Murders at Karlov Manor Set Review - White

Michael Celani • January 29, 2024

Aurelia's Vindicator by Victor Adame Minguez

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

Nancy Drew and the Mystery of What White Cards Are Good This Time

So you finally made it to my office, huh? Well, you been makin' a name for yourself in the agency lately. Name's Michael Celani. I been a detective in Leawood for over twenty years now, and let me tell ya, kid: you're young. You can quit now, and you'll still be okay. You hear about all those heroes growin' up, like Sherlock Holmes, and Hercule Poirot, and the Paw Patrol. They'll catch the killer, they'll save the rich guy's stolen property, but there's one case they don't tell ya about that you'll never crack, and that's why you keep gettin' outta bed in a world as cruel as this. When you've been in the business long enough, you know that no matter how many criminals you put away, nothing ever changes. No matter how many sets you review, there's another one, lurking around the corner. Kid, my whisky glass is as empty as my soul, and no matter how much I try filling one up, it ain't gonna make a difference in the other. But if you're stickin' through it anyway, here's the file. She's your problem, now.


Aurelia's Vindicator

Well, I can only hope Aurelia is more forgiving than me, because the last thing I'm doing is vindicating this waste of a mythic slot.

For Aurelia's Vindicator to be anything other than a middling pile of stats, you first have to disguise it for , which lets you cast it as a face-down 2/2 creature with ward . Now's as good a time as any for my critique of the disguise mechanic, and it's simple: unless you're running one of the five commmanders that use the weird properties of face-down creatures to start constitutional crises, it's a gigantic waste of your time. Spending Rhystic Study mana on a slightly harder-to-poach Grizzly Bears is the Magic equivalent of a college kid spending Friday nights doing homework instead of your mom. Go on, tell me the last time someone legitimately cast a morph in your pod that wasn't buoyed by some sort of kindred synergy or jank payoff. I'm serious: post a comment below of your craziest morph story, and my favorite gets $20 to their charity of choice.

Anyway, after relieving you of three of your mana, the Ravnican scam artists prey on you further by making you spend at least five more for the grand prize of... exiling a creature until Aurelia's Vindicator leaves the battlefield. Eight total mana, everyone, and ten if you want to match the functionality of Angel of Serenity with the privilege of a worse statline. This is probably a Limited all-star, but there's no place for it on my table except as a coaster.

Delney, Streetwise Lookout

Delney, on the other hand, has Commander written all over them. Yes, it's time for my monthly aneurysm, as seeing those last four words printed on another text box definitely triggers me an additional time, just like it did when I saw those words last set. And the set before that. And the set before that. And the set before that.

But my (apparently increasingly fruitless) rebukes against R&D's lazy design aside, Delney, Streetwise Lookout looks like an excellent choice to head up your mono-white blink deck. Taking the average Preston, the Vanisher list as an example, most of the star performers are already two power or less: Felidar Guardian, Inspiring Overseer, Solemn Simulacrum, Spirited Companion, Karmic Guide, Skyclave Apparition, the beat goes on and on. The advantage of Delney, aside from the cheaper casting cost, is that you don't have to actually blink your creatures first to benefit from them. In fact, it's fair to say that they're a more balanced take on Preston. You're won't be left thirsting for value when you find yourself with no Cloudshift in hand, but you're not supercharging your Panharmonicon or Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, either.

I'd love to say Delney could helm other kinds of decks than just blink, but it's slim pickings. Almost every triggered ability worth talking about in white cares about creatures entering the battlefield, and that just naturally trends towards your wallet crying at the prospect of purchasing another Ephemerate. You could potentially run a Soul Warden go-wide lifegain strategy, but I'm hard-pressed to find reasons to go with Delney over Darien if that's your bag. There's cast trigger strategies, like Puresteel Paladin and Sram, Senior Edificer, but there's not enough support there to consistently get an engine going compared to the straight blink decks, and all the good attack triggers out there are attached to creatures with more than two power. You also have to be wary of triggered abilities that put +1/+1 counters on your permanents; one too many, and Delney will suddenly start missing spot checks. There's probably an extremely ballsy version of a Delney deck out there that runs Mirror Entity alongside big fatties like Sun Titan, using Mirror Entity's ability to shrink everything down to 2/2s before attacking, but I just don't see it as anything other than a novelty.

