Innistrad: Midnight Hunt
This article is one of our set prospectives, a series in which we survey the Cube community about the cards they intend to play in their cubes from a particular set. Our survey is conducted between the set’s full-spoiler and official release and is meant to measure and document Cube designers’ first impressions of new cards.
Magic’s latest expansion, Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, is a fresh take on the Gothic horror plane that is one of the most popular in Magic’s history. We collected surveys from over 330 cubes from 299 designers, smashing our previous records for survey engagement. We have results from 284 designers with cubes not restricted by rarity (Unrestricted), 35 designers with Peasant cubes, and 13 designers with Pauper cubes. These designers offer a diverse cross-section of Cube designers, as varied as an 3mv-or-less cube, a “strictly worse” cube, and many other backgrounds and goals. See where these respondents fall on the Cube Map.
Unrestricted cube designers are testing a median of 13 cards from this set, making MID the second-most tested set in the history of our survey, after only Modern Horizons 2 and tied with Zendikar Rising. The average respondent gave 4 cards a rating of 2.5 or higher (strong likelihood to stay long-term), on a similar standing with Zendikar Rising. The maximum number of cards tested by any respondent is a monumental 131 (may Rhonas give them the fortitude to test them all…).
|Falkenrath Pit Fighter||76.7%||2.6|
|Adeline, Resplendent Cathar||52.9%||2.3|
|Suspicious Stowaway // Seafaring Werewolf||50.8%||2.5|
|The Meathook Massacre||44.2%||2.2|
|Augur of Autumn||43.8%||2.1|
|Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia||42.1%||2.0|
|Play with Fire||40.8%||2.3|
|Tovolar's Huntmaster // Tovolar's Packleader||32.1%||2.2|
|Brutal Cathar // Moonrage Brute||28.3%||2.2|
|Poppet Stitcher // Poppet Factory||26.7%||2.1|
|Outland Liberator // Frenzied Trapbreaker||26.3%||2.2|
|Deathbonnet Sprout // Deathbonnet Hulk||21.3%||2.0|
|Arlinn, the Pack's Hope // Arlinn, the Moon's Fury||18.8%||2.2|
|Light Up the Night||17.9%||2.0|
|Reckless Stormseeker // Storm-Charged Slasher||17.1%||2.1|
|Malevolent Hermit // Benevolent Geist||16.3%||1.9|
|Wrenn and Seven||15.0%||2.1|
|Search Party Captain||14.2%||2.2|
|Champion of the Perished||13.8%||2.1|
|Flame Channeler // Embodiment of Flame||12.5%||2.0|
|Smoldering Egg // Ashmouth Dragon||12.1%||1.9|
|Lier, Disciple of the Drowned||11.3%||2.0|
|Gisa, Glorious Resurrector||10.8%||2.1|
|Chaplain of Alms // Chapel Shieldgeist||10.0%||1.8|
|Burn Down the House||10.0%||2.0|
|Ambitious Farmhand // Seasoned Cathar||9.6%||1.9|
|Vanquish the Horde||9.2%||2.0|
|Raze the Effigy||7.9%||1.8|
|Rite of Oblivion||7.9%||2.0|
|Slogurk, the Overslime||7.9%||2.0|
|Join the Dance||7.5%||2.0|
|Dennick, Pious Apprentice // Dennick, Pious Apparition||7.5%||1.8|
|Jerren, Corrupted Bishop // Ormendahl, the Corrupter||7.1%||2.0|
|Lunarch Veteran // Luminous Phantom||7.1%||1.9|
|Liesa, Forgotten Archangel||7.1%||2.0|
|Rem Karolus, Stalwart Slayer||6.7%||2.2|
|Florian, Voldaren Scion||6.7%||2.1|
|Graveyard Trespasser // Graveyard Glutton||6.3%||1.7|
|Saryth, the Viper's Fang||6.3%||1.9|
|Ecstatic Awakener // Awoken Demon||5.8%||2.2|
|Sigarda, Champion of Light||5.4%||1.9|
|Katilda, Dawnhart Prime||5.4%||1.9|
|Secrets of the Key||5.4%||2.0|
|Storm the Festival||5.0%||2.0|
|Bereaved Survivor // Dauntless Avenger||4.6%||1.7|
|Tovolar, Dire Overlord // Tovolar, the Midnight Scourge||4.2%||2.1|
|Hostile Hostel // Creeping Inn||4.2%||1.8|
|Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset||3.8%||2.0|
|Can't Stay Away||3.8%||1.7|
|Hound Tamer // Untamed Pup||3.8%||1.9|
|Seize the Storm||3.8%||1.9|
|Overwhelmed Archivist // Archive Haunt||3.8%||1.8|
|Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration||3.8%||2.4|
|Mask of Griselbrand||3.8%||1.8|
|Locked in the Cemetery||3.3%||1.9|
|Vengeful Strangler // Strangling Grasp||2.9%||1.7|
|Path to the Festival||2.9%||1.8|
|Kessig Naturalist // Lord of the Ulvenwald||2.9%||1.8|
|Heirloom Mirror // Inherited Fiend||2.9%||1.8|
New cards which marginally improve on well-understood effects consistently perform well in Lucky Paper’s surveys, and the cantrips and removal of Midnight Hunt are no exception.
“Easy-to-evaluate upgrades to staple effects.”
