Murders at Karlov Manor Set Review - Red

Brandon Amico • January 30, 2024

Demand Answers by Justyna Dura

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This is Prosper's World, We're Just Living in It

Hello there! I'm Brandon Amico, author of the Flavor of the Month column on Commander's Herald, and I'm really excited to dig into the red cards in Murders at Karlov Manor. I love taking an assertive and proactive (read: fast and aggressive) path through a game, and while that's easier when there's only one opponent (with 20 life) than three or more (with 40 life each), that doesn't mean we're not going to try.

I think that's probably all of the introduction you want from me; let's get to the cards, right? New set, new spells, new brews! How does red hang with its peers this go around?


Expedited Inheritance

To say that Magic's designers have been leaning heavily into exile (AKA "impulse") draw lately when it comes to designing red card advantage would be quite an understatement. Add in cards that just care about the act of exiling cards, like Laelia, the Blade Reforged, or playing spells from exile, such as a number of the Doctor Who designs and Prosper, Tome-Bound, and we've seen the exile archetype come from near nowhere into one of the regular attendees at your LGS's Friday Night Magic.

(Wow, it took less than one red card for us to mention Prosper; wish I could say I was surprised, but he's been the most direct beneficiary of this rich design vein Wizards is currently tapping. As a result, he's been everywhere since 2021.)

All of this is to say that Expedited Inheritance is the latest in a long line of cards that have run the gamut from tame to jaw-droppingly busted multi-format all-stars. Still, this is a unique effect we haven't seen before. It's kind of the reverse of Repercussion; whereas Repercussion heaps on pain to those whose creatures were already hurt, here, getting your creature pinged or smashed actually gives you something good. Usually symmetrical effects in red are all about how much damage each player or creature is taking, so this is an interesting deckbuilding puzzle for red mages.

Symmetrical cards are all asking to be broken, and in this case you'd want to be in a deck full of creatures that can withstand a little hurt and ways to dish it out in a measured cadence. Dinosaur decks are a great home that comes to mind for Expedited Inheritance: many Dinos utilize the Enrage mechanic that gives a benefit when they take a hit, so those decks already have the setup to take advantage of this.  

Grab your Pyrohemias now, if you hadn't already when Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might came along.

Incinerator of the Guilty

It remains to be seen, in practice, how easy it will be to collect evidence, but if it's anywhere between "very easy" and "not too hard," expect Incinerator of the Guilty to be burninating pods near you often. The closest analog here is obviously Balefire Dragon, a staple of Dragon decks, Kaalia of the Vast builds, and aficionados of Sneak Attack everywhere. 

Of course, Old Faithful Balefire just needs to connect, and it torches that player's board for six. No graveyard setup needed. If you aren't binning cards on the regular, Incinerator might be a little too finicky to regularly utilize its ability, especially after the first time. If you're spellslinging, milling, discarding, or wheeling, though, the Incinerator compares pretty favorably to Balefire in basically every other way. It's got the same statline but costs one mana less, and it has an additional, crucial keyword: trample. Whereas Balefire can get chump-blocked all day by any deck with flyers, an opponent will have to put some real heft into their block if they don't want to get burnt. Even one damage from the Incinerator is enough to trigger its effects for as much mana as you can "collect" from your graveyard. And notably, there's no need to limit the creature (and planeswalker this time!) damage to the six power of the Dragon. If you've got a stocked graveyard, turn it up to eleven to roast your opponent's Inkwell Leviathan.

Many people are going to write this off as "bad Balefire"; feel free to enlighten them. This is closer than it looks.


Anzrag's Rampage

Overloaded Vandalblast that Sneak Attacks the best creature in the top chunk of your library and then puts it back in your hand? Yeesh. Is every card invoking the new Mole God incredibly pushed?

