Pauper Set Review: Innistrad Midnight Hunt

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Pauper Set Review: Innistrad Midnight Hunt

With the end of the spoiler season and the full set revealed, it's time to our Pauper set review for Innistrad: Midnight Hunt!

By Romeu, 09/13/21, translated by Romeu, with help from our readers

Versions:

The full spoiler for

Innistrad: Midnight Hunt

has arrived, and not only do we have access to all the commons that will be present in the set, we also had a banned and restricted update which, after three tiresome months, banned Chatterstorm and Sojourner's Companion of the format, bringing the community the possibility to finally play a fairer and less broken Pauper, where you don't have to choose between three decks that make up 70% of the Metagame.

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A lot will change for Pauper from now on, and while I have my personal predictions about what will happen with Metagame, I prefer to await the results of the first few post-ban weeks before announcing what competitive landscape we can expect. So, there's a point I feel I need to make about today's review: The format I'm reviewing in it doesn't exist, so I'll be doing a card analysis based on Pauper decks, not necessarily an established Metagame. Because of this, it will be very common for you to see comments about a card having some useful aspect, but also a comment on the same card that, many times, there are better cards and/or more relevant to the archetypes that the card would enter. That doesn't mean I'm disregarding the new cards, but I need to be realistic with how each one of them might or might not impact a competitive format. Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is a set aimed at Standard, as we see with other sets like Adventures in the Forgotten Realms or Strixhaven, this set also brings cards that can be useful or are relevant as an expansion of the design space for common cards, but that few or no additions actually becomes a major staple of the format. Which, to be honest, is a good thing, given that we've been through a very turbulent moment at Pauper, and we need to re-adapt it to a playable and minimally fair format. Now, to the review:

White

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We have some more interesting options for dealing with artifacts or enchantments, but none of them are a 3/1 monocolored body with Flash. Cathar Commando can have a very high three mana cost to deal with problematic permanents, but it adds advantages to being a body that attacks well (and blocks poorly), having more value as a maindeck slot if the format becomes too oriented towards artifacts or enchantments, or when you're playing a proactive deck but need to get rid of Myr Enforcers, Etherium Armors, and Armadillo Cloaks. This card can see play in aggressive white decks, since Qasali Pridemage has also seen play in some decks, and the fact that it has flash means it can also serve as a โ€œremovalโ€ against smaller creatures that attack without flying (and it exchanges with Boarding Party).
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A permanent pump that activates Heroic triggers twice for two mana can have some use in the archetype, especially with evasive creatures like Akroan Skyguard.
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This card is... interesting. In an aggressive deck, you can commonly play it for a mana or two on turn 3 without difficulty, depending on how your starting turns are, and the draw is important for a deck that can be playing as proactively as possible. On the other hand, this card is worse than other options we have in the format in decks less dedicated to attacking quickly: for four mana you have Palace Sentinels and for three mana you can use Priest of Ancient Lore. In the end, I like the addition of this type of card in Pauper, but I believe that white has much more efficient and synergistic options for its proper strategies.
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One more Soul Warden effect (which this time only works with your creatures) for one mana is very welcome for Soul Sisters, especially now that Suture Priest is no longer needed at all since Chatterstorm is banned. It will definitely be a new addition to Soul Sisters, benefiting cards like Celestial Unicorn or Blood Researcher for a significantly lower cost than Suture Priest.