Outside of the command zone, Delney has far more variety, as it's no longer limited to the color that thought Healing Salve was worth turning in with its name on it. The extremely obvious, 100%-on-theme deck to pay attention to in this regard is Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, for whom Delney is so tailor-made it makes Richard James blush. In fact, it might be worth putting in any Commander deck with a leader whose power is two or less; I'd definitely appreciate if every Egg hatched by Atla Palani turned out to be twins, or getting twice the Tooth Fairy visits thanks to Alela's connections, or even just drawing an additional card with each enchantment I cast alongside Sythis, Harvest's Hand. Hell, if I'm Satan, I can even run Delney in a Chulane deck. And did you know most aristocrats payoffs are two power or less? Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim is laughing as you die a death of five-hundred-doubled-cuts thanks to Zulaport Cutthroat, Blood Artist, Cruel Celebrant, Corpse Knight, Falkenrath Noble, and Vindictive Vampire. The ride genuinely never ends; when I started writing this paragraph, I thought this would be a throwaway section, but the deeper I dug, the more absurd it got. There's just so much random stuff it doubles. Mulldrifter. Lotus Cobra. Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Storm-Kiln Artist. In every color, there's likely some staple in your deck that just becomes twice as effective when Delney is on the field, and that's terrifying.


Apothecary White

I'm suspicious of Apothecary White in the kitchen with the rope command zone; she's like an Adeline, Resplendent Cathar that snowballs onto itself, or a Myrel, Shield of Argive that never has to attack and put herself in danger. Here's the rub: while white doesn't really know how to generate Food, White does, and when she's done cooking, she can turn those delicious dishes into a veritable army. Those Humans then attack to make even more Food, which can be tapped to lure even more Humans into a terrifying war with three other megalomaniacs, and so on. The million-calorie question here is whether or not you can pull this loop off fast enough to compete with the previously mentioned go-wide standards, and the answer there is probably not; it's rather convoluted, all things considered.

On the other hand, one major advantage Apothecary White holds over her contemporaries is her resilience to interaction. You're going to be sitting on tons and tons of life in the form of Food tokens, nobody's going to want to spend removal on them, and thankfully her ability is not limited to sorcery speed. It might be worth sitting back and controlling the board with efficient instants, healing yourself when necessary, and if you can make Apothecary White indestructible consistently, all the better; wipe the board clean, and rebuild your army from the rations that the wrath let you keep. Outside the command zone, she slots nicely into any list that's consistently attacking every opponent, as well as every Food deck that can run her; my money's on Samwise Gamgee as a best fit, since he'll likely to have plenty of meals ready to go by the time she hits the field.

Armed with Proof

I've always appreciated cards like Armed with Proof, which turns tokens into weaponry. They're unassuming, yet they fit really well into those Boros Equipment decks that care more about the quantity of your Equipment rather than the quality; Kellan, the Fae-Blooded, Bruenor Battlehammer, and Wyleth, Soul of Steel come to mind. Now, Armed with Proof won't reach quite as high a ceiling as Gemcutter Buccaneer when it comes to enhancing your creatures, but at least you can cash those Clue tokens in for cards when you're extremely starved for draw. Be warned, though, as there is an unwritten rule on this card: whenever you actually equip a Clue to your creature, you must announce, out loud, what the piece of evidence actually is. My go-to is that my creature is equipping a bloody glove that's slightly too tight for their hands.

Assemble the Players

Assemble the Players might seem like an Alesha plant dressed with the concept art for Rian Johnson's new film PAX East: A Knives Out Story, but don't let this card's text fool you into taking only a surface-level look. Aside from the other commanders out there that naturally run low power creatures as part of their strategy, like Arcades, the Strategist, Nethroi, Apex of Death, or a Clockwork-kindred Colfenor, the Last Yew, you'd be surprised at how many value creatures out there have a power of two or less. I don't need to repeat the entire spiel I did with Delney, Streetwise Lookout, but if you're searching for a method that lets you cast creatures off the top of your library, give this a look before dismissing it as esoteric. Bonus points if this manages to finger Fblthp, the Lost for a crime he didn't commit.

Case of the Uneaten Feast

More like The Case of Who Murdered Ajani's Welcome, because five life in a single turn is trivial for any remotely competent lifegain deck. Your reward for performing such a Herculean feat of wonder is the ability to cast as many creatures you want from your graveyard, and by the time you're ready to activate it, it's a free Soul Salvage, which is kind of absurd for one mana. At the very least, you'll likely have to wait until the turn after you solve Case of the Uneaten Feast to sacrifice it, but if an opponent is so scared by the prospect of you casting your dead Wood Elemental that they point removal at it, you should be celebrating that they didn't snipe anything else more impactful.

Doorkeeper Thrull

Call it doorkeeping, but something tells me that shaving a mana off the cost of Hushwing Gryff and adding artifacts to the naughty list won't be enough to let this Thrull past the threshold into the average deck. Few people are willing to put together a list that doesn't rely on enters-the-battlefield triggers in some form, and fewer still are willing to take the hit to run anything that could ever shut down their own strategies. I guess Doorkeeper Thrull is destined to remain where it belongs: exclusively in the library of That Guy at your game store.