As long as your deck isn't particularly creature-light, this will be a highly impactful play, and even if it is creature-light, getting a utility or value creature to hand after wiping away all your opponents' mana rocks, Roaming Thrones, and various other machinations is a heck of a play. You don't get the other cards you exiled back in any way, though, so this could mess up a combo if you're that kind of deck. Otherwise? Run this card. Then praise the Mole God.

Case of the Crimson Pulse

At first glance, this doesn't seem all too exciting. Tormenting Voice has already been outclassed due to a number of instant-speed versions (including one in this set) and upside-added variants, so adding an extra mana just to get two cards once you've run through your hand seems...underwhelming.

That is, until you realize that Cases, unlike Sagas, which the card's portrait-oriented text box immediately brings to mind, don't go away once they're solved. In other words, you aren't just getting two more cards the turn after you solve this: you're getting two extra cards each of your turns from now on. That's quite a faucet of card draw you're turning on, especially for a color that doesn't get to see a lot of cards without jumping through hoops.

You don't get to stockpile those cards--you have to use 'em or lose 'em--but the decks that want this (burn, some reanimation builds, and small creature decks, like Goblins) don't care. They want to rifle off a couple of spells and have a few more. This isn't a red staple, since the inability to hold cards for a future turn will hurt many strategies, but if you're playing a deck that routinely runs out of gas, try sleeving this Case up.

Connecting the Dots


I've been informed by my editor that my analysis for Connecting the Dots needs to be more than me excitedly chanting the name of perhaps my favorite Magic card of all time, Standard mono-red hero of yesteryear, Bomat Courier. Ahem.

To my endless chagrin, Bomat Courier doesn't see much play in multiplayer formats like Commander. It just doesn't scale very well: in a format with three other players all building their own doomsday engines, a bit of card advantage on an infinitesimal body just doesn't move the needle.

But Connecting the Dots does the Bomat thing: if you attack, you sock away a card for later, which you can cash in for the cost of what's in your hand at the time. The difference is that Dots will work for red creature-based decks in EDH. I'm actually a little surprised there isn't a "this triggers once per turn" rider on this card, or a limit on one card put aside per player attacked. Nope, attack with six Pirates, get six cards. It's also a lot less fragile than a creature, and it still sticks around if those creatures are blocked or board-wiped. I feel like this card was made for me.

Of course, it exiling the cards when saving them for later means all the usual decks apply. Laelia, the Blade Reforged in particular wants this; since Connecting the Dots triggers separately for each attacking creature, Laelia will get big in a huge hurry if you have even a couple other creatures to swing alongside her.

Fugitive Codebreaker

Lest you think I'm high on all of these "discard your hand for a few cards" newbies, I'm pretty low on Fugitive Codebreaker. 2/1, prowess, and haste for two mana might cut it in 60-card formats (I expect this might see play where Bedlam Reveler once did since it's not dead in the early game), but those are lackluster once EDH boards get even a little filled up, which will probably be about one turn after this comes down. Was it worth it to get that two or four damage in?

The real reason you'd play this is if you wanted to have a reason to utilize its flipping-up ability, and while it is a good effect (three cards is a lot), there are just way better ways to do it. At a minimum, this costs four mana to do, and its ceiling is three cards. Even just the last two cards we just talked about cost the same or less, and they have the same effect with much higher ceilings. Maybe if you're in a Goblin-dedicated build and wanted some ways to refill your hand? Even then, you probably don't have a lot of instants and sorceries in your graveyard, so it'll end up costing well more than four mana to get this medium effect. 

Krenko, Baron of Tin Street

Oops, I forgot that saying "Goblin" summons this guy. This is the third Krenko that WotC has graced us with, and while none will ever be as strong, or as iconic, as the original, they haven't made a bad one yet. 

