skeleton should stay stashed away in your bulk pile. 

Mastermind Plum

I'm surprised at how little fanfare there's been around Mastermind Plum. Not because I think the card is exceptionally strong, but because usually any card with the word Treasure somewhere in its text leads to groaning and moaning from the casual crowd (I can't blame them) and a flurry of "is this cEDH?" from newer competitive players. In fact Mastermind Plum is awfully similar to the next card we'll discuss, albeit a little stronger in the average cEDH deck.

The attack trigger that exiles an artifact is... fine at best. Lion's Eye Diamond is the best target as you can shut off Underworld Breach combos, but people playing the LED combo usually won't let the Diamond hit the bin until they actually go for the win. On top of that, there aren't many high value artifacts that you can exile. Ultimately it's just support text for Mastermind Plum's real ability, the chance to draw a card whenever you cast a spell that you paid for with a Treasure. 

Now, do bear in mind that the draw trigger is per spell and not per sacrificed Treasure. Casting Ad Nauseam with five Treasures won't draw you five cards, it'll only draw you one. This really curbs Mastermind Plum's ceiling, but in a low-color black deck with high Treasure production, the Mastermind might work as a passable card advantage engine. What Mastermind Plum really needs to shine is a commander that produces Treasures en masse, something like Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator, or if you're really living on the fringe, Prosper, Tome-Bound or Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff.

Snarling Gorehound

Snarling Gorehound takes me back to one of my favorite topics, potential Ninjutsu enablers for Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow. When it comes to evaluating Yuriko enablers, there are three things to look for: the card has to be playable for one or less mana, it has to have some form of evasion, and ideally it'll have additional utility. The best in the business are Changeling Outcast and Thousand-Faced Shadow. Snarling Gorehound certainly won't come anywhere near either of those, but the dog does tick all three categories in one way or another.

First up is the price. One black mana. That fits the bill, but it's not quite as good as an enabler that costs one blue mana. Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow is a deck littered with free blue spells like Commandeer, Misdirection and of course Force of Will and Negation. Not ideal, but a few black enablers is fine. Menace is one of the weaker forms of evasion. It'll do fine in the opening turns of the game, but soon enough the board will fill up and it'll lose relevance. Again, not ideal, but it could be worse. The real meat of the card is that additional utility, which in Snarling Gorehound's is a repeatable surveil trigger.

Given how much Yuriko decks care about big flips, Snarling Gorehound represents a great chance to get rid of the Polluted Delta sitting on the deck and replace it with something that actually does damage. It can also feed the greatest delve spell ever, Temporal Trespass. Having said all that, it's not without issues. For one, it doesn't do anything when it enters and it doesn't do anything when it connects. Sure, the majority of creatures in your average Yuriko cEDH deck will trigger it, but that requires a longer game to start paying itself off, and sometimes you won't have the luxury of replaying it to get any value in the first place. I want to love it, but I'll need a lot more testing before I feel confident about it. One thing I'm certain of: it's great if your Yuriko deck focuses on reanimation spells. 


Crime Novelist

Crime Novelist is one of those weird cards that doesn't do anything super exciting right now, but you should absolutely keep an eye on because it won't be long before we get something that breaks it in half. Until such a card is printed (ideally something that creates a simple two-card combo), the best place for Crime Novelist's would be similar to Mastermind Plum: in a deck with natural Treasure generation from the command zone. The only problem is that you'd be paying three mana to make your Treasures a bit more explosive, and that's just not all that impactful. It's hard to think of situations where Birgi, God of Storytelling doesn't do the same job but better. For now, Crime Novelist is likely to go unpublished. 

Vengeful Tracker

I'm a big fan of punisher effects, but they're rarely appropriate in cEDH, and Vengeful Tracker is no exception. It might stop an opponent from comboing off with Dockside or Lion's Eye Diamond, but that's contingent on their life total and banks on their combo not being able to find removal, and Vengeful is no more resilient than other anti-Dockside measures. Damage for the sake of damage just isn't very good outside of very fringe aggro/stax decks, and I say this as someone who enjoys cards like this. The easiest comparison point is Sardian Avenger from The Brothers' War. If you haven't seen Sardian show up in your cEDH meta, I'd wager you won't see Vengeful Tracker either.


Archdruid's Charm

Do my eyes deceive me, or am I looking at a genuinely powerful green card? By the grace of Nylea, it's been so long that I almost forgot what they looked like! Admittedly, three green pips is a big ask. there are so few triple pip cards that see play in cEDH, but I'd argue green is the best color for heavy pip costs thanks to mana dorks and cards like Gaea's Cradle. Speaking of Gaea's Cradle, Archdruid's Charm can pull the infamous reserve list land out of your deck and onto the battlefield. It comes in tapped, sure, but this is an instant, meaning the tapped clause isn't nearly as debilitating as it could be. The land tutor aspect is also relevant for decks like Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy that want to tutor up Treasure Vault to enable a win with Basalt Monolith, not to mention any other crucial utility land. The creature tutoring effect is fine. At three mana, it's no bargain, but you can do an awful lot worse, and sometimes, when you need the right creature at the right time, you're not fussed with the price. 