Consider is the most-tested and highest-rated card in the set, with 70% of respondents testing the cantrip at an average rating of 2.6 (likely to have a home in the respondent’s cube for many years to come). Though this is less popular than this survey’s historical bests, Consider is nonetheless extremely popular among a broad subset of cube designers.
Many other highly-rated cards are all forms of single-target removal, from a strictly better Shock to a trio of flexible 2-mv kill spells.
Werewolves and other Transforming Double-faced Cards (TDFCs) make a return in MID. The most-tested DFC is Suspicious Stowaway with 37% of respondents including it, but the next-most-tested is Tovolar's Huntmaster // with only 23%. This steep drop-off in popularity of one of the set’s marquee mechanics speaks to two things: the popularity of Looter il-Kor effects in Blue, and a marked aesthetic dislike for double-faced cards (DFCs) among entrenched Cube curators.
“Since this is Innistrad, I can forgive the DFCs, but I am really burnt out on 2-sided cards.”
Of those cube curators who left comments in our survey, about half expressed some discontent or preference away from DFCs, regardless of the actual design of the card. I suspect this broad suspicion towards DFCs suppresses the ratings for this subset of our cards.
The Boros color pair had quite the productive Hunting season. Interspersed with the removal above, the most highly tested cards in the set all neatly fit into the popular Cube archetypes of mono-colored aggressive decks.
“Cards like this help archetypes like white weenie go from a necessary but unloved evil to an interesting archetype in its own right by allowing for counterplay...”
It might come as a surprise that Cube curators are so excited for effects that are already plentiful in Magic’s card pool. One perceived flaw of historical aggressive threats like Jackal Pup and Savannah Lions is that their rules text (or lack thereof) only cares about one thing: winning the game as quickly as possible. Moreover, even relevant abilities are rarely activated, since the whole purpose of an aggro deck is to end games using the bare minimum of resources.
With that context in mind, Cube curators are likely testing these Midnight Hunt cards at high rates because they offer combat-relevant stats, and novel lines of rules text that can be desirable for slower, more synergistic decks.
Cathar Commando is a perfect example of this appeal. Flash combined with a sizeable 3/1 statline is nothing too special, but the Disenchant mode allows for additional counterplay and opportunities for synergistic interactions. Combined with its popularity among rarity-restricted designers, the Commando garnered an impressive average rating of 2.3 and a 58% test rate across all respondents.
The Peasant and Pauper respondents for this survey made their voices known in a big way. Many of their favorite effects (including Play with Fire, Infernal Grasp, and Cathar Commando) rocketed into the winner’s circle of this survey, thanks to the support of these cube curators. Besides those effects, these cube designers are excited for the “mythic uncommon” of the set, Morbid Opportunist, and solid role-playing commons. These effects offer raw rate combined with some color-shifted effects, which is a great recipe for success in these surveys.
“This set has taught me something about where and how I value complexity: I like simple cards that give players complex decisions.”
Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is a landmark set for many cubes. The set’s reception in the Cube community is only marred by hesitations about the more complex designs and mechanics, like Daybound/Nightbound and the double-faced card design. Even so, a combination of resonant flavor and pushed designs mean that designers are testing a lot of cards from this set, and rate their tests highly.
Here are my own thoughts:
Decayed tokens are to creatures as Scry is to card draw.
Jadar is the most-tested card that mentions another of Midnight Hunt’s premier mechanics, Decayed (rating of 2.0 and 31% test rate). Many designers mentioned in their comments that Decayed creatures seemed too bad to bother including. Having seen the success of decayed hordes in MID Draft, I wonder if the community isn’t underrating this mechanic. It’s true, Decayed creatures aren’t the persistent, value-generating summons we’re used to. But just like fractional card draw doesn’t undermine the success of Scry and Surveil, the fractional value of Decayed shouldn’t sour us on this mechanic.
Strictly better cards still come with other costs.
Some designers mentioned in their responses that Play with Fire, Falkenrath Pit Fighter, and similar MID cards are less appealing than their strictly worse counterparts. After all, Cube is a very complex format. Rules text veritably overflows from many popular Cube cards, and the immense personalization of each cube means drafters won’t always know cards by heart.
“Even though I value those sorts of [strictly better] designs, I skipped a ton of it because the upsides seem real, but also pretty marginal”
Simple cards, even if they’re strictly worse, can be a great way to accommodate your newer or younger drafters. It can simplify decision trees, avoid additive distraction, and allow players to spend their mental energy on other aspects of gameplay. I’ve found that a balance between complex cards and simple ones is best for attracting new Cube drafters and keeping them interested in the long term.
Aggro decks don’t need to be defined by the monocolor paradigm.
I worry that Midnight Hunt’s popular aggressive-leaning cards may disappoint those who are testing them to diversify the play patterns of their cubes’ aggro decks. When aggro decks “do the thing”, they end the game blitzkrieg-style, so the aggro pilot typically won’t have time to cast their 6-mana Adversaries or destroy many enchantments with Cathar Commando.
Hopefully I’m wrong and the Adversaries are perfect for your aggro section. But if you do feel dissatisfied (as I’ve felt in the past) there are many examples within the Cube community for constructing aggro differently. Lucky Paper Radio co-host Anthony has spoken at length about pushing aggro towards the 2-mv slot. My own cube is based around a 3-color Zoo paradigm. And still other cubes eschew traditional aggro altogether, or build blue-based “Fish” aggro decks. Each design comes with different costs to the environment, but don’t let a little honest work get in the way of curating the aggressive decks that are most satisfying for you and your group.
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