In this article you’ll find a complete Midnight Hunt Draft Tier List with every card in the set graded, based on how good my impression of it is in the upcoming format. Before we start, let’s take a look at the grades I’ll be using.
Midnight Hunt Draft Tier List – Legend
- S: Ridiculous bomb, swings the game dramatically. The harder to answer, the better the bomb – the best of this tier is virtually unbeatable.
- A: Bomb or one of the best cards in your deck, pulls you strongly into its colour. The best of this tier will generate incredible value even if answered.
- B: Great playable: happy to pick early, pulls you into its colour or archetype.
- C+: Good playable that rarely gets cut, or great in the right deck.
- C: Fine playable, sometimes gets cut.
- C-: Mediocre playable or decent filler, gets cut around half the time.
- D: Medium to bad filler, gets cut a lot.
- F: Cards that are unplayable in the vast majority of decks.
Grades are based on maindeck power level; I discuss sideboarding here.
Every grade can have a subgrade within it, but the differences are most pronounced in the C Category, so they have their own description. Beyond that, a B+ means it’s almost an A, but not quite. There are no subgrades for F or S tier cards.
Two colour gold cards should be taken lower early on – you won’t be able to play them unless you’re specifically in those colours. Colourless cards should be taken about a grade higher early on, because they can go in any deck and staying open is a big advantage i.e. don’t commit to colours before you have good reason to.
I will be updating this tier list regularly as the set develops, so it’ll remain useful throughout its lifespan. This’ll take form through quick grade changes I make on the fly alongside the occasional big written update.
Midnight Hunt Arena Draft Tier List
|Mystic Skull // Mystic Monstrosity||C-|
Midnight Hunt Draft Tier List – UPDATES
Although I update frequently as I draft, this is the first written update I’ve done with explanations. That means there may well be cards I changed my grade on near the start of the format, alongside the cards I changed just now. I’m now more than 40 drafts into Innistrad so expect a wide range of changes!
Read the summary of my thoughts here.
- My changes will be mostly commons and uncommons, since those are the most important cards in any Limited format. I think I was close to right on most of the rares and I have less data on those, so the change has to be bigger and more apparent for them to make an appearance.
- The grades from my original tier list have changed, but I wrote a long description that hasn’t. That way, you can see my thoughts going into the format and better assess what I got right and wrong.
- For length’s sake, I’ll only include a description for changes that I feel need it. If the change is small, or it’s stuff I’ve already covered, I won’t write one, but you can still see the change itself in the list.
Without further ado, let’s jump into the rating changes!
White tends to slant beatdown. Even the slower White decks like Azorius tend to be flier-heavy and want to use their early turns well — the common strategy is to get a big tempo advantage and then use your Disturb creatures to grind your opponents out.
With that in mind, some of the slower deck cards like Beloved Beggar and Candletrap have taken a hit.
I think I underrated Coven enablers a bit — I thought it would be very easy to enable, and having drafted extensively, I now downgrade that to just “easy”! There are enough cards that want to be enabled early that it is a worthy tiebreaker if cards are close to as good as each other.
- Beloved Beggar C+ → C-
- Blessed Defiance D+ → C-
- Candletrap B- → C
- Duelcraft Trainer B- → B
- Flare of Faith D+ → C-
- Gavony Dawnguard B- → B
- Lunarch Veteran D+ → C+
- Search Party Captain B- → C+
- Sungold Barrage C- → D+
- Unruly Mob C- → D
Candletrap: B- → C
There are too many ways to sacrifice this set for Candletrap to be an amazing removal spell. Sometimes you can get the Coven ability and exile the card before they can sacrifice it, but that’s jumping through some hoops for not that great a tempo card. I consider this a high C.
Lunarch Veteran C- → C+
I was too low on Lunarch Veteran, because I felt the White decks were aggressively-slanted and low on buffs. A 1/1 body for 1 isn’t worth much, so I felt you needed some way to turn it into a threat, and making it into a flier would be too slow.
While that was all mostly true, I’ve found that Veteran puts in enough work to be a solid common anyway, as a Coven and sacrifice enabler and incremental value card. Its lifegain gives you more time to push damage with fliers. The Disturb cost is cheap, and it has strong synergy with cards like Shipwreck Sifters.
The thing with Veteran is that its backside is solid at any point, even in beatdown decks. The card suffers from being worse in multiples and an anemic draw later on, but the first copy is a high pick.
Sungold Barrage: C- → D+
1 for 1 removal that doesn’t exile is at its worst in a format full of Disturb cards. Sungold Barrage has it even worse because Disturb cards tend to be small and an unusual number of the 4 and 5 drops in the set are 3/xs.
If you’re not playing against a Green deck, this has a tendency to rot in your hand. I’d only play it if I was very light on interaction, and not more than one in the maindeck.
Unruly Mob: C- → D
Even in a format full of sacrifice effects, I didn’t start Unruly Mob high, and it turns out that it’s even worse than I thought. It just starts too weak, takes too long to impact the board, and then the payoff isn’t that great.
Orzhov with lots of sacrifice effects is the only home for it.
The format is chock-full of sacrifice and token generation payoffs. While I think I rated Blue very highly and mostly accurately, I was too low on some of the token enablers. I find that when drafting Blue, you want to prioritise those because they’re less readily available than the payoffs, and these grade changes reflect that.
