Murders at Karlov Manor Set Review - Pauper/Budget

Behind the Mask by Caio Monteiro

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

Who could it be?

Okay, until this set came out, I didn't realize how iconic the murder mystery theme is. When I was a kid, I loved the Sherlock Holmes books, and reviewing this set has brought me right back to that mood. Trying to guess who the murderer is just by reading the flavor text has been an incredible game in itself, and the whole collection of riddles contained with in the promotion campaign is next level. A card code contained within alt arts arranged in a certain pattern? Hell yeah. On top of that, the cards in the set wonderfully on-theme and splattered with flavor. Let's see what we've got!


Evidence Examiner

Collect evidence is a brand new mechanic that... doesn't seem to do much? Especially on this card. At the beginning of your upkeep, you may collect evidence 4, and in exchange, you get a Clue. It feels like a bad exchange. Usually, if I'm running self mill, I'm running it for graveyard shenanigans. Adding a Satyr Wayfinder just to jot down some observations seems like you're going in the wrong direction. I want my Satyr Wayfinder for reanimation purposes. The mechanic certainly gets better with other cards in the set, like Incinerator of the Guilty. Here, however, it's not much fun. There are better ways to make Clues. 

Gleaming Geardrake

Okay, something weird happened in this set where they decided us to free us from pesky ability restrictions. You're telling me this card doesn't have a "once per turn" rider, or a "nontoken" rider? You're telling me that I can sacrifice as many Treasure tokens as I want, and this thing will keep growing? I'm going to be hitting for lethal in two turns. Aggro pauper is a lot of fun, and with the amount of Treasure-making toys that WotC is printing, it's an easy deck to build. 

But of course, if your opponents are going off too hard with a Treasure deck, you can play Vengeful Tracker, another card with the "Whenever you sacrifice an artifact" ability. Two damage for every artifact will certainly outpace the counters on the Drake

Wispdrinker Vampire

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death is having a good time with this set. Due to the disguise mechanic, they've decided to double down on the care for creatures power two or less theme, and while disguise hasn't impressed me too much, I do love myself a good weenies deck. Draining for 1 with every small creature isn't terribly busted, but remember, small guys are extremely easy to recur. Just ask Reveillark or Graceful Restoration. Triggers like that will stack up rapidly, especially if you add in Blood Artists, who will trigger Wispdrinker Vampire themselves. While that's what the deck would be built around, don't underestimate the Vampire's second ability. Lifelink and deathtouch are a killer combo. Deathtouch on 2/2s practically makes them unblockable, and with a sizeable swarm of them, you'll be gaining loads of life.


Make Your Move

I will gladly pay one more mana for my Disenchant to also have restrictive creature removal. The number of times an extra mana will matter in comparison to the amount of times I'll have the perfect answer sells me this card. Not exiling is a bit weak, especially with the prevalence of indestructibility and graveyard themes in EDH. Still, even if it doesn't replace my Path to Exile, it absolutely swaps in for my artifact/enchantment removal. 

Essence of Antiquity

What a strange card. The abilities on it seem to be all over the place, although they do somewhat thematically fit the card. Five mana for a 1/10 is a bad rate, as long as Indomitable Ancients exists. But the morph... sorry, disguise ability does help quite a bit, allowing you to surprise block most attackers with a massive behind, and when you flip it over, you also get half of a Heroic Intervention. The unfortunate thing about this card is that you can't really use both parts of the card. If you use the colossal toughness to fade an attack, you opponents will simply wait until the hexproof has worn off to cast their removal, and if you use the hexproof ability first, your opponents will be able to adjust their attack plan. Of course, having both options is good, but I'd love it if both of them were usable in the same game.

All that being said, the only real home for this card is Arcades, the Strategist or Doran, the Siege Tower, where it's a 10/10. Get it? A ten out of ten, but also just a 10/10 creature? Anyways...

Inside Source

Okay, it's cool how hard they tried to push Detective tribal in Limited, but for constructed, the theme is mostly unplayable. It's always like this when trying to build a deck from only one set. In every expansion, they print three or four really good cards for the new mechanic/tribe, and the rest is mediocre. In this set, Case of the Pilfered Proof is the one good card, and the rest of the support is nonexistent. While there are 70 total Detectives in Magic: the Gathering, almost none of them care about each other. Maybe in a few years Inside Source will have a home, but until then, it's draft chaff.