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Blue

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Delver of Secrets is no longer the multi-archetype staple it once was, especially due to the increase in quality removals and elements that lead Pauper to more attrition-oriented games and resource exchanges, making it a fragile threat in the format as it essentially "only" attacks. With the absence of Combo decks, the position of Delver decks in Pauper gets even worse, as we will have back more removals in the format, in addition to the return of decks that naturally prey on it like Boros Bully and Cascade. However, despite not being Delver of Secrets's brightest moment at Pauper, the card remains one of the pillars of one of the most respected and adored archetypes by players, and after a decade without reprints outside special products, finally we will have an increase in its accessibility for Pauper players. This new art doesn't please me one bit, but we'll learn to live with it.
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For Pioneer, I love this card, it's the best cantrip the format will ever have until now. For Pauper? Not so much because we have access to Brainstorm, Ponder and Preordain. I could see this card being an option that replaces Thought Scour in lists like Dimir Delver or Serpentine Curve decks for the mere fact that you control what goes into your graveyard (who has already cast Thought Scour and milled two Gurmag Angler knows what I'm talking about), but given that the format is no longer so focused on needing to make a threat quickly and then control the game, I don't think accelerating a Gurmag Angler as quickly as possible is necessary to the point where these decks would run Thought Scour, and therefore I don't see them using Consider.
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A bounce that doesn't offer a negative exchange when you need to protect your creature is an interesting option, but it doesn't seem strong enough for Pauper as we know it today.
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We have several cards that create Zombie tokens with Decayed, which are 2/2 creatures that can't block, and are sacrificed at the end of combat when they attack, and because of that, I can't imagine these tokens being relevant in Pauper unless you can cast a specific spell over and over again. Revenge of the Drowned falls into the category of cards that can be strong if you manage to cast it multiple times, as it delays your opponent's board position while advancing yours.
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I've seen some people commenting that this card might have some space in Affinity, and maybe even a viable option as another drop 1 for the deck, but I feel that using Witching Well or Thraben Inspector are options more interesting to the archetype.
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A card that decreases opponent's clock, creates a temporary token and cantrips? I understand that the value of Decayed tokens is quite low and often work as a "bonus" on cards, but these are several effects for a common card, and it may become a playable option at some point.

Black

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It's a little disappointing that Arrogant Outlaw isn't a Rogue creature, or any other type that composes a Party to interact with Malakir Blood Priest, but this card may have some space in Black Burn, considering it lacks no means of dealing damage to the opponent before playing this creature, ranging from Changeling Outcast to Bump in the Night.
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Sign in Blood at instant-speed for an extra mana and at a more affordable mana cost is another nice addition to Black Burn, as, like its predecessor, the card can be used to keep the steam up or to pull the last points of damage against the opponent.

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This card is also an interesting option for the Control decks, especially Dimir Teachings and Dimir Serpentine, but it competes with Behold the Multiverse, which can usually be a much more versatile option.
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This card offers 7 power in three bodies for five mana, while exiling two cards from the opponent's graveyard. We've seen variants of Reanimator and Ephemerate decks over the past few weeks, such as Mardu Ephemerate, and this card seems to be able to create a compelling board position with some ETBs, working well in tandem with other cards that have impactful or reusable ETBs. It's possible that it'll see play on decks that tries to abuse Flicker effects, especially Mardu Ephemerate, which emerged in the format in recent weeks and caught some attention.
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I still prefer Bone Shards for Aristocrats decks and the like, but exiling a creature makes this card an honorable mention for the review, as it interacts well against creatures that are normally returned with Pulse of Murasa, such as Mnemonic Wall or Annoyed Altisaur.
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7/6 for 5 mana isn't as exciting as it sounds in decks where this card could be relevant. Obviously, this creature is a good target for Cascade because of its body, but I believe these decks prefer 2 for 1 effects or interactions over just another large creature, as normally Boarding Party and Annoyed Altisaur does a good job of setting up a clock. In Sacrifice decks, I believe Bayou Groof is still the best option, as the deck relies heavily on using a lower curve to play multiple cards in a single turn.
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This card seems to offer some interesting reach options for decks that fill the board quickly but often lack the range to close the game in front of a combat lock, such as Elves or Walls. Also, this type of effect can be used (with other creatures) in conjunction with Village Bell-Striker and any loop of Ghostly Flicker to deal an arbitrary amount of damage or even infinite damage.