- Baithook Angler C → C+
- Drownyard Amalgam D+ → C
- Falcon Abomination C+ → B-
- Firmament Sage C → C+
- Flip the Switch D+ → C
- Locked in the Cemetery C → D+
- Mysterious Tome B- → C
- Overwhelmed Archivist C+ → B-
- Organ Hoarder B → B+
- Shipwreck Sifters C- → C+
- Startle C- → C+
- Vivisection C+ → C
Baithook Angler: C → C+
Baithook Angler tends to be exactly the kind of 2 drop the Blue decks in the format want: beating down early, being reasonable sacrifice fodder, and producing value late.
Flip the Switch: D+ → C+
My biggest mover, Flip the Switch has been very solid in the format. Counterspells tend to be bad in most Limited formats because they’re worse than removal. You have to leave the mana up when you don’t have that much else to do at instant speed, they’re still a 1 for 1, and you lose to the fast decks.
Games go long enough that Flip the Switch isn’t too hard to hold up, especially since blue decks often have lots of ways to play at instant speed. The most important aspect though is that the free Zombie is so good, making it much better than a 1 for 1 in a format where non-exile removal is at its worst anyway.
It’s not great in multiples, and it needs other instants to be at its best, but the good case is strong enough to make it to low C+.
Locked in the Cemetary: C → D+
The best use of the Pacifism effects in the format was to lock down Disturb creatures because they didn’t put them in the graveyard, but there are too many sacrifice effects for that to actually work out.
Locked in the Cemetery is kind of like Candletrap but much worse. It’s not always easy to tap something down with it, and the payoff is much worse. At least sometimes you can exile with Candletrap.
Mysterious Tome: B- → C
Mysterious Tome plays out a lot more awkward than it looks, because it’s hard to rely on either effect and the Blue decks want to have high tempo early turns. It’s the late game before you can always put mana into this, and even then it’s not a reliable way to shut down attackers when you need to or get card advantage when you need to.
They have so much card advantage that they really don’t need to resort to options like this most of the time (also why I lowered Vivisection).
Organ Hoarder: B → B+
The best Blue common by a country mile, Organ Hoarder is rarely just a 2 for 1, giving card selection and being totally absurd with Disturb and Flashback cards. It’s better than the best removal spells, and I’m happy to first pick it.
Startle: C → C+
Startle has really overperformed for me, because a free Zombie is great in the format. If you ever get to kill something with this, it’s a huge blowout, sort of like a 2.5 for 1, and you’re happy even if you don’t.
I don’t think you necessarily want to play loads in some decks, but this is a high C+ in my pick order and higher in Dimir (where I’d happily play 2-3).
Again, sacrifice enablers are the name of the game, since many of Black’s best commons are reliant on it. Black’s removal spells are worse than advertised, other than Eaten Alive, but they’re still decent.
I think I did a great job of rating Black, more so than the other colors, since I was already high on cards like Ecstatic Awakener and Siege Zombie — I underrated sacrifice enablers slightly but loved the payoffs. Still, I was definitely too high on some removal spells and utility cards, and have a bunch of small grade changes to dish out.
- Bladebrand C- → D+
- Diregraf Horde C+ → B-
- Foul Play B- → C+
- Heirloom Mirror C → D
- Morbid Opportunist B- → B+
- No Way Out D → C-
- Olivia’s Midnight Ambush B- → C+
- Rotten Reunion D+ → C-
- Shady Traveler C → D+
- Vampire Interloper C+ → C
Diregraf Horde: C+ → B-
I was one of the few people to believe strongly in Diregraf Horde from the beginning, and it’s done nothing but exceed my expectations. The graveyard hate is extremely relevant, and getting not one but two Zombies is an irreplaceable effect in a format with so many payoffs.
Heirloom Mirror: C → D
Heirloom Mirror is slow and costly, and has done nothing but underperform whenever I played it. 3 life is too steep a cost, because the Blue decks are trying to chip you down with fliers and the White/Red decks slant aggressive.
No Way Out: D → C-
I think my reasoning for believing that No Way Out wouldn’t be great in the format was solid — why would you want to discard your opponents’ Flashback and Disturb cards and only get half cards worth of value?
Unfortunately I underestimated just how much a free 2/2 Zombie was worth, and how hungry the Dimir decks were for enablers with the multitude of payoffs available.
I’m still not too excited to draft it, but it’s not nearly as bad as I first believed.
Shady Traveler: C → D+
I wasn’t super high on Werewolves in general, but still too high on stuff like Shady Traveler, which has been a thoroughly mediocre card. Werewolves have to have a big effect to be worth taking the time out to flip in a format where efficient mana use is the priority, and this doesn’t cut it.
Vampire Interloper: C+ → C
The Black beatdown decks haven’t been good enough for me to give Interloper that solid a grade anymore. Vampires and red in general just don’t have enough efficient cards early nor the value to keep up with the Blue decks late, so the deck has to be really open for you to be excited to draft Interloper.
Orzhov beatdown is pretty mediocre and lacking in synergy — the Orzhov decks usually slant slower and tend to be value/removal piles where Interloper doesn’t fit.
This format is full of small fliers, and it’s not uncommon for Interloper to trade with half a card. The backsides of Baithook Angler and Luminarch Veteran can both stonewall it after they get sacrificed, and it’s also pretty bad against Blessed Defiance.
It’s no secret that Red is the worst color by a good deal in Midnight Hunt. Some of my grades have gone down because those cards didn’t belong in the spells decks or the beatdown decks, which are the main good Red decks. BR Vampires and RG Werewolves are both pretty unexciting, and have to be really open for me to go in.
