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  • January 29, 2024 6 min read 0 Comments

    Some Magic players look forward to a new set release to see how Standard will evolve. Others, myself included, are excited to draft a new set and experience the Limited environment. Others still are focused on Commander, and the new cards that could lead to newfound synergies in the popular, casual format.

    Then there’s the new artwork, one of the most excited parts of spoiler season! For Murders at Karlov Manor, the first thing I looked at when I discovered a newly spoiled card was review the card’s art, then the artist credit, and then I read the card’s rules text. Clearly, my priorities have shifted since I began writing for this website.

    This new set is especially flavorful with its “murder mystery” theme, leading to many brilliantly crafted pieces. This week, to celebrate the new set, I am going to share my Top 8 favorite pieces of art from across Murders at Karlov Manor and the associated Commander set.

    #8. Immortal Obligation

    immortal obligation art murders at karlov manor

    This is one of those flavorful cards I alluded to in the introduction. The art is created by Nino Vecia. In the picture, it appears that a departed spirit is being becokened back to reality to fulfill some sort of obligation, even in death. The woman performing the awakening seems intent on the task at hand, and I really enjoyed all the detail in her outfit, accessories, and even her hand gestures. The lighting in the background is dynamic, and gives you an ominous feel that the woman is in a mysterious, isolated crypt.

    Is it just me, or is the card’s ability also really creative? Two mana to animate a creature out of an opponent’s graveyard at instant speed…and it can’t attack you or your planeswalkers? It’s probably not exciting in a one-on-one game, but in multiplayer this card can wreak havoc on the game’s politics.

    #7. Meticulous Archive

    Meticulous Archive art murders at karlov manor

    Honestly, many of the lands in this set are incredible—it was difficult for me to pick just one! I decided to go with Meticulous Archive by Sam Burley because of the magnitude and impressive lighting and shadows in the pictured library. Look at how small those desks are in the foreground—it implies the surrounding shelves are absolutely massive!

    I can picture myself walking through this organized archive, blown away by the size of it all. As for this rare cycle of lands, I am happy with them overall. These are almost strictly better than the cycle of temples printed back in Theros block, and the fact that they’re fetchable will ensure these see significant play across multiple formats.

    #6. Expedited Inheritance

    expedited inheritance art murders at karlov manor

    This is the first mythic rare and only red card on my list. Usually a dark, violent piece of art doesn’t pique my interest, but there’s something about the story behind Expedited Inheritance by Michal Epstein that really caught my eye. The fact that you can’t see either figures’ faces makes the art most intriguing. Despite their hidden visages, you can still get a sense for the perpetrator’s attitude about the dead guy next to him—content apathy. He’s nefariously excited about his newfound fortune!

    I also love the colors of the background city, really amplifying the “red” nature of this card. Lastly, the disturbed tablecloth adds a sense of motion and recency to the card that I wanted to highlight—this literally just happened.

    #5. Deadly Cover-Up

    deadly cover up art murders at karlov manor

    Sam Guay’s art really pops on this black sorcery. A black card called “Deadly Cover-Up” could have gone a number of different ways, but I think this is a most creative interpretation of the card’s name and text. I love the colors, and the various shades of purple, and the female figure has a profound facial expression as she examines that apple. My interpretation (right or wrong) is that the woman is devising an evil plan to poison someone with that rotting apple, covering up a crime she had committed. Either that, or the purple spheres are imparting their negative influence via those tentacles going into her back.

    Whatever the intended message, the card’s artwork stands out—it does not look like most other pieces of art from the set, and I applaud Sam for their creativity! I noticed the card itself is a wrath with additional abilities tacked on. I’m sure this card will see some play!

