Last updated on October 20, 2021
Curse of Shaken Faith | Illustration by Campbell White
Welcome to part 2 of my Midnight Hunt set review adventure! In case you missed it, last time I talked about the set from the point of view of sealed and draft. This is Draftsim, after all. Part 2 is going to focus on what cards have the potential to make a splash in the Constructed formats.
I’m talking Standard, Pioneer, Modern, Legacy, Historic, and potentially Pauper, though for the most part I care about Standard playability. I won’t be mentioning Commander as I’m not really an expert on the format and anything can be played in Commander if it’s fun for you when it comes down to it.
I rated each individual card on a scale from 0 to 10 in my Limited review, where 0s were completely unplayable and 10s were the best cards in the set. In this review, I won’t be giving any cards a rating. Ratings can be useful in Limited to help you determine draft pick orders, but they’re not so useful for Constructed formats.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter if card A is better than card B so long as both have the potential to see play. The amount of play they see will largely depend on that format’s metagame, available mana fixing, and other factors. I’m only going to discuss cards that catch my eye as good playables in their respective formats. If you need a refresher on the mechanics of the set before I get started, head on over to my MID Limited review and our overview of the entire set.
With all that covered, let’s get straight down to it. I’ll go color by color starting with white!
It looks like white gets some very nice cards to bolster its aggro deck. It loses a bunch of 1-drops to Standard rotation (namely Giant Killer, Selfless Savior and Alseid of Life’s Bounty) but also gains a lot from this set. There’s a great Faceless Haven deck in here. Considering the lack of 1-drops, white may want to increase its curve and become more of a midrange deck with a better late game.
Adeline, Resplendent Cathar
I compared Adeline, Resplendent Cathar to Hero of Bladehold in my Limited review, and I stand by that. Hero and certain other cards like this have always seen play. Brimaz, King of Oreskos also comes to mind.
The only problem I can see here is that white aggro decks are spoiled for choice when it comes to 3-drops, particularly in Standard. Adeline is definitely a powerful card and one that deserves a spot in a deck somewhere, but there’s a lot of competition for its slot. It should definitely be on a list of cards to go up in value at the next rotation if it sees no play.
A cheap creature that searches a land should be a good card. Sylvan Ranger is a card that’s seen plenty of play over the years. I’m sure there are decks that will want Ambitious Farmhand, and an aggro deck could definitely make use of the coven clause to transform it into Seasoned Cathar.
Banishing Light and Oblivion Ring have seen tons of play in the past, but their usefulness has been on the decline in recent years. Banishing Light was in Theros: Beyond Death and saw next to no play in Standard for the last year and a half. But who knows what might be back on the table with adventures gone. It’s definitely worth remembering that you have access to Borrowed Time’s effect for any deck that might want it.
Another 3-drop for those white aggro decks, but one that I think you should definitely be interested in. There are some nice answers to opposing creatures between Brutal Cathar and Skyclave Apparition. Better yet, the two of them combine really well as Cathar can permanently deal with the illusion tokens created by Apparition.
I think it’s also reasonable to imagine that this could see play in some human tribal decks in Historic or even Modern. Banisher Priest was always a fine card and Moonrage Brute is both a stronger card and easier to cast, making it a very exciting prospect.
I’m not sure if Candletrap is that good, but how often do you get access to 1-mana creature removal in white? I could definitely see this being good enough in control decks, but whether control will be good enough in this new Standard format is a question that has yet to be answered.
Qasali Pridemage and Thrashing Brontodon have both been decent cards in Standard and I see no reason why Cathar Commando can’t also be good enough. Flash is a nice bonus for what should at least be a solid sideboard card in aggro decks for Standard.
I’m only mentioning Curse of Silence because I think some players will like it. I don’t. It’s a sideboard card that’s designed to hate on individual cards that you want to fight against. But it has two problems.
The first is that it isn’t a winning strategy in Magic. The second is that the Curse doesn’t actually stop your opponent from ever casting the card you want to stop. Try to prove me wrong, but I don’t think I’ll be that unhappy to see this cast against me.
Like Declaration in Stone before it, Fateful Absence should be an effective removal spell in Standard. White rarely gets access to good removal, so even with the downside of giving your opponent a Clue token, being able to effectively kill any creature or planeswalker in the format for just two mana is a highly desirable effect.
Intrepid Adversary should be another card that white aggro decks will be considering. The split card of a 3/1 lifelink for two mana or a 4-mana Glorious Anthem on a stick is a great combination. The fact that it only gets more absurd the later into the game you get is just icing on the cake.
Soul Warden variants have proven themselves over the years, so another one couldn’t hurt. You can combine Lunarch Veteran with cards like Ajani’s Pridemate or Trelasarra, Moon Dancer to create a very powerful deck.
Where I see this being most relevant is in Historic where all of the cards I’ve mentioned so far are currently legal. Lifegain decks have always been popular with certain Magic players and Luminous Phantom is a great card for those kinds of decks.