Immortal Obligation

One of the major benefits of goad is that it can upset content creators force your opponents to attack with creatures that are absolutely not suited for that task. Making your opponent risk their Mentor of the Meek or Beast Whisperer in battle is effectively soft removal, and even in the case where your targets don't bite it, they're probably connecting with your other enemies for damage, which progresses the game state and makes for exciting play. Immortal Obligation erases that entire aspect of goad, since you're obligated to return something to the battlefield for your opponent just to goad it. It really only ever works in your favor on if you cast it on a dead body that's already down to smash, and Commander pods these days are so engine focused that the opportunity rarely comes up unless your local rabid Gruul player broke their chains again.

Merchant of Truth

I feel like people look at the word "nontoken" and feel deep rejection anxiety from the fact that their Thalisse, Reverent Medium pile isn't going to barf twenty Clues onto the field alongside five hundred dollars and your very own Stompy, the 5-inch tall Stegosaurus who trips over his own stompers but makes up for it by cooking you delicious pancakes. The truth is that these kind of effects like Merchant of Truth and Grim Haruspex aren't meant for getting value in go-wide strategies; they're most useful in recursion-heavy decks, like zero-day-Zaxara and Chainer, Nightmare Adept. In other words, if your deck wants Phyrexian Reclamation, it probably wants Merchant of Truth, too. Her juxtaposition of turning death into cards like a turbo-Inheritance while also buffing solo attackers if you don't need to draw strikes me as particularly perfect for Liesa, Forgotten Archangel lists, which often run self-sacrificing creatures, such as Cathar Commando, for board control while swinging health totals via lifelinking aerial attacks each turn.

No Witnesses

What are the odds that:

  1. You have the most creatures out of all four players,
  2. You want to wipe the board clean despite that,
  3. This situation occurs often enough that you'd run No Witnesses,
  4. You value the extra draw so much it beats out more general options, and
  5. Your deck can't just get that draw immediately via either Depopulate or Shatter the Sky?

Otherworldly Escort

Like an estranged uncle with a palatial estate, Otherworldly Escort isn't important until he dies, and once he does, he becomes a Spear of Heliod on a stick, or in other words, a very long Spear of Heliod. I think I actually prefer Spear of Heliod to the Spear-It Detective, because it's even better at deterring attacks and does something relevant other than be a body; I'd only run this if your deck cares about Spirits in particular.

Redemption Arc

Now this is a goad card! Redemption Arc solves the problem that Martial Impetus and its kin have by letting you exile the enchanted creature when it's down to just two players or in response to removal. It also gives the creature indestructible, so if you can put it on an enemy beater, your other two opponents will be hard-pressed to throw fodder under the bus to save their own life total. Plus, if you really want, you can even cast Redemption Arc defensively upon your own creatures if, for example, they have tap-to-activate abilities or were attacking each turn anyway. I love it, and disgustingly jank Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist suit-up-your-opponents lists do, too.

Serene Sleuth

Well, content creators, you've been clamoring for it, and here it is: Serene Sleuth, the anti-goad silver bullet. Unfortunately, it's pretty much wholly anti-goad tech; if nobody's riling up your creatures, it's just a 2/2 that investigates when it enters the battlefield. That's only one power stronger than Novice Inspector, and one power just isn't worth one extra mana. Plus, it's not like the goad deck doesn't also have two other opponents to choose from. Ironically, I think the best place to put Serene Sleuth is in Goad decks; all you'd have to do is target yourself with Geode Rager, and then you're investigating five times.

Tenth District Hero

Tenth District Hero is a budget Avacyn, Angel of Hope that you can pay for in two easy installments of evidence and mana, and that's pretty much it. Unfortunately, unlike Avacyn, she doesn't protect herself or any noncreature permanents, so you can't go wild with a Nevinyrral's Disk afterwards, and thanks to her taking the structured settlement instead of cash now, you also can't easily cheat her out onto the field or blink her when necessary. Such a shame; when is Mileva getting her own actual legendary creature card?

Trouble in Pairs

Trouble in Pairs is either gonna draw you a bunch of cards or force your opponents to play extraordinarily fair, and both options are worth the four-mana casting cost. This is a pretty strict general upgrade to Mangara, the Diplomat, and the real kicker here is that it fires when your opponents draw their second card each turn now, too. If you're feeling dastardly, you can force that hand: Howling Mine, for example, becomes a Cut a Deal every round for you with Trouble in Pairs in play. The Council of Four players, rejoice. Also, for some reason, it hoses extra turns, which is hilarious.