Despite all this, I do think Red is still very draftable. I don’t recommend avoiding the color at all, and many of my best decks have resulted because others were, so I got passed great Red uncommons/rares. Draft is self-correcting. I urge my readers to be careful of people who tell you to think in absolutes, especially early in a format’s lifespan.
I won’t do many change explanations for Red because some of Red’s grades are down purely because the colour is weak, and you shouldn’t take them as highly as a result. Better to take cards in your other colour and try to wheel the Red cards if they’re merely decent.
- Ardent Elementalist B- → C
- Festival Crasher C- → C
- Immolation C+ → C
- Lunar Frenzy C → C+
- Mounted Dreadknight C → C-
- Neonate’s Rush D+ → C
- Play with Fire B- → C+
- Purifying Dragon B- → C+
- Seize the Storm C- → C
- Tavern Ruffian C → D+
- Village Watch C- → D+
Ardent Elementalist: B- → C
Ardent Elementalist has disappointed me in this set. Red needs to be aggressive this set, since it doesn’t have the value to overcome the late game of the Blue decks, which means you don’t want to spend as much time dithering around. That means you want cheap impactful spells which are still good in the late game… yeah, you’re not going to get many!
Immolation: C+ → C
Immolation not being an instant or sorcery is awful for the Spells deck, and it being sorcery speed is awful for Werewolves. It’s efficient enough that you play it a lot of the time, but I don’t want to take it highly and would much rather have Play with Fire.
Lunar Frenzy: C → C+
Lunar Frenzy is a solid card in all the Red decks because they want to win quickly, and dealing a bunch of burn damage out of nowhere is a fantastic way to do that. Red really doesn’t have the late game tools to keep up with some of the more value-oriented Blue decks, so it needs cards like this.
This would get a B- if it were in a better color — if you’re already Red, you definitely want to take it high.
Neonate’s Rush: D+ → C
Neonate’s Rush is solid enough in the spells and vampires deck that it warrants a high grade. It’s not super exciting, but it does hopefully draw you into more spells/is reasonably efficient when cast for 2 mana. There are some good x/1s to ping down, like Harvesttide Sentry, and don’t be afraid to attack in and ping post-combat.
Some of the Green changes are purely because Werewolves aren’t great. The good Green decks generally trend slow, other than some of the White Green decks. Hence, some of the faster cards/tricks have taken a hit, while some slower Green cards have earned a higher rating since more people will be competing for those.
Apart from Werewolves (which I wasn’t high on, but should have been even lower on), I rated Green mostly accurately, but some of the graveyard value decks have been better than I gave them credit. The BG value decks aren’t great, since BG often lacks card draw/enough value generation to beat the blue decks, but UG can definitely hold its own.
Big dumb creatures don’t line up great against Disturb creatures, and generally the Blue decks have enough pressure to race you when you go that way. Stuff like Candlelit Cavalry has taken a hit as a result.
- Bird Admirer C- → C+
- Candlelit Cavalry C- → D+
- Deathbonnet Sprout C+ → B-
- Harvesttide Sentry C- → C+
- Might of the Old Ways D+ → C-
- Rise of the Ants C+ → B-
- Tapping at the Window D → C-
- Timberland Guide C → C-
- Tireless Hauler C → C-
Bird Admirer: C- → C+
There are so many small fliers in Blue and among the Disturb creatures that having a way to shut them down is very important for the slower decks.
Bird Admirer flips into a pretty beefy creature, but the important thing is that, unlike most other Werewolves, the front side is good too.
Harvesttide Sentry: C- → C+
Sentry has overperformed, being a great attacker in the format and a staple of the GW Coven decks. 3 power early is hard to come by, as there are more 3 drops that are 2/xs this set than in most.
Rise of the Ants: C+ → B-
Shout out to cards like Rise of the Ants for being one of the few ways to keep up with the Blue decks in the late game. This card is a house, being solid in races and grind games alike.
Tapping at the Window: D → C-
Tapping at the Window isn’t a super exciting card, but I was definitely too low on it. It’s a mainstay in the UG/BG grind decks, providing card advantage when you have lots of creatures and Disturb/other Flashback cards.
Missing on a creature is still really bad and happens often though.
Splashing is less of a thing than I imagined this set, since it’s so synergy-heavy and sources are often a cost to run. Cards like Crossroad Candleguide you usually don’t want to play, and there aren’t enough lands to make mana consistent without those.
Hence, the power of most multicolor cards is heavily determined by what color pair they’re in. You definitely want to take the ones in bad color pairs less highly early on. As such, stuff like Sacred Fire and Vampire Socialite has taken a hit.
- Angelfire Ignition B+ → B-
- Devoted Grafkeeper B- → B
- Galvanic Iteration D → D+
- Grizzly Ghoul C+ → C
- Join the Dance C- → C
- Katilda, Dawnhart Prime B+ → A
- Rite of Oblivion B+ → B
- Sacred Fire B- → C+
- Slogurk, the Overslime C+ → B-
- Vampire Socialite B → C+
- At this point in the format, it’s become very clear that blue is the best color, which I’m going to claim as a called shot! In the original tier list, I talked about how blue-black’s sacrifice payoffs were both common and very strong, and blue had nearly a monopoly on card draw and a dominating position in value generation. I think Black is overrated (partly because Blue Black is so strong), and Blue has a very clear lead.