    #4. Serene Sleuth

    serene sleuth murders at karlov manor

    This is another flavorful card whose artwork matches perfectly with the card’s title; Fay Dalton did an amazing job with this piece. The seated woman looks peaceful, and her clothing and makeup are precise and impressively detailed. Beyond the serene figure resting in the foreground, the components of this sleuth’s office are very well-done. From the cluttered desk, to the ornate fixtures on the door, to the papers posted on the bulletin board in the background, the card’s art touches on so many components of a private detective’s office. I also like the style of the piece, and it gives the card’s artwork a nice “pop” that you don’t see on many other Magic cards.

    Regarding the card’s ability, I find it fascinating that this creature has the ability to ungoad your goaded creatures—how many cards have that ability? I can’t imagine it’s very many!

    #3. Cold Case Cracker

    cold case cracker art murders at karlov manor

    What would a murder mystery set be without cold cases? Such cases are prime for mystery and intrigue! Fortunately for citizens of this city, there’s an expert known for her keen ability to crack these cold cases—and what an impressive figure she is! I think she’s a superior cold case cracker because she herself is dead. As the flavor text states, it really is fortunate to have a spirit solving crimes. The old pirate saying “dead men tell no tales” no longer holds true as long as this detective is on the beat!

    Wayne Wu brings to life this impressive, ghostly figure with impressive use of blues and grays. I love the lighting on her face and white hair, giving her an eerie, yet beautiful glow. Her nature is emphasized by her ability to telekinetically open books and examine documents without using her hands. The scene gives me the chills!

    #2. Massacre Girl, Known Killer

    massacre girl art murders at karlov manor

    There are a bunch of these alternate-art, alternate-frame cards in Murders at Karlov Manor. The effect is supposed to be like a piece of paper and photograph in a case file, typographical font and all. For the most part, they’re neat but aren’t in a style that really grips my interest…except for this one by Jack Hughes.

    Massacre Girl, Known Killer is a force to be reckoned with! Not only is she leaning casually against the stone wall, she’s holding a knife and lurking around a corner, waiting to strike. Her outfit strikes me as creatively different. It looks like she’s wearing a bodysuit, and over top she’s wearing some sort of pants with 3 belts?! The flower-like accessory around her neck is both beautiful and menacing at the same time, as is her creepy choice of makeup. My favorite part, though, is the red bow and choice of ponytail for her hair—it tells me she really does care about her appearance, even when she’s on the hunt!

    #1. Merchant of Truth

    merchant of truth murders at karlov manor

    I have a confession to make: I have a soft spot for angels in Magic. Wizards of the Coast is gracious enough to create multiple new angel creatures in virtually every set nowadays, and Murders at Karlov Manor (plus the associated Commander product) is no exception. This one in particular, painted by Carissa Susilo is especially intriguing to me. The creature type—an angel detective—should be intriguing, right?!

    There are so many components to this piece that I love beyond the presence of an angel. First of her, I love that the artist gave her black wings instead of white wings—it hints at an Orzhov-leaning creature despite the fact that her casting cost is 2WW. She also has a black crown, doubling down on a dark edge to the card’s artwork. Beyond the angel figure, the stained glass look of the background is beautifully done. Even the figure’s hand, dropping gold coins one by one, is a detail worth appreciating. Everything about this card is amazingly done, and it’s why this is my favorite of the set!

    Wrapping It Up

    I haven’t researched what drafting this set is going to be like yet. I have to imagine that pretty soon, my favorite podcasts will talk at length about the archetypes, bombs, and synergies to be unlocked with this set.

    In the meantime, I am thoroughly impressed by the set’s artwork and flavor. I honestly didn’t find much inspiration from Lost Caverns of Ixalan—the set really never resonated with me, partly because I never got into the original Ixalan sets. A murder mystery theme though? Now that I can get excited about. I look forward to seeing these cards in action and shuffling them up in person—these cards in particular have earned a spot in my binder if I open them up.

    What other cards are people excited about? Are there other pieces of art generating buzz? Feel free to share your favorite pieces from Murders at Karlov Manor on social media and let me know the artwork that stands out most to you!