If your aggro deck is one that could benefit from +2/+1 to all of your creatures, then Ritual of Hope isn’t a bad way to go about it. Pride of Conquerors saw a reasonable amount of play when it was in Standard and this is a lot easier to activate.
Surely Search Party Captain is the new Embercleave of Standard, right? Definitely one that you can feel a lot less dirty about casting, at least. I’ve played a lot of cantrip-ing creatures in my time, from Elvish Visionary in every format to Phyrexian Rager in Pauper.
Since aggro decks want to attack most turns, making this cost two or even one mana isn’t that hard and it sounds like a great Standard card at that rate. I’m not sure if this will actually be good enough but it might be the sort of thing that makes me interested in playing this kind of deck if it is.
I really like Sigarda’s Splendor. An enchantment that draws you an extra card each turn as long as you can protect your life total. And one that will help keep your life total high against aggro decks on top of that. Not to mention that it isn’t legendary so you can run a few of these and gain even more life when you cast spells. I’m sure this will be a fine card for white-based control decks and maybe even a midrange build or two.
Aggro decks don’t normally play 5-drops, but they certainly can out of their sideboards. A single card that rebuilds your board after a board wipe is something I want to keep an eye on. Especially with how good white’s 2-drops are.
Speaking of white’s 2-drops, Sungold Sentinel is a fun one. A pseudo-hate bear that can prey on the graveyard while also being able to protect itself and get through during board stalls? That’s a lot of upsides for what would already be of interest as a 3/2 for two mana.
This new Timely Reinforcements should be just as good at keeping you alive as a control deck getting beaten down by aggro decks. It’s weird that Sunset Revelry’s second and third abilities are at odds with each other because decks that have more creatures in play aren’t going to have cards in hand against you.
But what it does mean is that this won’t suck if you choose to main deck it but end up drawing it in a control mirror depending on the metagame. I’m very happy to see this in the format and I’m sure it’ll be a good card for anything other than aggro decks. It might also be good enough to take over from Timely in older formats.
Our 4-mana sweeper is being lost in Standard to the rotation (Shatter the Sky), but you do still have Doomskar. Vanquish the Horde is nowhere near as good as Doomskar so I don’t think it’ll be that good. But it’s definitely one to consider, especially if there’s ever a go-wide aggro deck in the format.
Blue doesn’t look all that impressive as a whole. There are a few key pieces for sure, but for many different decks. Blue’s natural home is in control and this set appears to be very hostile towards control.
Consider is definitely the best offering in this list and one that should enable quite a few strategies, starting with the Izzet Dragons deck that survives rotation. At the end of the day as long as Alrund’s Epiphany is in the format you’ll want to be playing blue, so a bunch of these cards have the potential to see play alongside it.
Opt is being lost in the rotation, but never fear! Consider is a pretty significant upgrade for a 1-mana cantrip. Ditching a card to the graveyard over putting it on the bottom is generally an upside since this can synergize with flashback, disturb, or whatever other graveyard shenanigans you may be up to.
This is also a very significant boost for Pioneer and Historic where it’s the second cantrip available in those formats thanks to Brainstorm being banned in Historic. Having two cantrips available in blue opens up a few options in terms of deck building, especially where the next card is concerned…
Okay, so let’s talk about Delver of Secrets. You may be aware of my feelings regarding Delver if you read my Limited review, but the TL;DR if you didn’t is that I think it’s the most overrated card in Magic. The key point is that Insectile Aberration is only ever as good as the deck surrounding it and it just doesn’t perform if you can’t surround it with a good supporting cast.
The keys to a good Delver deck are cheap instants and sorceries, the ability to play as low a land count as possible, and ideally you want some other cheap threats to close out a game. When Delver was last in Standard, the deck around it had Ponder as a good cantrip that could also stack the top of your deck. It also had Snapcaster Mage along with Gut Shot and Vapor Snag for cheap interaction plus Geist of Saint Traft as a cheap finisher.
The question I’m sure a lot of people are asking is whether Delver will be good enough for the formats it’s now legal in. Namely Standard, Historic, and Pioneer. My guess is that Historic is the only one of these where it looks promising. Standard just doesn’t have enough of the necessary tools to make Delver good and while Pioneer has a lot more of them, I just don’t see it happening.
But Historic is a different ball game. With Memory Lapse as the best cheap interaction available in any of these formats along with Dragon’s Rage Channeler great mana fixing, two cantrip spells, and lots more cheap spells and payoffs, I think there’s probably enough tools to make it work. It’ll definitely be an interesting deck to try out. You already have Saw It Coming in Standard, so I don’t think Dissipate will see much play. But control decks are usually after counterspells so can be added to the arsenal and pulled out whenever it’s relevant.
Unsummon has definitely been a playable Standard card from time to time, so a strictly better version is definitely worth consideration. Fading Hope needs a very specific kind of deck to be good, but I can imagine that might happen at some point since it’ll be in Standard for the next two years.
Stealing anything for just four mana is a huge effect, though sacrificing a creature is likely going to be a very prohibitive cost. Control decks likely can’t play this but something like a Simic or Temur ramp deck will probably like this and will usually have throwaway creatures to sacrifice. This looks like more of a sideboard card to me, but a very powerful one.