- I rated sacrifice/token generation payoffs high across the board, but was a little too low on some enablers and have bumped them up a bit. The value of a 2/2 decayed zombie is higher than I thought it would be, and I am now high across the board on cards that produce those for free.
- I went the other direction of the other raters I saw and thought that Coven would be really easy to enable, while most of them thought it would be hard. Coven is pretty easy to enable, but not as easy in a timely fashion as I thought. So some Coven payoffs might take a little hit and the enablers get a little buff.
- Fast black decks and slow White decks have underperformed.
- Removal spells that don’t exile are worse than I thought they were. They’re still decent, and you want some, but I’ve lowered my ratings on many.
Who is Rating?
This is the first of hopefully many articles and tier lists I write for Cardgamebase.com, and I’m very excited to have this opportunity! This is the eighth set in a row I’ve reviewed and graded a tier list for.
I recently migrated website from MTG Arena Zone, where I worked as a Limited reviewer and content creator; you can find all of my many articles here. On and off, I’ve played Magic for about ten years and the Limited formats have been my passion throughout – I’ve drafted more sets than I can count, on every platform and through wildly different eras. On Arena I draft infinitely, having profited more than 50k gems, and have made top 100 mythic many times.
Over years of practice and great effort, I’ve developed a solid approach and mindset to drafting, a style which means that I almost always draft good decks in any format and end up with a winrate in the 70%s and above.
I have a real passion for strategy writing. I try to include lots of general advice in everything I write and teach, so that my audience can apply it to many different situations, learn from it, and then it’ll remain useful for their entire magic career. You’ll see plenty of that in this article!
I feature the techniques I use in my writing and in each session of the Limited coaching service I provide. Click here or scroll down for more info!
My Considerations for the Midnight Hunt Draft Tier List
Many cards change their rating dramatically based on how fast a format is, so I had to make a firm evaluation of speed to rate properly. The format seems to be on the slower side for a few reasons:
a) Mechanics like Flashback and Disturb are built for slowness. It would be very strange for Wizards to have a format where several of the mechanics just aren’t that useful because the games aren’t going long enough that they come up. Decay too is more like a slow burn where you eventually amass enough tokens to present a big threat; it’s not an aggressive mechanic and fast wins with it will be the exception rather than the norm.
b) The last few formats have been on the slower side and draft decks generally just don’t tend to be super fast in the newer formats.
c) Just the way the cards line up and the way the colours come together. I often look at the set’s 2 drops and burn spells when gauging how good aggressive decks will be, and there aren’t an amazing selection of either this set. Reach (the ability to finish off weakened opponents) comes mostly in the form of fliers and a few tricks, which means that blocking and having bigger creatures than the aggro decks will be a very effective strategy.
You should go in prepared for long back-and-forth games, while making sure you still have enough tools/good blockers to survive early pressure. Having 2/3s specifically is better this format than most, because those can block decayed tokens and prevent your opponent from activating the life loss mechanic in Black/Red with them.
None of this means that beatdown decks won’t also be good – Red/Black’s “if an opponent lost life this turn” mechanic lends itself to attacking, Green has some really good tricks, and White has some powerful early attackers. The Coven mechanic in general can lead to some devastating starts if enabled early. Still, I expect value is going to be very important, even if you’re beating down – if your opponent is able to use their mana well later on and you’re not, then you have a problem.
Fast decks in draft still win longer games all the time – it’s common that you just go wide around people, they built too greedy and you punish them, or they have to spend a lot of resources trying to stay on the board while you’re still using your mana well and pulling further and further ahead. In best-of-one especially, for the first couple of weeks, drafting fast decks with solid curves will win you a ton of games because your opponents won’t be accustomed to the format and building solid decks yet.
Building Around the Synergies
This is a high synergy set, where you’re generally going to be in a two colour-pair with a central theme or gameplan that you’re trying to enact.
For an overview of each colour pair, check our Midnight Hunt draft guide – I won’t repeat the information there; instead my focus in this section will be directly on drafting and deckbuilding.
The simplest way to approach synergy in draft is through the lens of enablers and payoffs. So if you’re drafting the UB Decay deck, you want to make sure you have a good mix of cards that generate the 2/2 Decayed zombies and payoffs to make good use of them, since they’re not amazing by themselves. Payoffs can be anything from cards that let you sacrifice them for value to cards that care about their bodies, like Ritual of Hope or Skaab Wrangler.
Even when you’re drafting for synergy, you still need to keep in mind how good the cards you’re putting in your deck are. The worse a card is by itself, the more synergy you need to have to make it worth it and the better it has to be when it’s turned on – you want your cards to be consistently good, after all.
If the synergy is unlikely or the card isn’t actually that good even with the synergy, then why take the risk over a fine card, even if it’s a little bit worse if things go well? This is important more in the deckbuilding stage than the drafting stage – modern formats have so many playables that the average mediocre playable just isn’t worth all that much, so you should speculate picks over those cards often while drafting.
The point is you shouldn’t just put Ecstatic Awakener in because you drafted it in Dimir where the decay theme is important, and that card is often good in decay decks with lots of sacrifice fodder. That may all be true, but you have to consider how good it is in your specific deck and compare it to your other options. Awakener’s failcase if you don’t have fodder to sacrifice isn’t great since you’re just replacing the card you spent on the creature you sacrifice and losing some tempo, so it may well be that a weaker card like Arrogant Outlaw is better in your deck, and maybe even fits its plan better. As with many things in Magic, a lot of this comes with practice and sounds more complicated than it actually is.
