Hard-boiled detectives, lengthy clue-gathering, investigations – these are all the key elements of a murder mystery story, but they all happen to also be key ingredients in Magic: The Gathering’s latest set, Murders at Karlov Manor. The latest set dives head-first into the genre, utilising its existing mechanics to mould a detective-like experience that supplements your play experience and bolsters your deck in interesting ways. Murders at Karlov Manor is also the first set to feature the new ‘Play Booster’ packs, which combine and replace Set and Draft Boosters into a new format available at retail.
First off, the storyline of this set itself concerns a string of murders at, where else, Karlov Manor. The Ravnican Agency of Magicological Investigations enlists several detectives to solve these murders, including the brilliant Alquist Proft, Kaya and Kellan. However, there are plenty of other detectives joining the case, from angels to sphinxes and elephants, who you’ll also find involved in the case, among many others, throughout the sets. Of course, the mechanic ‘Investigate’ makes a return in such a heavily investigation-oriented set, allowing you to create ‘clue’ tokens that can be sacrificed.
New mechanics introduced this time around are also detective-themed. ‘Case’ Enchantment cards present themselves in much the same way as Sagas from previous sets, with a set of effects that take place sequentially, however they only trigger upon certain actions a player takes. For instance, to get to the second step of ‘The Case of the Gateway Express’ and solve it, you’ll need to attack three creatures that turn, with the result being your own creatures get a +1/0.
‘Collect Evidence’ allows you to activate various effects through exiling cards from your graveyard with a combined mana value equal to or more than the card’s stated requirement. If you label a creature as ‘Suspected’, it gains menace and is unable to block. ‘Disguise’ allows cards to be placed flipped over with a 2/2 counter on them and Ward, and can then be revealed face-up at a time of the player’s choosing by paying the disguise cost. There’s also more blatant cards, such as ‘Murder’ which flat out allows you to destroy a target creature as an Instant.
Other cards also have fun with the murder mystery concept, such as the Green ‘A Killer Among Us’. When it enters the battlefield, the player creates a 1/1 white Human token, a 1/1 blue Merfolk token and a 1/1 red Goblin token, and then privately chooses which of the three is the ‘killer’. The card can then be sacrificed, and the player’s choice revealed – if the target attacking creature token is the chosen type, then three +1/+1 counters are placed on it and it gains deathtouch until end of turn.
Beyond the set itself is the move to ‘Play Boosters’, replacing Set and Draft Boosters, seeking to combine their strengths given that Set Boosters vastly outsold Draft Boosters. These new packs are draftable, as evidenced by a draft session held at the launch for Karlov Manor which we attended. Of the 15 cards in each pack, 6 are Commons, 1 is a Common from ‘The List’ (potentially reprints or ‘Special Guest’ card), 3 are Uncommons, 1 is a Rare/Mythic Rare, 1 is a Basic Land, 1 is a Non-Foil Wildcard, 1 is a Foil Wildcard and 1 is an Ad/Token/Helper/Art Card.
The art in Murders at Karlov Manor also impresses, with special ‘Showcase Magnified’ and ‘Ravnica City’ treatments, which expand past the borders of the card for some visually impressive full-art presentations. ‘Showcase Dossier’ cards also feature main characters and suspects, often powerful figures, and are presented as typewriter-written pages ripped out of files. ‘Serialised Ravnica City’ are even harder to find cards, featuring double rainbow foil, and only available in Collector Boosters. Finally, there’s a range of somewhat MC Escher-inspired ‘Impossible’ Land cards which spice up the basic land designs.
Murders at Karlov Manor is available now, both from local game stores for tabletop play and on Arena. As mentioned, the set is available through new ‘Play Booster’ packs, Collector Boosters, four Commander Decks and Bundles (with 9 Play Boosters included). Also notable is the related and forthcoming release of Ravnica: Cluedo Edition, currently set for 23 February. This is a Hasbro-published game inspired both by Cluedo and this set, that combines the mechanics of both in a standalone game. You can check out the full details at the official website.