Behind the Mask

Alright, this is some cool card design. At first, I was wondering why the additional cost makes the effect worse, but now I realize that it's for your opponents creatures. Evaluating mode one, a single mana for a single-turn 4/3 is kind of bad. I'd much rather play Rise and Shine, to create a permanent 4/4 for two mana, but does a pseudo removal alternative make Behind the Mask good? The only use for turning a creature into a 1/1 is to kill a big creature in combat. Barring Kaervek, the Spiteful effects, the card has to be deployed tactically to have any effect, and it still doesn't do anything to a Hydra. On top of that, evidence 6 is a steep cost. Most decks won't have a random six-mana-value card in the graveyard, so for a low-to-the-ground deck, that's three or four cards, all for an extremely mediocre effect. Interesting idea, but not good enough for any deck. 

Dramatic Accusation

Aha, a color-shifted version of Cooped Up. I still think that card is decent as slow way of dealing with indestructible creatures. It's especially funny when it lands on a commander who wants to attack, like Commissar Severina Raine. This card is essentially the same, and it works in the same situations. It does stop the creature from swinging, and it does get rid of it permanently if you need it to. Shuffling is less effective than exiling a creature, but more effective than killing it. Either way, it does its job. The question is, of course, would you run this over Path to Exile? No. The only benefit is keeping commanders out of their command zones, and that's not enough. I'm not saying you should swap this card in. What I am saying, however, is that if you own it, it's not a bad card to use. 

Forensic Researcher

Alright, now we're getting to the good stuff. This card is basically a reprint of Kelpie Guide, and it should be in all the same decks. If you ask me, it's a bit better, as collecting evidence 3 is a bit easier than getting eight lands, but for the most part, they're the same card. Of course, you can do all the same shenanigans, like untapping bouncelands for two mana at a time, drawing an extra three off of Arcanis the Omnipotent, or when you're ready, combo off. Don't look at these things like they're innocent. Yeah, they could be used for some pretty mundane things, but when you see them played, you know it's about to go down. 


Persuasive Interrogators

Two poison counters? Excuse me? I don't know if this card is going to be all that good, but I do know that the word poison gets people scared. No matter what you try to do with this card, it's going to receive loads of hate from around the table, so let's try to justify that hate and break it. To kill someone, you need five Clues, but they don't have to be sacrificed to their own ability. A Krark-Clan Ironworks or Defiant Salvager will do the trick. After that, Lonis, Cryptozoologist or Tivit, Seller of Secrets are probably the best way to make loads of Clues. Follow it up with Persuasive Interrogators resolving, and you've built your own Door to Nothingness. Not the greatest combo, but I can see the card being a potent inclusion in Clue-themed decks. 

Extract a Confession

This card really suffers from being sorcery speed. One of the greatest strengths of Sheoldred's Edict is that it can be cast during combat, allowing for massive blowouts. What this card has over Sheoldred's Edict is forcing your opponents to sacrifice their biggest creature. Often, that will be their best creature. But how often is that? Does the likelihood of Extract a Confession, or any edict, killing an irrelevant creature make it unplayable? In Commander, it's often more useful to have targeted removal. Still, this card promises to remove the three biggest creatures at the table, and I think that's good enough for me to start testing it out. 

Macabre Reconstruction

If you ask me, recursion is on par, and possibly better than card draw. I've had great success with Phyrexian Reclamation, a card that can repeatedly return threats to your hand. No removal is permanent while Reclamation is on the field. Regrowth is also strong, allowing you to get any card, be it an enchantment, land, or creature to your hand. Macabre Reconstruction is a mix of those two, a one-time spell that only gets creatures back. It's not instant speed, which is a huge downside, but it still might be worth playing. I keep my eyes on any card that will put more cards in your hand than it takes out, and this card qualifies. It's card advantage and an effective way to stay on top of the table, especially at two mana. 


Crime Novelist

Well, okay, we're seeing that no restrictions, "whenever you sacrifice an artifact" line again, and this time, it's absolutely insane. Goldspan Dragon is a $20 mythic five-mana-value Magic: the Gathering card, and Wizards decided to print a three-mana version of the card as an uncommon. Every time you sacrifice a Treasure, you add one mana of any color, and a red, essentially doubling your mana output. Just to start, this card goes in every deck that Goldspan Dragon goes in, but it also goes in any artifact deck that sacrifices things, period. Chromatic Star adds a mana now. Dargo, the Shipwrecker is a ritual. Lotus Petal is twice as strong. And to top that all off, it goes infinite with loads of cards. I had to check multiple times to make sure I was reading it right. It feels almost wrong that it was printed. 

