Murders at Karlov Manor: An Elves All The Way Down Review

Magic: The Gathering‘s latest set, Murders at Karlov Manor, jumps directly into the murder mystery genre with all its tropes and trappings. Set against the backdrop of Ravnica, maybe the game’s most beloved setting, this visit features detective typal, cases and investigations. Luckily for any fellow Elf players out there, Ravnica also features Elves.

While the set’s focus is very far away from Elf synergies and support, we do have a few gems hidden among the fedoras and spyglasses. There’s even a card that explicitly calls out the number of Elves you control.

As always, this review focuses exclusively on a card’s application in Elves decks across Magic‘s many formats. If you think there’s a cool card for your Pioneer Morph deck, this isn’t the review for that. (That card’s still cool though, whatever it is.) The rating given at the end of each entry is out of five Trees and applies to whichever format the card suits best.

The Elves

Unscrupulous Agent

While I would normally write off Unscrupulous Agent as fodder for Karlov Manor Limited, I am noticing that this isn’t the first version of this card. Commander Legends gave us Elvish Doomsayer and back in Kaldheim, we got Elderfang Disciple. Alongside a few other Black Elves we’ve had over the years, we’ve got the potential for an oddball Mono-Black Elves deck. It won’t be good, but maybe I should look into it.

Aftermath Analyst

I’m very excited by Aftermath Analyst, but not for Elves decks.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I enjoy The Gitrog Monster (and similar) EDH decks. Aftermath Analyst is another piece of the puzzle for that deck. It’s not even the only card from Murders at Karlov Manor that immediately gets added to that deck. However, this isn’t the review for that.

Sadly, for Elves decks, Aftermath Analyst isn’t really helping.

Hedge Whisperer

Although Elf Druid Detective is an interesting type line, Hedge Whisperer exists for the Collect Evidence archetype in Karlov Manor limited. It’s not going to help us in constructed. Good plant pig, though.

Vitu-Ghazi Inspector

Another card for Karlov Manor limited, Vitu-Ghazi Inspector isn’t the most powerful card. I could, however, see a very niche situation where it appears as a sideboard card in Standard Elves (a deck that isn’t really a thing). It’s unlikely, but the combination of lifegain and a potential 2/4 with reach is the sort of card I’ve played before when my opponents were playing a bunch of small fliers.

Izoni, Center of the Web

We had Izoni, Center of the Web in our first Murders at Karlov Manor draft over on Twitch. She was very powerful in limited and could potentially be a value-generating top end for a constructed deck. She probably costs too much for too little, but if the format got very slow and grindy, she could show up.

However, she doesn’t really synergise with other Elves. I do like the fact you can feed some spare Elf tokens into her last ability. Beyond that, we’re not really doing Elf things here.

Rakish Scoundrel

Finally, a card I can truly discard as complete limited fodder with nothing else to say.

Sumala Sentry

If you need a small reach creature for constructed Elves, we’ve already seen a better one in this set. Play Vitu-Ghazi Inspector before you play Sumala Sentry.

Tolsimir, Midnight’s Light

If you want a big pile of stats on a creature that happens to be an Elf without any synergies with other Elves, you can have Tolsimir, Midnight’s Light. At this point, due to the many variants of Tolsimir (and Voja), we might be getting close to an overlapping Elf-Wolf deck. Throw in some Changelings and you’ve got a stew going.

Sometimes Elves decks have to use their ramp to power out a non-synergistic bomb. Tolsimir isn’t the worst card for this if you’re intending to top out at five mana. Unfortunately for him, there’s a better five drop in Karlov Manor for Elves as long as you’re willing to add one more colour to your deck. And even more unfortunately for him, it’s his companion… without him.

Undercover Crocodelf

With so many cards to talk about, I should take these cards that I don’t have much to say about as a nice break.


Vannifar, Evolved Enigma

Vannifar, Evolved Enigma is another card I’m excited about for a different EDH deck. Murders at Karlov Manor has given me a bunch of those, it seems. However, it’s a Morph deck, not an Elves deck.

Everything Else

Assemble the Players

Every good murder mystery needs to bring a eclectic ensemble of characters together and Murders at Karlov Manor is no different. However, when we Assemble the Players, it’ll be a bunch of very similar elves.

I’m very interested in trying out Assemble the Players as a card advantage engine for Elves. I’ve previously enjoyed cards like Realmwalker. Assemble can’t go off in the same way, being limited to once per turn. However, it doesn’t die alongside all of your other Elves when they get boardwiped. With one- and two-power creatures making up the majority of decks we play, Elves might be the deck that can make the most of this card.