Moving onto the second mode, remember that this isn't a fight effect, it's a bite effect. The difference being that you won't put your own creature in any danger, it'll just deal damage to whatever you need removed. Drannith Magistrate got your commander locked in the zone? Orcish Bowmasters wreaking havoc on your board? Tired of that bloody Kraum generating advantage and swinging at you in the sky? Archdruid's Charm has you covered. 

The final mode is as simple as can be, and you don't need me to tell you how useful a Naturalize effect is. But it isn't a Naturalize effect, it's a Fade Into Antiquity effect! Exiling rather than destroying makes it one of the only pieces of cEDH removal that can permanently remove The One Ring Now, I have seen some suggest that they wouldn't pay three mana for any of the effects on this card, but I see that as a failure to understand the value of modality. Look at the following two cards. Would you ever, ever, consider playing them in a cEDH deck?

No? Of course not. And yet Abrade is a format staple. Modal spells are good, actually. I'm also fascinated by the fact that Archdruid's Charm is the second in a super cycle that began with Archmage's Charm in Modern Horizons, but I'm beginning to ramble. Fact of the matter is that you'll never be sad to see Archdruid's Charm, and you'll always be able to find a use for it. It's just that versatile. 

Pick Your Poison

Another good green card? Someone at WotC is trying to make Yisan, the Wanderer Bard meta again. A little like Archdruid's Charm, all three modes on Pick Your Poison are relevant in a game of cEDH, and it can easily be a three-for-one when you choose the artifact mode. Just imagine going last and spending a single green mana to blow up three mana rocks. Wait a little longer and you can pop Rhystic Studys and Mystic Remoras.

Given how comparatively rare Enchantments are compared to other card types in cEDH, choosing enchantment with Pick Your Poison will leave those blue card advantage engines in the dust because the controlling players likely won't have anything else to sacrifice instead. As for hitting flyers, the most likely to suffer are Kraums and Tivits, but cEDH has plenty of flyers these days. You can snipe down a Talion, the Kindly Lord, a Faerie Mastermind, an Aven Mindcensor, even a Gilded Drake


Lonis, Genetics Expert

Historically, commanders that go infinite with just one other card always have a home in cEDH, and Lonis, Genetics Expert is a card that sorta goes infinite with Extruder. I say sorta because while it does make for infinite +1/+1 counters on Lonis, Genetics Expert and any other creature you have in play that won't actually win the game unless you have a big enough board, and even then, Lonis lacks haste, so you'll need to do a bit of setup if you want to swing with her. 

If you're not following, a quick explainer. With Lonis, Genetics Expert and Extruder in play, you only need to sacrifice a single artifact to generate an infinite loop. Just target Lonis when you sacrifice your artifact to Extruder and Lonis will generate a new Clue and place a +1/+1 on every other creature you control. Rinse and repeat ad infinitum and you might have what you need to win the game. Add an additional payoff, like Urza, Lord High Artificer, for infinite mana and the ability to exile and play your whole library, or Benthic Biomancer, to perfectly sculpt your hand, and you'll have a guaranteed win. You can even assemble similar combos with Tarrian's Soulcleaver and Krark-Clan Ironworks for infinite counters and infinite card draw, so Lonis, Genetics Expert isn't just a one-trick pony. 

On the one hand, I don't see a lot of longterm potential in Lonis, Genetics Expert, but on the other hand I'm not ex-professional Magic player Sam Black. If it's the sort of deck that appeals to you, check out Sam's Lonis cEDH deck tech when it goes live later this week on Commander's Herald.

Murder? I Barely Know Her!

All in all, Murders at Karlov Manor is a strange set. It's strange for cEDH, because while it has potential powerhouses, like Delney, Streetwise Lookout and Archdruid's Charm, it has a lot of almost-but-not-quite cards, and no shortage of duds. I'd rate it among the weakest sets I've ever reviewed for cEDH, but that's no bad thing. It is what it is. But it's also strange in the wider context of Magic storytelling, because it's set on Ravnica. WHY? 

Yeah, I know why, they didn't want to return to New Capenna so quickly, and it wouldn't have made sense to have a murder mystery on a plane that doesn't have a law enforcement faction, but it's just bizarre to me that Ravnica, a plane with a sadistic murder cult and a guild of assassins and a guild that regularly resurrects the dead suddenly has a big enough issue with murder that half the plane dons a fedora and decides they're going to play detective. It's also terribly named, given that Markov Manor is a better established location in the Magic canon and Murders at Markov Manor sounds way cooler than Murders at Karlov Manor. Have a browse through reddit or twitter and you'll see I'm not alone with that, people are frequently referring to the set as Murders at Markov Manor by accident.

These three particularly are just too goofy for me. They're ridiculous in a grating way. Why does a being made up of pure electricity need a goddamn fedora and belt? Why is a devil invested in solving a murder, let alone anything at all? Why is it holding a giant acorn? Is it a reference to the fact that it should have been in an un-set?

Rant over. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next set.  

Jake FitzSimons is a writer from Sydney and a Magic fiend. He's either the johnniest spike or the spikiest johnny, nobody is sure which. When he isn’t brewing or playing cEDH, he can be found writing, playing piano, and doting on his little cat.