Krenko Part III has a lot of text, but reading between the lines it also says "all your Treasure tokens can become hasty Goblins at any time." Seeing as Treasures are easier to stock up on than Pidgeys outside an Ultra Ball factory, Krenko: Return of the King threatens an army out of nowhere. You can also pick up a few stray gobbos with leftover mana between turns when your opponents crack their Treasures (or another artifact dies some way, whatever, we know this is going to 95% trigger on Treasures and 5% everything else), since Krenko and the Last Crusade doesn't care who controlled the artifact before it hit the bin. Plus, since Goblins can easily swarm even without doing that, each activation of Krenko Revolutions's tap ability represents a huge jump in damage output. Eight 1/1s might seem more pesky than threatening, but eight 2/2s start representing real damage, and 3/3s even more so.

It'd take a lot for a new card to dethrone Krenko, Mob Boss as the de facto Goblin Commander, but Krenko: Return of the Jedi is a great addition to the 99 as long as you have a couple of artifacts lying around, or he could even headline decks that go more in on the artifact theme.

Krenko's Buzzcrusher

Beyond having one of the coolest card names in MKM ("buzzcrusher"? I'll take eight), there's a neat little wrinkle to this card that it's easy to overlook: it doesn't target the lands you're destroying. Finally, a way to punish the players in your pod abusing Lotus Field without needing a Shadowspear plus a land destruction effect!

Thopter decks aren't much of a thing, and Insect builds tend to be Golgari colors, so there doesn't seem to be a built-in home for this guy beyond artifact builds; getting bonus rounds of land destruction with Osgir, the Reconstructor or Jaxis, the Troublemaker does seem pretty sweet, though. A four-mana 4/4 flampler is a decent rate, if a bit unexciting, so feel free to throw it in some decks that can support it if you keep finding yourself at the mercy of Cabal Coffers or Glacial Chasm in your friend group. We all have that one friend that keeps putting Field of the Dead in every Commander deck, and they need to Stop It. (I'm talking to you, Colby.)

Lamplight Phoenix

As of this set, we have now received 35 total Phoenix creatures, and outside of a few standouts (Arclight Phoenix and Otharri, Suns' Glory come to mind), they're generally kind of...bad. Being able to bring your creature back repeatedly could be broken if the card was too strong, so most of the Phoenices we've seen thus far have either been ineffectual on the battlefield or way too inefficient or slow to get back from the bin.

Lamplight Phoenix is actually the only Phoenix that you could conceivably return to the battlefield without a delay or extra mana multiple times. Thus far there have only been two that can come back immediately, but Ashcloud Phoenix requires a whopping six mana to get it ready to die again, and Bogardan Phoenix only comes back once unless you can remove the counter. (We don't talk about Molten Firebird; what an awful card.)

As long as you have a way of sufficiently putting some cards in your graveyard, Lamplight Phoenix can keep coming back. Potentially in quick succession. The 3/3 body isn't doing much, and sure, Syrix, Carrier of the Flame will take another Phoenix, but to be clear: this is intended to be a combo card.

Repeated sacrifice fodder without delay? Check. Mutliple dies/enters-the-battlefield/leaves-the-graveyard triggers? Check. This even puts cards into exile with each loop, so check that box, too (I feel like I'm repeating myself given how many of these red cards play in the same spaces this go around!) Creatures usually don't make return trips from the graveyard easy to pull off, and when they do they tend to be pretty broken (anyone who's watched a Bloodghast dance back and forth between zones in a single turn can attest to that).

I've seen very little chatter about this card, and it's a bit baffling to me why. It's potent for combo setups. Rakdos+ sacrifice decks will want this, and there's a good chance that this plus Altar of Dementia can burn through your entire library if you want to do that, or, more likely, have drained all your opponents with twenty-plus loops of this with a Zulaport Cutthroat out.  

Pyrotechnic Performer

Burning each opponent is generous, and this very badly wants to be a Terror of the Peaks-alike, but it's just far less abusable. There are few ways to trigger this many times with any efficiency; especially not in red. Disguise as a mechanic seems to be spread throughout the colors, but morph and manifest decks tend to be green, blue, and black. There isn't a lot of support here.