I think Lier, Disciple of the Drowned is a bit expensive but has the potential to see play in a lot of formats. It isn’t just because it’s a souped up Snapcaster Mage but because it could be a combo finisher similar to Past in Flames. This looks like it could be a nice control win condition in Standard, giving you access to a bunch of spells both the turn you play it and the following one, especially if your graveyard contains at least one way to protect it.
Control does however have a lot of competition for this slot with Mordenkainen and Iymrith, Desert Doom so it’s hard to see if it will make any kind of real impact. But I’d be surprised if I never played Lier over the next two years.
Malevolent Hermit is an interesting one. While it looks good, I can’t think of a good home for it. Maybe the possible Delver deck that people will try? Having a counterspell mode as an activated ability is extremely powerful since it can’t be countered back unless you have a spell that can counter activated abilities. Flashing back as a 2/2 flier is also very nice upside. Like I said, I’m having a hard time envisioning a home for this, but I’m sure there will be one as Benevolent Geist definitely looks strong enough.
The future of control decks is a bit dubious, but I’m sure that Memory Deluge can find a great home in them if they do exist. This isn’t all that different from Fact or Fiction with flashback, which is a card worth looking into. It may even be powerful enough for Pioneer and Historic decks, so I think this is one to keep an eye on.
Spirit lords like Supreme Phantom and Drogskol Captain have always seen some play so I think Patrician Geist is worth mentioning. It doesn’t look like a spirit deck in Standard has all the tools it needs, but perhaps older formats will want this?
Okay, this is exciting. Poppet Stitcher is a pretty powerful spell payoff and it’s hard to imagine a world where this doesn’t see play. Young Pyromancer saw a ton of play when it was in Standard and while I don’t think Poppet is quite as good, it does have a similar kind of potential.
There are a good number of legal instants and sorceries right now. Historic also looks like a nice home for this given that it’ll have both Opt and Consider along with Unholy Heat, Memory Lapse, Lightning Helix, and Delver of Secrets. The upside on Poppet is too big for it not to see play and I’m sure it will at some point.
Spectral Adversary reminds me a lot of the flash spirits that were around when we last visited Innistrad. Rattlechains and Spell Queller were both obscenely powerful and annoying to play against, and I think Adversary has enough going on that it can be similarly annoying.
I was literally just talking about Spectral Adversary needing a home and Suspicious Stowaway is also looking for one but needs the same kind. Both of these cards are looking for aggro or tempo-based blue decks to really kick off, and it’s not the worst idea to build one for them. Seafaring Werewolf also looks like a great enabler for some kind of reanimator deck, if such a thing wants to exist.
Black looks very good overall and has mostly picked up options for aggro decks. I don’t know if these will be strong enough right away but there’s another Innistrad set coming out in just two months that will presumably be adding more pieces for them to work. There’ll be a lot of vampires to make that into an archetype. But there are some nice offerings on the midrange and control front too, so there’s some hope for every player.
Black Divinations have seen play from time to time and Read the Bones was once one of the best cards in Standard. While Blood Pact is significantly worse than that, being three mana and an instant means it does at least have the potential to see some play.
Flexible removal spells with good modes are always good enough to see at least sideboard play and Bloodline Culling looks great to me. Giving -5/-5 for three mana is good enough to make it into some main decks and being able to sweep away small tokens means this ought to see a ton of sideboard play for the next two years.
I talked before about how an aggressive zombie tribal deck might be possible and Champion of the Perished is one of the reasons for that. Along with a couple of other cards on this list, I think black aggro zombies is definitely possible in Standard, though it might need a little bit more help from Crimson Vow to work.
Champion also looks to enable that same deck in both Pioneer and Historic where many of the good cards from Shadows Over Innistrad are legal, including Cryptbreaker and Diregraf Colossus. I’ve even played a deck like that already and I really like how Collected Company plays in it.
I’m sure I don’t need to point out how good Duress is. This is a key reprint since it would have rotated out of Standard otherwise. I think Standard is much better with Duress to help keep certain decks in check.
I don’t think Gisa, Glorious Resurrector will be all that good with removal being very prevalent in Standard. Given how similar it looks to Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, though, I think Gisa warrants a look.
It shuts off some graveyard synergies and turns off death triggers by exiling creatures as they die. Gisa does a lot of work if it survives a whole turn it but taking its time in delivering that value makes me think that it might not be good enough to see play.
As a player who loves their midrange decks, my heart flutters when I look at Graveyard Trespasser. This is a great midrange threat that requires your opponent 2-for-1 themselves or sweep the board to kill it while providing a small, incremental advantage by attacking the graveyard. Deathgorge Scavenger fulfilled a very similar role a few years ago and it did a very good job at it. Graveyard Glutton is much better and I’m very happy to see it.
So you probably can’t play the full four copies in your deck, but Infernal Grasp is still the first mono black removal spell for two mana that can kill literally any creature. It’s certainly better than Power Word Kill for decks that need this slot, but generally just adding to the pool of possible removal spells is a good thing for Standard.
Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia looks really sweet for a number of different decks. In a zombie tribal deck this can give you a fresh token every turn and buffs Champion of the Perished each time you do so.
In a midrange deck, Jadar provides sacrifice fodder for removal spells like Eaten Alive or Rite of Oblivion. While it’s body itself is quite fragile, I think it’ll provide enough advantage over the course of a few turns that your opponent may be forced to deal with it even if there are more powerful threats.
Three mana for a 2/3 and a 1/1 is a good deal, and one that creates more 1/1s when your creatures die is one that I’d pay attention to. There are some human tribal decks in Modern and Historic that may very well be interested in an effect like this and it’s not that unreasonable to construct a scenario where you can transform Jerren, Corrupted Bishop into Ormendahl, the Corrupter in Standard. But this card looks quite strong as a human tribal payoff.
Black sweepers are worth paying attention to. Blood on the Snow is currently legal in Standard and The Meathook Massacre is simply another nice option to have. This reminds me the most of Black Sun’s Zenith but with the upside of being an enchantment, you may even have the ability to bounce this and reuse it which is really nice. Massacre as a 2-mana enchantment is also a fairly reasonable card for sacrifice-themed decks.
Cards like Morbid Opportunist were used in sacrifice decks before. While this is a fairly weak version presumably designed for Limited rather than Constructed, the effect is still very good and one that you may want should a deck like that appear.
There’s a zombie deck out there looking for 2-drops, and one that helps break board stalls while making great use of decayed zombies isn’t a bad option to have. I don’t want to play Siege Zombie, but in a format like Standard where options are heavily limited you might end up wanting this more often than you think.
2-mana 3/3s should always warrant some attention and Slaughter Specialist looks really good in aggro shells. I doubt you’ll see a vampire tribal deck in Standard this side of Crimson Vow’s release so you may have to wait a couple of months before this takes off. But I can definitely think of worse 2-drops to play even if there’s just a black-based aggro deck to be built.
The black card in the adversary cycle is definitely something I want to highlight. Cards that have multiple good options when you’re casting them are pretty much always good enough. Tainted Adversary really shines in midrange decks where casting it for five or eight mana is highly desirable.
It’s definitely also fine in aggro decks where a reasonable 2-drop with a very good mode for five mana is very strong. Especially when you make three zombies at once to buff Champion of the Perished a bunch of times.
Red looks incredibly strong out of this set, receiving efficient, multi-purpose removal spells and powerful threats for both aggro and midrange decks. With vampires poised to receive more support in the next set I think we’ll be seeing plenty of red decks in Standard in the coming months.
This is my pick for the strongest of the Adversary cycle. A red 2/2 haste for two mana is a nice replacement in red aggro decks for Robber of the Rich which is being lost to rotation. Then for five mana you get to have a 3/3 haste that flashes back a burn spell, making it basically a Flametongue Kavu with haste. Then you’re practically winning the game if you actually get as high as eight mana.
Thanks to the variety of modes Bloodthirsty Adversary has, this card looks like it’ll be right at home in any red deck. Even one with very few spells can make use of a 2/2 haste for two. Goblin Dark-Dwellers was a house when it was around in Standard and Bloodthirsty looks to be much better.
It’s been a while since we had a red sweeper and Burn Down the House is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen. To have a sweeper that’s also a token generator in matchups where you don’t need said sweeper is absolutely absurd.
The biggest downside of any board wipe is that they’re a very real liability when you draw them in matchups like control where they’re useless. But this acting as a very real threat if you draw it in those matchups pushes it over the top. I can already picture decks that want a card like this and I’m guessing it’ll be very good in them.
Dragon’s Fire already exists and both it and Cathartic Pyre are pretty strong. If your deck wants either of them then you get to pick which one is the best for you. If you have any dragons in your deck then the Fire should be the obvious pick, but the Pyre is the clear winner if you don’t.
This really shouldn’t be good enough for most formats, but Curse of Shaken Faith is a handy sideboard card against storm decks in Modern. Being an enchantment means that those decks will have fewer answers for it. It also punishes them for finding those answers, so it might be a better option for more aggro builds that want to fight those decks.
At the end of the day there are a lot of cards out there that hate on storm and other combos. This is really just another arrow for the quiver that might see play at some point but also might not be as good as other options.
Red aggro has always liked Jackal Pup creatures, so even when Falkenrath Pit Fighter’s ability is mostly irrelevant, it’s probably a card that red decks want. Falkenrath Gorger saw play as a vanilla red 1-drop back in the day and it’s very possible that Pit Fighter will be treated the same way. On top of that the ability is certainly not nothing. Plus this could definitely be something to turn your attention to when vampires get a bunch more support in the next set.
Flexible removal spells are usually pretty good, but you can flashback Light Up the Night back quite easily in the right Standard deck. Between Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope, Wrenn and Seven, and other planeswalkers we already had, you could definitely use this as a good removal spell on the first casting and a spell to finish off your opponent on the second try. I’ve played a lot of ramp decks in my time and Fireball effects are always something to pay attention to in case they’re good enough. This one is probably my favorite since Crater’s Claws.
