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Solving the Mystery of Murders at Karlov Manor Draft

February 19, 2024
Marshall Sutcliffe

The players at Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor have to split their time between testing for Constructed and testing for Limited. It's a fine line to walk, mainly because there are a few more rounds of Constructed (as well as all of Sunday being played in Constructed).

But if you don't test enough for Limited you'll never make it to Sunday play.

If you study the players who eventually make the Top 8 of the tournament, you'll find they overperformed in Limited more often than not, giving them a cushion in Constructed.

With that said, Murders at Karlov Manor came out quite recently, so it's been a bit of a scramble for the players to get their sea legs under them in time to sit down on Friday of the Pro Tour and start drafting their deck.

Here's what you can expect from them as you tune in to watch the broadcast.

Big Picture

What stood out the most when the set was first unveiled were the disguise creatures. A throwback to the morph mechanic, disguise upgrades the face down creature with ward 2. There are a ton of creatures with disguise in the set, and they offer a lot in the way of flexibility and power.

That said, they've proven a little slow compared to the rest of the format. Don't get me wrong, you'll see them on the battlefield doing their thing, but the idea that the format would warp around them hasn't come to fruition.

This is for two main reasons.

  1. The format is just too fast for three mana 2/2's (even with ward 2).

If you are on the draw and your plan is to cast a disguise creature face down on turn 3, you're going to find yourself woefully behind the faster decks in the format (and as a hint: the faster decks in the format are also the best decks in the format).

Many curves start at the one mana slot, and the creatures at that spot keep getting better and better, with the best common in the set being a one mana creature.

Novice Inspector

Novice Inspector has lived up to its ancestry by having perhaps an even bigger impact on Limited than its predecessor, Thraben Inspector. It's really the best thing to be doing on turn one, and in the best color.

The creatures that await the face down disguise cards are already pretty nasty, but the spells might be even more hostile.

Which brings us to:

  1. The spells line up too well against the disguise creatures.

First off, you'd think that ward 2 being kind of everywhere in this set would make your creatures immune to early removal, but you'd be wrong. It turns out some of the removal in this set has the clause that it can't be countered, and that means that the ward ability doesn't help against it either.

646661 646650 Out Cold Suspicious Detonation

Ward only works against the other removal spells in the set, and it gets worse from there.

It's common for both players to have a few disguise creatures on the battlefield at the same time, and assuming they aren't getting killed right away, one way to have yours win versus theirs is to target your creature in combat with a combat trick.

And if you're in the market for profitable combat tricks, you're in the right place.

646569 Behind the Mask 646716 Felonious Rage Presumed Dead 646674

All of these combat tricks win combat, some leave you with an extra card in the form of a clue, some get in a ton of extra damage, and some kill the opposing creature and leave you with one.

And perhaps the best one of them all is like a combat trick for all of your creatures at once.


The fact that On the Job leaves behind a clue token just adds insult to injury as it's a good backup plan for when your opponent doesn't just outright die from combat.

Either way, the attacking player has the advantage, and that's a short way to describe this entire format. Players will be looking to be assertive. They'll look to get on board quickly and turn the game into a race that benefits themselves as they press their advantage, hopefully culminating in a win.

Broad Strokes Archetypes

The best archetypes so far have been anything based on white. If you start with white as your main color and add any other color you're probably in good shape.

Red-white has been the best, mainly because of its ability to get on the board fast and maintain its board state. Threats like Dog Walker, Inside Source and Person of Interest add multiple creatures to the battlefield for one card.

Dog Walker Inside Source Person of Interest

This go-wide strategy means that combat tricks fit perfectly, and this is the best place for the aforementioned On the Job to shine.

Green-white, black-white, and blue-white are all viable shells with which to build around the key white commons. Interestingly, once you get past the white-based decks, things are pretty evened out.

It's not uncommon for other archetypes to really suffer in the face of aggressive decks ruling the day, but in Murders at Karlov Manor, even though you're facing a disadvantage for being non-aggressive, it's not too extreme.


Generally, the worst decks have been the black-based decks, with blue-black, red-black, and green-black struggling to find a foothold against the faster decks. The threats just aren't on par with what the other colors can put forth.

Creatures like Unscrupulous Agent and Alley Assailant are a step too slow against the fast decks. (Are you seeing a theme here?)

Unscrupulous Agent Alley Assailant

You can expect to see black played for its good answers, particularly Slice from the Shadows, Murder, and Extract a Confession.

646661 646653 Extract a Confession

Extract a Confession is yet another removal spell that gets around ward, but the addition of its later game mode with collect evidence turns it into a surprisingly solid removal spell at almost any point in the game.

Blue-Red Artifacts

One deck I have my eye on is blue-red artifacts. It's half-a-step slow, but it can turn the corner and take over in the midgame if built properly with efficient removal like Shock, Galvanize, Unauthorized Exit, and Out Cold, which let you live long enough to enact your game plan.

Shock Galvanize 646634 Out Cold

The best card for the plan is Gleaming Geardrake.


It comes with a built-in Clue to get the artifact sacrificing going, and it gets really big really fast.

If you can't get your hands on enough Geardrakes, you'll have to settle for the pretty darn good Gadget Technician. If you build a really good version of the deck, you can pick up a Detective's Satchel. The card shines if you can buy a little breathing room to get it going (again, see the efficient removal needed in these colors).

Gadget Technician Detective's Satchel

Best Cards to Open Pack 1 Pick 1

Put yourself into a Pro Tour player's seat on a Friday, pack in hand, nervously waiting for the judge to give the go-ahead to open the pack and make your pick.

What card are you thinking of?

Most players fall into one of two camps. Camp one is the super greedy wishers who just want the best card in the format.

For them, they will be repeating one phrase in their mind over and over: Vin-di-ca-tor.


This card really is a dream come true. It's absurdly good any time you cast it, any way you cast it. This card is the bomb of bombs in the format, and you also may have noticed it happens to be in the best color as well.

Camp two wishers are the reasonable ones, who mentally bargain with the Magic gods right before that first pack is opened. "Look, I'm not asking for an Aurelia's Vindicator here, just give me a Novice Inspector. I'll be fine with that. I worked hard for this. I deserve it."

And honestly, you wouldn't be doing too badly to start on Novice Inspector in this format. The only problem is you'd be fighting half the table for white.

Whichever camp you fall into, I hope you'll join me and the rest of the stellar caster team to bring you all the drafting (and yes Constructed too) from Chicago.

See you then!


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