You could play this "fairly" and score some chip damage of a few points every turn, but playing disguised or morphed cards for three mana and then paying to flip them up is just too inefficient, and a bit of added damage isn't going to change that. This comes down early and might not warrant a removal spell on its own, so it's possible I'm wrong about this one, but I'm yet to be convinced. 

Expose the Culprit is the exact kind of card that Pyrotechnic Performer needs, either triggering a round of burn or resetting the disguise portion of your board for future damage, but that one card won't make a deck like this viable. There is Weaver of Lies if you're in blue, but these two cards each only get half of the creatures that could be turned back face-down, since a deck that wants this card is all-in on every viable morph and disguise card it can get.

On its own, the Performer is a four-mana 3/2 that Lava Spikes all your opponents once. There are worse cards you can play, for sure, but this is a big shrug from me. What a waste of the terrific "Viashino Assassin" typeline!


It's a colorshifted Willbender! *squints* Wait, no it isn't! And I'm not talking about the three extra power or two more mana in the top right. The original tricky morph creature could only redirect one spell or effect targeting a single thing, often making an opponent end up kill-spelling their own creature in Magic's foremost "stop hitting yourself" parallel. But look closely at Boltbender:it redirects as many targets as you want out of all the spells and abilities on the stack! And its ability, itself, doesn't target, either.

Five mana between disguising and flipping isn't a small amount, but this messes up a lot of win-cons. Storm players, sorry about your Grapeshots, Tendrils of Agonys, and Brain Freezes. Crackle with Power? That ain't heading where it was intended. Abilities are also fair game for Boltbender, and don't forget that Auras target the to-be-enchanted permanent when on the stack, so it's going to feel good to make your opponent stick Eldrazi Conscription on your own creature against their will. Just be sure to thank them after the fact: manners are important (and the only thing more infuriating than getting beaten down by your own spell that you paid for is when your opponent does it with a smile on their face, so by all means, go for it).

Hot Pursuit

Finally, a solution for goad decks when it gets down to the last two players! So long as you can keep goading an opponent's creature, they'll have to share them with you for those last turns, and that kind of imbalance is what can win those close games. Goad and forced combat decks have already gotten lots of goodies in recent years, including some top-notch commanders, like Firkraag, Cunning Instigator for Izzet and Kardur, Doomscourge in Rakdos, but it's getting another one for the more Boros-minded players: Aurelia, the Law Above. Aurelia doesn't require goading specifically, just a mass of attackers. It's getting easier than ever to cattle-prod your opponents' boards into action, and with Hot Pursuit you'll be able to close out the game as well. Just remember that you still need to play defense, too: they still have their creatures to attack you on their turn!

Prisoner's Dilemma

It's hard to ask for a better flavor fit than Prisoner's Dilemma. For those who don't know, the term "prisoner's dilemma" refers to a situation wherein two individuals, without being able to communicate, are faced with a choice to betray the other or not. The most beneficial scenario for both parties is to stay silent, but in the pursuit of one's self-interest most people end up choosing to betray, guaranteeing a bad outcome for both parties.

And that's exactly how the card works! Without communicating, your opponents will have to choose to "snitch" or remain silent. The best scenario is for everyone to choose silence: everyone takes four damage, a small slap on the wrist in a 40-life format. But the temptation to deal double that to one's rivals, and avoid trying to play nice and taking triple if your opponents are out to get you, is a real one. EDH is an inherently political format; even if you aren't wheeling and dealing, something as simple as deciding which of two creatureless opponents to swing at for a point of damage or two has political implications. (And abstaining from attacking anyone to not draw ire is also a political stance, don't forget!) This card puts a bit more of a spotlight on that hard-to-define dynamic in all of our games, probably more so than any other. 

How will this one play out after it's been in Commander pods for a year or two? Will we all be choosing silence all the time, as we should? Or will the knowledge of players that choose to snitch make that a risky proposition? I'm fascinated to see. If you're also interested in seeing how this dynamic evolves over time, you don't have to wait years: it's got flashback, so sit back and let the social experiment enter its next chapter. 