A card that can potentially be a Lightning Bolt is worth paying attention to. Moonrager’s Slash could be good enough to edge out Dragon’s Fire and Cathartic Pyre in a werewolf deck. Even outside of that, a burn spell that can go to the face is definitely good enough to run.
As good as Moonveil Regent looks at face value, the fact that this creature doesn’t immediately do anything is probably enough to ensure it doesn’t see much or any play at all. That being said, it clearly has some potential.
I’m also looking ahead at Streets of New Capenna, the set that will be coming out in Q2 of 2022. Although we don’t know much about the set, we do know that it’s a three-color set. The existence of triple-colored cards in Standard will make Moonveil much stronger and only having a single red symbol in the casting cost makes it a potential inclusion in whichever red combos the set uses. This might see some play now, but if it doesn’t, you should reassess it in a few months’ time.
Shock has always been a playable card in Standard and Play with Fire will be, too. With the original Shock leaving in this rotation, this will be the go-to 1-mana burn spell for decks that want it. Frost Bite is also available but Play with Fire will do just fine if you can’t afford to run snow lands to support it.
Werewolf decks have quite a few pieces available and the stats and ability on Reckless Stormseeker are just enough to be noteworthy. Especially at Night, this is a 5/4 with trample and haste by itself. A 3/3 haste during the Day that can power out hasty threats later in the game is something that not only werewolf decks will be interested in. I think this looks like a great card for Standard and could play a role in multiple decks.
Given the comparisons to Thing in the Ice, I’ve already seen plenty of people asking if Smoldering Egg will also be as good. I honestly don’t think it will be. Thing in the Ice could be transformed with as little as four mana spread across four different spells, but you need to invest a full seven mana to get your Egg to transform.
The advantage is that you could definitely do that with just one or two spells, but that’s at odds with Ashmouth Dragon’s ability which really pays you off for casting cheaper spells because you want to cast as many as possible. It’s definitely a contender but I think it’ll end up being a bit too clunky.
The mythic phoenix that returns to the battlefield somehow can sometimes be good enough to have a place in Standard. Midrange decks love recursive threats and given that they’ll already want to play other cards that use the Day/Night cycle, I think Sunstreak Phoenix may find a home in them. At the very least this can be a sideboard card against control decks to force them to exile your Phoenix or risk it coming back time and time again.
Thermo-Alchemist is a powerful card that already proved itself the last time it was in Standard. It also saw play in Pauper burn decks since it was printed at common the first time around. There does appear to be some good spells to go with it this time and I can imagine it’ll do well again.
It looks like red and green got the best deals out of this set. With this being a werewolf set, I’m sure you saw that coming. Wrenn and Seven and Tovolar’s Huntmaster look like incredibly powerful midrange bombs which is all I’m ever looking for in a Magic card.
A lot of green’s other cards seem to support a self-mill deck that unfortunately doesn’t look like it gets enough tools to work. Then again, there’s another set of Innistrad cards in November, so maybe you just have to wait for some of these plants to bear fruit.
Augur of Autumn
Augur of Autumn is one of the best cards in the set for me. We’ve already seen what this kind of effect can do. Courser of Kruphix was one of the best cards in Standard while it was legal. Granted, Augur card doesn’t gain you life and it dies to a lot more things at 3 toughness rather than 4.
But it does have a very powerful coven ability to give you even more value in the late game. It’s also a human making it a relevant card for tribal decks. I could definitely see Modern humans decks liking this, and it should be very powerful in Standard midrange decks.
It disappoints me how much weaker Briarbridge Tracker is than Tireless Tracker, but that’s probably a good thing if I’m being honest with myself. An aggressively costed 3-drop that draws you a card is something worth looking at in both aggro and midrange decks. While this won’t be controlling any games by itself like Tireless Tracker often did, it’s still a fine playable.
1-drops that can be 3/3s or bigger in certain circumstances warrant some attention and I think Deathbonnet Sprout looks fine. I can definitely think of worse things to do on turn 1 if there’s a self-mill deck of some kind.
Between Dryad’s Revival and Bala Ged Recovery, you have plenty of options if you want a spell to get something back from the graveyard. If a self-mill deck is in the cards, then milling this and getting to flash it back for value could definitely work out. It’s worth taking a look to see if that deck wants a card like this.
If there’s a werewolf deck to be made it’ll want 2-drops, and Outland Liberator is one of the only ones it has access to. It’s certainly one that looks strong enough. We’ve seen just how good Thrashing Brontodon can be, so when it has some bonuses and a relevant creature type, I’m sure Frenzied Trapbreaker can do some work.
I’m very sad to see Cultivate rotating, but I suppose I can accept Path to the Festival as a replacement. 3-mana ramp spells really need to give you something extra to be worth it, and I think getting to scry 1 and having the option to flashback later might be good enough. Given that you have Burn Down the House the turn after casting this, maybe it will be good enough. Though I’d be very happy if I never had to cast this and there were better options available.