True Identity

If you've got "too-specific two-mana-value enchantment" marked on your Set Review Bingo card, congratulations! That's another square for you, right next to "complaints about trigger-doublers", "this card's not for us", and "Shatter the Sky comparison!" Seriously, what is there to say? Morph, Manifest, Cloak, and Disguise decks want it, and absolutely nothing else does.

Unexplained Absence

A Grasp of Fate that can't be undone with a Disenchant is definitely worth the single-mana premium, and it's instant speed to boot! Well, it's really three Reality Shifts stapled together, but that's still great, especially since there's a reasonable chance your opponents won't hit a creature worth flipping over. At this point I'd really have to question running Return to Dust. Heliod's Intervention has outclassed it in flexibility for a while, and Unexplained Absence is just another nail in its extremely dead corpse, since the odds that both problems are owned by the same player are pretty low to begin with, and this can hit anything.

Unyielding Gatekeeper

Dammit, I already used my gatekeeping joke on Doorkeeper Thrull, and if I do a second one people will say I'm stale.

Honestly, I don't hate the idea of a modal spell that's both a Flicker and an Anguished Unmaking, but five total mana is quite the asking price for that flexibility. At least you can split up the cost over multiple turns, sort of like a foretell spell. I doubt that makes up for it being exceedingly slow on both ends, though; it's not bad, but it's a middling card that's overshadowed by more efficient options all around, which likely leaves this Elephant forgotten.

Veiled Ascension

Veiled Ascension makes you a 2/2 flyer with ward every turn that could potentially flip into something way beefier, but how many times are you going to realistically trigger it before the game's over? It's not cheap enough to come down early for aristocrats reasons like Skrelv's Hive, and (unless you get lucky) you're not winning games off the power of the five or so fliers you'd end up generating by letting this run its course. What deckbuilding problem does this solve?

Wojek Investigator

This is an aggressively costed comback option. For just three mana, Wojek Investigator saves you when you find yourself down cards in the middle and endgame, and if your deck wants to investigate for reasons other than just cracking the tokens for cards, you're in really good shape. I wonder if there's enough of these catch-up mechanics in the game now that it's reached a critical mass, and it's worth it to effectively gambit the start of your game for an advantage later, but we all know Commander is about politics, not strategy.

Uncommons & Commons

Call a Surprise Witness

I love Phoenix Wright!

Case of the Gateway Express

Case of the Gateway Express is a decent removal spell for the go-wide token decks. It even trivially solves itself into an anthem in that strategy, and you only really need two or three of those before your dork 1/1 Birds become game-ending threats. I'm not cutting Swords to Plowshares for it, but I might be cutting Path to Exile.

Case of the Pilfered Proof

That's such a wonderful payoff for the token deck, but the problem is that Detective is a parasitic creature type. No other set has them, and Case of the Pilfered Proof is really designed to only be solvable in the dedicated Detective deck, leaving your Peregrin Took for Clues inaccessible unless you do some gnarly stuff with Changelings.

Not on My Watch

This is actually pretty good for a two-mana instant. If your opponent ever makes the mistake of attacking with whatever you want gone, you can snipe it pretty efficiently. Just don't bother if you're in blue; Azorius Charm does a pretty good imitation and has a ton of other useful modes, too.


This is a Sram, Senior Edificer Cheerios card if I've ever seen one, since it's cheap, replaces itself, and gives that all-important vigilance to whatever you end up saddling with your fifteen-hundred doodads and knicknacks. Attack, then use its ability to tap down whatever you're afraid would block you.

Make Your Move


Oh, One More Thing

Just what I thought, kid. Another parasitic set. Guess if you gotta survive in this world, you really gotta care about your Clues and your disguises. There's a bit of a bone thrown to ya if you have a bunch of creatures with power 2 or less, but other than that, you could pretty easily skip this set if you're a white mage. Maybe the next mystery I'll crack is why I say all these things and yet still religiously buy a box every time. Maybe I'm addicted to more than just the whisky. Meet up with the other detectives in the conference room when you're done. They got similar reports to file about the other colors of cards in this set. Maybe you can piece together the puzzle there, kid. Good luck.

Newly appointed member of the FDIC and insured up to $150,000 per account, Michael Celani is the member of your playgroup that makes you go "oh no, it's that guy again." He's made a Twitter account @GamesfreakSA as well as other mistakes, and his decks have been featured on places like MTGMuddstah. You can join his Discord at and vote on which decks you want to see next. In addition to writing, he has a job, other hobbies, and friends.