For another example, if you have Ritual of Hope and not actually that many zombie producers, and your creature count isn’t so high/you’re not going so wide that Ritual of Hope isn’t good anyway, then you should really just cut Ritual, which isn’t that good a card without specific synergies. If you’re looking at Dawnheart Mentor, well that card’s decent even if you’re not enabling Coven that quickly, and you might well be able to make use of the Soldier token with some sacrifice synergies or an Equipment to buff it. Also, Dawnhart Mentor only needs one creature alongside it to turn Coven on anyway – it’s enabler and payoff in one.
For the purposes of synergies, treat specific rares and mythics as nonexistent until you open them. There aren’t enough that specifically enable any mechanic that you should bank on getting one, and the chances of opening a specific one are negligible. The dependable synergies in Draft are the commons and uncommons. If you already have a rare that benefits greatly from a certain synergy, then that’s obviously a big draw into drafting/building your deck to support it, but you still want a few other payoffs.
Building Around the Mechanics
Lots of decks won’t need to go out of their way for their synergies – they’ll get them naturally by just playing the good cards from their colours. Some mechanics benefit more than others from being directly built around:
Decay benefits the most from building around, because it has many payoffs that get much better with plenty of Zombie generators – go from being medium cards to great without needing absolutely tons of enablers. With that, I’m thinking of cards like Skaab Wrangler, Vivisection, Eaten Alive, and Ecstatic Awakener – having other fodder like Novice Occultist or random tokens helps with these too, but they’ll mostly be relying on the zombies.
I don’t think it should be too hard to get there as long as there’s not too much competition from other drafters, since there are tons of decent cards in the set which produce zombies as a bonus. You don’t necessarily need to be Dimir since Orzhov and Golgari both work well too. If you have plenty of payoffs, then I don’t mind including dedicated enablers like Rotten Reunion and Startle which aren’t normally that great, but are solid in this scenario.
Day / Night
The Day/Night mechanics benefit from being built around because Werewolves get much better if you can flip them easily, with instants or mana sink abilities – you pass the turn, make it night for free, and still get to use your mana. This is easiest done in Gruul or Simic, but still you don’t need to go too out of your way unless you have plenty of Werewolves – your deck will have instants anyway, and eventually one player will run out of stuff to do and it will become night naturally.
The Day half requires more building around, since some cards in the set benefit from it flipping back to Day. This is where Flashback and Disturb cards can be very helpful, since they let you continue to cast two spells per turn into the late game and get maximum value, but you can also just have more cheap cards in your deck if you want to do this early on.
I think it will be quite rare that you want to put too much effort into enabling day/night flipping because the main payoffs that give a big benefit for flipping back and forth are Gavony Dawnguard, Firmament Sage, and Sunrise Cavalier, all at uncommon, and a few specific rares. There aren’t many and your deck will naturally have Flashback/Disturb cards if you’re in White or Blue, and cheap cards if you’re aggressive. It’s the sort of thing where if you have a couple of payoffs already then you take the enablers higher.
Being able to flip back will be really good in some matchups, since if you keep making it day then you’ll be able to weaken opposing Werewolf decks – in best-of-three, you can consider sideboarding in extra Flashback and Disturb cards, especially cheap ones, to slow them down.
Coven features on some Green and White cards and is pretty easy to enable naturally – just have a reasonable split of creatures with different power stats, and a good creature count, and you should get there eventually. Coven cards benefit from being enabled early on; most of them don’t get a massive buff but multiples start to get very out of hand.
You generally don’t need to go out of your way too much, but if you have plenty of 2s and 3s that get Coven buffs, then you should take early coven enablers like Gavony Silversmith and Timberland Guide higher. Just try to have a good mix of different power stats and bear in mind that 0 and 1 tend to be hard to get so you might want them a bit more – but perhaps not if you’re aggressive!
There are plenty of good Green and White cards that also have uncommon powers for enabling Coven, like Gavony Trapper, Dawnheart Mentor, and Shadowbeast Sighting, so this is another case of the mechanic being best in its dedicated colour pair but still pretty easy to make work outside it.
Flashback and Disturb
There aren’t many additional payoffs for having Flashback and Disturb cards in your deck, but it doesn’t matter because they’re good cards and provide free value.
That being said, these cards and mana sinks in general have diminishing returns – you only have a finite amount of mana even in the late game. Mana sinks usually don’t come free free – a core idea behind card balance is that cards shouldn’t be good at everything, so a mana sink will usually be weaker in a different area. If a 5 drop has flashback or disturb, it’s probably not going to be quite as good as a different 5 drop on curve, and if you already have a bunch of mana sinks then you might just want the latter. For value-oriented slow decks like these, survival should be the primary focus – you only need so much value to beat most decks in the late game anyway.
Obviously there are cases where cards are just much better than others, and some flashback and disturb cards will just be so good that they’re as good on curve anyway, but it’s the exception rather than the norm.
Self mill is very useful in MID, since it gives you free value off your flashback and disturb cards and enables the various reanimation/recursion effects running around, including Ardent Elementalist, Crawl from the Cellar, and Diregraf Rebirth. It tends to be incidental on decent cards anyway – you don’t usually want to go out of your way to build around it, mostly want to avoid cards where self mill is the main thing they’re doing, but do want to take the good self mill cards higher if you have payoffs. We’re looking for Eccentric Farmer and Organ Hoarder, not Tapping at the Window and Otherworldly Gaze (just don’t play that last one ever).