Given that there are aggro decks that are happy with a 4/3 for three with trample, I really like Primal Adversary. This is obscene if you’re a wolves and werewolves deck and still just good in a midrange shell. I think this card’s best application is to always plan on using it for five or seven mana, but every now and then you’ll be against a control deck and you can just jam it on three to start getting aggressive. The red Adversary is clearly the strongest but I’d put Primal behind it at number two. I’m very excited to see how it plays.
I’ve seen a fair bit of conversation around Storm the Festival, so I’m mentioning it. But I just don’t think it’s good enough. You need to hit 4 or 5-mana permanents for it to be a great deal and hitting lands off it is a disaster.
Sure, those lands still come into play, but spending six mana to get a couple of lands isn’t good enough. I’ll have to see it play out to be convinced, but I’m sure this is destined to stay in folders and never see the light of day. It misses too often to be something I want.
Although only seeing three cards is a little bit low for this kind of effect, I think Tapping at the Window is a welcome enabler for whatever kind of self-mill deck you want to build. Having flashback is perfect since it’s not only good for milling cards but also when its milled, which is exactly the kind of card you’re looking for in that deck.
In my Limited review I compared Tovolar’s Huntmaster to Grave Titan. the Titan was an easy 10/10 in Limited and a great control finisher in Standard. I don’t see why Tovolar’s Packleader can’t be just as good in Standard.
I’m looking forward to throwing some number (probably four) of these into a ramp deck and just going to town. It’s exactly the sort of threat I want to be ramping into at six mana and it’s one of the cards I’m most excited to play with.
Like I said earlier when I was talking about Deathbonnet Sprout, a 1-mana creature with the potential to be 3/3 or bigger warrants further inspection. I’m sad that I can’t cast Life from the Loam and grow Willow Geist to a 4/4, but that would probably be a bit much.
The Geist grows whenever you pick up a card from your graveyard, flashback a spell, or even when you point one of the many “exile a card in a graveyard” effects at yourself. A few Geists seem possible in the right deck and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up being good for that reason.
Wrenn and Six is my favorite card in Modern (love my Japanese playset too), and Wrenn and Seven is probably now my favorite card in Standard. What can I say about it that hasn’t already been said? The treefolk token protects it indefinitely while the +1 ability generates card advantage and fills your graveyard.
Esika’s Chariot on turn 4 perfectly leads into Wrenn on turn 5 since you can use the treefolk token to crew the Catillac and then populate a new one when it attacks. I’ll leave it there, but Wrenn looks like it has all the hallmarks of a good Standard planeswalker and the weapons around it all seem to suggest that it’ll do good work in the format.
I was pretty low on Arcane Infusion in my Limited review, maybe unfairly so. I just figure you’ll miss on this too much for it to be good. But it’s a different story in Constructed. Giving Peer Through Depths a flashback cost and a bunch of cards that care about instants and sorceries adds up to a very playable card.
Arlinn was disappointingly bad when she was printed before, but this time she looks more than good enough. Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope is much better than Arlinn, the Moon’s Fury; immediately creating two wolf tokens will do the best job of protecting Arlinn in future turns than any of its other abilities. That being said, I’m still very happy with all four of its abilities and the +1 is perfect for enabling the Day/Night cycle, allowing you to cast your spells on your opponent’s turn, transforming Arlinn and whatever other werewolves you have in play.
Not only that, but Arlinn will be a nightmare for control decks to deal with. Flash creatures are the bane of a control deck’s existence, forcing them to use their counterspells on their own turn. Because of this, Arlinn will be one of the best counters to control in the coming Standard format as well as one of the best 4-mana planeswalkers we’ve seen in a long time. I’m looking forward to casting this for sure.
I always pay attention to new tribal lords. While Bladestitched Skaab only gives +1/+0, being two mana makes up for that. I’ve already discussed how it looks like zombies have a good number of tools at their disposal and this should be an auto-include if they want to dip into blue.
Dennick does so much work for just one card it looks a bit unfair. At first you have a 2/3 lifelinker for just two mana that control decks will probably want in order to tackle aggro decks. Then it has a disturb mode for later which even lets you draw cards? I mean… this is a lot of things I want to do and they’re all on the same card? You never get that lucky! I think this card is great in a number of different circumstances and a very welcome inclusion in the format.
Devoted Grafkeeper / Departed Soulkeeper
This is another great disturb creature that’s really aggressively costed. It helps support the mythical self-mill deck while being efficient on both the front and disturb side. This looks like a very important card for a very specific kind of deck. I hope that it works.
Dire-Strain Rampage is basically just Harrow that can double as a very bad version of Naturalize. That seems pretty good, but the question is how much do you want a difficult-to-cast Harrow? I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s definitely nice to have the option there.
Diregraf Rebirth may be more expensive than Unburial Rites, but a reanimate spell with flashback is still good. If there’s any kind of reanimator deck to be built in Standard then this is high on my list of enablers for it. It’s also good if you just mill or discard it.