Of course, this all requires a format where we want a slow card advantage engine. Those formats and metagames exist; we just need to find one.

Archdruid’s Charm

Another card that excites me, Archdruid’s Charm has applications in Elves and those The Gitrog Monster style decks.

A creature/land tutor (even for non-basics like Gaea’s Cradle). A creature removal spell. An exiling Naturalize. All three modes are powerful. All three modes are useful to us. Three mana is a lot, of course, but maybe it’s worth it.

I haven’t had the chance to try out Archdruid’s Charm in any competitive formats. However, I have cast it in EDH Elves. Being able to hold it up through my opponents’ turns made me feel quite safe. Not having to use it as a removal spell and tutoring on end step felt even better.

Break Out

Break Out is meant to be the signpost uncommon for the Red-Green archetype in Murders at Karlov Manor limited. I can’t tell you what the archetype is meant to be. At first, this made me almost disregard it. Then I thought about a creature with mana value two that I very much want to give haste.

Devoted Druid combos decks have become my bread and butter on stream (shameless plug). One of the deck’s biggest weaknesses is that you need to wait for summoning sickness to wear off of the Druid. Previously, we’ve solved this with Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler. While Tyvar also provides other effects, Break Out allows the Druid to attack. This is a powerful effect to have access to. It helps that the other half of the combo, Vizier of Remedies, also costs two mana.

I got to try it out on stream and was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting to be let down by Break Out and frustrated by the additional colour it requires. Instead, it set up a few situations where we could win where no other cards would.

At the end of the day, Break Out is far from broken and probably won’t revolutionise Devoted Elves. (Adding Red to a deck isn’t free.) I will, however, be keeping it in mind for future versions of the deck. Especially when a specific two-drop gets printed into Modern later this year.

Maybe I’m just distracted by it being a mini Collected Company.

Voja, Jaws of the Conclave

I don’t often rate cards specifically for Commander. Sure, I’ve mentioned the format a few times in this review. Murders at Karlov Manor seems to be specifically designed to get me thinking about it. However, I generally keep ratings for competitive formats.

Voja, Jaws of the Conclave is the best commander I’ve built in a while.

I’m not even trying to ‘break’ it by using a bunch of Changelings (although Mirror Entity is a beating). Voja is just at the helm of an effectively mono-Green Elf deck. I’ve been having a blast playing it since the moment Karlov Manor dropped. I’ll even drop it here.

I’ve also tried Voja on stream in Standard, Historic and Historic Brawl. So, I’ll be rating it differently outside of EDH.

While the decks weren’t as effective as my EDH list, I still had fun playing them. A five-drop that needs to get past summoning sickness to have an effect is a tall order in competitive constructed formats. Ward 3 helps you get to that all-important attack, but boardwipes are still your worst nightmare. I did manage to get the attack effect off a few times and it always ended the game. It’s probably a win-more card, but it really does cement the win when it triggers.

Surveil Lands

The new Rare Land cycle from Murders at Karlov Manor are making waves all over the place. Normally, tapped lands are disregarded for Elves decks because of the importance of turn-one plays. Here, however, we see fetchable lands that can be picked up by Quirion Ranger that get to retrigger their ETB effect each time you replay them.

While we might not play many of them, one or two copies alongside Quirion Ranger can potentially help us out in those games that go a bit longer than expected.

Parting Thoughts

It’s been a while since I’ve had this many cards I’m excited about (for Elves) in one set. We’ve got cards for Devoted Elves in Modern, a new Commander and a flexible utility spell with potential multi-format implications. I’m very happy with Murders at Karlov Manor overall. The ‘world of hats’ feel of everyone suddenly being a detective might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I got some Elves and cool new lupine companion.

Next time, we’ll be looking at Outlaws of Thunder Junction. I have no idea whether any Elves will be showing up in the set. There’s no reason that an Elf can’t be an outlaw or a cowboy, but Wizards of the Coast do like to sometimes leave out their more prolific creature types. We do, however, have Modern Horizons 3 on the… horizon and we can already be excited about at least one card that will give us.

As always, I’ve been trying out some of the new cards on stream, so if you want to see some of them in action, head over on a Thursday evening (UK time). Always happy for new viewers in chat to talk about these new cards with. If you’re interested in previous sets, you can find all of our older Elves All The Way Down reviews here.