Magic the Gathering: Murders at Karlov Manor Review

Magic the Gathering: Murders at Karlov Manor Review

I am not an expert Magic the Gathering player.

To be completely honest it was a game I’d actually resisted getting into for many years due to my only real experience with it coming from tutorial games against power players, which never makes for a welcoming introduction to any competitive game.

It was only when the Warhammer 40,000 crossover Commander format decks hit at the end of 2022 that I was drawn that little bit in. Despite having bought cards, being gifted cards, and getting in a dozen or so games of both Standard and Commander formats between their release and now, I think it’s this latest set, Murders at Karlov Manor, that has fully reeled me in. 

MtG Karlov Box and Boosters

I’m not the biggest fan of Agatha Christie and I haven’t played Cluedo in years, but I am an enormous sucker for any board or video game which manages to tie its mechanics together harmoniously with its theme or story, (some day I’ll write the ‘Kane and Lynch 2 is a masterpiece, actually’ feature that’s swirled in my head for over a decade, I swear.) I wish the whole conceit of Karlov Manor’s plot didn’t hang upon the murder of a woman however, as it’s such a tiresome and gross trope to place at the centre of such a wonderfully executed theme.


Many creature cards in the set can be played face down using the new ‘Disguise’ ability. They become a 2/2 creature with the Ward ability when they do so, meaning that the disguised creature will automatically counter any enemy spell or ability targeting it unless the attacker pays an extra 2 mana. Other creature and ability cards are capable of branding creatures in the field as a suspect, and some creatures are simply ‘suspected’ the instant they’re summoned in. A suspected creature is unable to block incoming attacks but also has ‘menace’, meaning it can’t be blocked itself by anything less than two opposing creatures. They’re both great mechanics that really drive home the feeling of skulking around and then lashing out when the bright lights of justice are shone upon you. 

Collect evidence’ is the other big new mechanic introduced in the set, a logical addition for a murder mystery theme, and it manifests as requiring the player to exile a number of cards from their graveyard of a combined mana value equal to, or greater than, the evidence number stated on the card.


The ‘investigate’ mechanic of old, which allows card drawing clue tokens to be generated, naturally reappears commonly through the set also.


Sagas in this set are replaced by a new card type called ‘cases’. They function quite similarly, requiring the player to work through each step for a big payoff. While adding this new-yet-quite-similar card type to a game that already has so damn many  feels a bit much, they’re just so perfectly on theme that I can’t really be bothered by any bigger picture issue of it.

MtG Karlov Manor Cards in Play

The biggest thing Karlov Manor introduces though is the play booster. The set and draft booster pack divide of old is gone, and as someone who used to work in a store that sold a lot of Magic, I can’t help but welcome the change. I’m sure hardcore fans of specific types of Magic play will have issues with this when mathing out the draw rate of whatever kinds of cards they may be pursuing, but I strongly feel that the simpler messaging having only one kind of basic booster pack delivers to the average consumer is worth it. For years Magic has suffered under the weight of the sheer number of products each new set release would bring, and I think paring it down to just play boosters, collector boosters, commander decks, prerelease packs, and bundles is better for everyone.

I’m not an experienced enough player or deck builder yet to really be able to speak to how the new crop of cards and their mechanics can be used to alter or advance Magic’s current meta, but as a thematically elegant series in its own right, Murders at Karlov Manor absolutely shines.

It finally happened, Magic the Gathering well and truly got its claws in me. With the hotly anticipated Fallout crossover set coming in just under a month, I hope you will all start praying for me and my wallet.


Magic the Gathering: Murders at Karlov Manor was reviewed using products kindly provided by Wizards of the Coast.

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