While Faithful Mending is useless in Limited, there are plenty of Constructed decks that won’t mind going down on cards in hand to fill your graveyard. I can think of a number of decks that want this like instant- and sorcery-based decks, reanimator decks, or just self-mill decks that like flipping this and casting it for some free value. It’s a nice inclusion that won’t define a meta, but it should play a fairly strong role nonetheless.
Aristocrats decks have seen a good amount of play in Standard over the years and they’d all welcome a 2-drop that’s both a sac outlet and a payoff. Fleshtaker needs a very specific deck to work, but this card will be right there waiting for it if that shows up in Standard.
Florian, Voldaren Scion looks like an absurdly strong aggro card but is sadly let down by being in two colors. Monocolor aggro decks have vastly outperformed multicolor ones in recent years thanks to the lack of available mana fixing. That being said there are a few very good vampires in Midnight Hunt and we’re waiting on a whole new set full of them in just two months, so Florian looks like a very strong prospect for whatever deck might come out of that.
Well, Ghoulcaller’s Harvest is the big payoff for milling yourself if you can get there in time. Decayed zombies aren’t really that powerful but making a huge army of them probably lets you get through for lethal. The fact that they don’t block means they’re completely useless for a whole turn so giving them haste with something like First Day of Class might be the key to making this card good.
Like Florian just two cards ago, Hungry for More looks like a great card for aggro decks but is very much let down since it is dual colored. I’d like to see this card be good but the lack of mana fixing for two-color aggro decks may be too much for this card to overcome.
Join the Dance
2-mana spells that create a pair of 1/1 tokens are usually good enough to see play. Giving one the big upside of flashback for the late game tells me that Join the Dance should definitely be good enough, it just needs a good home to fit in.
Mana dorks are sorely lacking in Standard right now, so Katilda, Dawnhart Prime can certainly get added to the pile. Turning all of your humans into mana dorks will let you ramp out some very big plays early on, especially if you combine it with cards like Join the Dance. It could even be good in a Naya werewolves deck since all of the werewolves are humans on their Daybound sides, letting you ramp up to the bigger ones.
Kessig Naturalist is the only other 2-drop werewolf in the set and it’s a very good one. If your opponent has no play on turn 2 it transforms immediately, though that’s far less likely to happen in Constructed than in Limited. Even if your opponent has a turn 2 play, you can probably still attack with Kessig on turn 3 and you’ll be able to jam Arlinn and start setting up for more werewolves whether it trades off or not. Then it’s a Nightbound tribal lord if you draw it in the late game? I think this card is great and it’ll be a key card to build your werewolf decks around.
Liesa, Forgotten Archangel’s first foray into Standard looks like a good one. A big flying lifelinker is already something that some decks will be interested in. Control decks especially love the Leyline of the Void ability. In decks where you have throwaway value creatures that are likely to die, Liesa picking them back up is a huge benefit. It’s basically Baneslayer Angel with the potential to draw extra spells as long as it stays in play, and that’s a pretty huge game.
Tarmogoyf has taught us to never underestimate the potential of what could be a very large vanilla creature. Old Stickfingers can be a 2-drop when you have a full graveyard and can even fuel itself if you have extra mana available. What might also be interesting is if you know there’s only one other creature in your deck, Sticky goes and finds it and dumps it straight into the graveyard which might be something a reanimator deck is looking for. I’ve been wrong about cards like this before so I’ll stay neutral and just say that I think it has some potential as long as a few things go right.
With Glimpse of Nature rightfully banned in Modern, Rite of Harmony could be a powerful combo enabler. We saw this fail to happen with Beck // Call in Dragon’s Maze, a card that looked to do the same thing but never did much of anything. But Rite of Harmony has a big advantage in that it triggers whenever any of your creatures enters the battlefield, not just when you cast them.
So it works with token makers and reanimation, too. I’m not a combo player so beyond knowing that this card is strong I don’t know how best to build around it. I don’t think it’s likely to make waves in Standard, but it should be good enough in some older formats.
Rite of Oblivion is pretty restrictive, but 2-mana Vindicates are worth looking at. You can’t throw this into just any random deck, but it should be worth it assuming you have any kind of throwaway creatures. I’m thinking of a midrange deck using Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia that wants to make use of the decayed zombies each turn. I don’t think this is a guaranteed slam dunk, but it could certainly be a strong card in the right deck.
Yeah, another 2-drop mana dork is exactly what I’m in for. I’m already building a Simic ramp deck in my head which wants to ramp into Koma, Cosmos Serpent and Tovolar’s Huntmaster, and Rootcoil Creeper is right at home in that. It makes me actively want to run a couple of flashback spells in the deck, but I’m fine with it just being a mana dork that I can attack with when I need to.
While Lightning Helix beats up on creatures in Historic, I can see Sacred Fire doing work in Standard. Killing an early creature and then either sniping off a creature in the late game or finishing your opponent off is great value out of a single spell. Whether it’s good enough to see play compared to the other removal spells available is another story but adding it to the pile of potentials is a good thing.
