One of the more confusing mythic rare cards printed in recent years, Cemetery Protector from Magic the Gathering’s Innistrad: Crimson Vow set may be more powerful than it first appears. It has a relatively unique ability and unlike many abilities that involve the graveyard, it doesn’t target. This will be very important once you see what this Human Soldier does.
First off, Cemetery Protector is a 3 / 4 creature with Flash, meaning she can be cast at instant speed. When she enters the battlefield, you exile a card from a graveyard. Notably, it can be any graveyard, and it doesn’t target, meaning cards that could respond to it and snipe that card can’t be activated in response. But, the Protector not only exiles that card, she gives you a benefit from exiling that card. As long as Cemetery Protector remains in play, any time you play a land or cast a card that shares a card type with the exiled card, you create a 1/1 White Human creature token.
Of course, to get full value from this, you need to play a deck that either plays a lot of one particular card type or a deck with cards that have multiple card types. In the Standard environment Cemetery Protector enters, the best deck for a card like this is Pyre of Heroes Humans. While Pyre of Heroes Clerics have had some success, the Humans variant has few good four drops to play. Also, because Pyre of Heroes decks play no noncreature spells outside of the Pyre itself, you will always be casting creatures, meaning you can create a lot of tokens with the Protector’s effect.
The problem is that as soon as Cemetery Protector leaves the battlefield for any reason, that exiled card is gone forever. Still, if you play a deck that’s primarily or almost exclusively creatures, that’s OK, as you could easily just exile a creature from an opponent’s graveyard, too. Heck, you can even exile a land and create tokens each time you play a land. So, the floor on Cemetery Protector is actually fairly medium, and because she can ambush block, her value is even higher.
Unfortunately, I feel that Cemetery Protector falls into a similar category to Sigrid, God-Favored, another Flash creature who’s a Human. Sigrid’s ability to exile a target attacking or blocking creature until she leaves the battlefield for just three mana is very solid. Sigrid even has first strike and protection from God creatures – which can be more relevant than you think. Yet, she sees almost no play outside of a few Mono-White decks that play her pretty much just to deal with the extreme aggressiveness of other Mono-White decks and mono-Green decks.
Is Cemetery Protector’s token creation worth it to play a four-drop without any additional clauses such as first strike? Her ability to hate on opponent’s graveyards can’t be overlooked, and she can easily be a good target for Pyre of Heroes to go find. For those unfamiliar with the Pyre, you pay two generic mana and tap it to sacrifice a creature you control. You then search your library for a creature card that costs one more mana to cast that shares a creature type with the sacrificed creature and put it into play. In a Pyre of Heroes Humans deck, this is an entirely acceptable creature to grab, since you’ll almost always have a creature in your graveyard to exile.
Of course, Cemetery Protector gets a lot better when you have cards with multiple card types. In Modern, you have the Land Creature Dryad Arbor. So, were you to exile a Dryad Arbor with Cemetery Protector, you’d benefit with tokens from playing lands and casting creatures. Also, decks that play Enchantment Creatures benefit from playing Cemetery Protector, since you would then benefit from playing Enchantments, Creatures, and Enchantment Creatures. Like Hallowed Haunting from the same set, this feels like a plant to suggest we will be receiving cards with multiple card types in the near future. The same holds true for Artifact Creatures and Artifact Lands, or even Enchantment Lands, too.
(As of this writing, only Urza’s Saga exists as an Enchantment Land, and that card is extremely busted. But, you never know what will come next…)
In Modern, I feel that a four-mana creature that doesn’t impact the board immediately is going to be tricky to work into the decks where it would best succeed. The upside is that she does have four toughness, so she can’t simply be taken out by Lightning Bolt. But, you have other burn spells in the format, such as Unholy Heat, which will make short work of her. It’s possible we see her in the side boards of some Affinity decks, thanks to them playing Artifact Creatures, or perhaps even Enchantress. The thing is, how much do those decks care about having 1/1 Human creature tokens? While those tokens could certainly be relevant, as well as the incidental graveyard hate and the surprise blocking abilities, I just don’t know that Cemetery Protector sees play.
Like many mythic rare cards with fringe Standard and Modern playability, Cemetery Protector is going to look good in a lot of Commander decks. Because she doesn’t require a particular tribe to function, a lot of Enchantment decks may find Cemetery Protector to be a sort of dual-threat. Not only can she snipe key cards from opponents’ graveyards, but she can serve as an additional benefit for casting Enchantments. While that’s not as good as drawing a card, getting a token is in some ways card advantage, too. Also, I can see some Artifact decks, at least those that play White, play Cemetery Protector for a similar reason.
Some what hilariously, another place where fringe cards like this end up seeing play is Legacy and Vintage. Four-mana White creatures with multiple ways to impact a game do see play in those highly expensive and crazy formats. The graveyard hate in those formats becomes more important than anywhere else. I can see a single copy working its way into a variety of Legacy and Vintage decks, and while I’m no expert on those formats, I know enough to see that Cemetery Protector is going to come out of nowhere at a high-level tournament sooner or later.
Like many mythic rares in Magic history, Cemetery Protector has a lot of promise, but also like many mythic rares, needs to actually not only find its niche opportunities, but prosper when given those chances. She’s a bit too good to be a bulk rare mythic, but I was high on Sigrid, God-Favored, and the bulk bin is where she ended up rather quickly. Cemetery Protector, however, is much more versatile with more potential applications. While these little tokens may not sound exciting, all it takes sometimes is a single point of unblocked damage to win a game of Magic, and Cemetery Protector can hold down the fort and snipe key cards from a graveyard, too. This is a card that’s hard for me not to like, and while it may never be a major winner, I’m excited to see where this card ends up.
What do you think of Cemetery Protector?