Uncommons & Commons

Crime Novelist

You know him, you love him: it's Goldspan Dragon at home! Well, not exactly, since it doesn't make any Treasures itself. But it does a nice budget impression of the most important part--making each Treasure produce two mana. This will also get big, obviously, but it can get big unexpectedly fast, which means this can be a legitimate threat on the board; the possibility of Treasures and the like going to the graveyard on a whim makes the prospect of nearly any block seem unappealing. 

Any artifact deck in red will want this, and seeing as artifacts is the #1 most-built theme on EDHREC, followed by...well, Treasure decks at #2, there will be no shortage of homes for this. Everything from Magda, Brazen Outlaw to Korvold, Fae-Cursed King and Breya, Etherium Shaper: household names will be sleeving up this cute lil' guy soon. 

Demand Answers

Thrill of Possibility is already great, and it's criminally underplayed in the average red deck. Demand Answers is even better, giving you the option of flinging a lowly artifact like a Myr or Treasure token to draw two at instant speed, no discard needed. These cards help you churn through your deck, fill the graveyard, or enable madness if you need to, set up reanimator strategies, and more, all while holding up mana for interaction.  

If you want to take this over the top, make the artifact you sacrifice one of those that does a small thing upon entering or leaving the battlefield. Prized Statue, Mycosynth Wellspring, or my favorite, Ichor Wellspring. "Two mana: Draw three" at instant speed? Won't have to demand all too hard to get me to put this in my deck. 

Expose the Culprit

See Pyrotechnic Performer above for more on why the red face-down deck doesn't feel like it has legs, but the real use for this card is to get one cheap flip of a face-down creature, especially since you can't reset flipped morph creatures due to the wording here, only those with disguise, but you can flip up either. So what are our best targets?

Kheru Spellsnatcher could be a huge tempo swing. Akroma, Angel of Fury will do work as a blunt object. Speaking of blunt objects, they don't get much bigger or blunter than Krosan Cloudscraper.

You can shred hands with Silent Specter or get tricky with Dermoplasm, and Imperial Hellkite is a threat that will fetch yet another Dragon, and it has simply amazing art by Matt Cavotta. Look at those wings: like it's part dragon, part butterfly!

Harried Dronesmith

Just some Loyal Apprentice backup. And that's not a bad thing, mind you. When you're churning out creatures to fling into oblivion, redundancy is good. Just have your sacrifice outlets and flingers at the ready: since this Dronesmith only seems to be still working thanks to her eighth cup of coffee, these Thopters aren't made well enough to stick around.


Call that a knife? This is a knife.

But seriously, leave this thing in the cutlery drawer unless your deck cares about Clues and for some reason you're also in red.

Vengeful Tracker

Treasure deck players HATE him! Learn this one trick to make them go away forever!

Take everything I said about Crime Novelist and reverse it.  This is a greedy Dockside Extortionist punisher, a weapon pointed directly at the Breya, Etherium Shaper pilot, and a great companion for Visions of Ruin. It's not even symmetrical, so sacrifice away!

That covers the notable new red cards from Murders at Karlov Manor and its accompanying Commander supplement. There are some powerful cards without a doubt and a lot to be excited about here. It does seem like most of them hew closer to a couple of tried-and-true deck types, though. If you're in an exile deck, a Treasure/artifact deck, or burn, you came out ahead in this latest visit to Ravnica. Otherwise, there are playable cards but nothing revolutionizing the format.

What do you think? Did I miss the mark on any of these cards, or are there any new uses you're excited to explore for these new spells? What will you be slotting into your 99s? Let me know in the comments below or on social media!

Brandon hosts the MTG Variety Hour (@mtgvarietyhour on TikTok, IG, and Twitter) and has been playing Magic since Odyssey back in 2001. When he's not slinging cardboard, he works as a freelance copywriter and is an accomplished poet with a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowship. His literary work can be found at