It’s not hard to imagine Sigarda, Champion of Light doing work in some kind of human tribal deck. These decks already exist in older formats and there may very well be enough tools for one in Standard, too. A huge tribal lord that has a way to draw cards is definitely strong enough, assuming that there are enough cards to support the tribal theme.
So, I like Think Twice. My question is simply whether Siphon Insight is as good as it or not. The problem is that you often play against decks that play spells you don’t care about casting in Standard. Though at the same time you can cast creatures from their deck and use them to block if you play this against an aggro deck.
I really like Siphon Insight and I think it’ll be a nice, solid draw spell in Dimir decks. My biggest qualm is that Expressive Iteration is much better, so you should probably just play red in your control decks and use Expressive Iteration unless you have a really good reason not to.
I think you have to put a lot of work in to make Slogurk, the Overslime good enough for Standard, but you have a really nice threat that can generate some card advantage if you do. Worse cards have seen play in the format and I can’t see it being too bad if there’s a deck to support it.
I was watching WotC’s WeeklyMTG show on the day Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset was spoiled and someone asked, “Why is the new Teferi so busted?” They didn’t answer that question, but I can answer it.
It isn’t busted. Not by a long shot. I can see Teferi doing some work in a control deck, but planeswalkers that don’t inherently do anything to protect themselves have historically not been good. If you play Teferi on an open board with nothing threatening it, you can play it and -2 to draw a card, then it can get you more advantage if you can leverage removal spells and interaction for the rest of the game.
But all of that is a lot to ask. While I think Teferi might find a slot in some control decks, it’s not the kind of planeswalker that you look at and think you need to build a deck around like Teferi, Time Raveler and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.
Oh wow. Tovolar, Dire Overlord is the werewolf legend that Ulrich of the Krallenhorde wishes it was. Drawing a card whenever you hit with any wolf or werewolf is a huge game. As Toski, Bearer of Secrets has proven, this effect can be very good in Constructed.
Even without a ton of other werewolves in your deck this still works well with Arlinn, Primal Adversary, Ranger Class, and Werewolf Pack Leader, so it’s worth considering in decks alongside those as well as just great in a pure werewolf deck. It’s also a fun Commander printing as its second ability lets you synchronize all of your Daybound/Nightbound werewolves with the old versions that don’t work the same way.
Just like Bladestitched Skaab, a 2-mana tribal lord should be good enough if there’s enough good cards to make that tribe work. It doesn’t look like there are enough cards to make a full deck in Standard but we’re about to see a whole set full of new vampires. I can’t imagine that deck won’t want Vampire Socialite, so this is definitely something to keep in the back of your mind when you see that deck take shape.
The Colorless Cards
3-cost mana rocks have a hard time being good in Standard, but one that provides incremental advantage and helps you mess around with the Day/Night cycle is something that’s worth keeping in the holster in case that’s something that you’d like to do. Without Cultivate in the format, The Celestus could be a good ramp spell in a deck that wants it given how much extra value it can give you.
While the first ability isn’t completely irrelevant, the main reason I like Jack-o’-Lantern is that it’s a card that can filter your mana from the graveyard. Any self-mill or dredge-style deck considers this a nice thing to have. I’ve often played these decks with questionable mana fixing and getting this out of the graveyard for free is a sweet deal.
Pithing Needle is a pretty sweet reprint and one of my favorite sideboard cards in Magic’s history. I often try to find room for a copy or two whenever I build a Legacy deck. It’s a perfect counter to planeswalkers, creature lands, and a variety of other annoying permanents. This will be just as good to counter these permanents in Standard and Historic.
Another card that was going to be rotating but this printing saves it. Field of Ruin is a great card that’s useful to have as an answer to annoying utility lands. There are currently six creature lands legal in Standard, many of which are actively good, plus the Hostile Hostel which may also see some play. If any of these give you grief, Field of Ruin might not be a bad way to go.
Standard decks live and die by the strength of their mana fixing, so new dual lands are always important to pay attention to. These slow lands are great. They’re far better in non-aggro decks, but I imagine even dual-color aggro builds will want them. These will help define what decks you can build in Standard for the next two years and might even be good enough to see a little bit of play outside of it, too.
Dennick, Pious Apparition | Illustration by Chris Rallis
I’m very excited to start playing with Midnight Hunt in Standard. Not just because it looks sweet but also because rotating out Throne of Eldraine and Ikoria has effectively unbanned a whole load of sweet cards from the last few sets that weren’t good enough to compete with Bonecrusher Giant and Lovestruck Beast. I’ve said many times that you’ll have to wait until Crimson Vow to give you more pieces for certain cards to work, but there’s still a lot of nice things to pay attention to here.
Red and green pick up a ton of powerful midrange cards and it could be time for midrange decks to make a comeback with aggro taking a big hit from the rotation. Control looks to also have taken a hit, especially with Arlinn making it such a good matchup for midrange decks.
This is the best time of year for Standard brewing with five whole sets legal and only one card banned (remember Omnath, Locus of Creation?). I can’t wait to see what people come up with in the coming weeks.
The Celestus | Illustration by Jonas De Ro
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