Red

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A red Archaeomancer opens up many possibilities for Ephemerate decks, or even with Reanimator decks (since you can use it to return the reanimate spell to your hand), as we have seen since some lists use Revolutionist for this purpose. In particular, it's the card I'm most interested in using after Innistrad: Midnight Hunt releases, as it opens up several possibilities for interactions with Familiars and ETB effects, and Ephemerate is still one of the most powerful cards in the format, who knows if we won't see better versions of Boros, Mardu or even Naya with powerful ETB effects being repurposed by Ardent Elementalist and Blink or Reanimate spells like Late to Dinner?
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A 4/3 creature for one mana is a high value for Pauper's standards, but the conditions necessary for this card to be played for one mana are not favorable for the red decks, as it demands that you have dealt some damage (which isn't hard), and you need four mana available to cast it, which isn't ideal for an aggressive red deck.
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Kiln Fiend has gained a younger, less scary brother, but that helps add consistency to decks like Mono-Red Blitz that we occasionally see in independent tournaments or in leagues, possibly replacing Burning Prophet or whatever creature that grows less explosively.
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This card already existed in the format and didn't see play, but I'd like to point out that it's the first time in twenty-five years that Immolation has been reprinted, a milestone for Magic.

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I've seen many players compare this card to Lightning Bolt for obvious reasons, but the reality is that at least in Pauper, this card doesn't have enough relevance. Starting with the fact that the card depends on a game state caused by a conditional ability coupled with permanents that, as far as Pauper is concerned, are bad cards with little impact. If at some point we see creatures or red cards with a Day and Night effect that are good for decks like Red Deck Wins or Burn, one could consider using Moonrager's Slash as extra copies of Lightning Bolt, but I still don't usually like the idea of having an Open Fire which will occasionally be a Lightning Bolt.
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Modal cards that serve as specific hate but have some broader effect are great additions to the limited and also to the Pauper. I don't think Raze the Effigy will see play because there are few decks that actually want to use this card in place of Shenanigans or Smash to Smithereens, but modal cards being printed as common is a very welcome move from Wizards.

Green

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Another card that probably won't see play, but it's very fascinating as it has a relevant ETB attached to a body that attacks relatively well and also has the ability to accelerate mana. In turn 4, I can't imagine that any deck like Cascade or any Midrange variant wants to use it since there are faster ramps and less susceptible to removals, but the fact that this card comes out as common should be considered as an advance to the format.
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One less mana and this card would be an instant Stompy staple. But for two mana, I believe the card doesn't do enough to have space in the archetype, which will continue to need to play under the other decks if it wants to continue to compete in this new Metagame.

Artifacts

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Jack-oโ€™-Lantern is a unique addition to Pauper, with effects we've seen several times alone in the format, but never together the way we see it on this card. The card functions as a cost 1 artifact that you can use to exile a card from a graveyard and draw a card, then you can use its ability on the graveyard to filter mana. This amalgamation of unique effects makes this artifact a relatively difficult card to assess because there is no specific precedent for how far there is any viability for it in competitive decks. What I can guarantee is that, if decks that interact with graveyards, such as Tron, Cascade, Ephemerate, among others, become prevalent, it is possible to see some copies of it being used in the maindeck of lists where artifacts and manafixing are relevant, but this card doesn't have space on the sideboards, where it competes with Relic of Progenitus.
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There are some control decks that try to use Guardian Idol as part of their winconditions, and even though Stuffed Bear doesn't generate mana, it's possible to clock up with a threat that you only need to activate when you are safe could be useful.

Conclusion

That was my review of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt for Pauper. As we can see, the set doesn't bring any really exciting card to the format, or any additions that really look like they're going to become a major staple among the archetypes. But it does bring some interesting cards, like the reprint of Delver of Secrets, an artifact with an ability that can be used from the graveyard with Jack-o'-Lantern, spells that have a cost reduction like Search Party Captain and a red Archaeomancer with Ardent Elementalist, which may have some space in the format and is sure to motivate players to try out new ideas with the new additions.

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Innistrad: Midnight Hunt arrives on

September 16

to Magic Online, and I believe we will see many experiments emerging in the first week of the set with the new cards, especially in the leagues and free tournament circuits. Thanks for reading!
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Romeu

Writer and translator for Cards Realm. Plays virtually Magic: The Gathering competitive formats. Pauper Masters' Organizer.

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