Demand Answers

They seem intent on printing a Tormenting Voice in every set. Witch's Mark, Thrill of Possibility, and now Demand Answers are all strict upgrades to the original. Really, though, these cards aren't going to be swapped out, just added to. It's the kind of effect you want to flood your library with. I know that I want as many of them as possible in Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, and countless other graveyard decks. Rielle, the Everwise, Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar, Feldon of the Third Path, the list goes on. And now, with Demand Answers, it also fits into the artifact sacrifice archetype.


Aftermath Analyst

This set is putting out nothing but budget bangers. This is just another copy of Splendid Reclamation, a card that regularly ends games. Even in pauper, getting every fetchland out of your graveyard can be crushing for your opponents. If you've been milling yourself throughout the game, the results are colossal. And let's not get started on what happens when you have a Field of the Dead. Does it cost two more mana than Splendid Reclamation, and require the creature to stick around until you can sacrifice it? Yes, but I assure you, if Reclamation was six mana, it would still be very playable. Aftermath Analyst deserves a slot in a heap of decks. 

Pick Your Poison

I haven't seen an edict in green before, but I'm all for it. Turn one or two, it's immensely powerful, offering the potential of removing three mana rocks. That's a huge tempo swing and is comparable to Decimate in the way it can turn a game. As the turns progress, it can also be effective at dealing with problematic enchantments, like Mirari's Wake, or even take out a Blightsteel Colossus. I will be happy to pick my, or my opponent's, poison with this card.

Slime Against Humanity

Now this is just some good fun. With this card in, every color except white has a "You may have any number of cards named-" card. Other than being a fun ooze themed deck, Slime Against Humanity has the potential for being a strong build. As you cast them throughout the game, you'll eventually build up to 10/10s for three mana, but don't think that you have to cast ten of them to get there. All that Slime looks for is if it's your graveyard or exile, meaning you can mill it. After that, there's very little that your opponents can do to stop you running away from the game with colossal oozes, given that graveyard hate does nothing. And let's not get started on what the +1/+1 counter synergies can do. 

If you want to build this deck cheap, go for the cards right now. The fact that it's printed at common means nothing, as people need 30 or more of them for the deck. The card hasn't even been released at the time of this article's writing, and it's priced at five dollars. If you want a Slime Against Humanity deck, don't wait. It could be years before the card is reprinted. 


Escape Tunnel

Evolving Wilds wasn't the card I would've expected to get power creeped, but the facts can't be denied, this card is Evolving Wilds plus some. I'm not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, the design is cool. Like I've said before, I like low power matters decks, and this card is decent for them as a one-time Rogue's Passage. On the other hand, why'd they have to go after my Evolving Wilds? My Terramorphic Expanse? Those card's were my fellas. Dirt cheap, yet perfectly passable color fixers. Now I have to deal with knowing that there's a strictly better version of them. In all reality, it doesn't make a difference, as Escape Tunnel's second mode will be used in one out of a hundred games. But the fact the Escape Tunnel is basically Evolving Wilds makes it a much less unique card, and I don't see why that's the direction they went with it. 

Public Thoroughfare

Gateway Plaza. Rupture Spire. Public Thoroughfare. I've been trying to evaluate whether these cards are any good, and though I'm somewhat fond of them, I have to say that the answer is no. In a budget five color deck, they're... passable. Having a land that taps for literally any color is helpful, but losing tempo just to play them is a huge pain. It's like a double tapland, and normal taplands are already bad enough. If you look back a few articles ago, you'll see that I did an experiment to see whether a pauper mana base could compete with a fetch/shock mana base. The results came in, and the pauper deck was, on average, a turn behind. However, the blame could be placed entirely on taplands. Not once in my experimental matches did I find myself color screwed, even when trying to activate a WUBRG ability as fast as possible. Between Evolving Wilds, the Streets of New Capenna fetches, and the Thriving lands, color screw didn't come close to hindering me, and while the tax lands weren't a part of that experiment, it's clear that five-color lands are not needed, especially when the price is so high. 

Welp, that's the mystery solved. At least the mystery of which cards are good and bad. As for who the killer was, I still have no idea. Maybe I'll figure it out as I play with the set, but until I do, don't spoil it for me! Have a great day, and let me know how you're going to acquire 30+ Slimes Against Humanity, or whether you need four copies of Tormenting Voice in an Edh deck. 

Alejandro Fuentes's a nerd from Austin Texas who likes building the most unreasonable decks possible, then optimizing them till they're actually good. In his free time, he's either trying to fit complex time signatures into death metal epics, or writing fantasy novels.