Looting and rummaging can be a good way to enable these effects too, but you don’t need to go too overboard – if all your cards have this ability instead of other useful abilities, your deck will end up weaker because you’ll have a bunch of understatted utility creatures that are doing the same thing, rather than having other useful effects.
Smaller Factors to Consider
I expect most decks to be straight 2-colours, and that splashing won’t be easy outside Green. There are a bunch of artifacts available that can act as mana fixers, but they tend to be on the weak side. Green’s removal is mediocre even for its normal standard this set, so you should splash often there if your second colour isn’t delivering.
Still, I will be taking the good mana fixers like Evolving Wilds highly early on, as I recommend in every low fixing set. Making your 2-colour opening hands significantly better and leaving you open to splashes for the rest of the draft is worth a lot to me, especially factoring in that colourless cards are better picks early. Ideally you want another piece of fixing alongside it, but plenty of decks will be happy to play 18 lands this format anyway, since there are so many late game mana sinks. At that point, just one fixer will do the job if you’re only splashing one or two cards.
This set doesn’t have as many 5 and 6 drops as most, especially not as much as in AFR (Adventures in the Forgotten Realm, the last set) which had a crazy amount. That’s because Flashback and Disturb cards sort of fill that role – they’re early game and late game combined, so 5 and 6 drops have to be better than normal to compete. That means you don’t want to take medium 5 and 6 drops highly at all or even put them in your deck, but the especially good ones are still very much worth taking.
White and Blue have lots of fliers this set, and there are a bunch of Disturb cards with the mechanic. They’re small fliers and removal spells won’t always be the best way to stop them – it’s not very exciting to spend 4 or 5 mana to kill a 2/1 flier, or to then have them Disturb it back so you only killed half a card. Exile helps with this, and there’s some of it, but creatures are the real solution. You can stop them with your own, hopefully bigger, fliers or with the couple of reach creatures Green has, but the best way to punish a fliers deck is to just have good ground creatures and race.
That’s especially good in a beatdown deck, but you often still have to play in that manner when you’re a slower deck going up against them – fliers are almost always understatted so the random 3/3s and 4/4s will often be good enough to outdamage them. Being slow doesn’t mean you get to ignore your curve, or play too many weak and understatted cards, after all. The fliers deck has inevitability against your slower deck, so you can’t afford to play afraid.
If you’re the one with the fliers deck against a normal midrange deck, your job is to stall the ground. If you stall the ground, you win – it doesn’t matter if it takes ten turns or two. Many times I’ve seen people ignore the importance of having good blockers in fliers decks or putting in random extra fliers over removal spells – those are grave mistakes. You don’t need that many fliers if you just kill their fliers, and your fliers will have the space to attack and eventually win if you’re able to stop their threats.
Exile effects are at a premium this set to counter Disturb and Flashback. Regular removal can be pretty weak against Disturb creatures, since you’re only trading for half a card, so destroy effects are a bit worse here than in most sets.
While you don’t want to play cards that only exile stuff from opposing graveyards, it’s a big boon to have some amount of that tacked onto your good cards, and there’s plenty of cards that do it. Remember that you need to exile cards proactively in your games – if you let them activate the Disturb or Flashback ability, it’ll be too late to exile that card from their graveyard.
Weird Cards on the Midnight Hunt Draft Tier List: Rating Some Head-Scratchers
In this section, I’ll look at some of the more complex cards I evaluated as part of the tier list, and provide explanations. Similar to my set reviews, just knowing that cards are good or bad isn’t as helpful to your drafting and deckbuilding as knowing why and when, since Magic is such a contextual game. The goal is to show you what to look for so that you’re better able to adapt to whatever circumstance you’re in.
I knew this card was good from the beginning, but had a hard time working out precisely how good. This is a fantastic Coven enabler and payoff in one, this ability makes combat a nightmare for your opponents, and the card itself is versatile and fits several different decks. To enable Coven alongside this, all you need is one other creature with power >1, so it’s a big boon for your other payoffs. If you don’t have them, you can use the Human to enable your sacrifice synergies in Golgari, of which this set has tons.
The main downside is that this has a dedicated blocking statline so it might not fit the faster decks that well, say in Gruul. However, this ability is so good that I think you’ll never be sad to have it – you can play other stuff early and then this ability provides some gamewinning reach later on. Treat this more as late game than a 3 drop in your beatdown decks, so you want other 3 drops alongside it.
This particular Pacifism effect is a bit harder to evaluate and has a lot going on, and it’s still very good.
It reminds me a lot of Sky Tether, a card slower decks were happy with in Ravnica Allegiance – stopping a creature from beating down for 1 mana is an excellent rate. Candletrap is much better than Sky Tether because Coven isn’t too hard to enable and lets you get rid of the creature permanently, which makes it a great answer to any creature. Often Pacifism effects are awkward against creatures with abilities, a problem that Candletrap doesn’t suffer from.
Another advantage is that it doesn’t hinder your attacks much, because it prevents the blocking creature from dealing damage to your attackers. They can still stop one creature per turn, but the rest are getting through unimpeded.
As such, unlike Sky Tether, I expect pretty much every deck to be happy to play Candletrap – it’s just expensive removal and worse in beatdown decks, so perhaps the Boros decks with plenty of red removal may cut it sometimes, but most decks won’t have that luxury.
Seize the Storm
This is another grade I had to give plenty of thought, because this is a card that would be totally absurd in a different set, but I don’t think is amazing here.
