It's time for a wedding on Innistrad! Released only two months after its companion, the Werewolf-themed Midnight Hunt, Innistrad: Crimson Vow is the second premier set of the 2021 fall season. Both sets share the same world, story, rarity distribution, as well as some of the mechanics, and are meant to be drafted together in the special compilation expansion Innistrad Double Feature. The focus of Crimson Vow is on another of the "famous monsters" that populate the horror-infused plane, the vampires. With the storyline centered on the political marriage between two of Innistrad's most powerful vampires, Olivia Voldaren and Edgar Markov, the set has some of its key cards reskinned to match characters and plot points of Bram Stoker's Dracula. The seminal Gothic novel that had catapulted vampires to the forefront of a century of pop culture is paid homage through 18 exquisite alternate-art cards found in Collector Boosters or as box toppers. One of them, Voldaren Estate in its Castle Dracula version, is an exclusive Buy-a-Box promo.
The five main tribal factions that compose the Innistrad ecosystem return from Midnight Hunt with new and old tricks up their sleeves. The Vampires see the introduction of a new colorless artifact token called Blood, a specialized form of established noncreature tokens such as Treasure, Food, and Clue. In this case, by spending one mana, we can sacrifice a Blood token to cycle away one card from our hand.
The Werewolves haven't received any new mechanical flavor, but are given a few new powerful members like the mythic finisher Avabruck Caretaker as well as their own take on classic Elvish Piper in the form of Howlpack Piper. Their cousin the Wolves also take center stage with efficient beaters like Ascendant Packleader and Cemetery Prowler, the latter part of a cycle of creatures that dwell around cemeteries.
The Spirits see an evolution of double-faced cards with the disturb mechanic, which now have a Spirit creature on the front that transforms into an Aura on the back, suggesting a ghost transferring its essence into an enchanted object or place. For instance, Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr recounts how the witch who was previously murdered by Olivia in Midnight Hunt returned as a Spirit with a grudge against Vampires, and then her lingering life force would bestow her gifts onto another recipient.
The Zombies revisits exploit, which originally appeared in Dragons of Tarkir and allows their leaders to put the more expendable elements of their hordes to good use.
Finally, the Humans debut a new keyword called training, which sort of works in the opposite way to mentor. A "trainee" grows in size when they attack alongside a creature of greater power – they learn from their betters!
Many cards in the set are deliciously flavored around the vampire wedding of the century, between the announcement, the invitation, the carriage, the maid of honor, the flower girl, and various guests entertaining themselves. Even Chandra shows up for the festivities in a killer dress!
The most innovative mechanic from Crimson Vow, though, is cleave. It's an alternative cost which makes the spell more expensive, but in exchange it allows us to remove something that was never removed before: a chunk of rule text. For example, for its regular cost of one mana, Dig Up can search for a basic land, the way Traverse the Ulvenwald would. But if we choose to pay the cleave cost, adding two black and one generic, it effectively turns into Diabolic Tutor.