Serpentine Curve was a fantastic curve-topper for spells decks in Strixhaven (STX); this is a little different because it tracks the graveyard constantly rather than just the first time you play it, and that’s an advantage. Sure, sometimes your opponents will be able to exile non-flashback instant and sorceries to shrink this, but your future spells growing it matters more. This is in addition to the flashback ability, which is amazing – getting two big bodies for one card is an easy way to dominate the late game.
So why don’t I like it that much? Well, I don’t think the spells deck is very well-supported at all in MID – there aren’t nearly as many instants and sorceries as in STX and you don’t get the free spells from Lessons you were getting there.
Hence, this feels like a trap in the non-Izzet colour pairs. It wasn’t uncommon in STX for decks to have 10+ spells, and I think even getting 6 or 7 is going to be too hard for non-Izzet decks here. If you have less than that and you’re making a 3/3 for 5 mana off this card, then it’s just bad – Serpentine Curve at least put an extra counter on itself in addition to however many spells it counted.
I wouldn’t be shocked to end up raising this grade, but for now I think it’ll be pretty weak in most decks until the very late game, and good but not busted in Izzet.
Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration
For the same reasons as Seize the Storm, one of the best one drops of all time, constructed staple Delver of Secrets is awful in MID Limited! Delver is way worse than Seize because it requires far more spells to flip consistently and the payoff is much worse.
Even with 10 instants and sorceries, which is more than the vast majority of decks will get, you’re about 25% per turn to flip Delver. That means that if you play Delver on turn 1, you’ll finally get your 3/2 flier on average by turn 5, and be able to trade it with another small flier! It’s an awful topdeck and you’re mostly just banking on being lucky and flipping it early – which is fine if it weren’t awful if you don’t. Play consistently good cards and you’ll win more games of Magic.
This isn’t a real headscratcher for me – I just wanted to stop people from making the mistake of trying to transpose Delver’s Constructed success to Limited.
Unfortunately, this card really suffers from that last line of text. Not being able to block is a massive downside for Flashback and Disturb decks, since those decks are slow, grindy, and value-oriented so they really need to be blocking and affecting the board early. Most of these cards are pretty expensive to recur, so it’s going to take you absolutely ages to accrue enough Bird tokens to make this card worth it.
Even if you do all that work, this is a scenario where things are going well for you – you’ve had time to flash back all these cards. You’ve already gotten a ton of value, and a few Bird tokens that can’t block on top isn’t adding much to that situation.
This card is pretty good out of the sideboard against other Fliers decks, where you can actually use its potential for defense.
Bladebrand is an interesting card to rate, because context of the set matters so much. It was an excellent card in Ravnica Allegiance (RNA), where you had all these annoying Afterlife beaters that you would be overjoyed to trade for real cards. It paired excellently with Orzhov’s overall gameplan of death by a thousand cuts, slowly chipping away at the opponent’s life total, since that made them very afraid to just let you hit them for free.
Great in Rakdos too, thanks to its combo with Dagger Caster, an uncommon which allowed you to wipe their entire board alongside it, some 2 for 1 potential with cards like Footlight Fiend, and it pairing excellently with the Spectacle mechanic, which is almost exactly the same as the life loss mechanic in MID.
Meanwhile, it was mediocre in Core Set 2020, where you just didn’t have that much fodder available, fewer games came down to ground combat, and Black wasn’t all that good at forcing blocks. Oftentimes, you just had to cycle Bladebrand away for a card, which is better than having it rot in your hand forever but not a very good use of 2 mana.
There are tons of parallels to RNA this set, so I’m starting Bladebrand quite high (at least for a situational combat trick). There are many disposable creatures in the form of decayed zombie tokens, but unfortunately those tokens can’t block which makes them much worse than Allegiance’s disposable creatures. Being able to block and then use Bladebrand gives it a great axis of utility, even if it’s a better card when you’re attacking.
Bladebrand creates the same interesting conundrum for your opponent here as in RNA – if they don’t block, you get to enable the life loss mechanic and some of your cards get much better. If they do block then they run straight into Bladebrand. Bladebrand does have a combo this set too, with Purifying Dragon, converting it into a removal spell for anything.
Ultimately I think Bladebrand will be very good in MID’s Rakdos and Orzhov decks, and not quite as good in the other Black combinations – which will be slower and not as good at forcing engages.
No Way Out
There have been some formats where Mind Rot effects were very good, like Zendikar Rising. I firmly believe that this will not be one of them, and that’s for a few reasons. Firstly, there are far more cards your opponent won’t mind discarding since they generate value from the graveyard including every single Flashback or Disturb card. If you discard one of these, you’re really only getting half a card’s worth of value.
Even worse, Mind Rot is best when it stops your opponent from using their mana optimally – when they’re out of stuff to do and they’re just passing the turn back. That won’t happen because now their resources are coming out of the graveyard rather than from their hand.
Getting a free decayed zombie is nice but it’s low value – even in Zendikar Rising, it wasn’t about the extra things Mind Drain did. The primary effect of the card had to shine, and it did in a format full of long low resource games where you needed to make land drops well into the late game, where it was hard to get multiple cards worth of value and where there weren’t all that many mana sinks. MID has tons of mana sinks, tons of ways to produce value, and games will go much bigger.
In such a hostile environment, I think the only decks that will want No Way Out are dedicated decay decks with lots of payoffs that lack enough better enablers.
Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset
Commons and uncommons are the focus when rating, but occasionally I come across a rare or mythic which throws me off a bit. Teferi is pretty underpowered as planeswalkers go, since he makes no effort to protect himself (just untapping a creature and giving effective vigilance to it doesn’t really count as that, since the net gain is just a free attack) but does provide some solid card advantage and ramp if unthreatened, and start on a decently high loyalty total.
This is not a mythic bomb-level planeswalker, since those help stabilise the board and have much more impactful abilities. Instead, you often won’t want to cast Teferi and be waiting for the right opportunity, such as when you’ve been able to answer their fliers or the board is more stable. Just getting an Anticipate for 4 mana is a pretty mediocre downside, and that’s all he’ll be in plenty of games – or you’ll just be waiting endlessly and lose with him still stuck in your hand.
None of these abilities are incredibly impactful or gamewinning, but it’s easy to imagine him doing a lot of work if you’re at parity or ahead for several turns. Getting at least two cards worth of advantage, gaining a bunch of life, and being able to ramp up to a 6 drop next turn all adds up to a lot. A slower deck with good blockers or lots of removal to create the space for him is where you want to be, and I think that meshes nicely with Azorius’s value-oriented creature-heavy gameplan. Still, this is a card that shouldn’t make every deck, since some just won’t be good at protecting him.
Teferi highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the planeswalker type in an interesting way – balanced and fair, with the potential to be very powerful with support and in the right deck.
How to Sideboard in the Traditional Midnight Hunt Draft
Sideboarding is the biggest difference between drafting in best-of-one and best-of-three and can have a really dramatic effect on your game 2s and 3s. It adds a whole new axis of skill and fun to the draft format, and makes a whole bunch of cards that would range from bad to totally unplayable in game 1 interesting and important.
The most important thing is to always treat sideboarding as a cost. When you submit a maindeck, you’re saying that you believe that to be the best game 1 iteration of your deck, so you need to have a good reason to dilute that. When you sideboard, you want to keep your synergies intact, your deck needs to be at least as powerful as before, and your curve needs to remain intact.
Here are some important questions to ask yourself in the sideboarding stage:
- What are the important cards in the matchup? Is your deck already good at answering those cards? If so, this isn’t a good reason to make a change.
- Even if your deck’s not good at it, is the sideboard card actually good enough to bring in? Do they have enough good targets for it to consistently hit something? If there’s only a few, is the matchup slow enough that they have a lot of time to draw into those targets?
This can be a difficult question to answer because you only got to see part of their deck in game 1. As an example, in the average draft game where you only saw one artifact, you don’t want to bring in a bunch of artifact removal just to counter it. They’re not that likely to draw it in good time for you to destroy it, so your artifact removal will just be stuck in hand and you’ll be playing a normal game of Magic but you’re down a card. The one exception is that if you’re both slow decks and that card is pivotal to the matchup – as in it’s a bomb that you can’t beat – then one target can be enough because the game is going to go long and they’re going to be able to look at a lot of cards to find it.
If you saw two great targets, or three good targets, and neither of you is playing a particularly fast deck, then that’s probably enough to bring 1-2 removal spells in for that card type, but don’t go too overboard. It’s worse to over-sideboard as an aggro deck – you really need to keep your gameplan consistent and low to the ground, and clunky cards are the enemy.
- What are your worst cards in the matchup? Are there cards that are clearly better for it in your sideboard? For example, if your opponent isn’t attacking you then you probably want to cut your 1/3s and 0/4s, any dedicated blockers, and have creatures that can attack or generate value instead. Same if they have lots of fliers – ground 1/3s and 0/4s can’t block fliers.
If your opponent has lots of 2/1s, then consider what statlines are good at stopping that – 1/3s and 2/3s are much better than 2/2s against those.
It’s a big boon if your sideboard hate also does other things, because that will give them more use cases when your opponent doesn’t draw the big targets you boarded them in for.
Again, don’t dilute your deck too much. You need value and powerful cards in every matchup even against faster decks – that’s how you pull ahead and win the game eventually. You still need 2 drops in slower matchups – even if you’re playing a slow deck, you still want to be attacking because it puts your opponent at a disadvantage.
Good Sideboard Cards for Traditional Midnight Hunt Draft
Most of these cards aren’t so good that you want to take them really highly, but in late pack 2/3 when you’ve settled into colors, there’ll be lots of dud picks for you on the wheel, and that’s a good time to grab these. Even early on, I’d generally take the better sideboard cards over anything rated D or below.
- Thraben Exorcism
- Neonate’s Rush
- Raze the Effigy – you can board this in more than other artifact removal spells if you just see 1 or 2 targets, especially in beatdown decks where the other mode is better than usual.
- Return to Nature
- Turn the Earth – in very slow matchups as well as as graveyard hate. If your opponent is playing a deck that’s self-milling a lot, this can function as an alternate wincon by shuffling in your best cards and playing the decking game.
- Duress – this is a bad format for Duress, and generally you need them not only to have many noncreature spells but also be really slow for it to be worth boarding in. Otherwise, Duress will be a bad topdeck in the later game.
- Ominous Roost – against decks with small fliers.
- Reach creatures like Bird Admirer and Bounding Wolf.
Thanks for Reading!
Innistrad: Midnight Hunt releases later today, and I can’t wait to jump into my first few drafts and see what I got wrong or right. I hope you’re just as excited to get stuck in as I am, and that you’re looking forward to my next article.
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